192// Still Turning

The world is still turning. I’m here and not, here and not. I’ve been off doing other things, but this space is never far from my thoughts. Fatigue, and worry, and heat, and overwhelm have kept me from it, and though I am here now, I make no promises for tomorrow or after.

Still, starting again is always a good sign. Being at this desk, typing, and even feeling the faint stirrings of old ideas and passions in the back of my mind is a sign that I’m feeling better. I’m feeling more myself. I’m mentally and physically stable enough to move outside of the present into memories and hopes.

For a short week this was certainly one of the longest in recent months. I was happy to be back at my usual location but coming off of a week spent away from work and coworkers and then returning to small talk, mask wearing, and expectation was jarring. I have another break coming up next week and after I think I’ll avoid taking time off for a long while. The seesawing between strict social distancing and this “new normal” are hard of the psyche.

And this new normal? It isn’t even agreed upon or settled yet, not by far! Every day new decisions are made and every day new anxieties are triggered. I’m dreading the start of the school year, but I’m also eager for it to begin. It’s going to be hard to find a way to stay safe and to keep both the kids and my coworkers safe too, but I’m ready to stop talking about it, fretting over it, speculating about it. I’m ready to get started!

Good things are happening too. I’m growing and learning how to delegate, how to teach, how to mentor others in my new position. I’m also confronting my flaws, bad habits, and toxic traits and working toward making space for others. I’ve spent so long fighting to be seen and heard that I have forgotten how to relinquish space to others. I no longer have to be the center to be secure or respected.

My health is improving with a new medicine and meal plan that includes hours of intermittent fasting to give my system a rest and plenty of time spent in a state of so little movement and stress that I am reminded of the “rest cure” prescribed to “nervous women” around the turn of the 2th century. It’s helping though and slowly, as I can, I’m returning to my workout routine and personal pursuits.

The world is still more shifting sand than solid stone out there. There is chaos, conflict, and change happening everywhere at every moment and it’s so scary but so exciting too. I’m happy to be alive now, though the old grief of knowing there is so much I won’t get to live through is stronger than ever.

They say living in the present helps relieve death anxiety, but for me paying attention to the present only ever highlights the time ticking away. Luckily, I’ve long since learned to sit with this—and many other—uncomfortable truths.

183// Something is Different

Something is different about today. Maybe it’s the new month, maybe it all the time I’ve gotten to spend reading, writing, and resting, or maybe I’m just coming out of an ugly funk I didn’t realize I was in, whatever the reason I’m lighter, more positive, and cheerful than I have in days.

Nothing interesting is going on today. More time spent at my desk, on the couch, in the kitchen, and in bed. I’m typing away, reading, cleaning, and napping profusely. There were a few phone calls and emails from work, but for the most part I have been free from any obligations since last Friday and look forward to more days like this through this time next week.

My wife and I are continuing to social distance and stay home as much as possible despite the city moving forward with reopening. Even just a week ago I was fighting the urge to venture out and enjoy being around people again but the more cases are rising across the country the more comfortable, the happier, I feel staying home.

We talked about our upcoming trip to the mountains in the coming weeks. We feel a little bad about breaking quarantine for a vacation.

It’s true we’re taking a risk but at least we are travelling to place less dense than our own neighborhood and we plan to spend our time either alone in our tent our outside hiking in the wilderness. What meals we eat will be takeout or on patios. We’ll wear masks and bring along hand sanitizer and wipes. We’ll do what we can to minimize the risk, but we very much need these days away from the city.

As the cases rise all around us, I’m looking further and further into the future and so much that we’d hoped to do and see just may not be possible for a long while to come. It sucks losing so much of your life to this virus (and to a White House administration that won’t take responsibility and guide the country through these tough times) but the change in perspective has been refreshing. Strangely, life spent in increased isolation with decreased consumption feels healthier.

182// Progress

Feeling worse today than I did yesterday, but I expected it. I ate foods I knew would be irritating to my gut and temporarily exacerbated my ulcerative colitis flare. I know I shouldn’t have, but sometimes you have to live for the moment and the moment was pistachio ice cream.

I woke up early but couldn’t make it out of the house for my morning walk. It’s actually been a few days since I’ve gotten out and around the neighborhood and I’m really missing it. I’m also grappling with feelings of failure and anger. I’m angry that I’m still feeling so cruddy I can’t even get out for a walk around the block.

