257 /// Guilt

I’m home sick today. Feels like I have been just slightly under the weather for weeks now. Every day there is a bit of a sore throat, a bit of fatigue, a bit of sinus pressure, a bit of a runny nose, but then it clears for a time and then it comes back for a time. I worry I may be sick, but it’s hard to know for certain. I am certain that I am miserable though, so today I stayed home to see what a bit of rest would do.

Unfortunately, what it did was make me feel bad for resting; worse, it made me worry about work.

Oh well, it felt good to sleep, and maybe knowing that staying home does so little will help me accept my circumstance. I’ll go on and assume it’s just seasonal allergies wearing on as the summer season wears out its welcome.

It’s late in the afternoon now but I’d like to salvage something of the day, if I can. A cup of strong coffee and around-the-clock house music has improved my mood and I am challenging myself to stay in my office chair for at least the next hour though I think it will come to little more than these words and a few pages in a notebook.

Maybe the germ of an idea will be found, perhaps a few sentences added, or a new concept turned over that I can turn again later. Mostly this just means I’m reading more of James Baldwin’s Collected Essays, marking down the past day’s events in my logbook, jotting a few thoughts in my journal, and collecting interesting things on Are.na, nothing rather important, but enjoyable nonetheless.

And that’s enough. Even if it’s only for me, it’s more than enough. I hate that I have to insist on it that way but I have to convince myself first and foremost. We’re socialized to believe that doing something that isn’t for practice or profit, that no one asked you to do, that you don’t need to do, that you won’t be sharing or promoting, something that’s not for anything, is a waste of time.

I think perspectives are changing, though. We’re realizing the consequences of having to earn your existence. The truth is, it’s already yours and you can do whatever you want with it. The truth is, nothing anyone does really means more than anything else. It doesn’t matter whether you work another shift, sell another thing, make a new product, or take a cozy little nap, the sun is still going to engulf the Earth in a few billion years either way.

Might as well be happy while you can—in whatever way feels right for you.

253 /// Autumn for a Day

I woke this morning to drizzling rain and a chill that had crept throughout the house. Quite a change from the record heat wave we suffered only two short days ago. This taste of autumn won’t last though. Summer has never left the front range so quietly as that. We’ll see days 30 degrees warmer by the work week’s start.

So, it’s officially a lazy Saturday, and not by accident this time, but by conscious choice. I know that taking a day for myself means giving up a day later, but I need it—desperately. The school year has been off to a particularly hard start this year.

I’m spending the day under warm blankets with hot cups of tea, bad movies, and internet rabbit holes.

Many of those rabbit holes are of my own making. I’m organizing my Are.na channels and sifting through old blocks. There are interests I have abandoned and new ones waiting to be named. I have old concepts that have revealed new threads and new concepts waiting for categorization and context.

I’d like to make a little progress through James Baldwin’s Collected Essays too. He’s a fascinating man, one of my favorite “Great Minds“, but he isn’t always easy to follow. The places he leads are the place where we are most hurt, most raw. It’s uncomfortable to face and your instinct is always to fight or fly or freeze, so if you really want to be changed you have to give yourself time to acclimate. It’s a slow journey.

As all journeys are—as all journeys should be. Growth takes time as the old truism goes. It’s one of the great tragedies of human existence. By the time you have finally gotten your heart and mind into a good place, your body is ready to fail you. I’m sure I will be no different. Not at this pace, and certainly not with so little discipline. Some things are beyond even time to change.

Luckily, there are other joys in life.

229 /// Good News/Bad News

The beginning of any school year is at once exciting and exhausting, but this one in particular is markedly more chaotic than most. The added challenges—though frustrating—have also reminded me why I enjoy my job so much. I miss having problems to solve. Novelty is a human weakness. We will take bad over boring any day, I suppose.

The week is dragging on but I’m still feeling optimistic, surprisingly. There’s something to be said for having so much work you don’t have time to think about the stress you are under or the minutes you can’t get back. All I have mental space for is getting shit done and getting what sleep when I can.

