259 // Soften

Woke up to another frigid fall morning, but all forecasts point to another scorching afternoon. I’m feeling good despite my late start and lazy bones. We’re on the downhill side of the week and the work and as we make our way to the weekend, there’s promise of more time to myself and a little space to think.

My pocket notebook has been filling fast these past days, but my larger ones—the journal and the planner—are languishing, unloved at home. I miss the surprising insights that come from such private expression and the chance to document the days before the nightly culling of mundane facts in favor of space and efficiency.

I keep saying to myself that I don’t have the time, but I know I do. I watched three episodes at least last night of Reservation Dogs and while the show was entertaining and certainly took my mind off the day, there is more I could have done. It’s not so much a drive to be productive, but a simple need to feel fulfilled.

When I reflect on how I spend my time, how I eat, the things I say, and all the things I don’t do, I feel more regret than pride. I wonder, who is that person? And why can’t she do the good thing, the right thing, the hard thing? I feel out of control as if I’m made of little more than a cobbling together of cravings and reflexes. I’m troubled by how little of who I am turns out to be my choice.

But I’d like to change. I’d like to be more aware. It starts with noticing the body. The way my physical self feels and moves. It starts with noticing my need, my hunger, my hurts. It takes slowing down and noting the position, posture, and proximity of my body to people and objects and moving toward or away with purpose.

Some takeaways so far: 1. I tend to tense rather than relax into a slouched posture. 2. The muscles of my lower abdomen clench when I am stressed the way others might in the jaw or shoulders. 3. I hold my breath often as if I am waiting for something—or bracing for a blow—that never comes.

Forcing the shoulders back, the spine straight, and taking a deep breath helps relax the gut and soften the disposition.

258 // Peripheral

The season is settling in. This morning felt like the coldest one yet and though the afternoon’s temperatures are still rising above 80 degrees, I think it’s time to change my wardrobe over to long pants and sleeves.

This week continues to strain, but after today I’ll have made it halfway and the worst will be behind me. I hope that by Friday my workweek will relax and I can focus on my home and family and the next tasks and to-dos I need to tackle.

I’m looking forward to a few days of rest next week and doing a whole lot of nothing the weekend after.

One thing going well and my only source of fulfillment lately is reading. I’ve delved back into The Odyssey and The Body Keeps the Score.

The former is a more recent translation than the previous version I read and I’ve had to adjust to a simpler and more relaxed telling. At first, it turned me off, but keeping in mind Emily Wilson’s reasoning for the wording she chose has helped to see the epic from her point of view and glean something new from it. It’s got me thinking about what it means to be a morally good person vs a successful and powerful person. In what ways are those two things at odds and how has the ideal version of each changed through the ages?

As for the latter, I had to take a break. It turns out that reading about trauma and thinking about your own past without leaving time to process can leave the mind and body too engrossed in remembering and worrying to engage with others or get a good night’s sleep. I’ve learned there is a lot left to notice and to learn about myself. There is a lot left to heal and more I may miss without having ever known of the gap.

A little time away and a chance to lose myself in physical labor has seen me back to calm and I’ve dipped my toes back in. I’m ready to slip into the shallow end, with my feet finding the bottom and the past firmly in my peripheral vision.

256 // Big Courage

The morning started out rough but slowly, slowly, the day, and my mood along with it, is improving. Much of what I felt anxious about has resolved and the rest is turning out not to be as bad as my gut felt it would be. The universe is ordered. Everything will be okay.

The summer is subtly waning. I can feel it through to my bones. The drive to work and the drive out on the routes are getting darker day by day and the midday takes longer to warm. Each evening the chill blows in earlier and I drowsiness takes me over as the sun sets. By the next morning, the cold has crept into the house and as I struggle to pull myself from the warm bed, I wonder if it’s time yet to turn on the furnace.

I’m thankful for the end of this past weekend and eager for the end of the next too.

Between the many birthdays, appointments, social engagements, errands, projects, and long work hours, my wife and I are feeling absolutely exhausted, but this shared suffering is bringing us closer than ever and we’re absolutely in love too. The paradox of love. When you have all the time together you want, you want to work on other things, and when you don’t have the time, all you want is each other.

Every day that passes brings a deep relief and increased self-worth as I accomplish again and again all that I feared I will fail. Big goals are being met and that takes big courage too. I’m grateful to find I have it in me after all.

252 // Absorbed

All year I have struggled to read through even a few pages at a time of the books marked for this year, but these past few days I’ve been completely absorbed by The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk. I suppose I have always had an affinity for these kinds of books, the ones that put into words what I have been trying my whole life through blogs and journals to describe. This book, in just the first few chapters, has given me more words than any book before.

