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?

176 // We Dissent

I am still reeling from the Supreme Court ruling yesterday. Having had the warning months ago did nothing to soften the blow. I spent much of the evening doomscrolling and falling deeper into despair and as I spiraled, a great terror rose at what I am certain is building on the horizon.

We are returning to a time when women knew their place, when people of color were kept poor and oppressed, and queer people lived in isolation and fear.

It’s happening all around us. Conservative school boards are banning critical race theory. Anti-trans laws are being passed quietly all over the country. The right to protest is slowly being chipped at and the rising cost of living is wringing all sense of possibility and hope from the most vulnerable among us.

Our political leaders either can’t or won’t work for us, and now, the highest court, which has always been a last defense for the minority, is, at last, an arm of the ruling majority.

It’s hard to see a way forward, but there is a lesson to be learned from the other side. We lost sight of something and, in doing so, we left an opening for our oppressors. We forgot the power of community.

When we blamed congress, they attended school board meetings. When they redrew district lines, we looked to the President. When they appointed county judges, we stopped voting. Politics is not a top-down institution, but we have been treating it that way and all the while they went about their work putting people in little and low places that added up year after year.

I think it’s time we got back to learning about our local elected officials. There is a lot of power afforded to mayors, city councils, and school boards. There is an enormous amount that a state legislature and a governor can do. We have to take back our rights county by county. We have to expand those rights state by state and all at once.

It takes showing up more often than every four years. It takes being interested, informed, and involved. It takes caring! Changing hearts means nothing if there isn’t action behind it.

Love and justice are not feelings, they are actions.

170 // An In-Between Day

It’s been some time since I have shared a small update or thought fragment. Longer than I would have liked and longer, perhaps, if I am honest, than was necessary. Life and love, and the summer sun have kept me away, but the good thing about writing is that it’s always ready and waiting for your return.

Today is an “in-between” kind of day. One of those days where all the things you were stressing about have passed, but many of the things you might be worried about are yet to begin. It’s a day to breathe, to shore up energy and resources, to think, and to not think.

I plan to take some time for the things I care about and the things I have neglected. My wife has been quite sick this past week and I finally have time to take proper care of her and our home while she recovers. My dog is desperate for attention and many of my plants are looking sad. The refrigerator is empty; the laundry has piled up, and the trash bin is overflowing. It’s a lot, but it feels good to get things back in order and back to normal.

(I want to take a moment here to say that though I hate to see my wife so miserable and exhausted, I’m also grateful for the push it gave me to step outside of my comfort zone. I tend to lean on her a lot, but this week I had to stand on my own, for the both of us. I made incredible progress through my driving anxiety and I feel so much more confident. The world is a little less scary and I am not so small or incapable as I once was.)

Between chores and doses of medication, I’ll be at my desk. I have missed this space and all my little interests and obsessions terribly. I have missed myself. There are journal pages to fill and notes to organize. There are podcasts to listen to and articles and items in need of attention and sorting. Luckily, there is also plenty of cold brew coffee chilling in the fridge to keep me going.

I wish a happy Father’s day to those that are, and a happy Juneteenth to the ancestors who built this country and the descendants who will never forget.

147 // Wonder

It’s the last day of school and I am filled with such a sense of relief I can hardly describe it. Perhaps it is not only the reduced workload, or the promise of sunshine and warmth, or the break from repetition and routine, but something more personal, something innocent and long-past.

This is one thing I enjoy about working for a school district. Being near children and getting to see through their eyes and feel their wonder at what has become ordinary and every day in adulthood keeps you young. It keeps you optimistic, excited, and hopeful.

For them, there are only good things on the way. There is nothing of obligation or expectation, the stress of future choices,4 or the regret of choices past—or not so constantly, anyway. Hard things are easily let go of and pain is soothed so simply.

Why do we have to grow up so completely? Why did we let things get so complicated and grim?

When I was a kid I had a lot of doom and gloom surrounding me, but all it took to find my wonder again was to get outside, hop on a bike, find a park, and sit in a pool of sun or shade in the grass. The smell of dirt and plant matter, the light and the warmth, the sound of bees and laughter made the world a place of marvels. In those moments, I felt pure and part of it all.

145 // I Can’t Articulate

I’m struggling to make it through my day with any sense of normalcy or accomplishment. I left the bed with extreme reluctance and walking into work with loathing. It felt strange to go about finding something to wear and packing a lunch, checking my calendar and worrying over the calendar’s details when such carnage was inflicted on babies less than 24 hours ago.

