Currently // December 2021: Peak Unproductivity

It is December, and nobody asked if I was ready.

― Sarah Kay

The end of December, and 2021, find me satisfied in some ways and, admittedly, deeply disappointed in others. In my work and my relationships, my home and my hopes, so much progress has been made.

I feel leaps and bounds beyond where I was this time twelve months ago, but the anxieties and uncertainties are still weighing just as heavily. That isn’t even accounting for the griefs that hurt all the same and I fear may never diminish.

Still, December is only a month, not a year, and perhaps should be counted up alone.

It’s been a strange winter so far and this December is unlike any other. Normally, I’d be well into a seasonal depression. The end of December is a time of hopelessness, a time of bitter and biting cold that feels as though it will never end. I had expected to be struggling through that usual despair and fighting pandemic fears, but this winter has been kind and this December is among the happiest of my life.

Autumn settled in months ago and simply never left. It seems, sometimes our wishes come true, and, I’ve learned, sometimes when we get what we want we find we never really wanted what we thought we did. All month we’ve been well below snowfall averages and shockingly high of average temperatures. At first, it felt good, but as the autumn warmth wears on, I become increasingly disturbed. I never thought I’d say it, but I hope for snow soon, and lots of it!

The threat of Covid and the rise in gun violence across the city have me more afraid to leave the house than ever. I’m happy I took time away from work this holiday season to be home, with people who matter and doing the things that make me feel good. It’s necessary to shut out the world every once in a while.

A year of stress and fear cumulated to burnout in December and I have been running a peak unproductivity. Not that I have been doing nothing at all. Besides the holiday festivities spent in the company of friends and family, December has been a month of relaxing, reflecting, and reevaluating. You have to know what went wrong to do it differently next time, right?

I have plans for the turn of the year, much more modest and manageable expectations this time around. Politics and pandemics make it hard to focus and personal griefs have left me disoriented and directionless. This coming year I want to get back to basics and learn again who I am and what motivates me.

This year I’ll be giving more of my attention to the present rather than letting the confounding future paralyze me. I’ll let the past inform the future rather than dictate it. This year I’m giving space to the person I become day by day, hour by hour…

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

Writing all the time. I have come back to my focus by means of timers and stimulants, mindfulness, and a complete abandon of purpose. Letting go of grand goals has allowed me to feel joy in writing again. It’s easy to forget that writing is my passion and I do it for myself before anyone else.

Making entries, notes, lists, and records of my daily thoughts, discoveries, comings and goings. I have four notebooks now (a fifth if you count the new sketchbook) each with its own purpose. To aid in my memory and remind me of all the things that are important to me. These notebooks are an extension of my mind and they provide a path forward.

Planning for another self, my future self. She is often selfish. She loathes to concern herself with past wants. Still, the present must allow the future to be its own time. What does she owe me? My job is to give her all the tools and motivation I can, but she has to do what is best for her when the time comes. I am planning not to want the same things I want today.

Reading The Mirror of My Heart: A Thousand Years of Persian Poetry by Women translated by Dick Davis, Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert, All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks, and The Odyssey by Homer translated by Emily Wilson. That’s a lot of books, but it works for me. When I get bored, I can move to a different read rather than quitting altogether.

Watching a lot of shows that feel like guilty pleasures: Gossip Girl, Legacies, Evil, and A Discovery of Witches. I had a small Spiderman marathon and made it to the theater for No Way Home. It was genius and I highly recommend everyone see it. Matrix: Resurrections was everything I thought it would be and Don’t Look Up was a surprising discovery.

Learning about Human Behavioral Biology, from Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky, again, still. I haven’t been able to get past some of the more complicated lectures and I admit that when it got hard; I quit—a common pattern with me. I’m picking it up again today.

Anticipating a fresh start. I don’t believe the turn of the new year is any special time to start over. It’s only a time that we all start again together. Knowing you aren’t on the path alone makes the going easier. When you can’t be accountable to yourself, it helps to be accountable to others. I’m looking forward to sharing my start with you.

Reflecting on the last 12 months, of course. What else is there to think about come the last day of the year? I’m doing my best to hold on to all the good and let go of all the bad. I did some things right, that is the truth, and I like who I have become overall. That being said, I see a lot more clearly now what needs to change this time around.

Fearing what the next year will bring. We only ever plan for the best, but these past years have taught me there is as much unhappiness as there is happiness waiting just out of sight—oftentimes more. I’m afraid of the coming losses and the inevitable disappointments. I’m afraid of adding to my grief.

