It’s been a month since I last logged on to my website. Two full months since my last published post. I miss writing. My body misses it–the release of words and emotions I store away in my tissues–muscles, organs, veins–all tight with unexpressed everything. I feel congested in a deep, visceral way. Vaguely unwell.
You should probably write, my daughter tells me as she looks over and sees me crying during another episode of “Queer Eye”.
This summer has been dizzying. Literally.
The neurologist finished his exam and shrugged his shoulders. “Some people are simply prone to having episodes of vertigo throughout their life,” he told me as my eyes struggled to focus back on his face after the head and neck maneuvers he had just put me through.
Well, at least most people don’t die from vertigo, I remember thinking as I drove home. There’s that.
It was nearly three years ago when the vertigo descended with a vengence. I first noticed it while driving home from Tacoma one sunny afternoon. Scrambled brains is the way I describe it. Usually only lasting five or ten seconds, tops, then returning to clarity. Sometimes it would only strike once or twice during a drive, other times so frequently I had to pull off the freeway for a bit. I googled and WebMDed and YouTubed for help in between visits to my healthcare providers. At its worst, I couldn’t bear to lay facedown for my regular acupuncture treatment. The room spun and my stomach churned as if I had drank two too many glasses of pink champagne.
Well, at least it doesn’t happen during yoga, I reassured myself. Until it did. During triangle pose. I felt my legs wobble in an effort to keep my balance as the scrambled brains took hold.
It was my acupuncturist who finally suggested a twice-daily “tea” of Chinese herbs to counteract my “damp” constitution. Willing to try anything for relief, I happily swilled the muddy, gingery concoction each morning and night. Within a month, my brains cleared up.
My brains were clear and the vertigo had stayed away for the past two years. Occasionally, I’d feel a hint of it coming on and I’d grab a bottle of the magic herbs and within a week I’d be okay again. It was such a relief to find something that helped me feel better relatively quickly and painlessly.
It was the trusty herbs that I reached for two months ago when the scrambled brains returned. It had been so long that I had forgotten what life with vertigo felt like. Life with unpredictable vertigo feels tentative and a bit risky. Constantly nervous to venture too far away from home. Dreading freeway driving. Unable to sit and focus on a computer screen for more than a few minutes at a time. My writing came to a screeching halt.
It’s hard to write with scrambled brains.
I knew I wanted a break from the weekly writing deadline I had imposed on myself, but it was never my intention to walk away for two months. Habits are hard to form, easy to break and a bitch to get back to. My writing muscles feel as shaky as my biceps as I curl the 50 pound barbell to my shoulders for the first time in a long time. But after three bottles of twice-daily Chinese tea that looks and tastes a bit like dirt, my brain is back.
And so am I.
Hey–hi. I hope to be writing more regularly again.
It was hard to look at the “before” photo I had snapped of my closet. It still is.
Last weekend, I undertook the daunting task of completely cleaning out my bedroom closet. It was something I had been meaning to do for months and had successfully avoided for much longer. The task came up during lunch with a good friend who talked about her love of organization and how our living spaces can sometimes reflect something much greater. My confession tumbled out, almost in relief, sharing my dirty little secret. I told her about my mess of a closet and how it made me anxious everyday when I went in to get dressed for work. Slippery yoga pants in every color of the rainbow, cascading to the floor so many times I just stopped picking them up. Clean laundry left on the bed or bathroom counter because I couldn’t find space to put it back in the closet. I hated my closet and I hated the idea of cleaning it out even more.
Sometimes we have to do the hard things.
I had to cancel attending a friend’s wedding in eastern Washington because my scrambled brains were too risky to chance a five-hour drive by myself. I was left gazing into a weekend clear of responsibilities and plans. The Mister and daughter, both off on their own work and fun adventures. It was the perfect opportunity. Buoyed by a few encouraging texts and guidance from my organized friend and choreographed to the soundtrack of my favorite playlist, I got to work.
Pre-kid clothes. One maternity shirt holdover because I always liked the color. Baseball mom clothes. Trying-to-be-cool again clothes. Mom jeans. Mom sweaters. Eddie Bauer. So much Eddie Bauer. Levi 501s. Boot cut jeans from the Gap. Oh hey–my wedding dress! Tattered hoodies. Riding pants. Yoga pants. Yoga tops. Yoga totes. Hot tub clothes. My Zulily phase, when nothing could be returned. My actually-getting-cooler-phase. Black jeans. Skinny jeans. Ripped jeans. Boots. Boots. Boots.
