For the past week, I have been a toilet. I never thought I would experience joy when an underage girl pissed on me. Nor that I would hope for days that any human would shit on my bare chest. But I do. I could not have imagined the joy I experienced while my newborn looked at me with her beautiful light grey eyes and pushed her bright orange poo onto my lap.
Oh, the places I have been. I would not change my toilet nature for anything in the world. Yet, as any other human toilet will tell you, there is a lot of time to think while we perform our shitty job.
A lifetime ago, I arrived at my destination, a neighborhood filled with anxiety, fear, joy, and hope. Five weeks ago, I became a parent. A bundle of joy came into existence, and I became her dad. No longer just a husband but also a dad.
A 36-year overnight change, parenthood completely refined my goals. My root goal is to die after her. Within that goal lies my hope of dying as old as I can. Every other goal has shifted, most of them down the line. I expected this change but not what it would entail.
My hands were the first to change. No longer given the luxury of clumsiness, I first experienced them learning to grab for dear life the leather handle of her stroller. To learn new skills, clean her body, soothe her fear, and calm her worries.
The practice of care was the first change—a practice I adore. I am filled with endless side quests and explorations. Time holds still as I care for her. A few hours of singing, swaddling, shooshing, and soothing go in a blink of an eye. I notice the time only as I leave my being with her. And although time might become an irrelevant measure, some others make me question life.
I am here because [rep Ad Infinitum]
I am a toilet for an excellent reason. A trained professional failed to gauge risks accurately. This human who soils the reputation of medical doctors treated my daughter in such a way that, as a repercussion, a third of her butt was burnt. She did not need a skin transplant but only because her skin is a marvel of human resilience and because of the care her mom and I provide. It took six daily visits to the emergency room to take transplants off the table. Yet, as the doctor who treated her would say, "transplant was never really an option as it was just a few percent of her body" #fuckyouintheasswithacactus
It's my privilege to be her toilet. We are on parental leave for the next months, so going daily to the emergency room is not super easy but barely an inconvenience. Although this is not what we expected, it is within the realm of possibility for which we were prepared.
"What kind of a situation is this? What kind of a person am I? What does a person such as I do in a situation such as this (March and Olsen 1989; March 1994)"? These questions circumnavigated my soul as we sailed toward our current hood. These questions are common, parenthood is something everyone has been subjected to, and most people will perform at some point in their lives. Were it not, our species would collapse (e.g., South Korea).
However common, the arrival to this hood changes one forever. As I lay below my daughter and wait to serve my duty, I face a less unencumbered view of parenthood. There is a reason why I lay here. There is no long-term goal. I know myself and what someone like me would do in this situation. Yet, this performance is somehow absurd.
God worked six days to build the universe. On the seventh day, she chilled. Similarly, my daughter took six days from when the doctor burnt her until her first bowel movement. On the seventh day, I was there to care for her.
Ever since she was conceived, my daughter has been unique. She grew well and tried to help her mom avoid a tough birth. So, her waiting seven days while her wounds healed was not surprising to us. But it is still impressive to realize her wisdom to wait until her wound is a good way into her healing, or at least until the day the doctors announced she would not need a skin transplant, to risk contamination. #blessed
A shitty job
A million years ago, I used to watch Mike Rowe's Dirty Jobs series. I found it impressive how no matter what job he looked for, the people who performed them found purpose and meaning in their pursuit. Purpose being hard to find within the "bullshit job" economy (e.g., consultants, corporate lawyers, etc.), I always wondered why these dirty jobs, were full of it.
My current role as a toilet has helped me understand this at a physical level. I am happy lying here. I would never pay anyone to do this, not because I could not afford it. There are enough weirdos out there, but because doing this job is priceless. I can care for my daughter in a way no one else could. Care of such quality that her wound continues to heal swiftly. It is strange, though, being a toilet.
Existentialism has been a central philosophy in my life. I cannot decouple the fact I am a social scientist from the reality that I was fired from physics, nor that I am a dad from the fact of being divorced. The truth that these events happened in the same year led me to read Camus, Becket, Kafka, and other existentialists to bring meaning to my life.
In 2014, I watched Daniel Kahnemans TED talk a couple of dozen times until I could differentiate the experiencing self from the remembering self. It was such a foreign concept, the idea of living a life one likes, that I could understand his words, but the idea was so fine my hands could not hold it.
It has taken me the better part of a decade to understand that I deserve procedural happiness. Happiness as a destination is fine when you are young, but at some point, one deserves happiness. Enters Godot.
Theater of the Absurd
In waiting six days for shit to land on me, I realized I am happy. Similar to Camus's view of Sisyphus or, more directly, Estragon and Vladimir waiting for Godot, I am happy waiting for Popo. There is nothing better I can do with my time. I was elated as the first poo came and how, as it fell, the orange of the poo matched the orange of the flowers in the pattern of my blue. boxer shorts that caught it.
There is no need to find meaning in my actions. No need to imagine that teaching some WEIRD people might lead to some abstract good or that writing some Python code will do affect something other than my career. As the poo came, I did my best work and will continue doing it as long as it takes, with a smile and a shit on my chest.
If life asks you to wait for a shit, I recommend getting some Audiobooks. Long format is best as they require lower sunk costs. You learn the characters and world-building once, and you can wait for days until shit comes or the book ends.
Never forget though, that even if yours is a shitty job, it will pass; you are not a toilet, but being a toilet is something you can be if the need arises. You contain multitudes.