Currently // December 2020: Never Be the Same

“It’s four in the morning, the end of December
I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better.”

― Leonard Cohen, Famous Blue Raincoat

The end of December has arrived and with it the end of one of the longest and most horrific years in my memory. Thinking back to this time last year, it’s shocking to mark the number of changes. I hardly recognize myself or the world around me. I can hardly believe how much has changed, how much has been lost, and how much we have to gain back.

The official winter season has only just started here in the northern hemisphere, but we are already halfway toward the next summer, my favorite season of all. The dark days and the deep cold will be with us for a long while more, but it helps to know that slowly, slowly the sun will start setting later and the number of days above freezing will steadily increase.

Twenty-twenty has been quite a year, one none of else will soon forget. We’re living through a time of unprecedented uncertainty and grief. The pandemic is still ravishing communities here in the US and though, like Spring, the vaccine is bringing an end in sight, there will still be many more dark days to survive.

Still, there have been some small victories, and plenty of lessons learned. I’ve never felt more connected to my local community and have found a sense of trust and pride in state officials and local business and leaders. I’ve had more time than i have ever had—or will ever have again—to rest, to read, to write, and to learn about myself.

Besides the fear and anxiety brought on by the pandemic raging around me, inside I was also experiencing what would turn out to be the longest and most severe flare up of my ulcerative colitis symptoms since my diagnosis. This disease took so much from me in 2020, but it also gave me something back. It showed me how strong I am. It showed me the power of the human body, of my body, for both good and bad. It brought me back to my meditation practice and reacquainted me with the calm of early mornings. It taught me it is possible to overcome yourself, and it taught me gratitude.

I’m ready to take these lessons and many, many more that this dumpster fire of a year taught me into the next. Though I know that things can always be worse, from here, looking on the innocent potential of the New Year, I can only see how good things are finally going to get. The world has a vaccine. The US has a new President. I have a new medication. I am healing. We are all healing.

As with every norm and tradition, making New Year’s resolutions just doesn’t feel the same this year. What used to be important has become trivial and forgettable, and what used to feel unimportant is now vital.

This year I’m setting very few large goals and instead focusing almost entirely on self-care. The biggest lesson I’m taking with me into the new month and year is that I must build and continually rebuild emotional endurance and resilience. This year I am putting I have to put my health and my well-being before all else because it turns out I am vulnerable in many more ways than I knew, but before I do, here’s what I am currently:

Writing from a new place in my home. The old creativity room had to be converted back into a bedroom this year, and I was left without a place to call my own. For weeks I wandered through the house from couch to bed to counter to floor, and nothing felt right until the idea struck to clear the cluttered dining table and claim a corner of the kitchen for writing alone. I’ve got my old office chair and all my notebooks here, the only essentials I need. I will have an office again eventually, but for now this will do.

Making this house a home. My wife and I are notorious for procrastinating on needed house projects and repair, but with reduced hours at work due to the pandemic, boredom has pushed us to complete project after project just to have something to do. My wife has taken the lead and going forward I have a feeling my role will be regulated to simply approving or disapproving plans but that’s ok. Slowly and steadily these ugly fixtures, bare walls, and outdated decor are being transformed into something personal, something more livable.

Planning and tracking each day of 2021. In preparation for the coming year and upon reflection of the last, I thought it might be a good idea to move back toward an all analog system of allocating my hours. I have long been a fan of author Austin Keons system of note taking and logging and have tweaked it somewhat to include to-go lists and goals. I have a new, and quite plain just the way I like it, Moleskine daily planner to my habits and schedule. I have a Journal to record the day’s moods and thoughts,

Reading The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir and Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail by Frances Fox Piven. Many of Beauvoir’s ideas are now outdated since the advancement of science and the understanding of gender, but her writing style is wonderfully unique and her power to inform and impassion is inspiring. I haven’t technically started Poor People’s Movements, but it has moved to the top of my TBR since I, on impulse, joined a book club that is meeting virtually in just a few weeks to discuss the introduction and chapter one.

Watching The Stand on CBS and old episodes of Veep on HBO. Some of my favorite shows this year include The Mandalorian, Raised by Wolves, The Queen’s Gambit, and Lovecraft Country. I have tried these past months to reduce the amount of time I spend in front of the TV, and largely I feel I have been successful. Unfortunately, Disney recently announced a slew of new Star Wars shows coming to their streaming app, and I suspect my couch time will significantly increase as a result.

