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Feel the pain and know you're alive.

Right now, I hurt. My torture sessions are twice a week, and the trainer "makes" me come to the gym several other times a week for some extra special self-inflicted, machine-assisted misery. I keep doing it, though. In fact, I pay money for it. And I think I actually look forward to it. How sick that makes me, I don't know. How much that suggests my entire understanding of myself and my life is changing, I don't know either. The physical pain and the gym is just one soft bud on one small branch of something that has been pushing up from within for a long time, maybe forever. This bud hurts; other buds hurt more, but they're beautiful and they're growing into something, I think.

I was on the phone with my dad the other night. The poor guy calls us because he thinks maybe now, on this night, we will have become nice, normal people who can talk on the phone without any violent finger snapping at wild creatures running in blurry circles and screaming bloody murder, but alas, each time he is escorted back into reality by my tense, terse voice and the mayhem of crashing pans and stomping shoes in the background. Between Quinn's age-related challenges and the evening mental ward behavior we can't seem to curb no matter what we do, I was at the end of my rope when he called: "It's ALWAYS like this, you hear that in the background? It NEVER stops. It doesn't matter WHAT we do. They act like they want attention, but they GET attention, they get PLENTY of focused attention and structure and positive reinforcement and consistent discipline and all that CRAP! I have no idea what's WRONG with them. It's constant chaos around here. I can't stand it."

At first, he tried sympathizing with me, telling me he didn't understand why those crazy kids were pushing our buttons in such direct, blatant ways these days, saying it was probably a phase, we probably just needed to keep doing what we're doing and get through it. That just fueled my fire: "It's not a phase, they're just LIKE this anymore! We can't even leave them alone, they're like toddlers! If we leave them in a room for five minutes, they end up destroying something, fighting, or both. John just called me over and said that while I was talking to you about this and he was in his office (which is right next door to the bathroom), Quinn emptied the tube of toothpaste onto the bathroom counter, just because! I mean, COME ON! And I'm sure I don't even want to know how many boxes of crap Bryce has emptied all over his room in the past five minutes!"

He listened to my rant, which went on and on for long enough that when I was finished, the kids weren't yelling or stomping or smearing toothpaste on counter tops anymore. He said, "I know when you're dealing with all of that, it feels chaotic and it feels like it lasts forever and there's no end in sight. But from my perspective, I don't hear chaos. I hear fullness and life." I was standing at the bottom of the stairs looking up at Quinn in his too-small pajamas and wet hair from the bath John had just given him, he was walking down two steps per stair and using the wall for balance. He got to the bottom step and wrapped his arms all the way around one of my legs, kissed it, and looked up at me.

I, in my haggardness and frustration and desperation and perceived failure, hurt. This new bud is exactly that, isn't it? Fullness and life. Catherine Newman said recently, "I know it's boring to say it, so obvious that it's almost silly, but the lesson of death is that we die — which is the same as saying that we're living now."

The ever-forming buds and the creaking, stretching branches, always pressing outward against me, stretch and push me in new ways, bring me to breathless, doubled-over sobs of make it stop, and then someone reminds me of this monumentally important truth that, oh yeah, I don't want it to stop.

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