Currently // March 2020: Everything Has Changed

“March is the Month of Expectation.
The things we do not know—”

— Emily Dickinson,

March, typically, is one of the most boring months of the year. If it weren’t for the start of Spring and for the designation as Women’s History Month, March would be wholly unremarkable. But this March has been something else entirely. This March has been one of the hardest and, frankly, terrifying months I have ever lived through.

When the month began, life was essentially normal. I was working and worrying about an upcoming interview for a new position at work. I was anxiously counting down the days until Spring break. I was so looking forward to a trip down to Texas for a conference. Life was good, and everything was looking up for me. Then the news reports, the ones that had been increasing for weeks and the ones I had dismissed as media hype, were growing increasingly concerning.

There was a new virus spreading quickly, and every day the numbers of the infected grew higher, and grew closer. Suddenly I was hearing words like incubation period, quarantine, and pandemic. Suddenly there was hand sanitizer everywhere. Suddenly we were being told to stay home if we were sick. Suddenly there were lists of vulnerable populations on the news and a list of vulnerable workers at my job. As the first couple of weeks of the month wore on, rumors began flying everywhere. Rumors about how bad things would get and the severe measures that may have to be taken. Then, suddenly, everything changed.

As I write this, my wife and I have been off of work and hold up at home practicing social distancing for nearly three weeks now. Almost every business in the state has closed their doors, and the Governor has issued a “stay-at-home” order. Last I heard from the school district I will return to work on April 20th, but I am hearing rumors again. Rumors about how much longer this will go on and how much worse it will get.

As for me, I’m getting through it the best that I can. I’m one of the lucky ones. I not only have the opportunity to stay home to protect myself and others, but I’m being paid to do so. I’m only being asked to endure isolation and boredom. I’m choosing to make the most of this time partly because I feel guilty for resting so much while the world burns around me, but also because I need to keep my mind occupied.

Going forward, I have no big aspirations. April will be a month of simply coping and doing what small things I can do to keep myself from falling victim to loneliness or depression. I’d like to read a few books, write a few posts and essay, and perhaps create a few collages and poems. I’d like to take better care of my physical and emotional health and complete a few projects around the house. I’d like to spend time with my wife and give my pets and plants the attention they deserve. I want all the things I always wish I could be doing when I had to work instead, but before I do, here is what I am currently:

Writing a couple of real blog posts. I’ve been using Google docs not only to track my daily to-do items and store my daily logbook lately, but to work on my drafts and essays too. I’ve been able to free write, take notes, add comments, and perform searches for quotes and facts right from within the documents. It helps to avoid distraction (when coupled with the use of a timer) and in this time of social isolation I feel like I finally have the time and a system in place to get my ideas organized and perhaps get some real writing out there instead of just talking about it.

Making lists. I’ve written a little about it already and plan to write a lot more about it soon, but I’ve been working on a new to-do list and logbook system I shamelessly stole from Jeff Huang. I’m incorporating suggestions from Cal Newport on adding time blocking and action plans and recently discovered a whole blog dedicated to Plain Text systems. I’m using Google docs to facilitate accessibility across devices and working on a system to incorporate calendars and links to other documents to track an editorial calendar and easily write and publish new blog posts.

Planning for a lengthy stay indoors. To be honest, nothing can be planned for at the moment. We don’t know when we will be able to go back to work, see our loved ones, travel or attend events. Everything I had been planning for or looking forward to had been postponed indefinitely, and all I can allow myself to plan for now is a day or two in advance. The silver lining is that for the time being I can live in the present and focus fully on spending the time I have today the best I can. One day at a time is the only way any of us can hope to digest the future that awaits us.

Reading It by Stephen King, still. I’ve been chipping away at this tome for months now and though progress has been slow, it has been made. I expect that by this time next month I’ll have finished this and two or three more. I hope to close the two book gap between where I am and where I should be by now if I want to beat my 2020 reading challenge. Going forward, I’m going to make an effort to read more digital books. I have an old iPad I’m repurposing as a dedicated e-reader. I have plenty of gift cards for Amazon, Google, and Barnes & Noble that I can use for this experiment and plenty of time on my hands to work on my comprehension and focus when reading from and screen.

Watching the news. I’m trying not to watch it all the time but, like most of you I’m sure, I’ve had to check in regularly not just with national news, which I did all the time even before all of this, but with world and local news too. It’s helped to be informed, but I’ve had to be mindful of where I get my news and how often I check it to avoid panic and speculation. I watch for an hour or so in the morning while I make my coffee and eat, and when I’m done, I turn it off and don’t allow myself to look again until after dinner.

