One More Light

This song by Linkin Park quietly destroys me every time.

February has been the worst month for as long as I can remember. It makes no sense that the shortest month would take the longest to pass by. It isn’t the beginning of the cold, dreary weather, and it isn’t the tail end either. It just sits in the middle of gray and crushes me every year.

Part of it may be due to Seasonal Affective Disorder, but while all of winter is generally more of a struggle than the rest of the year, in February in particular, I’m a shell of a person. Everything is hollow and cold and faded inside. It has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day or any particular trauma — trust me, I’ve tried to trace this weirdness to some tangible explanation. My husband says it’s self-fulfilling prophecy: I expect February to suck, so it does. He (thankfully) can’t understand the depth of it — or sudden lack of any depth of emotion at all. Every year I hope it’s better — I hope I’m better, healthier, happier. And when it turns out I’m not, there’s still a tiny sort of comfort in knowing I just have to make it to March.

March is nothing special. In fact, I’d say it’s my second-least favorite month. March is when the cold and the damp and the wind wear me down, but at least it’s in a more normal way that nearly everyone is getting worn down. I know I’m more alive in March.

Recently, January has added a day or two of February-level angst. It happened today, which got me thinking about this time of year. At least with the January days, I know exactly where it comes from. Three years ago, I lost someone to suicide.

I felt strange at first, claiming the loss as my own. It’s his family I’m closer too. But he was a light; even in the snippets of time I shared with him, I could see that. Sometimes I could recognize his darkness, too. Along with his death, I lost my old friends. They are the same and yet wholly new people. How could they not be, after clawing their way back to the living, forever watching where they step around the gaping hole that will never fill?

Suicide brings loss in many ways, not all of them expected. That’s something I learned three years ago.

The January punch-in-the-gut doesn’t always happen on “the day.” But in each of the past three Januaries, I have woken up feeling hollow. My mind replays little details from that time, as vividly as if it were happening all over again. I feel the carpet fibers under my fingers as I lay on the floor beside my bed, tears leaking into my ears. My throat catches, remembering how I called my mom and said “what do I do?” because moms are supposed to have all the answers, but what mother can fathom losing a child until it happens?

Today I feel both carved out and filled with everything. Tears coursed down my cheeks as I drove to work, and for a terrifying moment, I feared February had come early.  Then that song came on and I realized it’s my January ghost. He sits with me and reminds me to feel it all. The pain and the anger and the heartache. He reminds me of carpet fibers and clogged eardrums. Of his mom promising to shower and brush her teeth, even if she couldn’t bring herself to do anything else all day. Of his stepdad, hollow-eyed and deflated, trudging through parking lots with the dogs that kept them both breathing.

My chest cracks open and pain bleeds through my shirt and it’s all I can do to get through the day without crawling under my desk and sobbing, but I make it. I always do.

Because January is here to remind me how imperative it is that I survive February.

“Who cares if one more light goes out?”

So. Many. People.

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And Now the Apartment Smells Like French Fries

So there’s a cold going around, because it’s that time of year. Also because some people like to show up at work and cough and sneeze and touch everything and moan about how they hope no one else gets this cold because it’s just awful.

I’m not bitter.

I just have a sore throat and my nose is runny. But I’ve been assured if I picked up the office cold, it would have happened before now. Because I mean, it’s been three whole days since they were┬áreally feeling badly.

Regardless of the culprit, despite the day randomly feeling like spring instead of January, I needed soup. Loaded up with carrots and turmeric and ginger, just in case it *is* possible to catch a cold from someone three days after the fact.

We’ve recently changed our diet at home, because one of us needs to try out the FODMAP elimination diet and the other is spectacularly supportive. So coming up with a healthy, anti-cold soup without using my usual go-to ingredients like garlic and onion presented a challenge.

Because of the low-FODMAP diet (basically, we’re temporarily cutting out simple carbs/sugars, but we’ve also had to cut out a lot of spices, dairy, wheat…like pretty much everything) we’ve started eating more potatoes (and eggs, if you’re wondering what else is left). Therefore, my husband recently learned how to peel and chop potatoes. He loves when I let him help in the kitchen, so, as I was feeling scratchy and stuffy and not-happy, I figured our soup would be potato-based and set him to carefully cubing potatoes. We threw in carrots and celery, along with a bunch of turmeric, ginger, and a few other spices I know are easy on the tummy (at least in small little sprinkle-quantities). I “cheated” and sauteed a crushed clove of garlic in olive oil for about a minute before removing the garlic and adding the rest of the veggies. Obviously, this would be great with minced garlic and chopped onions, so feel free to add along with the other veggies.

Low-FODMAP Cold-Fighting Potato Soup:

Ingredients:
3 large brown potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 medium carrots (or about a dozen baby carrots), peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed with the flat side of the knife
olive oil, for sauteeing
Salt and Pepper
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
Turmeric
Ginger
Oregano
Basil
juice of 1/2 a lemon

  1. In large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat olive oil over M heat. Add garlic and saute about 1 minute, until fragrant. Remove garlic and discard.
  2. Add vegetables. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper. Saute until slightly golden, about 7-10 minutes.
  3. Add the broth and water. Bring to a boil. Stir in generous sprinkles of turmeric and ginger, and pinches of oregano and basil. Cover and reduce heat to M-L.
  4. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until all veggies are soft.
  5. Stir in lemon juice.
  6. Remove from heat and puree smooth, in a blender or with an immersion blender. Return to pan and heat through.

This could be good with a generous pinch of cheese on top. We stirred in avocado chunks into our individual bowls, which was delicious, too. And, it reheats well for lunch the following day — always a plus in my book!

Bonus: all those browning potatoes will leave your apartment smelling like French fries, in the best possible way.