Hating capitalism. They say you get more conservative as I age, but the older I get, the more radical and socialist I feel. Life is just too precious for us to spend it laboring, producing, and fooling ourselves into thinking we are so individualistic. Meeting our basic needs universally makes happiness achievable for all.

Loving this feeling of contentment I have finally found. I have made a place that is truly a home. Home, I have learned, is only a place of safety. It is the safety you can make a life in. You can’t love, create, or change unless you feel safe. I wish I had known this sooner, but I am happy to know it now.

Needing more months like this. More months with more time in them. More chances to shake off expectations and obligations and get to what I truly need for myself. Other months have their days but those days are largely spent before I can even flip the calendar page. Decembers have whole weeks!

Hoping 2022 will be a little less painful than 2021, and a lot less than 2020. I’m hoping for less disappointment, less fear, less uncertainty. I’m hoping that everyone I love starts to find their footing. I’m hoping everyone in the world finds hope again, especially me.


All in all, despite the holiday stress and the end-of-year regrets, December was a good month and there was a lot of good in the year to look back on, too. I found time for my friends and family and for myself. I made time for celebrating and withdrawing, for looking back, and for looking forward.

But what about you? How did you spend the holidays? What has the weight of 2021 come to for you? What has the second year of the pandemic taken? What has it given back? Do you have someone to kiss tonight when the clock tricks 2022? Have you listed your resolutions yet?

Let me know in the comments.


348 // Still Here

I’m amazed at the way I have held on so far this week. That it’s only Tuesday should give you some idea of how physically and emotionally exhausted I am right now. The good news is the holiday shopping is just about finished and after this evening the shipping should be done too.

Until then, work isn’t demanding much from me, but the threat looms and makes it impossible to truly either work or relax fully. I don’t particularly want to work, but I feel guilty about not doing anything productive, so I try to do a little of both at once, but I’m not feeling satisfied either way. So, I set a timer on my watch and I’m just going to make myself type for the next 25 minutes and see where that gets me.

Outside of work, I’m trying to keep perspective. My wife and I are fine, but it always feels like we’re sitting at the center of a great and terrifying storm. All around us is chaos, an ever-present threat of destruction and annihilation. I can control the calm, but the storm is beyond me. Out there are other people’s problems, tragedies, and choices. Out there, the storm can sweep me away unless I stay centered myself.

I’m working on remembering that not all things are happening to me. Some things are simply happening to the people I love and while that is enough to break my heart, I have to be careful not to take what isn’t mine. Other people’s pain belongs to them. I have plenty of my own to attend to, anyway.

Outside of my circle, there has been more loss. We’ve had quite a few past and present coworkers and acquaintances pass away these past couple of years and I worry the circle is closing in. Death spirals in, you know? So far these losses have been at arm’s length. Not enough to grieve, but just enough to disturb the illusion and remind you of your mortality. Just enough to make me feel grateful, too.

I am still here.

341 // Nothing More Than Maybes

I woke sometime in the middle of the night and felt at ease, relaxed, happy even in the certainty that I was waking to a Saturday morning in which I had nothing more to do than all the nothing I wanted. I was deeply disappointed when just a few short hours after my alarm went off and I remembered it was only Tuesday and I have many more days left before I can claim any significant time as my own.

Still, today isn’t so bad. There have been plenty of disappointments and quite a few setbacks, but for some reason today, none of it is bothering me. I’m going with the flow and seizing as many moments as I can.

The cause of this great turnaround, and the depression that came before, I’m beginning to believe, are almost entirely hormonal. Last week I felt as if a switch was flipped inside my mind. At that moment, the world lost its wonder and I lost my interest, and this morning, suddenly, the light is back on.

I’ve only just begun to get an inkling of the pattern and I won’t be sure until I’ve tracked a few months more at least, but this inability to maintain focus and motivation may not be entirely preventable—or my fault.

Today I’m staying inside. The weather has taken a late but sudden turn toward winter and the bitter winds blow right through to my bones. If I keep out of the frigid air there is hope yet for my general mood. I’m lucky to work in an office where I can control the thermostat and even if others want it kept low, I keep a small space heater under my desk for emergencies.

The warmth makes it easy to stay in my seat and focus on organizing some of these notebook pages and paragraphs into publishable pieces. I’m working on some small goals for 2022. Not resolutions so much as hopes. As I age, I realize that those “best-laid plans” go awry much more than just often. I have also realized that the things we think we want—from ourselves, for life, from others—change all the time.

