New Year's Resolutions

Submitted into Contest #179 in response to: Write a story in the form of a list of New Year's resolutions.... view prompt

6 comments

Christian Sad Inspirational

I sit at the edge of an examination table, dizzy and annoyed at the dizziness. A shock of pain plows into my forehead and extends through my gut. My skull seems to vibrate. A wave of nausea overcomes me and I groan.

I don’t get enough sleep, there’s too much stress in my life, I need to eat better and drink more water. Because of these things, I get migraines. I know that’s all it is, but I'm here to placate my annoying husband who insists on telling me to go to the doctor every time I complain.

 I am, and always have been a picture of health and good fortune. Growing up, I was the one kid who jumped on deathtrap trampolines while never breaking an arm. Signs of emotional eating never show up on my blood tests. I’ve never had surgery. Never had a health problem a quick pharmacy run couldn’t fix. The one time I crashed my car, I sat unscathed in the wreckage as the uninjured passengers in the other vehicle crossed the median to check in on me. Overtime, I began to feel invincible, which explains why I didn't worry when a year-long battle with headaches got worse in December; when dizziness, vomiting, and blurred vision compounded things to the point that I often felt too unwell to drive or even walk in a straight line.

The more my health declined, the more my husband nagged me. But I couldn’t make time for an appointment in December! My eight-year-old, Masha, had one holiday party or another every day. Powell, my two year old, needed ample time to ramble through the newly refurbished toddler area in the mall. I had to host a cookie swap, send out a hundred Christmas cards, and make goody bags for everyone I knew. There simply wasn’t time for sterile doctors' offices with strange men in white coats asking uncomfortable questions during the most wonderful time of the year!  

So I promised my husband I’d make an appointment in the beginning of January as a way of hushing him up. He paced the kitchen barefoot in a pair of plaid pajama pants as he watched me call. Powell sat on his hip, babbling and pointing at the coffee maker, laughing in delight at the sound of percolation. Next thing I knew, my name was on a doctor's schedule, but I never thought the dreaded appointment day would actually come. The squares on the December page of the calendar marched on in what seemed an endless parade beneath a whimsical painting of a snow-capped cottage trimmed in lights. The new year existed in a foggy, distant haze I had no desire to examine, and every wish to keep at arm’s length. But somehow, for the thirty-fifth time in my life, Christmastime came with all its festivity and cheer, only for Santa’s sleigh to whisk it away into a star-pocked night, leaving me to forlornly wrap out of season decorations in tissue paper and lay them into the tombs of large, plastic containers.  

So here I sit at my early January appointment, trying to read the words on a depressing poster about brain health that looks like a page from one of those textbooks I hated in college. But I can’t make out the words. They wobble before me in jiggling blotches like ink spilled onto a moving, white conveyor belt. My eyes process the colorful image of a brain as no more than a jumbled blob of multi-colored spaghetti noodles. I throw my head into my hands and blink back the tears. I have plans to make unicorns out of Play-Doh with Masha this afternoon. In the evening, I’m supposed to take Powell to a mommy and me music class! How can I if I’m sick and unable to see?

The doctor knocks with three smart raps, then steps into the office. I can tell he has a beard from the grizzly, black blob that quivers around his chops. His stethoscope bulges and throbs until it resembles a silvery boa.

“I’m a doctor,” he says curtly, “not a therapist. But I have a list of therapists and encourage you to seek support.”

“Therapy?” I ask politely. I’m always polite, but sometimes I worry I’m not polite enough. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound abrupt. Did you say therapy? I’m not here for depression. If you saw that on the chart-”

The doctor is not polite. He interrupts as he sits on a stool. “You have an extremely large brain tumor. Based off your symptoms and the size of the mass, it’s likely cancerous. We have more tests to run, but I want you to be aware that there’s a strong possibility you only have months to live. If you’re lucky, you’ll see another Christmas, but I wouldn’t get too comfortable in thinking another new year is guaranteed. I’m doing you a kindness by telling you this directly. You have a hard road ahead, and I don’t want to delude you.”

I don’t hear words after that, or see images in shapes and lines. I hear “wah-wah-wah,” in the voice of the teacher from Charlie Brown. The doctor waves an x-ray like a flag of defeat - a wobbly, black oval disrupted by an enormous white mass. I see models, like soulless mannequins, gracing the fronts of brochures filled with information on how terminally ill patients can postpone their deaths. When a chubby nurse in pink scrubs waddles in with a stack of forms, I want to lay my head in her lap and sob. Instead, I stagger dizzily to my car and take a notebook from my glove compartment. I see the lines on the page through a waterfall of tears. Perhaps for the last time in my life, I write, “New Year’s Resolutions.” 

Closing my eyes and reclining in my seat, I think back to the first year of Powell’s life - a time when the phrase, “postpartum depression,” lept from the pages of internet medical articles to become a grim reality that took over my life. I see myself, an emotionally drained scarecrow, limp in a bed of wrinkled sheets. My head sticks to my pillow like an object glued to wet cement. Tears course down my cheeks, but I can’t find the strength to wipe them. My thoughts, like squabbling birds, battle inside my head. A vulture with outstretched wings glowers at me from a dying tree. In a raspy, human voice, he reminds me of my flaws, convinces me of my worthlessness. He waits for me to die of a broken heart so he can devour me. 

