231 // Being Careful Again

According to reports, a cold front has moved in and though we’ve found some small relief from the oppressive heat, the clouds and cool mist blowing through these suburbs are sapping my energy all the same. It’s only 9:00 AM and I already need a nap.

At least the wildfire smoke has lifted. It’s nice to see the blue sky and to have safe air to breathe again. There were days there when my nose would not stop running, nor would my throat stop itching. I was miserable but I imagine those with asthma, other respiratory conditions, and long covid were feeling it worse than me.

I’m paying close attention to the news of vaccine boosters becoming available in the coming weeks to months. I check my email hoping for advice from my doctors or instructions to make appoints as they become available. As someone who has a chronic autoimmune condition and who is taking multiple medications to keep my system suppressed, losing vaccine efficacy could mean severe illness or reactivation of my symptoms. I have no doubt that I should have a booster, it’s only a matter of when.

For now, I’m doing my best to get back into a habit of wearing a mask, sanitizing, and washing my hands at regular intervals. For the most part, I have kept these habits, but with the school year starting up, social distancing is now nearly impossible. I’m no longer working sequestered in my tiny corner of an office. I’m out with my coworkers, with kids, and visiting schools and parents. I have to start being careful again.

We’ve had our first tornado warnings of the season this afternoon. Most years tornados touch down in the early summer, but it seems we’ve had fewer storms and longer stretches of blistering heat instead. I spent nearly 20 minutes in a high school hallway packed with kids waiting for the warning to clear. The threat of tornados passed, but the heavy rain, high winds, and large hail stuck around through the hour at least. Luckily, beyond soaked clothing and backpacks, the kids fared well and made it home fine.

I’m a bit shaken up, but not from fear. These storms have always awakened a strange excitement in me. I’ve never been able to describe exactly why I feel this way, but just seeing the thunderheads marching over the mountains and rolling east over the plains brings me to life. I swear I can sense the static linking the ground with the clouds, and I have a strong urge to get outside and feel the volatile air on my skin. I want the cool rain running down my arms and the hail beating my back. I want to touch lightning.

230 // 19th Year

Monday may have marked the first official day the students returned for the new school year, but due to a “phase-in” program we are running this year, today is the first day that all the students have ridden the bus together.

I got a chance to meet some new—or, new to me anyway—high schoolers with some unique challenges and absolutely delightful dispositions. I am grateful for my years of experience and the knowledge that a student’s description on paper rarely bears much resemblance to the student you meet in person. A child’s worst behavior is what you receive in hand but they will always strive to show you the best of themselves every day.

Stress levels continue to decline, but the long working hours are wearing on me. The only thing saving my sense of stability is knowing that the breaks are also getting longer. There will be more time for reading and writing and an easier time of motivating myself and staying focused.

I’m enjoying the chance to get some words down and some pages read, but I admit I’m anxious to get home. Today also marks the 19th year since my wife and I first chose each other and we have chosen each other again and again, every day since.

We’ve only been married for just over 2 years, so in a way this anniversary is even more meaningful than the one that marks our wedding. It marks all the time I wish we could have been married but legally couldn’t. It’s a reminder of how we found the courage to be ourselves, to love each other, and to build a life while being hated, over sexualized, and alienated.

We’ve come so far. Humanity has come even further and rather than lamenting the time lost, I’m grateful to live the dream so many before us fought for but never saw.

228 // Me-Ness

Today marks the first day of the new school year and we are beginning with just as much uncertainty as we had this time in 2020.

The pandemic continues to rage on and, as predicted, we are back to wearing masks and worrying over distances, particles, disinfectants, and breakthrough cases. I find comfort in knowing I’m vaccinated, but I’m also taking medications that suppress my immune system and there may be some chance that I am no longer protected against the virus. I’m hoping for a booster, but that determination will come from my medical team. I don’t get to decide.

Other than the pandemic and the stress that comes from being overworked in a place that is severely short-staffed, I’m doing ok. I’m happy. I’m feeling healthier—both mentally and physically—than I have in the last year. I have energy for more than just work and sleep and I am finally finding that sense of self and security that only comes with time and a maturing mind.

It’s amazing how rapidly the self-realizations are coming. It turns out I am made of both the me as I have always been and the me I am becoming anew every day.

It turns out there is a wide spectrum of “me-ness” I can be. It is not a matter of being more or less as with a gradient. It’s being different according to what day of the week it is, my mood, my memories, how much or how little pain I am in, how much and what kind of food I’ve eaten, how much I’ve slept, the weight work stress and of home strain, who I spoke to, what I have read, and if or how much I have written.

There are many me’s I can be and I can choose or I can let myself be swept away and surprised by which me might show up. Some days I like to have control, I like to choose, but some days, most days, it feels good to just be.

