Currently // April 2020: There Is No Normal

April is the cruellest month, breeding 
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

— T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

April is my favorite month of the year. It’s the month I was born in and the month the earth and nature warm and begin to come alive again. April is a month of resurrection, of renewal, of hope. April is the light at the end of the long tunnel that is winter, but this April was none of that. Yes, the sun warmed, and the leaves began to sprout, but our hearts stayed locking inside as if winter had never ended.

The novel coronavirus pandemic continued to worsen across the globe and much of the world sheltered in place somewhere in the spectrum between voluntary and strict lockdown orders. Schools all over the world have shuttered for the year and many are making drastic changes already to their calendars and curriculums for the 20-21 year. We’re all looking at a changed world but nothing is certain and nothing will be set in stone for a very long time to come.

This April then was one inverted from what it ought to have been then. Instead of hope, we felt fear. Instead of emerging into a bright, lively, and connected world, we slipped further into isolation, depression, and anxiety. Instead of coming to life, we set our sights on mere survival and asked the very bare minimum from one another just to stay sane and safe. This April has truly and literally been the cruelest month.

But not all is lost to despair and to find spring again you only have to look out your window, go for a walk, unplug, or call a friend. Through the worst crises in recent history, we have come together. You may not see it but you can certainly feel it all around you in the cooperation of those who stay home and in the courage it takes for our most essential workers not too. In the end, the human race is a force if not of good or pure determination and we can do so much more than we imagine. April has been proof of that, at least.

As for me, it’s has been hard, but it has been far from catastrophic. I am still practicing strict social distancing and doing my best to keep from wallowing too much in misery or falling too far into self-pity. I’m balancing the pressure to be productive with permission to idle. I’m working to be mindful, to find joy, to be grateful, and to banish guilt. These are absurd times we are living in and there is no right or normal way to feel, react, or be. Gentleness, patience, and persistence is all we need.

April has at the very least given me time to think and prioritize. I think I have taken myself much too seriously in the past and this has been a grave hindrance to my progress. Perfection has been the enemy of any good I hoped to do. Knowing I am not perfect has kept me from trying but what I need to know was that being good at something has nothing at all to do with enjoying something and joy is what I intend to pursue through my writing going forward. I’m reviving an old goal of writing one essay and week and working out a way to reach it through small, enjoyable, fulfilling actions every day.

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

Writing essays and poems. Not one every day, but working on one every day. There is a difference, and the latter is a much better fit to the kind of writer I think I am. I like to dive a little deeper, express more emotion, and find hidden connections, and I’d like to do that a lot more but the pressure to be a blogger who posts daily is high and rather than fail I’ve often opted not to even try. In April I tried a little harder to do things my way. I did write a few pieces in a day, but there were a lot of pieces that I am still working through, and that’s okay. The goal is to finish the drafts by working on them every day, and that’s all I’m asking of myself.

Making an effort every day. I know it sounds like I’m doing a lot or that I have such big goals and aspirations but every day is a struggle and at the end every day feels like a fresh failure. When I was a kid my mom, when lecturing me about my grades would tell me that if a failure had been my best, then she wouldn’t be mad, and then she would look me in my eye and ask me if I did my best and so many times I said no and knew my failure had been on me. I’m asking myself that question now and I’m seeing too many of those same old answers. An effort, that’s all I’m asking anymore.

Planning everything. These past few months I’ve started a new to-do list and logbook system based on a system by Jeff Huang using Google’s docs, calendar, tasks, and keep products. Events and to-do items start out in the calendar. I add them as they come up or pop into my head. Recurring tasks like daily Spanish lessons and reading goals are added to the tasks list. Notes and ideas are added to the keep app all day long. Then, every night, at least, I open the to-do list document and write a few lines about what I did or felt that day. Afterward, I review the calendar, tasks list, and notes in the sidebar and type out all the things I want to do the next day in the document. It has been very helpful, and I have done more this past month than I have in the past year perhaps, but it still needs tweaking.