Why didn't I fight harder to cling to those precious days? How could I have left the care of my children to my husband, family and friends? The vulture shakes his wrinkly, red head and cackles at me from the tree. Why wasn’t I stronger? Why didn’t I fight back? Guilt and regret plunge a dagger into my heart. Opening my eyes, I write my first resolution: “Never waste another moment.” 

I stand in my doorway, looking at my husband, seeing him clearly, perhaps for the first time. If marriage was a pool, I cannonballed into it with both eyes closed and a heart as vast as a canyon opened wide, ready to give up all of its secrets and all of its love. But seeing him on the living room floor, in the light of the Christmas tree I still haven’t taken down, laying on his side with his cheek propped up on one hand, watching him play legos with Powell, the vulture in the tree reminds me of my mistakes. Times I complained when I shouldn’t have. Failed to show gratitude. In my younger days, criticized him for things an older, wiser version of myself would realize didn’t matter. Procrastinated about the laundry. Let the clutter pile up. Got takeout instead of making dinner.

With a sigh, I write down my second resolution as my husband smiles, so glad to see me, as Powell totters toward me cooing, reaching out for my leg: “Be a better wife.”

“How did the doctor’s appointment go?”

“Fine,” I lie.

I choose to leave the truth in the awful, sterile doctor’s office. I procrastinate, thinking I’ll bring it into the real world when I get to the point of believing it myself.

“What did they say?”

“Not much.”

“Are you having a relapse with the depression?”

“Yes,” I lie, using that as a cover. “A little. I’m sorry.”

Standing in the doorway of my bedroom, I watch as the light from the bulb of a lamp casts a c-shaped glow across the cover of my Bible. A prayer journal filled with names of loved ones and lists of spiritual goals rests sloppily on my bedside table between a stack of Masha’s drawings and a pile of Powell’s cars. I sigh and take a seat on the edge of the bed. The pillow I knelt on to pray that morning still bears the indentation of my knees. I pick it up off the floor, and stuff it behind my back. Closing my eyes, I think with regret of seasons my Bible lay forgotten and unread. Of resolutions I made in my Christian walk, but failed to keep. Of pet sins I clung to. So many times I fell short. Taking up my pencil, I write a third resolution, “Be a better Christian.”

“Mommy.”

Masha stands beside the bed, her hair pulled up in bushy pigtails, a unicorn T-shirt clothing her small chest. She smiles to reveal a missing front tooth. Ink from Crayola markers stain her hands, and even her forearms. I imagine her as a middle schooler, as a high schooler, as a bride. Tears ooze from my eyes as I realize I’ll only have her another year. 

Masha smiles wide to cheer me up. She points to my notebook and asks, “What are you writing?”

“New year’s resolutions.”

She shimmies up beside me and makes herself at home. A pair of ratty, brown shorts play peep-eye from beneath the hem of her pink, ballerina skirt. 

“What are your resolutions?” she asks.

Gently, I trace a constellation of freckles on her cheek. She smiles and squeezes the fat on the underside of my arm. 

“You remember how Mommy would get sad and cry, and have trouble getting out of bed sometimes? How Daddy would take care of you, and how sometimes Grandma would come?”

Masha scrunches her cheek to one side and nods. Her eyes are like two coffee-brown sponges ready to absorb whatever liquid the world throws at them. Stroking her curls, I hope I’ve poured in enough love. 

“I let you down,” I tell her. “I resolve this year to never let that happen again.”

Masha sits up, making the bed squeak. I sit up with her, trying to ignore a flash of pain in my head. She wiggles a loose tooth, then a big toe coated in chipped, bright pink nail polish. 

“It’s fine, Mom,” she says, looking confused. “I got to spend time with Grandma, and Daddy let me watch cartoons and eat pizza. Plus, it wasn’t like you took off to Mexico. You were just in the bedroom. If I ever needed something and Daddy or Grandma couldn’t help, you helped me even if it was hard for you. You play with me a lot, but you don’t have to play with me all the time. Sometimes it’s good to rest.”

My husband appears in the doorway, balancing a tray with two cups of strawberry soda and a platter filled with crackers and cheese. Powell stands at his leg flashing a plastic wrench. My husband approaches, shifts my Bible out of the way and sets the tray down on my bedside table.

“Why don’t you and Masha have a tea party and talk a while? Maybe that will cheer you up.” 

In the face of his kindness, I feel guilty and inadequate. More tears seep from my eyes. “I’m sorry I haven’t been a better wife to you."

“What?” he asks, looking confused. “You’re the best wife.”

I kiss him before he goes, the way I always do, without holding back. I tell him how much I love him in the way I rub his back. I stroke his head and notice a smattering of gray hairs forming around the curves of his ears. I remember how he looked when he was little more than a boy, picking me up in a car now long defunct, rotting away in a junkyard. I imagine the companion of my youth growing old without me. More tears leak from my eyes and trickle down my chin.

