203// Feeling a Little Lighter

Not every long day is a hard one and not all stress is bad. I still have a lot on my plate, but progress is being made fast and I feel good about the work I am producing. Tomorrow will bring new more meeting and more time spent in debate and back and forth. Sometimes I miss the old days when I was a team of one, when I had no one to consult or consider. I miss not having to compromise, to vote, to agree all the time.

Still, my team is good and looking from outside of my narrow perspective, I can see how much worse things could be. At least we are all heading in the same general direction, matching each other’s enthusiasm, and speaking with a calm compassion no matter how much we disagree.

New opportunities are showing up on the horizon too. It’s nice to have things to look forward to again, or at least something new to be anxious about for a change. I’m taking an online training course on the history, laws, and “best practices” of transporting people in wheelchairs and in a few short weeks I finally get to complete my Crisis Prevention and Intervention course that had been cancelled months ago due to Covid-19. The silver lining here is now it’s only one day of in-person training instead of four. It means being a lot less nervous, self-conscious, or socially awkward.

The evening had some rough edges, and I struggled to find my groove and fit. There were more expectations than I could meet and the experience left me feeling down, disappointed, and disheartened. A mellow playlist, an hour spent cleaning the house, a couple slices of good pizza, good conversation, and a hug turned it all around though and I can drift off feeling a little lighter tonight. Until tomorrow…

202// Gratitude Helps

Today was the most normal work day I’ve had in months. I’m still not back to the low-key work days I’m used to and there are still many more expectations and obligations, but it’s calmer and so am I. Gratitude helps. I’m grateful to be at work at all, and grateful to be allowed to do the work that I do while I’m there.

It wasn’t easy getting back into the groove after my vacation, but it felt good to be working back at my usual location and to know that I can relax into a routine for the foreseeable future. More and more I’m taking work home too, which was scary at first. I don’t want to have to war with myself about how much I am working or what projects I am taking on, but as long as I keep the same hours being here rather than there is a gift.

Tonight is my wife and I’s first wedding anniversary, but since all the celebration was used up last week, we’re just cooking a simple meal together and enjoying a glass or two of red wine. I’m looking forward to one more night of indulgence before returning 100%, physically and mentally, to the work and worry of reality.

More than anything though, I’m looking forward to another new beginning at home full of love, warmth, surprise, support, change, compromise, growth, healing, and happiness.

Goals // Week 30: Resettle

This week I’m coming back to a schedule that feels more like normalcy and safety than I’ve been able to work for a very long time. I’ve missed having control over how I allocate my time and choosing the work I want to concentrate on or produce. This week I get to have a little more of that again and it makes all the difference toward increased morale.

That isn’t to say this week won’t be a difficult one. I have a big project on my plate and many meetings and deadlines on the calendar. I have virtual training sessions to attend, and a new class of employees getting ready to train, and a to-do list that will take me well into next week even if everything stays smooth and right.

But this is the work I have always done. I don’t feel anxious or incompetent. I don’t feel incapable or alone. My team is supportive and helpful, and my part is but a small piece in our grand scheme. The pressure is spread evenly and there is time enough for everything I need to do.

Still, just to keep the stress levels down, I’m not making any big changes this week. I’m not cultivating new habits or chasing radical shifts in perspective or productivity. After so much uncertainty and so much time away, I need to resettle into reality. This week I’m focusing on the boring, the background noise, and the basics of life. I’m looking for contentment, for good enough, for ordinary.

This week I will:

Keep the vacation frame of mind. Last week I spent ample hours away from the internet, from the chaos and confusion of the pandemic, and the tragedy of the daily news. I remembered that there is more to the work than what is splashed across my screen and the rest gave me a chance to rejuvenate and refocus, but my heart and mind can’t wait around another year to recover again. I have to find a way to step outside of myself and my life to a place where more than just human struggle and strife exist. I have to find nature, find wonder, disconnect, reconnect, and, finally, see.