Learning about Social Psychology. I’m two weeks into the course and while I find the material interesting, I’m having a hard time progressing due to time constraints. This course requires has quite a bit more reading than the previous courses I’ve taken. Still, I’m excited to get through it, not for the subject alone but for the courses I have lined up to take after. On a whim last month, I enrolled in four new Coursera courses—the certificates were being offered for free, I couldn’t resist!—and to keep from overwhelming myself, I’m only allowing myself to take them one at a time.

Anticipating a return to a normal schedule and routine. All through autumn I had wished and wished for my district to go fully remote, but when we finally did it wasn’t at all what I expected. Unlike the last shutdown I have still been expected to come in and without the kids, there has been very little to do. At first the quiet, easy days were nice, but experiencing boredom and isolation both at home and at work has proved detrimental to my mental health in ways I couldn’t imagine. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but actually I’m ready for more work, for more coworkers, and to see the kids smiling again.

Reflecting on the lessons of the pandemic. There is no doubt that this year will be a defining one for all of us. It will be one of those times in which there is a great before stretching back through our lives and along after the is laid out long after our lifetimes. We’d all be fools not to spend some time taking in all the ways the spread of this virus has shaped and reshaped our new world and in turn shaped and reshaped who are. I know I’m not the same person I was just last March and I don’t think any one of us is, and maybe that’s a good thing.

Fearing things will get worse before they get better. The vaccine is here and already the most vulnerable are being inoculated, but it will be a long while before the reports of record-breaking sickness and death are behind us. Now that the worst of winter is upon us and the cold is driving us indoors, now that we are desperate for community and connection, now that we have grown weary and stupid, the virus has grown more contagious and we are all the more vulnerable now. My fear is the worst is yet to come, for me and for all of us together.

Hating how little empathy and care is being shown to the American people by their own government. I’m thrilled to know that in just a few short weeks the office of the presidency will be handed over to the Democratic party, but I have little hope Biden or the Democrats who hold a majority in the House of Representatives will be able to do any good there. The Republicans will more than likely hold the Senate, and majority leader Mitch McConnell will go on blocking compassionate legislation and allowing the most vulnerable among us to go on suffering.

Loving this sense of community I feel everywhere I go. Whether I’m at home, at work, in the grocery store, on the internet, or watching TV, I feel part of something. It’s the neighborhood, the city, the state, the country, the world, we are all in something together and though I wish it hadn’t taken so much fear and anguish to bring us together, I’m happy we’ve pulled together to pull through it. We more united than ever. We are more like mind and like hearted than we’ve ever been. This is one thing I hope will never go back to “the way things were”.

Needing to see my friends again. I have spent some time with family throughout the year and that has been a great salve to my mental woes and lonely heart, but I have had no time with my friends and I miss them all very much. I miss dinner and drinks. I miss brunch. I miss movies and house parties. I miss our laughter and our talks. My family has been great, but I miss being around people who are under no obligation to like or even tolerate me.

Hoping that 2021 will be a little kinder to us all and if it isn’t I hope we all have learned how to care for ourselves and go on living and loving despite our fears and failures. I hope that we conquer this virus and we learn how to prevent such great losses when the next one—perhaps even more virulent and deadly than this—rises and spreads. I hope we have learned what it means to be species, united in our struggle to survive. I hope we have learned the meaning of humanity.

I hope we will never be the same again.


So, yeah, all in all, December, like all of 2020, has been fraught with both fear and hope. Better days always felt near and yet never quite arrived. I begin the new year in much the same place, still just on the horizon of a new world and way of living.

But what about you? How has the month, and the year itself for that matter, treated you? How have you learned to cope, and how will you go on coping when the world begins its next revolution around the sun? How will you celebrate tonight and who, if anyone, will you celebrate with?

Let me know in the comments.


The inspiration for these posts comes from Andrea at Create.Share.Love

Photo by Valeriia Miller on Unsplash

366 // A Day of Waiting

New Year’s Eve is a strange day. It’s a day of preparing, of wanting, and of waiting and as that waiting goes on, and the body and mind fill with nervous energy you grow anxious, impatient, and quite feverishly, hopeful. You are simultaneously excited to leave the last 12 months behind and terrified to begin the next.

