218 // Catching Up

Today is a resting day. I’m home taking care of myself and readying for a quick return to work again tomorrow. I’m somewhat better, or at least somewhat more resigned to my condition. It’s the difference between coping and healing. Both are important, but today is about the former rather than the latter. I’m giving up control, expecting nothing, and doing only what I have to, what I can.

And today, I can do some catching up. I’m catching up on sleep, podcast episodes, house cleaning, scheduling, and the courses I’m taking. It feels good to be back up to date. To know here and now where I stand and know that moving forward I can be in lockstep with my calendar but, if I’m honest, all this catching up is just a kind of procrastination.

I’m supposed to be writing. I have a piece I want to write, but I’m worried it’s too similar to the very popular piece written by the much more talented writer that inspired it. I’m trying to remember that there is no rule that you cannot write about the same thing as another person. I’m trying to remember that this writing is for me and that even if the themes may be the same, my story is still my own to share.

I haven’t mediated yet either, the second of the most basic expectations I have of myself. The good news is the day is far from over and I still have time after this writing to get up and do the things I know will really make me feel good. The trick is not to get distracted. The trick is never to forget the tick, tick, ticking of time passing and to do now what you really mean to do so that you never forget or feel regret.

217 // Looking Ahead

Today seems like it will be another good day. If I’m honest, the morning was a hard one, but after the first few hurdles, and thanks to a 15 minute meditation session, I was able to get out the door with my enthusiasm for life intact.

I’m back at work which, despite some initial hiccups and irritations, failures and fumblings, feels really good.

It’s the first day when many of our employees will be coming in to work since early March, and the juxtaposition of excitement next to fear is disconcerting. I’m excited to see everyone to catch up to feel a part of this community again, but being crammed into one building like this is making social distancing hard. As the day drags on two halves are warring in my mind. I do not want to get sick. I probably will not get sick. But what if I I get sick? I will not get sick. Will I?

Health-wise I’m feeling better but I’ve been tracking the patterns in everything everything from my work days, my meals, my medications, my sleep, my energy levels, and my moods, and I know that a good today means a bad day tomorrow. I’m not needed as much right now which feels like both a blessing and an offense but I need the rest so I gather my pride and asked for the day off.

Looking ahead, the week feels already over. Like a paycheck earmarked for bills and groceries, my time feels spent before I get it. I’ve got webinars and virtual trainings on my plate as well as writing, writing, writing. I’m feeling super avoidant and I have a feeling that come the weekend no real progress will have been made so I’m saying it here and hoping that the intention, the visibility, and the accountability will move me to overcome myself and make something.

216 // Moving in Strange Ways

My mind is moving in strange ways today. I’m wired but fuzzy, optimistic but irritable. I’m moving forward, but only ever in circles. My mind is marching on to nowhere.

Tomorrow is coming too fast, and a slow panic is rising, an uncomfortable excitement. I’d rather today drag on a little longer, a day or two longer, a week, a month, a year more of solitude would fix me right up.

This morning was better than this afternoon. I felt more focused, driven, productive, then. This afternoon is all restless energy. I hate it.

I’m trying too hard to harness the evil power of the steroids my doctor has put me on for good, but all I’m getting is jittery and angry. Headaches are rolling in and out because, I’m learning, steroids, though they provide their own kind of energy, are not a replacement for caffeine, but the prospect of mixing the two terrifies me so withdrawal is setting in.

It’s not all bad, of course. I made time for myself, for blogging, for cleaning, for meditating, and tackled a couple of to-do items I’d been avoiding. The littlest activity wears me out though and each task requires another 20 minutes of napping before I can move on to the next. I’m letting myself have all the rest I want though because with each waking I feel just a tiny bit better than when I laid down.

I’ve promised my team, and myself, that I will make it into work tomorrow, but I’ve made no promises to them or myself from then until Friday. I have a feeling forming even the least of expectations is setting us all up for failure.

Goals // Week 32: Getting Better Every Day

This week is going to be a busy one, though not hard, although it is off to a rocky start already. I’ve already written about the health issues I’m coping with and though I’m still suffering, I’m getting better every day and fully expect to feel much stronger and more capable by the end of the week.

It’s hard to feel so limited. To have to remind yourself to keep your expectations, your focus, your goals so narrow, but I’m trying to remember it’s better for the long run. This week I’m not looking too far into the future. I’m focusing on here and now, on my mind, my body, my mental and physical health, what I need to do each day, each hour, and with each action to take care of me first.

This week I will:

Rest when you need it. It’s hard enough to admit to yourself when you just can’t but it’s so much harder to have to admit it to your superiors, your team, and your loved ones. Remember that they want the best for you too. Remember that even if they don’t, it doesn’t matter. You are your own responsibility. You are the one who must live in this body. You have to put you first and heal so that you can take care of work, relationships, obligations, or passions.