 Not just be mindful, but also willful about how I spend my time. I’ve been fighting fatigue and malaise to very little success these past few months and falling farther and farther behind where’d I’d hoped to be by now, but I think the solution is much easier than I’ve begun to imagine it would be. The simple truth is I haven’t been doing my best and if I just try to do that much and nothing more, I think I could turn this year around. So, even on days when there is so little time or energy to give just use what little you have. Nothing very big has to be accomplished. I only have to be present and choose.

Get back to my “52 essays” project. I started the year-long posting challenge a couple of weeks ago, but after just one post, life quickly got back in the way. I’m disappointed and reluctant to try again now that I feel I’ve already failed, but I know that if I ever want to reach my goal, the best thing to do is to get right back to work. I know that writing is what I love. It’s the only thing I can create from myself alone and give to the world and no matter how small, or ugly, to bad my little words and writings are they are so important for me to share. This project is more than a goal, it is self-care.

Keep up on medication and meal schedules. My health has been improving though by only the most infinitesimal increments and only when I am 100% compliant in taking my medication and supplements and eating the right kinds of foods, in the right portions, and at the right times of the day. It’s been a long road of trial and error, successes, and failures, and I am still so far from where I would like to be, but if I just stay with it I know I’ll get there. I owe it to myself to care enough, to remember, to commit to the work of healing.

Read. I had hoped for more reading time while I was away, but the desire to unplug and the desire not to weigh down my bags made it impossible. While we were up there, I did find a neat independent bookstore and managed to come home with two new additions to my already overflowing bookshelf. I can’t wait to get to them, but first I have to make it through others that have been waiting far longer. This week I’d like to do more than read books. I have an embarrassing number of articles saved. I’d like to make progress there too.

Try yoga, both for a light workout, for mindfulness practice, and to relax. Running and weight lifting are still my workout types of choice but both have been putting too much stress on my body but rather than let my muscles atrophy and undo all the benefits I’ve earned, I’d like to find something easier on my bones. I’d like something that’s conducive to a calming climate and keeps my immune system from going haywire. I’m starting with a few Sun Salutation sequences in the morning and a few Moon Salutations at night. Nothing strenuous or stressful.

This week I will not be too easy on myself. Normally I have the opposite problem, but looking back over the last few months I have struggled to hold myself accountable to any number of expectations. I know, I know, I needed the rest. I needed the time to adjust. I needed it to be okay not to know what to do and not to want to do it when I did, but life is moving on and I have to get on with coping, with changing, with growing and sooner rather than later. Tomorrow is uncertain, scary, unpromised, but today is here and now. How will I choose to meet it?

Photo by Aldric RIVAT on Unsplash

The Way of Love

During the ’60s, the great majority of us accepted the way of peace, the way of love, the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence as a way of life, as a way of living. There’s something cleansing, something wholesome about being peaceful and orderly, to stand up with a sense of dignity, and a sense of pride, and never hate. And Dr. King said over and over again, ‘Hate is too heavy a burden to bear.’ The way of love is a much better way.

And that’s what we did…Yes, I was beaten, left bloody and unconscious. But I never became bitter or hostile, never gave up. I believe that somehow and some way if it becomes necessary to use our bodies to help redeem the soul of a nation, then we must do it. Create a society at peace with itself, and lay down the burden of hate and division. Dr. King would say, violence and evil, it must stop someplace along the way, and we became disciples of the movement. Disciples of Martin Luther King, Jr., and of the great teacher, to do what we could to leave our society better than we found it.”

— Rep. John Lewis

201// What I Needed

I was away for a few days and I only just realized I forgot to say goodbye. It wasn’t my intention but trying to wrap up work things and to prepare for a trip, all the while trying to manage my health issues meant a few things we left undone and unsaid. But I’m back now, and though I failed to make mention of my send off, I at least would like to take some notice of the return.

To begin at the beginning, last week we travelled out of town. My wife and I are celebrating our first wedding anniversary and felt the occasion coupled with recent stresses and successes warranted something bigger and grander than a standard date night.

Our first year as a married couple was both wonderful and still quite terrifying. After Our home has never felt more warm, safe, or loving, but the world around us has fallen farther and farther in the opposite direction, leaving us disjointed and unfocused. This time away was meant not to reconnect so much as to resettle. We longed to get back into our old grooves, to be the sun, and moon, and stars, the light, the calm, the way for one another again.