Learning about International Women’s Health and Human Rights on Coursera. I’ve been trying for over a year to complete this course, but I have always failed to make the time or to do the work consistently. Now that I am off of work I have whole days to devote to studying and writing and, hopefully, finally marking this course complete. I’m ready to move on from this (and from my Modern & Contemporary American Poetry course too) and it has been this desire to move on that has kept me from finishing, but the only way out is through and there is no better time than now, when I have all the time I could ever want. 

Anticipating my birthday, I suppose. Normally, I spend the whole month of April celebrating my birthday. I tour all my favorite museums. I eat out at my favorite restaurants. I always do something extra special with my wife and I plan multiple events with family and friends, but this year I’ll have to spend it quietly indoors and away from everyone I know. I’m a bit bummed about it but I know I can still make it special if I try. I still have my wife here with me and we can cook my favorite foods and I hear she’s already ordered gifts for me. I can still call my family and friends and perhaps we can plan a hiking trip if the parks are still open.

Reflecting on all the ways life has changed and how easily it has changed, how easily it could have always changed before all of this if we’d all been better, stronger, more kind, more imaginative. We’re seeing now what was always possible and when this is over we are going to have to answer for why we lied to each other and ourselves for so long. We’ll have to face that universal healthcare, housing assistance, and paid sick leave at the very least we’re always possible, affordable, and in all our best interest. We’ll have to face that some things will have to stay changed for the better.

Fearing this virus making its way into my circle of loved ones or into my home. I’m afraid for my parents, who were forced to work far further into this pandemic than I was comfortable with. I’m worried for my wife, who’s asthma has grown more severe over these last few years. I’m worried for my siblings living in other states that aren’t yet taking the measures my state has. I’m worried for myself being on medications that leave me somewhat immunosuppressed and needing to make regular trips into the clinic for care. Every step out of the house is a risk, and so much is out of my control.

Hating the impact this virus has had on my own life and these past weeks. I know it’s a bit selfish, but I’m giving myself permission to be angry over missing so much I had been looking forward too. There was a St. Patrick’s day dinner and a movie date I had planned with my wife that was cancelled. I was planning a big trip to Texas for work that was cancelled. I just got a promotion the day before the district closed and I haven’t been able to have my title or my pay scale changed. I had a class scheduled to become a Crisis Prevention and Intervention instructor that has been postponed indefinitely. Spring has come, and I haven’t been able to fully enjoy one day of it. I’ve lost time, I can never get back, and it’s okay to be angry about it.

Loving how we’ve all come together to beat this thing. I love seeing that so many of us are doing our part by staying home, by sharing supplies, by volunteering, but donating money or supporting local business by ordering delivery. I love that we have chosen to keep each other safe rather than to indulging in petty wants. Even if I am disappointed in the fact that it took this pandemic for life to change, I love that we were able to change for the better so quickly and easily. I’m proud of us all, and my faith in humanity has been restored.

Needing to see some sign of hope. I need to see that what we are doing is helping and that lives will be saved but all I see is more death and more to fear and everyday I grow more depressed and hopeless. I desperately need my spirits lifted and I know I’m not alone. Everyone is feeling this same anxiety and dread and a little good news in these terrifying and uncertain times could go a long way, but everywhere I look there’s nothing but bad. I know the media is keeping us informed and I know they tend toward what keeps us engaged and nothing does that more than what incites panic but please, please, please, show us something good too.

Hoping we can all keep this up. I know the longer it goes on, the antsier we all get, the more we begin to relax the rules and lose our sense of urgency. We start venturing out. We start letting the kids play together in the park. We start visiting the friends and family we’ve been missing so much. We start to believe that things aren’t as bad as the media would have you believe and that the recommendations to stay home have been overblown. I hope we can, for once, keep foremost in our mind what must be done and that we can, for once, find the collective courage and discipline to do it.


So, yeah, all in all, March was an absolutely horrifying month, but there has been some small good in it. I am happy and healthy and so are the people I love. I got the promotion I’ve been working so hard for and one day, when all of this is over, I can do all of those things that I missed out on. I’ve learned to be present and we’ve all learned that we’re all connected and we cannot get through this without the help and cooperation of us all. March has been, at the very least, eye opening.

