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.
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.
I’ve struggled to follow my own advice lately. In my defense, I have been dealing with a lot of loss and a lot of pain, a lot of depression and disorientation. I’ve lost my way and my motivation to find it again. I’ve been miserable and motionless. I’ve been feeling sorry for myself and making excuses.
So, what is different this week? This week I’m finally getting tired of my own bullshit. I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired of being sick. I’m tired of stressing, worrying, and dwelling. I’m tired of being afraid.
This week I’m taking back my sense of control. My choices are often limited, sure, but they are not nonexistent. Inspiration can be found anywhere and time is only waiting to be found. Energy might be in short supply and motivation is hard to muster, but if you remember that managing both is the real work, the rest will come easy.
This week I will:
Wake up with my alarm. For months I had been doing so well willing myself out of bed without hitting the snooze button but returning to a full work week has meant needing more sleep than I’m used to and made it harder to head the morning alarm. This week I’d like to work out a way to get the rest I need and wake up when I want to, not when I have to. Bonus: Stop taking so many naps. At best they don’t help and at worst they make the fatigue worse.
Meditate every morning. Through much of January I kept up with my daily habit, but I missed a day and devastation that failure wrought left me unable to start again. The truth is, I can’t afford to keep avoiding the practice. For me, meditation is as important to healing as medication and starting the day with the body and breath makes all difference.
Delegate, or at least ask for help when I need it. I’ve always had a hard time trusting my coworkers to get the job done without my direction or input, but I’d like to learn to be more flexible and open to different ways of seeing the solution and different ways of getting there too. I’d like more mental space for myself, and that means sharing responsibility and giving up control.
Return to my journal. I’ve been away from my physical journal nearly as much and I have from my digital and I’ve missed it just as much if not more. This week I’d like to get back to it, and my planner too, by carving out my lunch time specifically for analog writing. The mornings will now be for digital work and the evenings are for reading.
This week I will not let the failures of these past weeks get me down. This year I will not allow guilt or shame of missing a goal or falling behind in the short term keep me from making the progress I know I can in the long term if I would only take the time to reflect and refocus. It’s a long way from here to December, and it’s unreasonable and unrealistic to expect that each week’s goals can be set and met without failure or falter.
Finish not just each day, but each week, month, and year and be done with it. A new one will always begin as soon as one ends, and you cannot make the most of the current if you are still carrying the weight of the last. Let it go.
The first steps after a stumble are always the hardest. The sooner you get them behind you, the better.
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..
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.
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?
What is your demon?
I have many. If it isn’t a lack of energy, it’s a lack of confidence, and if it isn’t a lack of confidence, it’s a lack of focus. I suspect at the base of them all is the real demon: a fear of change. To move is to risk the worst as well as the better.
What is the most important part of your education?
The continuation of it. I didn’t graduate from high school, but it wasn’t for lack of interest or intelligence. Now that I have overcome so much of what held me back, it’s time to pursue the journey again.
Which “thinker” has had the greatest influence on your life?
There was a time when I would have answered Charles Darwin, Carl Sagan, or Marcus Aurelius, but I’m broadening my horizons and seeking new influence from thinkers like Simone de Beauvoir, James Baldwin, and bell hooks.
What do you doubt most?
The American Dream. It fails to take into account deep rifts of class, race, and sex and instead places personal responsibility on each citizen not only for their successes but their failures to meet nearly impossible expectations of wealth and health in the face of enormous institutional and systematic obsticals.
What is happiness?
Safety and space, both physical and temporal. So many of us are giving up precious life just to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. This is simply surviving. Being one misfortune away from losing everything isn’t safety, and without time to focus on our more abstract needs or space to make something of our own, we’re hardly better off than animals.
What does it mean to be human?
To be so aware and so affected by the cold indifference of the universe. We cannot live simply by our instincts. We cannot be content with simple survival and procreation. Instead, we must always be “making meaning” and working to “conquer mortality”. No other organism on this planet is burdened by such senseless wants or worries.
What illusion do you suffer from?
The illusion of time. I often can’t believe I am as old as I am, and I certainly can’t comprehend how little time I may have left. In my mind there is always time to do it tomorrow, later, someday. The reality is time is ticking down and there isn’t a second that has passed that I can get back.
If you could choose, what would you have for your last meal?
The same meal I choose every year for my birthday: crab legs, artichokes, and lemon butter dipping sauce that never runs out. I might add a few dozen oysters and a nice bottle of pinot grigio to wash it all down.
The question you’d most like to ask others?
What is a human life worth? It’s easy to trade lives half a world away for daily comforts here at home when you never have to see or think about it, but if you did, would you keep consuming, polluting, voting, or believing the way you do?
Your favourite word?
Melancholy: a feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause.
What is your motto?
“It is what it is, and it too shall pass.” Nothing that has passed can be changed and the present is an undeniable result, but that doesn’t mean you should ever feel stuck. Time is always moving forward and nothing ever stays the same. Not your circumstances, and certainly not you.
What is a good death?
There is no good death. There are better deaths, sure, but no matter how you loving or long, rich or influential a life you have lead, it will inevitably end someday and all that you will leave behind is sadness in your wake. Nothing good comes from death.
What is the meaning of life?
Each life has its own meaning, and the only life’s meaning I might know is my own, and even that is unclear. If I had to guess, I would say to open hearts to a truer meaning of love, and minds to a more complex understanding of the self and others.