Reading Borne by Jeff VanderMeer. April was not a great reading month. At the end of March and through the first few weeks of this month I was making a lot of progress but trying to write more ate up time and feeling down when I couldn’t ate up even more. I watched way too much TV, slept in more than I’d like, and simply gave up trying. But that’s only half the excuse. Borne is also boring me a little. It’s interesting but a little too sci-fi to allow me to suspend as much belief and required and I end up putting it back down after only a few pages. I’m not a reader who can bring myself to quit though, so I have to push harder in May. No more excuses.

Watching Mrs. America. The show, starring Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly and Phyllis Schlafly as Gloria Steinem, follows the women’s rights movement of the early 70s and the struggle to pass and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment against a growing conservative women’s opposition. I’m also all caught up with Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I’m still as confused and thrilled with Westworld as ever. I’m losing interest in Killing Eve fast. Insecure is still making me laugh, and old episodes of Six Feet Under are keeping me entertained in between.

Learning about The Science of Well-Being and tips on writing Memoir and Personal Essay. The Science of Well-Being is interesting, but I felt I wasn’t getting the most out of it without access to a printer for the handout and “rewirements”. Luckily we were able to borrow my wife’s desk printer from her workplace and the hurdle was quickly cleared. I would have made more progress through Memoir and Personal Essay, but I got stuck on the first assignment trying to work out an idea that perfectly fit the prompt. From now on, I’ll focus on doing my best writing and take the prompts and strong suggestions only.

Anticipating returning to work. Everything is going to be different from the role I play to the way I work. The promotion I was offered in March has only just been finalized this past week but it means when I do go back to work I will be doing a bit of a different job and under very different social norms. Already there is talk about wearing mask and gloves all day and working one on one during our training classes rather than in groups of 3 or 4. My work is going to become a lot more tedious and a lot more emotionally draining and will take a lot of strength and enthusiasm from me. I’m looking forward to new challenges.

Reflecting on what I am learning about myself during this time. Looking back over the past six weeks or so I can see how much I have done to take care of myself and work out my own needs and goals and there is so much I’d like to go on doing and being once this is over. I’ve already mentioned the writing, but there’s more to it than that. It’s the focus and the direction. It’s the passion and the emotion I am trying to harness. I’m learning that I have to dig deeper and the roadblocks are showing me something too. I need more life. I need to do more, live more, talk more, learn more. So much has changed already and so much more is going to change too and for the first time, instead of being afraid I’m excited.

Fearing that these economically motivated calls and initiatives to reopen the country will win out over the value of human life and undo all the hard work we’ve done and sacrifices we’ve made to flatten the curve and save lives. I’m afraid capitalism will win and no changes at all will be made to protect worker’s rights, well-being, or safety. I’m afraid of the widespread homelessness and hunger I feel approaching on the horizon if those with the means and the power don’t muster the courage or the imagination and compassion to adjust their priorities and reshape the world while we have the chance. I’m afraid voters will forget all too quickly or misplace their blame and anger and allow the status quo to continue unabated.

Hating how quickly major brands and corporations were able to create advertising campaigns to pull at the heartstrings and capitalize on the pandemic. From car manufactures and dealers to home colon cancer testing kits, every commercial I see now tries too hard to pry their way into our pockets by forcing a narrative of understanding, compassion, and connection. I’d care and identify with a company much more if I saw a commercial that simply said what they are doing to help save lives, not how they’ve made it easier for them to continue to take my money.

Loving my friends and family more than ever. I miss them all so much, though I haven’t been the best at showing it. It’s always been hard for me to reach out to the people I care about and it’s always been hard, I believe, for them to reach out to me, but it’s never frustrated me or hurt me as much as it does now. For a while I was wallowing in a lot of self-pity over it but this week I’ve started to shift my perspective from a self centered and victim centered on to one of gratitude. I am hurt because I love and am loved in return. I feel lonely because before this pandemic I was so rich in warmth and community. It’s up to me to maintain that community, so re-establish community and lessen my feelings of isolation.