On top of all that, watching my wife get up and get moving and knowing both that I am in a way being left behind and worrying how she may feel at having to move on and to do things alone because I have to rest, stay in bed, and not push myself, hurts deeply.

It’s helped to remind myself that sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to do nothing. If these last few months have driven home any lesson it’s that, right? It’s helps to turn your attention from what you can’t do to doing what you can and what I can do is write, schedule some “scrapbook” posts, and read and getting to lose hours to just these three small things has turned my whole outlook around.

I made a lot of progress this evening on the lengthy and unwieldy post I’d started and lost control of and then began to avoid over these last few months. For a moment I was back in my old groove where the words and emotions flow freely, where the path to the end is clear, where I know I am doing what I was made for, even if I’m not always a very confident or competent.

I do my best work when none of that matters. I don’t mean best as in happy. Writing is almost always a purely cathartic exercise for me and I feel best when something deep, painful, and or meaningful has been pulled up, examined, expressed, and expelled. That is my measure of good for now.

Currently // June 2020: Dire Predictions and Unpleasant Truths

“Words of Emancipation didn’t arrive until the middle of June so they called it Juneteenth. So that was it, the night of Juneteenth celebration, his mind went on. The celebration of a gaudy illusion.” 

― Ralph EllisonJuneteenth

After the past three months of uncertainty, change, and fear I had hoped to settle into a new normalcy this June. Covid-19 cases seemed on the decline. I had returned to work. The precautions and the masks were quickly becoming habits. I was starting to feel safe and secure again. I was daring to feel proud that the world had grown more connected and empowered as we came together to face the pandemic and keep one another safe. Sadly, that new normal, that sense of safety, and that faith in humanity were short lived.

Covid-19 cases are back on the rise again and every day I see videos of people protesting stay at home mandates and refusing to wear masks that keep us all safe. I dealt with my own incident of indignation as a fellow employee in a CPR class I was teaching spit near me in retaliation for being asked to comply with precautions in response to the pandemic.

And as if the pandemic weren’t enough, police officers all over the country continued to brutalize protesters and murder POC in what could have been routine stops if any of them were trained in deescalation and possessed an ounce of self-awareness. They’ve learned nothing—listened to nothing!

The President continues to exacerbate every level of our problems and offers no reason for hope or words of wisdom to sooth or inspire the country he ought to be leading through these crises. The country grows further divided as the Left moves further left and the Right embraces and openly enforces old world systems of classism, racism, and sexism to hold on to power.

Instead of stability June brought only more uncertainty and anger, but none of it has been in vain. Change is happening all over the country and inside each of us and so much of that change is for the better and, slowly, slowly, I’m learning to not only accept, but to embrace and demand that change in others and in myself. This year has been a wild, frightful and wonderful ride and we are only halfway through it!

Working for a school district means July is another kind of New Year for me. This second beginning brings dire predictions and unpleasant truths, sure, but I’m committed to moving forward by focusing on one day at a time, one thing I can control at a time, one emotion at a time. I have a plan, a project, and so much to learn and say before another six months roll by. I’m excited to begin again…

but before I do, here’s what I am currently:

Writing one essay a week. With the second half of the year comes the perfect time to start a new project. This project has been a long-time dream of mine and it seems life, and work, and illness, self-doubt, and laziness keep on getting in the way, but I’m determined to start. My first piece goes up this Thursday and, unless extraordinary circumstances prohibit, every Thursday thereafter.

Making new collage pieces and poems, or at least I hope to. I have a new clean setup in my “creativity room” with a new full length self healing cutting mat and plenty of material to work with. It’s been months since I last held an X-Acto knife and lost myself in the precise cutting of words and images and remix them into something all my own.

Planning for more coronavirus surges and shut downs. The numbers are already up in many states and though Colorado is holding steady, but I have a feeling the mistakes of the Federal Government and surrounding states can’t be kept beyond the boarders. A springtime quarantine was bad enough. It’ll take emotional preparation and work to ready for one in the winter.

Reading Penguin Little Black Classics. There are 80 books in the set and each one is less than 60 pages long. There’s quite an assortment to the collection including short stories, poetry collections, essays, and excerpts. Some are fantastic, some are boring, but each is a new perspective, a piece of history, and satisfying to finish either way. In addition, I was able to find a few free books on police violence and racial inequality from Verso Books.

