084 // Back to Myself

I’ve spent a long time away from myself now. Over a month at least. I’ve been resting and reading, working and cleaning, and not much more. I’m too drained, too dejected, and, sometimes, too distressed or disquieted for anything else.

But I have missed myself these past few weeks. I’ve missed spending time on those little things that calm me, awaken me, excite me. I have missed my early mornings, my solitude, my little hobbies and particulars.

The problem has been deep and persistent guilt building inside me. There are so many people around me taking the time to be patient, to be supportive, to be kind and helpful, which is all very good and nice, except now there are all these little debts I owe piling up everywhere all the time.

Now any scrap of motivation or focus I have has to be spent returning the favor. All I have time for now is work, or my house, or my loved ones. There’s nothing left that belongs to me anymore.

And today isn’t much different, except that I had a little too much coffee and found myself with just one spare minute I didn’t quite know what to do with. So, I thought, why not stop by this old place, clear some cobwebs, and sit for a minute with that old feeling of possibility?

And oh, how I have missed it too! I’m suddenly reminded of how many ideas I have yet to explore and how many little interesting and thought-provoking things I had hoped to share. I’m suddenly reminded that I had a purpose for this place and a goal for this year. I’m suddenly filled with a small—very small—spark of determination.

Now? Who knows. I found one minute today, maybe I can find two tomorrow? Maybe I can get comfortable carving out a little time and a little space—this space—to call my own. Maybe I can begin to believe I deserve something of my own at all.

Maybe I can find my way back to myself again.

050 // It Still Feels Good

I started the day feeling sluggish and stupid despite getting my third night in a row of uninterrupted sleep—a feat unheard of in my personal “new normal”.

Since that slow start, things have sped up quickly and the sluggish and stupid feeling gave way to a feeling of optimism that’s been building steadily since my first sips of coffee. I want to blame the caffeine, but I know there’s more to the change in mood.

Perhaps it’s because the end of the week I’ve been waiting so anxiously for has finally arrived. I hate to take the rest work week for granted like this, but time has been dragging so and I have been feeling such boredom and restlessness at work it’s driving me crazy! I’m in desperate need of real time to myself for a while.

I have started writing a few things in the gaps of time between emails, tasks, requests, and meeting. Nothing that amounts to much more than notes and outlines, but it’s a step forward from ideas and dreams, so I’ll take it.

This weekend I’d like to carve out time to do a lot more. I don’t want to lose what momentum I’ve gained. I want to use this new energy and excitement to polish and publish old drafts I’ve struggled to clarify and conclude.

It’s going to be tiresome and awkward path forward, but that doesn’t matter. It still feels good to be back in the chair, thinking and typing away about the little things that matter to me.

049 // Save Your Strength

I’ve had two nights in a row of uninterrupted sleep, a rare occurrence and exciting development. This might be the first sign of real healing.

I have an appointment with my doctor later this morning, and I’m hoping the good news on my end will mean good news on her end too. I’m hoping that we’ve finally hit on the right combination of medications, diet changes, and stress management techniques to calm my immune system and stop the inflammation.

Part of me is reluctant to hope for too much. I don’t want to start dreaming of a better tomorrow. Hell, I don’t even want to live like I have a better today! Not because I think I’ll jinx myself or anything like that. It’s just that whenever I think I’m better, I start pushing myself too hard.

I think I can be the person I used to be and do all the things I used to do, but the path from sick to better, to well, to healed is gradual and winding, often looping or doubling back in strange and unpredictable ways. A favorable stretch or promising directional change may only be temporary. The key and the hardest lesson: slow down and save your strength because you never know what perils lurk around the next bend.

A little better is only that, a little, and that is the most I can give myself or anyone else right now: a little.

048 // The Numbers Don’t Matter

A dense fog has fallen over the city, making the morning mysterious and dreamy, and making me contemplative and deliberate.

This is one of those days where focus comes easy. It’s the kind of day you want to spend alone with your thoughts and your work. It’s a good writing kind of day, and I am lucky that there will be time to match the motivation.

