Goals // Week 20: Celebrate this Ending

This week marks the end of what certainly feels like the longest school year I’ve worked in all the 15 years since I first joined the district. So much has changed. We’ve had major staff and policy shifts. I’ve been working and readjusting to a new role. The kids have gone and come back, gone and come back. They’ve missed major milestones and grown through an incredibly volatile and terrifying time.

We all have.

But now the school year is just nearly over and there is a solid sense of normalcy on the horizon as we shift to summer our summer schedules and some of us start thinking about a little sun and fun.

This week I want to enjoy myself a little more and I’m setting goals that to reflect that. I still have a lot to get through before the weekend is here, but I’m going to be mindful, grateful, and optimistic. I’m going to celebrate this ending that was so hard won and much-anticipated beginning of new schedules, projects, and expectations. I’m celebrating change and coming to it with open and welcoming arms.

With that being said, this week I will:

Bring my longboard out from storage and start learning to ride it. It’s been a couple years since I got it and I’ve been too scared—and too embarrassed—to actually get on the thing. I don’t want to fall. I don’t want to look silly, but you have to be uncomfortable before you can be comfortable. You have to fall a few times in order to learn.

Finish Professor Robert Sapolsky lectures on Human Behavioral Biology. Finally, something I can be proud to binge watch! I’ve been watching these for a few weeks now but they are sometimes hard to follow and if you aren’t giving 100% of your attention, you can miss important concepts. Some of them I’ve had to watch twice, but it is getting easier to grasp and setting the playback speed to 1.5x might just get me there.

Pick up reading The Stand again. I am still struggling to meet my daily reading goal and though alarms have helped, I just can’t seem to relax into reading. The problem might be the material. I’ve been focusing a lot on non-fiction lately and it may be that I’m just a little burned out. My mind needs something exciting, something fanciful, something far removed from this world, somewhere to escape.

Spend evening with ass in chair and a list of pieces I would like to write. I have a few drafts very close to publishing and a few that are little more than a 6:00 AM streams of conciousness. My wife is our house witting for a few days and, since i have no one to talk to and all our shows have to be watched with both parties present, I’m looking at hours every evening in need of filling.

Tackle a house project, give something away, and take care of yourself. I know this is a vague one, but I know what it means and what it will take. I have something I want to do for my wife. Something I want to do for someone in need. And, because stress levels have been running high, there are things I need to do for myself. Being kind is the key.

Laugh. I have been feeling very introverted and irritable. I’ve been uptight, tense, and judgemental. I’ve not been very much fun at all. My amazing friends have been understanding, and have given me space when the signs have been clear I need it but I fear I am pushing them too far. Laughter is good for the body and mind. Its revitalizing and relaxing. It’s medicine.

This week I will not let distraction get the best of me. I’ve noticed that, when I am alone or feeling bored, stressed, or tired—states I find myself in much more frequently these days—it’s too easy to get lost in my social media timelines. It’s too easy to sit down on the couch, pull out my phone, and open Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. It’s too easy to let hours go by unnoticed, un-experienced. Days that quickly add up to days and, over time, whole swaths of your life you let slip away.

Too often, we are indifferent to the loss. Too often, we welcoming that slipping.

Sometimes you just want to escape, but those platforms and post, they aren’t real life. They feel nothing like living. If you must, there are other ways, more fulfilling ways to escape. Every time you want to open Twitter, open a book, open Coursera, open a new document and write something. Hell, open a door and step outside entirely instead.

Do whatever you want as long as you are doing the choosing and not the app developers and their algorithms. Do not let them use your impulses and instincts against you. They will only twist them to keep you hooked, to keep you scrolling, to keep you generating ad revenue, but at what cost to you? Pay attention to what you pay attention to.


Goals // Week 20: Nothing Changes If Nothing Changes

This week is the beginning of the end of the school year for many grades and that means a winding down of one aspect of my job, and a ramping up of another. For me that means it’s time to do all the employee training that we didn’t have time for during the year and even more so now that we have to make up for what was missed during the Covid quarantine months.