Watching the entire Avatar: The Last Airbender series on Netflix, followed by Legend of Korra on CBS All Access. I hate to add a new subscription service, but I could not move on without watching both. Luckily CBS comes with the new Twilight Zone series and with Jordan Peele narrating plus just the right amount of nostalgic elements, make the series is well worth the price.

Learning Spanish on Duolingo, but not much more. Going back to work meant a lot had to be put on the back burner and free courses had to be put off. I’m looking for new ways to return to the pleasure of self-education. I’ve started scheduling TV-free nights throughout the week. Some of that time is for writing, but some is for taking a few courses. I’m looking forward to finishing The Science of Well-Being and starting Race and Cultural Diversity in American Life and History.

Anticipating some time in the mountains away from the city, from the news, from social media, and as far from the pandemic as I can manage. My wife and I are celebrating our first wedding anniversary in a luxury tent enjoying gourmet farm to table meals and complimentary wine tasting. I’m looking forward to new hiking trails and breathtaking views.

Reflecting on all the things I never learned. I’m a queer woman of color, but I’m also light-skinned and I’ve had the privilege of an accepting family, workplace, and community. I was raised by a white woman and though she did her best to talk about race with us, I still inherited her innate privilege of ignorance. I’m learning how much I never learned because of what she could never really know.

Fearing the near future, still. Each month brings its own fresh horror, but each is proving worse than the last and we are but halfway through the year. I worry what I will be typing here in 30 day’s time, in 60 days? I’m terrified of the next 90 days.I’m afraid of more and more death. I’m afraid of getting sick. I’m afraid of four more years like the last.

Hating the at times muted, at times contradictory, and always damaging response from the current White House administration to every crisis this country has faced since 2016. Whenever the president speaks he only divides us further and pushes us closer to violence and self-destruction. I’ve never been the most patriotic citizen, but seeing my country in such a shameful state saddens me.

Loving the hard truth telling I see happening in the feeds of every social media platform I visit. I love the way communities have come together to speak up, protect each other, educate each other, and show love. I love the hope I feel despite all the suffering. I love the fearlessness in the demands for justice. I love the ambition and imagination I see in the calls for change.

Needing some energy! Having a chronic illness means my body is always either actively destroying itself or trying to heal itself. It means every day half or more of my energy stores are reallocated, leaving little left for loved ones and personal pursuits. I’m tired of being tired and I’m furious at the unfairness of it all. I’m low from being a burden and ashamed at how one-sided my relationships inevitably become. Just a little more energy would go such a long way…

Hoping that the side of the righteous, the compassionate, the oppressed, and the deserving gain real ground against racism, individualism, capitalism, and hatred in all its forms in the coming months. All around me I see opportunities to for real change and long overdue righting. It’s time we stop thinking in such small ways and moving so incrementally. It’s time lives are made better. It’s time lives were saved.

The world is always going to go on changing, it’s up to each of us to do our part to guide that change toward dignity and justice. I hope I see so much more change in my lifetime. Now is the time!

So, yeah, all in all, June was an enlightening month. I faced some ugly truths about the world, about people, and about myself. I saw the worst in us and I saw the best, the brightest, and the most beautiful too. I’m afraid of what July might bring, but I’m so very excited too. I’m ready to endure anything if it means changing the world toward a happier, more hopeful, and connect place.

But what about you? Have you found a sense of normalcy? Are you heading back out to work and open restaurants? Are you at least wearing a mask? Have you joined any protests, signed petitions, or contacted your state and local governments lately?

Let me know in the comments.

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

Photo by Joe Yates on Unsplash

181// Try First

I woke up feeling a little down on myself this morning. It happens from time to time and most days like this I just crawl back into bed and give up any plans or aspirations until tomorrow, but I was determined to try something new today. I don’t want to waste this time I have away from work on something so paltry as self-pity.

So, I got up and helped my wife get ready for work to keep from crawling back under the covers and when she left made a deal with myself. I promised to try my best today first then if I really couldn’t do it, if I really needed to crawl back under the covers and away from the world, if the best course turned out to be to give it up until tomorrow, I could do that without a shred of guilt, but I had to try first.

I took frequent breaks to check in with myself and slowly, with the help of housework, political podcasts, and some of my favorite playlists, my mood slowly improved. I started to like myself again, to feel motivated again, to feel cheerful again. I’d hoped to get more writing done, but getting my goals for the week spelled out and knocking one or two items off of my to-do list was more than I’d manage most days like this and the day isn’t at all over.

