Vince’s senior year in high school is like my senior thesis of motherhood. I know there are going to be many more mothering challenges, but this year feels like a graduation requirement of motherhood. A senior thesis where you bundle decades of experience into one concentrated, concerted effort. All of my life experiences and lessons that I’ve learned about what is important and what is not important are pulled into play everyday. It is tricky, things that seem important – college applications, test scores and what people think about you are not as important as things that do not seem as important – having lunch with friends, working out disagreements in working groups and service & acts of kindness. It’s not that I don’t feel the draw of the non-important things, I do (very strongly) and Vince does too. It’s just always to remember what is the core goal. And the only core goal is love. As frustratingly amorphous as that can be. After all, it’s not as if you can write down “love” on a to-do list and cross it off after you are done with it. It is something that you try at every day and a lot of times you can get it right, but a lot of times you can fail spectacularly, but if you are lucky, you get to try again tomorrow.
For years, I’ve been on the lookout for the strong Lee depressive streak in Vince. He’d always seemed a happy-go-lucky kid, lots of friends, lots of activities and he’s a boy and not as much commanded by the monthly hormonal cycle, though I am not fooled or lulled into thinking that men do not have complicated emotional lives, they are just often more hidden. I was hoping he had inherited Jeremy’s more even-keeled and steady temperament. (Jeremy, when I asked about his teenage angst levels assuming they were low or non-existent, pulled out a photo of him smiling with friends holding a tattered book by Camus in his hand. I certainly had my moments he said.) But this is not the case. We are all high-functioning depressives, so he’s going to school, doing all his work, seeing friends and feeling bad. What to do with all the negative voices in one’s head? I can barely remember what it was like in early adulthood because I think I’ve blocked it from my memory. I thought all my terrible moods were situational – that I was a bad student, that I wasn’t good enough, that people hated me. They would cycle every 2-3 years or so and then kind of dissipate after a few months reinforcing, in my head, that it was a reasonable response to whatever stressful thing was going on in my life. It was only after I got married and Jeremy was living with me that when I cycled through one of my moods and Jeremy was shocked. Shocked! Like what is this? Oh, this? This is just one of my moods, it’ll go away, it’s totally normal. This is not normal- not the crying, the inability to get out of bed, etc. etc. And Jeremy dragged me to see a doctor, a therapist and made me get out of bed to play Trivial Pursuit every day. We still have that board game and pull it out every once in a while to play early ’90s trivia. So Vince is often in tears these days trying to tell me that everyone hates him and that he’s not smart and then I have to tell him, those voices you hear in your head are strong, but they are not true. They are not your true self talking to you, it is some trick of the mind. You know there is a quiet voice inside you that tells you good things or tells you when you are doing the right thing, you have to find that voice and listen to that one. That is the one to believe. You’ve heard that quiet voice before, I know you know exactly what I’m talking about. Can I quote the Indigo Girls here? I think I will. I love the Indigo Girls. Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable, And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.
Of course, this is overlaid with our constant chatter about college applications. There is the slow and slightly agonizing realization by Vince that he probably isn’t going to get into his dream college Carnegie-Mellon. One could say that this die was cast 4 years ago when he declined the offer to take the magnet track at the high school. Or one could say that the die was cast 12 years ago when he didn’t want to pursue any of the sports that I tried to get him interested in. Soccer! Swimming! Fencing! Ping-pong! (sorry, table tennis!). We were filling out the app for CM and right after they ask for your address and your gender (agender, female, gender fluid, gender non-conforming, gender queer, intergender, intersex, male, or non binary. Vince picked male.): , they ask these series of questions: I have taken the AMC 10 Test (optional). , I have taken or plan to take the AMC 12 Test (optional), I have taken or plan to take the AIME Test (optional). and then they asked for the test scores. I’m like – what are these tests? I’ve never heard of them. They are the American Mathematics Contest test and the American Invitational Mathematics Examination. Vince looked at me and said, I’m not getting into Carnegie Mellon am I? I sighed and looked at him with sympathy. What’s the point of even applying? he asked.
I failed to mention that Jeremy traveled to Chicago this week. He texted in the middle of all this last night and I ignored the text. Only after a bit when I was ready to try to go to sleep at 10pm did I read his text which read: “I had a minor crash on my bike ride.” He had his bike slip out from under him on a flat gravel road at relatively high speed and he hit his knee, hip, hands, shoulder and (helmeted) head. We’re almost sure he had a minor concussion because it took him a little while to reorient himself and walk back to the hotel. I told him to go to the hospital if he started getting a headache or anything started being weird. He said he would, he’s at a conference where he knows a lot of people so after the bike crash, he did go to a reception and put people on alert if he needed help during the night or to act if he seemed out of sorts anytime during the week. He seems fine this morning (head-wise) though he is sore (joint wise). I was urging him to not bike for the rest of the week. I did not manage to fall asleep until well past midnight.