This week I’ll have to focus a lot more mental energy on my day job than I have in the past weeks we consider our “down time” of the year. I’m actually looking forward to it. It turns out that having too little to do for so long can be just as nerve-wracking as having too much. I’m ready for a change of pace. I’m ready to feel useful, knowledgeable, and accomplished again.

With the reallocated metal space comes the need to be more increasingly mindful of how I spend my free time. I’ve learned over the years that one of the way to stave off burnout during times of increased workload or stress is to make sure you do not waste what little free time you have. Make sure you mark it. Make sure you fill it with what truly soothes the soul.

With that being said, this week I will:

Finish editing my review of Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil and my piece for World IBD Day. Enough words have been written now. Adding more will add nothing. Instead, focus on subtracting, rearranging, and substituting. Take this unorganized, unclear, and, probably, uninteresting mess and mold a readable post from both. Do not let perfect be the enemy of done.

Read for 30 minutes every night before bedtime. I failed again to make this goal happen even one day out of last week, but in failing I have learned a lesson. I realized if nothing changes then nothing changes and if I expect this week will be a success, I can’t keep doing what led to failure before. So, I have a “reading time” alarm and a routine on my phone that turns on “do not disturb” and turns of my wi-fi and mobile data to keep me off of social media.

Heed my meditation schedule and food restrictions. I’ve been weaning off of another round of steroids and as I come to the end of the taper my appetite and cravings have gotten the better of me. For someone with an inflammatory bowel disease this is like playing with fire. This week I will take better care of myself and remember that while the schedules and restrictions aren’t much fun, they are what keeps me happy, healthy, and productive.

Take a daily walk. Though sunshine has been very spotty lately the temperatures are rising and, most days, there is some time to get out and at least around the block. For the days when the clouds and cold, or rain and thunder roll in, there is the treadmill. There is no reason to continue to be sedentary and with the increased appetite and the additions snacks and calories coming in I have to find a way to increase my physical activity too.

Move my scheduled hour of writing from after work to after dinner. It turns out there are a lot of things I need to do after work and almost none of them are related to writing. Instead of fighting myself every day, I’ve decided to simply ask what works better? It turns out, after the day has already been lived, after the to-do list is done and you’ve done had your fill of people, that is the best time of day to do your thinking in and I’ve always done my best thinking when I write.

This week I will not get too far ahead of myself. I will not let anxiety over the coming weeks workload push me to take on more than I can handle or avoid altogether what terrifies me. The key is to know how much each day can hold and fill every one of them just to the brim. No more, no less. There is always more time we wish we had and more we wish we could accomplish, but some must always be left for tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.


Goals // Week 19: Time Without Work, Without Worry

This week I’m absolutely taking it easy. Between my birthday celebrations, Mother’s Day, upcoming weddings, and the world opening up in general, it suddenly it feels like there isn’t enough time to do all the things I have to do let alone anything I want to do or even to do nothing at all! I’m in desperate need of resting both my body and my mind, of finding time to be present, and of silence and solitude.

So, I’m keeping the goals light this week. The outside world is putting on the pressure and rather than pile on, I think it best to be kind to myself and provide some times of relief and release. There needs to be time for things I enjoy: writing of course, but other things too like podcasts, music, TV, games, walking outside, sleeping, laughing, and reading. Time spent not just without work but without worry too.

This week I will:

Finish writing my review of Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil and draft a piece for World IBD Day next week. I have the words written but the anxiety and resulting avoidance over editing and ending any piece of writing, no matter how trivial, continues to plague my existence. The only way through it is through it.

Read for 30 minutes every night before bedtime. Utterly failed at this goal last week, but I’m trying again. I’m already so behind in my reading goals for the year and every day the gap between where I should be and where I am grows. I’m trying not to be so hard on myself, but I can’t waste the days this way. If the trend continues, social media sacrifices will have to be made!

Make one or two black out poems. I’ve missed pouring over newspaper and magazine articles remixing the words of writers better than me into Instagram poetry. The results aren’t technically perfect, nor are the sentiments profound, but the work forces the mind out of its course and feeds creativity. More than that, it’s just plain fun!

Keep my headphones close. I’ve missed the magical way music can transform my mood into anything I want or need. Music can bring you up, bring you down, transport you far away, or bring you back to the present. When you are stuck behind a desk all day, wishing you were anywhere but here, music is the only way to travel.