Medicate, meditate, and hydrate. Rest is important, but there are other needs to be met. Don’t forget your medication. Don’t forget to drink water. Don’t forget to be present, to focus on your breath, to observe your world, your thoughts, your emotions without judgement. Stress is your number one trigger and to quell it takes only 10 minutes a day. You can give yourself at least that.

 Make something with my hands. There is more than one way to meditate. Put on a podcast, get out your X-Acto knives and magazine pages and clippings. Find words to play with, scenes to reimagine, bodies to remix into your own reflection. Find your flow and lose a little time to something that belongs to no one but you. Don’t forget, the healthy mind needs new challenges and novel ways to think and play.

Write something every day. You’ve set up a schedule and made the work easy enough. You have ideas to explore and even if nothing gets finished, posted, shared, or turns out in any way the way you meant it to, even if you get lost, frustrated, or feel wholly incompetent and full of doubt, you have only to keep writing and it will pass, it will get easier, it, you, will get better. Just try a little each day, that’s all I ask.

Finish that book, then finish another one. Too much rime has been spent on screens lately. Uninstall that game, those apps, shut it all down by 8:00 PM every night and pull out a book instead. You’ve only got 20 more pages left on this one, and the next is less than 60. #) minutes before bed will get you a lot farther than that and is much better for you than that phone.

Reach out. I’ll expand on it later but, since the time of Covid began, I’ve found it harder and harder to reach out to family and friends. I’m becoming more and more isolated, and I’m struggling to both understand why and break through this reluctance. It’s as if I’ve decided I’m living in a time outside of time, a life outside of my life. I’ve decided I am alone and left the conclusion to stand, but life is passing by and the people I love are still out there living, loving, suffering, changing, growing farther and farther away. I don’t want to come out of this alone.

This week I will not get caught up in every passing emotion, thought, or physical sensation. My body is me and my mind is me, but not everything that happens or occurs is me. Not everything is a thing. There is control to wield if I would seize it. There is peace to be had if I would allow it. There are blue skies over every cloud, and every cloud is always on the move. It’s okay to let it pass. Let it pass.


Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

215 // This Is Not Optimism

Another bad night and another bad morning to follow. After a night up with pain and down with worry and low self-esteem, I’m tired beyond words today.

I started by trying to fight the fatigue. I got out for a short walk with the dog and made grand plans to clean the house and get some much missed writing time in but I lost the battle quickly to naps that were only interrupted long enough to eat and apologize to my wife before falling asleep again. The rest did me good, though. By early evening I felt part of the living world again and managed to mark one or two check marks of my to-do list.

I’ve already decided to stay home tomorrow. I already know that I’m not ready yet to return to work. I’m taking my medication, staying hydrated, and meditating to manage symptoms, but I’ve just gotten so bad that recovery will take more time and patience than ever before.

In addition to take I’m doing my best to stay optimistic, but like everything else, it’s harder some days than others. Sometimes I wonder what the value is in optimism at all. It feels like nothing but another kind of pressure, another expectation I can’t meet. I don’t want to be optimistic. I want to be realistic. I want to be angry. I want to be sad. I want to be negative and nihilistic.

But that isn’t me, or, it isn’t all of me. I’m angry, but I’m more than this anger. I’m sad but there is more to life than this sadness. I’m in pain but outside of this pain there is still beauty, love, and life.

When you have a chronic illness time moves slower. A few weeks of flare up can begin to feel like your whole life. The pain and pessimism become all you can feel, see, and think about. This low quality of life stretches out behind you and in front until no way out can be imagined. Memory of healthier times and the hope of healthier times to come fade.

I know this is a lie. I know that this struggle is as temporary as every other struggle I have overcome before. Soon, one way or another, things will get better. I will get better. This is not optimism, this is truth. This is being realistic. This is no expectation or pressure. This is an inevitability.

Institutionalize the Values

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah, well, we didn’t complete the cycle of the message, right? You know, I think more people in our generation raised our kids to be more open-minded and to be more thoughtful and considerate. We had the words for it, right?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Right.

MICHELLE: When it comes to fathers raising their girls, I do think that the average father today does believe that their girl can be anything she wants to be and they are delivering those messages around the dinner table.

BARACK: Right.

MICHELLE: We delivered those messages at the dinner table, but we didn’t take them to the boardroom. We didn’t change our workplaces; we didn’t change things outside the home.

We didn’t institutionalize the values that we’d been teaching this generation of kids. So now, they are growing up. They are leaving the dinner table and they are going out into the world and going, ‘The world doesn’t look like what I was taught back home.’ You know, and this isn’t right.

BARACK: Young people are idealistic as they have ever been. I think they are more idealistic now than they were when I was growing up. The difference though is that idealism that they feel as if they can channel it outside of governmental structures and outside of politics.

