Well, this morning is off to a pretty bad start. I woke up late. I struggled to get ready for the day. I’m tired and irritable. I’m messing everything up and as much as I have given up on today, it seems today has given up on me right back.
I had thought upon arriving at work that the wrinkles of my mood and luck would smooth out but everything seems to be going wrong and the gap between my expectations for the day and the reality of the day is widening all the time and with it my frustration and impatience keeps on growing.
The good thing is I’m lucky enough to have the kind of job where I determine my days and I have the support I need to set back and determine my attitude too. I don;t have the emotional strength yet, but I’m sure after a few things get checked off my to-do list and I’ve had a meal and a cup of something with caffeine in it.
The good thing too is there are going to be plenty of breaks and the real possibility of the day ending early. That means time to decompress, to write, to practice the self-care I clearly need. Until then, I’m doing my best to focus on the positive, on the blue sky I know is there above the clouds and behind all this curmudgeonry and complaining.
The day did in fact improve, and with it my mood. I was able to get some real work done, more than I have in many weeks, and I even managed a smile while I did it. Everything just needs time. Everything changes, both for good and bad, in time. My sour perspective has brightened, and that’s good, but I am under no illusion that tomorrow I won’t have turned back toward the worst again. Good and bad, good and bad, they both come in their turn, in time.
Today is full of things I don’t want to do. My anxiety is sky high at the thought of some of these tasks and my mood soured knowing there is no good or guilt free way of getting out of them.
I’m still working with the new class of employees and though I’m comfortable with a lot of the material, there are some skills I’m very new to teaching and knowing that I will still fumble over my words, forget to mention things, and generally look like I don’t know what I’d doing or talking about. My worst professional nightmare.
I try to tell myself that worst case scenario is never as bad in reality as it is in my mind or and never feels as bad afterward as my body assures me it will when I’m caught up in my worry. I know what I am doing and I only have to follow my instincts and share my knowledge, experience, and perspective. I’ve earned the right confidence in my ability to do a good job.
Besides, the truth is I’m not really on my own today and nothing that needs to get done today is solely my responsibility or rests only on my shoulders. We’ve got this.
Had a strange interaction today during my class. I was teaching Crisis Prevention and Intervention a class in which we give employees the tools to verbally descalate crisis situations involving our students.
We teach that all behavior is communication. We teach that behavior influences behavior. We teach reestablishing rapport with our students after any conflict or crisis. We teach that physically intervening with students always involves risk of harm and should only be considered as last resort. We teach that during a physical intervention the safety of the student, the care and compassion for the student, and the consideration for what the student is trying to communicate through the physical outburst be considered throughout the crisis.
In the class was an ex-cop. This ex-cop did not seem to think anything I taught was of value. He rolled his eyes while I spoke. He closed his eyes as if to fall asleep. He did not participate in discussion except to contradict me and near the end he openly admitted that he took nothing away from the class.
This both infuriated me and hurt me. At first I wanted to fight back, to defend myself and my passion for this material and perspective. Then I considered the entire class, and I considered the chances that I might change this ex-cop’s mind and decided that being confident and secure in my viewpoint and intention was the best strategy I had to defend myself and the material.
I decided to preserve my peace of mind and ignore his outbursts and fits.
I decided that I am stronger than one man’s doubt. I always have been.
It’s debate night here in America. The first Presidential Debate is airing right now and I have to say, I have never been so visceral embarrassed to be an American. This is honestly the first time I have watched or listen to Trump for this amount of time and it’s quite…upsetting. The man can’t even follow simple debate protocol and rules. Biden hasn’t been perfect but he is not the one currently tasks with leading and representing this country and he is showing the world the very ugliest side of America.
No matter where you fall on the political spectrum there’s no way you can watch this debate and not know deep down that something deep in the core of this country is badly broken. You can’t watch this and not see that something fundamental in the way we all think and engage with one another and with our politics needs to change.
I am struggling to meet the work week with enthusiasm this Monday morning. I didn’t sleep well last night, but that’s been my new normal for a long time now. Part of it was the usual pain and discomfort of the body, but most of it was anxiety over the problems I have yet to overcome and the problems I imagine may be on the horizon.
So, I am dragging myself through work and class, trying to complete tasks and teach others what I know. It’s a tough morning, but the great (and horrible) thing about time is that it is always marching on moving you toward a new state. The morning will end. The calls will end. The day will end and each end brings with a new beginning, a fresh start, another chance.