227 // The Problem

The Sunday blues have me feeling low, and my worries for the coming week are carrying me away. I’m having a hard time feeling the solid ground beneath my feet and putting one in front of the other is taking more energy than I have to give.

It’s all these little to do piling up. Some from home but more from work, and every time I check one off it seems two more getting added to the bottom. Prioritizing is difficult, but that is nothing new. I’ve always struggled to know where to begin and how exactly to end. I choose instead to do it all at once, moving from task to task as my mind wanders and my panic rises.

There will have to be a better way. I’m realizing that my goals can’t be met the way that I’ve been trying to meet them. The problem is with me, but not because of me. It’s just the way my mind works.

It comes down to personal flaws and obstacles that I’m only now coming to understand. It’s all the ways I turn out to be different and the false assumptions that I was the same. This ignorance may have hindered me. This ignorance has kept me from finding what works for me by not being able to see what doesn’t.

225 // Passive Healing

Happy Friday the 13th! Most people consider these days unlucky, but as someone who was born on a 13th, I’m fascinated by them. This year only has one such Friday, and this is it. We won’t see another until next May.

I’ve celebrated many a Friday the 13th in the past getting new tattoos when many shops offer deals and special “flash” for as low as $13 or $21, but not this year. I recently had my knees done and plan for more work in just a few short months so the urge isn’t strong and with Covid making appointment slots scarce I’d rather wait but I thought I’d at least share some of my past pieces with you:

This is one of the last easy and early Fridays I will have for the foreseeable future, and I am taking full advantage. I have just a few minor tasks today before I head back home and spend the rest of the afternoon writing. It’s been a long time since I could sit down and devote time to settling, organizing, and expressing my thoughts. It’s been some time since I felt like myself enough to even try.

But time is passing and with it, a kind of passive healing that allows for unconscious processing. I’m working through it even when I don’t know it, even when I’m working on other things, even when I think I’m stuck.

My hope is that there will be more time for active healing soon, but for now, I’m comforted by the idea that my mind and body know what to do. We never really stop taking care of ourselves. It’s instinct. Even at our most destructive, we are only ever trying to fill the voids and heal the wounds.

Looking ahead to the coming weeks, I see a lot of unknowns coming my way and unknowns always make me anxious. I’ve been practicing the art of mindfulness and staying in the present. Each day only has room for itself and I’ve long had a bad habit of overfilling them with the worries of years past and weeks to come. When you let each day be its own and save tomorrow for tomorrow and let the past stay passed, time lightens up. You lighten up and, suddenly, the load gets easier to carry.

219 // Decluttering My Mind

I’m up surprisingly early this morning. I enjoyed a late night with my wife watching movies and enjoying a couple glasses of wine and takeout from a favorite Indian restaurant.

We started with The Suicide Squad. It’s definitely a fun superhero movie, but there was quite a bit more gore than I had expected. For me, that made it better, others might have dissimilar tastes. Afterward we put on an old favorite: Minority Report. The premise of the film is good, but the visuals have not aged well.

This morning I’m doing light chores and catching up on new podcast episodes. I’ve got a large hot coffee on one side and an old sleeping cat on the other. I’m wedged into the corner of my big living room couch, waiting for my wife and our dog to come back from their morning walk. It’s a quiet morning. One I’ve been looking forward to all week.

There will be short errands to run soon, but I suspect that the afternoon will look a lot like this too. I’m hoping for a nap, more Indian food, more time with my wife, and more rest. I’m not talking about sleep exclusively. I’m talking about a mental break from all the stress in my life. I’m talking about real time spent decluttering my mind.

There are so many good thoughts and ideas hidden under the piles of obligations and to-dos, worries and traumas. It’s be nice to clear that all away and give space to the things that really interest me and bring me joy.

205 // Mindlessness

Spent most of the day lounging about and finding it hard to get up. Mindless TV has been running for hours keeping me mindless too. The urge was near impossible to fight, so I chose not to and gave myself a time limit instead. Mindlessness for the next hour and then no more.

By midafternoon I was up and heading to my niece’s 5th birthday party. My sister-in-law is working on building a party planning business and she does her best work for her kids. This year’s party was movie theater themed complete with a projector and concession stand with hot dogs, popcorn, and all the boxed candy favorites.

I had a good time overall, but it’s hard being going to these kid events when you are childless yourself. I sit awkwardly among the moms hearing them go on about pregnancy and early milestones, about the difficulties of the last one and the hopes for the next, all the while wondering how weird it is for you to be there and when would it be appropriate to leave.

It’s hard to relate to the lives they lead. Any comments or thoughts I add aren’t much welcome and any mention of my own difficulties or accomplishments are quickly dismissed. It isn’t their fault or mine, we’re all just traveling vastly different paths. I get it, but that doesn’t mean I like it.

