Hello, happy Sunday, and thank you for stopping by for a bit of caffeine and catching up.
This morning is a big change from the summer-like sunshine and warmth we’ve been enjoying. By the time I woke up, the flakes were already falling and the air frigid. Being stuck inside is hard enough, but not even being able to open the windows or walk past the driveway makes it all the more miserable. Still, the day is off to a good start. I’m up on time (though I had hoped for early), my phone is in another room, the T.V. is off, and I am at my desk rather than on the couch. If I can keep this up through lunch, it will be a good day.
Here, please, pull up a chair, though not too close, and fill up a cup. I’d hoped to be switching over to cold-brewed coffee by now but the mornings are still too cold and clearly, winter has not been sent firmly enough on her way so we’ll have the usual instead: a bright blonde roast steeped in the French press with lightly frothed sweet vanilla oat milk (which is becoming increasing, and surprisingly, hard to find in stores lately) to pour over top. Let’s talk about last week.
“oh god it’s wonderful
to get out of bed
and drink too much coffee
and smoke too many cigarettes
and love you so much”
― Frank O’Hara
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that time is a concept I am slowly losing my grasp on. The week flew by faster than any work week I’ve ever been through. Each morning I wake up and I have to spend an unsettling amount of time working out what day of the week it is and then attempt to orient the not only within the month and year but from the beginning of this isolation and to the estimated end, though that goalpost is fuzzy and constantly shifting.
Every week it seems my time away from work is extended farther and farther. This week I heard from the district’s administration that the transportation department personnel will not return to work until July, for our annual one-day mandatory meeting, and then not again until mid-August to start the new school year. In all, I will have nearly five months away from work. It’s more time than I know what to do with and already I feel like I am monumentally wasting it.
I’m trying to remember that no one is asking anything from me and it’s only my own expectations of myself that I am falling short of. I’m trying to remember that it’s okay not to do anything, make anything, or accomplish anything right now. It’s okay just to focus on taking care of my mental and physical health and to be honest that is a monumental task in itself.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the social distancing order is starting to take a greater and greater toll on my emotional wellbeing and this past week was the hardest one yet.
Monday started off okay. I had a plan. I had a goal. I was excited and confident. The weather was warm, the house was clean, and I felt happy to have so much time and so much to do but slowly day after day, no matter how hard I tried to begin again and again the good feelings slowly slipped away. I felt less and less excited, less and less motivated, and less and less happy about all this time on my hands. I missed my family and friends more and more and my anxiety kept getting the better of me. I started having nightmares and, because my emotions manifest physically as symptoms of an autoimmune disorder, I started to feel really cruddy.
By Friday I was ready to explode in a rage or to sink fully into despair. The problem isn’t being confined to this space. It isn’t being cooped up. It’s the lack of people. It’s the lack of distraction from the self.
I’ve made so much progress toward loving myself more and enjoying solitude and time alone with myself and my thoughts, but this is pushing all that progress to the limit and threatening to undo it. It’s not that I don’t like myself, but like being around anyone else, myself and I, we need to take occasional breaks.
Without time away from myself or I get irritated and angry. I start noticing all my own flaws and nitpicking my little mistakes. I start to really dislike myself without the perspective offered by a little time apart and a few friends or coworkers to reinforce what I know, deep down, is good about myself.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this past week wasn’t as great of a writing week as the one before. I got a few pieces out but then the words were harder and harder to find and so was my energy and my focus. Still, it feels good to have written anything, and it feels good to know that every day I can try again if I fail.
I have worked out a kind of routine that helps get me started. I start by waking up before 7 and before my wife. I need time to wander around the house and do a little thinking by myself. I get dressed, wash my face, and brush my teeth. I drink a glass of cool water and take my meds and supplements. I check on all the plants and take care of the pets, clean a few dishes and make coffee.
(I do not check the news during this time. I’m learning that catching up on current events or checking social media gets me out of the introspective mindset I need to be in.)
I do all the little things I know I am going to want to do instead of writing first thing so I won’t have to feel guilty and so I won’t be tempted to procrastinate then I head to the “creativity room” and do my best to avoid distraction for as long as I can. Obviously not every day is a good writing day, not even most but I am writing more and writing better so I know I’m heading in the right direction.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that tomorrow is my birthday!
Unfortunately, I won’t be marking it with my usual zeal. Most years I’d spend this time new tattoos, touring museums, exploring new restaurants, and seeing friends and family for celebrations all month long, but this year it’s just going to be my wife and I.
She did her best to make it special though. We have a few clusters of crab legs in the freezer and artichokes waiting to roast—two of my favorite foods! We have bottles of wine chilling and almond cake for dessert. I hear rumors of gifts hidden around the house and we have movies to watch and board games planned to play. I’m actually looking forward to this low-key observance.
So, today is my last day of being 34 and think I’m going to miss it. I’m not quite ready to move into the mid-30s and to be so close to 40 but time marches on and each age offers its own kind of wisdom and happiness in exchange for the one you are being asked to give up. I think 35 will be the first year I feel finally fully grown up. I have worked hard this last year not only to overcome so many of my little fears but move out of my comfort zone from what is easy to what could be better.
Yes, 34 was a good age to be and I will miss it but 34-year-old me set 35-year-old me up so well I know that only more good is on the way and I can begin another trip around the sun with confidence and peace.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the rumbling in my stomach let me know it’s lunchtime and the rising fear of rambling on more than is pleasant or welcome are clear signs it’s time for me to finish my cup and go. It’s time for lunch and, afterward, I’d like to create a sense of normalcy by going about a pared-down version of my usual Sunday preparations.
I hope you had a good week. I hope you have been able and willing to stay inside both to protect yourself and your loved ones and to keep others in your community safe as well. I hope you have what you need and that you have found ways to cope, to feel less alone, to feel less afraid. I’m here if you need me.
Until next time.
If you enjoyed this post, why not buy me a virtual coffee?