Spend some time behind the wheel. For those new to the blog and unaware, I suffer from pretty severe driving anxiety. I rarely drive anywhere unless absolutely necessary, but I’m ready for more flexibility and independence in my life, and that means I have to face my fear and start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s been far too long and I am far too late, but it’s better than never. I can do this!

This week I will not be so hard on myself. It’s been hard not to compare my place or progress with others. Everyone seems so capable and everything I do takes so much effort and half the time results in failure or disappointment. I know this is a problem of perspective, and I know that there are so many things I can do better than most. It’s just most days and in most situations, my soft skills seem of so little value.

This week I will work on finding my own way rather than going the way of others. I cannot do what others do and expect the same results others get. I am me, and I can only be me, and using my unique set of skills I can pick a path that feels a better fit, that feels a better journey, than struggling along someone else’s rocky way.


Goals // Week 18: Simply Flowing

This week marks the beginning of a new month and what I hope will finally be the end of wintery cold and clouds. I’m looking forward to the sun, Spring finally springing, and to the world opening up, to life returning everywhere.

It isn’t a particularly busy time at work right now. Instead, it’s a time of preparing. The school year will end in just a few short weeks and though the vast majority of the kids will be enjoying their summer break, there is still work to be done as we ready for the next year to begin. There is summer school, trainings, conferences, renovations and purchases to make, and a plethora of policy changes to implement.

This week I’m dividing my time. I’m preparing at work and I’m pulling away for my own passions too. I have returned to writing and I don’t want to lose my motivation or momentum by either looking away or looking too closely. This week I’m simply flowing.

This week I will:

Continue meditating. I let the practice go some months ago, and the failure hit me so hard I haven’t been able to return until last week. It hasn’t been easy to get return to either. I’m fidgety and mind wanders far too easily, but I’m learning not to resist them but to let them come and then let them go. A much-needed lesson in these trying times.

Set aside one hour a day of writing. Ideally, this will be the first hour I am home directly after work. No one is expecting anything from me during that time, and I am generally alone. I will sometimes use that hour for a quick nap or to take care of neglected house chores, but that is only a way of procrastinating that I think will result in less guilt. It doesn’t.

Use all other free time for doing the “fun” parts of blogging. Reading, commenting, image searching, idea generation, and design are all things I tend to do instead of actually tying words onto the screen. The point of the scheduled hour is two-fold, to remember when to write and to be able to give myself permission not to write.

Read for 30 minutes every day. The next TBR to tackle is Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail by Frances Fox Piven. It’s a great book and the difficulty I face trying to finish it is through no fault of the author. I simply struggle to concentrate while reading from a screen, but like all things I expect I only need more practice. This week’s lunch hours are allocated for the work.

Finish one blog post this week. I have many drafts started and plenty of notes and free writing done, but nothing edited and nothing ended, which is always the hardest part for me. This week I’m going to stick to my writing schedule and tackle the drafts one by one. Hopefully next week I can hope for two blog posts! Bonus: Wrap up one newsletter draft as well.

This week I will not put too much pressure on myself. Things have been enjoyable lately and I don’t want to lose that feeling. I want to write, and read, and learn, and connect, but I don’t want it to be work and I don’t want it to be hard. I want these goals to be a source of joy and peace, not a reason to have to negotiate or berate myself.

What doesn’t feel good or right will go, and what works will go on working for me as long as it will. Change is not only welcome, it is sought, and I’ve decided too that it shouldn’t hurt. It just shouldn’t be this hard. The rest of life already is. What you give and ask of yourself should be the balance.


Photo by Tom Robertson on Unsplash

Currently // April 2021: After the Storms

April
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

― Edna St. Vincent Millay, Spring

I’m not in the mood for Spring this year. Though I’m glad to be rid of winter’s frigid drab, I’ll admit that the flowers and sunshine serve only to remind me more of this last year’s hardships and the long road of growth and healing that lies ahead. This particular April has been the cruelest month.

