I’ve been awake for hours trying quietly to relax the pace of my heart, breathing slowing, drawing huge breaths in and then letting them go. It works most of the time and I can close my eyes and find a cool spot on my pillow to lull myself back to sleep, but it didn’t work today.
No, today is important. Today is the day that I can, after a bit more than a year, actually see the light at the end of the tunnel, and although I’m not quite there, know it will come. All the students are finished and have gone home, but the finishing touches of yet another school year are left to be completed, so I’ll busy myself with those in much the same way one fits the remnants of a 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzle together, glad to be done with it.
I’ve missed quite a few things in the last year if you consider that the several before it I was able to write down my reactions to events in the world, to note the often quiet passing of time, or not so quiet family milestones. My writing stopped here, and although I tried to jot a few things down on a calendar kept next to my bed, with the exception of a few desperate bursts of anxiety, that stopped as well. I funneled what little energy I had into my food writing, but even that has slowed to a trickle. Not so surprisingly, the 365 project has saved me, allowing me to “say” something — anything — each day since the first of the year with a photograph.
When I scan through the shots in my iPhoto library taken in the past year, much of what I’ve taken has been of food, and if you know me, that isn’t a surprise. What you may not realize is that each of those photographs tells me so much more than what I was learning about a particular recipe I’d tried, or a meal we might have enjoyed. They help me remember where our lives were at a particular moment that no one else would understand when looking at them, like the bagels I made last June when our old doggo Jones could barely move. That was when we took her to the vet for some pain-killers and bought the non-skid treads for the stairs so she could follow me around like she always has. Or the Bittman salads I made through the summer and into the fall thinking, surely I can keep this going and stay healthy, keep my food writing going, and divert my attention from what I was doing all day to something sustaining in the evenings. There was the bakewell tart around the time of my son’s first shave, and the amazing peanut butter banana mallow mars I made about the time we got Lizzie to brighten up our lives, making us laugh when we most needed it.
In a year’s time we’ve had a family wedding, succumbed to a brief, but nasty run in with H1N1, watched another niece enter college, wished my mother and her Romeo bon voyage as they set out to travel around the country, and sadly, mourned the loss of our dear, sweet Jones who passed on to doggy heaven the day after Thanksgiving.
This year has also been my son’s last year of high school, and one marked with the added surprise of his having to ride a bike to and from school each day — a ride that is downhill all the way, and of course uphill all the way back. If you know the hill we live on, then you might understand his feeling of accomplishment the first time he made it all the way to the top without having to get off and push his bike the remainder of the trip. You’ve missed what could have been my raging at the injustice of having that bike stolen the very first day of school, and then my response of simple acceptance and the purchase of yet another bike.
I traveled to participate in my first food conference in San Francisco, we made our annual trek to Las Vegas, and then pathetically, I dragged myself into the holidays and right up to January 1st when I decided to join so many others in taking a photo a day. I can look at each one now and say that pictures do paint a thousand words — words that I’ll most likely never write. My husband has heard them all and it has been far less than easy. Poor man.
Going back to work for a year has added 25 pounds to my already padded body, has challenged me to keep up with any kind of routine diet or exercise, and has caused me to think critically about my health and life in general more differently than I ever have. However, I can be thankful for construction bills now paid off, and tuition for my son’s first year of college. I am happy for new friends and interesting people I’ve met and worked with. But I’m especially grateful for the opportunity to know that when I left my profession the first time, it was the best decision I ever made.
This time, it’s for good, and for all the right reasons.