I simply won’t be the same person 12 months from now. I won’t want the same things I do today. So, no promises, only hopes. Nothing more than maybes.

317 // Mismatch

My emotions are all over the place today. My wife and I are heading up to the mountains this evening for a little photoshoot and finding the right outfit has been… difficult.

I don’t much talk about my gender or gender expression here but over the years I’ve become more and more comfortable with the term “non-binary” and “they/them” pronouns. I’ve always been a little masculine of center in the way that I dress though it’s only that way because truly androgynous clothes do not exist in easily accessible or affordable department stores.

That being said, I was assigned female at birth and this body is more feminine than my inner self would like. This means there never seem to be clothes that fit quite right or make me look quite the way I see myself when I close my eyes.

It’s distressing to have your outer self exist in such contrast to your inner self and if you’ve never experienced this mismatch of sex and gender, of body and culture, you cannot understand.

So, each special occasion is accompanied by a minor breakdown and a wife at a loss how to help. Nothing helps right now but time. Nothing will help in the long run but losing a little weight and even then I’ll never be quite what I want. There has to be a higher dose of acceptance and perhaps adding time and a budget line for tailoring.

This morning the world is a little rosier, despite the cloud cover. The gloom is forecasted to lift by morning’s ends and I expect a cup of strong coffee and a hot shower will lift my spirits. Deep down I am looking forward to the photography, and the mountains, and a beautiful time with my love. I can’t say I’m not looking forward to the end too and to a cold glass of wine on the couch with warm blankets and a movie to lose myself in.

Until then, smiles on and one foot in front of the other. Nothing is ever as bad or scary as you imagine.

316 // Long-Earned

It’s a long-earned early day home from work this Friday. The weather is nice but I’ve decided to stay in and catch up on some notes and fragments I’ve collected in notebooks and across app timelines. I’ve got a window full of sunshine and Flow State Radio playing on in the background. I’ve got my timer on and a big cup of coffee from the Moka pot. I’m ready to work.

It feels good to be back in my little space, somewhere I have been away from for far too long. The reasons are all so varied it’s hard to know where to begin. Any explanation is only an excuse. Then again, an explanation isn’t really owed, is it? All I will say is so much has changed, I am changed, and I am excited to fill you in and catch you up, little by little.

For now, I simply want to celebrate a whole week of being brave. For those who don’t know, I’ve long suffered from severe driving anxiety. It has hindered my independence, limited my opportunities, and devastated my self-esteem, but this week real progress was made!

My wife and I got a second car this month, and it has been just the push I need to push myself past my fear. Every day I wake with knots in my gut. I want to cry or vomit or both every time I sit behind the wheel, but this week I drove, anyway. I drove to and from work, home for lunch, to get gas, and even to get a flu shot! I have so many more places I plan to go as I slowly, slowly, slowly venture out of my comfort zone.

This may seem a small victory to those for whom driving is nothing to fear at all, but just imagine your greatest fear—heights? spiders? snakes? germs?—and having to face it multiple times a day. This is what I am going through. I have faced it but the truth is I’m still afraid and will be for a long time, maybe the rest of my life, but there is a seed of confidence that grows each time I prove I can do it.

For now, I’m focusing on the positive alone. I am feeling capable, strong, and fully human. I feel good about myself and that turns out to be the most important change of all.

Currently // October 2021

Take What is Offered

October is nature’s funeral month. Nature glories in death more than in life. The month of departure is more beautiful than the month of coming—October than May. Every green thing loves to die in bright colors.

― Henry Ward Beecher

There are warm days still but as the season waxes on they are growing fewer and farther between. It’d be easy to spend the season sulking, but that only leaves so much less for me to enjoy. No, it’s better to seize what warmth and sunshine that is left. Soak it up and save what you can through the dark months to come. October is teaching me gratitude.

It’s hard, but this year I really am trying to see October in a new light. Autumn has never been among my favorite seasons. Just as the worry of a thing is always worse than the thing itself, the cool breezes and color-changing trees are worse than the winter they warn of.

Instead, I’d like to think of Autumn as just another kind of Spring. Not a season of death, as it always feels to me, but another season of change. It’s best to accept the shortening days and the cooling nights. It’s better to marvel at the leaves and find warmth and safety inside rather than out. There can be good this fall but you have to take what is offered and not lament what is lost.

And the truth is, a lot was offered. Some big changes happened this month and nearly all of it was good, nearly all of it was earned. This Autumn certainly is a time of reaping the rewards of sacrifices and hard choices that were made month over month this past year. I’m grateful beyond measure for what is given.