Needing nothing at all. I’m one of the lucky ones and to ask for anything more right now when so many are losing everything feels wrong. I am content as I am, which what I have. I ask nothing from others or the universe and only from myself. I need more from me, for me, and perhaps for others too. I certainly haven’t given enough in any sense of the word. Perhaps what I need then is to donate, to offer my time and money, to find a way to help that is more than just getting out of the way. I need to know, when this is all over, that I did something.

Hoping that life doesn’t just go back to normal after all of this. If we simply carry on like nothing happened, then this will have all been a terrible and tragic waste. We are so much better than we give ourselves credit for and we can be so much better than we imagine. We’ve seen that, haven’t we? We’ve proven it, surely, so let’s do better and be better. I hope that people all over the world who have lost jobs, healthcare, and stability remember what was needed when it comes time to vote and I hope that those who profited from the pandemic or who would like to profit when it ends, remember that our memory is long and clear. We won’t stand for the way it “used to be”. Either you are for the people or you will find the people are no longer for you.


So, yeah, all in all, April, though isolating and often terrifying, was full of some very big wins. My wife and I, our loved ones and friends, and even our pets are all safe and healthy, working or at least being paid, and the future is still bright and life is still worth living. I have learned something, written some things, rested, and reflected. That’s more than I have been able to ask of any month in years. I know it could all end in the blink of an eye and I am watchful for that other shoe to drop.

But what about you? Are you and your loved ones staying home? Staying safe? Staying sane? Are you working in person? At home? At all? Do you think we are ready to restart the world? How do you think the world should change now that we have had a glimpse of how vulnerable we all really are?

Let me know in the comments.


The inspiration for these posts comes from Andrea at Create.Share.Love

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

What it Will Take

This year’s Earth Day falls during a time of great global crises and shared isolation and provides an exceptional chance for reflection on the state of the environment, to accept our responsibility for that state, to face the very real possibility of change, and to seize the chance to save what we have so easily forgotten and callously destroyed.

Since the novel coronavirus began sweeping across nations and citizens all over the world were ordered to stay home we’ve started to see what a world that is being given a chance to heal, a world with fewer humans, looks like. 

We’re not driving or flying, oil prices are plummeting, the air is clearing and so are our waterways, and wildlife is returning to areas it dared not venture when humans walked about. The human world, it seems, has to get smaller in order for us and the planet to survive.

My hope is that this time away from the all-encompassing need to work and to consume has not just reminded us of what is important: love, connection, health, safety, life, but also reminded us of what we need most in times of great stress and uncertainty, nature.

Nature soothes us: Walking around the neighborhood, through parks and places far away from people, we find the warmth of the sun and find hope and wonder in the budding trees and flowers blooming. When we do not have each other, it is the trees and wildlife around us that are our closest kin.

Earth Day is meant to be a celebration of this connection to the planet and an annual chance to renew our resolve to a more sustainable way of life, but each year the climate crises continue and model predictions more dire. Every year the water and air grow more polluted, ancient forests are further flattened, and whole species are wiped from existence due solely to human action and inaction.

Humans, as a species, do what we can to the Earth and not what we should for the sake of power and ego. We take ownership, we confine, we reshape and restructure; we alter and we kill because we can. We have placed ourselves at the apex of evolution and determined given ourselves domain over all and granted ourselves the inalienable right to do with this planet what we please and to shape the environment in our own mental image of what human life should be, can be. We’ve been able to do this for so long only because our right goes uncontested.

Now it seems all other forms of life depend now not just on the planet but on the benevolence and mercy of humans. Unfortunately for them, we do not connect ourselves to their plight and survival at all.

We do not understand that what we eat, kill, produce, buy, and throw away affects the water air and health of people and animals who live nations away and people and animals who live generations away too. We do not believe that our actions have an impact on the global ecosystem, nor do we believe our futures are intertwined with the futures of other plant and animal life.

We do not connect ourselves to nature because we have done everything we could to remove ourselves from nature. We’ve pushed nature out and away from us, considering any life or structure to be too dangerous to live near, or too useful not to claim as our own.