My mornings are slowly returning to a calmer and more effective routine. I’ve been able to get up with my alarm two days in a row, and for the first time in almost a month I had some time to meditate. Watching that run streak turn over from zero to one brought back that old excitement and sense of accomplishment, but it also brought back that old sense of anxiety.

I wish these kinds of apps didn’t track your “days in a row”. I know why they do it. That anxiety I feel is what keeps me logging in, watching ads, or paying subscription fees, but it isn’t good for morale. That counter will keep you coming back until the one day when you inevitably “fail”. Then it’s only all that much harder to come back to your good habits.

I tell myself that the numbers don’t really matter, that a day away here and there is okay. What matters is the effort. You don’t fail until you fail to try again.

Easy enough to say but harder done to believe.

047 // A Little Optimism

The weather is finally warming, though we’re forecasted to hover near freezing for the rest of the week. Next week is looking a lot more spring-like, and I’m reminded that having something to look forward to is all it takes to muster a little optimism.

Many of my coworkers are enjoying a four-day weekend, and though I’m expected to head into the office, it will at least be an easy and early day. I’m assisting with a CPR class, which mostly means I’m on mannequin disinfecting duty. It sounds worse than it is. In fact, I often prefer these quiet, solitary tasks to team work.

The early day means more time to write. Nothing profound is coming to mind today, but a few unfinished pieces are a few awkward paragraphs closer to done. I just have to get back into my old groove, but I know that as long as I have been out of it, is as long as it may take to get back in.

Writing is my passion, but it isn’t easy. It isn’t always fun, and it doesn’t always feel good. The joy is in “having written” but it’s a lot of misery getting there.


My heart goes out to the millions in Texas dealing with freezing temperatures, power outages, and water shut-offs. My little sister is among those being affected, and I’m wracked with worry for her. Her power has been out for over 30 hours and she resorted to staying in her car for warmth as all the hotels in the area are booked.

I hope everyone can find a warm place to sleep tonight My sister has friends to go but I know there will be many out there who don’t have loved ones to take them in.

Stay warm. Be safe. Show compassion, please.

046 // Long-Term Oriented

Today has been a lazier day than I meant for it to be. I keep forgetting the week has technically already begun, and so should I. These holidays away from work always feel like extra Sundays rather than what they should be: time to begin the work rather than more time to rest.

From now on, I want these long weekends will be extra time for my personal pursuits rather than time to push off uncomfortable tasks.

From now on, I want my thinking to be long term oriented. I want the promise of a better tomorrow to be enough to get me out of bed, off the couch, and out from in front of the TV today. I want to be stronger than the temptations of right now.

Mindfulness will play a big part. I should be asking myself in the moments of listlessness and laziness, “what is important right now?” or even, “what do I need right now”?

Because sometimes I do need to rest and sometimes I do deserve a little time to sleep, scroll timelines, or watch another episode, but there has to be balance. There has to be time when what I need is to do the hard thing. There has to be time when the work is for me..

044 // First Dose

I received my first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine this morning. I arrived over twenty minutes early for my appointment and 10 minutes before they were scheduled to begin vaccinating and there was already a line winding through the entire second floor and down the stairs. I overheard a few of the nurses saying they would give over 500 shots just that day!

The process was efficient and painless, by far the easiest vaccine I have ever received in my life. I hardly even felt the jab! Afterward, I was congratulated and sent to wait in a room with around 20 other vaccine recipients to be monitored for severe reaction. I left with nothing more than a slight soreness in the upper arm and a lightness in my chest as a little of the fear I’d been carrying for over a year now lifted.

I’m thankful to be among the first to receive the vaccine due entirely to my occupation employment with a school district. I wish more of my loved ones would be eligible sooner rather than later, but besides my wife (who works for another school district) I will be the only one in my immediate family to be vaccinated until at least the summer.

