It was one of those days that contains a little of everything in your life. It was the kind of day that before you had actually lived it you never would have described as perfect, or good, or remarkable in any way. If it weren’t for this post forcing me to stop and think about it, I may have forgotten the day entirely by tomorrow.
But thinking about it now, there was good that felt really good and the kind of bad you feel proud to fight through and overcome. It was quite the battle, the struggle, and the victory. There was love, there was a little bit of tragedy, and there is even a happy ending too.
Today, it turns out, was actually kind of epic and beautiful. Maybe every day is?
The beginning of anything is always the longest part and 2019 is no exception. January has taken so long to conclude that the end managed to sneak up and surprise me. I almost forgot about February. I had begun to believe this month might never end and that my time would never run out.
I was lulled into laziness, I admit. Only half of my resolutions survived, though I expected as much and resolved in advance to renew them every month as needed. January ends with plenty of failures but none of the usual disappointment.
I’m choosing, on this last day of the first month of the year, to spend my energy contemplating the next. I’m looking for a new strategy, a new way forward. I’m talking myself up and back from the ledge. Do not give up, the future is still bright and full of possibility. There is so much left to do and plenty of time (though less than you might think) to do it in. There is still plenty of time left to change.
So, I’m moving forward and leaving January, and all it’s half starts and stresses, behind. February, a month of love, of self-love and self-starts, is finally here.
But first, here is what I am…
Writing much more but also less. I’m definitely writing more per day but my writing feels less substantial. I’m ok with this, for now. and hoping that quantity will lead to quality this second go around. I’m happy so far with my accidental commitment to posting daily. I never meant to start but once I did I couldn’t bring myself to break the chain. I’m going to keep it up, but I may tweak the format. I started this vlog with the intention of logging and storing my thoughts in the hopes that later I can pull a project or two out of the archives, so it makes sense to start using it as a sort of “topic journal” with revolving categories I post under in addition to the ordinary life updates.
As for Zen and Pi, it’s coming back I promise. I have so many ideas for it but lack the talent, knowledge, or courage to begin. Please don’t give up on me. It will happen, as soon as I can make it happen.
Making a new journal! Last year I completed a couple of small bookbinding projects one of which was a black Moleskine-style notebook with bright fuschia paper with alternating lined, plain, dot, grid, triangle, and hexagon ruling. Well, that journal is finally just about filled up and I’m ready to take what I learned from the last project and make a brand new one. I’m still planning and gathering supplies, so I’ve purchased a proper Moleskine to use until the new and improved DIY one is finished.
Planning the wedding, still. Progress has been made but we’re are in a serious time crunch now. I’m still excited for the big day, but it’s taking so long to plan that the magic has somewhat worn off. After the price tag shock, the hard choices about your guest list, and all the compromises you make on your vision for the day you begin to feel rather disillusioned. Soon, very soon, you are more stressed than excited and nothing you do feels like it’s for you anymore. I know I’ll feel differently when the big day comes, but right now I’m looking forward to it less and less.
Anticipating a very busy, and very exciting February. I can’t tell you all of the details yet but looking at my February calendar I get the feeling I’ll start climbing out of this winter depression I’ve been in since the New Year’s in no time. I’m going to get out with friends. I’m going to see the ballet. I’m going to take a trip. I’m going to enjoy some good food, and celebrate love, love, love!
Reading a lot! I finished six books in January, a new record for me. I’m currently on The Collected Poems of Emily Dickenson. I started a few days ago and I can already tell this one is going to take me a good long while. Her poems are short but I cannot read through them quickly. No, I’ve already been obsessively researching each and every poem and writing lengthy notes in the margins. So far, I’ve gotten through 12 poems out of…146. Which is why I am also reading Candide by the philosopher Voltaire. I needed a quick book to get through to keep my reading goals to track.
WatchingTrue Detective on HBO which has returned to the formula of their first season success, and Shameless on Showtime which is spiraling out of control as usual. I’m also watching a lot of mindless TV while I wait for the Spring premiers. I’m watching shows I’m barely even entertained by just to have something on. I watch them because I’m bored but I’m planning on watching a lot less for a while. All that boredom should be put to good use, don’t you think?