There are many hours left still before the end will come and the new beginning arrives finally. Here we are keeping our celebrations quiet and, most importantly, safe.

We aren’t marking the day as we usually do: with family or friends, drinking and partying. It’s just my wife and I softly ringing in the new year together and considering how much we’ve been through in these last many months, I couldn’t think of any way or with anyone I’d rather celebrate.

I’m practicing a lot of self-reflection and managing my expectations of what 2021 will bring. I remember New Year’s Eve before the start of 2020 I thought I was about to enter the a time of great joy and productivity. I imagined so many successes and experiences, and within months I the whole world was turned upside down.

I have no such expectations of 2021. I do not even believe it will be a better year than this last. All I hope for is that I will be better at coping with pain, disappointment, change, loss, and anger. I hope I will find ways to make the best of whatever I have and wherever I am. I hope to endure better, and that is all.

365 // Monotonous Routine

We’re just a day away now from New Year’s Eve and everyone keeps asking me what I’m doing to celebrate the holiday. I am absolutely doing nothing at all. I’m not even sure I’m going to stay up long enough to watch the calendar date roll over. The New Year feels more like an event to accept this year than to celebrate. A thing to get on with than to spend any time acknowledging.

The truth is too; I feel guilty for how much I have been out shopping and visiting with family over these last few months. I took some precautions, but it’s hard to break from norms and old traditions and isolate yourself entirely.

It doesn’t help how starved I have felt for anything to get out of the house, to see people, to laugh, to talk, to feel normal again. The cold and dreary weather and this awful monotonous routine of work, then home, then work, the home, then work is wearing on my willpower. I gave in to these needs and, quite surprisingly, to the holiday spirit.

So for the next few weeks at least I plan to stay in and stay away from anyone outside of my household as much as I can. Unfortunately, I still have to work, though even there I will do better to social distance.

The news broke yesterday that the first U.S. case the new, even more contagious strain of the coronavirus was found in my state and in someone who apparently had no travel history, at least not to the United Kingdom. That means it’s already spreading through the community and knowing this, my state of panic has been restored and my resolve renewed.

364 // The Worst Part Is Already Over

This hasn’t been as smooth of a morning as yesterday was, but for me that’s to be expected. Unlike almost everyone else in the workforce, I’m always at my best on Mondays and as the week wears on my energy levels, attention to detail, and efficiency seriously deteriorate.

I know it’s only Tuesday, but this has been a hard week already. It hasn’t been due to any particular external stressor but simply my own anxieties. I have to teach a class tomorrow and the worry of it has been building since at least last Friday. I know the material, but I’m co-teaching with different people than I’m used to working with and the material has been updated, making me doubt my knowledge.

The week’s decline is also greatly accelerated by the wintery weather and some concerning effects of my the last in a series of iron infusions I had to undergo. The dosage was higher, and I ended up having a slight adverse reaction, leaving me feeling more fatigued than usual and generally icky.

Still, I am proud of myself for mustering the willpower to leave the bed early and work in time for meditation and a good stretching session before beginning the day. Taking those 10 to 15 minutes for myself every day really makes a difference. At the very least, I arrive to work with a sense of accomplishment already instilled.

I had thought to skip going in entirely and staying home, but today is scheduled to be a very, very short day and the worst part of it, the getting up and getting ready, is already over. All I have now left are a couple of quick tasks, a short bout of work outdoors, a bit of preparation to make for the next day, and a few emails to send off.

After that, it’s just breathing and remembering the blue sky until bedtime.

358 // How Little Time

The year’s end is closing in faster than I realized, and it only just today hit me how little time I have to prepare.

I’ve always been weary of setting up any New Year’s resolutions for myself. Part of me thinks it’s pointless not because resolving to change, do better, end or begin new habits or believing in fresh starts, clean slates, or new beginnings is pointless, but because the date we choose to do so is so arbitrary.

Of course any of us can change or begin again every day and we can try again whenever we fail, but by March we’ll all have given up and it’ll be another nine months at least before we reflect and resolve again.

So, I don’t really believe that January 1st holds some mystical power or that my resolutions will fare any better just because the calendar year has changed over but I still make my list anyway and I still hope a new version of myself will emerge, the one I have wanted to be since the last time my resolutions failed.