I really wish the vaccine had been developed, approved, and distributed on a schedule just a month or even weeks faster. Maybe my grandmother would still be here. Maybe a lot of people would still be here…

I can’t let myself think like that, though. It’s hard enough living through the pandemic, and through winter, and without all the little things and people that used to bring me so much joy, without the addition of what ifs, regrets, and anger. I’ll save that for the summer.

The biggest question I walked away with after my vaccine, the one no one has an answer to yet, is how long the vaccine is effective for? I worry about losing immunity without knowing. I worry about variants that might outpace not only the vaccine but treatments too. I worry that this novel coronavirus will be with us a lot longer than we think, and with it that heavy burden of fear too.

043 // The Normal Normal Now

It’s been nearly a year now since anything has felt normal and I feel like I’m beginning to forget what that old life, that old sense of joy and community, used to feel like.

There were some new glimmers of hope this week. A much missed coworker returned, small snatches of lost focus and passion were felt, and I scheduled my first dose of the COVID vaccine for this weekend. Perhaps just over the horizon is the relief I have been longing for since this time nearly a year ago. Perhaps things will finally get better this time.

Or perhaps things have only begun to feel better with time. It’s been so long since I was myself and life was the old normal that the new normal has become simply the normal normal now.

Albert Camus wrote in The Stanger: “After a while you could get used to anything.” I really believe that is true. Humans feel happiness or misery by contrasts, and the available emotions are growing quite flat. Or maybe it’s only that a small subset of emotions has overwhelmed and engulfed nearly the entirety of everyday life, leaving nothing for the personal pains of ordinary human existence.

My little losses, though great to me, are only drops in the ocean of despair we’re all swimming in, and somehow that makes it even harder to process. My pain blends into the background. My pain hardly even exists.

I wonder, once we are through with this great collective and connective grieving we’re going through now, if there might be an equally weighty but personal and private grief waiting behind it for each of us to bear alone?

030 // Love to Lift Me

I’ve been feeling stuck again. I’ve been feeling lost and when I go in search of direction by retreating into my mind expecting to meet that old chatter of questions and conversation I used to hear nearly constantly, I’m instead met with near complete silence.

I cry out into that dark ether asking: Is anyone is there? Can anyone can hear me? Can anyone can help me?

In response, I catch only fragments. Parts and pieces of sentences and thoughts with no context or meaning I can decipher. I think all the parts and personalities I’m made of are tired. I’m physically, emotionally, spiritually exhausted.

And I am sure I’m not the only one. The pandemic coupled with never ending political infighting has left us all groping not just for meaning, but connection and change too. Something has to get better and in order for that to happen, someone has to give sometime.

We’d all hoped 2021 would bring the relief without requiring the usual work. We deserved it after all, right? I know I felt I did, but it turns out the new year has not meant a magical new me and certainly not a magical new life.

Of course I knew this deep down, but I will admit I expected at least one thing to get better. Instead, everything has only gotten worse and worse.

No, I don’t really think that’s true. I’ve just become far too focused on the negatives and blind to all the positives. I have so much love and support that even if times are a bit stressful and I’m turning into a bit of a mess, at least there are hands to hold the load with me. At least there is love to lift me back up.

024 // An Identity

Life is getting easier day by day. I woke up with more energy than I’ve had in weeks, though the various aches and pains are still present. I was able to mark a few things off my to do list, catch up in my journal and planner, and make time for a podcast or two.

Of course, it all took twice as long as I needed frequent breaks to rest and refocus my mind. This may be my new normal going forward, at least until I can get my physical and emotional strength back to where I was—or better!

Over the past weeks I’ve added and adjusted an extensive and strict schedule of medication, meals, and supplements that I hope will lead to not just continued but accelerated healing. It’s a lot to keep track of. It’s a lot of pills and powders. It’s setting alarms and timers and goals. It’s keeping track of every meal and ounce of liquid that passes your lips or passes out of you.

Chronic illness is has become more than a condition, or a burden, slowly, it’s becoming a perspective, a lifestyle, an identity.