working through january, one pile at a time


Working through January, one pile at a time.

Last January we all felt mired in grief, and the way that manifested itself for me personally was in irritation. I was also just plain sad, but beyond that sadness was this underlying irritation (and impatience) with myself. I wasn’t cutting myself a lot of slack, at least on the inside. I let a lot of simmering things continue just under the surface, until they eventually reached a boiling point at the end of the month, and I realized I had no choice but to face them head on.

Some of the simmering related to work, and I don’t really talk much in this space about my professional life, but its impact on my daily mental health was profound. I was feeling really frustrated with my presumed lack of time (or motivation) to deal with any of my own personal goals as well. I was also having a hard time visualizing seeing any project through to completion. Everything in my life felt half-done. And on top of all that steaming pile of melancholy, my feet hurt. Constantly. I could no longer make a lap through the grocery store without limping for several hours following the trip. I started waking up with shooting pain in my feet or the worst kind of of cramps in the center of my feet that would make my toes curl downwards and just stick there until I filled the tub with hot water and plunged my feet into it. I love a nice relaxing evening bath. I do not enjoy having to draw one in the wee hours of the morning.

I’m not sure what the tipping point was, but somewhere around the beginning of February, I woke up and decided that the only way to get through the work was to do the work.

And it was work. Making my case at work was never going to be a picnic, but doing it in the middle of intense grieving? I could hardly make it through a casual lunch conversation without crying. Speaking up for myself while keeping control of my emotions? Few challenges intimidate me more than that.

Deciding to table most things that I enjoy (and that keep me healthy and sane) to devote almost a third of the year to skipping sleep and following an aggressive study and testing schedule really scared me. I was also scared of failing. But mostly scared of falling asleep behind the wheel one day. I’m not one prone to laziness, but I do need sleep to function at a level somewhere slightly above despondent.

The hardest one to face was the surgery. So naturally I decided to do it (privately, in my own heart) before I made the outward commitment to the other two goals. I found a surgeon, I lobbied for an early consultation, I asked for the nearest surgery opening, and I convinced him to do both feet at once.

I wish I could look back to this time last year and understand where the nerve to go all in came from, but it’s honestly sort of a blur. I think part of me was numb, and the other part me was rebelling against that numbness. Fear, exhaustion, pain? Try me.


I feel like I’m starting to come out of the post-holiday slump. We are beginning to see the floor again between the dwindling piles. It’s cold outside, but the sun comes out just before we start to throw in the towel on winter. The feeling of being free is sinking in. 2015 stretches in front of me, open. I don’t plan to set any big goals or resolutions this years, but I have some good intentions for 2015.

It’s a bit of a milestone year for me, as I turn forty pretty soon. I intend to go into it as strong as I can. Last year was a pretty sedentary year for me. This year I’m stretching myself (and my toes) in several new ways, in addition to running. At one point in class tonight, the instructor said (during a particularly challenging series of weight lifting) that she tries to remember during each workout to give quiet thanks for her body, for what it can do, and what it does do each day. I loved that, mostly because I’d been repeating my own thank you’s in my head the entire class. I intend to show my gratitude for a body that heals by stretching it in new and challenging ways. 

This is going to be a bit of a milestone year for our house as well. We’re at the fifteen year mark, and we have some exciting things on the horizon. I can’t wait to share more about this on the blog in the coming weeks. When we bought this shell of a house in 2000, I’m not sure I had any idea what the long game was. But now I can sort of see the life cycle of this house – how we moved in, started a family, grew a family inside of it. In another fifteen years the girls will be onto new adventures, and we will likely be as well. It feels likes a bit of a half birthday for the house, and we intend to celebrate that this year.

I also have good intentions to blog more regularly here. It’s a tricky thing to squeeze in sometimes, but I’m excited to be more regular in my posting and to continue to talk about the things that I like to share here. I know I’m a wordy one, so I appreciate those of you patient enough to hear me out a semi-regular basis – and to stick with me after a year like last year.

To 2015 and Good Intentions!

5 Responses to working through january, one pile at a time

  1. Well, I’m excited now. For you and for some good posts to look forward to.
    Adah recently posted…Book Look // Paddle to the SeaMy Profile

  2. bless you, my friend…my heart aches in reading your post today. in fact, if you have ever read Heather Armstrong, there are some of the same threads in her writing as she (nearly killed herself) as she prepared to run the NY marathon a couple of years ago. It is gratifying to know that your life is a bit lighter these days — and that your feet are helping you get there. here’s to new years, new lives and beginnings.

  3. Thank you for this post. I lost my dad unexpectedly just before Christmas, and I can relate to everything you said about grief and melancholy. It is especially hard to have the weight of loss in this time of new beginnings. It is nice to see someone on the other side.

    • Oh Kendra, I’m so very sorry. I understand that fog. I’m not sure if it lifts as much as I just feel like I’m navigating around in it a bit better now. Last year I felt really bitter about the holidays, and found little joy or escape in them. This year some of the joy seemed to return, but the physical absence of my niece seemed really apparent. When you get a group of people together, and that group includes a bunch of noisy kids with gangly, growing limbs, it just feels like this big void where she should be. And it still makes me mad, the unfairness of it all.

      I hope this winter is gentle on you, and you get to slowly stretch into things some. I started this yoga class and when we are stretching I can tell just how long I’ve been wound into a tight ball of grief and sadness and anxiety.

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