As many of those friends who are more intimately acquainted with my life may know, I am afflicted with a rare and somewhat oddly named disease known as the Wiggly Wigglies*. What no one knows is that I am also harboring another oddly named disorder. You see, I have recently been diagnosed with Pretty Pretty Princess Disorder.
The first symptoms began to appear when I was little older than twelve or thirteen. I first became aware of it one fateful day when Lisha, my horse riding buddy, said, “Tell me what’s your least favorite thing about me.”
I mumbled something about unforgiveness, knowing full well that what I said was only a prelude to her own disclosure about what she found repulsive in me. “You never think about how much trouble you’re causing other people,” she said. “Like you just say, ‘Can you feed the horses today,’ without thinking that I have to carry the grain all the way out to the pasture, then wait for them to eat, then load everything back up to the barn myself. You always have your sister helping you feed the horses, so you don’t think it’s a big deal when I have to do it all by myself. You never think about other people!” This was to be the first time I was diagnosed with PPPD, and as with many diagnoses, it was held in denial.
It was not until my recent move to Texas that I was able to acknowledge and deal with my disease. I have been graciously endowed with a piano. A deep golden, richly toned piano. The thing I have not been endowed with, however, is a house to keep it in. After Logan and I decided to move to Texas, I dreamed of finally owning a house in which to place my deep golden, richly toned piano. While it soon became clear that we would be moving into another apartment (and for the sake of our neighbors, not be bringing the piano into the apartment with us) a new scheme began to formulate in my head (prompted by a mother who always knows exactly what her daughter’s greatest dreams are). What if I went ahead and brought the piano to Texas, but stored it at my grandmother’s house? My grandmother lived twenty minutes away, had always wanted a piano, and was more than willing to keep mine until I had a more appropriate housing arrangement for a large instrument.
The plan seemed simple enough.
That was my PPPD talking.
When I told Logan about my idea, he was standing on the back of an overflowing U-haul, minutes away from being done with the loading, a dark V of sweat on his back despite the frigid temperature. For a moment he just stared at me with a dull look, his shoulders sagging. I lost my nerve and said something cowardly like, “I mean, if it’s okay, you could get the piano, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.” Logan straightened his back, looked me square in the face and asked, “Aanna, would you like me to load the piano?” Looking deep within myself, I found my answer.”Yes,” I said.
With each step back to the apartment where I was finishing up the move, the weight of what I had just asked Logan to do began to settle heavily upon my conscience. I put my hand on the door knob, then turned and hurried back to the parking lot. Too late. Gone was the giant U-haul, gone was my husband, gone were the men and boys who were helping with the move. Imagining their frustration at having to drive to where the piano was being stored, load one of the heaviest pieces of furniture known to man, and drive all the way back, heat began to climb up my neck and face. What had I done?
The minutes ticked by and still they did not return. I decided that I would not say anything, just pretend that I had made a good decision and not let on that I had recanted on a decision that was costing so much time and physical labor. When the U-haul finally pulled back into the parking lot, the men looked even more worn. But not a word of complaint escaped their lips. Not even from my husband, who had the authority and vested interest to say something. We loaded up the rest of our belongings and then left Grinnell.
But if I thought that people were done suffering the effects of my PPPD, I was sorely mistaken. Once we arrived in the Dallas area, the piano became a whole new source of trouble and labor. It was loaded at the very back of the trailer, so nothing could be taken off until the piano was taken care of. Without going into the dirty details, I’ll just say that because of the piano two men had to take off a whole morning of work, two college students spent hours of valuable time on the project, another vehicle had to be borrowed, other people had to wait, unproductive, until the piano was taken care of, more money was spent on gas, men nearly broke their backs with the trouble, and the piano really did break a leg in the process. It was a nightmare.
And yet the nightmare helped me to finally wake up to the fact that I was harboring PPPD.When all this was going on, I finally broke down and communicated to Logan the remorse I felt for having put him and many other people through so much trouble, just so I could have the particular thing I wanted. While a piano is important to me, and I believe it has future potential that others may not see, I still felt that what I had done was essentially selfish. I had seen myself sow words from my mouth that had harvested an abundance of trouble and time from others.
But I also realized that I was not the only one who has PPPD. I remembered a time when Logan and I were asked to help a man and his wife make an in-town move. He and I went to their house at the designated time, along with a handful of other college guys to begin the move. However, neither the man nor his wife appeared. As the minutes dragged by, we staked out the lawn, pacing back and forth, trying not the think of the term papers we needed to write, or the jobs we had to get back to. After what seemed like hours, the couple showed up, only to casually explain their absence with a flip of their hands. I found out later that the woman had wanted to make a last minute stop before the move. “What can you do?” her husband said with a shrug.
I realize now that those with PPPD do what they do because they feel like they are the only ones who see the vital importance of something. For example, I am the only one who sees the significance of having a particular shade of green in my bathroom. My husband cannot recognize or appreciate the value of this particular shade of green, so the fact that he does not want to repaint the bathroom does not matter. However, I’m perfectly justified in asking him to paint it for me. Even though he doesn’t like this color. Even though he doesn’t even want to paint the bathroom. And for some reason, instead of acknowledging the flare up of PPPD, he has been asked by our culture to simply say, “Whatever you want, honey.” Sometimes even, “You’re the boss.” (Or should we say, “princess”?)
My confession of PPPD came as a deep and healing relief to my husband. He encouraged me to speak out about the symptoms and dangers of PPPD to other women, to perhaps stop the disease from spreading further in our culture. So here is my confession and my caution. If you recognize symptoms of PPPD in yourself or in someone you love, do everything you can to stop it in its tracks. Do not let it endanger one more healthy relationship.
*Also known as Vasovagal Syncope.