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The Very Run Down Caterpillar

by Mommy On, a blog by Jill S. Litwin

This morning, my friend posted this:

“People talk about caterpillars becoming butterflies as if they just go into a cocoon, slap on wings, and are good to go. Caterpillars have to dissolve into a disgusting pile of goo to become butterflies. So if you’re a mess wrapped up in blankets right now, keep going.”

While relating to insects has never been my forte, I certainly feel a kinship these days with any being that’s a disheveled mess.

It all started with my sore throat Saturday night. On Sunday, it was my sore throat and low fever. On Monday, it was my sore throat, low fever, and bad cold. On Tuesday, add to all that my exhaustion from writing sub plans. On Wednesday, Autumn had a tummy ache, and then she got sick. Now it’s Thursday, and here I am, cocooning on my couch, totally out of sync. While my body is physically congested, my brain is mentally cloudy, fogged over this week with a toxic overload of cringy Pinkalicious episodes because while I’ve been home sick, I’ve also been home mostly caretaking my two-year old. And so I seek comfort in several ways:

1. First, I delight in words – their patterns, semantics, and healing power.

I find a Dr. Seuss-like cadence in the way my wearable blanket goes on again-off again-in again-out again with my sudden shifts in body temperature. I think about how my weighted blue blanket becomes the one that is wait-ing when I unearth myself from beneath it. I draft lyrics for my first song — “The 12 Days of Sickness” — and I practice with my sister speaking Adult, a language I once conversed in fluently.

2. Then I find solace in what I’ve learned while out of commission. I reflect back to a few weeks ago, when I expressed to my mom my desire:

“I just want one day to myself.”

And I ponder how the Universe responded by granting that exact wish on Sunday, the day I stayed home – by myself – too sick to attend the Nutcracker. I took the bubble bath, binged the TV, indulged in the chocolate, but the best part was when the wish granting was over. Autumn came back, and upon seeing me sprawled on the couch, rested her body on mine. From that, I discovered this:

“Sometimes the Universe will respond to your longings to show that what you

thought you wanted isn’t at all what you needed.”

3. And finally, I reconsider my value.

I remember spending two nights in an Arizona hospital after teaching on the

Transformers set in 118 degree heat. To those in charge, more concerning than my

health was the speed at which a replacement could fly out because, well, the show must

go on.

Since that day years ago, I’ve regained confidence in the classroom, taking myself

– and my profession – seriously. And so yesterday, my first attempt back to teaching after a two-day absence, when the nanny texted about Autumn’s sickness, I didn’t come home right away. There were science papers to grade and math tests to file, literacy lessons to look over and grammar games to review. And in the midst of all the flurry, I came to a realization:

As a teacher, I’m replaceable, but there’s no substitute for Autumn’s mom.

This morning marked Day 5 of my dishevelment. The dog needed food, my sub needed explanation, and I needed to hang up so my daughter didn’t choke on a dreidel. In the midst of it all, the Universe, through Alexa, played the song, “I’m Still Standing.”

Very funny, I thought. And also, if what my friend posted is true, I’ll soon enough be flapping my wings.

Mommy On.

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