216 // Trying on Other Lives

I’ve been away from my life for a time now. I’ve been busy trying on other lives, other anxieties, and other pleasures. I’ve spent time remembering the people I might have been and forgetting all the reasons why I’m not.

All that is to say I have had a long summer of hard work, delightful travels, and exhilarating adventures but the summer is winding down now, though with this blazing heat you might never know it, and something is calling me back to reality—my reality. It turns out that all those other lives aren’t meant for me. They are only costumes to slip in and out of for a bit of excitement and spectacle. I hope to slip into others still next summer and every year after.

I’ve begun to think of my life as a cycle of seasons, and the summer sun has always beckoned me out and away from myself. I am a citizen of the world and in love with all of humanity. I want to be where the people are and I want to want all the same things they do. The season is for soaking up the experience of living and shoring up enough stimulation to carry me through the dull and dreary winter.

With the school year beginning again in just over a week, and my work schedule forcing me back to regular and routine, I find myself returning to the internal and the intellectual. I’ve, unprompted and quite by surprise, picked up reading again and rummaged and rooted through desk drawers for notebooks that have been buried since spring.

Life is a cycle of seasons, a going out and a returning to the self with a clearer understanding and a deeper love and appreciation not for who I dreamt I might be, but for who I am only just learning that I really am. You have to see for yourself that who you already are is the best version of yourself there is. It’s the long way to self-love, but it is the most fun you can have while healing.

189 // Dogged Days

I’m spending the day at home after a long bout with a tension headache turned migraine overnight. I’m feeling better now, but without a good night’s sleep, I simply wouldn’t make it through the work day. Worse still, without rest, I might risk the pain returning.

I’m up now and trying to write while I have some time. Sadly, as I have learned many times over, the want isn’t enough to bring the right words forth. I can focus, but I can’t find clarity. I can type, but my fingers won’t settle on a subject.

So, I’m doing what I always do when I can’t find the words inside. I’m searching for other people’s words instead. When there isn’t a path you can see, there are always rabbit holes to fall into and many can lead to the most surprising places. That’s the beauty and the bane of the internet. The trick, of course, exploring mindfully, rather than running where the algorithms lead.

Austin Kleon’s newsletter is always insightful and inspiring. I’m ashamed to say that I never knew that the term “Dog Days” referred to a specific time of year, and I certainly had no idea where the name originated.

The term refers to the rising of the star Sirius though and the time period between July 3rd and mid-August. These dates may or may not coincide with the appearance of the “Dog Star” but are often associated with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.”

This time of year has always been my favorite, and it feels right to finally have a name for these days of dogged heat, for lapping up the long hours of sunlight, for the bark and bite of thunder and lightning every afternoon, for the bite of the hand that feeds when the body meets extremes, for the bite from a lover while the rain batters the windowpanes, for the grief that grows as each day passes but gives way, always, to anticipation as the time of fallow nears its end.

There are different ways to work for every part of the year and, I wonder, what kind of work is best done when it’s too hot to move or too beautiful out to force yourself in?

144 // What We Will Live With

There isn’t anything left to say. My hope has waned to nearly nothing, and now I must cope with what was once shock and indignation but has grown and spread with each tragedy into an overwhelming rage I worry I may lose hold of.

It isn’t just the news of 19 children killed today, or even the mass shootings that happened only last week, or the babies that we have no formula for, or the withering rights of women, or the pandemic we are pretending never happened, or just ended, or both, or the wages in free fall and the masses drowning under the cost of living, or even the threat of war.

More than all that—and wouldn’t all that be enough?—it’s the resounding and remorseless silence I can’t stand. I’m not sure if my sanity is slipping, or if I am among the few left who can still think clearly. I feel trapped between what I know is right and what the utter evil I am forced to live with.

It is absurd to think we can reconcile the carnage on our screens and the callousness of our leaders and their supporters, who have measured what a life is worth and judged each a mere trifle. It’s all utterly absurd! I didn’t think we would let it happen again, and now there is nowhere left to put my grief. And mine isn’t even much! Don’t ask me to fathom what those parents are going through, and all those children…

How can I sleep tonight? How will anyone ever again?

But the terrible truth is I will, and tomorrow I will go to work, and in a week I, like much of the American public, will simply forget—while we can. What else can I do? How else can we live? What does that say about me? What does that say about us all?

The worst thing about human beings is not what we will do, but what we will live with.

