Sometime around mid-December after coming down with a cold, I started having headaches. They weren’t like the headaches I have gotten in the past and at first I put it down to sinus pressure, took some sudafed, and got on with my life, but the pain, or more specifically, the sensation of pressure continued. There was no particular pattern or trigger, although it seemed to be worst at the end of the day but I would go to bed with pressure and wake up with pressure and at a certain point, I realized that this had been going on for over a month and I don’t usually get headaches.
I am not generally an alarmist but I do work as an oncology NP full time and have seen things that have stayed with me so I always have in the back of my mind, what if? So I set up a video visit with my doctor (hello 2023) and he listened to what I said and then he ordered an MRI. On the one hand, he took me seriously and ordered an MRI. On the other, HOLY COW! he ordered an MRI. Luckily I have good healthcare, it was scheduled 10 days later and it ended up just showing my average, ordinary, 62-year old brain, which, through the magic of mychart, I was able to see myself, just a couple of hours later, as I sat on a bench in Central Park, all of this reflecting my immense privilege to get the scan, get the answer quickly, and not be bankrupted in the process.
Interestingly now, but somewhat terrifyingly for the 10 days I had to wait for the scan, my head went to the biggest what if of all-the what if this is brain cancer and I have a much shorter time left than I thought. And that turned out to be very clarifying. It turns out that you can think that you know what you would focus on if you only had a certain amount of time but when it isn’t actually the case, you can’t really put yourself in that mindset, but this felt possible enough — in my head maybe 50-50 — that I started thinking about what I would want to complete and how I would want to spend my time. I saved the list because I don’t want to forget what my priorities turned out to be. And those priorities are informing my 2023 resolutions/intentions/goals.
The ways I like to spend my time beyond spending it with my partner and kids, and grandkids, of course, are reading, sewing and spending time outside, preferably on the beach. I have struggled since 2020 with my focus because my work became and continues to be more stressful and bleeds into my home life. Work from home sometimes feels as though you are always working. Reading in particular, has been a slog. I still read more than the average person, but I often get 50-100 pages into a book and something happens, a character makes a bad choice, there is a death, divorce, infidelity, cancer etc. (life happens?) and I just can go no further. I probably have abandoned about 35-40 books over the last three years-contemporary fiction that I would have flown through before 2020.
During my 10 days of (almost) thinking I had limited time, I realized that if my time really was limited, I would stop reading/listening to any book I didn’t like and would avoid contemporary fiction altogether. Instead I would go back to books I have read and loved and maybe tackle some classics. I just read Bleak House for the first time and perhaps because it required me to focus, I got drawn in and read in over the month of January. I have decided to stop worrying about reading all the things and will try to focus on reading one classic at a time unless something else pulls me in. For example this book, which I ended up reading in a day.
Very fun. (Always make time for fun). I read Bleak House in the Penguin clothbound edition, inspired by the Conquer a Classic year-long read a long led by Annie B. Jones at Bookshelf Thomasville, a little bookstore in a small town in Georgia that is an absolute delight.
I really enjoyed the tactile experience of holding a clothbound book-I took notes and underlined along the way. I recently listened to Ezra Klein’s podcast about the “reading mind” and it was really interesting. Although I do love the convenience of reading books on my kindle, this podcast really spoke to me about how we take in information- I have started getting the paper newspaper on the weekend and am thinking more about reading paper books rather than electronically. In the case of the clothbound Bleak House, I really liked the heft of this book/reading experience. It helped me slow down, something I really need. I decided that rather than overbuying, I will read one classic at at time and order another clothbound book when I finish the one in hand. I have already decided that Vanity Fair is next and it is on its way to me. I will report back but this seems to be working for me so far. (reading intention for 2023-read fewer books, more classics, paper rather than kindle when possible)
As far as sewing, I have mostly been sewing for my grandkids this past couple of years. I have made a zillion flashback T’s,
thank you Rae, long sleeved, short sleeved, as pj tops, etc. and many versions of the mini Hudson pants
and a simple elastic waist knit shorts pattern that I hacked by combining a couple of other patterns. Also toddler undies (see Rae’s post for pattern and details, though I didn’t serge mine, just used my regular sewing machine as I have done for knits all along.)
I sewed an apron for my son and many napkins for all three of my kids and for us:
I have sewn a couple of tops for me and some Marlo sweaters
but have gotten overwhelmed by the many patterns and large amount of fabric I bought in years past on sale when I was sewing many garments. I basically stopped sewing for much of the last few years and those patterns and stacks of fabric feel overwhelming now and honestly like they are staring at me, a reprimand for overbuying, over-planning, too many ideas. When I briefly thought I had limited time, my initial thought was that I wouldn’t sew one more garment for me-that wouldn’t be my priority. Instead, finishing some long-lingering quilt projects for kids/grandkids would be more important (also organizing and labeling the massive stash of fabric, currently working on that) – but as of today, I am not dying and so in between finishing those quilts (hopefully this year) I want to get back in touch with what I loved about sewing in the first place: getting lost in the process, following the steps, making something I want to wear, not worrying about keeping up with the never-ending more more more-ness of the sewing instagram.
Right now I am slowly sewing some corduroy Lander pants. I will probably sew a couple of pairs. I bought the fabric in February of 2020 with exactly this pattern in mind. And it feels great to follow familiar steps of a pattern I enjoy sewing. So that will be high on my list of priorities this year.
Interestingly, I didn’t have feelings of wanting to travel, see some exotic place I have never seen, when I thought I had limited time. I did think about wanting to prioritize time outdoors. This is something I really started doing last year and it has been lifechanging. No, I am not on an island in the Mediterranean but I live close to the shore and how lucky I am.
Most warm-enough days, I make the time to do a 2-3 mile walk/jog and sometimes I bring a basketball and shoot hoops.
Very fun. (always make time for fun).
So while it was an unexpected thought exercise, it was actually helpful to have this brief scare and think about things I want to complete-projects I don’t want to leave unfinished. Spending time quilting is definitely a priority for 2023. I have an antique quilt top I bought years ago that I am hand quilting. I want to make progress on that beautiful project (see below) and sew two quilt tops -one small one to be handquilted and a couple of bed-sized tops to be longarmed by someone else in 2023. I think it is doable.
Overall I am optimistic about 2023. Trying to get into a new normal groove. Focusing on getting plenty of sunshine. How about you?