January 1, 2013 by marieelia
This past year, I’ve let go of a lot of things. Most recently, we moved from a four-storey rowhouse to a two-bedroom apartment, and I donated and Freecycled so many things. Letting go of those things was easy. But I also had to get rid of things I wanted to keep, like the antique, turn-of-the-(20th)-century steamer trunk given to me by a family friend, a doctor my mother worked with and whose family came here from Germany when she was little. They lived in Rhinebeck in a beautiful old house where her father—also a doctor—had his practice. The first time I visited, she was giving me a tour of the house, and in the attic were about 10 steamer trunks. I told her how much I loved them, and she just said, “Pick one.” That trunk has been with me for 12 years. Before I could afford a dresser in my tiny room in Cambridge, the trunk held all my clothes. Later, it served as a decorative table of sorts, holding precious little objects like photographs and an old bird cage full of letters. As steamer trunks are meant to do, it opens up into a small closet, with wooden hangers on rods, and drawers. There is a scrap of yellowed newspaper stuck to the top, and I can only make out the text “New York” in what looks like NY Times font.
An infestation of carpet beetles in our attic had ruined all of my winter accessories (hats, scarves, mittens), my two favorite wool sweaters, a tiny woolen stuffed bird named Tweed, and, finally, my beloved trunk. Unfortunately, I know that the only way to rid yourself of a carpet beetle infestation is through precise freezing or an anoxic treatment. I left my trunk out for the trash. I’m glad we drove away in our moving truck before the trash pickup the next day; I couldn’t bear to see it tossed unceremoniously into the truck. At least in my head it will look the way I remember.
I let go of a lot of other things this year: Some were very tangible (coffee dependence, a friend who was no longer a friend), and some were not (damaging behaviors, negative thoughts). I’m working on those intangible ones, especially. My stress level at work has taken its toll on me both emotionally and physically. And I had a very strange but ultimately welcome experience last week that I think reflects both the solid and ephemeral changes that have been happening in my life. Warning: I’m about to talk about bowel movements.
The Thursday before Christmas, I had some GI issues. This is not abnormal. Then I had four BMs in one day. This is very abnormal. Then, as I drove across the bridge away from work at the end of the day, I started crying. I remember that I was listening to an NPR story about Miss Subway. It didn’t resonate with me particularly, so I have no idea where the crying came from. But I couldn’t stop. I would pause, and then the rush would come and I would be bawling again—shuddering sobs mixed with laughter. I could feel my chest tighten and release. In retrospect, it was like the kind of crying you do when you’re overwhelmingly relieved or happy. I was laughing at myself because, even though I was crying, I was feeling no sadness. I was experiencing the physical symptoms of anxiety and general upset-ness, but I didn’t feel them emotionally. But by the time I met my partner at his job, I was shaking and feeling tender and confused, and the strange sobs kept washing over me intermittently, although less frequently, on the way home.
My partner, C., had been reading Gut Wisdom, by Alyce M. Sorokie, a book about the connection between emotional well-being and digestive health. There is a lot of sweet advice in the book, like having a peacemaking ceremony with your gut, and the power of forgiveness to gently unclench the fist of your stressed-out gut. I don’t know if the physical purge of that Thursday morning caused the strange emotional-yet-not-emotional purge of that evening, or if they were just two physical manifestations of some letting-go that I’d been trying to do. I also wondered if both were related to the fact that I’d run out of my prescription (Lexapro) and had gone without for a few days. Probably all of those things collided to create a strange day of release.
As I’ve written before, the biggest change I’ve made for my health is to pay more attention to my body. The events of that Thursday reinforced that idea for me. I feel a renewed commitment to continuing on a path to physical and mental health. For now, the two concrete steps I’m taking are 1) Explore more meals and recipes that support digestive—and therefore emotional—health, and 2) Experiment (under my doctor’s supervision) with decreasing Lexapro dosage.
I leave you with a lovely letterpress card made by a friend. Happy New Year! Let it go!