The problem is, again we’re getting a pretty good lesson in this right now, there’s some things we just can’t do by ourselves or even groups of us can do by ourselves. As a general proposition: we can’t build infrastructure by ourselves, we can’t deal with a pandemic by ourselves.

MICHELLE: We can’t effectively educate the public by ourselves, through individual schools…

214 // A Brief Normalcy

Today is a better day. I’m feeling more solid, physically, more present and connected to my body, stronger. This is always the first sign of healing. Before I can see tangible improvement, before I can see or feel exactly what and where I have begun to heal, I feel it in my spirit. A corner has been turned, but I know that doesn’t mean that the journey won’t be agonizingly slow and that setbacks are not on the horizon.

And so, because I was feeling a little better and because I have been feeling so down, I decided to venture out with my wife for some shopping therapy. The weather was gorgeous and having a few new things for the home made a big difference in my mood.

Of course there were tough moments. This ulcerative colitis flare has progressed so far that I’m left with a great amount of fatigue, pain, discomfort, and anxiety almost all of the time. There were moments today between all the positivity and the hopefulness, when I wanted to break down, but I breathed through it. I sat with my pain and fear and fatigue and I gave it space to breathe too and each moved to let me pass for a time and I am grateful for the brief feeling of normalcy.

Unfortunately, the outing was still just slightly little more than I could handle and when I got home, I crawled right back into the bed to recover.

The evening is settling in now. We have some rain clouds cruising in from the mountains, but they don’t appear too threatening. I’m looking forward to a calming and cleansing rain. Much of my cleaning was done last night and I’m basking in the peace of knowing I have nothing I have to do and nothing anyone is asking of me. I may write for a while or work cut and compile a new collage piece.

Or maybe I won’t push myself to make, or read, or write anything at all. Maybe I’ll give myself permission to just lay on this couch, watch some mindless TV, and enjoy a couple of glasses of wine with my wife before turning in early. I deserve it. I need it.

Currently // July 2020: At My Best and at My Worst

“Things are prettier in June, but they’re clearer in July.” 

― Sophie Flack, Bunheads 

After months and months of spring and early summer that seemed to drag on and on with catastrophe after catastrophe, after we floundered and continue to flounder leaderless and lost, July gives way to August and yet further uncertainty and strife.

Still, we are finding our footing slowly and despite what you see on the news and what you hear from the politicians, if you look up and look around people everywhere are coming together, supporting each other, growing and pushing forward with strength and compassion.

The consciousness of the country is rising, and though they fret and fight, those who would have our country return, or perhaps never leave, the hazy dream of individuality and universality, law and order, and hard truths left unsaid, undesirables lost to the dark and to silence, those people will be, are being, left behind in favor of a world more inclusive, for connected, more giving and forgiving than we’ve ever dreamed.

At least this is my hope because to be an American right now and watch the failure, the cruelty, the death all around you and closing in is to feel hopeless and utterly ashamed. I’m fortunate to live in a state where even though cases are rising we are not seeing numbers as high as others and the people have elected a Governor who, though not perfect, is trustworthy and has his heart in the right place.

Protests are still happening regularly, but I worry that attention to racial injustice is waning as justice takes its time and the cause is trivialized. I worry I haven’t done enough for my part to keep the country’s focus.

The end of July marks the end of summer’s spirit, and the issue on everyone’s mind now is the reopening of schools. There seem to be no definitive answers about the safety of students, teachers, or staff, only a rising insistence that schools reopen no matter the cost or concern. Working for a school district has made an already stressful time all the more terrifying. None of us know what will happen and though we all want to return I have not spoken to one fellow employee who is in any way anxious to return to work right now.

As for me, I’m trying not to dwell on what I cannot control. I returned to work months ago, but only in office and without students to transport. Looking toward the start of school in just a few short weeks, I’m taking stock of my own options, my own boundaries, the compromises and the precautions I’m willing to take and deciding what is right for me. I have my health and the health of my loved ones to consider. I have to stand up for what I believe is right, to keep us all home and safe so that more of us can live.

To distract from it all, I’m focusing more and more on my mental and physical health. I’m making time for more of what I love through schedules, lists, priorities, focus, and self-care. I’m meditating, eating better, taking my medication, and resting often and without guilt. The paradox of July has been that I feel both at my best and at my worst.

With August’s arrival, I plan nothing more than incremental and infinitesimal change. I’m doing the right things now and if I find myself doing these same things 30 days from today, I will count that a monument’s success. The goals going forward are to fight, to breathe, to rest, to work, to learn each a little bit every day…

but before I do, here’s what I am currently:

Writing essays. They’ve been slow to write and even slower to post, but every day I find some new idea or take time to flesh out some part of a new piece. The hurdle has been consistency and persistence. It’s easy to begin, but the challenge of finishing is hell to overcome. I’m working on my self-confidence, getting comfortable with vulnerability, and chasing that elusive state of high challenge and high capability known as “flow“.