Donate. Toss. Consider. Keep.
Four distinct piles, the “donate” pile towering far above the other three. I bagged up nine tall kitchen garbage bags full of clothes and shoes and drove them directly to the donation box.
Somewhere between the end of the first day and the beginning of the second, I was gripped with the fear of scarcity. Would I have enough? What if I didn’t? What if I made a mistake?
Abundance. There is more than enough, I reassured myself. My shoulders dropped and I exhaled. Of course there is.
Do I love it? Does it fit? Does it reflect who I really am today? My friend’s directives rang clear in my head.
By the end of the second day, the closet was coming together. Three more bags filled with donations. I stepped back and took it all in. My god, it looks like a little boutique! I thought to myself. Shelves, neatly stacked with yoga pants, organized by color and length. Clear, plastic boxes, each home to one pair of shoes that I could easily identify, tucked on the top shelf. My father’s favorite hat–the one I had taken home with me on the day he died–carefully placed in its own box, along with the bulletin from his memorial. (That is, right after I put the hat on myself and thought maybe I could rock a fedora after all.)
Everything in its place. A place for everything.
I texted my friend the “after” picture. She texted me back all the right things. I looked at my phone again and in a moment of vulnerability, posted each photo on my Instagram feed, along with a short narrative about my weekend of letting go. Side by side, swipe left, swipe right. Before and after.
It’s amazing what we choose not to see. Overwhelmed with life in general, I had stopped seeing the mountain of clutter right in front of my eyes. I felt it, in the anxiety and stress that crept up in me every morning as I tried to start my day. The way I’d snap at The Mister when he’d casually mention the pile of clean laundry on the counter, rather than in the closet. How I just stopped trying because it wasn’t working anymore.
My closet looked exactly the way my scrambled brains felt with the vertigo.
I look at my closet today and I giggle a bit. It makes me smile. It’s beautiful, really. Clear and clean, with just enough plus a little wiggle room to grow and dwell in possibility.
My mind keeps flashing on a memory of a secret beach cove I discovered when I was a little girl. Well, maybe it wasn’t exactly a “secret”–I’m pretty sure it was someone’s private beachfront. But in my 10-year-old brain, it felt wonderful and mysterious and secretive. I didn’t tell anyone about it.
No one ever noticed when I’d ride my purple stingray down the dead end street that emptied out to Steilacoom Lake. Leaving my bike at the end of the grass, I’d tiptoe down a weedy, dirt path that led to a narrow swath of pebbly beach. Two quiet, modest homes–cabins, really–framed the small patch of lakefront and I’d sit at the water and escape. I never saw or heard another person down there, so I began to think of it as my own. I’d take sticks and trace patterns in the silty dirt and flick rocks into the water, waiting for the satisfying “plunk” of each as it hit the water’s surface. Sometimes a duck or two came floating by and I’d feed them crusts of bread and stale saltines I swiped from home. Mostly, I was alone and unseen and free to dive into my daydreams.
This summer has been weird and unsatisfying. Between the vertigo and the heat and smoke-haze and not having my favorite partner-in-crime available for summer shenanigans, I’ve found myself wishing I had my secret beach cove again. Somewhere to escape to and be unseen.
I felt it today as I strolled by myself though the modest crowd at the waterfront art festival. I walked to the end of the pier and leaned on the weathered railing. The gray-blue expanse of Puget Sound, shrouded in a filter of smoke from the wildfires, lay out in front of me. I wanted to find a quiet piece of beach and be alone with the gentle lap of the water. I nearly drove to Steilacoom Lake in hopes of finding it again.
Summer is not my favorite, but I love summer’s beginning when the finally-warm breezes carry scents of berries and grass. The longer days and early sunrises. Skies full of stars. I am past the days of school-year summer vacations and yet I still get giddy in June. July comes and goes, predictably balmy and busy, the front lawn left to go dormant and brown. But by the middle of August, I am exhausted. I even let my flowers die.
August feels long and dry and a bit lonely. The dog days of summer. A quick reference to Wikipedia even makes the connection of this late summer period to “…heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.”
C’mon–is August anyone’s favorite?
I sat at the dining room table reading the newspaper yesterday morning, the windows open wide to let in the cool morning air. I sipped my coffee and heard the faint and familiar blast of an airhorn. Fifteen minutes later, it blared again. And then again. Football scrimmage just a mile down the hill at the neighborhood high school. A sure and welcome harbinger of fall.
September can’t come soon enough.