Feeling stressed and depressed, my usual state. It’s strange the way that happiness and hope can coexist quite comfortably alongside anxiety, frustration, and grief. I’m happy, but I’m sad a lot of the time too. I’m beyond tired and longing for something. A change I guess, but one I get to make on my terms. I want to finally start living a life that looks little more like the dreams in my head. I want to have some control and I want to be excited again.
Fearing our great collective uncertain future. More and more I have had to turn off and tune out the news, Every time things seem like they couldn’t get worse they do and these very big bad things begin to affect the very small and personal. The government shutdown, the shootings, climate change, Brexit, Venezuela, and the unofficial start to the 2020 Presidential election have me on edge and feeling angry, defenseless, and hopeless. I’m afraid that we are really seeing the beginning of the end of an era for America.
Reflecting on my resolutions, the ways I have failed and the ways I’d like to try again. There have been a few successes. I didn’t have one sip of alcohol all month and I cut my sugar intake drastically. I posted here every single night. I read 6 books toward my 30 book goal for the year. I did a lot but I didn’t start working out. I failed to write anything outside of this blog. I didn’t start any free courses, and I didn’t start drawing in my art journal. I’m not disappointed though. I know I have a lot of things I want to do and only so many hours in a day. But I do want to do more and that takes looking at what is working, what isn’t working, and finding creative ways to change.
Needing courage, always courage. The courage to look foolish. The courage to learn. The courage to fail and the courage to stand up to myself most of all. I’m distracted and tired, but I’m also lying to myself. I know deep down it’s all just a coping mechanism to avoid the things I am afraid of. I need the courage to tell myself to focus, to write, even when there is nothing to say. The words will come if I am strong and brave, I have to believe that.
Learning Spanish, still, and getting better and better all the time. I cannot sing the praises of the Duolingo app loud or long enough. I’ve been using it for a couple of years now and while I don’t expect to become fluent from a free phone app, I have noticed that I am grasping the basics well and retaining and recalling more and more words. I’m hoping to attempt a short book in Spanish by the end of the year.
Hating the taboo of hate. I’ve been thinking a lot about people’s reaction to my hatred of things, ideas, values, certain norms and structures of society, events, and people. I’m told that hatred is too strong of an emotion. The word shocks and disgusts. Hatred, it seems, is no longer an acceptable feeling and has become a forbidden word. People tell me that they “do not hate anyone or anything”. They tell me I should not, could not, hate anyone or anything either. I may dislike. I may disapprove. I may not understand, but I may not, apparently, hate. I’m not here to encourage hate. I only know that I feel it, naturally, and I am not about to dismiss or deny it on the word of others.
Loving a whole lot of little things. When a lot of very big things—both worldly and personally—start going wrong we can become overwhelmed. We can become blinded by our stress, and anxiety, and grief and we can forget that there is happiness and good all around us too. But if you take a moment and do the math you may find that all those very little good things equal or outweigh all that very big bad.
For example, I love the way my friends ask me every day how I am. I love that I get to work with kids who always make me smile even when I don’t want to. I love the blonde vanilla latte at Starbucks, books that make me cry, perfectly ripe pears, and eating at least one vegetarian meal every week. I love how happy my dog is to see me when I get home and the way my cat meows and taps me politely to ask for pets. I love phone calls from my mom, my little sister asking me for advice, and the way my brother’s baby looks just like him. I love cooking dinner with my girlfriend at the end of the day, and how after all this time we still stay up too late because there is so much we want to say. I love how lucky I am, how rich I have become in all the ways a person can love. I love my life. I love how suddenly the big bad things don’t seem so big or bad.
Hoping that we, as a country, as the United States of America, can continue to weather this President and his ignorant and divisive rhetoric. I hope that everyone out there is coping well and that we can all just hang on a little longer. We’ve passed the halfway point and we’ve elected enough Democrats that there is some small check on his power. Not as much as I’d like, but we’re in a better place than we were a year ago and in two years I hope we’ll be in a better place, a place built on truth and compassion.
So, yeah, all in all, this January was a good beginning. I don’t want to think of the month as an isolated time frame that has begun and ended but rather a part of something much larger and in that light, I can let it go with satisfaction. I can move past all the “what if’s” to “what now”?