With that being said I’m taking the time to prepare not for the death of a thing, but for reflection and strengthening. Like trees pulling chlorophyll from the leaves, I am consolidating my resources. I am growing hard and readying for the worst of the winter. I’m making improvements. I’m making repairs. I’m preparing for a long season with myself. This fall I am letting myself change.

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

Writing in my own space again. Our spare bedroom is slowly being turned back into my old office space again. It’s a slow process, but it has meant making it easy to get away from distraction and make some real progress on my writing goals. I’m looking forward to a new month of prolific output.

Making poems and pictures again. I haven’t posted much yet but I am finding new ways to be creative with Instagram again. Going through my old photos on my phone and giving them a monochromatic make-over has been deeply satisfying and with my desk space returned I’ve gotten my old tools out and readied to make more poems and collages again.

Planning a new newsletter adventure. I’ve got a template and the start of three drafts already going. It’s been a long time since I’ve sent one of my old letters but I’ve missed the more intimate space of inbox to inbox writing. It’s so much more freeing but also so much more terrifying than a blog or Twitter feed. Check it out, subscribe, and let me know what you think?

Reading All About Love by bell hooks. I had a good run of reading motivation back in August but since finishing The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, I’ve lost the drive again. Reading about trauma was draining and though I learned a lot about myself through it, it’s been hard to want to go back to such deep introspection.

Watching Y the Last Man, though news of its cancellation has left me somewhat subconsciously uninterested in finishing the season. Like many of you, I also binge-watched Squid Game on Netflix and found it both horrifying and exhilarating. My favorite film this month was Dune from Director Denis Villeneuve. I suspect the novel will be my next fiction read.

Learning about Human Behavioral Biology from Standford Professor Robert Sapolsky, still. I blew through the first videos quite quickly but I had read a couple of his books before watching. Unfortunately, I have been stuck on video 12 on Endocrinology. I think my issue is that Sapolsky does not teach this lecture himself and he’s the entire reason I’m interested at all.

Anticipating a year of big changes ahead of me. There has been reaping this harvest season sure, but the sowing is far from done. My wife and I are finally feeling like we are coming into the lives we’ve been meant to lead all along and though it’s taken us some time to arrive, on coming into ourselves we feel the timing feels right after all.

Reflecting on what it means to make meaning and whether this very human impulse serves us well at all. I’m sure it has its uses, but moving away from the pressure to have so much purpose all the time sounds freeing. I am reflecting on where the meaning I have made for my life or the purpose I hope to serve comes from. Are these my impulses, or impulses that my culture has imposed on me?

Fearing the uncomfortable feeling that comes with growth. I’m feeling well beyond ready, and I can even say I am excited too, but there are fears that are hard lost and I will have to fight through some of my worst and long-standing. I’m confident I can do it, but the little voice in the back of my mind that has only ever wanted to protect me has her doubts.

Hating how little the Democrats have been able to accomplish in the year since Biden’s election. I knew then Republicans would obstruct his every endeavor and I make no excuses for them, but I had no idea how much our own party would blockade the way. These are reasonable benefits we all should be fighting for like paid parental leave, free community college, or expanded healthcare coverage. What should our taxes be paying if not this?

Loving the resilience I have seen from the people who mean the most to me. It can be easy to judge another person’s position in life or to resent the hardships your family put you through but when you learn to look past your pain, you can see how hard it was for everyone. You can see how each person did the best they could given their pain too. It makes it easier to see the strength you come from. It makes it easier to love.

Needing help. I have healed quite a few of my old wounds just fine on my own over the years. That isn’t to imply it was easy, only that it was done. Recently I’ve accepted there was more damage done than I was perhaps was willing to admit and there is still a long way to go. These next steps are more than I can do on my own and though I’ve known that for a long time now, I admit the time has come to make the call.

Hoping to see a change soon in the fight against Covid-19. There are still people dying every day and there is still so much more we can all do. I’m hoping those who are hesitant on getting the vaccine are able to find the clarity they need and those who refuse to wear masks consider those who are vulnerable around them. I hope this winter will not bring the same level of loss we had over the last.


All in all, this October was a month of extremes. My family has seen some terrifying times these past weeks but found time for laughter and memory-making too. I worked more hours than I have in a long time, but found a whole week in which to rest and take time for me and my loved ones. I’ve been up. I’ve been down. I’ve been all over the place! I’ve been scared, but I’ve been oh so grateful too.

But what about you? What ups and downs have you been through this October? What did you choose for your Halloween costume? What new memories have you made? What old fears will you face? Are you ready for the stress of the holiday season?

