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Buckling carpets and raising the kindness quotient

The most acute physical pain I’ve ever experienced was dropping a plate, edge-side down, on the nail of my big toe last June. It was a screaming, searing, raging HOT pain that wouldn’t allow me to find tears. Only expletives.

Eventually it subsided. And with it, the memory. I’d completely forgotten about it until this morning, when I tripped on the rug in the living room and noticed that the toe nail has broken and is peeling off at the site of impact. Which is just above the cuticle. Lovely.

The most acute emotional pain I’ve ever endured was losing my Mama. Period.

My big toe is a pretty inelegant but apt metaphor for the grief I (still) feel about my mother. Up until yesterday, if I’d have thought about it, I would have said it was healing and looking perfectly fine. We go about our days, my toe and I, but then out of the blue, the carpet buckles and the toe reminds me that it’s neither completely nor perfectly fine. No, not really. It still needs tending to. And I can get mad at the toe and tell it that it’s unreasonable that it should act up so long after the plate incident. The big toe don’t care. It’s going to come apart when it’s going to come apart.

For many around me, this year has felt heavy with loss and grief and departures.

Maybe even for you personally. The holidays are like that carpet. Beautiful to look at, but a veritable minefield of emotional tripping hazards. Recipes, songs, ornaments, traditions, cards. Every last one a reminder about where the healing is still a work in progress.

No matter how much time has elapsed.

My wishes::

If you are in pain, please take this time to reach out to those around you. Swaddle yourself with the warmth and care that is available to you, if you only ask for what you need. Yes, your people are indeed busy. AND they will take time for you. (And no, you are not a burden.) Please tread lightly on the carpet.

As for the rest of us, let’s ramp up our kindness quotient. As queues are long and patience is thin, let’s imagine that everyone is in some kind of pain, which accounts for short tempers and irritability. Let’s be outrageous with gratitude and generosity and kindness. Let’s smile wider, tip bigger, let someone in, pay it forward.

You never know who has just tripped or is about to trip on the rug.



  1. Mine was old fashioned heavy wooden ironing board meets 3rd toe…& divorce. Consider yourself swaddled :)

    • I’ll see your swaddle and raise you another, with extra mmmmmpf.

  2. Oh my gosh, yes. This. I wrote a similar piece on my website today, about my experience at Whole Foods yesterday after having an EEG and intensive blood tests for my mysterious neurological syndrome. The holidays are indeed harder for some than others, but it is important to remember that everyone is on his or her own journey. Thank you for writing this. x

    • Beautiful, Esmé. And your post…eloquent and lovely. And I hope you get some answers, the really good kind, soon.

  3. I love, love, love you girl! Your words, my heart. You think the grief has softened, and it has, until it rises again in an instant over something as simple as the smell of cookies baking. The same cookies you baked a month ago and didn’t start bawling. What’s with that? Grief, it’s tricky. Awoke at 3:30am to such vivid dreams of my mother, gone from here ten years now, appearing in my room as if she never left. So real. So painful. I had to get out of bed to convince myself she wasn’t here. Did I say it has been ten years since she died?! And yet. And yet. I wouldn’t trade our wee hours of the morning encounter for anything. Anything. I miss her, the most generous heart I’ve ever known, especially during the holidays when we shared so many grand adventures of surprising the world with joy. Then again, she is the rousing me from slumber, reminding me to celebrate Love, to pour out my heart to the hurting. Like you! Blessings being flung your way.

    • I want to tell you, Dear One, that a reader reached out and told me how your response touched her.
      Deep gratitude to you and your capacity to love and perfect aim when you fling those blessings.

  4. You hit it on the nail again Tanya. Something insignifigant sometimes reminds us of the pain we really feel. I don’t like Christmas anymore (and I am okay with that). I will put on a great show and nice presents for the kids of course but Christmas was my Dad’s favorite holiday and I still can see him wearing those funny paper hats at the table. He will never do that again and sometimes that is just more than I can bare. The crazy shopping of the season and the extravangant gifts when so many have so little just irks me. And one more reason, losting the most beloved and special
    Aunt . Someone who had such an amazing joy about her and had a huge influence on my life.

    • Yup. I hear your heart, Cous. Love you.

  5. This reminded me that there are people I love that are in pain, or who might be feeling extra-tender this holiday season. I *will* be outrageous with gratitude and generosity and kindness. Thank you for that. I am wishing you all the warmth + care you need (and more) this season.


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