Goodbye to you, February

Well, how about that February, huh?

Seems like more than a few of us have had ourselves quite a month. Sometimes, when I’m feeling a little overwhelmed or worn out, I like to go back through my camera roll to see what sense it can give me of a time. Often, it helps me see that my feeling about a time isn’t the whole picture of it. Because I often take photos of what delights me, it can be an exercise in reminding myself of the small moments that don’t (but probably should) carry as much weight as some of the larger ones.

Oh, bollocks!

(I’ve been listening to Tana French audiobooks for a few months now, and there are some Irish words seeping into my thoughts.)

Look at me up there in that last full paragraph, sounding so wise and grounded. Cue the montage of lovely little life vignettes: flowers on the table, a stack of good books, snow sparkling under the rising sun. Oh, I meant every word as each came through my fingers (and I could easily create such a montage), but re-reading them as a whole I could feel my whole being rise up in resistance to such facile positivity–which is probably evidence of how easily inspirational Insta quotes can seep into a person if she’s not careful.

Attaining peace and contentment is not necessarily about finding delight, or about making sure you put every little thing on some balance scale, so that a multitude of small good things somehow mitigate or outweigh a fewer number of heavier bad things.

To wit:

Box of Valentine sugar cookies.
These are my daughter’s favorite cookies. I buy them only for her. I took a photo because she’s in Sweden and it costs a bajillion dollars to send her anything but these made me think of her and brought back good memories, and sending a photo is free.
Close-up of the head of an old dog who is lying down, wrapped in a blanket, with tongue lolling.
I have about a bajillion versions of this shot in my camera roll. I am not sure why I feel so compelled to capture this waning animal, with her spotty bald ears and lolling tongue. But I do.
Parking location sign at the Oregon Convention Center
I think one of the best uses of my phone’s camera is taking shots to help me remember where I parked the car. I took this on the day I got my first dose of Covid vaccine. (This is my only documentation of this momentous event because I skipped the selfie area, where, apparently, a person could take vaccination selfies to post on social media, if she wasn’t so exhausted from being freaked out/awed by the whole experience, conflicted about being prioritized over more vulnerable people, and disconcerted by the idea of a selfie station in this context that she had to get home asap to take a nap.)
An off-center photo of a hospital bed, with a call device and a paper plate with saltine crackers.
I have no memory of taking this photo or any idea about why I would. It’s from the morning I had a colonoscopy. If I were a braver blogger, I’d share the screen shot of sanitary pads I sent Cane earlier that day. Although it seemed impossible, after 12 hours of miserable prep, that anything more could exit my colon against my will, I’d asked him please pick some up for me because I didn’t trust that I could get from home to the hospital without incident, and he didn’t know what to get. (My fear was justified, btw. TMI?)
Screenshot from The Weather Channel showing two days of snow in the forecast, followed by rain and above-freezing temperatures.
Do you see freezing rain in that forecast? Nope, neither do I.
Budding branches coated with a thin layer of ice.
Freezing rain, Day 1
Grocery store with long line of people waiting to check out.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Willow tree branches encased in heavy ice.
Freezing rain, Day 3
Dog resting on human's leg, with travel bags at her feet.
Daisy and I arriving at our home away from home (Cane’s house).
Dog resting head on human's lap, which also holds a laptop computer.
Working from (Cane’s) home, day 3 of no power.
Mural painted on side of wall with fierce looking wolves, Germanic lettering, some reading: Unity Is Strength
Seen on a walk. Graffiti defacing the mural reads: Kill All Nazis. What the hell is this mural and why is it in my city and what does its presence in this neighborhood mean?
Monthly bill statement from PGE power company.
Day 6 of no power. Hahahahahaha!
Church sign with words "trying to give up the idea that my worth is bound to my productivity"
Stopped to take this to accompany a still unfinished blog post. Gotta love the layers in that. Also, this church’s signs might get me to try church again. (That’s a houseless person’s motorhome in the background.)
Crowded garage with man on a ladder looking pensively out the window
Taking measurements for a building permit application so we can turn this garage into living space. Part of some big plans in the works.
Stack of children's books with severely frayed/damaged covers
Some books I pulled from one of the school libraries I serve in my job.
Power lineman working to restore power
After 8 days of no power, 7 phone calls, and 3 incorrectly cleared tickets this was such a welcome sight. Still 1 more day before heat will be restored.
Bedroom strewn with clothing and other items.
My son is no longer an active duty Marine. Helping him unload his car, I remembered the stage of my own life when I could (and frequently did) pack everything I owned into a sedan.

As I chose these images (no more than one for any day) and wrote my captions, I couldn’t help thinking of those optical illusions where what you see is presumed to be some kind of test of your mindset:

Optical illusion with illustration that can be seen as either a young woman or an old one.
Is this a young woman or an old one?