Let me know in the comments.


301 // COVID Scares

The mornings are feeling rather frigid now. Increasingly they are frosty too. Autumn is well underway and I know soon it’s going to start feeling like winter long before the season’s calendar changes. The colors of Autumn are just past their prime now and the once vibrant leaves are dry and drooping. There is still beauty to be seen as they flutter from the tres in a flurry on every breeze. I’m trying to find ways to love the fall.

I woke this morning still not feeling quite like myself, but I’m a little more me than I was yesterday. There are further COVID scares at work and a coworker commenting to me on the minor outbreak confided in me that while she hope she wasn’t infected because it would disrupt operations, she kind of hoped she was because she could use the time off.

This is what I was talking about yesterday. It’s sad we have to hope for sickness, for this particular sickness just so that we might have a little time to rest, to reflect, to recover from the overwhelm and uncertainty of these past couple of years. We’ve all joked about faking a positive result but the jokes are sounding more and more serious all the time.

To be honest, I am scared of the rising cases and I am frustrated by the lack of transparency. I’m outraged by the relaxed rules for the vaccinated. Yes, I know that the chances of severe disease and spread are low, but almost all of us got vaccinated over 6 months ago and that means our immune response is weakening. There are breakthrough cases and some of the staff, not to mention the children, are still at risk.

A coworker’s daughter died from a COVID infection. She was the same age as me. I suppose this is what is freaking me out. I know the chances are I would survive, but I don’t like taking the risk. I don’t like risking my loved ones’ lives either, and for what? No one can seem to come up with a good reason, but we keep going out and risking our lives and each other’s lives all the same.

300 // The Bad News Too

The good news is, whatever I have, though it’s awful and nasty, at least isn’t Covid. My results came back yesterday evening and made it all that much easier to put my well-being second and come into work. It’s also the bad news too.

It felt good to take time away, to nurse myself, to heal in my own time. Being sick at work means pushing through, sucking it up, and prolonging it all. Part of me wishes it had been a mild Covid infection. Part of me knows it would have been easier that way. That got me thinking about how Covid—though tragic and terrifying—has no doubt been a good excuse for finally enforcing boundaries and putting ourselves first.

The shutdowns last year were the closest I could get to my ideal life. Even when I did return to the office lowered capacity meant half days and fewer coworkers in at once. The mask mandates and social distancing rules were what introverted dreams are made of. Even now Covid symptoms, exposures, and tests mean unquestioned time away from work.

It’s funny that sinus infections, the common cold, the flu, and many other communicable diseases are all held to such lower standards. It’s frustrating that I can protect others and care for myself if I have Covid but not if I have any other kind of sickness or infection that could present as much a risk to myself and the kids I serve. It doesn’t make sense that we haven’t been living like this all along!

The sad reason we haven’t is simply that we’ve gotten used to one kind of risk and not another. I would argue that all bouts with sickness should be held to the same standard. Ten days away from work in quarantine to rest away from people while we are contagious. I would say I should never have come in at all today and I would say some of the guilt is on me.

It’s on all of us who enforce such harmful norms and those of us who adhere.

The world should be different in this and so many more ways.

299 // That Old Dream

I’m home for the second day in a row with whatever head cold I’ve been unfortunate enough to contract. I felt awful when I woke up, but as the day wore on and I slipped in and out of sleep my symptoms slowly improved throughout the day—enough even for me to commit to heading into work tomorrow!

Of course, by now my symptoms are returning and I’m regretting all the assurances I made to my coworkers. More than regret I feel angry. Honestly, I want to be able to simply take the remainder of the week off to recover, without guilt, without all this pushing and prodding, without all the worry and shame.

If I’m really honest, I know deep down this anger isn’t really about just this week. It’s about having to work any day at all. It’s about the loss of my days, the loss of control, and the loss of my passion.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love my job. It’s easy, fulfilling, respectable, and sometimes even enjoyable, as far as jobs go. Over the years I have found some purpose in it and made the role critical to the long-term operation of my department. I’ve managed to muster enthusiasm for my day-to-day responsibilities but it’s never felt as satisfying as spending my days circling deeper subjects and following subtler leads around life.

I suppose that old dream of making something of myself, for myself, from myself is feeling a bit renewed. My day job allows me to make a difference but I want to leave a more personalized mark.

And when the time is right staying motivated and focused comes easy. Nothing has to be so forced. The right ideas, the right instincts, the right words come without having to be called forth. Time presents itself and space opens wide.