171 // Painful Obstacles

“Thank you for being there, for checking on me, and always making me laugh. Thank you for being my father and my friend.”

I wrote this in my Father’s Day card yesterday. I hadn’t seen my dad since my grandmother’s funeral this past February, and our quick dinner at the local barbeque place felt wholly inadequate. I miss him and I miss the closeness we used to share. I want to say so much to him about all the ways he failed as a father and all the ways he succeeded too. There just never seems to be the right time or the right place

I suppose I should be grateful. At least we have a relationship at all. My siblings each fall between indifferent, indecisive, and angry at my father. My family, as with many families, has troubling histories and harmful cycles to face, but anger and fear, however justified, prove to be painful obstacles.

None of us can control any other and doing our best, being self-aware, open, encouraging, and willing has only so much impact on the behavior of others. They have to want it too. They have to be ready and they have to see a reason. They have to see your reason and no amount of explanation alone can force it. Having patience while gently, gently planting seeds and setting good examples is all you can do.

And this, I think, is the job of any big sister but to be the oldest sibling means bearing both the burden and the blessing of radical love and acceptance and it has to be held for the self as much as for others.

170 // Hurting From Head to Toe

I’d meant to return to mindfulness and discipline this morning and wake up early to write a bit and organize some of my ideas into an actionable list, but the stress of the past week caught up to me in the form of a worsening headache and a generally exhausted and icky feeling.

I’m chalking it up to a week of being on my feet too much, then sitting in chairs that made proper posture impossible all while hardly eating, or eating poorly, getting too little sleep, and drinking little more than coffee and energy drinks.

As a result, my body is hurting from head to toe and I’m craving rest badly. It was hard to leave the bed and I admit I couldn’t manage it until nearly two hours after my first alarm went off. I think it’ll take a day or two of rest and strict adherence to good eating habits, my medication and supplement schedule, and any kind of exercise whatsoever to return to functional.

Mentally and emotionally, I’m somewhat better than just a day or two ago. The latest crisis is working its way toward resolution and I’m able to attend to unresolved emotions.

With each wave, with each pull beneath the surface and each rising and breath, I feel myself grow stronger. I can see others growing and gaining insight too as we fight through these troubling waters. I’m only glad not to be alone. I’m glad that we are safe—for now. I’m glad there is strength left yet.

169 // Readjusting or Time In Between

I got back in town last night after a few days away for a work conference and it’s taking a surprisingly long time to readjust back to my life. I certainly got more sleep, but getting ready for the day felt confusing, and returning to the workplace was hard on my nerves.

I think it’s a lack of peace and quiet affecting me. I learned a lot while I was away and I need space to reflect on all the notes I took and ideas that were sparked over these past days. I need time to organize my intentions and plan a path forward.

Instead, my mental space has been taken up with small talk and small tasks. The urgent is over taking the important and the worst part is it’s not even my urgent. Other people’s problems are threatening to become my problems and the battle to preserve my mood and motivation is hard fought and far from won.

Even when nothing is being asked of me, there is an incessant amount of clamor and chatter and around me. The way others can feel enclosed, trapped, and panicked by lack of space, I feel enclosed, trapped, and panicked by sounds. They are all around me today and closing in.

There are only a few more hours left in the workday and I’m hopeful for a few hours after that I can call my own. I need a chance to reset. To sit down with everything from the past weeks—my notebooks, my goals, my emotions, and my needs—lay it all out and figure out what to keep and what to throw out, what to use and what to give away, what to share and what to hide.

It’s hard to make time for this sort of reorganization on any given day. I already have things I’m having trouble making time for including family, friends, home projects, and rest. I’d have to make time out of that time and most days that feels absolutely impossible.

I have to get back to making time in between. That means between meetings, between classes, between events, between phone calls and to-dos, episodes and intimate moments there has to be time to think. There will be days when I can make real time but when life gets hectic and expectations are piling up, I can’t lose sight of my own creative needs both personally and professionally.

163 // Saturdays

I’ve forgotten that for some, perhaps even most, of the world, Saturday is considered the end of the week. Working for a school district has conditioned me to consider Sunday the end and Monday to be the official beginning. As such, I know what Sundays are for, and I dread what Mondays mean, but I’m never quite sure what to do with a Saturday.

For the most part, I consider Saturday to be my day, but the designation is vague and subject to whims and cravings. They are the days I sleep in. The days I spend on the couch, binge-watching shows, and eating snacks rather than meals. They are days I go hiking, visit friends, or get a little retail therapy. They are the days I do nothing that could be considered constructive at all, and there is nothing wrong with any of that per se except that at the end, I’m left with guilt and regret.

The guilt I chalk up to capitalism and the culture of productivity and dismiss it the best I can, but the regret is more personal. The regret comes from wishing I’d made a little more use of the day for me.

I’ve decided what’s needed—and what I have the time and energy for—is reflection. That is, time to take stock of wins and losses, successes and failures. Time to make cuts and make changes. Time to make a plan.

