Thursday, July 31, 2008

Emotional Immunities

If I confess that I'm achingly homesick for the little boy asleep in the next room, will you tell me to sit up straight and think of the children in Sudan, or Zimbabwe, (or in Newark NJ, for that matter)? That's about the response that Judith Warner got when she devoted an entire NYT column to the theme of missing her girls at camp. And I'm sure that Judith and I deserve the scorn.

The thing is this. My husband and I leave tomorrow morning for a romantic weekend for two. (The hotel describes our room as a "bridal suite." Ahem. Not a lot that's bridal about yours truly, the lady who's been around the block and up the duff 5 times now. But I digress.) We have never left Turtle overnight before and I'm already feeling bereft. Stomach tied in knots, chest-heaving sighs, bereft.

I know that billions have done this before me. I know that strong marriages make strong families. I know that we'll have a a great time lounging by the water. I know that I should have better manners than to complain about such a problem in public in the blogosphere. But there you have it. I miss Turtle terribly and we haven't even left yet.

In fact, I am feeling rather resentful of my parents for tricking me into letting them take away my child. I literally just got into a "discussion" with my mother over how early they'll promise to get him back on Sunday. If you knew how utterly unsentimental about children I am in general, how ambivalent I was about motherhood in the first place, you'd be better able to understand my own bafflement at the emotions my psyche comes up with.

Why do you think it is that things can hurt so acutely, that, by any rational standard, are actually phenomenal privileges (see spending weekend in pampered relaxation in first world country)? My latest theory is that it must be a kind of emotional allergy.

One leading hypothesis on the rise of allergies in the West is that our bored immune systems are going hay wire. Engineered to fight off typhus, plague, and long winters without fruit, our bodies just don't know what to do in the sanitized world of handi-wipes, antibiotics, and 24 hour supermarkets. So our bodies turn inward and come up with lovely counter-campaigns (like my immune system's brilliant idea to attack my thyroid). Maybe emotions work the same way.

Maybe we are all born with the emotional range to make it through wars and floods and famine. Yet, because most of us cosseted Westerners just don't have much immediate experience with woolly mammoths, we operate most of the time in emotional overdrive. Our feelings are left to cycle through the intense highs and lows that would make lots of sense in tougher conditions, but sound ridiculous applied to the problems of the middle-brow American.

Sorry to go all philosophical on you. But when you're on the verge of a mini break-down over a mini-break, it does get you thinking...