Have you seen the movie 127 Hours? It’s based on the real life situation in which Aron Ralston went hiking by himself through some canyons in the desert and managed to get his arm trapped underneath a boulder too heavy for him to lift. He was stranded without hope for rescue and got to the point where me made the decision to cut his own arm off in order to survive. (SPOILER ALERT: he does cut off his arm and he does survive). The movie producers did a fantastic job of depicting his self-mutilation. He sawed through the muscles and tendons with his multi-tool, which was grisly, but the cinematographic artistry peaked when he hit the nerves. As he stroked the nerve, the screen vibrated and, like guitar strings, the wires screamed out grisly chords. It made me cringe and grab my arm in response. He eventually realized he couldn’t saw through the bone and he had to break it in the end, but as disturbing as that part was, the nerve scene was by far the most powerful. It was disgustingly well done.
For some reason Aron’s story sticks with me. It pops into my mind with surprising regularity and makes me think. It makes me wonder if I would cut off my own arm in a similar circumstance. I wonder if I would cut off my spouse’s or if he would cut off mine. I wonder what other things I would do to survive. To live. It makes me wonder if what I do on a daily basis is enough. It’s a powerful story.
Sometimes his story pops into my mind just from parenting.
It’s the nerve pain. It’s the vibrato zing. It’s the razor-sharp adrenaline rushes that slice open my insides and cause chemicals to seep into my blood stream faster than they normally would.
Parenting is gasping and inhaling and sweating and heart RACING RACING RACING. Parenting is survival mode and I’ve been in it for 20,040 hours. The difference between Aron and I is that instead of for actual life or death circumstances, I’m on overdrive for stupid things like these:
THUMP THUMP THUMP.
“I have water in my eye!”
She spilled her sippy cup on her face.
It’s a middle of the night moan.
ZING!!!! My head vibrates. My eyes vibrate. My fingers vibrate.
I hear her roll over. She’s still asleep.
“Mama!” A shriek this time.
Flup! I can hear my eyelids unstick from one another. I try to listen over the thumping. Nothing. I doze off.
THUMP THUMP THUMP. Silence. I doze off.
Silence again. What the hell?
And then I realize it is Mr. Grouch’s nose doing a whistling sort of snore. My arms are pinging and pulsing and I’m ready to pounce, but my kid was never even awake (Sidebar: This is why we hate you, sleeping spouses. And anyone who asks if the kids sleep through the night yet, because that doesn’t really matter, if we’re still not).
Parenting is constant nervous system misfiring. It is hypervigilance.
Sometimes my spouse gets caught in the misfire, saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing. It’s like he’s bumping the hand that is severing the other limb off, triggering sudden and unexpected searing pain, but, since he doesn’t realize I’m cutting my arm off, he has no idea how he possibly could have struck a nerve.
He usually doesn’t even know he did until I snap at him. Which pisses him off, and makes me appear too sensitive, and then we’re both in a foul mood because I am snippy and how the hell doesn’t he notice my bloody bleeding stump?
Okay, okay, I’m not really comparing myself to this bad ass who cut off his own limb but sometimes hormones and anxiety make me feel this way.
Maybe I drink too much coffee.
Our loved ones certainly tug at our heart-strings, but I think they tug on our nerve-strings too. So, if you’re the one who gets treated like you’re always on your spouse’s nerves….maybe this is why.