123 // A Way of Living

The rain is waning, and the breaks between clouds are growing. The wind is warmer, but a chill is forecasted to stick around through Thursday. My mood and motivation never fair well through these grey days, and the longer they linger, the lower I sink. I’m trying to focus on the sun. I soak it up when I can see it and I remind myself that even when I cannot see it; it is there, trying to warm us.

It’s a strange morning. I don’t feel quite like myself. This isn’t the result of the grey days. I know myself even when I’m down. This is something else. I am not anxious, or angry, or even especially anti-social. I am only uncomfortable. My body won’t sit or shift right. My normal routine feels foreign. I feel out of place, even in my skin. I feel unwelcome in places I am most often found.

I think this feeling is an internal sense being confused with an external cause. The cause is being uneasy inside myself, not being unwanted by the world. Somewhere, a disconnect has occurred.

Simply put, the way I would like to live and move through life is incompatible with the daily shifting of expectations and obligations. I am resistant to change and change is all I seem to face. The problem is that the last thing I want to change is who I am but not changing risks living in perpetual resentment of the people that need me and the system that keeps us all needing.

I don’t mean to be so melodramatic. I only have to figure out a new way to do all the things I want to do. I only have to rethink these assumptions about when and where I do my best work and what a radically different way of organizing my day would look like.

The truth is, I am capable of being flexible under the right conditions, but it is up to me to cultivate those conditions. A schedule is nice, but a schedule isn’t static. Time here can be exchanged for time there. The trick is to watch the columns and keep the weight balanced. Move a bit of personal time to work time now, move a little back later. That’s all.

That’s all. So why is my chest so tight and my mood so glum? Why am I so angry and why is it so hard to resist the urge to pack up only my most beloved belongings to go live and work and write deep in the woods, high on a mountain, or on a broad beach next to the open and beating ocean?

Perhaps it’s the fluorescent lighting, or these uncomfortable chairs, or my sinking and shriveling heart. Perhaps it is something in me that remembers what we all used to be.

That ancient and wild one does not recognize the meaning of a spreadsheet, cannot fathom these subtle and serious social structures, cannot stand these suffocating walls. Something in me will not stop longing for a kind of freedom no human has known for eons. I don’t speak of a kind of freedom that was more or less, only the kind that meant the sun on my skin and a way of living that felt closer to life.

122 // Any Season at Any Time

Usually, I’m bright and bushy-tailed on Monday mornings, but I didn’t sleep all that well last night.

We had our first real thunderstorm of the season roll in through the evening and by the middle of the night; the rain was in sheets and thunder cracked so loudly that every window pane shook in its frame. I love the sounds of spring storms, but knowing as soon as I drifted off, another bolt would light up the room and send its boom through the city made it hard to relax.

The thunder eventually settled, but the rain never stopped. This morning the temperatures are slipping and rain is turning to fat flakes of heavy snow.

I feel like people in other cities think their weather is unpredictable, but they must not have spent a season along the front range. We had our driest April on record this year, and just as the calendar flips, we have our heaviest rainfall of the Spring. We’ve seen 80-degree days, and today we’re down in the 40s again. Wind, rain, sun, snow, all in a single week’s time. Spring here means being ready for any season at any time of day.

The goal today is to keep the chill and gloom at bay. All I want is to find a warm and cozy place to wait out the rain, but tasks and to-do are keeping me from it. I’m very near a place of resentment and irritability, but a bad mood won’t get me through any of it any faster. An ice-cold cup of cold brew coffee and a large “sunshine” smoothie* should keep one foot in front of the other through midmorning. I will deal with the afternoon as it arrives.

This evening it is important that I get back to working out at home. At the end of last week, I fell into a self-pity slump and ate a lot of unhealthy food, and spent too much time on the couch. I have to begin again before it gets too bad. I’m keeping up with my journal and picking up White Teeth before I fall too far behind. It doesn’t have to be a perfect week. It only has to be better than the last.


*Sunshine Smoothie recipe:

1 or 1/2 orange
1/2 cup frozen mango
1/4 cup frozen pineapple
1/4 cup baby carrots
2-3 slices fresh ginger
1 cup coconut milk or water
Any seeds, supplements, or powders you desire
Blend
Enjoy!

118 // Convincing Yourself

I’m waiting for the weekend again. This will be my last rushed morning for a while, I hope. I’ve been battling car troubles for quite a few months now and have had to find my way without transportation of my own. Not having a vehicle limits your freedom of movement. It limits your feeling of autonomy. It’s damn depressing.

