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.

289 /// Solid Ground is Forming

I’m feeling good this morning. I’m feeling like myself. It’s been so long since I’ve had both motivation and focus that I hardly knew what to do with it all. I spent the morning getting through some minor chores and checking off a few small to-dos before sitting down at my desk. All day I’ve had a strong urge to write but of course, motivation and focus are only 2/3 of the equation. You need inspiration to get anything of value down.

Or do you?

I saw a tweet from Austin Kleon this morning with a simple writing tip: write down every dumb thought that occurs to you and each day simply choose the least dumb thought to write about. Well, I have been filling my notebooks with dumb thoughts for weeks. Hell, I have a dumb thought or two floating around right now! Thinking dumb thoughts is damn near a talent of mine. If that’s all I need to write then I’m in great shape to get started, to keep going, and to get as far as any dumb thought will go!

This might be the extra push I needed, the permission I needed. I don’t have to find a good thing to write about. I just have to choose the least dumb thing I can think of. Hell, I may try choosing the dumb thing and try making it not so dumb. I could choose the most fun thing? Or the most interesting thing. The point is to work with what I have: this brain, these ideas, this blog, and this timeframe. Yes, I like that.

Outside of motivation and focus, a lot of other good things have been happening. There’s been setbacks and stress, but there’s been enough positivity, connection, and kindness that life feels good right now. I feel loved and capable, and the people around me are feeling loved and capable too.

I suppose that’s what happiness, or flourishing, starts with. Being seen and having some say about what happens to you in this world.

I think the COVID pandemic has been a hole that we’ve all been trying to crawl out of for years now. The virus has had such far-reaching and complex impact it’s hard to say what was caused by or made worse by it and what are normal setbacks in a typical human life but between the losses, the economy, the fear and anxiety, the deficits and the changes in belief and perspective we have all gone through I’d say there is no part of society and no one of us that isn’t trying to find that new stability. That new way forward.

Solid ground is forming again, or, at the very least, this new chaos is less scary than it used to be. Our ability to adapt to the worst conditions is both a great flaw and a great strength. No matter what the reason and no matter for better or worse, I’m glad to be rid of some of the bad feelings. I’m happy to hope again.

279 /// They Are Changing Me

I’m feeling that good kind of tired this morning. The kind that comes after physical exhaustion rather than mental. I spent yesterday evening celebrating my nephew’s 4th birthday at the trampoline park nearby along with his young sisters.

When I arrived, I swore I would not get out there much with them, but I quickly found myself sucked in by their adorable enthusiasm, and the next thing I knew I was playing, running, climbing, and jumping right along with them. It’s been a long time since I have moved my body for the sake of simply feeling where it meets the world and what it can do within those limitations—if such limitations do exist.

Before we left, I even considered signing up for a monthly membership just so I could bring them again and let them take me away on their little adventures, exploring and learning about the world all over again. I have forgotten what it’s like to see the world with new eyes. Children have their own wisdom and I’d like to spend some time in their world seeing from their point of view.

I rode on a new route at work today and talked at length with another coworker about how much we have both learned from the child we serve on the job. This year I got to spend quite a few afternoons with a young girl on the Autistic spectrum. She is non-verbal, so communication was difficult at first. I am not good at being still, observant, or patient enough at times, and she takes her time warming up to new people.

Limited seating forced me to sit next to her and since the driver we were with learned the route quickly, I had time to get to know her. I would talk to her softly, asking if it was okay for me to sit by her, if she had a good day, and if she was excited to see mom. She didn’t respond verbally, but I began, slowly, to notice the way she turned from the window and tried to look at me when I spoke. I noticed her eyes widening. I noticed when, after asking for a high five, whether she would push my hand away or run my palm.

Thinking she didn’t like me much I told mom that was all I could get from her and to my surprise she got very excited. Apparently, the hand rub meant she liked me. I began to notice more. I noticed sly smiles and short bursts of laughter and marked when they occurred. I noted the days she was getting specific snacks or when dad joined mom at the bus stop to greet her. When needed, I repeated myself slowly. I was patient with her responses and did my best to learn the basics of her language.

I have been working with these children for years and there are many such languages I have learned, but they are the ones the screamed their needs in every gesture and misbehavior. I had yet to take in something calmer, slower, subtler. I feel challenged again. I feel opened to something new.

I used to hate having to switch routes so much. I get so attached and I have never handled change well, but these past couple of years I have gotten to meet more students than ever with wide-ranging needs, and ways of interpreting the world have opened my eyes. They are changing me and always for the better. They are teaching me more than how to listen; they are teaching me new ways to speak.

I wish I could teach others in turn what I have been taught, but it would only be a hollow mimicry, flat and fake. I suppose the real lesson they are teaching me is what it is I am really called to do in my work. It is up to me to show others how to be open to their wisdom too.

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?

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.