Facts and Poetry

Thoreau always had two notebooks—one for facts, and the other for poetry. But he had a hard time keeping them apart, as he often found facts more poetic than his poems. They are, he said, translated from the language of the earth into that of the sky. Thoreau knew that the imagination uses facts to fabricate images and even delicate architectures. One summer night, looking up into the sky at a particularly beautiful, scintillating star, he thought perhaps another traveler somewhere else along the coast was, like him, looking up at that same star and said, ‘Of what unsuspected triangles are stars the apex?’”

— Jean Frémon, “Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Gloves”

365 /// Being and Becoming

It’s the last day of the year. The last day we’ll write 2022 and mean it. The passing of time is starting to get to me. I think of all the young people happy to move on to the next year and I find I no longer understand them. I’m trying to remember if I was that way then, too. I’m sure I was. I was an angry and nihilistic one, ready to have life over with.

Oh, how I’ve changed. I’m kind now—or try my best to be. I’m humanistic, hopeful, bordering dangerously on spiritual, and ready even to accept meaning.

Now I want to hold tight to every year and I loathe for each to pass. I cling now, to time, or I want to, but you can’t really. It slips as easily whether you reach out or let it go. There’s nothing to hold to, nowhere for you to find footing. All you can choose is whether to look while your life passes or avert your eyes.

I’m also sad to see the year pass simply because 2022 was a damn good year. I’m leaving it feeling empowered, blessed, and loved. I did things. Life got a bit better, a bit deeper, a bit wider. I want to believe 2023 will be more of the same, but the odds are never in anyone’s favor that the good times will go on. Pain is always on the way.

So, I wanted to write here, before the calendar changes over, and say that right now, I am happy. I leave this as proof that happiness really can happen to a person, for a time, and say with some authority that it’s all worth whatever real joy you get. I hope happiness keeps happening to me and if it ever stops, I hope I will want it to happen again.

As for my hopes for the coming year, I have very few. There are resolutions of course: read a book a month, start working out, journal more, find more writing work, travel, and fix up my old house. I’m not holding too tightly to those goals. I know a lot will change in the next 12 months. I won’t have the same goals, the same resolve. I will succeed and some and fail miserably at others, and that’s already okay by me.

There’s something else, though. Something bigger than a goal I can name or measure. I think I’m growing wiser, or maybe I’m coming to some truth about life that I can live and die with.

I am learning, I think, that there is something in us that amounts to a kind of fate. Not a grand plan, but a being and becoming. We are born who we are and we become the version of that self will be shortly after. We then go on to spend (or waste) a whole lot of time trying to be something else,

But you can never escape yourself. One way or another, you return to who you are. In fact, you will do it again and again and again, sometimes on bad terms, but eventually on good. I think I am returning to myself again; this time, I am meeting myself with not just forgiveness, but with understanding and curiosity. This time I am trying to help myself be who I have always been. This time, I am truly meeting myself with love.

And so we all do, or will, one day. You get tired; you lose the will to fight yourself anymore; you make peace—if you are lucky.

So much is coming back and all of it is falling into place. I can see all the clues I missed. I can hear all the things I have been trying to say. In 2023, I just want to listen more. My body has been giving mixed signals and my words have long been misinterpreted.

It’s getting easier now to slow down, and ask before acting: What does this mean? It helps to take the time to understand where your feelings and needs come from. Work out what would really feel better than how you have been living and start doing things differently. It helps to look back and admit your own patterns to yourself. Mark the places in life where you always seem to come back to and find a way of letting yourself settle.

This is what I want more of in 2023. I want to be more of who I am. There is nothing to add, no great mystery to solve. We all know, somewhere deep down, who we are. You simply have to be that with all your heart.

What Thanksgiving Can Be

I’ve never been a fan of the Thanksgiving holiday, for many reasons, but mainly because as a practice of gratitude it was too little, too late, too commercialized, and too superficial.

Thanksgiving, I used to think, was just a time of looking back on the year and picking the things that made you most happy and celebrating them. These past years have shown me what Thanksgiving can be. It’s a time to remember what drives you, to name it and place it foremost in your mind and heart and hold tight to it through the hard times to come. It’s a time to remember not just your blessing but what you live for.

The benefits of practicing gratitude are well-documented and understood and putting aside the horrible history and the fallacious teaching behind its meaning, Thanksgiving is a chance to renew the hope, the resilience, the purpose of your life. It’s a time to remember that there is still good left in the world and recommit to being part of that good, not just for others but for yourself first!

People have a hard time feeling grateful and we have an even harder time expressing it. The negatives, the setbacks, and the hindrances overshadow the progress and the privilege. My wish is that there could be more balance for each of us. That we could hold both the hurt and happiness in our hearts equally. I want you to know you can love life, all of it.

It’s easier said than done, I know. These last few years have been especially hard— for all of us. What I want to say to all of you is that there is always something left to hold on to and that something is what will give you the strength to continue on.