I haven’t been so great at that lately. I haven’t been present in my life for a long while now and what little gets done gets done without thought or awareness. Sure, I’ve had moments of clarity and flashes of motivation and resolve. I’ve had nothing more than a few fleeting moments of focused energy and passion. Most of my day—too much of my day—is spent in dense clouds of near unconsciousness. Nothing has been coming in and less has been coming out.

Starting today I’m taking stock of my week and looking back there is much to be proud of. The truth is, I have been making great strides for months now, building confidence and facing many small fears and for the first time, I’m ready for more. It will take some clarity and forethought and I can do that from the bed, from the couch, and all the while I’m watching my shows and enjoying my snacks.

There can still be time for plenty of nothing too.

158 // Purgatory

Mondays are Mondays. There’s really no use in complaining about them or wishing they were other days located further along the week. Each cycle must begin somewhere and every week must have its Monday. It’s only a start, nothing more.

This particular Monday started off well. The week’s workload is light and I’m in a bit more control of my time. The evenings are going to take a little more out of me but my hope is with a few more hours of time and a little more space in my mind I’ll not only get through the tasks and to-dos, but have a little of myself left over for writing.

It’s been months since I touched my paper journal or my logbook. It’s been weeks since I’ve had a handle on a lot of habits I meant to keep up, but not writing by hand or documenting my days has felt like the biggest failure. I’m working on making time first thing in the morning, and perhaps doing different kinds of updates on different days depending on time constraints.

Perhaps half entries some days and updating only the next day on busier days filling up pages for the past days and filling in future weeks or months when I have a little more time? Perhaps nothing will get me back to the page, or to meditating, or to reading, or to taking courses, or jogging, or any of the other habits that have formed and faded over the years. Perhaps failure is the only habit that has endured…

That isn’t true. I have changed quite a bit over the years and only grown healthier, more mindful, more learned and disciplined with age. I’ve already missed so many days it’s hard to want to go back. It’s hard to swallow your pride, to forgive yourself, and begin again from the start. Denial of your faults is everlasting bliss, and procrastination means never feeling disappointment.

Purgatory may not be heaven, but it’s preferable to risking hell.

157 // Far From Easy

It’s been a while since the house has felt quiet enough for me to sit and write. It’s been even longer since I was calm enough to gather my thoughts. This last week was hard on me with classes to teach every day and some new crisis waiting when I was done.

I can see light at the end of the tunnel though as I take a short break from training and I start recognizing which problems belong to me and which ones don’t.

This weekend I’m taking it easy and reminding myself, and everyone else if I need to, that there is so little time left after work and sleep, meals and chores, that I must be selfish and keep some of it aside for myself. I must be mindful of what my time is meant for and guard it stubbornly against those who ask too much and push too hard.

I’m learning to set boundaries, which isn’t all that hard and practicing communicating those boundaries which is far from easy.

I don’t shy from confrontation normally, but I’m slow to initiate it not out of fear but out of doubt. I never know if my perspective is the right one and I have trouble believing my needs are reasonable. My heart tells me I expect too much and my mind agrees and asks me to understand and endure a little more, a little more, a little more…

But I’m running out of energy, both physically and emotionally, and finding it harder and harder to relax and rejuvenate. The harder life gets, the more I need back to feel motivated and enthusiastic. I think I just need more to look forward to. I need more to happen.

Of course, that part is actually the part that is in my control and that makes it an absolutely terrifying problem to solve, but doing nothing is no longer an option. Through mindfulness, self-love, and action-based optimism, I think I can get there. I can get somewhere. I can make more of my life my own.

148 // I Wish People Knew

There was a time when I couldn’t stand to be alone with my own thoughts for more than a few hours at a time. There was a time when silence and solitude were to be avoided at all costs, lest I be forced to contend with the pain of my existence. There was a time when I absolutely hated myself.

Things are different now. I enjoy the solitude. I’m intrigued by my existence and it’s easier and easier to love myself, especially when I am by myself.

What faults I have (or will admit to having) I only consider faults when I am in close proximity—either physically or emotionally—to other humans. I only think less of myself now when my personality starts to rub against theirs because no matter what I do, it always seems to rub the wrong way.

When I am alone, my mind, to me, moves in such beautiful ways. When I am with others suddenly it is too grounded, too predictable, too boring, too dreary.

There was a time I wished I could see myself the way other people saw me, but now I wish other people could see me the way I see me. I wish other people understood the way I see the world. I wish other people appreciated the way I see the world.

I wish people knew there are other ways to be happy, to be hopeful, to express optimism. My happiness is grounded. My hope is action based. My optimism is tempered by realism.

I suppose I find the real world more exciting than daydreams and fantasies. I think problem solving and problem facing are how you really move forward. Words mean little to me and grand plans that don’t take into account catastrophe or crisis and contain no contingency plans are little more than empty talk and a waste of time. There are better uses of energy and more fulfilling ways to chase euphoria.

