Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Life in Limbo

My last 24 hours have been perfect.

I got off from overnight call at 9. I had gotten a decent amount of sleep, so I started my commute home by biking to a train station, a little farther away from where I usually catch the train home. It was a brisk 50 minute ride through the cold, bright morning, all on bike lanes.

Read two interesting articles on the train on two different kinds of leukemia. Got home and fixed a late breakfast. Read a bit of Last Night in Twisted River, the new John Irving book. I got done with A Prayer for Owen Meany last week and that was a great book. Twisted River is okay and it's getting better as I'm halfway through. I was about to take a nap when the Girl got home from her run. She has to change quickly into her work clothes, which is always fun to watch. We talked a bit before I dozed off. Post-call naps are the best.

When I got up, I did some sit-ups while watching Bones. Threw some running clothes on and ran to Natali's after-school care. She was happy to see me; there are times when she is a little embarrassed of me, but this wasn't one of them. Some of her friends came over to see if she could play on this or that day. I referred them back to Natali, who likes to hang with friends no more than every other day.

I ran while she biked. She has a bike that she loves; I just put some of those fancy induction bike lights on it. She likes to sing while riding one-handed. It's hard to keep up with her. We swung by the grocery store on the way back to buy stuff for dinner. She wanted home-made burgers, insisting on fresh ground beed, not the pre-formed patties. She had also seen a set of new sheets (duvet and pillow covers) that she wanted. I reminded her that she had spent her last money on a stupid Nerf gun and encouraged her to save up for the sheets. She mock-pouted.

At home, I agreed to eat in front of the TV. After all, Friends and Two Guys and a Girl were on. Then the Girl came home from music class with the Lorax. He had been singing loudly the whole way home, on the back of the Girl's bike, and now went straight for a burger (which he pronounces buh-guh in Danish). The Girl was off to look at retinas for a few hours and I cleaned up after dinner.

Then I played with the Lorax. Our typical game included me hiding and scaring him. Then I tickle him until he screams "sloot", meaning "the end". Then I freeze and he climbs up on my back. He says "start" and I start to buck until he falls off. Then I run off to hide again or, alternatively, he runs off to hide. We always end up giggling hard. Sometimes, he gets overwhelmed by the game and goes "hej far!" ("Hi dad"), touching my face, to remind himself that I'm dad and not some crazy wolf about to eat him.

Then I put him to bed. He can go from wild savage to fast asleep in 5 minutes. I offer him a rub and a song and he climbs into bed and lies on his stomach. I always sing "Superman Song" by Crash Test Dummies. I have sung that song to all three kids; perhaps I've sung it 500 times. If he's not asleep by the end of it, which he usually is, I sing "I've just seen a face" by the beatles, followed by "Long may you run" by Neil Young.

I read to Natali; a novel that takes place in Norway. We talked for five minutes before I turn off the lights and kiss her cheek. She always insists on me tucking her in under both duvets.

Then the Girl came home. Her study is humming along right now, and there has been no major crisis this week. We had an hour to ourselves before calling it a night.

This morning, I ran two hours on the trails that start behind our house. Up and down steep hills, trying to beat up my quads as much as possible. Beautiful running on beautiful trails.

24 perfect hours. I can't imagine life getting much better, and I can think of millions of ways life could get worse. I am convinced we'll look back at this time in our lives and think of how happy we were. I should be happy; And yet, I feel like I'm living in limbo.

There is a simple test to see if I am enjoying life. If I want time to go slower, I am enjoying myself. Up until high school, I wanted time to slow to a standstill. I loved my life and wanted it to continue forever. Throughout my marriage with my ex, I wanted life to go fast; I wanted to get done with college, medical school, residency etc. But the last year of residency, especially after I met the Girl, I wanted to slow things down. This lasted until we moved to Denmark, after which I have wanted time to fly by.

It's the limbo I can't take. Or limbos; namely two, and a bunch of smaller ones.

The first is Natali and where she will be next year. My ex wife hasn't decided what she wants to do and, as some readers may know, she has the power to decide where Natali will live next year. I think about this 500 times a day, as I am biking or running or clearing the table after dinner. We can't plan anything past next summer, or "N-day" as I call it.

My ex-wife, bless her heart, ignores my emails. We have had some minor arguments lately. Really minor stuff, but her lack of communication makes the situation unnerving.

I don't know what I would do if she demands that Natali come back to Wisconsin. My first move could be to tell her (in writing, so I could show InterPol that I wasn't trying to kidnap Natali), "okay, she is all yours; come and get her". Now, my ex has watched me bring and pick up Natali 6 or 7 times over the last two years, while she has driven a few hours, tops, to Madison to meet us. She has paid half of one of the plane tickets, while bithing endlessly about it. Just that fact, that she would have to come here to pick up Natali, may deter her from wanting her.

Of course, such a move on my part would mean that I would be even farter away from Andreas, and being away from him is another one of my worries.

