I was planning to take this on, as they say, “in my next life”. But I have realized that this plan, necessitated as it is by the demise of this life—which I am otherwise really enjoying and pretty deeply investing in continuing—is not as foolproof as I would like. Even in a best case scenario, it seems inadvisable to rely on such a specific level of agency within the unproven context of reincarnation. For these and other reasons, I have decided to start now.
Effective immediately, I will be identifying as a woman who is Fragile. Frankly, I should have done this a long time ago.
I understand that this will mean big changes for many of you, my friends and family, and probably a little more work for everyone. Everyone, that is, except for me.
Not that it will be easy for me, either; you just cannot imagine how little I’ll be able to deal! You have to be so careful with the Fragile, and so protective. So many things are “just too much”. They are flimsy and delicate; their feelings are the ones that everyone is always worried about. No one has confidence in them, relies on them, or would dare question why they “just can’t”, no matter how that messes things up for everyone else. When it is necessary to restate her position—which is not often, as a Fragile has spent her entire life making this abundantly clear—people around her “understand”, give her a wide berth, pick up her slack. This sounds like just the sort of thing I have been looking for.
I think how this usually works is that you will all get together—I am not sure how often—and whisper conspiratorially about the myriad of ways in which you can each work to protect me, from work and worry and whatever else I “cannot handle”. From life. From stress. From problems. From bad moods and thoughtless oversights. From honesty and bravery and adulting, from physical labor and home improvement projects. And, perhaps most importantly, from myself. There is so much that I cannot be expected to endure.
While you guys are figuring all that out, I will, like any Fragile flower worth her pollen, take to my bed.
I should have listened to my mother. Growing up a “sturdy girl” from Irish “good stock”, she had made the same mistake, and she knew it. Shortly after I got married, she looked me straight in the eye and suggested, in a classic not-as-I-do moment, that I ought never pick up a hammer. Looking back, she said, she thought that might be where she had first gone wrong. She thought it might be the road to ruin, the start of people always assuming that you can do things, you know, all by yourself.
If you are wondering if I took this advice, let me just say that I went on from this meeting to use an electric drill to hang every curtain rod I have ever owned. I have perched an 8 foot ladder on my front stoop to hang a flagpole over my front door and painted a checkerboard floor in my foyer when the husband, who’d indicated he thought it was a questionable idea, left for a business trip. I once fully upholstered a chair. We didn’t even have DIY channels on cable back then; I have no one but myself to blame.
I see now that I ought to have transferred my status before I had cancer, which is a really good test of which group you are in. Once you have been diagnosed with cancer, people will look you in the eye and tell you that it’s only the Strong and Tough who face such challenges; apparently, the lucky Fragile… don’t? I guess just on account of my having received that diagnosis, people knew I was Not Fragile, and would therefore be ok with the more un-helpful things they said in greeting to my bald self: awful stories of young mothers who had died, interrogations about why I thought I “got it” in the first place.
The single worst of these, though, was the old “God never gives you more than you can handle,” which is a thing that people say to the Non-Fragile, when they need to feel like there is some kind of order to things. It is not so much believing it or even saying it that is the problem; it is how it feels to hear it. It does not in any way make you feel like God has confidence in you, but rather like a kind of backhanded compliment with the emphasis on the sting of the backhand. As if, after a decent Batting Practice during spring training for God’s Team, He then took the mound to throw a curveball at your face. It is my opinion that it is something you ought never, ever say to anyone, but—oh, wait, never mind. There I go again. This is just the sort of honest, bossy advice that a Fragile would never give.
I am looking forward to my new life, free from schlepping firewood and trash cans, particularly in cold weather. I am hoping to also phase out pumping gas, cleaning disgusting dog messes, shoveling snow, cleaning out the basement, and buying heavy bags of dog food. I think my husband might have the biggest adjustment: our longstanding partnership newly dissolved, he’ll have to run the show, on account of my delicate condition. My kids, too, will have to learn to shield me from their trials, making only daily, concerned calls full of gauzy, adoring cheer; my days will be spent light of heart. I wonder how I’ll know what’s going on at all. It does seem like the Fragile must miss some things.
This last part gives me pause. It makes me wonder about this decision, and about its consequences. But then I remember: The Fragile don’t suffer consequences! Everybody sees to that! And the appeal is back. This is really going to be a great change for me.
*whispering weakly* Anyway, thanks, everybody, for everything. If you need me, I’ll have taken to my bed.