We eat a lot of pork.
I am allergic to chicken and turkey. Yes, I know. You have never heard of anyone being allergic to chicken. But they are and I am, and there you go. I also only like expensive fish that is cooked by someone else. So, in a way, I am kind of like the antithesis of a Jewish/Muslim pescatarian. I eat red meat, but because one needs to be careful with red meat, we eat a lot of pork. After all, it is the other white meat. It is readily available here in Denmark, as it was in Cyprus, and is, relatively speaking, cheap. Trichinosis, cloven-hoofed, unclean religious associations aside, it’s a win-win for me.
Despite all this, even I was surprised to realize that pork has been lurking in the background of some of my more light-bulb above the head moments. And, not that I am comparing myself to Tom Robbins, but if he can write a fantastic book which features a can of soup, a dirty sock and a stick as main characters, then I surely I can write a blog post about pork lingering in the background of my life, right? I hope so.
When my first son was born, I was one of THOSE moms. While my son sat drooling in his bouncy seat, I moved him every twenty minutes because I was afraid he would get bored. I read countless renditions of Moo, Ba, La La La to him. I would lay with him on the big, double bed and sing Patsy Cline songs. I fretted about tummy time, stared deep into his eyes as I was feeding him, and generally worked my tired ass off at creating a bond. My mother, who had been desperate for a grandchild, who (true story) once bribed my husband and me with a car if we had a baby, wanted nothing more than to sit and hold her new grandson. Yet she was given orders and regulations and schedules and lists of dos and don’t that ran onto another page. In an attempt to help me one night, she went into his room to soothe him. Running in so that I could stop her in time, I hissed:
“No eye contact!! You’re not supposed to stimulate him and make him think it’s play time! It’s eat and go to sleep!”
Yes, one of THOSE moms.
Needless to say, all this deep caring for the physical, emotional and intellectual well-being of my two month old wore me out. And because I never let myself rest during the day, I was exhausted. Like most first time fathers, my husband bore the brunt of some of my sleep deprived, overwhelmed rants. But the one that stands out, the story we tell new parents when they ask us what it’s like getting used to having a baby around, is the pork and salad story.
Exhausted, I called my husband at work to ask (read: demand to know) what he wanted for dinner. I’m sure I just wanted to hear another adult voice. I’m sure he just wanted me to stop calling him at work. We were both tired. And crotchety. And tired. I mentioned that I was going to make some pork with a salad.
“You can’t have pork with salad!” my horrified spouse roared at me down the phone.
There may have been a few sentences exchanged in there, but it ended with him hanging up the phone on me. I was livid. For hours. For days. How dare he criticize my dinner menu. Who the hell did he think he was? Here I was, looking after the baby, the house…..and on and on and on. Eventually we realized how ridiculous we were being, and we could laugh about it. But the story has long served us; as an example of not only how much lack of sleep can affect you, but also how important it is to communicate. About when you are feeling neglected or overlooked or when you just need to say, “I need a little help here”. Or sometimes when you need just suck it up and nod when your wife says you are having pork and salad.
Fast forward 8 years.
The kids are older, a lot more self-sufficient. Hence I am a lot older too, and those pesky female hormones are afoot. I had become aware of what we (at first) jokingly referred to as the “red mist” a few months before when I felt like I was losing emotional control over little things. Really, truly, minor, little things. On a weekend trip, my husband balked at stopping to feed the kids (it would mess with making good time). The resulting silently vibrating rage, which threatened to overflow onto him, the kids, the car, the road and most of Northern Cyprus, was enough to result in a hasty car picnic by the roadside in an attempt to, as he later put it, “save his marriage”.
I can’t explain what it feels like to be out of control of your own emotion. I am not talking about depression, which I am familiar with, or situational anger, which we are all familiar with, but irrational, blind-siding rage. When all rational thought gets instantly shuttered, behind a furor so violent and quick that it seems as if your very nerve endings will explode like fireworks. And over things, as a friend of mine so eloquently put it, as trivial as the water coming out of the tap the wrong way. Enter pork incident number two.
I had been consistently trying out new recipes, and failing miserably. I finally chose one which seemed easy enough. I followed the instructions, took it out of the oven and…..the pork was overcooked, the vegetables were undercooked and my brain was fried. Cue red mist. My husband caught me in the midst of hurling a roasting pan full of pork and carrots and potatoes out of the back door. My good roasting pan too. I think the words “Dina, step away from the pork” actually came out of his mouth. But it was a wake-up call for me, that it was not normal to hurl meat out of your kitchen door, that perhaps I needed to address the issue. Hence the ‘pork rage‘ incident entered our family lexicon.
I know. Two pork incidents would have been enough to prompt this post, right? But there is one more.
Cold pork is not great pork, so when we are going to have it for dinner, I give my husband a head’s up so he can either leave work on time or if he’s going to be late, let me know so I can delay dinner for a bit. Recently, I forgot to give him the ‘pork warning’. I was busy, I had other things on my mind, the kids were fighting over Clash of Clans on the iPad. All of the above. I didn’t really think anything of it. But when he got home, he was visibly upset. I was too wrapped up in whatever I was doing, he said, to give him the ‘pork warning’. Obviously it wasn’t the idea of eating cold pork that was upsetting him, but the idea that a little inside joke we shared had fallen to the wayside. And this one thing, which seemed so tiny and unimportant at the time, became the catalyst for the beginning of many, many conversations about all the other little things we had let fall by the wayside. The smiles and jokes and just general enjoyment of being around each other.
When you are living day-to-day life, worrying about what to have for dinner and whether or not the kids spend too much time on the computer, whether you remembered to pay the credit card bill or rsvp a birthday party or wash the sports uniform or all of the trillion other things that make up everyday life, it is easy to lose sight. Of little moments of joy, of smiles between spouses, of going out for a beer and a hot dog and riding a roller coaster and just having fun. Of cherishing your kids when they are little, of knowing where your limits are. Of asking for help when you need it.
So many lessons, so little pork.
Although I was writing lightly about anger and rage above, if it’s something you suffer from, please don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor. You can get help.