Was my month full of absence, disease, displacement, disruption, broken systems, and uncertainty? Or was it full of family, community, safety nets, solutions, possibility, and love?


What’s helped me get through this challenging month (season, year) is rejecting singular narratives–which means resisting not just one-sided, all-or-nothing ideas about our lives as a whole, but also about any discrete parts of our lives. The glass of any experience is neither half-full nor half-empty; it is always both empty and full. In every single image from my month are aspects of abundance and deprivation, sorrow and joy, hope and fear. All of those, all together, in every one.

The longer I live, the more it seems to me that the best way to fully feel the good things is to fully acknowledge the hard within them. To see and own and maybe even embrace the mess that is always part of the beautiful in our lives.

Sure and it’s grand, innit?

View of snow-covered driveway through a bedroom window. Trees covered with ice and icicles hanging from roof.

PS–Just for funsies:

But also this, which is even better:

12 thoughts on “Goodbye to you, February

  1. Ally Bean says:

    I enjoyed seeing your photos and reading your thoughts about them. You’ve had a hell of a February and you’ve come through with a good attitude. I love your line: “The glass of any experience is neither half-full nor half-empty; it is always both empty and full.” The wisdom of the world in that sentence. I’m going to take it to heart as I march into March. Ever onward we go, eh?
    Ally Bean recently posted…In Which I Wash My Mouth Out With Soap Because I Did Not Think AheadMy Profile

  2. Joy Christin says:

    I can relate. On this last day of February, I was thinking I hadn’t done much this month. So, I decided to review my camera roll for the month. It shows I did have some wondrous moments (I saw the local deer family in the hills, and a few magnificent sunsets). And, I also had some stretch moments (advocating for myself in the medical system, and processing a tender-feeling event about my birth family). The month was more full than I thought, but it wasn’t anything ‘world changing’, either. I’m doing my best to live in the ‘and’. Grief and gratitude. Good energy and exhaustion. Healing and healthy.

    • Rita says:

      That’s a perfect description of the last 28 days for me: “more full than I thought, but it wasn’t anything ‘world changing,’ either.” I’m at my best when I can live in the “and.” Takes work to keep my squirrelly self there, though.

  3. Bethany Reid says:

    Rita, I love this post. It made me grab my iPhone and check out my own camera roll, which is a lot less interesting, btw. I love its raw honesty (a colonoscopy!) and the sidelong looks at your whole catastrophe of life — work, home, pets, offspring….and I love the refusal of a one-sided narrative, which always seems to imply not one, but two, black and white, up and down, right and wrong, a simple dichotomy, when in fact life is complex. (I wanted to write hideously complex.)

    • Rita says:

      I really do go back through my photos whenever I start to feel like some period of time was all bad, and it’s an exercise I recommend highly. I always see things I hadn’t in the individual moments.

      Aside from that, I’m not sure whether to be appalled by or delighted with the phrase “your whole catastrophe of life.” I love the language of that. I think, if I were to try to capture that past month, I’d have to insert the word “absurd” somewhere close to “catastrophe.” (And there are sure times when the complexity feels hideous to me. Often when I can’t untangle all the threads of any particular thing.)

  4. TD says:

    I’m so glad that your son arrived safely back to you, Rita!

    β€œThe longer I live, the more it seems to me that the best way to fully feel the good things is to fully acknowledge the hard within them.” β€” this is so true!!

  5. Kari Wagner Hoban says:

    I love when you share your pictures, and I loved the music too. What a month you had. Not to be negative, but how were your migraines? I can’t imagine that weather helped them.
    Those Lofthouse cookies! They are the devil. So good. Kind of like Lay’s chips… you can’t eat just one. πŸ™‚

    Goodbye to YOUUUUU. That song is what I would sing on karaoke night if I had a voice. I love that song SO MUCH. It is so 80s and summer and just good.

    Love you, friend.
    Kari Wagner Hoban recently posted…Screw It, I’m Eating Tater Tots- Episode 24 (Oops, I Skipped One)My Profile

    • Rita says:

      Those cookies are crack–which is why I didn’t buy them. πŸ™‚ Probably a contributor to my migraines being not that bad. Which means that each episode was short and mostly controlled by meds. But, yeah–had headache at least once a week. Had it after both Covid shots, but I expected that.

      I hadn’t thought of that song in years, but as I was thinking about a title for this post it just popped into my head. The video is so funny and sweet and makes me feel so dang old. I love the brief shot where she hikes her skirt up her thigh a bit. It’s so tame compared to everything now. And that sweater that reveals nothing up top. I’m glad I got to grow up in a less sexualized time.

      Love you, too. πŸ™‚ Looking forward to diving into your latest batch of tater tots, but need to get through a loooong work day first. Gonna save it as a treat to reward myself for behaving appropriately.

  6. Kate says:

    Your photo snippets make me happy. Especially the one of your son’s belongings. I think that one might be my favorite.

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