Normally April is the beginning of my own personal new year. In April I grow older and in April I come alive. It’s in this prelude to the summer when I come into my prime emotionally, physically, and professionally. There is still some of that, some days. I can’t keep the sun from my heart, no matter how much it breaks and, anyway, time heals as much as it hurts anymore.

The snow is melting, and the storms are passing. There is sunshine and rainbows, life coming back to life, and a new cycle appears ready to begin.

I’m desperate to begin with it.

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

Writing on a real schedule. It isn’t much, just one hour a day after work and two to four hours starting just before sunrise on the weekends. I’ve only just started, but I have noticed a two-fold benefit already. It’s not only easier to write when the time comes, but easier to do non-writing things without guilt at any other time I feel like it.

Making some blog changes. You may have already noticed some small design changes and I’ve been posting regularly again too. I’m working on a lot more posts to come and trying out different kinds of posts too. In addition, I’m keeping up with comments, following new sources of inspiration, and working to connect my writing to real people. There might even be a newsletter revival around the corner too!

Planning those weekend house projects. We’ve gone too many years letting too many things fall into disrepair and we’ve come to a point where we have to face what is difficult, make the time, and simply take the work weekend project by weekend project, and for the overwhelming bits, we’ve decided that it’s better to pay someone else who knows what they’re doing than to continue procrastinating or take action where we are ignorant.

Reading Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail by Frances Fox Piven. I started it many months ago for a bookclub I never met with and only just now getting around to working through it. This month I also finished The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus, Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, and Poetics by Aristotle. According to Goodreads, I’m just 12 books behind schedule for my goal.

Watching A Black Lady Sketch Show on HBO for the laughs and Grey’s Anatomy on ABC when I don’t want to think too hard. Some other things I enjoyed: Tina on HBO, an account in her own words of the life of music icon and domestic abuse survivor Tina Turner and Exterminate all the Brutes a frank account of race, oppression, and genocide through European colonial history.

Learning how to focus on breath and body again. I’ve rejoined Headspace and after three or more months away it’s amazing how much effort it takes to keep the body still while the mind follows each breath in and out. The worries intrude easily now, but I know with practice I can find my peace again.

Anticipating additional anxiety as we return to some semblance of “normalcy”. I feel as though I have forgotten entirely what I used to enjoy before the pandemic began, and the proper way to socialize outside of work and immediate family escapes me. Worse still, there is a part of me that has grown to like my isolation and would perhaps prefer never to come out of it again.

Reflecting on the lessons of right now. I am not exaggerating when I say that this last year has been the hardest I’ve ever been through. I’ve lost some people, almost lost others, and even lost myself for a while too. Life is looking vastly different from here than last May, and since I can’t change a single second of it, I may as well take in the new lessons and find the new joys.

Fearing more missteps and misunderstandings. One lesson I’ve learned this past month is how quickly things can change. I’ve dealt with downward trends that took weeks or even days, but it is possible to come to such a volatile time in life that within hours your entire universe can invert. I fear now that nothing can be fully predicted, least of all the people you think you know the best.

Hating how little control I actually have. We pretend at control. We imagine free will. We think ourselves each the master of a little universe willing and manifesting day in and day out. It’s an illusion. It’s worse than that. It’s a lie. What choice and will you have is smaller than you know. It’s ok though. Work with what you have and let go of the rest.

Loving the chance to learn from someone younger than me. I’ve struggled with my fears for a long time. I thought I had come to a place of progress, but it was only a place of comfort. I have been hiding while pretending to be brave. I’m learning to find my courage by watching the next generation surpass me in every way.

Needing rest. I don’t mean sleep exactly, but simply, rest. I need a place or a time to put down the weight I’ve been carrying. I’m not just talking about the weight of the last year. I realize now I’m carrying things that have been with me for far, far longer. I need to stop for a moment. I need to lighten the load.

Hoping the worst is behind me and my loved ones, and we can finally look forward to a life of light and love. I’m hoping for a sense of self and safety that won’t be shaken again. I’m hoping with all my heart for joy, for connection, for meaning and purpose. More than anything, though, I’m hoping for a reason to hope.


