A ‘Fridge by Any Other Name

When we first moved into our house, we didn’t have the money for a new refrigerator. Fortunately, the previous owners left one for us, only it did a poor job regulating the temperature. Cruciferous veggies that sat near the back came out frozen and spoiled. Ruined produce is a tragedy, and my mourning was heard throughout the house. So, our goal, among many, became saving up for a new refrigerator—well, new to us. Discussing our move to his coworkers in passing, Realm mentioned the refridgerator situation among things we were looking to fix up after buying our home. A generous co-worker approached Realm the next day, offering us a refrigerator she had in her garage. We were elated, we were thankful, and we moved the new (to us) ‘fridge into the kitchen and kept the old, partly-working one in the garage for overflow. This is the first time in my married life I’ve had two working ‘fridges going. So, here I am, fulfilling that never-before-attained stereotype, enrolling myself in the society of American families who use two human-sized cooling containers to hoard their lifetime supply of cold food stuffs–that only last a week. I hear my minimalist side weeping. My frugal side is cringing at the electricity bill. My green-loving side is completely confused because… am I reusing what I have or am I wasting resources with the second ‘fridge’s energy draw? (First world dilemmas.) Obviously, my practical side won because my desire for smaller spaces and less stuff cannot compete with living with people who are just as opinionated and hungry as I am. And all I can say to the inner minimalist shaking her tiny head at me is, “Let’s declutter the bathroom, shall we?” She is slightly mollified.

Yet, I wasn’t ready to tackle two ‘fridges. I couldn’t designate which was which. It seems so obvious to my reader that I should designate them “the fridge in the kitchen” and “the fridge in the garage,” right? Not so easy. For weeks, I couldn’t get out the words “fridge in the garage.” I would repeat, “the fridge… the fridge..” while a kid held a bag of zucchini in anticipation. They would shift the bag in the direction of the ‘fridge in the garage. “No, no!” I’d respond, ruffled by what should’ve been an effortless interaction.

I’m not sure if it’s part of having Bipolar Mood Disorder or a mental block or what, but it’s been a family game for years that everyone tries to guess what Mom is not able to say. In situations where I’m multitasking, like cooking in the kitchen or driving, I simply can’t get certain words to come to me. My daughters have lived with me long enough to know how to work around these lethologica limitations. They make nicknames for things. Like, we have two butter dishes I struggle to refer to individually. One dish is called “Philip” (because I often ask someone to fill up the butter dish), and the other is named “Melton” (because someone I’ll call “the son who didn’t consider what would happen” put its plastic lid in the microwave once and now the lid fits like a botched lip job). After offering all sorts of names for the ‘fridge, Dawn teasingly suggested, “How about ‘the fridge that must not be named’?” “Coldemort” was born, and now, I can tell the kids where to store the 2-ton barrel of cheddar and which gets the forest-like crate of broccoli. The minimalist in me is dead.

My Superpower Meets Realm on Steroids

I had a tough week last week. Realm’s hands broke out due to poison ivy or sumac or something. He had it terrible, and I had a terrible time for him, especially after he got a steroid shot. Realm on steroids can’t quit talking. When anything comes into his head, he’s got to get it out. We had some friends over… to the backyard, that is. I found myself thwacking him on the arm, demanding, “Let them talk!” He couldn’t pause; he couldn’t take a breath. He and I sat down together, and I began in this way: “Do you feel like your tongue is a little looser than usual?” He thought about this, and by “thought” I mean he spoke of two instances where his co-workers had to tell him to calm down that day. “It’s like I’ve kind of lost a little bit of my inhibitions and things just fall out of my mouth,” he observed. I nodded. That was all the response he gave me time for, but I could empathize with him. This has happened before. When he had minor surgery, the nurse who brought him out looked relieved when she handed him over to me. About five minutes and two billion words later, I understood why. It’s not just the talking, either; it’s the feeling he exudes. Something must be done, and it must be done right now. He’s antsy; he’s nervous. He’s sticking his nose into everything and asking why. And when I tell him why, I feel annoyed… and silly for being annoyed.

I lay in bed that night, wide-eyed and irritated that Realm was fast asleep. Steroid or no steroid, he was out, while my brain wouldn’t shut down. It started its old information mud pie ritual, amassing anything and everything to make mountains out of molehills. It was then I realized Realm’s wired behavior had sent me into a reactionary tailspin. Last week, I talked about my sense of dread at facing a virus-wary world that doesn’t really understand the protocol anymore than I do and tends to overreact. What I didn’t explain was that I suffer from Bipolar Mood Disorder. Last year, I finally got a fitting label for what I’d always thought was an angry/depressive personality. I don’t experience mania, but I do experience a hypomanic, irritable, “fast-forward” state. It makes for fun times when I can’t stop panicking and crying after I’ve agreed to take on too many responsibilities during a “productive” spell. Having a mood disorder makes it easy for me to become emotionally dysregulated. I get flustered over simple things I’m not sure how to handle–which happen all the time and, generally, will happen in a public setting. I can’t always tell if I’m reacting appropriately because I feel things so intensely at times. Plus, I’m unconsciously influenced by peoples’ moods–meaning, I tap into someone’s mood without realizing I’ve even been “listening” to them. This mood-appropriating superpower gives me intuitive insight into personalities, which is great when I’m trying to write a novel, but it’s awful when I’m standing in these social distancing lines with folks who are frustrated. Their moods hang over me like a storm cloud. They don’t like the change in their routine, the embarrassment of doing the wrong thing, the inconsistent policies enforced on them. Their anxious talk shifts to injustices happening around the nation and conspiracy theories. And, yes, there are some very serious injustices going on. There are people stuck mid-travel without places to stay. There are families without homes right now and without jobs. I find myself wracking my brain at times, trying to figure out how to right the world’s wrongs. It’s not realistic; I have no power over any of it. The end result? I wear myself down so I can’t focus on the things I ought to be able to tackle easily.

For weeks I’ve been allowed to be at peace handling responsibilities in my home sphere. As the go-go life returns, the conflict inside me returns. I don’t always feel I’m doing my best when I really am doing the best I can. But I’m learning to come to terms and accept that my best isn’t nearly what I think it should be or what others think it should be. That’s the price I pay for my superpower, I guess. I’ve made a long journey in just a few short months. I look forward to better days and greater insights to come. While the inner battle may sap my strength, I’m still wearing my cape… and hoping Realm doesn’t get another steroid shot.