Currently // August 2021: Settling Down and Settling In

Some days in late August at home are like this, the air thin and eager like this, with something in it sad and nostalgic and familiar…

― William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

The heat of summer is still raging, but it’s not the same heat we’ve seen since May. The heat of August is an aggression. The heat of August is an insistence. Summer has not left the northern hemisphere and will not until she is ready, no matter our contention or complaints.

Despite the heat, we can feel Autumn rising over the horizon. The days are growing noticeably shorter now and with the late sun and early moon, the cool air comes too. The breaks between heatwaves are increasing and the smell of crisping leaves is on the breeze. There is a sense of settling down and settling in. It’s time to reap and ready ourselves for the long wait of Spring’s return.

I’d hoped to begin the school year feeling safer than we did this time 12 months ago but Covid is raging still and even the sense of security that the vaccine brought is waning. The “Delta variant” is tearing through populations and the uncertainty over my own vulnerability makes it all that much harder to work and to socialize. I’m almost happy the summer is ending. At least I won’t be so preoccupied with what I can’t have, who I can’t see, and where I can’t go.

So, this August, more than any of the others, is a time of letting go. I’m releasing expectation and desire. I’m releasing the carefree days and warm nights. I’m releasing the world as I once knew it and opening myself up to what could be, and what has to be. I’m moving on with the world.

But before I do, here is what I am currently:

Writing regularly again, sort of. Longer work hours mean longer lunches and more time at the peak of my day to call my own. I’m using the time to rebuild old habits and reconnect with my thoughts and interests, my curiosities and convictions. The first step was reorganizing my notes, task, and fragments. I have half-written drafts and threads I’ve yet to follow but they are in order now and the plan is to follow them one by one and one to another a little each day.

Making changes. I’ve made it to the “late-thirties” and I’m finding the age another era of metamorphosis. What sets this time apart from all the others is this time I’m learning about myself through others. Nearly all recent revelations have come from off-the-cuff comments and constructive criticisms. I’m making an effort to let down my defenses and take it all in. There is truth in the way I am seen and much as the way I see.

Planning for my weaknesses. With great revelation comes a great revolution, and changes to who I am have to be complemented with changes to how I live. I’m relying more on lists, calendars, and timers to keep me on track and doing what I know I really want to be doing. I’m working on writing as a way of exploring, accepting, and planning how I can change the way I work and interact in this world. I’m planning on a better version of myself and she is coming along beautifully.

Reading Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey. This year has been my worst yet for reading goals but I haven’t given up. Books never venture far from my heart and now that I am moving to ebooks it’s a little easier to make time in between life’s moments for a chapter or two. This is my second time around with wily Odysseus, and I find him as confounding as ever. Is he meant to be good, or bad? Or perhaps it is only my idea of good and bad in this time that makes it so hard to decide?

Watching Marvel’s What If…? on Disney+. The series is essentially an exploration of what might have happened if things had gone differently in the movies. If different characters existed, swapped places, or never existed at all. Some other favorites are HBO’s The White Lotus, a fictional series following the interactions between rich hotel guests and their rather less privileged staff, and The L Word: Generation Q, a new take on an old queer favorite.

Learning to accept. It’s hard to let humans be so human, but the reality is though my beliefs work for me, they aren’t for everyone and unsolicited advice is never welcome. I’m learning to listen, be supportive, and lead by example. I’m learning to prove through actions rather than assertions that I am as intelligent, patient, and thoughtful as I know I am. I’m learning to let people come to me. I’m learning that I don’t have to be so insistent. I don’t have to be so right.

Anticipating some big life changes. My wife and I have been putting off the future we know we want in exchange for the comfortable now simply because change is scary. We’ve been working together to overcome our fears and our habit of procrastination to make some big steps forward. I’m looking forward to what I know we can accomplish when we work together.

Reflecting on how easy it is to be completely wrong without the slightest inkling of the possibility. I’m thinking about how easy it is to hurt someone, even when you hold the best of intentions. I’m remembering all the ways I thought I deserved something I didn’t and the times I gave someone a part of myself I’d thought they’d earned. Boundaries are hard to set and we can’t be everything to everyone, no matter how hard we wish. The key is, after reflecting, you go and make it right. You acknowledge and you change.

Fearing for the people of Afghanistan. The United States has never had the best interests of any other people in any operation, but these years we’ve spent over there half-assed destroying them and half-assed supporting them has left the country almost worse off than when we arrived. I feel for the people in harm’s way now and I fear for the people who will be harmed in the years to come as the clock ticks backward and old rules lead to new oppressions.

