No Mo November (On Surviving a Shitty Month)

I thought I was dying this November.

I realize that’s a dramatic statement, but when you’ve been around cancer as much as I have, the slightest ailment is a cause for panic. I was EXHAUSTED, so much so that I demanded a full blood panel from my doc. I’ve been anemic before, and was certain this was the case. Otherwise, it was the Big C, because that’s how rational I am. I wasn’t anemic. Nor was my thyroid out of whack. All of my blood looked fine. So, what the hell?

November and I have a long-standing, love/hate relationship. (Here’s another November post, if you like this trip down memory lane.) Two people who I adore died during this particular month, and I think you can guess how. This sorrow seems to live in my cells, filling me with a non-specific melancholy that most people experience in February in this part of the world. The gray feels grayer, the cold feels colder. I can count on one hand the number of times I leave the neighborhood in a week. Maybe this grief is what had me dragging my butt.

Life has been stressful. Relationship stress. Financial stress. Work stress. This is enough to make most people want to stay in bed. Maybe the tired feeling was on account of these old demons rearing their heads? Thing are on the up now, thanks for asking.

hands and wedding bands

I officiated the wedding of my Aunt Gigi and her partner Bob this November, from his hospital bed. This occasion marked a bit upswing in my mood.

I spend a lot of time on my ass, at my desk, working away. I’ve grossly neglected my exercise routine. I’ve slipped from the nutritional choices that make me feel best. This could be what was making me exhausted.

An average-sized five-year-old often ends up in my queen sized bed, wedged between daddy and I. Sometimes he thrashes about like he’s being chased by a Ticklemonster. He’s become an ace at falling asleep on his own, in his own room. We haven’t quite nailed the staying there part. My family doctor suggested installing a baby gate to keep him contained. I found this horrifying. No judgement on those of you who have employed similar methods, but my doctor has obviously never seen a five year old take on a baby gate. Anyway, there’s another reason to feel exhausted. No sane woman could sleep in the company of a little boy who flails about and a man who snores like a demon.

So, what am I doing?

Taking vitamins, as regularly as I can. I don’t always remember, particularly on weekends, when our routine varies.

Saying NO. Holy shit, I’m bad at this, but I’m trying. I’ve had to say no to something very special to me because the mental drain was giving me anxiety. That was a tough one.

Holing Up. I’d love to spend time being social, but until that stops feeling like work, I’ll continue on this hermit-like path. You’ll occasionally see me at writing group meetings, and to drop my kids off at rehearsals. I suppose I’ll have to do some holiday shopping soon. I used to go crazy if I didn’t get out of the house and connect with other humans at least once a day. I used to appear before hundreds of people in my underwear about every other month. This homebody thing is still relatively new for me, and it’s novel. So are yoga pants. I’m a legit suburban mom with a mini van now. Most days, I’m okay with this.

Exercising. There’s just no way around this one. If I don’t move, I feel like crap. I get down on my body, I lose my drive (yes, all of it) and I feel spacey as hell. I’ve started walking for 30-45 minutes after dropping the littles at the bus stop. (Ew, that’s not a euphemism). The key to staying motivated is a good audio book. I only allow myself to listen when I’m walking. It’s working for now. I intend to keep going, even when the snow starts. Please send me your book recommendations.

Self-care. This is a difficult concept. It doesn’t mean pedicures and hair appointments, though it could. I think self-care is about doing things that make you feel good. For me, that’s putting a full stop on work after 5 pm so that I can cook for my family, or help my little dude create a book about dinosaurs. It means reading a novel for pleasure, and not because I’m getting paid to read it. It means tea and chocolate and doing absolutely nothing for ten minutes. A little bit of self-care each day seems to be helping to battle the melancholy.

Listening to my body. If want to sleep, I sleep. Even if I’m in the middle of the workday. Twenty minutes with my eyes closed, and I can easily see a difference in productivity.

So, I’m finally seeing a difference. I realize that it’s also December, which has more than a little to do with this shift in energy. Wednesdays are my favorite day of the week, because I take the mornings ‘off’ to meet with my writing buddies. These women keep me focused on my passion, and they offer the most amazing encouragement, and validation. If you’re a creator, find your people and make them a regular part of your life. Weekends are spent caring for my family and decking our halls. I love Christmas, and Yuletide, and everything connected to staying cozy and bright. I intend to carry this forward until the Spring.

Is it just me, or are there certain months of the year that consistently suck? November is mine, but I’ve survived another one. A big thanks to chocolate, and novels, and my ever-patient family.

Autumn and Grief

Today’s post is a guest contribution by one of our Elite Club members, Psychotherapist Allison Villa. Like many of you, the Fall is a time of great loss and sorrow in my family. I asked Allison to create a piece about Autumn and grief, and she wrote this beautiful essay that I’m honored to share. I hope it brings you some comfort if you too find this time of year particularly poignant.

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Autumn Reflections

I suppose it’s strange that with the first dusting of snow on the ground, I am writing about Autumn, but here in the north, we often lose track of the seasons as one seems to slip into the next. The Winter Solstice, or first day of winter, doesn’t happen until December 22nd, so we have another full month of fall before us. In order to savor the last days of my favorite season, I wanted to make some space today for some Autumn reflections.

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It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?

So many things have happened since I was last here, things both profound and perplexing. I’ve been aching to write down my thoughts, but too compelled to just stay in each moment to put my fingers to the keys.

Last month I had a teacher appear who helped me learn how much I’ve grown. At first, I thought this teacher was cruel and immature, but then a wise woman reminded me that everyone we encounter has a role in our lives. It was clear to me that this person had crossed my path to illuminate how strong I am in my family, and in my circle. How secure and happy I feel in this life. After four years of navigating this very alternative relationship, I’ve largely been met with acceptance and love. One small moment of rudeness has nothing on that. Thank you teacher, for helping me discover this.

The universe wove another lesson while I was away. This next one was a random, and deeply painful lesson in our own vulnerability and fragility. It was the kind of lesson that serves as a reminder of how we have no control over where our paths will ultimately lead. To me, that truth is both terrifying and revealing – it forces me to see only the next steps ahead and to savor each crunch of earth beneath my feet, and each little breath my children breathe. My heart won’t heal from this lesson, it’s going to be one that remains for the rest of my days here. To watch people you love experience such grief is humbling and it strikes you with an absolute feeling of helplessness – both in relieving their pain, and shielding yourself from tragedy. This lesson in savoring each precious moment has been repeated again and again in my life, and I cannot help but wonder at that.

Each day here is crisp and fresh as we begin to watch the seasons shift. We’ve started our little school this week, and though we are only on day four, I am certain that teaching my children will be the best thing that I’ve ever done. Are you living the life you want? Do you have everything you need? What steps can you take to bring yourself closer to telling your own great story?