The evening is better. I’m happy to be back with my wife and pets, my own little family in our own little home. Mindless TV is still running, but I’m so easily persuaded this time. I’ve chosen to read a little instead.

I’ve been so overwhelmed by how far behind I’ve fallen in my reading goals it’s taken months and months to begin again. The trick, I realized, is not to pick up the same book you keep putting down, but to pick up something new. I chose an old favorite with a new twist: The Odyssey, translated by Emily Wilson, the first woman to tackle the epic. The introduction alone has pulled me back into literature in a way no book has this past year.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow. After being on vacation there’s very little cleaning to do and having learned my lesson today I’m resolving not to let mindlessness tempt me so again.

204 // Back From Fantasy

It’s been a little while since I’ve been here, properly. I’ve been busy, as usual, not that business is ever any real excuse, but then I was off vacationing with my wife and I wanted to be present for her, and for me. I wanted to try being in the world rather than thinking about the world for a while and it turns out that’s exactly what I needed.

My wife and I were more than just vacationing. This past week marked our third wedding anniversary, and we chose New Orleans for this year’s celebrations and it was one of the most vibrant and wondrous experiences of my life.

We went looking for good food and rest, and that is exactly what we found. Both my wife and I are adventurous eaters. It’s one of the things I love most about her. We found duck, rabbit, chicken livers, all the oysters we could eat, and more together. When we weren’t eating we slept the rainy parts of the day away and lounged poolside with mimosas.

It was beautiful and even with the heat, the humidity, and the rain, I desperately want to go back. Maybe one day. Maybe one day I’ll make it there and never leave…

For now, I’m trying to work my way back from fantasy. The readjusting to real life, and work-life, has been jarring, and a bit depressing, but much of that is only the circumstances I returned to.

There was work stress well before we left, and it waited patiently for me to return. I had dreaded these last three days for the past month and I find myself feeling quite proud to have gotten through them. Next week will be the real test of my new calm and confidence. I’m stepping well outside of my comfort zone and taking on more than I ever have.

I have strong worries about my ability to do my job well, but I’m doing my best to push them out of my mind tonight. Tonight is time to rest. To ground myself a bit better. To find balance and make room for all the ways time away has changed me.

187 // Marking the Growth

The only thing worse than starting the workweek on a Monday is starting the workweek on a Tuesday. It’s an easy day at least and there is a real possibility it will be an early day too. At least I hope it will be. There’s a growing list of to-dos I’d love to check off and writing projects I’d like to make some progress on.

I was in meetings all morning and though meetings are never anyone’s favorite way to spend their time; I was at least among friends and left feeling more appreciated than I have in a long time. There are things I want to do better, and people whose respect and admiration I’ve yet to earn, but I know I have done my best and outperformed many of my peers, all while surviving one of the hardest years of my life.

My team was informed of big changes coming our way, including higher expectations and more involvement from upper management. I appreciate the advanced notice and I’m marking the growth I have undergone made clear by the calmness with which I took the news. My confidence is growing and some of that old spark I used to feel for my work is returning, ever so slowly but surely.

Too much of the afternoon was wasted with unnecessary chores and napping, as always, but I acknowledged the little voice in my head urging me to think, create, and learn on multiple occasions. A few words were typed and a few more read. It wasn’t enough, but it was better than most days and miles beyond none.

186 // An Extra Day

Well, I wasted another weekend on the couch but thankfully powers that existed long before me saw fit to make the day after the 4th of July an “observed” holiday. Meaning I got an extra day off from work and another chance at my weekend goals. But first, coffee!

We’ve spent these last days running ragged from one side of town to the other and back, trying to buy all our needs and wants for our upcoming vacation. I worry we’ve overdone it, but it’s the first trip my wife and I have taken in a very long time and the first time we’ve flown out of state together at all. We’re understandably excited and overzealous.

There is still a lot left to do, but I’ve in danger of pushing my body too far. It’s better to choose to rest now and be back on my feet tomorrow than to keep going until I’m forced to rest and I’m in pain for days. I’ve got a busy work week ahead and personal projects that have already fallen behind schedule. I can’t afford not to do nothing today.

Nothing, of course, still includes some light cleaning, meal prep, and scheduling the week. I’m looking over my planner, making lists, and counting the hours I have to work, write, and rest. They never equal out the way I wish them to, but I’m thankful to have enough to give both to others and to myself. Looking out through the month and the season, I feel a sense of sadness.

Summer is waning. There’s still much of it left, but not as much as I’d like or not enough of it I can use to explore the mountains, the city, or the night. I want more, but winter will make her way. I’m not ready for this time to end and I don’t know whether it’s better to pretend it never will or to keep the end ever in my mind?