“And the wonder is not that so many are ruined but that so many survive.”
— James Baldwin
“And the wonder is not that so many are ruined but that so many survive.”
— James Baldwin
“I do exist, don’t I? It often feels as if I’m not here, that I’m a figment of my own imagination. There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar. A strong gust of wind could dislodge me completely, and I’d lift off and blow away, like one of those seeds in a dandelion clock.”
— Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
The rain is waning, and the breaks between clouds are growing. The wind is warmer, but a chill is forecasted to stick around through Thursday. My mood and motivation never fair well through these grey days, and the longer they linger, the lower I sink. I’m trying to focus on the sun. I soak it up when I can see it and I remind myself that even when I cannot see it; it is there, trying to warm us.
It’s a strange morning. I don’t feel quite like myself. This isn’t the result of the grey days. I know myself even when I’m down. This is something else. I am not anxious, or angry, or even especially anti-social. I am only uncomfortable. My body won’t sit or shift right. My normal routine feels foreign. I feel out of place, even in my skin. I feel unwelcome in places I am most often found.
I think this feeling is an internal sense being confused with an external cause. The cause is being uneasy inside myself, not being unwanted by the world. Somewhere, a disconnect has occurred.
Simply put, the way I would like to live and move through life is incompatible with the daily shifting of expectations and obligations. I am resistant to change and change is all I seem to face. The problem is that the last thing I want to change is who I am but not changing risks living in perpetual resentment of the people that need me and the system that keeps us all needing.
I don’t mean to be so melodramatic. I only have to figure out a new way to do all the things I want to do. I only have to rethink these assumptions about when and where I do my best work and what a radically different way of organizing my day would look like.
The truth is, I am capable of being flexible under the right conditions, but it is up to me to cultivate those conditions. A schedule is nice, but a schedule isn’t static. Time here can be exchanged for time there. The trick is to watch the columns and keep the weight balanced. Move a bit of personal time to work time now, move a little back later. That’s all.
That’s all. So why is my chest so tight and my mood so glum? Why am I so angry and why is it so hard to resist the urge to pack up only my most beloved belongings to go live and work and write deep in the woods, high on a mountain, or on a broad beach next to the open and beating ocean?
Perhaps it’s the fluorescent lighting, or these uncomfortable chairs, or my sinking and shriveling heart. Perhaps it is something in me that remembers what we all used to be.
That ancient and wild one does not recognize the meaning of a spreadsheet, cannot fathom these subtle and serious social structures, cannot stand these suffocating walls. Something in me will not stop longing for a kind of freedom no human has known for eons. I don’t speak of a kind of freedom that was more or less, only the kind that meant the sun on my skin and a way of living that felt closer to life.
Usually, I’m bright and bushy-tailed on Monday mornings, but I didn’t sleep all that well last night.
We had our first real thunderstorm of the season roll in through the evening and by the middle of the night; the rain was in sheets and thunder cracked so loudly that every window pane shook in its frame. I love the sounds of spring storms, but knowing as soon as I drifted off, another bolt would light up the room and send its boom through the city made it hard to relax.
The thunder eventually settled, but the rain never stopped. This morning the temperatures are slipping and rain is turning to fat flakes of heavy snow.
I feel like people in other cities think their weather is unpredictable, but they must not have spent a season along the front range. We had our driest April on record this year, and just as the calendar flips, we have our heaviest rainfall of the Spring. We’ve seen 80-degree days, and today we’re down in the 40s again. Wind, rain, sun, snow, all in a single week’s time. Spring here means being ready for any season at any time of day.
The goal today is to keep the chill and gloom at bay. All I want is to find a warm and cozy place to wait out the rain, but tasks and to-do are keeping me from it. I’m very near a place of resentment and irritability, but a bad mood won’t get me through any of it any faster. An ice-cold cup of cold brew coffee and a large “sunshine” smoothie* should keep one foot in front of the other through midmorning. I will deal with the afternoon as it arrives.
This evening it is important that I get back to working out at home. At the end of last week, I fell into a self-pity slump and ate a lot of unhealthy food, and spent too much time on the couch. I have to begin again before it gets too bad. I’m keeping up with my journal and picking up White Teeth before I fall too far behind. It doesn’t have to be a perfect week. It only has to be better than the last.
*Sunshine Smoothie recipe:
1 or 1/2 orange
1/2 cup frozen mango
1/4 cup frozen pineapple
1/4 cup baby carrots
2-3 slices fresh ginger
1 cup coconut milk or water
Any seeds, supplements, or powders you desire
“Most of the time, we are well-served by being logical and deliberate. But on rare occasions, it’s helpful to act with unthinking haste. The operative word here is rare.”
I’m waiting for the weekend again. This will be my last rushed morning for a while, I hope. I’ve been battling car troubles for quite a few months now and have had to find my way without transportation of my own. Not having a vehicle limits your freedom of movement. It limits your feeling of autonomy. It’s damn depressing.
I know this is quite a first-world problem to have, and I know that I am lucky to be able to afford not just a vehicle but the repairs it needs, but after years of battling driving anxiety, time without my car means setbacks.
The good news is the problem might have finally been identified and resolved and my sense of freedom could be restored as early as this evening. I already feel that inkling of impending doom in my gut, but the sense of excitement layered on top lets me know I have made so much progress through these fears.