So, we went up into the mountains for a little time away from the city, from work, and as far from the pandemic as we could get, and it was all exactly what I wanted, needed, it to be. I needed nature. I needed spoiling. I needed to focus on myself and what was directly in front of me and directly inside.

We spent much of the last few nights drinking, eating good food, napping during afternoon rains and warming ourselves next to campfires. We hiked, and shopped, and sometimes we did nothing at all but sit, listen, and see. Our accommodations were stunning, and the setting was gorgeous. I was sad to leave it all behind but having the memories and the experience to carry with me means everything to me.

We’ve been back for a couple of days now and though we immediately had to return to life, to family, and to work, I’ve found I still feel relaxed. I feel refocused. I feel rejuvenated. I feel that by disconnecting from all the noise and reconnecting with what really mattered I can recommit to all aspects of my life once again.

192// Still Turning

The world is still turning. I’m here and not, here and not. I’ve been off doing other things, but this space is never far from my thoughts. Fatigue, and worry, and heat, and overwhelm have kept me from it, and though I am here now, I make no promises for tomorrow or after.

Still, starting again is always a good sign. Being at this desk, typing, and even feeling the faint stirrings of old ideas and passions in the back of my mind is a sign that I’m feeling better. I’m feeling more myself. I’m mentally and physically stable enough to move outside of the present into memories and hopes.

For a short week this was certainly one of the longest in recent months. I was happy to be back at my usual location but coming off of a week spent away from work and coworkers and then returning to small talk, mask wearing, and expectation was jarring. I have another break coming up next week and after I think I’ll avoid taking time off for a long while. The seesawing between strict social distancing and this “new normal” are hard of the psyche.

And this new normal? It isn’t even agreed upon or settled yet, not by far! Every day new decisions are made and every day new anxieties are triggered. I’m dreading the start of the school year, but I’m also eager for it to begin. It’s going to be hard to find a way to stay safe and to keep both the kids and my coworkers safe too, but I’m ready to stop talking about it, fretting over it, speculating about it. I’m ready to get started!

Good things are happening too. I’m growing and learning how to delegate, how to teach, how to mentor others in my new position. I’m also confronting my flaws, bad habits, and toxic traits and working toward making space for others. I’ve spent so long fighting to be seen and heard that I have forgotten how to relinquish space to others. I no longer have to be the center to be secure or respected.

My health is improving with a new medicine and meal plan that includes hours of intermittent fasting to give my system a rest and plenty of time spent in a state of so little movement and stress that I am reminded of the “rest cure” prescribed to “nervous women” around the turn of the 2th century. It’s helping though and slowly, as I can, I’m returning to my workout routine and personal pursuits.

The world is still more shifting sand than solid stone out there. There is chaos, conflict, and change happening everywhere at every moment and it’s so scary but so exciting too. I’m happy to be alive now, though the old grief of knowing there is so much I won’t get to live through is stronger than ever.

They say living in the present helps relieve death anxiety, but for me paying attention to the present only ever highlights the time ticking away. Luckily, I’ve long since learned to sit with this—and many other—uncomfortable truths.

In Human History

Of course I have been writing as though society was an organism in which people were in harmony with each other, in which they cooperated with each other and in which they were not waging wars of aggression against each other and were not in conflict with each other. But in actual fact and in terms of human history such harmony has not been the case.

In human history, we see that society has been broken up into classes, into antagonistic ethnic and economic groups that struggle against each other for survival as each sees it. They enslave each other and make their living at the expense of other groups, special interest groups are formed, etc. So that in reality we have to look at our own situation, have to look at the situation that exists in the economic base in terms of the class struggle, also in terms of the ethnic struggles that have gone on.”

— Eldridge Cleaver, “Education and Revolution” The Black Scholar, November 1969

That Discomfort You’re Feeling

Understanding the stages of grief is a start. But whenever I talk about the stages of grief, I have to remind people that the stages aren’t linear and may not happen in this order. It’s not a map but it provides some scaffolding for this unknown world. There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.

— Scott Berinato, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief