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.


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.

234 // A New Understanding

There’s a lot to do this Sunday afternoon and I’m buzzing around the house from room to room trying to get the cleaning done and the to-do list cleared. My restless mind is still trying to drag me to the couch, to the T.V., to social media, and even to things meant for tomorrow or even next week, but I’m watchful and aware of myself and working on executive function and fighting to do the hard things.

But knowing is half the battle, and whether what I think I know turns out to be true or not, I’m at least more aware of what my weaknesses are and better able to see and curb them in the moment rather than realizing hours later what I’ve failed to do and letting the guilt hold me back further.

I’m coming to a new understanding, a new compassion for myself. The person I am is miles and miles ahead of who I could have turned out to be given my past and my inadequacies. I’ve overcome so much and I have so much love and support that has allowed me so much progress and passion in life. I have nothing to feel guilty about. I have nothing holding me back.

So, I’m back to typing my little words. I’m exploring a piece on relationships, another on the ethics of lying, and a third on friendship. I still have an issue with finishing, but I’ll take any small win and worry about the rest when it arrives. For now, having ass in chair, and working on keeping it there for longer and longer stretches of time is enough.

233 // Inner Restlessness

The weather has not yet returned to the peak heat of summer, but the days are warming again as the cold front from the last two days makes its way out from the front range. The mornings are still cool though, and I suspect we’ve seen the last of sweltering temperatures before lunchtime. I can feel autumn creeping in and the sadness that comes with the long winter beginning to build already.

For now, it’s a lazy Saturday here at home this morning. I needed time to do nothing. More than that, I needed time to think about nothing, too. This past week was a hard one with long working hours and fast-changing expectations, but the bad was balanced by the good with more quality time with people I care about and a stronger, more solid physical feeling than I’ve had in a long time.

I spent many of the moments between tasks reflecting on some deep revelations I’ve stumbled across about myself and studying old, and often painful memories, under this new light of understanding.

I think there is a strong possibility I have—and have always had—ADHD. My mother has it, and quite possibly both of my brothers, but it somehow never occurred to me that I also had the disorder until recently when my scattered mind and inattention were mentioned by 3 to 4 people in a matter of weeks. It had not occurred to me that other people’s minds were so splintered or active as mine.

I’m extremely aware now of how I get bored with tasks, fail to finish tasks, fail to sit in one place, or do one thing for more than 15 minutes at the most. I’m now aware of how my mind wanders while I write, while I listen, and even while I speak. I’m aware of the impulses and compulsions to get up, to switch gears, to do it all at once. I’m also aware of how much I forget and how little I can ever accomplish despite the whirlwinds of ideas and action.

Even now as I sit and type this, I want to get up. I want to finish the dishes in the sink, make some cold brew coffee, watch a show, and wash my hair. I used to think it was plan procrastination but I recognize now that this urge and in fact all my life up to it is simply a result of an inner restlessness I have never before been able to fully understand, let alone control.

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.