Humans are at our best when we have a reason to get up, to work, to try. Even if you don’t have a grand accomplishment or love to celebrate this year, I hope you can find a small dream, a small good, a small pleasure to claim as your reason. It’s there. Search inside. Search the faces of your loved ones. Search for what is missing around you and let yourself be what you need.

Life is beautiful, and you are no ordinary thing. Even if you are all you have, you can be grateful, at least, for that grand gift and choose to live for you.

This past year I have worked hard to practice gratitude and I can honestly say it has had a big impact on my feelings of accomplishment, self-esteem, and my overall happiness. Some days I feel I have so much to be grateful for that my heart hurts from trying to hold it all.

I’m grateful, as always, for my beautiful, smart, hilarious, thoughtful wife. I’m grateful that we have seen another year, that we have grown closer than ever, and that we have endured our hardships and come out stronger, wiser, and more loving than ever. I’m grateful that there are still so many years ahead for us to fall more in love.

I’m grateful for my family. I am grateful my mother recovered from her heart attack. I’m grateful that we are all so close, even if we aren’t near each other. I’m grateful that we can work through our annoyances and frustrations. That we have a place to be loved despite ourselves.

I am grateful for all I have accomplished and all I have learned this year. I feel like I made real progress. I feel like I have grown. I am not who I was at the start of the year, or perhaps I am only more myself than I have ever been. My life is becoming something real, something mine, something I only dreamed of.

I’m grateful for my friends. My family must love me, and my wife took a vow, but my friends are under no such obligations. It feels good to be liked. It feels good to know I can enrich other’s lives. It feels good to have people in your life who encourage you, help you, who understand where you are and what you want from life.

I’m grateful that I’m not where I once was, that I’m not who I once was. Sometimes I am even grateful for my problems because they mean that there is a chance to overcome, to prove something, to grow.

I’m grateful for all the small things too: my dog who has carried me through the loss of my cat earlier this year. I’m grateful for the plants that brighten all my drab spaces and remind me that there is life beyond what humans make. I am grateful for my notebooks that give me a place to say the things I can’t out loud. I am grateful for those pages where I can be myself no matter what promises I break or how I neglect them.

I’m grateful for the beautiful sunrises that uplift my morning commute and the moon that always finds me when I need something bigger than myself to look to. I’m grateful for the work I do. While it isn’t always my passion, it at least gives me a chance to have a positive impact on the lives of so many children.

Despite my complaints, I’m grateful for all I could do for others. I’m grateful to be for others what I so often needed and I’m grateful for knowing that if I weren’t here I would be sorely missed. There have been times in my life when I felt very much the opposite. I’m grateful for healing, for the past becoming more and more the past, and for forgiveness, which seems more and more possible all the time.

Last, I’m grateful for this space and for all of you, for reading, commenting, and sharing. It feels good to write something people like, that resonates, that connects. I know I’m not here much lately, but things are changing and priorities are rearranging. I hope one day to be someone you all are grateful for too.

Thank you for reading and I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving.

326 /// Tuesday “Friday”

It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and the last workday for everyone before we enjoy a break for the holiday. It’s everybody’s “Friday”…except mine.

Technically, I am supposed to work tomorrow, but I have a feeling I might be the only one to show up. I was feeling a bit bitter about it but the more I think about out I’m kind of excited. I’ll be mostly alone, so it’ll be an easy day. It will be a quiet day.

Perhaps I can steal a few moments for myself for a few words. I have missed this place but every time I’ve tried to come back something pulls me away before I’m ready to hit “Publish”. The drafts are piling up and I’d like to post one or two before I lose interest entirely.

A lot has been going on and I’m so disappointed that so little of it has made it down on paper. I’ve been doing some real writing work. By that I mean paid writing work—which is not the same as doing the kind of writing I want to do someday—but far closer and more fulfilling than anything I have done in years.

It’s felt so good to be seen, to be appreciated, to be told that I am good at something. I had forgotten. I had forgotten to trust myself and it feels good to remember that my passions absolutely align with my talent and that my talent, though small, is real and absolutely worth cultivating.

So, I will keep going, and the little baby steps will keep adding up. I’m already looking forward to next year. New journals have arrived and are waiting and just as this year’s notebooks are more filled than the year before. I know next year’s will be even better.

These are my only resolutions. Write for me and write here. I have goals too, which are not the same as resolutions, but they need to be a bit more defined and then broken down into manageable steps before I can share them here.

For now, it’s week by week, day by day. For now, I look at each moment and ask myself, “What can I do now?” and I do my best to do that. Sometimes I have the wisdom and the willpower, sometimes I don’t but I don’t dwell on the missed moments. I only try to do better the next day.

One thing I am learning is that there is more to writing than pen and paper, keyboard and screen. So much of writing is about getting out in the sun, seeing people, talking and laughing. These things are all part of writing. Some days the thing I can do right now is do anything but write.