So, yeah, all in all, April, was hard but I’ve learned and loved and taught and been loved back so much that the heartache and heaviness have become at least possible to bear. I know where my strength lies and I know what weaknesses need work. I know what to look for and I have a better idea of what to do next. None of it was in vain.

But what about you? Has Spring sprung where you are? Have you received your COVID vaccine doses? Is your world opening up? Are you yet in bloom?

Let me know in the comments.


Goals // Week 08: Keep Doing What Works

This week my work days will begin get longer as I continue to heal and my ability to take on more roles and responsibilities grows. It’s been almost a year since I was last able to pour so much of myself and my time into my work but I’ll need to be mindful of my energy levels and make sure not to push myself too hard or too far.

With the extended days and lengthy lists of tasks that have piled up I know it will be all too easy to exhaust myself trying to make up for lost time.

This week I’m just to keep doing what works and focus on my most basic needs. It’s remembering to do the little things like meditate, drink water, rest, and eat that make the big goals possible. If the foundation crumbles the mind, the body, the mood, the whole day, and any chance at at productivity come down with it.

This week I will:

Wake up with my alarm, the first time it goes off!. I utterly failed at this goal last week. Worse than simply hitting snooze a few times I would get up and then actually return to the bed. Between the time needed to meditate and my resolution to start the workday 30 minutes earlier, I can’t keep starting my days this way.

Meditate every morning. Last week I only managed to work in one 10 minute session and it wasn’t nearly enough. Meditation and mindfulness have been critical elements to managing and coping with chronic illness. I have felt my mental health steadily declining since I stopped the practice, and I worry how far I will fall if I don’t return soon.

Eat meals and take medications on time. My work schedule has been a little chaotic lately which makes it hard not only to eat on time but to remember to be hungry at all! This has made healing all the more difficult as I miss out not only on the nutrients I need but miss the mealtime triggers for my medications. Bonus: Stay hydrated by taking a few sips of water at least every half an hour.

Not eat lunch at my desk. I’ve been missing out on 30 or 60 minutes of uninterrupted journal or blog time by blurring the line between personal and work time. My work day is already being extended enough and in order to maintain a healthy relationship with my work I need to draw clear boundaries and take advantage of time I have every right to claim as my own.

Write 500 words every day toward new blog posts. Last week I opened a few old unfinished drafts and managed a few awkward paragraphs of progress on each. This week I’d like to keep the momentum going and work down my running list of future posts one by one with the hope that I’ll find my old groove.

This week I will not fall into despair or self pity. It’s easy to get low especially now with so much uncertainty and loss around us. Our personal problems seem magnified. Our loneliness is deepened, and all of it feels impossible to overcome.

Personal goals feel unimportant in comparison to global grief but time hasn’t stopped ticking and we’ve already lost too much. It’s time to start trying again. It’s time to let a little bit of the pain go.

You can do this.


Photo by Klim Musalimov on Unsplash

Goals // Week 07: The First Steps

I’ve struggled to follow my own advice lately. In my defense, I have been dealing with a lot of loss and a lot of pain, a lot of depression and disorientation. I’ve lost my way and my motivation to find it again. I’ve been miserable and motionless. I’ve been feeling sorry for myself and making excuses.

So, what is different this week? This week I’m finally getting tired of my own bullshit. I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired of being sick. I’m tired of stressing, worrying, and dwelling. I’m tired of being afraid.

This week I’m taking back my sense of control. My choices are often limited, sure, but they are not nonexistent. Inspiration can be found anywhere and time is only waiting to be found. Energy might be in short supply and motivation is hard to muster, but if you remember that managing both is the real work, the rest will come easy.

This week I will:

Wake up with my alarm. For months I had been doing so well willing myself out of bed without hitting the snooze button but returning to a full work week has meant needing more sleep than I’m used to and made it harder to head the morning alarm. This week I’d like to work out a way to get the rest I need and wake up when I want to, not when I have to. Bonus: Stop taking so many naps. At best they don’t help and at worst they make the fatigue worse.

Meditate every morning. Through much of January I kept up with my daily habit, but I missed a day and devastation that failure wrought left me unable to start again. The truth is, I can’t afford to keep avoiding the practice. For me, meditation is as important to healing as medication and starting the day with the body and breath makes all difference.