Hating the lengths people in this country will go to protect perceived freedoms of the welfare and security of not just their fellow citizens, but other human beings living all over the world. I’ve been learning a lot about why we are so divided and why we can’t seem to see past the color of our skin or our origins of birth to care. What will it take to love thy neighbor? What will it take to finally see that to save ourselves, we have to save someone else? I hate that I am living through the beginning of this end.

Loving my simple little life. I look around at the lives and loves and losses of others and I know that I am where I need to be with the person who is just right for me. I’m madly in love and happy beyond words with the world we have built. There’s more to do, sure, and more I want, always, but I’m on the right path, there is no doubt, and feeling more confident and loved than ever. I know it’s going to be ok. I know it’s going to be good even if it’s never perfect.

Needing time, always time. It’s always moving too fast and running out before I know it. There’s always less of it left and looking back the waste is overwhelming. I need time between, time at the end, and time away. I need time for me, time for her, time to live. All I seem to have is time to work, and the work is growing more insistent. Of course, there can never be more, but there can be a rebalancing. I only need it to be a little easier to do.

Hoping for clarity. I’m hoping for a spark. I’m hoping for the old obsession and motivation. I’m hoping for a sign and a chance to make something of my own. I’m hoping a way will open and a path will clear. I know it takes work but wouldn’t it be nice for something good and easy to come along for a change. Wouldn’t a little talent, a little privilege, and some hearty support make all the difference? A girl can dream. A girl can only ever dream.

All in all, this August was a good end to the summer. Through the chaos and the fear, I have been able to find my own way. Autumn has never been good to me, but I know I can be good to myself. These last months of 2021 will be better than the first and instead of lamenting, I only feel a great and beautiful gratitude. Everything is going to be okay.

But what about you? Have you been vaccinated yet? If not, what is it that makes you hesitant? How have you fared through this latest Covid wave and how have you learned to cope in such uncertain times? What does the end of this summer mean to you and what are you most looking forward to in Autumn.

Let me know in the comments.

241 // Almost Unbearable

This is the first moment I’ve had in days that I could sit up and think clearly enough to write anything. The short of it is I had to get an emergency root canal after a tooth I chipped many, many months ago decided to start causing problems.

It started around lunchtime last Wednesday with a strange discomfort while chewing. By the end of the workday, the left side of my jaw was throbbing. That evening I was mixing acetaminophen with ibuprofen and trying desperately to find a dentist in network that would see me the next day.

I made it into work the next morning, running on little more than caffeine and deep guilt. I didn’t want to leave my coworkers hanging. I didn’t want to leave the kids confused. Luckily I was was able to see a dentist that afternoon. The good news was they could save the tooth. The bad news was the pain would only get worse unless I took care of it as soon as possible and damn, were they right!

By Friday morning, the pain was almost unbearable. I was sleeping on the couch with an ice pack on my face and fighting the impulse to pull the tooth myself. Anything would have been better than how I felt. I knew I couldn’t give the students my best care when I could barely think through the pain, so I did what I felt was best for them and for me, I stayed home.

That afternoon I was in the endodontist chair awaiting a root canal and within an hour I was feeling…different. The pain I went in with was relieved, but I left with new pain and there was more to come. Stomach pain from the medication, headaches, soreness, and getting used to chewing and talking with the temporary filling has been hard, but with plenty of rest and a little TLC from my wife, I am slowly getting better.

236 // Highest Priority

The fatigue is hard to fight this morning. I’m trying to work, but heavy limbs and a foggy mind are making it hard. The standard workweek—8 hours a day, 5 days a week—is more than I can handle. Four days to work and three days to myself would make for a much more productive version of myself. If only, if only…

There are days when I feel so sorry for myself. It’s hard to be so limited by sleepiness and pain so often. I’m frustrated I can’t do more. I’m angry less isn’t asked of me. I’m not built for this world and there is little of it made for people like me.

Coffee is almost useless. All I get is a lump of bitterness in my belly threatening to rise up and ruin an already precarious time. At least the morning will fly by. I expect it to be over before I can even get my bearings. The downside is I’ll be worse off by the afternoon when I expect time to slow to a crawl just as what little energy I have wanes further.

