January is doldrums month for me. Even in childhood, I always struggled through the first month of the year. I’m sure some of it was the decompression after all the excitement and activity of the holiday season; and I always suspected I had a tendency toward seasonal affective disorder (i.e., reacting physically to the gloominess of the winter months).
Often I’d find myself actually rather enjoying being back in school those first days after Christmas break, and I didn’t long for the holiday season except for those first morning Masses where we were required to continue singing carols until January 6. There would come an unexpected moment, though, maybe on a empty, gray afternoon, when I’d suddenly feel myself dip as if something had grabbed me by the feet and pulled me down. I recall a specific Saturday when I was thirteen: I was at Grandma Martha’s house, she’d baked cookies (something she rarely did), we’d been listening to the radio, everything was pleasant. We had gone upstairs to the guest bedroom for some reason, and I’m not sure what happened. Suddenly my heart dropped like a rock. Maybe it was the dark, stark day outside the bedroom window. Maybe it was a chill in the poorly heated room, or the cold stiffness of the vinyl leatherette that upholstered the convertible sofa in the room. Something triggered a dull pang of discontent and sadness that had nothing to do with where I was or what I was doing (or with whom). It was simply a sudden awareness of January that seemed to fill my heart with lead.
I’m not one to wish my life away, and I do try to treasure every day. But I can’t say I’m sorry to be nearly two weeks into January 2008. It hasn’t been bad so far. Part of that may be due to the weather. Although we started out with frigid cold and snow immediately after New Year’s, we had springlike warmth this past week, even thunderstorms and a tornado watch. Not that thunderstorms and a tornado watch cheer me up, but it was certainly a distraction.
I’m also thrumming my fingers, waiting. Waiting for two situations to resolve themselves. One involves news regarding a job development, which is torturous in its glacial slowness. The other involves a health situation I would not have foreseen coping with just a month ago.
Over the weekend before New Year’s I started passing a kidney stone. I didn’t even know I had a kidney stone. I had some ambiguous signs right before Christmas, but I felt fine; and the signs could have pointed to several possible conditions.
The Friday after Christmas, though, at about 5:30 a.m., I awoke to searing pain. I knew immediately what it must be. Why? I had been reading up on kidney stones because my mother had been diagnosed with one weeks earlier. She was supposed to have gotten a call before Christmas to schedule a procedure to have her stone taken care of. The call didn’t come, and she let it go — because, like me, she felt fine and just wanted to get through Christmas without having to deal with doctors and health concerns.
Her kidney stone attack came the day after Christmas, in the evening. I took her to the emergency room, the CT scan showed an 11mm stone, they admitted her in the wee hours of the morning, she had a procedure to remove the stone, and she was back home that Thursday evening, worn out and hung over from what she’d been through but feeling lucky it hadn’t hit over the holiday. We were all very relieved.
Then I woke up next morning in the same fix. What are the odds? After two severe bouts of pain, I kept my discomfort down to a dull ache with ibuprofen and tried to tough it out. However, by late Saturday evening I was beginning to worry and decided to go to the ER. So there I was, same place, same reason, a mere 72 hours later. My CT scan showed a 5mm stone just outside the right kidney. I had the option of being admitted to have it removed or going home to let it pass on its own. I chose the latter. It hasn’t been that bad, but here I am two weeks later, still waiting for the little bugger to find the exit.
It’s easy to convince yourself that things will never be over, but they end eventually. One way or another, the work development will be resolved. And finally that stone is going to complete its slow route through my body. By then, there’ll be something else to worry about or anticipate. At least, so far, the first month of 2008 hasn’t grabbed me by the feet and yanked me under. If it takes job insecurity, kidney stones, and thunderstorms to accomplish that, so be it.
NOTE: No, I haven’t put myself on a pedestal. The angel above is an altered image from a digital photo I took at a local cemetery last October. She (he?) captures my current mental state so perfectly I couldn’t resist her/him as an icon of my month so far.