Delegate, or at least ask for help when I need it. I’ve always had a hard time trusting my coworkers to get the job done without my direction or input, but I’d like to learn to be more flexible and open to different ways of seeing the solution and different ways of getting there too. I’d like more mental space for myself, and that means sharing responsibility and giving up control.

Return to my journal. I’ve been away from my physical journal nearly as much and I have from my digital and I’ve missed it just as much if not more. This week I’d like to get back to it, and my planner too, by carving out my lunch time specifically for analog writing. The mornings will now be for digital work and the evenings are for reading.

This week I will not let the failures of these past weeks get me down. This year I will not allow guilt or shame of missing a goal or falling behind in the short term keep me from making the progress I know I can in the long term if I would only take the time to reflect and refocus. It’s a long way from here to December, and it’s unreasonable and unrealistic to expect that each week’s goals can be set and met without failure or falter.

Finish not just each day, but each week, month, and year and be done with it. A new one will always begin as soon as one ends, and you cannot make the most of the current if you are still carrying the weight of the last. Let it go.

The first steps after a stumble are always the hardest. The sooner you get them behind you, the better.


Photo by Patrick Wittke on Unsplash

Goals // Week 01: There Is Time Enough

This week will the first time in months that I will return to something like my old full-time work schedule. I have been eager for a return to a time of more interesting and fulfilling work, but I expect the reality will remind me was days just like these, only longer and more tiring. Still, anything to break up the monotony. Anything just to feel normal again.

This week will also be the first test of the daily habits I’ve worked hard to establish over the last few months of half work days and half work weeks. It was easy then to meditate, to read, to write, to drink enough water and get enough sleep, but from now on the life/work balance will be tipped back the other way. I’m anticipating less time to myself and a lot more stress to manage. I’m expecting good habits to fall by the wayside and bad habits making troubling returns….if I let them.

This week it will take focus and willpower to keep moving through the to-do lists and the assigned tasks, but more than that, it will take a little self-compassion. It will take encouraging and believing in myself and making this space safe to fail in. No more shaming and blaming. Instead, there will be nothing but praise, patience, and pep talks.

This week I will:

Read the introduction and chapter one of Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail by Frances Fox Piven. On a whim last month I joined a book club and according to an email I received last week, it turns out I’m actually expected to read the material and join a discussion in a little under two weeks from today. Bonus: Finish the current chapter of The Second Sex.

Meditate every morning. Cultivating a meditation practice is one of the very few resolutions I have made that are expected to be daily habits . I’ve done great so far and I’d like to keep it up through the end of the week. I have set my morning alarm 30 minutes earlier; I have reminders in my phone, and if it doesn’t get done first thing in the morning, it must be the last thing I do before bed.

Stay hydrated. Last month a few of my lab results came back with troubling numbers regarding my kidneys. I have been struggling with dehydration for months and now that I am finally seeing some healing, it’s important I give my body the best chance by drinking a lot more water and laying off the sugary sports drinks that have become a habit.

Fill in a page of my journal and update my planner every day. My journal and my planner are two out of the four keys to my success in 2021. The third is sitting in my office chair and the fourth is setting a timer. I’m easing into the productivity shifts and the start is simply writing down what I think and what I want to do about what I think.

Finish week two of Social Psychology on Coursera. I enrolled into an irrational number of courses last month in an attempt to take advantage of free certificate offers in subjects I’d long been interested in. Immediately upon looking at the number of lectures, reading requirements, and assignments, I felt overwhelmed found it impossible to even begin. This week I’m going to begin by taking each in 20 and 30 minute chunks at a time for as long as it takes until I’m done.

This week I will not get discouraged. There is time for the things you want to do, you only have to find it. It’s in the little breaks and the small moments between this task and the next. It’s in the space you give to too much TV, to the games on your phone, to social media and sleeping in. There is time enough to do a little every day and you have to let that be enough.

The theme of 2021 is slow and steady. Keep in your mind a vision of yourself 12 months from now all that might change and how far you might find yourself from where you stand now if you were to take just one small step every day. The step need not be perfect. It need not even be right. It only has to be forward. It only has to be done.