The good news is that the day should end early and I’ll hopefully have time to spend in my newly—though far from perfectly but much more than before—organized creativity room. I’m looking forward to doing some writing, or some reading, or whatever feels right to do when I get there.
I’m carrying my pocket notebook with me today and I’m excited to use it, though so far no thoughts or ideas worth jotting have occurred, of course. I pulled out my old physical journal yesterday too. I haven’t written in it since January. These entries have taken its place but somehow have never given me quite the same satisfaction.
I suppose it isn’t good to start the exploration stage of any idea in a place you know others will be watching or judging. I do my best to be open and free here, but there is a level of raw emotion I can only achieve in in writing meant for my eyes only.
This week is going to be a bit of a roller coaster ride of alternating work days scheduled to the brim with projects and classes and days with little more to do than wake up and walk in and while it sounds like a luxury to have any days at all where expectations are so low, there will be times when even that will be too much.
My health has been improving somewhat and in someways but fatigue is still a hard obstacle to overcome and worry over tasks that must lie undone until the next low burst of energy or fleeting moment of focus can cripple me with stress and guilt.
I have been suffering so long now with this flare up of symptoms though that I have decided, this week, I will move from hoping to return to some old normalcy or version of myself and my life I can recognize and start moving on toward a new life that is compatible with who I am now. I have to work with and sometimes around my body. I have to work through my emotions. I have to to make the most of my new insights and perspectives.
This week I will:
Meditate every morning. It’s been weeks since I last made time to be still, to breathe, to be present, and it’s really beginning to show. I find myself getting too easily swept up in the emotions of the moment or the problems of the past or future. I feel what control I’d gained over my perspective slipping. It’s time I get back to it and I regain the peace I’ve lost.
Spend more time at my desk. I spent a good portion of the weekend purging and reorganizing my “creativity room”. The space feels much more welcoming and conducive to writing, and I’m eager to make a little time every day to this little hobby and passion of mine. I have a pile of thought fragments and scraps of ideas to get to work on, and I’m excited to see where this system of reflection and writing might lead.
Take better notes. No more post-it notes and pieces of scrap paper! This week I will carry around three notebooks: a journal for writing about the day, a small notebook for recording more formal writing ideas, and a pocket notebook for all those thought fragments and raw ideas I don’t want to lose to forgetfulness. Bonus: Schedule time in your calendar to review each of these notebooks weekly.
Read a little every day. This past weekend I made a little headway toward catching up to my reading goals and now that I have this momentum I do not want to lose it. To make the goal easier to meet, I’ll make sure to keep a Penguin Little Black Classic on me to read during all those minutes between tasks and events that add up throughout the day.
Go for a walk or two. I’ve started seeing small signs of improvement in my health and healing journey, and I think it’s time I found my way back to physical activity. I have to be cautious and mindful not to push myself too far and undo all the progress I have made. Just three days this week, I’d like to get out and around the block with the dog.
This week I will not not feel sorry for myself. I will not get sucked into patterns of self pity and suffering because I focus far too much on the gap between my expectations and my lived reality. It’s okay to be sad. It’s not okay to wallow. It’s okay to be angry, it’s not okay to get stuck. This week I will work on acceptance and forgiveness, for myself, my body, and the universe at large. This week I will work to love my fate.
The weekend is finally coming to an end and I’m ready! It hasn’t exactly been and bad weekend, but it’s been a bit of a lonely one. My wife has been away on a trip we meant to take together, but because I have been feeling so cruddy she went without me. That meant four days at home, just the dog, the cat, and me.
I enjoyed the extended time spent with silence and solitude but my wife and I have been together and been so close for so long that when she is away, it really does feel like a part of myself, my psyche, my soul, had been ripped away.
There is a numbness, a blunting, a dampening that happens to my emotions and passions. It’s as if I go through a miniature grief and life becomes a little less lively, less livable until she returns.
She’s home now though, and the life is bright, full, and open again. All is right with the world and with me. What is interesting is that I don’t necessarily have to be talking or interacting with her to feel better. We don’t even have to be in the same room. I only need to know she is near me to feel whole.
I think about this a lot, this wholeness I feel with her. I think about how intertwined we are, how dependant we’ve grown, and I worry over how healthy or right it is to be this way.