I’m getting to the end of my energy and willpower and if it weren’t for an All Staff Webinar from the superintendent coming up this afternoon I’d be back in bed already. I’ve been looking forward to this update and, hopefully, more concrete answers about the future of the school district and my job.

The webinar this afternoon was filled with more dire projections and unpleasant truths. COVID has negatively impacted school district budgets all over the country, and cuts need to be made across the board, but I happen to work for a very large district that is used to plenty of money and offerings for students and families. That means that, though other districts are making the same proposed cuts as us, their populations aren’t as spoiled and so they won’t face the same outcry and opposition that we will.

The budget recommendation that hit closest to home was the prospect that if COVID cases keep rising, or get worse later over the winter months, they may be forced to place employees at my level on leave without pay. I know I’m lucky to have gotten paid for the time I was off between March and May, but this uncertainty is already causing me stress. I’m almost certain we will shut down again before the end of next year, I just won’t know when or for how long, or how we will cope.

The best I can do right now is save money, get ready to find supplemental work at a moment’s notice, and not dwell in worry or on what I can’t control. All I can hope is that my fellow countrymen do what is necessary to slow the spread and ensure we can keep more people healthy and working in the future.

180// Lean In

A Sunday before a Monday away from work is a strange kind of day. I feel free and at peace, on the surface, knowing that tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that…are my own, but the sense of urgency, the panic and dread, are still bubbling deep down out of pure habit.

I’m not sure how to get rid of the apprehension, so I figured it’s better to embrace it and get a few things done rather than to try to avoid it.

Avoidance, I’m learning, is not a very targeted life strategy. All emotions and actions are interconnected and to try to avoid one dampens whole swaths of your energy, focus, motivation, emotion, and willpower. It’s much better to lean in. I’d like that to my mantra for the rest of the year, lean in.

I don’t mean it as in to “seize opportunity”. This isn’t about productivity or production. This isn’t about power, money, careers, or forging a path to the top, or through a glass ceiling straight to the American Dream.

I mean “lean in,” as in: “to feel fully and then move forward from or with the experience and emotion.” I mean it as in “opposed to avoidance.” I mean as in: “to face that which you find hardest to face and in doing so find a way forward by force or by flow.” I mean it as in: “confrontation and acceptance, learning and growth with productivity as little more than a by-product and certainly not necessary or even desirable.”

179// No Pressure

Feeling better today, in some ways, a little worse in others. I can tell I’m slowly coming back from this UC flare but while some parts of my gut are healed other parts are still very inflamed and the pain though more localized is much sharper. Still, I’m happy to see any positive signs at all and I’m committed to continuing to rest, to take care of myself, and to go on getting better and better.

I had planned to spend time with my dad and my brother today, but that has been cancelled. It’s fine. I’d rather be home right now anyway, but now I’m unsure what to do with myself. I know what I should do: write, but I don’t know how to get in the right headspace when I feel so cruddy. I can manage a paragraph or two, I suppose. I think that’s all, and more than enough, I can ask of myself right now.

I could also read. I’ve fallen far behind where I should be or my reading goals this year and I desperately need to catch up. I have plenty of Penguin Little Black Classics to go and some new ebooks I downloaded for free from Verso books. I’m sure I could get through one or two of the former and make real progress through one of the later.

The main thing is there is no pressure today. A day off does nothing good for you if all you think about is what you should be doing instead. Then you either dwell on the guilt or avoid it by losing yourself in social media or mindless TV. When you get rid of the guilt, you are free to do what really feels good and right, not what helps you escape. That’s what today will be. No obligations and no guilt. Just what I really want to do.

178// Home Alone

It’s the first day of my brief break from work and of course all of my plans have already been stalled or derailed. This ulcerative colitis flare is causing me a lot of pain and making concentration hard to maintain, but reminding myself that laying down for a few minutes doesn’t mean the day is over. I have to keep getting back up and trying. The system is working so far but I know soon 10 or 15 minutes won’t be enough and I’ll need an hour or so away from my desk and probably a good nap.

It feels good to have the house to myself for a while. Lately I’ve been working longer hours than my wife, leaving before her and coming home later too. I love her but everyone needs time alone with themselves and their thoughts. On days like this I am always struck by how much I have changed in relation to myself. I used to hate to be alone with my thoughts. I didn’t like myself and the thoughts and feelings I was forced to face when no one was around distressed me greatly.