I tried to integrate the horror with mundanity, but my pain and bewilderment are too painful to look at directly. It utterly shatters me.

The only way I can keep moving is to turn away, for a time. News apps and social media platforms are all off limits. There isn’t much to see beyond further gruesome details and rage spilling and sloshing everywhere. It seems you cannot soothe your pain with the pain of others.

I have to remember that it is ok to enjoy small things. It’s okay to take in the sun, though I know there are those who never will again. It’s okay to laugh while knowing there are those whose have so little to smile about. It is okay to hope, though my rage threatens to overtake me. It is imperative that I hold on to some last love for humanity, or else risk losing my own.

These last days of school cannot end fast enough, though I can’t articulate exactly what it is I’m looking forward to. My schedule is so full that when I think rationally about the summer, I am overwhelmed, but I sense there is still a younger version of me for whom the summer will always be a season of freedom and discovery. I hope she never loses that sense of wonder.

144 // What We Will Live With

There isn’t anything left to say. My hope has waned to nearly nothing, and now I must cope with what was once shock and indignation but has grown and spread with each tragedy into an overwhelming rage I worry I may lose hold of.

It isn’t just the news of 19 children killed today, or even the mass shootings that happened only last week, or the babies that we have no formula for, or the withering rights of women, or the pandemic we are pretending never happened, or just ended, or both, or the wages in free fall and the masses drowning under the cost of living, or even the threat of war.

More than all that—and wouldn’t all that be enough?—it’s the resounding and remorseless silence I can’t stand. I’m not sure if my sanity is slipping, or if I am among the few left who can still think clearly. I feel trapped between what I know is right and what the utter evil I am forced to live with.

It is absurd to think we can reconcile the carnage on our screens and the callousness of our leaders and their supporters, who have measured what a life is worth and judged each a mere trifle. It’s all utterly absurd! I didn’t think we would let it happen again, and now there is nowhere left to put my grief. And mine isn’t even much! Don’t ask me to fathom what those parents are going through, and all those children…

How can I sleep tonight? How will anyone ever again?

But the terrible truth is I will, and tomorrow I will go to work, and in a week I, like much of the American public, will simply forget—while we can. What else can I do? How else can we live? What does that say about me? What does that say about us all?

The worst thing about human beings is not what we will do, but what we will live with.

123 // A Way of Living

The rain is waning, and the breaks between clouds are growing. The wind is warmer, but a chill is forecasted to stick around through Thursday. My mood and motivation never fair well through these grey days, and the longer they linger, the lower I sink. I’m trying to focus on the sun. I soak it up when I can see it and I remind myself that even when I cannot see it; it is there, trying to warm us.

It’s a strange morning. I don’t feel quite like myself. This isn’t the result of the grey days. I know myself even when I’m down. This is something else. I am not anxious, or angry, or even especially anti-social. I am only uncomfortable. My body won’t sit or shift right. My normal routine feels foreign. I feel out of place, even in my skin. I feel unwelcome in places I am most often found.

I think this feeling is an internal sense being confused with an external cause. The cause is being uneasy inside myself, not being unwanted by the world. Somewhere, a disconnect has occurred.

Simply put, the way I would like to live and move through life is incompatible with the daily shifting of expectations and obligations. I am resistant to change and change is all I seem to face. The problem is that the last thing I want to change is who I am but not changing risks living in perpetual resentment of the people that need me and the system that keeps us all needing.

I don’t mean to be so melodramatic. I only have to figure out a new way to do all the things I want to do. I only have to rethink these assumptions about when and where I do my best work and what a radically different way of organizing my day would look like.

The truth is, I am capable of being flexible under the right conditions, but it is up to me to cultivate those conditions. A schedule is nice, but a schedule isn’t static. Time here can be exchanged for time there. The trick is to watch the columns and keep the weight balanced. Move a bit of personal time to work time now, move a little back later. That’s all.

That’s all. So why is my chest so tight and my mood so glum? Why am I so angry and why is it so hard to resist the urge to pack up only my most beloved belongings to go live and work and write deep in the woods, high on a mountain, or on a broad beach next to the open and beating ocean?

Perhaps it’s the fluorescent lighting, or these uncomfortable chairs, or my sinking and shriveling heart. Perhaps it is something in me that remembers what we all used to be.

That ancient and wild one does not recognize the meaning of a spreadsheet, cannot fathom these subtle and serious social structures, cannot stand these suffocating walls. Something in me will not stop longing for a kind of freedom no human has known for eons. I don’t speak of a kind of freedom that was more or less, only the kind that meant the sun on my skin and a way of living that felt closer to life.

