On January 1, just like most of the population, I stop and take stock of my life. I think about the past year, remembering the highs and lows and making mental notes of that which I wish to improve, discard or just plain change in the coming year. I'm going to get healthy, lose weight, get a mammogram, be organized, start writing again, start my book, do more to educate police officers, reach out to long-lost friends, clean out my closet, learn to bake bread, and stop focusing on the negative. Sounds doable, right?
Like most of the population, I start my "new me" with the best intentions and tell myself that this year will be different. This year I'll keep my promise to myself and follow through past February 1.
Like most of the population, my determination wanes about the end of January, and by February I'm back to how I was on December 31. I'm disappointed in myself and find it hard to get back on track, probably because I'm too busy beating myself up for yet another failed attempt.
This year, I started strong. I made long-overdue doctor appointments. I successfully baked delicious bread. I bought "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Well." I traveled to Las Vegas and San Antonio for presentations. I started researching publicists and publishing options. I stopped using Cheez-Its as my post-dinner indulgence. I picked up my kettlebell, and not just to vacuum under it.
I was feeling good, thinking that maybe this was the year I turned a corner. Maybe I'd have more good days than bad this year. After all, I had made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas with only one breakdown. Could the light in the tunnel be getting brighter? I hadn't heard the train whistle in a while, so is this the beginning of the end of this darkness?
And then our dog died.
DeeDee had been sick since before the holidays, but we couldn't figure out what was wrong. She wasn't eating, she was losing weight, and just laying around. The vet ran tests which showed what she didn't have. I started cooking chicken and rice for her to eat, and slowly she started improving. But in February she started going downhill again. I had The Talk with Maddy, preparing her for the worst-case scenario. That went well, as you could imagine. I always knew that when our dogs died, it would be so hard on Maddy. She was so young when Jessica and Kelli died that she didn't really grasp the finality at that time, but now that she's older, this was going to hit her so much harder. Plus, DeeDee was Kelli's buddy. Kelli let her sleep in her bed, and after she died, DeeDee would scratch on Kelli's door, hoping to be let in. Maddy started letting her sleep with her, so DeeDee wouldn't be lonely. I think Maddy needed the companionship, too. They healed one another.
DeeDee had a stroke on a Friday night. Thankfully, Maddy was at her dad's, and didn't have to see her, confused and stumbling. It was heartbreaking to see her so helpless. I finally got her settled down in the laundry room, and I slept on the couch so I could check on her during the night. I prayed that she make it through the night, because as much as I knew she was going to die, I didn't want Maddy to be deprived of another chance to say goodbye, of one last hug, one last time to say I love you and I'm going to miss you so much.
On Saturday morning, she and her dad met me at the vet's office, and after we all said our goodbyes, we stood around DeeDee, stroking and rubbing her head, as she went to sleep for the last time. I told DeeDee to go find Kelli and Jessica, because they had been waiting to feed her hot dogs and ice cream again.
Not surprisingly, the darkness came slinking back on me. I had no motivation. My to-do list mocked me. I couldn't even muster the energy to get angry with myself. The cold weather and the dreary gray days weren't helping. The worst thing was the quiet. No more hearing DeeDee's tags jingle on her collar, or hearing her nails click across the floors. Just like after Jess and Kelli died, and my house stopped being filled with yelling, music and laughter, the pounding of their feet running up and down stairs.
I let myself wallow for a few days, until one morning when I was getting dressed the sun came through the bathroom window and hit me square in the face. I closed my eyes and stood there, soaking up the light and warmth. I realized that we were getting close to moving the clocks forward for more daylight. It was getting lighter earlier, and the angle of the sun was changing, streaming in our windows longer, and we were seeing those gorgeous early March sunsets at dinnertime, instead of looking out at darkness while we ate.
It occurred to me that Spring might be a better time for me to embrace change, because the world is changing as well. The trees begin to dress themselves in green buds, the days get longer, and the air starts to have that certain indescribable scent of renewal. Why can't we make New Season resolutions instead of New Year's? Maybe breaking our goals down in smaller increments might make them easier to attain. Or maybe I'm just solar powered.
Whatever the reason, I've found myself back on track lately. I went to the doctor and I'm trying some meds that are really helping me get motivated and stay focused. I'm taking steps to do more speaking presentations and broaden my audience. The mammogram is scheduled. I'm exercising daily, eating better foods and a lot less crap. I cleaned out my pantry, organized the lockers by the back door, and started writing again. I've missed writing, missed it so much. It always helped me work through my emotions, even if the writing never saw the light of day.
Like shedding a heavy winter coat, I can feel that darkness lifting, and the light taking over. Spring is here, in my soul.