Making collages, blackout poetry, and cut out poems again. Last month I bought a desk wide self-healing cutting mat and now creating new work is as easy as folding my laptop away and pulling out my X-Acto blades, markers, and magazines, putting on one of my favorite podcasts and zoning out for a while.

Planning every hour of every day. Throughout the day and at the very least each evening I spend time updating my calendar, to-do list, and digital logbook in preparation for the next day. It’s been helpful to clear my mind of so much clutter and to always know what the next steps should be.

Reading less than I should be and falling farther and farther behind my goals. These past few weeks I’ve found my way back and finished a couple more from my Penguin Little Black Classics Set. I’ve purchased a couple of new one to add to my TBR pile to keep me motivated too. There is still a lot of year left to make up for time lost.

Watching I Know This Much is True, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, and Perry Mason all on HBO. I’ve been into dark dramas lately. They are comforting for the mind the way weighted blankets are for the body. I’m missing movies though, and movie theaters particularly, and hearing that so many studios have pushed back their premiers breaks my heart.

Learning about The Science of Well-Being on Coursera. After so many months of putting my learning journey on the back burner, I’m finally finding the time by asking just 5 hours a week from my schedule to log-in, watch videos, read, and reflect. It sounds like a lot, but waking up earlier on the weekends has given me more than enough time to make it happen. I’m still on Duolingo too if anyone wants to be friends.

Anticipating the end of summer. This is typically my favorite season of the year. Summer is when I feel the most free, the most myself, but between Covid-19 shutting the whole world down and my own health holding me back, this summer has been nothing but disappointment and loniliness. Sometimes “not the same” is worse than “not at all”. I’m ready to move on and try again in 2021.

Reflecting what exactly it feels like to be alive right now. As hard as it is to navigate these trying times, to be frustrated, to be afraid, to grieve, this is the life I am given and though much has been lost all need not be lost. I can still let myself feel. There are times now when feeling is all I can do. I won’t give that up too. Even when it’s hard. Even when it hurts.

Fearing what the end of the season will bring. I’m afraid of returning to work more fully. I’m afraid of being around more coworkers, more kids, more chances to contract the virus. I’m afraid I’m not doing enough to protect myself, my loved ones, my coworkers, or my community. I’m scared of the worst I see predicted by news outlets and over social media. I’m scared of the combination cold, flu, and Covid season to come.

Hating anti-maskers. It’s hard not to see people like that as the enemy. It’s hard not to wish the worst on them for their ignorance and disregard for life, but I’m trying to remember that they are human like me and prone to fault and failure. As a species, we will never be perfect. We must cope with the contrarians, drag the ones we can, kicking and screaming, and make right the mistakes of others the best we can.

Loving Colorado’s monsoon season. The heat of the summer might set me free, but it is the monsoon season that gives me life. Each afternoon as the summer starts to wind down we see afternoon thunderstorms roll from the mountains, through the cities and off toward the planes. They pick of strength as they swirl and gather most times unleashing their fury over the eastern half of the stats but some night the city feels the wrath in the form of rain, hail, flooding, bright lightning, and deep rolling thunder. Nothing is more soothing.

Needing some good news. I’ll take it personally, professionally, or politically, I’m not picky. I’m desperate. The good has been so hard to find. Everywhere I look there is nothing but bad, and pain, and anxiety, and anger, and death. All our usual means of escape are cut off and our usual means of connection along with them. I need something good to balance all the bad. I need something good to balance myself and make it through.

Hoping one foot in front of the other can go on being enough for now. I hope this not just for me, or just for you, but for us all together. Life may never return to what it was and we are going to be limping along, broken, lonely, angry, uncertain, terrified, and the weight of failure and loss trying to find a new way.

The only thing to keep on dragging one foot in front of the other. The only thing we can do is not give up. I hope we won’t stagnate. I hope we won’t lose hope. I hope, in the end, we won’t give up on one another. I hope we learn the value of community. I hope we learn to love more and to let love, and care, and community guide us forward into this great unknown we face, together.


So, yeah, all in all, July was…not the worst month of 2020. The bar is low, sure, but everything felt a little lighter. The world took a moment to breathe in and come August we will breathe out and begin. There is still work to do, life to live, a year to get though, and just now I can begin to sense, a new year beginning to form on it’s end that we’ll have to ready ourselves to begin starting now.

But what about you? Were there any celebrations? Any trip? Any bit of good news or chance for joy? Are you still wearing your mask? Are you still doing your part to keep the people you love and people you will never meet safe? Have you registered to vote?

Let me know in the comments.


The inspiration for these posts comes from Andrea at Create.Share.Love

Photo by Daniel Páscoa on Unsplash