My husband smiles at me reassuringly, not understanding. He assumes the birds are squawking at each other in my head again, making me depressed as the vulture of low-self esteem and perfectionism glowers at me from a tree. 

“It will pass,” he tells me confidently. “You'll feel better and be back to your old self again soon. The bouts of depression never last forever, and recently your episodes have been getting shorter and shorter.”

He and Powell announce plans to fix the bathroom sink. Two peas in a pod, they sashay happily from the room.

“Do you have any other resolutions?” Masha asks.

Fingering my prayer journal, I tell her the third one.

She takes a swig of soda, and I warn her gently to watch the white bedspread. Hovering over the bedside table she reminds me of something I should already know.

“We’re only saved by grace, Mom. We can’t earn God’s love. None of us can. If it was a test, the whole human race would fail. That’s why Jesus came. You know that. You taught me that in vacation Bible school.”

I feel much better all of a sudden. I feel young and healthy. No older than I was when my husband picked me up for our first date. No sicker than I was as a spunky little girl still Masha's age, leaping from dangerous trampolines while keeping my limbs intact. Thinking of the calendar still turned to the first month of the year, twelve months seems an eternity. It seems I have all the time in the world. I’ve always been a procrastinator, so why not put off facing death?

Masha and I eat crackers together and make plans for the coming year. 

“This Valentine's Day,” I suggest, “let’s have all your friends over, and host the biggest cookie decorating extravaganza the world has ever seen.”

Masha giggles. “Can we let Powell decorate too?”

“He’ll probably decorate the wall and his clothes along with the cookies, but sure, why not? I think it will be cute.” 

“Let’s shop for new dresses together in the spring, and hit every Easter celebration for miles around.”

“In the summer, let’s take a trip to the beach, pack way too many snacks and spend hours digging holes in the sand just to watch them fill up with the tide.”

“I want to be a unicorn for Halloween.” 

I pinch her flat little nose. “You think you’ll still be in the unicorn phase by then? Your interests tend to change every two or three months.”

“No. The unicorn thing will be from now until forever.”

“Well, I’ll tell you this much, the Christmas tree is going up the day after Halloween. Every year, the holidays fly by, and we don’t have time to do half the things we want to. Some people say, so try to do less. But I say, let’s start earlier so we can fit it all in!”

“Christmas just ended, and I’m already ready for it to come back.”

I stroke my baby’s hair. “Don’t rush it. Let’s savor every day.”

Masha makes a cheese and cracker sandwich, dropping some cheese on the floor along the way. She fumbles, picking up her cup, and splashes strawberry soda on the edge of a pillowcase. I don’t scold her, though. I rarely scold my babies. I make a cracker and cheese sandwich myself, dropping some crumbs down the front of my shirt.

“How about today?" I ask. 

My head begins to ache. A shock of nausea strikes my gut. My daughter’s face blurs to a flesh-colored blob. But remembering my first resolution, I’m determined to put up a fight.

“Why don’t we make unicorns out of Play-Doh, bake cookies, and then get Daddy to drive us to the pet store so you and Powell can look at the fish?”

“I think you’re tired, Mommy. I think you don’t feel good. Maybe you should rest.”

“I’m fine,” I lie. “We’ll never get this day back,” I say truthfully.

Masha stretches her small body to full length, fluffs a pillow, and smushes her soft cheek against it. I lay down too, exhausted and relieved to be given a chance to rest.

“Resting isn’t a waste of time, Mommy. It’s a gift, and you deserve it. Resting’s especially nice if we can do it together.”

The softness of the pillow soothes away the pressure in my head. My thoughts begin to drift. I feel comfortable and safe. I don’t want the day to end, but it will whether I approve or not.

I smile contentedly as my daughter nestles against me. Her pigtails tickle my chin. Her fingers caress my cheeks slick with tears. As I drift to sleep, I hear her say,

“We all love you, Mommy. You’re perfect just the way you are.”



January 07, 2023 04:57

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6 comments

Wally Schmidt
21:41 Jan 12, 2023

A sweet story that takes your emotions through the ringer: post-partum, the diagnosis, the moments with her children, and the tenderness she has for her husband such important moments in the MC's journey. I kept thinking about how she was going to tell people about the tumor, but was happy she decided just for today to life in the moment

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Hannah Perdisci
03:45 Jan 13, 2023

Thanks so much for reading and leaving feedback! This was a very emotional story for me to write, and I'm glad to hear that the feeling I put into it made its way to the reader. I started with the concept of a character learning she had a year to live at the begininng of the year and writing a list of new year's resolutions for the last time. I combined some of my personal feelings and experiences with some fictional ones to come up with the rest. Again, thanks for reading!

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Wally Schmidt
04:07 Jan 13, 2023

Thanks for sharing your writing process. That's an interesting way to do it

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Samreen Fatima
06:14 Jan 20, 2023

"I imagine the companion of my youth growing old without me. " this was heart-wrenching.

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Hannah Perdisci
11:35 Jan 20, 2023

So glad that part touched your heart. It was an emotional piece to write. Thanks for reading.

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Samreen Fatima
13:29 Jan 20, 2023

You are very welcome.

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