Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Best Laid Plans...etc., etc.

I had it all planned - a special holiday season.  I made lists of possible day trips, restaurants to try, movie matinees, stocking stuffers.  I delighted over invitations to celebrate, each an acknowledgment that this has truly become our home, smiling each time I added another date to our calendar. Even included baking cookies, something I haven't done for years. Mom's chocolate chips and snowballs for sure. My intention - to do something everyday that would make Christmas 2012 the most memorable yet.

It was to be launched with brunch on Thanksgiving Day with old friends, followed by an afternoon spent decorating our 6+ft. Christmas tree. Now, that tree is a thing of beauty, a testimony to whatever creative talents I have.  Gold and copper ornaments amassed over the years (even a couple from my childhood ), plumes of gold tinsel, tiny birds with feather tails peeking out from unexpected niches, glass icicles that shimmer when the lights are lit, and as a topper, an angel that has graced every tree of our marriage.

My planning, my lists, my anticipation grew all month. Like a kid with an Advent Calendar.  With each new Hallmark holiday movie I became more eager to begin, even considered putting up the tree before Thanksgiving, but couldn't convince John, who does well to tolerate my exuberance, to lug it out from the garage and struggle with the lights any sooner than he had to.

Then, on the Monday before Thanksgiving, I fell.  Wrestled with the vacuum hose and lost. Landed on my right knee -  on the unforgiving tile floor - barely missing the coffee table or the metal corner of a side table.  After my initial shock and embarrassment - how could I be such a klutz - and reassuring my terrified husband that I hadn't heard a pop, no bones seemed to be broken, I mentally went through my lists, crossing off the tree, eliminating the parties and the day trips, indulging in one inglorious, adolescent, self-pity party.

In the long days that followed, it became evident that I had injured my knee. To what extent we weren't sure, but I knew that the shooting pains meant something was wrong.  Being a holiday week, typical health care was difficult to come by.  I was able to get advice as to avoiding any further damage, but couldn't see an orthopedist until this week.  So I concentrated on staying off my feet and managing my morale so I wouldn't go down the rabbit hole of dark imaginings and rampant anxiety.  Hobbled around on a cane, and popped Alleves. Kept apologizing to John for being a burden - my declaration, not his.  Kept reminding myself that we have managed much bigger  challenges than this.  That it could have been so much worse.  That other people do, in fact, have it much worse.
And wondered why I had to work so hard to manage my thinking. 

Yesterday, I saw the orthopedist.  The good news - no break, no tear.  Only significant stress and inflammation.  No need for crutches or the wheel chair I had conjured up.  Just a few more weeks of taking it easy, more Alleve and hobbling a bit.  And rethinking my lists.  Maybe not all the events, but some - which ones?  Maybe not the tree, but surely wreathes, and reindeer and candles.  Maybe not the day trips, but restaurants and movies.  This may not be the special holiday I had envisioned, but it will be memorable.  And there will be chocolate chip cookies.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Heeding My Own Advice

My mother called it "contemplating one's navel" - and she had little patience for it - thinking too much, especially about things that can't be controlled or changed.  Needless to say, she didn't keep a journal, couldn't understand why anyone would go to a therapist.

She would use that phrase whenever she thought I was worrying about something or spending an inordinate amount of time and effort to dissect a situation or struggling to make sense out of nonsense.  I would bristle and defend myself.  I used to wonder how she knew that I was, in fact, overthinking, musing, worrying, deep within a maze of my own construction, bumping up against imaginary walls.

I've come to realize that it must be pretty obvious to anyone who is around me for any length of time.  I withdraw, disengage - journal much more than usual, make and remake list upon list, draw mindmaps - and double back again.  Get caught up in circular conversations in my head.  Just like a lab rat in a maze.  Not something I'm particularly proud of.

The good news, I manage to get through a maze much faster these days.  Only a month this go round.

The bad news, the sad news, it took Hurricane Sandy to snap me out of it.  Seeing the devastation, entire neighborhoods destroyed, children lost, lives disrupted perhaps forever. The water, the mud, the fires. Anguish, grief, unbelievable loss.  Every day another wrenching story. A sobering reminder to get a grip! Quick! "There but for the grace....."

Outwardly, nothing much has changed here in St. George.  Yes, it's cooler.  But my vote still won't count.  I know I will worry whenever John so much as coughs.  I can't seem to lose these ten pounds.  TV continues to annoy me.  Strangers will persist in calling me dear and honey. And whenever I enter a room and can't remember why, I still won't like it.

But internally, the walls of this maze have collapsed. The moment even a brick appears, I remind myself of the advice I so easily give someone else - to consider the alternative.  Now, I'm not so naive as to expect I'll never construct another maze and wander around a bit, but  I may just have a couple posters made - CONSIDER THE ALTERNATIVE - so that it doesn't take another disaster to snap me out of it!