But what about you? How have you navigated these changes, this fear and uncertainty? How have you been impacted by this virus? Have you stayed well? Have you stayed at home? Do you have enough toilet paper?

Let me know in the comments.


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

Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash

Goals // Week 14: Find a Way to Stay Sane

This week will marks our third of social isolation. I had hoped it might get easier as time went on and as I settled into acceptance and a new routine, but it has only gotten harder. I am surprised to find I do not have the urge to leave or to find things to do, but rather I’m fighting a strong desire to sink further and further into apathy and lethargy. I’m also experiencing irritability and mood swings and a new kind of anxiety that, though it is duller and less defined, is quite large and widespread. This week I expect things will get harder not just for me but for everyone, everywhere and we will all have to find a way to stay sane through it all.

This week I will:

Practice more self-care. When you have nowhere to go, it’s easy to let yourself go. For me work has always been my reason to wake up on time, to shower, to get dressed, to do my hair. Without the prompt of going to work, I found I simply forgot that I still needed to do those things. It will be late in the day when I remember I’m still wearing pajamas and haven’t eaten anything at all. This week I want to start a new “wake up” routine in which I carefully and deliberately take care of my basic needs before doing anything else.

 Teach the dog to roll over. The dog has been loving all the extra walks, extra play time, extra attention and cuddle time she’s been getting and I figure why not take it a step further and make it extra learning time too? She already knows sit, lay down, stand up, turn around, shake, back up, jump up, fetch, and “drop it”, but roll over has eluded her. She loathes to be on her back and most of my efforts so far to teach her have resulted in confusion and frustration for us both. I have a new technique though and I think this week we just might get it.

 Be more active and see more of the sun. The mornings are still too chilly to get back to my old jogging habit but the afternoons have been warming by the day and are just as good a time as any for me to get out and around the neighborhood. I’ve been too cooped up and though I crave to sink further into this isolation, the best thing I can do for my mood and spirit is to remember there is still a wide world out there to return to. I need to get out of this house and out of my head, and the only way is to grab the dog and spend some time in the sun and spring air.

Spend time away from screens. I had been doing a commendable job curbing my obsessive consumption of news in an effort to quell my anxiety but over the last few days I’ve slipped back into my old bad habit of watching, scrolling, and searching for updates all day long. These devices are just too tempting to misuse, and it’s too easy to make excuses to get around my own rules and boundaries. This week I will set up a schedule for screen time and tie that I am to put away my devices and find more analog things to do with my time.

Finish reading It by Stephen King and book eight from my Penguin Little Black Classics book set, A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift. I’ve been getting a lot more reading time in these past couple of weeks, and I cannot let myself lose the momentum. I have just over 100 pages to go now for It and less than 10 for A Modest Proposal. Those are both entirely reachable goals for the week. If I keep up this pace, I’m sure to catch up and ultimately get ahead of where I should be by now if I want to beat my 50 book challenge for the year. Bonus: Finish book nine too, Three Tang Dynasty Poets.

Get more cleaning done. I have been lax about disinfecting the house, especially after either my wife or I has left and come back or after bringing in items from the store or having items delivered to the house. I’ve read a lot of different timelines for how long the novel coronavirus can live on various surfaces but the CDC had a handy page of guidelines for how to clean different type of surfaces and materials and recommends going over “high touch” areas daily. The is the second most important thing I can do for my family right now, the first is to…

Stay home. It’s hard to stay in and when we start feeling cabin fever coming on and loneliness creeping in we make excuses for why it’s okay to head out for a little non-essential travel. I’ve seen videos of people visiting friends and family and congregating far too closely in public spaces. I’ve been guilty myself of going to stores not just for groceries but to simply browse the aisles, anything just to get out of the damn house! But doing these things puts us all at risk and the truth is no matter what your gut tells you it just isn’t worth it.

This week I will not let the walls close in. This past week the President announced that the CDCs social distancing recommendations would be extended through the month of April and I have serious doubts I will return to work before the summer. That means I have to make peace with this seclusion and find a way to joy and fulfillment within this tiny space. I have to learn to self start, self motivate, and self sooth. I have to get used to not having time away, or alone. I have to use my imagination and to start where I am using whatever I have on hand.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 13.

Photo by Jason Krieger on Unsplash

Goals // Week 13: Loose Expectations and Broad Guidelines

This week marks the beginning of my “extended Spring break” and the second week of social isolation. The days are very much running together and I am finding it hard to establish a schedule or settle into a routine. How can I when I don’t know from day to day how things may change? How can I when there’s nothing to do but worry about yourself, about your loved ones, about every damned thing in the world? Still, I have to try. I have to put together some loose expectations or some broad guidelines on how I should spend these days away from the rest of the world and my work. I have to do something to stay sane.