We have laid the land flat for our buildings and homes, businesses and landfills. We’ve dammed the rivers and mined the mountains hollow. We’ve pumped oil from the depths and refined and burned it to CO2, released it into the atmosphere, and strangled the natural flow of temperature, air, and current. We’ve punched a hole in the ozone layer and bleached the coral reefs. We’ve taken our power and done irreparable damage with it for the sake of more power and pleasure alone.

We have told ourselves a great lie, and it’s time we faced the truth. The truth is, you are connected by this planet to all life that existed and will exist. Your existence depends on the survival of all the life around you and there is no advancement in technology or amount of pure human will that will change that. If the Earth dies, we die. If the Earth dies, it will be because of our stubborn ignorance and cruel consumption. The Earth and every life form on it depend on all of us and you must internalize this for all our sakes.

The truth is, there is no “Planet B” and there are limits to our power. There is no hero on the way to save us and no miracle will manifest to undo what we have done. We will reap what we have sown in our own lifetimes and in the lifetimes to come. All we can do now is try to mitigate the harm, and even that will take a monumental shift of culture and consciousness. We have to be the heroes, each of us. We have to save one another and ourselves in small ways every day.

This year I am asking all of you to take ownership not of the land but of your small place in the ecosystems around you. Find power in the responsibility you have for that environment rather than in all the ways it can be utilized and monetized. Find your place in nature and resolve to save something in it. Start small. It’s better than no start at all.

Plant a tree. Build a bat house or a bee hotel. Change those old lightbulbs. Turn off the faucet. Buy more reusable products. Carpool with coworkers and friends. Volunteer to clean up a highway or a trail. Make some art. Write an essay. Sign a petition. Advocate, educate, protest, and most of all talk.

Talk to your friends and family about the Earth, about the beauty and wonder of nature, about where life came from and where life is headed. Talk about the damage we have done and do every day. Talk about what can be done and what will happen if nothing can is done. The best way to keep nature fully in our minds is to remind one another. The best way to change someone’s heart is to engage with them.

Talk about how we can take the lessons we have learned these past few months and apply them in smaller ways in the future. Perhaps four-day workweeks and more opportunities to work from home? More days a week that businesses are closed. More days a year we are encouraged to step out of our human worlds and instead to walk through the nature around us and take notice.

It will take courage and imagination but watching us all come together to make drastic changes and to trust in what we are told must be done to stay safe has proven we have what it takes to save this planet. It will take remembering what we have forgotten and doing the exhausting and hopeless work of loving something more than we love power and pleasure. We have to do it again and again, every day, as we notice ourselves falling back into old habits and easier ways of thinking.

We all have to do this because we are all guilty and if I’m being honest, I’m as guilty as anyone else. I eat too much meat. I waste water. I pollute. I forget where I come from. I get lost in the power and possibility of human intellect and forget the importance of the human heart. I forget I am only one link in a chain of generations. I forget that I made of all that has come before me and throughout my life; I am participating in the making of all that will come after.

And shame on me for forgetting. Shame on me for my consumption and for my waste. Shame on me for the harm I cause and the responsibilities I fail to take. Shame on me for my place in this grand pursuit of power and pleasure. Shame on me for the actions I chose to take and the actions I chose not too. Shame on us all.

But it isn’t all my fault alone, nor is it yours alone either. Just as we cannot always see the ecosystems we are connected to and our place in them we often fail to see the cultural, political, and economic systems we are a part of and how we are influenced and even controlled by them. The key is to learn to be mindful of both. Look at the human world and look at the world of nature, realize in many ways they are connected, and in many more ways they are one and the same. It’s a simple ask, but it’s the hardest thing a human can do.

It’s emotionally exhausting enough to empathize with people closest to us but to open our hearts and concern to other species? To future generations? To whole ecosystems? That is beyond the capability of one heart for a whole lifetime, and that’s okay.

Humans have evolved to have a certain amount of built-in selfishness. There is no shame in that. We needed it to get this far, but now it has become our weakness and a formidable one to overcome. Instead of expectation and every one of the nearly 8 billion human hearts on this earth to suddenly expand to encompass the planet, why don’t we ask that each of us just care a little more about the bit of nature that can be found around us?

We won’t always get it right but if each of us can start getting it more right right now then imagine how much better we all will be in a year, in ten years, in ten generations?