Photo by Daniel J. Schwarz on Unsplash

Currently // December 2020: Never Be the Same

“It’s four in the morning, the end of December
I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better.”

― Leonard Cohen, Famous Blue Raincoat

The end of December has arrived and with it the end of one of the longest and most horrific years in my memory. Thinking back to this time last year, it’s shocking to mark the number of changes. I hardly recognize myself or the world around me. I can hardly believe how much has changed, how much has been lost, and how much we have to gain back.

The official winter season has only just started here in the northern hemisphere, but we are already halfway toward the next summer, my favorite season of all. The dark days and the deep cold will be with us for a long while more, but it helps to know that slowly, slowly the sun will start setting later and the number of days above freezing will steadily increase.

Twenty-twenty has been quite a year, one none of else will soon forget. We’re living through a time of unprecedented uncertainty and grief. The pandemic is still ravishing communities here in the US and though, like Spring, the vaccine is bringing an end in sight, there will still be many more dark days to survive.

Still, there have been some small victories, and plenty of lessons learned. I’ve never felt more connected to my local community and have found a sense of trust and pride in state officials and local business and leaders. I’ve had more time than i have ever had—or will ever have again—to rest, to read, to write, and to learn about myself.

Besides the fear and anxiety brought on by the pandemic raging around me, inside I was also experiencing what would turn out to be the longest and most severe flare up of my ulcerative colitis symptoms since my diagnosis. This disease took so much from me in 2020, but it also gave me something back. It showed me how strong I am. It showed me the power of the human body, of my body, for both good and bad. It brought me back to my meditation practice and reacquainted me with the calm of early mornings. It taught me it is possible to overcome yourself, and it taught me gratitude.

I’m ready to take these lessons and many, many more that this dumpster fire of a year taught me into the next. Though I know that things can always be worse, from here, looking on the innocent potential of the New Year, I can only see how good things are finally going to get. The world has a vaccine. The US has a new President. I have a new medication. I am healing. We are all healing.

As with every norm and tradition, making New Year’s resolutions just doesn’t feel the same this year. What used to be important has become trivial and forgettable, and what used to feel unimportant is now vital.

This year I’m setting very few large goals and instead focusing almost entirely on self-care. The biggest lesson I’m taking with me into the new month and year is that I must build and continually rebuild emotional endurance and resilience. This year I am putting I have to put my health and my well-being before all else because it turns out I am vulnerable in many more ways than I knew, but before I do, here’s what I am currently:

Writing from a new place in my home. The old creativity room had to be converted back into a bedroom this year, and I was left without a place to call my own. For weeks I wandered through the house from couch to bed to counter to floor, and nothing felt right until the idea struck to clear the cluttered dining table and claim a corner of the kitchen for writing alone. I’ve got my old office chair and all my notebooks here, the only essentials I need. I will have an office again eventually, but for now this will do.

Making this house a home. My wife and I are notorious for procrastinating on needed house projects and repair, but with reduced hours at work due to the pandemic, boredom has pushed us to complete project after project just to have something to do. My wife has taken the lead and going forward I have a feeling my role will be regulated to simply approving or disapproving plans but that’s ok. Slowly and steadily these ugly fixtures, bare walls, and outdated decor are being transformed into something personal, something more livable.

Planning and tracking each day of 2021. In preparation for the coming year and upon reflection of the last, I thought it might be a good idea to move back toward an all analog system of allocating my hours. I have long been a fan of author Austin Keons system of note taking and logging and have tweaked it somewhat to include to-go lists and goals. I have a new, and quite plain just the way I like it, Moleskine daily planner to my habits and schedule. I have a Journal to record the day’s moods and thoughts,

Reading The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir and Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail by Frances Fox Piven. Many of Beauvoir’s ideas are now outdated since the advancement of science and the understanding of gender, but her writing style is wonderfully unique and her power to inform and impassion is inspiring. I haven’t technically started Poor People’s Movements, but it has moved to the top of my TBR since I, on impulse, joined a book club that is meeting virtually in just a few weeks to discuss the introduction and chapter one.