But what about you? How are your resolutions holding up? How is your city —and your mental state—faring through the cold? Where will you go from here while there is still so much time left to change?
Let me know in the comments.
“January. It was all things. And it was one thing, like a solid door. Its cold sealed the city in a gray capsule. January was moments, and January was a year. January rained the moments down, and froze them in her memory: […] Every human action seemed to yield a magic. January was a two-faced month, jangling like jester’s bells, crackling like snow crust, pure as any beginning, grim as an old man, mysteriously familiar yet unknown, like a word one can almost but not quite define.”
I can’t believe we’re not even halfway through the week yet, and this godforsaken month seems determined not to end. Why don’t the weeks of April through October ever feel this long? I suppose times slows to a crawl when you’re miserable.
I spent most of the day dealing with medical professionals, staff, and drug companies. There was good news, or, rather, there was information which did help put my mind at ease. But, moving forward with new treatment means a battery of new tests and appointments and it also means more anxiety. I’m trying my best here but it’s hard.
So, tonight I came home, claimed a corner of the couch as my own, wrapped myself in my comfiest blanket, and let my girlfriend know that is where she could find me for the rest of the night. Tomorrow I’ll be strong again, but tonight I’m a mess, and that’s okay.
Another snow storm rolled in today and this time we got far more than the local meteorologists were predicting. Visibility was low and the temperatures were frigid. The road conditions were treacherous and traffic locked up all over the city. We all should have stayed home but the worst of it rolled in after it was already too late to call it a snow day.
My bones still ache and I’m entirely worn out for no reason except that the air was cold and I —having been forced to go out in it—had to work harder just to stay warm. I hate the layers I have to wear, and the clunky shoes, and the slow stupid way I have to walk to keep from busting my ass on the ice.
I’m tired, I’m angry, and I’m outraged I have to do it all again tomorrow.
It wasn’t all bad. I did finish reading The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery (my sixth book of the year already!) this morning. It was an incredible book but not quite what I had expected it would be.
(I have to start writing this year’s book reviews before I get too far behind)
Luckily, I remembered to bring The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson to work knowing how close I was to finishing The Soul of an Octopus. So far it’s been a…challengeing read. I thought Dickinson would easy since the poems are so short. Wrong!
I could spend days analyzing just one of her poems. I only got through 10 of them today but they were so beautiful that I don’t mind at all. Looks like I’ll be spending a good long while with Ms. Dickinson. So much so that I may have to change my reading schedule to accommodate the research I want to do and the notes I want to take in the book.
I’m also going to start reading a second book to keep from falling behind on my reading challenge. I haven’t decided which one yet but I’m thinking something short and easy. Candide by Voltaire perhaps? Recommendations welcome.
Today hasn’t been a very good day. I went out shopping and didn’t find anything I liked. I didn’t get any reading or writing done. My house is a mess and I’m too tired to clean it. My back hurts, my head hurts, I’m tired and the weekend is rapidly ending. Now I’m in a bad mood and I don’t know how to get out of it.
What I need is a plan. Maybe I just need is a long hot shower to reset the night. Maybe I just need to turn off all of these screens and crawl under a few layers of blankets with a big cup of ginger tea and the last 20 pages of my book. Maybe I need to call it a night, let Sunday go and try again Monday.
Some days you will wake up thinking you have it all planned out, that you know what the day will bring and what you will do in turn but some days you will step out of your door and at every step the day will refuse to cooperate, some in bad ways, and some in the most beautiful and surprising ways.
I had hoped to write today and to finish reading my book, but when I stepped out that door to make a quick visit with my family I was surprised in the most amusing and beautiful way. I was reminded that I am loved, that I have a place, and that I am far from alone. I was reminded that I am free to be me, always. I was reminded that I have a family that is actively healing through laughter and the sharing of vulnerabilities.
Life is complicated. People are complicated. They are cruel and stupid, and they rarely mean the things they say and do. Time, effort, and forgiveness can—sometimes, if we’re very lucky—heal the wounds between people.
It’s a lot to get into, but some news I had been dreading to receive, news I had just begun to hope wouldn’t come after all, came today. Long story short, my medication is damaging my liver and even though it is keeping the inflammation in my colon at bay, I will have have to cease taking it and start something new.
