On the first day of class in “Abnormal Psychology” our professor warned us that as we studied different disorders, we might begin to diagnose ourselves into the psych. ward. And he was right. By the end of the 2nd chapter, I knew I was partially, if not fully deranged.
Nowadays I lean towards being a neurotic hypochondriac. Every deep pimple on my hairline is surely the outcropping of brain cancer, every nodule a definitive indication of skin cancer, and the early stages of a migraine is convincingly the first sign of stroke. But after freaking out for 10 minutes, I get it out of my system and move on.
Once I read an alarming article about ovarian cancer stating that there are no major symptoms except feeling like you might have a full gut. A full gut?
And sometimes when I’m driving or sitting on the couch after a large bowl of ice cream, I can’t help but wonder, “Is that feeling cancer?”
And then my mind whirls to whether or not I should actually go to the doctor. If I did, I think it would be a little like this:
I would be sitting on the exam table. She would ask me why I’m there.
“Well, I’m pretty sure I might have a case of ovarian cancer, but I’m coming to you for a second opinion.”
“Who did you see for the first opinion?”
“That would be Good Housekeeping.”
“Good to know. Where does it hurt?”
“Kind of right here, under my rib cage.”
“And when does it hurt?”
“Mostly when I’m sitting.”
“Like the way you are sitting now?”
“Well, more when I’m a little more shlumpy. (Slouches more) Oh, yeah like right now!”
(Pokes me in my stomach) “Right here?”
“Yeah, right there!”
She wheels her stool over to the counter, scribbles on her prescription pad, tears it off, hands it to me and I read, That would be fat rolling over your rib cage. Try not to sit so much. Maybe try eating less, running more.
“So, what you’re saying is it’s not cancer?
“Nope, even Dr. Housekeeping is off every so often.”
Even more recently, my husband and I were sitting at our kitchen table with a local insurance agent who was advising and counselling us regarding our life insurance policies. I highly recommend this as a romantic and pleasurable date night. We had to pin down the exact needs our surviving spouse and children would have if either of us went the way of the dodo and it was weirdly fascinating picturing all the crackers and cheese whiz my children would have to endure as lunches for the rest of their childhood.
It also made me ponder on how I spend my time and for whom. My words (these words) will line bird cages and litter boxes tomorrow in this small corner of the world but selfishly despite my disjointed attempts at keeping a journal, photos and a few videos, what record will there be of my life? If I happen to be broadsided by a Nutella delivery truck, my children can still hear the cadence and humor of my voice and the nuggets of my very few bits of wisdom here in the written word.
They will see through my words that I knew that the career of being a parent is one in which your highest and noblest strengths as well as your pettiness and selfishness will be paraded, displayed and challenged for decades as you see yourself in miniature versions played out in the lives and homes of those you hold dearest.
These most important people will be on the front row at my funeral. Not my old co-workers, my boss, my editor or my five fans. Not my phone, my television or my computer. Just my peeps.
I now think in regards to how I spend my time and talent with thoughts such as “How will this affect my front row people (my FRP from this point on). The most important job in the world is being a parent. I don’t care if you are a CFO in a multi-billion-dollar Silicon Valley company or the manager of the pet shelter– your job is secondary to being a spouse and parent. Everybody eventually retires by choice or necessity but your job as a parent never ends. I know plenty of men and women who have devoted themselves to hobbies, careers, and friendships to the detriment of their front row.
I promise you that your phone, apps and even Pokémon Go will not walk in and weep at your passing. Your boss and employer will not run their hand over a framed photo of you and pine to hold you one more time or hear your crazy Dad jokes. The elk, bowling pins, fancy cars and crystal goblets will not ache for you in the years after you are gone but your FRP will.
Hobbies and interests and careers are not innately bad. They can feed our souls and influx our lives with creativity and purpose. But if we are not watchful, they can boot our front row peeps to the back.
Now, I ignore rambling daily child anecdotes as much as the next guy and there are times where I’m deep into listening to a friend in crisis or busy with a project and my FRP get second row service as they get a quick peck for a goodnight kiss instead of lingering snuggles and stories. There are even times when I growl, “I’M DONE!” and glare and dare them to get out of bed. Like all of us, I’m learning.
This life here on this round weird planet is fleeting at its best and unscriptable at its worst. These days, minutes and hours are so valuable. These people closest to us are so precious. I pray we treat them as such.
Now excuse me while I check on this abnormal mole I have on my arm; it’s probably squamous cell carcinoma.