I’m alternatively resistant to it and longing to deepen the bond and blur between who she is and who I am, where she ends and I begin. I know my resistance comes from fear about how we, or sometimes just I, will be perceived—too needy, too wanting, too willing to give up who I am. I don’t have many role models for long-term relationships, and even fewer for what constitutes healthy, so it’s hard to know or compare.
Perhaps, like all things in life, any example or comparison should be taken in the context of what feels right or wrong to you. Perhaps it isn’t about right or wrong at all. Perhaps it’s only about what is. After 18 years together, how could we not be so intertwined or dependant? How could the boundary between where she ends and where I begin not blur with time? This bond is inevitable.
I spent the morning working through a very large purging project in the “creativity room”, a place where, lately, very little creativity has been happening at all.
This room, divided in half with a desk on my wife’s side for her work, and a desk on mine the doubles as a place to create both my analog collages and these attempts with words, has long become a dumping ground and storage space for every knickknack and ambiguous piece of furniture. It’s become far too cluttered and become something far from its original purpose for me to fall into the kind of focus and flow needed to produce anything without great effort and distress.
So, I’ve been avoiding the room entirely, and my desk, and my art and writing because I can’t relax or think in there. I can’t connect old ideas or generate new ones without anywhere to “spread my mind out in”, you know?
The bulk of the work so far had been throwing out those items I haven’t used or even thought about in months or years and that will certainly give me the space I need but there is a harder and more delicate task to tackle after of sitting down and working through the mountain of scrap paper and old notebooks containing just about every thought that has occurred to me over the last many, many years.
Yes, I am a compulsive note-taker. Most of the notes are useless nonsense I jot to remember a task, an item from the store, a thing I read or saw, or mean to read or see, but there are a few small gems buried beneath: ideas for blog posts, essays, zines, and even books I scribbled while working or in the dead of night and never went back to expand or develop. Now they sit, contextless and nearly indecipherable, waiting for review, reflection, revision, and reshuffling into something that resembles real writing.
I had thought to transcribe them into Google’s Docs or Keep apps, but I think a new Are.na channel might be more interesting. I can then connect each note individually to other channels to give them that missing context and purpose as I decide what each thought means, or can mean.
Going forward, I am going to carry a pocket notebook with me everywhere and at least weekly transfer the useful ideas to Are.na (or an index card system that I can keep in a nice and tidy box on my desk if I decide to go full analog). The hope is that through regular review of the notebook, I can then set those ideas free from their frozen prison of paper and turn them into long-desired blog posts and essay attempts.
I’ve never had an issue generating ideas in the moment, the struggle has always been in returning to those ideas and making time to do the work, the writing. Today is a chance to clear the slate, the desk, the mind and begin developing and expanding ideas but developing and evolving a system that feeds the writing.
Michael Barbaro: You used the word “prudential.” And that caught me a little bit. Because you’re not using a word that conveys morality or faith. You’re saying “prudent,” if I’m hearing that word correctly.
Marjorie Dannenfelser: Yeah. I think actually religious people use that term quite a lot. Because it acknowledges a hierarchy of goods and evils involved in any decision. That decisions of great consequence often involved a blend of goods and bads.
And your job is to figure out where the highest good is found. Which choice leads to the highest good. And that’s the choice we had to make in that moment.
I had never heard of Marjorie Dannenfelser before this interview and though, obviously, her views are as opposed to mine as possible, I am very interested in her views and strategies in politics.
Democrats, Liberals, and Leftist have been at each other’s throats on social media these past months, or, really, these past years and elections cycles, over what is the best way forward to both keep our principles intact and win.
I’ve found myself torn between the warring factions of supporting perfect candidates only or choosing the lesser of two evils. I do not think either strategy is morally wrong per se, but I can see the possible harm both paths can lead to.
If you support less than perfect candidates and ideas progress move more slowly and you are complacent in the harms that candidate and their ideas inflict as well as the norms you reinforce by sending the signal that those harms are okay.
On the other hand, if you only support perfect candidates and ideas then change may never happen and, worse still, the other side wins again and again and greater harms can be inflicted in the short term on a greater swath of the population. Just look at how many have suffered and how much we have lost in just the last 4 years because the left could not unite behind Hillary Clinton.