Imagine air and water that belongs to everyone. Imagine every animal and natural wonder with inalienable rights of their own. Imagine a world we do not own but one we belong to. Imagine a world not built for us, or by us, a world to share and cherish as a bright and blue gift. Imagine how far we might go if all the human love, imagination, and courage in the world were used for good.

Imagine that every day is Earth Day and eat, consume, build, buy, travel, teach, vote, connect, create, love, live and let live accordingly.


Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

If you enjoyed this piece, why not buy me a coffee?

Between the Self and the Subconscious

Every night each of us is transported to a place inside of ourselves to live out fantastic scenarios and storylines created within our own minds. We travel to a place where the rules of physics and even storytelling do not apply. The images may be in color, black and white, vivid and lively, or they may be abstract and meaningless. We all dream different thing but dreaming is universal and since the dawn of humankind we have been trying to work out the mechanism and the meaning of these alternate worlds and lives we live in nightly succession.

I never remember when my thoughts and perceptions make the leap the space from the real world outside to the inner one of fantasy but I am one of the lucky—or not so lucky—ones that dream in vivid imagery and emotion and carry the memory of these dreams into my waking life. My dreams are so real sometimes that I wake up feeling confused about who and when I am. I am shocked even to find that I have a different life than the one I just woke from. Sometimes I wake relieved. Sometimes I wake and mourn a fantasy I never wanted to wake from.

I am disturbed not just by the visceral nature of my dreams but by the content too.

I dream of old friends and lovers seeking the answers and closure I never had. I reenact my worst self sometimes the way it was and sometimes in ways that are warped or exaggerated to highlight some shame or regret. Most nights I play myself and the scenes are shot from a first-person perspective and sometimes the camera pans out and an actor is mercifully generated from my mind plays me to provide distance from pain and shame.

My rational mind cannot follow the haphazard way the dreaming mind pursues its answers. I cannot even guess at the answers it seeks by its seemingly random choice of setting, situation, and character. Some nights the old antagonists, deuteragonists, and love interests don the faces of present friends and loved ones, but most nights I do not even recognize the actors it asks me to rehearse these scenes with.

There are nights too when those I dream of from the present wear faces from long ago. They are their worst selves this way I am mine. We deceive and hurt one another with unprecedented cruelty and callousness. They say dreams can foretell the future. They say too that dreams reveal a truth we cannot see in ourselves or in others. I wake suspicious of them and of myself. I wake up hopeless that the past will always be repeated and that no matter how I try I will always be this way and the proverbial “they” will always that.

My mind and memory mix and meld the past and the future, my dream mind understanding each as who they are regardless of setting or disguise, as I play out my anxieties and desires as a loop of choices and mistakes I’ve made and will make.

Of these future tense events, I tell myself they would never come true. I could never want this or them. I could never do or think that way, but I wonder too. I am surprised by just how mistaken my unconscious mind is about what I want or what I might do, or maybe I only feign surprise? 

I honestly do not know, but where else, how else, could these images manifest if not from some black and hidden part of me? What I dream is a truth told by fiction. What that fiction provides is distance enough to accept for a time that there exists darkness in me. Some put there by others and some that is made entirely of me.

I wonder at this darkness. I try to reach it but it seems buried beyond my reach or want to plumb, buried so deep by upbringing, propriety, and self-image I cannot bear to even try. What might exist there? What other truths or predictions may arise out of that devious and lewd place? How far down does the darkness go?

Those nights I dream of old flings and future affairs, I wonder what it means. Do I still long for those I’ve left behind? Would I have betrayed the one I love now so easily? Those nights I dream of grave danger, I dream I am running, running, running away from a threat so big and so fierce I cannot see or stop to comprehend it. Does that make me a coward at heart? Would I never stand and fight?

I dream of lives so different from my own I hardly recognize myself in them. Where do these new personas originate from? I dream of places I’ve never been to and of people I have never met. I dream that the people who know me either do not exist for me or do not at all, I cannot tell. Do I wish I were someone else, somewhere else, do the people close to me in this time and life mean so little to me, really?