He's a pit of guilt and regret, moreso than a limbo, though. The other big limbo is what we'll do when the Girl is done with her PhD. This depends largely on what specialty she goes into. Right now, she is torn between ophthalmology and sports medicine. People may ask, appropriately, how the Girl could do a PhD in ophthalmology and then go into sports medicine. I personally think the Girl would be happy doing either specialty, and if she would go into sports med, she would sell her PhD as more of a public health/epidemiology study.

She would do well in either career. Ophthalmology seems more obvious, but her interests right now lie more in sports medicine. As much ought to be claer to anyone reading her blog (ie. the five people reading this). Her choice is exciting, but it also represents a state of limbo for me. Ophthalmology would probably take us back to Wisconsin and Andreas, whereas sports medicine would most likely take us to the Pacific Northwest. So it's not just a career choice for her; it's me being close to Andreas and, god forbid, Natali, if she ends up with my ex. And it has implications for my career, as hematology is a specialty of large academic centers. If the Girl does sports medicine, I may end up working in the ER, for a while or permanently.

I think the Dalai Lama has said something like "don't worry about things you can fix; fix them. Don't worry about things you can't fix, because you can't fix them, anyway". It seems like such simple advice to give, but it's hard to follow.

11 comments:

Danni said...

(((((SR)))))

olga said...

I wonder at times what you feel that SLG has bigger blog population and more life-influencing choices. May be it's because I grew up in a male shovinistic culture, and deep inside, despite being highly opinionated, do follow what a man does (career-wise).
It's hard living by that quote. But we can try and get close:) At times I get so tired, I can't think even about tomorrow, yet along about years ahead.

sea legs girl said...

I thought that was a great blog post.

A bit in response to Olga: just have to say that I am quite open-minded about where we move and what kind of job I get. There are many cool options. But Fast Bastard, it is a complicated situation with the kids (luckily, you could pretty much work anywhere). You know I'll go where you want to go.

sea legs girl said...

Danny - well, you know I'm not the most up to date when it comes to emoticons and punctuations marks as emotional expression - but, um, SR and I just got a little good laugh out of your comment, wondering if it was sexual. Ok - I'm guessing it wasn't.

Danni said...

No it's a hug!!! A totally asexual (non-touching virtual) hug :-)

PiccolaPineCone said...

SR, I identified so strongly with this post (and not just because a mention Owen Meany, possibly my favorite protagonist in modern literature, always gets my immediate attention).
I remember last year, our peaceful year, my year of exploration... I would sometimes tell myself - remember this, enjoy this very moment (even if I was waiting for a bus in the rain with a crying cocotte) because one day soon you will look back on it with yearning. And I already do... it is hard to enjoy the moment when important aspects of one's life are in limbo (and I can relate to that feeling of limbo right now as well) but we have to try. We have to embrace the moment. Worry about the future but embrace the now - your post sounds like you are doing exactly that. Children are such markers of time aren't they? BK (before kid) I would sometimes struggle to remember if we had done something a week ago, a month ago, 6 months ago... now I feel that every moment is so marked and poignant and etched in time.
Yes, your post really spoke to me.

SteveQ said...

Just looked up the World 100K Championship - did everyone in the US have something go wrong??? Pat Russell (of WI, MN and now MI) had planned on 6:50 or so before the baby was born 20 weeks early and his life was put on hold. I know two others who had tragedies as well. The Danes DID do well, however!

Irving wrote two good books, Owen Meany and (especially) Ciderhouse Rules and one okay one (Garp) - if you want total crap, I can send you my collection of his early stuff (158 Pound Marriage is particularly bad) - I must've been dating someone who liked his books at the time.

PiccolaPineCone said...

steveq - totally agree about 158 pound marriage which i just read for the first time last year in italy. however "a widow for one year" is actually my favorite book by him and well worth mentioning in the list of good books he wrote.
conversely, i would add "until i find you" to list of the bad

Fast Bastard said...

Danni, (((( )))) back at you.

Olga, it's not as simple as one of us just following the other's career. The Girl has to specialize in something or she can't work anywhere, so we'll follow her path for a while.

Piccola, it's well-described that we are on the same blogging wavelength. And apperently we, along with Steve, share a taste in books. I will have to read "A widow for one year", although, unfortunately, "158-pound marriage is next on my list" (it's the only one I have).

Thanks for the comments, all.

S.A. said...

What a lovely, thoughtful post.
It seems to me that if there is a career option that SLG could choose that will place you in physical proximity to your older son, and will result in your being able to see all 3 of your kids, that that is clearly the choice. Boys need their dads, especially in modern U.S. culture. The next few years, and your choices, will shape his future as a man, husband, father. I know there are no easy answers- but my heart can't help but ache for your son, who is an ocean away from his daddy, and daily has to deal with the fact that his sister is with his 'new' family.

SteveQ said...

Congrats on the newest addition to the family, btw.