350 // Perpetually Uneasy

The last hard days of the workweek, and the year, are over. Tomorrow is the Friday before the coming weekend, and the last workday before the schools break for the winter holidays. Most years I work half of this time in an effort to squirrel away my leave time, but this year I need time to rest, regroup, and reconnect with my aspirations.

I’m feeling burned out and the reason is hard to pin down. I think it’s simply having so little time for myself, or to myself. These next two weeks are a time to figure out how to fix that so I can begin again in the new year with a sense of purpose.

Still, I know it’s more than that. The pandemic is raging on and though I feel a little more secure since I received my booster shot; the threat looms wherever I turn. We have had a lot of breakthrough cases these past few months and though no one has been lost (thanks to high vaccination rates) some have gotten really sick.

To be honest, though, I don’t think it’s just Covid I am afraid of. I don’t even think fear is the right word for how I feel. I am perpetually uneasy. Life is changing so fast now and from day to day, I don’t know what news will come or what additional safety measures are in place. Shipping delays, staff shortages, financial crisis, variants, severe weather, threats of violence, threats of political turmoil—it’s all happening all at once and all the time.

When will we rest? When will we make the world softer, slower, so that we can recover from such suffocating unease?

Still, there are small joys everywhere I turn too. Today I received an email from my doctor with the results of yet another round of lab tests. My inflammation markers are well within normal ranges and my white blood cells, red blood cells, and liver enzymes are going about their work in perfect equilibrium. My ulcerative colitis is in deep remission and I’ve been given a clean bill of health.

It’s been a long and terrifying battle since my diagnosis. Just eight short months ago, I was readying for surgery. I was sure I would lose my colon, and now? I can do and eat anything I want. Of course, there are medications to keep on top of, and supplements that need to be taken. I have to take care to have more balance in what I consume. I have to manage my stress levels and take care to rest when I need, but that’s all just fine with me.

I have my life back!

349 // A Place to Return To

I’ve noticed lately that no matter what I think my workday will look like, it almost never turns out that way. Things come up, things get rescheduled, things get remembered. I’ve had to change course and shift my thinking quite a few times, but practicing acceptance is helping me cultivate flexibility. It’s getting easier. I’m feeling happier.

I haven’t given up on schedule. I still use my calendar and will continue to do so regardless of the chaos. The schedule helps me stay on track, and if I lose my way, it provides a place to return to.

We’re staying inside today in anticipation of high winds and weird weather. This morning a cold front blew in so fast I was able to watch it happen. Dark brown and grey clouds raced overhead toward the just rising sun, turning their tops bright red. On the ground, debris swirled through intersections and plastic bags took flight. The scene felt dystopian, and a strange feeling of dread settled in. I needed to get indoors.

Work-wise things are calm. I’m doing my best to keep my calendar light through the rest of the week as I ready myself for the two-week break. Planning for planning, I suppose. It’s easy since I’m good at disappearing. Even while standing in a room full of people, no one sees me. Some days it hurts, but some days it can be to my advantage.

I can observe, and I can think, two of my favorite past times—two of my greatest strengths. I wish everyone had time in which they could retreat into themselves. I wish everyone liked themselves enough to do so. When people can’t stand the space inside their own minds, they won’t allow others to pull back either for fear they may be left alone to contend with reality. It’s ok, I promise. Try a few moments of it.

Microdose the void.

Build a tolerance to existence.

348 // Still Here

I’m amazed at the way I have held on so far this week. That it’s only Tuesday should give you some idea of how physically and emotionally exhausted I am right now. The good news is the holiday shopping is just about finished and after this evening the shipping should be done too.

Until then, work isn’t demanding much from me, but the threat looms and makes it impossible to truly either work or relax fully. I don’t particularly want to work, but I feel guilty about not doing anything productive, so I try to do a little of both at once, but I’m not feeling satisfied either way. So, I set a timer on my watch and I’m just going to make myself type for the next 25 minutes and see where that gets me.

Outside of work, I’m trying to keep perspective. My wife and I are fine, but it always feels like we’re sitting at the center of a great and terrifying storm. All around us is chaos, an ever-present threat of destruction and annihilation. I can control the calm, but the storm is beyond me. Out there are other people’s problems, tragedies, and choices. Out there, the storm can sweep me away unless I stay centered myself.

I’m working on remembering that not all things are happening to me. Some things are simply happening to the people I love and while that is enough to break my heart, I have to be careful not to take what isn’t mine. Other people’s pain belongs to them. I have plenty of my own to attend to, anyway.

Outside of my circle, there has been more loss. We’ve had quite a few past and present coworkers and acquaintances pass away these past couple of years and I worry the circle is closing in. Death spirals in, you know? So far these losses have been at arm’s length. Not enough to grieve, but just enough to disturb the illusion and remind you of your mortality. Just enough to make me feel grateful, too.

I am still here.

341 // Nothing More Than Maybes

I woke sometime in the middle of the night and felt at ease, relaxed, happy even in the certainty that I was waking to a Saturday morning in which I had nothing more to do than all the nothing I wanted. I was deeply disappointed when just a few short hours after my alarm went off and I remembered it was only Tuesday and I have many more days left before I can claim any significant time as my own.

Still, today isn’t so bad. There have been plenty of disappointments and quite a few setbacks, but for some reason today, none of it is bothering me. I’m going with the flow and seizing as many moments as I can.

The cause of this great turnaround, and the depression that came before, I’m beginning to believe, are almost entirely hormonal. Last week I felt as if a switch was flipped inside my mind. At that moment, the world lost its wonder and I lost my interest, and this morning, suddenly, the light is back on.

I’ve only just begun to get an inkling of the pattern and I won’t be sure until I’ve tracked a few months more at least, but this inability to maintain focus and motivation may not be entirely preventable—or my fault.

Today I’m staying inside. The weather has taken a late but sudden turn toward winter and the bitter winds blow right through to my bones. If I keep out of the frigid air there is hope yet for my general mood. I’m lucky to work in an office where I can control the thermostat and even if others want it kept low, I keep a small space heater under my desk for emergencies.

The warmth makes it easy to stay in my seat and focus on organizing some of these notebook pages and paragraphs into publishable pieces. I’m working on some small goals for 2022. Not resolutions so much as hopes. As I age, I realize that those “best-laid plans” go awry much more than just often. I have also realized that the things we think we want—from ourselves, for life, from others—change all the time.

I simply won’t be the same person 12 months from now. I won’t want the same things I do today. So, no promises, only hopes. Nothing more than maybes.