I still find myself rather frustrating and annoying at times, but underneath it all I’ve learned to love myself these past few years. I’m interested in what I think and feel and I’m eager to get to know who I am without other people around to please or compare myself too. I feel peaceful when I am alone now. I feel safe.

177// I Can’t Hide From It

It’s been a while since I’ve been here. I’ve been struggling to find the energy, the motivation, the focus, the want to do anything but work and sleep and scroll. Each morning I begin anew, I think, and each afternoon every goal, every plan, every to-do item flies out of my head and I lose hours to the void both growing from inside me and crushing me from without.

Each night I sit with the same mistakes and regrets and make the same promises and threaten the same consequences to myself only to wake the next day and find nothing changed. I thought it was a matter of willpower, but I have none at all to make a stand with. I thought it was the fatigue and though that certainly plays a role; it is not the only thing wrong.

The truth I’m just not myself anymore. In this volatile and rapidly changing world, I have been swept, driven, dragged along so far, and at such speed from who I was—who we all were—that I hardly recognize myself or the world. A lot of what has changed both inside and out has been good. So much gives me hope, but so much has terrified me and broken my heart too.

All that change was too much at once and in the midst of it all, I lost my footing. Now I’m disoriented. I’m ungrounded. I’m unsteady. I’m powerless and immobilized.

Covid-19 has been bad enough, but the constant barrage of vivid suffering and searing anger being broadcast across all platforms and outlets is more than I can process. I’ve tried to escape it. I’ve tried to face it from a place of peace and safety. I’ve tried to segment my anger and pain from my day-to-day life, and I’ve utterly failed.

Last night I read the transcript of Elijah McClain’s arrest last August. I remember this case from the news when it happened, but there was no audio released to the public then. Hearing the pain and fear in this young man’s voice and reading the kind words he spoke to officers even as he struggled to breathe shattered me entirely. I cried for him. I thought of loved ones who look like him, who are different like him, who might one day be stopped by officers for no reason other than for being Black and different just like him. I cried for them too. I cried for all of us. I’m tired. I’m hurt. I’m angry, and still, I am so, so hopeful.

I’ve realized that I can’t hide from the world. I can’t plant my feet and live in an unchanging bubble within the chaos. I’m a citizen of the world and there is no separation between all of it and me. I am made from it and it is made from me, and you, and all of us everywhere and because of that I have a responsibility, if nothing else, to stay connected, to feel with all of you.

To that end I’d like to try again to use my tiny power and platform to say their names, to tell their stories, to shine light where darkness has given rise to cruelty. This is my place to cry, to shout, to argue, to demand, to grow, to change too.

We have to learn to hurt in the open, together. We have to learn to be comfortable with what is uncomfortable. We have to lean into change because the truth is, the faster we change, and the more fiercely we change, the more lives we can save.

Now, I am getting used to change. I am embracing change. I am demanding change. To be part of the world is to accept that each day will carry with it some new happiness, hope, or heartbreak, but this is the joy of being alive, of being human, of healing, and, ultimately, of loving.

170// Learning

I spent the early morning learning about the administrative side of CPR instruction once again, only this time I’m learning by doing. It’s so cool to know there will be people walking around with little certification cards in their wallets with my name. It’s very cool to know one of those people might save a life one day.

The rest of the day’s meetings ran longer than I expected but they were good and, as so rarely happens, productive. By midday I was feeling a bit woozy. I hadn’t eaten anything beforehand and though it was somewhat intentional I hadn’t meant to go so long without food.

For the past two days I have consumed my usual foods and calories but within a shorter time frame, moving breakfast up to after 10:00 AM and bringing dinner and dessert to before 7:00 PM at the latest. That comes out to about 15 hours spent consuming nothing but coffee and water.

I’m doing it to lose weight, but that isn’t the only reason. I’m still eating the same amount of food. I’ve just stopped grazing all day so my body has a chance to use up its excess energy reserves before I eat again. In addition to the weight loss benefits there the chance for my gut to rest between days. Increasing my ulcerative colitis medication dosage has helped, but even in a mild flare food is very irritating to the gut. By increasing the time between dinner and breakfast the next day, I can decrease that irritation and heal faster. At least, that’s my hope.