This week I will:

Spend at least an hour a day in the “creativity room”. While a month of binge-watching whatever Netflix keeps trying to get me to watch while scrolling through a rotation of social media apps sounds great, I would really like to make better use of my time even if I’m not sure yet what it is I want to do or accomplish. I’m not putting too much pressure on myself for output I know that nothing good—nothing at all—will come from spending my days on the couch. I have to get up, get ready, and get to a place where I can find the work I want to do.

Update: I tried to stay motivated and productive, but I underestimated how much staying at home all day every day would affect me. There were many days when I hardly left the couch, hardly ate, and hardly took care of myself. So, I did get in the “creativity room” for a little while there were many more days where I simply couldn’t fight my way out of anxiety or melancholy to make any progress. It’s surprising how much it turns out that I need other people to cheer and focus me.

 Set alarms for daily activities. I didn’t realize how much of my days were decided by my day job. I didn’t realize that all my prompt, my cravings, my wants, needs, and thoughts were all decided around the hours I worked. Now that I have no hours I can’t for the life of me remember what I am supposed to do and when. I used to have alarms on my phone for things like meals, medicine, even water and walking breaks because I would get so caught up in what I was doing. I think it’s time I go back to that.

Update: The alarms have been set to remind me to wake, to take medication, and to go to sleep. I’d like to add more, to utilize reminders for other regular chores and to-do items, and to start setting timers to help me move through reading, writing, and cleaning, to remind me to work through one task at a time, and to keep track of what tasks are next. Habits are hard to establish, and there is no shame in seeking help.

 Complete one small house project. The laundry room is in desperate need of a deep clean. The basement storage area needs purging. The water heater needs to be drained for the season, and the roof over the back deck needs repairs. Those are just a few off the top of my head projects I could do around the house to pass the time, keep my mind occupied, and achieve a feeling of accomplishment and usefulness. More than writing, or reading, or finishing a course, this would be the best use of my time stuck at home.

Update: Again, it’s been hard to find the motivation, but the energy has eluded me too. I did have my infusion this week, and perhaps I was asking too much of myself after being pumped full of medication. I’m always a little fatigued after these things, and I failed to remember that. Luckily the feeling fades quickly and I should feel a little more myself in the coming days.

Read to page 900 of It by Stephen King. I’m making a lot of progress through tis book so far, and if I keep up the pace, I could very easily finish this massive novel by the end of next week. The trick is to give up some social media time and devote it to reading time, which hasn’t been so hard now that I’m limiting my access to the news. I’ve moved my news check time to 5:00 PM and around 7:00 I put my phone away and take out my book until it’s time for bed. Bonus: Finish two books from my Little Black Classics set and choose an ebook to download and read from my old iPad.

Update: I’ve been spending time reading almost every evening and a couple of days I made sure to read away from the TV and from my phone in order to avoid any distraction. The effort paid off, and I was able to make it all the way to page 1,045 and have just over 100 left to go. I decided to focus fully on reading It since it’s such a long book and skip the catching up on my Penguin Little Black Classics. Going forward I am going to keep my reading goals much more narrowed and focused until I can finally move on from this tome.

Keep in touch with my family and friends. Last Friday, I checked in on my friends. Yesterday my dad called and last night my wife and I joined a “family day” call on Snapchat. My cousin calls regularly to check in on us, and I’ve been texting my mom every other day or so. I miss everyone so much and I am so worried all the time for them, but it helps to call, connect, and vent. It helps to hear they are fine, they are hopeful, they are getting through it the same as me. For my mental health, and for their’s too, it’s important not to forget to reach out.

Update: Time simply got away from me and I didn’t get to make all the calls I wanted to. Most of the checking in I did was after others had called me which was good but if I’m honest was not what I meant when I set this goal. I am happy to report that as of right now all my close friends and family are still feeling well and many were able to begin working from home and others who were without work found temporary work.

Stay well, emotionally and physically. I haven’t been feeling great these past few days and I’m really worried about either contracting the virus or falling back into an ulcerative colitis flare because I am worried about the virus. I’ve already been washing my hands more, using hand sanitizer, and drastically limiting my exposure to the general public, but there’s more I need to do for me too. I have to take all of my medications and my supplements on time. I have to eat regularly and eat healthy. I have to limit my access to the news, and I may even start meditating again. I should get out and walk around the block more, see the sun, forget the crisis all around me.

