Tidying Up and Letting Go

This post is the fourth in a series, The Other Side of Being Sick, chronicling my path to learning to be well once again. You can read all the posts in this series by clicking here.

It’s February, so surely you’ve KonMari’d your way to happiness by now. If you don’t know what KonMari is you must not have Netflix and I guess you don’t speak to anyone ever. In fact, it’s quite possible you live under a giant rock. May I offer you many thanks for coming out of your hidey hole just to read my blog.

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo is the hit Netflix series based upon Kondo’s New York Times #1 bestseller. Everyone on social media is talking about it and posting pictures of their tri-folds and their baskets full of tchotchkes that didn’t spark joy.

Everyone else on social media is telling us why Marie’s methods are classist and won’t make you happy. They’re shaming you for buying things instead of creating experiences. So, to wrap things up, Marie Kondo is simultaneously the worst and the best and you’re both right and wrong for watching her show. Welcome to the internet.

I watched a few episodes and, while the curmudgeon in me wanted to hate her, I couldn’t help but love her. She’s straight forward, but kind. Her methods are relatively simple, yet effective. And can we talk about her wardrobe? Those cardigans and swingy skirts spark joy in me.

I was all set to KonMari the fuck outta my house after watching one episode because, whether you think her methods are genius or hype, we can all agree it doesn’t hurt to weed the metaphorical garden every now and again. Of course, though, life got in the way. Our infuriating but lovable dog, Ace, got his his balls removed and it became my full time job to find clever ways to prevent him from ripping his incision apart.

When the cone of shame was obliterated we moved onto the donut. That lasted a day and a half. By then he’d figured out how to get it off and punctured a hole in the air bag. That’s when we turned to onesies. A 25 pound castrated corgi will fit into a 24 month onesie. He won’t necessarily enjoy the process, but it works. It should also be noted, if you have teenagers they will urge you to NOT TAKE THE DOG OUT LOOKING LIKE THAT! GAAAWWWWDDD MOM, YOU’RE SO EMBARRASSING.

While the sight of my ballless dog in a dinosaur onesie sparked joy in me, I guessed this isn’t what Marie Kondo was thinking about. So, with the dog wrapped up like a a furry baby burrito, I set forth to start sorting out which belongings of mine sparked joy and which did not.

The process had already begun to unfold before the Netflix show aired, around Christmas time. Our daughter needed some photos for the thoughtful gift she planned to give my husband. That was the day I found the compression stockings I was given in the hospital the day I had my surgery. They did not spark joy, so they went away.

That one act of letting go was the start of a something, though. It was then I had a bit of an emotional shift. I began to realize I had been living in a state of ‘what if’ two years after I’d been told my tumor was dead.

There was a spark, not of joy, but a fire was set within. Of wanting to move on, go beyond. Do anything and everything to jostle myself out of the mindset that I’d always be sick, that I could never set myself fully free of the potential time bomb that lives in my leg.

From that day forward I’ve been making small steps to clear the ill cobwebs that plague this sick brain.

I found my assortment of Spanx, the shapewear I had to wear for months after my surgery to keep the swelling at bay. For any of you that wear Spanx for non-medical reasons, I salute you, but I found the entire process to be akin to medieval torture. I have no idea why I was holding onto them, but I finally let them go.

In that letting go I found some space to breathe again, emotionally and creatively. That is when the idea for ‘The Other Side of Being Sick’ series of blog posts was conceived. It was also when I decided to bite the plant based bullet and become vegan*.

There is a lot of holding on when you’re sick. Holding on to hope. Clenching your teeth, girding your loins, relying on your grit. It gets you through. It got me through. When it was over, though, when I unclenched my jaw at the sound of good news, I didn’t know how to move on.

It seems like the moving on part would be the easy one, but that’s not how I’ve found it to be. I got lost somewhere in the space between the fight and the victory. And it’s impossible to go back. I’ll never be who I was and, thankfully, I don’t even want to be. Who I am now is still a bit of a mystery to me and I’ll admit I’m scared of the not knowing.

Watching Marie Kondo ask people to face their mountains of stuff, piles of unknowns flared that spark once again. You could call it joy, but I’d be more inclined to call it interest. I’m finally curious to know what my life can be rather than living in what my life has been.

And I thank that life that once was and the me that made it. I have gratitude for all the things that got me through. I’m thankful for the strength this challenge gave me, for the spotlight that focused on the little things that really mattered. But it’s time to move on now and make room for what’s new. There are bigger things for me to see.

It’s a process. My home won’t be tidied up all at once and I’m glad Marie reminded me to finish what I was trying to begin. These are the second first steps, like those after my surgery. They’re small and unsteady, and they are not easy. But, as long as I’m taking them, they’re sending me in the right direction.