I tend to think of resolution setting as a numbers game, setting up an impossible number of intentions knowing that although many of them will fall by the wayside or end up on the back burner there will necessarily, by fact of volume, be one or two come next December 31st that I can count as successes.

It’s been a slow and painful year but I have been strong—we all have—and I’ve met another side of myself, many sides if I’m honest, that I never knew existed. Some versions I liked, some not so much, but all I have accepted. Each aspect was given space, and each provided valuable insight in turn.

I’d love to take what I’ve learned and make the next year one of even greater endurance and resilience. I’d like to focus on self-care and in more areas than just emotional and physical. I’d like to find ways to care for my social, spiritual, financial, professional, and personal life.

I’m resolving in general to take a more well-rounded approach to my well-being going forward and through pre-planning, recording and reflecting, boundary setting, and all the willpower I can summon, 2021 will be a much better year.

357 // Doing Nothing

Today I am doing nothing, and a lot of it. I woke up early, just to do nothing and then the nothing tired me out so much I needed a nap. Now I am doing nothing again and have plans for very little more from here until bedtime. It’s glorious, all this nothing. I’m hopeful I’ll have more of it tomorrow too.

Doing nothing looks like reading all the articles and listening to all the podcasts I’ve been saving up. It looks like reading and writing in my journal. It’s reflecting on all the little notes I’ve taken these past weeks, scheduling and editing blog posts, and taking more notes on the new things I’d like to write and share. It looks like me, camped out on the couch with my laptop, my books and notebooks, pens and pencils, and plenty of pillows, blankets, and cup after cup of coffee.

Later there may be a small to do list, a few chores and some small errands perhaps, but nothing stressful, nothing demanding.


Wintery weather is rolling in tonight. The winds are whipping around the house tonight, and the cold can be felt creeping through cracks unseen. It’s nights like these when home feels much more fragile and I much more vulnerable than I feel on warmer, brighter days and nights.

Still, these nights are made for huddling close to those you love under piles of warm and soft blankets. There is strength and comfort in that, too. We’re safe. Even if all the fences, trees, and these walls themselves cave in, we have each other, the greatest protection any human can have.

356 // Holiday Chaos

With the break from work and the ongoing holiday chaos and stress, it hardly feels like Monday at all, which sounds nice in theory, but the work week and my old routine were reasons to get up, get moving, and get shit done. Now I’m feeling a little lost and desperately trying to get back to my routine.

I’ve just been too tired after days of shipping and shopping to do anything for myself. There’s too much to do to get to bed on time, and not enough time spent sleeping to wake up early enough.

Last night I didn’t even realize that the weekend was ending and completely forgot to change my alarms over. I slept in more than I meant to, but I’m not too disappointed in myself. I needed the rest and a whole lot more, if I’m honest.

I’m still battling with my body and walking these stores and malls, worrying over gifts and dates is beginning to take a toll, but the end is in sight and if everything goes smoothly today I should be through with those stores and malls, shipping and wrapping all and free to rest all the way through to the holiday.

And I plan to take full advantage of it too! With Christmas falling on a Friday this year, I’ll be heading right back to work and my old schedule with nothing but a short weekend in between. The pressure of the holidays will be replaced with the pressure of meeting work expectations almost seamlessly.

354 // Bah Humbug

I’ve never been a big fan of the Christmas season. Oh, there are things I like about the holiday. I like the lights, and the food, and the time spent with family, but all the shopping, shipping, and stressing about gifts and cooking is just more time spent away from the things I enjoy doing for me.

Instead of giving in to disappointment, I’m trying to think of these weeks as time outside of time, a break from productivity and passions to get a little perspective before the new year begins. It’s helping, but I miss my books, my journal, my blog, my courses. I miss sitting and silence.

‘Tis the season for giving of the self, I know, but with the pandemic and so much of life and tradition put on hold or cancelled entirely, it’s hard to get into a festive mood and a half holiday or less hardly feels worth the effort.

I don’t mean to be a grinch. I wish the season found me in better spirits, but this year has been too hard on me—too hard on us all!—and I can’t seem to find my holiday cheer, or perhaps it can’t find me. My hope is that come Christmas morning when all that stress is behind me and there is nothing left but to enjoy good food and time with family, I’ll finally find the Christmas spirit that eludes me now.