Update: I haven’t been great at taking all of my medications or eating meals on time but progress was definitely made. I made it to my infusion appointment, ordered all of my medications that were getting low, and took every precaution when I had to leave the house. My wife and I are both feeling well and avoiding leaving the house as much as possible. I’m still very worried that in a week or so one or both of us will come down with symptoms but all I can do is take it day by day and today we are as well physically and emotionally and anyone can expect.

This week I will not feel guilty for enjoying this time. I have flashes of happiness and contentment over my spontaneous staycation away from work, and I almost always feel bad for it. People are suffering and dying, losing money and losing their homes, and I’m not, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get to be happy either. Who knows what hardships are in my future too and the truth is any shred of joy or even peace that I can find now may be just the kind of memory I will need to hold on to later when times turn rougher and more uncertain.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 12.

Photo by kyler trautner on Unsplash

Goals // Week 12: Peace and Productivity

This week, despite all the bad news and the spreading novel coronavirus outbreak, will be a good week. Spring has arrived, the weather is sunny and warm, and I don’t have to work at all. I’m still riding the high of my promotion being made official and I have at least two events I’ve been looking forward to coming up, including a St. Patrick’s Day movie party at my favorite theater. I know I am supposed to be practicing social distancing and isolation, but I promise you I am taking all proper precautions. I’m looking forward to peace and productivity.

This week I will:

Read for one hour every day. I’ve fallen behind in my reading goals for the past couple of weeks or more, but now that I’m home for an extended Spring break I will have plenty of time to catch up. I had hoped to be finished or nearly finished with It by now but the book is so long and Stephen King is so long-winded in this one that I am finding it hard to keep up any pace at all. I’m over halfway through though and I cannot allow too much time to pass or for the time I’ve invested to be wasted.

Update: To be honest I did not read every day but instead I’m marking it done by counting my time through averages. There were days when all I did was read, and there were days when I didn’t read at all. I made a lot of progress and even though I’ve fallen “two books behind schedule” I know it’s only because this particular one is so long. I fully expect to start catching up in the next week are two.

 Write two blog posts. One for my personal blog here and for my other blog, Zen and Pi. I’ve been wanting to both write more substantial pieces here and to turn Z+P into a proper publication, but since I have been working my ass off to earn this promotion, I simply haven’t had the time. Well, I finally earned that promotion and now it’s time to find a proper balance between my day job and my personal pursuits. It’s time to pick a direction and do the work for me.

Update: This goal and all writing goals I have set for my blogs have been too big and too broad. Going forward I am going to start breaking them down into steps like: Choose 2 prompts or concepts to explore. Free write for one hour around these topics. Find key concepts and organize them. Find supporting quotes, ect. This week I chose a couple of prompts and I have spent time free writing on both. This will get easier!

 Walk at least three days this week. It’s going to be hard to practice social distancing and isolation and to cope with all the time away from work. To keep from going stir crazy, it might help to get out in the sun and around the neighborhood for a few minutes every afternoon. The extended forecast predicts warm temperatures through Thursday, and after that we’re looking at drizzle through Sunday. Better take advantage of the good days while you can so the cold and lonely ones won’t be so bad.

Update: I only managed to get out and around the neighborhood for one day and although there were a few days of frigid and snowy weather I could have done much better. I have to find a time that works for me. The mornings are preferable, but they are still too cold. The afternoons are warmer, but I am too tired by then. The closer we get to summer the easier this will be, but for now I still have to force it.

Get through my CPR Instructor’s course. I had thought that my class would be canceled but according to their website all classes are still on but extra precautions are being taken. I’ll be expected to wash my hands as soon as I enter the building and then to use hand sanitizer, alcohol, and gloves, and to keep my own personal mask and one-way valve. I was already nervous about the class itself, but now I’m worried about the virus too, but I can’t let my anxiety get to me. I can’t panic or let opportunities slip by.

Update: I really had nothing to worry about. The class was easy and enjoyable and getting through it really boosted my confidence in both my skills and my ability to teach those skills to others. I’m really excited to return to work and to start practicing the process of certifying others to help save lives.