As if future horrors were not enough a few nights a year, and during times of stress, a few nights a week, the dream maker makes for me a nightmare of what I fail to repress, retellings so real I may wake up to real pain and wet tears. Why must the mind bring them up again and again? The emotional self has suffered enough. The rational self has accepted it all. What more can be gleaned from such terrors?

There are no answers to these questions. The parts of me that produce these dreamscapes are ancient and unknowable to me. They evolved eons ago and exist in places I cannot go. The symbols and metaphors aren’t decipherable. I dream I have lockjaw, that my clothes won’t stay on, that my hair is falling out, that I am falling down, that I can fly, that someone is chasing me, that someone is breaking in, that I cannot see my wife’s face, that no one can hear me, that I am being killed, that I am dead.

From the distance of story-telling and narration, I may be trying to say that I need to let go or to rethink. I may be afraid of being seen and I may long to be truly seen. These dreams could mean I am trying to escape or avoid some horror or desire either in me or in my past. I may be feeling unheard. I may be worried about losing my sense of power or I may just be dealing with low self-esteem and a preoccupation with my appearance. I may be trying to face my greatest fears or I may be trying to remind myself of unfinished business.

It might be nothing at all. These stories I make for myself might be made of old pieces of my life found strewn about the cutting room floor of my memory and colored by the emotion of the day. It may be nothing but a way to occupy my mind while daily maintenance is performed and upgrades are installed.

But my gut tells me otherwise. Not every dream may be the dark revelations of the subconscious, nor are they made wholly of excess emotion and dregs of the day’s thoughts. I do not think that the dream makers in us are really so far away as they feel and the meaning might be simpler to discern than we imagine.

Perhaps our dreams are only one of the many mediums we have to interact with and understand ourselves. Perhaps, we are our own best friend and worst enemy down to our subconscious and perhaps because we know ourselves best of all it is in this place, a world both of our own creation and out of our control that we conjure up the worst of ourselves and for ourselves simply because we can.

The interpretation, therefore, may not lie in the dream’s content but in the kind of dreams we choose to construct. What plays out in the course of every night may have less to do with that darkness in you, the secrets you try to keep from yourself, or your greatest fears and may have everything to do with just how you feel about yourself.

It may be that a nightmare is only a way of punishment or a bit of tough love and a dazzling illusion of peace, pleasure, or prosperity a gift or a great and merciful lie and a night of dreams so real you don’t just dream them but live them may have nothing to do with how you feel about this life you have been given and more to do with the distance between your inner life and your outer reality. It may mean signify nothing more than how rich and deep the relationship you have with yourself is.


This post was written in response to the WordPress Discover Prompt, Day 17: Distance, but in the course of exploring the concept I happened upon something else entirely. I hope it still counts.

Photo by Shot by Cerqueira on Unsplash

If you enjoyed this piece, why not buy me a coffee?

The Curve of Two Bodies

You turn one-half rotation away from me to face the dark
I set my trajectory to follow you through the vacuum
The shortest distance between two bodies is also a curve
Every move we’ve made is recorded on a continuum

I set my trajectory to follow you through the vacuum
Part of every revolution is a retrograde
Every move we’ve made is recorded on a continuum
What is made of less must always orbit what is made of more

Part of every revolution is a retrograde
Around and around the sun, around and around each other
What is made of less must always orbit what is made of more
The arch of time bends wide but spirals ever inward, and

Around and around the sun, around and around each other
Trying to find a fundamental formula to reconcile
The arch of time, bending wide but spiraling inward, and
This rapid osculation building over the surface

Trying to find a fundamental formula to reconcile
I find the concave of your collar, the convex of your hips, and
This rapid osculation building over the surface
Becomes a parabola rising on a plane, but other times

I find the concave of your collar, the convex of your hips, and
You turn one-half rotation away from me to face the dark
Becoming a hyperbola lying on a plane, and other times
The longest distance between two bodies is also a curve


This post was written in response to the WordPress Discover Prompt, Day 8: Curve

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

If you enjoyed this piece, why not buy me a coffee?