I’ve been reflecting on the difference between the things I say I want and what my actions show that I want.
What I mean is, we pick out these little habits we want to have and think we can simply add each on top of the person we already are, but we fail to consider that since we aren’t currently the *kind* of person who does those things, we aren’t really the kind of person who truly wants to do those things either.
I say I want to work out, but I don’t. What I want is to be the kind of person who wants to work out. An enthusiastic 30-minute workout after work every day does not align with the person I am today. If it did, it wouldn’t be so hard, so uncomfortable, so damn frustrating. I wouldn’t have to fight, and bargain, and threaten, and shame myself into it. If I was the kind of person who wanted to work out, nothing could keep me from doing it.
To become that person, I have to change more than my schedule. I have to do more than want it. I have to become a person who wants it. I have to grow and change into someone different from who I am now, and that’s a hard thing to accept. I want to be me, minus 10 pounds. I want to be me, but feel solid, strong, and capable. I want to be me, but not me.
So, how do you become different? The easiest way? Simply pretend. If you pretend you are someone who eats less sugar, works out every day, excels at their job, writes every morning, reads every evening, if you pretend every moment to be the kind of person who does those things, pretty soon you won’t be able to tell the difference. You won’t even want to think about it.
And I try not to. It may be too soon to claim success, but I did start working out over a week ago and have kept up the habit every day but one. What has helped is turning off my mind. It helps to tell myself that I am now a person that does this, and then I slip into autopilot. Change clothes, get water, get the hand weights, and start the workout video—move, move move!
I don’t come back to myself until it’s over and by then the feeling of accomplishment far outweighs the exhaustion and pain.
The person you want to be is not the person you are now with better habits. The person you want to be is wiser, calmer, determined, and stronger-willed. That is what makes those better habits easier. Becoming them takes little more than convincing yourself that you already are.
A bit of a better start than I had yesterday. The week feels long already, but as the day progresses, and items on the list are either completed or canceled, time seems to pick up speed and I feel more and more motivated. I feel calmer and calmer.
Some of the things I worried about are not an issue and some things I thought would drag out are going to finish faster than expected. It may turn out to be a day worth being present for after all.
I’ve been thinking a lot about space and time lately and how each often feels like the other and how we will never have enough of both.
No matter how long I live, it won’t be long enough. No matter how many hours I can have to myself a day, I always want more. Space is limited too. No matter where I am there are other people, and even where I could tolerate their presence, I hardly get a break from the social expectations. When they enter, you must greet them. When they ask, you must answer. When they laugh, you laugh along, and when they cry you have to feel their pain too.
Humans expect you to mirror them, compliment them, or help them see. Other people expect you to belong to them and to make their world right. We forget other people have their own worlds, as real and all-encompassing as our own. We ask too much of each other sometimes.
I used to think I was an extrovert because of how easily I open up to people, make friends, and the sense of connection and community I cultivate but I never marked the way I feel irritable and exhausted after and how resistant I feel until I have time to recover. As I get older that exhaustion seems to set in earlier and earlier.
My desire to be alone confuses me and conflicts with my desire to be with people. It confuses my interest in people. I think I’d like to live outside of society, and simply observe for a time all the things people do and try to work out why.
By understanding others, perhaps I could understand myself a little more. I’ve been a person for just over 37 years now and I still have little idea of what that means. I’m sure by the time I work out even an inkling of an answer my lifespan will be near its expected end.
Existence is a long series of strange and confounding paradoxes.
How and when does conflict metastasize into hatred? Dessa picks apart the science of hostility, with help from a criminologist who identifies the tipping point between prejudice and hate, and an Israeli psychologist who’s studied one of the longest conflicts in the world today.
“What do you need to do to stay alive?”
— Charles E. Cobb Jr., This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible
Hard start to the morning, but no one expects any easier on a Monday morning. I managed to will myself out of bed with my alarm, so I’m off to a good start, but poor quality sleep, general aches and pains, and a growing sense of overwhelm have depleted me before I could begin.
Today I am grateful for the mental and physical stimulation found in a big cup of strong cold brew coffee.
I have a few projects in the process for the morning, meetings through midday, and an afternoon I’m hoping to keep to myself. The schedule is light this week, but with us entering the last stretch of the school year, I have serious doubts it will stay that way.
I’m getting better at making use of the moments in between tasks and time spent waiting for the next event to begin. This is time to jot a few notes, write a paragraph, read a page or two, or even step outside for a short walk, though we aren’t having the best weather for it today. Still, the rest of the week is looking warmer and there’s no doubt my sour mood will sweeten in the sun.
Over the weekend, I accidentally broke my blog trying out a new theme. At first, I panicked. I cannot count the hours I put into making this place just right, but after poking around and trying to put things back the way they were, I realized this may have been the reset I needed and the perfect start to my digital spring cleaning.
When I reactivated the old theme, all the widgets in the sidebar were gone along with the custom CSS settings. I tried to rebuild them but with WordPress’s move to block editing, many of my old widgets and settings are no longer available in the form I added them in so many years ago. But, you know what? I never really needed all that, anyway. From now on, I’m going to keep it simple on the homepage but refine and expand my use of pages, tags, and categories.
My dream is to create a place in constant flux, a place with surprises, but I fear this theme, and perhaps even this platform is not conducive to that sort of digital growth. I can’t say what that means, but only ask that you bear with me through changes great and small.