146 // Today Will Feel Different Tomorrow

The week is moving along fast now. The memory of yesterday is a blur, and this makes me feel as if it were a blur when I lived it, though I know that is probably not true. Sometimes our memory of a time feels is different from how a time felt when we lived it and the less we pay attention, the less we find to hold on to, the less mindful we are, the greater and greater the difference.

Today will feel different tomorrow than it does today.

Or, I hope so anyway. It been a long day of steep highs and lows, good news and bad news, celebrations and a hard future to plan for, and all of which I found overwhelming. I coped the best I could. I talked myself down from panic and let myself feel my joys fully. I faced my failures and allowed myself my successes.

I made it through it all today and sitting here at the kitchen table, enjoying a belly full of Pad Thai and a cool breeze that I like to think blew down straight from the peak of Mount Evans, through the city and in through my open windows with the sole purpose of cooling and calming me, I’m looking back and doing the math. I’m adding up the good and the bad, those successes and failures, the worries and joys, and it seems it’s all coming out even in the end.

A lot may have changed since I woke up this morning, but nearly all of it was horizontal. All in all, I’ve come back to the same me I was at daybreak.

The hardest part has been nearing it alone. My wife is off house sitting and though she isn’t far away and we still text and call throughout the day the same as we always do, not having her physically present leaves me feeling isolated and lonely.

Without her here I don’t know where to put my emotions, except on the page I suppose, but the page can only give back what is given. It can’t change anything. Yes, I can get the emotions out but with nothing to replace them with, they just keep growing back. This is only a prolonging, not a cure.

Luckily, in addition to words, there are chores, and pets, and podcasts, all of which are very good distractions, and by the time it starts getting dark outside and I’m crawling into bed, I hope to be too tired to let the day’s events run for long inside my head.

144 // Sifting and Sorting

Monday finds me fatigued and frayed with anxiety. It’s been several nights since I’ve slept well and several weeks or more of what are probably elevated stress levels. The only thing keeping me going is knowing I’m already in the tunnel and if I don’t want to be stuck here, I have to keep going to the end. The only out is through, you know?

To help, I’m insisting on time for myself. No matter that the time never seems to come packaged in hours but only ever in moments between expectations and obligations, between tasks and to-dos, between the things people need from me and the person they need me to be. No matter how little or how scattered, theses moments are mine.

And what am I doing with my time? Nothing as productive as I wish. Today, it turns out, is one of those “input days“. What I mean is, I’m doing a lot of sifting through collected articles and images, sorting and sharing them where they should go. I

I used to consider days like these lost or useless days. I used to think it was pur procrastinating or lack of willpower on my part, These articles, quotes, videos, and images are to my writing like paint is to an artist, and this sifting and sorting is like mixing colors.

Days like this are for reconnecting with what interests me, re-sparking my creativity, and remixing concepts that at the time of their discovery were concise and contained within their own realms but since have become blurred and blended in the deep and dark recesses of my subconscious.

This is the work I do now, and it’s essential to the work I want to do, eventually.

141 // Of the Past Year

The forecast promised warm weather today but so far all we’ve gotten are clouds and cool breezes. I’m hearing murmurs of severe storms and even hail later and hoping the rumors are true. The sun has been nice, but in the late afternoon the heat can become oppressive if the afternoon storms don’t roll in and restrain the rising temperatures.

The clouds are comforting though, matching my mood as my mind replays the tragedies of the past year. I haven’t told all (not all stories are mine to tell) nor gone into great detail (an emotional burden I couldn’t ask you to bear) but these last 12+ months have been some of the hardest I have ever lived though.

Illness, losses, trauma, sacrifice, failures, the blows followed back to back with hardly any time to process before the next crisis began and as a result I’m suffering the effects in unpredictable and heart-wrenching waves.

At random moments throughout my day the realization that life is so different, has been so affected, and feels so fucking hard now and the knowledge there is nothing I can do to change where we are or to soften any of the hurt felt so far, hits me, and I break out into tears, into rage, into an overwhelming need for comfort so big I fear it can never be satisfied.

I’m trying my best to keep one foot in front of the other, in front of the other, in front of the other and to be at least realistic whenever I can’t be positive. Life goes on and I go on, one way or another. I’d like some control. I’d like to make choices. I’d like the future to be different from the past. I’d like to never have another year like the last again but if I do, I hope to find myself with lessons learned and feeling a lot more resilient than I do now.

But! It’s Friday, the sun is beginning to peek from behind the clouds and I’m ready to turn this low mood around. I have coffee in hand and my friends are waiting with promises of laughter and distraction. Life may be hard in general, but today will be a good day despite it all. The secret is in how you look at it. It’s in what you choose to focus on and what you choose to hold to and what you choose to let hold you up. It’s in how you choose to let it shape you.

Control.

Choices.

Lessons.

Resilience.

Perhaps they are already here.