The break I’d hoped would come with the change of schedule never materialized. My hopes have shifted past Labor Day. I fear even that will come and go without a chance to rest, recuperate, and reflect. My fear is that summer has already gone from me and I hardly got to enjoy it.

The good news is, I still feel good. My body is still strong and resilient. I’ve come through with enthusiasm intact and gratitude is becoming an almost automatic practice. I cannot let myself forget that I have so much more than most. I’m allowed to have bad days, sure, but I would do great cruelty to myself if I didn’t stop to feel the sun on my face, to smile at a friend, to see the blessing behind every hardship.

The bad news is a new wave of new COVID infections is breaking across my workplace. Much of the management team is out with it and we have a few more every day. I haven’t had it yet, so far as I know, but with my immune system the way it is, and my tendency toward severe and prolonged illness, I need to take extra precautions again.

I’m happy to see so many others in my building doing the same, but it’s disconcerting how many people are confused when they find out COVID is being transmitted at all. I feel threatened by them. I feel angry with them. I wish the world was such that I could hide away from them until the risk had passed.

216 // Trying on Other Lives

I’ve been away from my life for a time now. I’ve been busy trying on other lives, other anxieties, and other pleasures. I’ve spent time remembering the people I might have been and forgetting all the reasons why I’m not.

All that is to say I have had a long summer of hard work, delightful travels, and exhilarating adventures but the summer is winding down now, though with this blazing heat you might never know it, and something is calling me back to reality—my reality. It turns out that all those other lives aren’t meant for me. They are only costumes to slip in and out of for a bit of excitement and spectacle. I hope to slip into others still next summer and every year after.

I’ve begun to think of my life as a cycle of seasons, and the summer sun has always beckoned me out and away from myself. I am a citizen of the world and in love with all of humanity. I want to be where the people are and I want to want all the same things they do. The season is for soaking up the experience of living and shoring up enough stimulation to carry me through the dull and dreary winter.

With the school year beginning again in just over a week, and my work schedule forcing me back to regular and routine, I find myself returning to the internal and the intellectual. I’ve, unprompted and quite by surprise, picked up reading again and rummaged and rooted through desk drawers for notebooks that have been buried since spring.

Life is a cycle of seasons, a going out and a returning to the self with a clearer understanding and a deeper love and appreciation not for who I dreamt I might be, but for who I am only just learning that I really am. You have to see for yourself that who you already are is the best version of yourself there is. It’s the long way to self-love, but it is the most fun you can have while healing.

189 // Dogged Days

I’m spending the day at home after a long bout with a tension headache turned migraine overnight. I’m feeling better now, but without a good night’s sleep, I simply wouldn’t make it through the work day. Worse still, without rest, I might risk the pain returning.

I’m up now and trying to write while I have some time. Sadly, as I have learned many times over, the want isn’t enough to bring the right words forth. I can focus, but I can’t find clarity. I can type, but my fingers won’t settle on a subject.

So, I’m doing what I always do when I can’t find the words inside. I’m searching for other people’s words instead. When there isn’t a path you can see, there are always rabbit holes to fall into and many can lead to the most surprising places. That’s the beauty and the bane of the internet. The trick, of course, exploring mindfully, rather than running where the algorithms lead.

Austin Kleon’s newsletter is always insightful and inspiring. I’m ashamed to say that I never knew that the term “Dog Days” referred to a specific time of year, and I certainly had no idea where the name originated.

The term refers to the rising of the star Sirius though and the time period between July 3rd and mid-August. These dates may or may not coincide with the appearance of the “Dog Star” but are often associated with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.”

This time of year has always been my favorite, and it feels right to finally have a name for these days of dogged heat, for lapping up the long hours of sunlight, for the bark and bite of thunder and lightning every afternoon, for the bite of the hand that feeds when the body meets extremes, for the bite from a lover while the rain batters the windowpanes, for the grief that grows as each day passes but gives way, always, to anticipation as the time of fallow nears its end.

There are different ways to work for every part of the year and, I wonder, what kind of work is best done when it’s too hot to move or too beautiful out to force yourself in?