I know this is quite a first-world problem to have, and I know that I am lucky to be able to afford not just a vehicle but the repairs it needs, but after years of battling driving anxiety, time without my car means setbacks.

The good news is the problem might have finally been identified and resolved and my sense of freedom could be restored as early as this evening. I already feel that inkling of impending doom in my gut, but the sense of excitement layered on top lets me know I have made so much progress through these fears.


I’ve been reflecting on the difference between the things I say I want and what my actions show that I want.

What I mean is, we pick out these little habits we want to have and think we can simply add each on top of the person we already are, but we fail to consider that since we aren’t currently the *kind* of person who does those things, we aren’t really the kind of person who truly wants to do those things either.

I say I want to work out, but I don’t. What I want is to be the kind of person who wants to work out. An enthusiastic 30-minute workout after work every day does not align with the person I am today. If it did, it wouldn’t be so hard, so uncomfortable, so damn frustrating. I wouldn’t have to fight, and bargain, and threaten, and shame myself into it. If I was the kind of person who wanted to work out, nothing could keep me from doing it.

To become that person, I have to change more than my schedule. I have to do more than want it. I have to become a person who wants it. I have to grow and change into someone different from who I am now, and that’s a hard thing to accept. I want to be me, minus 10 pounds. I want to be me, but feel solid, strong, and capable. I want to be me, but not me.

So, how do you become different? The easiest way? Simply pretend. If you pretend you are someone who eats less sugar, works out every day, excels at their job, writes every morning, reads every evening, if you pretend every moment to be the kind of person who does those things, pretty soon you won’t be able to tell the difference. You won’t even want to think about it.

And I try not to. It may be too soon to claim success, but I did start working out over a week ago and have kept up the habit every day but one. What has helped is turning off my mind. It helps to tell myself that I am now a person that does this, and then I slip into autopilot. Change clothes, get water, get the hand weights, and start the workout video—move, move move!

I don’t come back to myself until it’s over and by then the feeling of accomplishment far outweighs the exhaustion and pain.

The person you want to be is not the person you are now with better habits. The person you want to be is wiser, calmer, determined, and stronger-willed. That is what makes those better habits easier. Becoming them takes little more than convincing yourself that you already are.

116 // Understanding

A bit of a better start than I had yesterday. The week feels long already, but as the day progresses, and items on the list are either completed or canceled, time seems to pick up speed and I feel more and more motivated. I feel calmer and calmer.

Some of the things I worried about are not an issue and some things I thought would drag out are going to finish faster than expected. It may turn out to be a day worth being present for after all.

I’ve been thinking a lot about space and time lately and how each often feels like the other and how we will never have enough of both.

No matter how long I live, it won’t be long enough. No matter how many hours I can have to myself a day, I always want more. Space is limited too. No matter where I am there are other people, and even where I could tolerate their presence, I hardly get a break from the social expectations. When they enter, you must greet them. When they ask, you must answer. When they laugh, you laugh along, and when they cry you have to feel their pain too.

Humans expect you to mirror them, compliment them, or help them see. Other people expect you to belong to them and to make their world right. We forget other people have their own worlds, as real and all-encompassing as our own. We ask too much of each other sometimes.

I used to think I was an extrovert because of how easily I open up to people, make friends, and the sense of connection and community I cultivate but I never marked the way I feel irritable and exhausted after and how resistant I feel until I have time to recover. As I get older that exhaustion seems to set in earlier and earlier.

My desire to be alone confuses me and conflicts with my desire to be with people. It confuses my interest in people. I think I’d like to live outside of society, and simply observe for a time all the things people do and try to work out why.

By understanding others, perhaps I could understand myself a little more. I’ve been a person for just over 37 years now and I still have little idea of what that means. I’m sure by the time I work out even an inkling of an answer my lifespan will be near its expected end.

Existence is a long series of strange and confounding paradoxes.

114 // Resistant

This morning, like yesterday, started later than I would have liked. I was out past my bedtime last night having an amazing night out with friends checking out the mind-bending and beautiful exhibit “Convergence Station” at Meow Wolf for a late birthday celebration.

As a result, I’m feeling resistant today. My body is still protesting my daily workouts and my social meter is depleted, but there are still events to attend and people to support. I want to, but I don’t want to. To be clear, I want to more than I don’t want to, but still…you know?

It helps to keep an irrationally positive outlook. It helps to ignore, for now, that resistance and prevent any possibility of wearing myself down to apathy.

