Monday, July 18, 2011

Get it together, lady!

At least, that's what a big to-do list on my computer yells at me each time I fire it up these days.

Over the past year, I've had a really hard time staying on top of things. Partly, I blamed an active social life - who has time to do laundry? - but, in reality, it's kind of the last vestiges of my post-separation, total world meltdown.

Last spring, I was focussed on the top-level issues: Hey, I need a place to live! Everything I've known for the past seven years is done! What do I do next?

It took all summer pretty much to take care of those major issues, shelter, furniture, the division of stuff, the breaking of the news and the slow creation of my life, and identity, as a single girl.

By the fall, things were looking pretty good. I had a full-time job. I had a roof over my head. I had friends. I was in great shape and completed my first half-marathon. I even paid off my student loan. I was even kind of sleeping,

Then, things started to spiral again. Not in the same end of my marriage way, which was kind of like jumping off a sheer cliff and praying that at some point I would land, but, in a slow, it was getting harder to tread water kind of way. I knew, and ignored, that things weren't quite right.

My hours changed at work. A lot of nights. No regularity. The erratic work schedule threw my already less-than-awesome sleep habits into a regular three or four hour stretch if I was lucky, plus naps when I could get them. Luckily, I have a lot of energy, I thought.

Then, my energy started to wane. I started packing on the pounds - leaving me (still) the heaviest I've ever been. I blamed my schedule, and my love of gin and tonics.

The real warning flag came when I started to get winded walking up stairs. I was still working out at least a couple times a week, and had just ran 21K. Two flights of stairs should not have been an issue. I was exhausted, physically, all the time. I felt sluggish. Crabby. Forgetful.

But, like so many other things, my regular doctor's appointment had slipped.

Post-separation life reminds me a lot of when I was a kid, and I would walk out into the ocean out over my head. Treading water, I would feel a little bit vulnerable, but also pretty safe -- right up until a wave would take me under, and I'd wrestle with the undertow, trying to figure out which way was up. The first few months were a steady stream of crashing waves, by the fall, it was less frequent, taking things like, "Oh yeah, I was on his health insurance" or "Damn. All my bills and ID are in the wrong name," to throw me off balance just a little.

And taking care of such problems are time consuming. Changing my name took days and days and hours and hours of waiting.

But I did finally find a doctor near me and book a checkup. What felt like a gazillion rounds of blood tests later (another crashing wave - no one to hold my hand through the medical panic, and the hours and hours in the waiting room alone), it turned out that, while my terrible sleep habits and weird schedule weren't doing me any favours, an underactive thyroid was also kicking my butt.

So, I started taking some medication to deal with it. By the middle of the winter, my energy levels were coming back, but my moods still hadn't stabilized. Every Friday and Saturday before I went into the office, I sobbed. Flipping back and forth between days and nights was doing a number on me physically and mentally, but I was so grateful just to finally have a full-time job - the thing I'd been dreaming of since day one of J-school - I was afraid to complain too much.

I tried staying up all night. I tried sleeping more. I tried eating at regular hours, or as regular as possible. That post-work 3 a.m. snack is hard to replicate on a normal day. When I was working days, I would try to wake up extra early, with the dream of actually being able to fall asleep that night before 2 a.m. When I worked late into the night, I tried night shades, blinds and earplugs to convince my body to sleep past 10 a.m. It worked sometimes.

So things continued to slip. Like the health insurance. Going to the dentist. Getting the new glasses that I've needed since before an electrician working on my previous home put a night table on top of my current pair.

But I trudged along. Until finally, one night, I burst into tears in the office. Luckily, it was a weekend, so I still hope very few people saw. After a year, I'd reached my breaking point. The next week, I finally asked if there was anything that could be done. I polished my resume in case there wasn't. But, it turned out to be fixable.

My hours have somewhat normalized, and, now on week two, I'm getting at least seven hours of sleep most nights and starting to feel a little less prone to an outburst of crying. I'm working out regularly again without feeling like fainting or I'm moving through jello. I may even have lost some weight (fingers crossed).

But, coming out of the haze of the past few months, I'm a little shocked by the stuff I've let slip. I was always the queen of the to-do list. Phenomenally organized.

While I hope that no friends felt too neglected, and, thanks to modern technology, all my bills got paid on time, basic life things like visiting the dentist and buying a much-needed new mattress just never happened.

So, when I found out that my schedule was changing, I sat down at my computer and started the list of the things I needed to take care of, titling it, in screaming boldface, "Get it together, already, lady!" From the basic, finally picking up drycleaning items, to the pressing, renewing my passport before my trip at the end of the month, and the just generally helpful, figuring out how to use my newly acquired health insurance, the list had about forty items on it. And keeps growing.

But, I've managed to tackle about half of them so far. And the rest, I believe, will come. As an added bonus, all of the divorce work is finally done - no more negotiations, no more chances for dragging heels, no more treks to the lawyers' office.

Maybe, hopefully, I'll keep my head above water this time.

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