The upside is that you can (in theory) claim immunity against those harms and, when the change does come there is a higher chance it will come faster, be of greater benefit, and benefit a greater swath of the population than you would get through any other imperfect candidate.
In listening to the above interview with Marjorie Dannenfelser I am struck by how simple, how easy, the choice is for her. She looks at the choices she has in front of her of her, not the choices she wishes she had, or the choices she may have four years, eight years, or a generation from now, the choices she has right now, and chooses what, in her mind, will lead to the greatest good.
I think this is the most realistic and the most effective way not just to vote, but to engage in politics on all levels.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, I’m sure, does not like Trump personally. I’m sure his actions disgust and outrage her, just like the rest of us. I’m sure she had to hold her nose when she cast her vote for him, but she is seeing her vision realized through this choice because she knows what she stands for and she saw how to get there. She is willing to make a hard choice for those she believes are vulnerable and need protecting.
Shouldn’t we be doing the same?
And what are we doing on this side of the political spectrum? We are floundering. We are in a constant state of reactionary politics and reshuffling our focus and principles. We blame each other. We ask too much of each other. We do the enemy’s work for them, and all this outrage, worrying, preaching and putting one another down for not engaging the way we want in politics as we wish it wasplayed is not leading to the greatest good. It just feels good.
It’s also a privilege. To have the luxury step out of the ring and refuse to play or support anything that doesn’t perfectly align with your views means you know that in doing so your life will hardly change at all. There are a lot of people for whom the last four years have not been all that different from the four years before that, and for them the next four won’t be all that different either.
The Supreme Court granted me the right to marry. The Obama Administration gave me health care, a diagnosis, and affordable treatment for a condition I might have otherwise died from. My life is vastly different than I ever thought it would be because people voted and my life could vastly change again if people don’t.
I know Biden isn’t perfect and increasingly I doubt any politician ever will be. The thing we have to keep in mind is the wide-ranging changes to all levels of government, everyday life, and the country’s consciousness simply by him being elected, and that is the greatest good I have to focus on right now because who knows what turns the future will take and what we’ll be facing or what choices we’ll have in another four years.
The new week has finally begun and though I woke in a bad mood, wanting to stay home and forget all responsibilities and obligations, I’m doing a remarkable job of faking it until I, hopefully, make it. Being part of a team and knowing there are people who are counting on me to show up and produce good work means leaving my problems and poor attitude at the door.
And you know what, taking the time and making the effort to change my perspective really turned the whole day around. It wasn’t easy though, and I realize now why the practice of mediation and mindfulness is so important. I’ve been out of practice for weeks now and I am noticing that stepping outside of myself, grounding myself, or using my rational mind is getting harder and harder to do.
The good news is that even though this week’s schedule is full, there are plenty of people on my team to share the load this time. I have more downtime than I anticipated and on top of that I’d long decided to take a couple of days off at the end of the week. It won’t be near as hard as it looks on paper and knowing that alone makes the day all the brighter.
There are just 100 days left in the year. Of course, I know that nothing, not politically or personally, will get better when the clock strikes midnight on January 1st, 2021, but the elections will be over, we’ll have settled so much further into this new normal, we’ll be halfway through winter, and so many of the big decisions I have to yet to make will be behind me.
It’s not the new year that matters. That isn’t really the end I’m waiting for. I’m just looking forward to solutions and outcomes to the problems we face and a chance to overcome fresh problems altogether.
What a weekend it has been! Friday night was the start of a great many birthday celebrations. Three of my siblings happen to have been born within the same 48 hour time frame, though many, many years apart. In addition, we have my father-in-law, and, a new addition to our family, my beautiful newborn baby niece.
Her father is one of the siblings celebrating his birthday this weekend too and I’m so happy that his greatest birthday wish finally came true—him and his daughter will share their special day for their whole lives.
Beyond the festivities and the bundle of joy joining our family, there has been heartbreak too. I was shocked, and then devastated, and then terrified by the news of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. The world has been uncertain for a long time now and grows more uncertain as the days pass and our heroes pass away. I feel certain there is so much worse to come for us all on the horizon and hopeless, powerless, to stop any of it.
So, for now, I’m focusing on what I can control. I’m focusing on what I can wrap my head around—today and the week ahead—and even that mush feels enough to push me over the edge.
Dissents speak to a future age. It’s not simply to say, ‘My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.’ But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that’s the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today but for tomorrow.”