What’s worse is the eagerness with which the workweek is waiting to begin. I’ve read news stories of school districts across the country moving to a four-day workweek, and I can hardly contain my jealousy. Two short days a week is not enough to run errands, visit family, complete projects, and rest—and not so much rest as in sleep, but just time not to think, not to worry, not to work at things that aren’t for me.

Much of my exhaustion is my own fault. April is my birthday month and I traditionally celebrate the entire month. I make time for special events with my wife, and my friends, plus multiple family dinners. I’ve pushed myself too far, but I don’t regret a second of it.

111 // Wasted and Wanting

I woke this late this morning, groggy and grouchy. It turns out that when Amazon says a delivery could arrive at 4:00 AM, it will arrive at precisely 4:00 AM. The dog was sure this was finally the threat she’s always worried and warned us about and it took some time to convince her otherwise. Lesson learned.

These 30 short seconds ruined the end of my night and the beginning of my morning and it wasn’t until I left the house and arrived in my parking space at work that I was able to shake the irritable feeling. The good news is that I managed to make time for a 10-minute meditation in the car and it has calmed a lot of that anxiety and anger.

It wasn’t just this morning that I needed calming. Exhaustion put me in a bad mood yesterday evening too and I didn’t get down nearly what I planned or nearly the number of words down that I wanted. I have a post that is half-finished and the seed of another planted by the WordPress WordPrompt challenge. Perhaps I can make some progress if I can turn the day around?


The afternoon wasn’t spent as I hoped it would be, but it wasn’t wasted either. I helped out my coworkers and remembered that sometimes social interaction can be uplifting, inspiring, and energizing. The lesson didn’t last, of course. By the time I got home and through my third day of workouts—Woohoo!—I was ready to retreat into solitude again.

I feel bad for my wife sometimes. I know that work gets the best of me, but I promise it isn’t on purpose. It’s not that I am giving my time and energy away so much as it is being taken from me. Every day I set out to keep some part of myself aside, but there is so little I have available that before I know it I am wasted and wanting.

I think I may go back to taking 20-minute naps every evening after dinner. My wife calls them my “before bedtime” naps. She’s not a fan, I think, but it’s better than sulking on the couch through bedtime. This way I can feel refreshed enough to give her at least an hour or two of the version of me she misses all day and I’ll no doubt have more than enough fatigue left over for a good night’s sleep, too.

109 // Your Own and Only Obstacle

For the first time in many long and frustrating months, I managed to wake up with my alarm. I’ve tried so many tactics from going to bed earlier to putting my alarm across the room to teaching the dog to wake me up after she goes outside for the first time. None of it worked for more than a few days. What worked today, and what I hope will work long term, was telling myself two things just before bed the night before.

First, I reminded myself of how bad I feel when I hit snooze and I imagined how good I would feel after waking up earlier with time to prepare for the day and arrive to work gently. I also gave myself a reason to wake up early. I reminded myself that getting up early means I can begin my meditation practice again and I imagined how good that would feel, too.

The last time I sat for even a 10-minute session was probably more than a year ago. I started as a way to manage my stress levels, but I stopped because fatigue made early mornings impossible. After breaking a streak of daily sessions, sheer shame kept me from beginning again. I’m ashamed of that too.

This morning’s meditation wasn’t a particularly good one. My mind was all over the place planning my day and practicing possible conversations, and time and time again I had to *gently* return to counting my breaths, but even that worked like a charm. I opened my eyes and felt calm and capable of facing whatever the day had in store. I should have begun again a long time ago.

But the lesson of Zero is always relearned the hard way. The hardest part is forgiving yourself. The second hardest part is accepting you are back at the beginning.

And while I am at it, I think I’ll start working out again today too. I recently learned that the Down Dog apps are free for students and educators and I figured out how to mirror my phone screen to my TV, which means that I can work out, practice yoga, meditate*, and more from the comfort of my own home. I have no more excuses. All that is left is how easy it is, and how hard.

Since my ulcerative colitis diagnosis five years ago, it’s been hard to get back to being active on a regular basis. I was very sick, so doing all the things I used to love, like jogging and hiking, was not possible. In the last year, I have finally achieved remission, but I’m not the same person I was, and this certainly isn’t the same body. Everywhere I push, I meet resistance. My comfort zone has contracted significantly.

They don’t tell you that, as hard as it can be to get used to being sick, it’s almost as hard to get used to being well again, too. It’s hard to move from having no control over how you feel to taking responsibility for your health. It’s hard for you to be your own and only obstacle again.

*For meditation, I am actually still using the Headspace app, which is also free for educators.