Finish my taxes. I was supposed to have the forms filled out and sent off a month ago, but I’ve been doing that thing I always do when I’m afraid. I’ve been avoiding it, putting it off, forgetting it, and telling myself there is plenty of time, that there are more important things, that it can wait, wait, wait. Well, I can’t wait anymore. There are new goals and bigger milestones I want to meet financially and I cannot move forward with those goals until I get this done, taken care of, and paid.

Update: I got as far as I could for now, and I am happy to report that the damage is not any worse than I expected it to be. I was happy to hear the IRS has relieved some pressure on all of us and extended the deadline, though I still have every intention of finishing before April 15th. I feel better knowing where we stand and knowing that next year will be so much better for us both.

Limit access to the news. Yes, there is a pandemic happening and every day there is new information, guidelines, and closings I need to be aware of but staying connected 24/7 has really taken a toll on my mental health and I need to step away if I’m going to be able to make it through these difficult, confusing, and terrifying times. I have to unplug, step away, and redirect for more of my day. I have to focus inward, on the immediate, on what is close and what is under my control.

Update: This has been a lot easier to do than I thought it would be. I went from running CBS News all day and obsessively refreshing local news Twitter accounts to listening for one hour in the morning tops and checking those Twitter accounts only after 4 or 5 in the evening. It helps when you accept that between those times not much is happening or being reported anyway, and all you are hearing is either redundant or speculation.

This week I will not panic. Life as we know it is changing every day. More and more people are testing positive for the virus and more and more are undiagnosed cases are suspected. The stores are out of the essentials we all need and everyday social restriction grow tighter and tighter. This week, I will not let despair and worry get the better of me. I will not let listlessness and loneliness keep me from using this time wisely. I will not lose patience with myself. I will not try to control what I can’t. I will not forget that we will all get through this together, if separately. I will not forget there is light at the end of this tunnel, somewhere.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 11.

Photo by kyler trautner on Unsplash

Goals // Week 10: We’re Going to Be Okay

This week is going to be much like the last few. I’ll have long hours and plenty of work to fill them with. I’ll have few hours left for me and even less energy to make much use of them. This pace is growing tiresome, and it’s getting harder and harder to fend off burnout but I’m trying to remember that when all else is out of my control I can still control my reaction. I owe it to my coworkers and more than them I owe it to myself to fake that enthusiasm and energy until it becomes real.

This week I will:

Stay present in the moment, do my best to maintain perspective, and practice gratitude at the end of every day. It’s going to be another long and stressful one, but that’s okay. I can make it. It’s not so bad. All of our problems are simply reminders of our blessings and I am grateful for the responsibility because it signals respect. I am grateful for the work because it means I can care for my family and provides opportunities to find purpose. I’m grateful for my conflicts and difficulties because it means there is room to grow. I’m grateful to have another week to make it through at all.

Read 100 pages of It by Stephen King. I had hoped to reach at least the half through these 1,150 pages by now but with this book being so big I can’t carry it around with me when I go out the way I have other books. That means reading time is limited, and it’s going to take me a little longer than usual to finish. That’s ok though. I have my Penguin Little Black Classics set and working my way through those tiny books is a much easier endeavor. If I make the time that is. Distraction has been hard to overcome lately. Mindfulness and limiting screen time are crucial this week.

Write for one hour every day without distraction. That hour can fall anywhere within the day, before work, during my lunch, after work, before bedtime, whenever, the point is that it must be completely distraction free. One tab with a text box for writing, a “lofi hiphop” Spotify playlist going in the background, and a timer set so that I won’t even have to glance at the clock. I’m shooting for one hour but I knw there will be days when that is asking a lot so, in the spirit of this year’s motto (Everything counts!) I will accept a half an hour as long as that is my best.

 Create a blackout poem. I have 3 pages of solid text torn from a magazine I’ve been carrying around for weeks I’ve been meaning to mine for new poems but I’ve just been too lazy and forgetful to look over them. It easy to put it off, to opt to watch T.V. or to find some chore or to-do item that’s more urgent instead, but this is my meditation. This is how I return to the present. This is how I slow down and give my mind and body a chance to reconnect. This is how I unplug. It’s as important as food, water, medication, and writing.

Drink more water! Who knew Gatorade could be so addictive? I can go a day or three without it but because water isn’t as refreshing or as flavorful when I don’t have Gatorade I often have nothing at all. I’ve noticed a dry throat and cracked lips returning and as someone with a chronic illness, intermittent anemia, vitamin deficiencies, and a suppressed immune system I cannot afford dehydration on top of all my other issues. One full bottle of water a day at least for now and no more Gatorade at all after the bottle already in the fridge.

