My older son, Finn, toddles down the stairs at 9:30pm. He’s only been asleep for a couple of hours, but his 6-year-old body is troubling him. “My neck hurts.” He’s in pain, crying. I go to him, confused and sort of surprised, but I’m not sure what the deal is. He’s in pain, and children sometimes make it hard to translate their physical pain from their emotional pain.
“My neck hurts. It’s hurting.” I got that the first time he said it, but still no closer to the truth my wife and I inspect his neck for marks or bruises or rashes or stigmata. He just hurts and he doesn’t know why.
Lately, I’ve been feeling the weight of an invisible cloud. It’s not misty, but more like the truckload of dung that fell on Biff in Back to the Future. I constantly feel like I’m coming up short for people and they’re drifting away because of it. It’s never really been said outright, but I feel like people resent my inability to balance my life. Shouldn’t I have my shit so together that no one and nothing gets left behind. I can see certain people distancing. It sucks.
This is compounded by the fact that I obsessively overcommit from some primal urge to produce, provide and participate in things that will create a future for my family. I don’t know if you’ve ever struggled with this, but I seem to find myself wrecked by the end of the week.
Finn sits in my lap for a moment. His mom comes to brings him back upstairs to take off his shirt, apply a cold compress to his neck and put some strong cream on him. It’s unclear, to both of us, whether our efforts will be successful. But that’s all you can do with phantom pain.
Apply your best judgment, treat it like it’s something real, and go on with your plans.