day…somewhere bigger than ten but smaller than fifty?

To be honest, I don’t really know why I started numbering the days of my entries when I finally came back to rice and coffee. I have thought about it repeatedly as I carefully count up the current number of calendar days since writing creation in grief. I have several theories on why I did this. Or why the counting continued to matter.

The first was that marking the passage of time somehow felt important. We live in a world where the mountaintops are widely public in a way they weren’t even a decade ago. Spend any time in any digi-verse around and you are only a few scrolls, clicks, or swipes away from “I DID THIS ONE THING AND THEN EVERYTHING WAS AMAZING!” “I TOLD MYSELF TO JUST KEEP GOING AND NOW EVERYTHING IS AMAZING!” In our culture, we don’t make a lot of space for, “You know, I tried really hard. I did my best. But everything is still kind of a mess” and “I did everything as right as I knew how, and still I failed”. We don’t have space for people stuck in The Valley for a season. I think it’s part of what encourages those feelings of intense isolation and abandonment. Who wants to post about still having a broken butt I-don’t-know-how-many-months later? Not me. (Well, okay…me, but it took me a long time to get here, so…).

So if you are in that Valley, in that broken place, time starts to lose meaning in a way. You can’t seem to get out of where you’re stuck. You can’t drop bread crumbs on the trail, because you’ve been walking for weeks in a circle that always has you sleeping in the same spot. And more than that, you don’t even feel like you can share about it, or if you did, no one would want to know. It is a really gray, unhappy place to land. But not all cultures are like ours, and not all people have only memorialized the mountaintops. In the Old Testament, in the Bible, there are tons of times when Israel raises monuments of remembering, when good and bad things happened. Usually, it was a big pile of rocks gathered from wherever they were, using whatever was around. They weren’t the elegant, neo-classical statues you see in any major western capital. They were literal. rocks. Not to impress outsiders, but to serve themselves–a “lest we forget” to the future. In a way, I think that was what numbering the days in these posts became for me–monuments. A pile of rocks. Nobody else may read it, or understand what it meant, but I would. I would know. Time has been spent and it was hard but it is not forgotten. I would remember. I would build my rock piles.

I also think counting days was a subconscious way to prove to myself I hadn’t given up. This year, I’ve had to give up on so many things I’d planned and wanted to do–races that were now training impossibilities, projects and hobbies that now felt overwhelming rather than fun, people I was simply too exhausted to reach out to. I’ve given up on a lot. That’s hard for someone who is not, by nature, a quitter. It rankles. But in this one way–this tiny way–I haven’t given up. Not on day two. Not on day ten. I am still committed to my declaration that I was not going to molder in misery anymore–I would create through it. I would give it voice. Sure, I don’t post every day (my very ambitious initial intention), but I do not forget. I have not given up on me or the process. I am still numbering days.

So it was strange, and frankly a little unsettling, when I started this post and realized I didn’t know the number of this day. I can’t easily add to my last entry in my head. Which begs the question–do I still need to do it? Or am I past that step and I can just keep walking, trusting in progress? I mean, that is the ultimate goal, I think. To just move forward, without the crutch of remembering. It is the mark of wellness. Of wholeness.

I walked away from this for a while to think about that. If I am ready to not know the number. And the answer is, I am on Day 19. For now, I am still making my piles of rocks.


day nine: wandering off

I’ve been out of sorts this week. Not in a “yell-at-everyone-then-hide-in-a-corner-while-I-eat-candy-and-cry” sort of way. More of a constant, low-grade level of discombobulation sort of way. Going from project to project without finishing them is just how I live my life (ask the Vulcan). Like, I may not always know what I am doing, but I’m pretty clear on what I’m thinking. So this whole “start in one direction and be facing a totally different one by the time I finish that mental sentence” is a weird place to be, frankly.

Let me elaborate. Today, I made a gigantic list of things that need to get done in the next week, and the promptly stared at it for a while before dedicating a solid twenty minutes to trying to find a pumpkin shirt to wear at school/for trick-or-treating…literally the only thing I did not need to do today. And even though I know I need to do all these things, and I’m trying hard to motivate myself to get stuff done, I just…can’t. I literally am just at the staring and mental-wandering stage. It’s very strange.

My theory is it’s all the cumulative stress of the past two months. I am no longer so tightly wound that small change will literally bounce off of me, and the hives have gone away (thank goodness), but I think my brain is finally going on strike. I have been demanding a whole lot of it in the last few months, and now that I feel like I’m finally starting to get mentally healthy, it’s decided that we need to do less. Like. Now.

I’m not sure what you do with that, to be honest. Right now, I’m going with listening to my body, to my brain. I am just going to have to be okay with doing less in this recuperation period, I think. In the same way you can’t rush back from a high ankle sprain just because you know what it is and were on crutches for a week, I feel like there’s no rushing this, either. I am pretty passionate about this because I just experienced the last eight months before the last two months. It was the worst. I do not want to go back to that place for the sake of crossing off my to-do list.

I am not the first (nor shall I be the last) to compare recovery to climbing a mountain, but living in whatever you want to call this (gestures vaguely) so soon after climbing up some (very small) real mountains in the Rockies and Cascades, it struck me of how true it is. Sometimes, you’re just hauling up razorback trails that go up, up, up rapidly, but you feel like your legs may fall off and/or your lungs may explode. Then there are other times when the trail is actually pretty nice. Or there are stretches that are way overgrown. Or with a million mosquitos (see: first big hike I did with the Vulcan. It was a true test of our love). But the trail is, very rarely, direct. Sometimes you feel like you’re not making progress…or even like you’re going back down rather than up. Hiking mountains is hard and also winding.

And I reckon this current path I’m on is like that. I’ve spent a lot of months in a deep valley. The mountaintop felt impossibly high, and after stumbling down the first incline enough times, I had to just sit in the valley, in the dark, in the cold for a while. But now, finally, I’m strong enough to start climbing out. Now my trail is only in partial shadow, and light is filtering through the trees. The path isn’t going up as fast as I want, but maybe that is okay. The extra time in the Discombobulation Zone is worth it because it means I can avoid a rockslide. Because the journey isn’t straight. And sometimes your mind wanders off the trail a little…