 Not panic. Between the Democratic primaries and the coronavirus there has been much in the news to be anxious about lately and every day seems to get worse and worse. And the problem isn’t just online or just on the news. Every person I speak to has something to say about either or both and none of it is ever positive. It’s hard to think about anything else right now but what we can’t see is that though everything that is happening is very serious nothing is the end of the world, not yet at least. Chances are we’re going to be okay.

This week I will not let others pull me into their negativity, nor will I allow the actions of others to impact my mood, focus, or motivation. I will not be pushed to distraction, pushed off my path, or pushed to think or behave in ways that do not align with my values or goals. I can’t control other people and to be honest what other people do or don’t do, though frustrating and disappointing, has very little to do with me. All I can do is my best and at the end of each day that has to be enough.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 09.

Photo by Bailey Zindel on Unsplash

Goals // Week 09: My Own Worst Enemy

This week I may be looking at a lot more free time than I’ve had in weeks and I do not want to waste it. I want to write, or at least to complete those tasks that have been looming over me. This week I have to be mindful, willful, and fierce in my defence of my focus and my boundaries. I have to be hard on those who would distract me and harder on myself still. I am my own worse enemy and my most clever and insidious saboteur.

This week I will:

Read 200 pages of It by Stephen King. I’m nearly 400 pages into the tome and I’m desperately trying to reach the approximate 600 page midway point. I didn’t read as many days last week as I’d hoped to but the days I did pick it up I was able to read quickly and blast through over 50 pages in a sitting easily. If I did this every night and shot for just 30 or 40 pages I could hit the halfway point by Sunday and perhaps glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel. Bonus: Finish reading A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift.

Turn a few of those notes scribbled on scrap paper that I call “ideas” into post drafts and choose one to explore and write 1000 words on. The desk in my “creativity room” is overflowing with notes on post-its, scrap paper, napkins, envelopes, and notebooks most of which I’ve waited so long to revisit that I cannot recall the context or meaning but if even 1% of those ideas is viable, I would have a wealth of concepts to write about. It’s time I start digging into the heap and turn the fragments into fully realized pieces.

 Start a distraction journal. A schedule and a plan mean nothing if when it comes time to sit down and do the work all you can think about is the 100 other small things you have to do (or could be doing instead). I’m one of those people that writes two sentences and then gets up to do the dishes or switches tabs to check my email or picks up my phone to send a text and never gets back to the work. I’d like to keep a journal, or at least a piece of scrap paper next me where I can unload these impulses and thoughts onto, and then when the work is finally done I can devote guilt free time to these little tasks.

Finish my taxes. I have no excuse why this isn’t done yet except that I just keep forgetting to do them. It’s a daunting task and there are so many things to get done that feel more urgent. My mind is a limited space and the immediate tends to outweigh the important. What I fail to realize is that “immediate” should not have a monopoly over “important” and I have to be more mindful and more willful about what needs to get done “now”.

 Vote. Just like my taxes my mind pushes my ballot to the back burned with the excuse that there is much to do now and this is both simple, straightforward, and not immediate. I have plenty of time so why not put it off in favor of what has to get done now? The problem is there is always more to do now and often what is not immediate or urgent becomes so from too much stalling. Either that or it is forgotten entirely until it’s too late. Avoid the guilt and the regret. Do it now and be done with it.

Be mindful of how much of my time I give away. I love hanging out with my friends and coworkers but sometimes we get carried away and a short visit takes up two hours or more of the day and when that starts to become a daily habit I lose a lot of time I could devote elsewhere. Of course I still need to see them, to laugh, to vent, to feel a part of a group and community but there has to be balance.

Schedule weekly phone calls with my loved ones. I’ve been carrying so much guilt about how much time passes between talking with my family and friends. The guilt builds up and the longer I take the harder it is to make the call but I desperately want to be the one that keeps the ties of my family and relationships strong. I want to be a part of people’s lives. I want my loved ones to know I love them; I think of them, and it matters to me what is going on in their lives.

This week I will not allow the failures of the past to keep me from moving forward. It’s no secret I struggle with self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. It takes me longer than most to recover from even the smallest mistakes and missteps and in my despair I lose passion, drive, and focus. This week I will work hard to talk to myself and understand my mistakes as I would a close friend or loved one. I will not engage in the self depreciating talk I have in the past. I will not give up on myself.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 08.