The good news is, that despite the tiredness and the growing task list, I feel well on top of things. The work I did yesterday revamping the lists is helping and utilizing reminders is keeping me from getting too far off track. Once I’m settled in this new routine, I’ll add timers and hopefully start making real progress again. ‘

Today’s highest priority is getting my writing project on a list and in order so that the work can start first thing tomorrow. I’ve wasted half a year, and maybe half a lifetime too, but I never stop trying to begin again, and again, and again…

235 // Waves of Uncertainty

It’s been an emotional start to the morning, but as the hours pass and daylight makes its way into the shadows cast, I find I’m able to process and by mid-morning nothing looked as bad as it had at before sunrise.

It’s hard not to be able to help those you love. It’s harder still to stick to your principles. Giving too much feels as bad as not giving at all. So, how do you know when to stop? How do you know where to draw the line and how do you steel yourself against your own guilt?

The new week began before I was ready and the end, I’m sure, will come long after I need it to. I’m emotionally preparing for the person I will become when exhaustion settles in and I’m worn to the nerves by work. On a positive note, I’m learning to ride the waves of uncertainty and trust my competency to see me through.

I’m spending much of the midday reorganizing my to-do lists and notes. I have paper notes spread across three notebooks and countless post-its. I have digital notes and drafts spread across three different apps. I have lists and tasks in my calendar, in a tasks app, and scribbled on scraps of paper overfilling the pockets of various bags and bottoms. It’s a mess!

I’m moving to one to-do list stored in Google Tasks. All other lists will become notes in Google Keep along with blog post drafts. Drafts are sorted by date started and become blog posts as the drafts above them are written and published. All notebooks are for the deeply personal. They are worries to release and love letters to leave behind. They are for me alone until I leave this life, and then they will be for those who loved me most.

The digital is for the future.

The analog is for the past.

234 // A New Understanding

There’s a lot to do this Sunday afternoon and I’m buzzing around the house from room to room trying to get the cleaning done and the to-do list cleared. My restless mind is still trying to drag me to the couch, to the T.V., to social media, and even to things meant for tomorrow or even next week, but I’m watchful and aware of myself and working on executive function and fighting to do the hard things.

But knowing is half the battle, and whether what I think I know turns out to be true or not, I’m at least more aware of what my weaknesses are and better able to see and curb them in the moment rather than realizing hours later what I’ve failed to do and letting the guilt hold me back further.

I’m coming to a new understanding, a new compassion for myself. The person I am is miles and miles ahead of who I could have turned out to be given my past and my inadequacies. I’ve overcome so much and I have so much love and support that has allowed me so much progress and passion in life. I have nothing to feel guilty about. I have nothing holding me back.

So, I’m back to typing my little words. I’m exploring a piece on relationships, another on the ethics of lying, and a third on friendship. I still have an issue with finishing, but I’ll take any small win and worry about the rest when it arrives. For now, having ass in chair, and working on keeping it there for longer and longer stretches of time is enough.

233 // Inner Restlessness

The weather has not yet returned to the peak heat of summer, but the days are warming again as the cold front from the last two days makes its way out from the front range. The mornings are still cool though, and I suspect we’ve seen the last of sweltering temperatures before lunchtime. I can feel autumn creeping in and the sadness that comes with the long winter beginning to build already.

For now, it’s a lazy Saturday here at home this morning. I needed time to do nothing. More than that, I needed time to think about nothing, too. This past week was a hard one with long working hours and fast-changing expectations, but the bad was balanced by the good with more quality time with people I care about and a stronger, more solid physical feeling than I’ve had in a long time.

I spent many of the moments between tasks reflecting on some deep revelations I’ve stumbled across about myself and studying old, and often painful memories, under this new light of understanding.

I think there is a strong possibility I have—and have always had—ADHD. My mother has it, and quite possibly both of my brothers, but it somehow never occurred to me that I also had the disorder until recently when my scattered mind and inattention were mentioned by 3 to 4 people in a matter of weeks. It had not occurred to me that other people’s minds were so splintered or active as mine.

I’m extremely aware now of how I get bored with tasks, fail to finish tasks, fail to sit in one place, or do one thing for more than 15 minutes at the most. I’m now aware of how my mind wanders while I write, while I listen, and even while I speak. I’m aware of the impulses and compulsions to get up, to switch gears, to do it all at once. I’m also aware of how much I forget and how little I can ever accomplish despite the whirlwinds of ideas and action.

Even now as I sit and type this, I want to get up. I want to finish the dishes in the sink, make some cold brew coffee, watch a show, and wash my hair. I used to think it was plan procrastination but I recognize now that this urge and in fact all my life up to it is simply a result of an inner restlessness I have never before been able to fully understand, let alone control.