I’ve been on a journey to discover how exactly I survived so much and how I have been lastingly changed by both my traumas and my responses. The healing in many ways has been as lonely, confusing, and painful as the hurting, and it isn’t over yet. It isn’t ever over.

Acceptance has gotten me far and by simple accident and incredible chance I was able to find safe people and create safe spaces to reboot and reconnect the parts of myself that were utterly obliterated. If I didn’t know better, I would believe miracles existed.

The more I am absorbed by this reading, the more reabsorbed I become with writing. My pocket notebook is back in hand and the pages are filling with insight and hope. This little black book is now at least half-filled with fragments of perspective and reflection, and my hope has always been that these pieces will become a larger body of work one day.

Beyond the self-discovery and the new age of healing, and my renewed ability to wordsmith, I’ve relearned that the key to reading fervently is by finding books that speak to me rather than forcing myself through books I think I should read. Finding books that you are ready for isn’t easy. You stumble upon them and through them realize you needed them. I’m revisiting the advice of Austin Kleon that I fought so hard to accept: “Quit reading books you don’t like.”

I want to read books that I don’t like so I fight and fight and fight to finish them, but maybe putting a book down doesn’t have to mean putting it down forever. The book might not be for me today, but tomorrow? Next week? In a year? Maybe. Put down books you don’t like, but pick them back up again when you become the version of yourself that needs them.

244 // That Old Enthusiasm

We’re seeing a small drop in temperatures and we’re promised the trend will last through the end of the week. Downtime is decreased today as I’m taking on a longer route for the afternoon and spent the morning back in the dentist’s chair receiving a temporary crown.

The procedure went well, better than the root canal for sure though still not as “painless” as they try to convince you it will be. My bite is no more comfortable and my anxiety no more eased, though I’m still grateful for the ability and opportunity to save my teeth. There are a few more that need work, but the fire is out and pain no longer dominates my day.

I’m feeling a bit better about the rising Covid threat. The mask mandate has been reinstated for all of our students and staff, and I’m relieved. It’s nice to work for a district that believes in science and takes the health of the community it serves seriously. It’s less stressful for someone like me whose immune system is not only overactive but kept cooled by medication with a myriad of side effects. My vulnerability to Covid is in question, but I’m at ease in the workplace.

Writing is slow going, obviously, but I assure you a paragraph or two was written. I’m proud of myself and I’m determined to keep the ideas flowing and the momentum going. My pocket notebook is close at hand and the pages are getting filled a few at a time. Every article I read, every conversation I have, every song and silence I hear is a spark.

Something is changing. I’m finding a little of that old enthusiasm I used to feel. I’m coming into the prime of a new age. I can feel it.

243 // Looking Up From Here

The workweek is moving right along and though my jaw is still sore and my tooth still bothersome, I’m miles away from where I was just under a week ago and grateful beyond words. I’m down to a low, dull throb and that can be turned down to nearly normal with just a little Tylenol, a little ibuprofen, and a big cup of cold brew.

The route I’ve been on has some significant challenges that at first felt small and temporary but seem to be increasing in intensity day by day. I worry about what will happen in a week’s time, or even in a month. We have an unsafe situation and it’s only going to go on getting progressively more volatile until someone is seriously hurt and chances are that someone will be me.

I’ve had enough experience to know that you cannot wait out certain behaviors. They have to be addressed for the person in crisis, for the others involved, and for yourself. I stood my ground, advocated for my kids and it looks like I may have convinced the powers that be to make the changes needed to keep everyone safe and, just as importantly, happy.

The rest of the afternoon is looking up from here. I have a busy day ahead, and a busy week beyond, but there is some good on the way too. I’m looking forward to tomorrow when I will finally get a proper crown on this tooth and this soreness dissipates, and beyond that, there is a nice, long four-day weekend to relax and heal in.

The only thing keeping me down now is the lack of progress I’ve made with writing. Some of it is my fault, but a lot was out of my hands. Great strides were being made, and just as I was on my way to getting a little more organized and on the cusp of getting down to work, pain and fatigue put me off track. Now I’m stuck catching up instead of starting anew. I’ll get there, I just can’t give up. I can’t lose focus, which has been the tendency of the past. I’m determined it stay a bad habit I used to have.

Currently // August 2021: Settling Down and Settling In

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

― William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Let me know in the comments.


241 // Almost Unbearable

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

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

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

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

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

236 // Highest Priority

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

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

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

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

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

235 // Waves of Uncertainty

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

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

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

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

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

The digital is for the future.

The analog is for the past.