Photo by Drew Lindsley on Unsplash

Goals // Week 08: Find My Footing

This week I have a little break from all the expectations and obligations that have long become routine. The weekend is a long one. I have an extra day off from work and the next class of new employees won’t begin with me for more than a week more. That means I have a chance to stop and think. I have a chance to look ahead and to find my footing before I take another step. 

This week I will:

Get well. I’ve been fighting a bad cold for over a week now and I’m feeling like I’ve fought my way through the worst of it and might just be on the mend. But I do have a chronic illness and the medications I take to have an impact on my immune system. If I’m not careful, if I don’t take care of myself by managing my stress levels, eating well, staying hydrated, and eating well this cold could gain a stronghold again or I could very easily catch something else.

Update: I’m feeling 100% again and the memory of that sinus pain and congestion misery is already fading. I did my best to stay hydrated and made sure to take (most of) my supplements often and on time. I’ve been sick a lot this season but nothing like that last cold and it’s left me with a bit of anxiety and paranoia. I’m sterilizing everything and washing my hands raw trying to avoid another infection.

Make a plan. I have neglected my calendars and to-do lists quite badly lately and as a result, no progress has been made. In my defense, my work life has been a bit chaotic and my health has made it impossible to maintain energy or focus outside of my obligations but the excuses aren’t holding up any longer. I know if I can make a plan I can find a way to do one small thing a day at least. It’s time to really try again.

Update: I made progress, but I did not stick with it. I have a list and a calendar now but they are not fully filled in and I have made little effort to keep either in front of me rendering both completely useless. But, progress is progress, and even if I only just keep filling it in every week for a while something ought to stick in my brain at some point.

 Read 150 pages of It by Stephen King. I’m sure I could make it further than that especially since I have decided to make T.V. time the new reading time these past couple of weeks. But I would like to move on through another book or two in my Penguin Little Black Classics set so I’ll have to split my time between It and Wailing Ghosts by Pu Songling and settle for fewer pages of one so I can enjoy a little of both.

Update: I did get a couple of good reading days in but only made it about 80 pages toward my goal. I found myself very distracted both on my breaks at work and at home. My schedule kept shifting and changing and it never felt like a good time to pull such a heavy book out and start reading. I was able to finish Wailing Ghosts though and that counts for something.

Complete my Heartsaver Instructor Essentials Online course. Before I can take the hands-on CPR and First Aid instructor course I have to complete the online potion. I’ve been putting it off because I’m nervous about it but my class is just a few weeks away and I do not want to mess up my opportunity to become an instructor because of a little irrational fear. This is a great opportunity for me, and I have to be brave, focused, and proactive and if I can’t be those things I better pretend until I am.

Update: It was long, and it was incredibly boring but I got it done. I did gain a lot of useful information about the process of teaching a CPR class which is very different from attending a class and learning CPR. Weirdly the new knowledge only made me feel more anxious rather than comforting me but I’m trying to tell myself that I am excited, not afraid.

Vote. I’m so grateful that the great state of Colorado makes it so easy to vote. We have early voting and mail-in ballots. We have 24-hour ballot drop off sites all over the city and here independents are allowed to vote in the primaries. So, I have no excuse not to participate in this election or any other. But sometimes when things are easy to do they are even easier to forget.

Update: I simply forgot. I know who I’m voting for and I only have one little circle to fill in before folding the ballot back up and dropping it off on the way to some other errand or destination. It’s simple, too simple. It’s so simple my mind considers it insignificant and not worth the effort of committing to memory. This is exactly why I have to keep that calendar and to-do list in front of me.

Write something, anything. I don’t necessarily have to write here and I don’t necessarily have to write to share. I can write something privately. I can write something that’s boring, unimportant, confusing, and bad. I can write as little or as much as I want or can and I can type it or use a pen and pad. I can write whatever I want so long as I write something real.

Update: For something I love and long to do writing is sure hard to make myself do. It’s difficult to begin or to know where to go. It’s hard to develop a voice and a message and it’s hard to silence my self-doubt and insecurities. It’s hard to make time when what is easier to do feels better now, but in the long run this feels so much worse and the longer it takes for me to begin the harder it is for me to get out of my own way.

This week I will not forget this list. For weeks now I have been setting goals and promptly forgetting them. This week I will not let I must do for others eclipse my personal passions so completely that I forget them entirely. This week I will not put myself on the back burner.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 07

Photo by Shaz Sedighzadeh on Unsplash