If you live in America and you have a chronic illness you’ll have some idea how stressful it is to deal with insurance companies during treatment changes. First, there must be a cost analysis done to find out if, and how much of the cost they will cover. This medication will more than likely cost thousands of dollars a dose, the same as my last medication. How much my insurance will cover and how much I can get assistance for the rest will take time to work out and there is a possibility that it won’t.
In the meantime, I a ball of stress and anxiety, a state that actually triggers and worsens my symptoms. What if we can’t afford the new medication? What if I am allergic to the new medication? What if the new medication doesn’t work? What if, while I’m waiting for the cost analysis and the financial assistance, my symptoms return or worsen? What if, what if, what if…?
Of course, worrying does nothing, and like all things, I just have to wait for answers to come and deal with them as they do.
It was another snowy day, but this time I still had to go to work. The flakes didn’t begin falling until we had already started picking up students, or, right in the middle of rush hour traffic. The sudden storm caused traffic blockages all over the city and we ran late to every stop and every school.
After the morning run, I still had plenty of work to do. It was my busiest day in a long time, though worse is on the way my boss tells me. So, right back out into the cold I went but I’m proud of myself for doing it without complaint and even a measure of enthusiasm. I took a moment to stop and marvel at the winter wonderland being built around me as the powdery snow fell.
The moment passed quickly. The cold air, the bare trees, the grey clouds, and my stiff bones got the better of me. I soon fell back into my usual winter sullenness. The sun did return in the afternoon but the damage was already done. I had let the day slip by without making any progress. I shirked productivity. I scrolled social media. I got lost in Twitter replies and Youtube holes. I let the hours go by and I have nothing to show.
The evening was no better. I tried my best but time slipped away and the chance is gone. Oh well, I read a little, wrote a little, and even cleaned up a little around the house. I put one foot in front of the other and I made it all the way to the end. I did the bare minimum—but so what? Fuck it. Tomorrow is Friday and I refuse to feel bad.
I’m so proud of myself for knocking 5 books off my 2019 reading challenge and I’m powering through the 6th as we speak. Of course, two were already half started, two were graphic novels, and one was the easiest read ever, but still, five books already! I’ve never read so much, so consistently, for so long before. All my other resolutions might be in the toilet but on this one, I have exceeded all my expectations, so far.
Whenever I start a new book, I go through this weird little ritual. I sharpen a new pencil (henceforth be known as my “book pencil”) to take notes in the margins, underline my favorite passages, and to circle names or other items to research later.
I choose a bookmark that “feels right” from my drawer of brightly colored postcards, stickers, scrap paper and tags I’ve saved for this purpose. I get a sticky note out and place it at the “endnotes” or wherever I can stop reading, which is often many, many pages before the last page. Then I do a bit of math.
I calculate how many total pages there in the main text to read (minus those endnotes, or the sample of the author’s next book, or whatever else is tacked on at the end) and divide that by how quickly I’d like to finish the book, usually between 7 and 10 days. The answer is how many pages I plan to read per day. I get another sticky note out to mark this page daily so I can read without thinking about it.
I mark the book as “currently reading” on Goodreads just before I start so that every night when I put the book down I can update the app with my progress. Then and only then can I begin reading and always with the introduction, the preface, the forward, or any notes from the author first before the main text. I do not consider those parts to be “skippable”.
It’s a lot, I know, and I know it’s weird, but sometimes a book is a conversation and like any other between two people you both have to be open and ready to interact, share ideas, and even disagree. This process allows me to establish a strong and immediate connection to every book I pick up. The ritual gives me permission to take every book I read very seriously and facilitates an easier immersion into the author’s world and mind.
The only thing better than a delayed schedule is a snow day. My girlfriend and I spent it on opposite sides of the couch reading and binge-watching stupidity on Netflix. We both took naps at different times of the day and we each had our own bursts of productivity in wholly different ways, one in the morning and the other in the late afternoon.
One of the great perks of being in a relationship is being able to be separate and together at the same time.
It’ll be time to head to be soon, but I’m stalling. It’s going to be exponentially harder to return to work tomorrow than it would have been today, which was already going to be exponentially harder than returning yesterday. So, I’m dragging it out and risking sleep deprivation. This small control is all I have and worth every bit of what I will suffer in the morning.