Watching The Stand on CBS and old episodes of Veep on HBO. Some of my favorite shows this year include The Mandalorian, Raised by Wolves, The Queen’s Gambit, and Lovecraft Country. I have tried these past months to reduce the amount of time I spend in front of the TV, and largely I feel I have been successful. Unfortunately, Disney recently announced a slew of new Star Wars shows coming to their streaming app, and I suspect my couch time will significantly increase as a result.

Learning about Social Psychology. I’m two weeks into the course and while I find the material interesting, I’m having a hard time progressing due to time constraints. This course requires has quite a bit more reading than the previous courses I’ve taken. Still, I’m excited to get through it, not for the subject alone but for the courses I have lined up to take after. On a whim last month, I enrolled in four new Coursera courses—the certificates were being offered for free, I couldn’t resist!—and to keep from overwhelming myself, I’m only allowing myself to take them one at a time.

Anticipating a return to a normal schedule and routine. All through autumn I had wished and wished for my district to go fully remote, but when we finally did it wasn’t at all what I expected. Unlike the last shutdown I have still been expected to come in and without the kids, there has been very little to do. At first the quiet, easy days were nice, but experiencing boredom and isolation both at home and at work has proved detrimental to my mental health in ways I couldn’t imagine. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but actually I’m ready for more work, for more coworkers, and to see the kids smiling again.

Reflecting on the lessons of the pandemic. There is no doubt that this year will be a defining one for all of us. It will be one of those times in which there is a great before stretching back through our lives and along after the is laid out long after our lifetimes. We’d all be fools not to spend some time taking in all the ways the spread of this virus has shaped and reshaped our new world and in turn shaped and reshaped who are. I know I’m not the same person I was just last March and I don’t think any one of us is, and maybe that’s a good thing.

Fearing things will get worse before they get better. The vaccine is here and already the most vulnerable are being inoculated, but it will be a long while before the reports of record-breaking sickness and death are behind us. Now that the worst of winter is upon us and the cold is driving us indoors, now that we are desperate for community and connection, now that we have grown weary and stupid, the virus has grown more contagious and we are all the more vulnerable now. My fear is the worst is yet to come, for me and for all of us together.

Hating how little empathy and care is being shown to the American people by their own government. I’m thrilled to know that in just a few short weeks the office of the presidency will be handed over to the Democratic party, but I have little hope Biden or the Democrats who hold a majority in the House of Representatives will be able to do any good there. The Republicans will more than likely hold the Senate, and majority leader Mitch McConnell will go on blocking compassionate legislation and allowing the most vulnerable among us to go on suffering.

Loving this sense of community I feel everywhere I go. Whether I’m at home, at work, in the grocery store, on the internet, or watching TV, I feel part of something. It’s the neighborhood, the city, the state, the country, the world, we are all in something together and though I wish it hadn’t taken so much fear and anguish to bring us together, I’m happy we’ve pulled together to pull through it. We more united than ever. We are more like mind and like hearted than we’ve ever been. This is one thing I hope will never go back to “the way things were”.

Needing to see my friends again. I have spent some time with family throughout the year and that has been a great salve to my mental woes and lonely heart, but I have had no time with my friends and I miss them all very much. I miss dinner and drinks. I miss brunch. I miss movies and house parties. I miss our laughter and our talks. My family has been great, but I miss being around people who are under no obligation to like or even tolerate me.

Hoping that 2021 will be a little kinder to us all and if it isn’t I hope we all have learned how to care for ourselves and go on living and loving despite our fears and failures. I hope that we conquer this virus and we learn how to prevent such great losses when the next one—perhaps even more virulent and deadly than this—rises and spreads. I hope we have learned what it means to be species, united in our struggle to survive. I hope we have learned the meaning of humanity.

I hope we will never be the same again.


So, yeah, all in all, December, like all of 2020, has been fraught with both fear and hope. Better days always felt near and yet never quite arrived. I begin the new year in much the same place, still just on the horizon of a new world and way of living.

But what about you? How has the month, and the year itself for that matter, treated you? How have you learned to cope, and how will you go on coping when the world begins its next revolution around the sun? How will you celebrate tonight and who, if anyone, will you celebrate with?

Let me know in the comments.


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

Photo by Valeriia Miller on Unsplash