122 // Any Season at Any Time

Usually, I’m bright and bushy-tailed on Monday mornings, but I didn’t sleep all that well last night.

We had our first real thunderstorm of the season roll in through the evening and by the middle of the night; the rain was in sheets and thunder cracked so loudly that every window pane shook in its frame. I love the sounds of spring storms, but knowing as soon as I drifted off, another bolt would light up the room and send its boom through the city made it hard to relax.

The thunder eventually settled, but the rain never stopped. This morning the temperatures are slipping and rain is turning to fat flakes of heavy snow.

I feel like people in other cities think their weather is unpredictable, but they must not have spent a season along the front range. We had our driest April on record this year, and just as the calendar flips, we have our heaviest rainfall of the Spring. We’ve seen 80-degree days, and today we’re down in the 40s again. Wind, rain, sun, snow, all in a single week’s time. Spring here means being ready for any season at any time of day.

The goal today is to keep the chill and gloom at bay. All I want is to find a warm and cozy place to wait out the rain, but tasks and to-do are keeping me from it. I’m very near a place of resentment and irritability, but a bad mood won’t get me through any of it any faster. An ice-cold cup of cold brew coffee and a large “sunshine” smoothie* should keep one foot in front of the other through midmorning. I will deal with the afternoon as it arrives.

This evening it is important that I get back to working out at home. At the end of last week, I fell into a self-pity slump and ate a lot of unhealthy food, and spent too much time on the couch. I have to begin again before it gets too bad. I’m keeping up with my journal and picking up White Teeth before I fall too far behind. It doesn’t have to be a perfect week. It only has to be better than the last.


*Sunshine Smoothie recipe:

1 or 1/2 orange
1/2 cup frozen mango
1/4 cup frozen pineapple
1/4 cup baby carrots
2-3 slices fresh ginger
1 cup coconut milk or water
Any seeds, supplements, or powders you desire
Blend
Enjoy!

118 // Convincing Yourself

I’m waiting for the weekend again. This will be my last rushed morning for a while, I hope. I’ve been battling car troubles for quite a few months now and have had to find my way without transportation of my own. Not having a vehicle limits your freedom of movement. It limits your feeling of autonomy. It’s damn depressing.

I know this is quite a first-world problem to have, and I know that I am lucky to be able to afford not just a vehicle but the repairs it needs, but after years of battling driving anxiety, time without my car means setbacks.

The good news is the problem might have finally been identified and resolved and my sense of freedom could be restored as early as this evening. I already feel that inkling of impending doom in my gut, but the sense of excitement layered on top lets me know I have made so much progress through these fears.


I’ve been reflecting on the difference between the things I say I want and what my actions show that I want.

What I mean is, we pick out these little habits we want to have and think we can simply add each on top of the person we already are, but we fail to consider that since we aren’t currently the *kind* of person who does those things, we aren’t really the kind of person who truly wants to do those things either.

I say I want to work out, but I don’t. What I want is to be the kind of person who wants to work out. An enthusiastic 30-minute workout after work every day does not align with the person I am today. If it did, it wouldn’t be so hard, so uncomfortable, so damn frustrating. I wouldn’t have to fight, and bargain, and threaten, and shame myself into it. If I was the kind of person who wanted to work out, nothing could keep me from doing it.

To become that person, I have to change more than my schedule. I have to do more than want it. I have to become a person who wants it. I have to grow and change into someone different from who I am now, and that’s a hard thing to accept. I want to be me, minus 10 pounds. I want to be me, but feel solid, strong, and capable. I want to be me, but not me.

So, how do you become different? The easiest way? Simply pretend. If you pretend you are someone who eats less sugar, works out every day, excels at their job, writes every morning, reads every evening, if you pretend every moment to be the kind of person who does those things, pretty soon you won’t be able to tell the difference. You won’t even want to think about it.

And I try not to. It may be too soon to claim success, but I did start working out over a week ago and have kept up the habit every day but one. What has helped is turning off my mind. It helps to tell myself that I am now a person that does this, and then I slip into autopilot. Change clothes, get water, get the hand weights, and start the workout video—move, move move!

I don’t come back to myself until it’s over and by then the feeling of accomplishment far outweighs the exhaustion and pain.

The person you want to be is not the person you are now with better habits. The person you want to be is wiser, calmer, determined, and stronger-willed. That is what makes those better habits easier. Becoming them takes little more than convincing yourself that you already are.