365 /// Being and Becoming

It’s the last day of the year. The last day we’ll write 2022 and mean it. The passing of time is starting to get to me. I think of all the young people happy to move on to the next year and I find I no longer understand them. I’m trying to remember if I was that way then, too. I’m sure I was. I was an angry and nihilistic one, ready to have life over with.

Oh, how I’ve changed. I’m kind now—or try my best to be. I’m humanistic, hopeful, bordering dangerously on spiritual, and ready even to accept meaning.

Now I want to hold tight to every year and I loathe for each to pass. I cling now, to time, or I want to, but you can’t really. It slips as easily whether you reach out or let it go. There’s nothing to hold to, nowhere for you to find footing. All you can choose is whether to look while your life passes or avert your eyes.

I’m also sad to see the year pass simply because 2022 was a damn good year. I’m leaving it feeling empowered, blessed, and loved. I did things. Life got a bit better, a bit deeper, a bit wider. I want to believe 2023 will be more of the same, but the odds are never in anyone’s favor that the good times will go on. Pain is always on the way.

So, I wanted to write here, before the calendar changes over, and say that right now, I am happy. I leave this as proof that happiness really can happen to a person, for a time, and say with some authority that it’s all worth whatever real joy you get. I hope happiness keeps happening to me and if it ever stops, I hope I will want it to happen again.

As for my hopes for the coming year, I have very few. There are resolutions of course: read a book a month, start working out, journal more, find more writing work, travel, and fix up my old house. I’m not holding too tightly to those goals. I know a lot will change in the next 12 months. I won’t have the same goals, the same resolve. I will succeed and some and fail miserably at others, and that’s already okay by me.

There’s something else, though. Something bigger than a goal I can name or measure. I think I’m growing wiser, or maybe I’m coming to some truth about life that I can live and die with.

I am learning, I think, that there is something in us that amounts to a kind of fate. Not a grand plan, but a being and becoming. We are born who we are and we become the version of that self will be shortly after. We then go on to spend (or waste) a whole lot of time trying to be something else,

But you can never escape yourself. One way or another, you return to who you are. In fact, you will do it again and again and again, sometimes on bad terms, but eventually on good. I think I am returning to myself again; this time, I am meeting myself with not just forgiveness, but with understanding and curiosity. This time I am trying to help myself be who I have always been. This time, I am truly meeting myself with love.

And so we all do, or will, one day. You get tired; you lose the will to fight yourself anymore; you make peace—if you are lucky.

So much is coming back and all of it is falling into place. I can see all the clues I missed. I can hear all the things I have been trying to say. In 2023, I just want to listen more. My body has been giving mixed signals and my words have long been misinterpreted.

It’s getting easier now to slow down, and ask before acting: What does this mean? It helps to take the time to understand where your feelings and needs come from. Work out what would really feel better than how you have been living and start doing things differently. It helps to look back and admit your own patterns to yourself. Mark the places in life where you always seem to come back to and find a way of letting yourself settle.

This is what I want more of in 2023. I want to be more of who I am. There is nothing to add, no great mystery to solve. We all know, somewhere deep down, who we are. You simply have to be that with all your heart.

289 /// Solid Ground is Forming

I’m feeling good this morning. I’m feeling like myself. It’s been so long since I’ve had both motivation and focus that I hardly knew what to do with it all. I spent the morning getting through some minor chores and checking off a few small to-dos before sitting down at my desk. All day I’ve had a strong urge to write but of course, motivation and focus are only 2/3 of the equation. You need inspiration to get anything of value down.

Or do you?

I saw a tweet from Austin Kleon this morning with a simple writing tip: write down every dumb thought that occurs to you and each day simply choose the least dumb thought to write about. Well, I have been filling my notebooks with dumb thoughts for weeks. Hell, I have a dumb thought or two floating around right now! Thinking dumb thoughts is damn near a talent of mine. If that’s all I need to write then I’m in great shape to get started, to keep going, and to get as far as any dumb thought will go!

This might be the extra push I needed, the permission I needed. I don’t have to find a good thing to write about. I just have to choose the least dumb thing I can think of. Hell, I may try choosing the dumb thing and try making it not so dumb. I could choose the most fun thing? Or the most interesting thing. The point is to work with what I have: this brain, these ideas, this blog, and this timeframe. Yes, I like that.

Outside of motivation and focus, a lot of other good things have been happening. There’s been setbacks and stress, but there’s been enough positivity, connection, and kindness that life feels good right now. I feel loved and capable, and the people around me are feeling loved and capable too.

I suppose that’s what happiness, or flourishing, starts with. Being seen and having some say about what happens to you in this world.

I think the COVID pandemic has been a hole that we’ve all been trying to crawl out of for years now. The virus has had such far-reaching and complex impact it’s hard to say what was caused by or made worse by it and what are normal setbacks in a typical human life but between the losses, the economy, the fear and anxiety, the deficits and the changes in belief and perspective we have all gone through I’d say there is no part of society and no one of us that isn’t trying to find that new stability. That new way forward.

Solid ground is forming again, or, at the very least, this new chaos is less scary than it used to be. Our ability to adapt to the worst conditions is both a great flaw and a great strength. No matter what the reason and no matter for better or worse, I’m glad to be rid of some of the bad feelings. I’m happy to hope again.

257 /// Guilt

I’m home sick today. Feels like I have been just slightly under the weather for weeks now. Every day there is a bit of a sore throat, a bit of fatigue, a bit of sinus pressure, a bit of a runny nose, but then it clears for a time and then it comes back for a time. I worry I may be sick, but it’s hard to know for certain. I am certain that I am miserable though, so today I stayed home to see what a bit of rest would do.

Unfortunately, what it did was make me feel bad for resting; worse, it made me worry about work.

Oh well, it felt good to sleep, and maybe knowing that staying home does so little will help me accept my circumstance. I’ll go on and assume it’s just seasonal allergies wearing on as the summer season wears out its welcome.

It’s late in the afternoon now but I’d like to salvage something of the day, if I can. A cup of strong coffee and around-the-clock house music has improved my mood and I am challenging myself to stay in my office chair for at least the next hour though I think it will come to little more than these words and a few pages in a notebook.

Maybe the germ of an idea will be found, perhaps a few sentences added, or a new concept turned over that I can turn again later. Mostly this just means I’m reading more of James Baldwin’s Collected Essays, marking down the past day’s events in my logbook, jotting a few thoughts in my journal, and collecting interesting things on Are.na, nothing rather important, but enjoyable nonetheless.

And that’s enough. Even if it’s only for me, it’s more than enough. I hate that I have to insist on it that way but I have to convince myself first and foremost. We’re socialized to believe that doing something that isn’t for practice or profit, that no one asked you to do, that you don’t need to do, that you won’t be sharing or promoting, something that’s not for anything, is a waste of time.

I think perspectives are changing, though. We’re realizing the consequences of having to earn your existence. The truth is, it’s already yours and you can do whatever you want with it. The truth is, nothing anyone does really means more than anything else. It doesn’t matter whether you work another shift, sell another thing, make a new product, or take a cozy little nap, the sun is still going to engulf the Earth in a few billion years either way.

Might as well be happy while you can—in whatever way feels right for you.

229 /// Good News/Bad News

The beginning of any school year is at once exciting and exhausting, but this one in particular is markedly more chaotic than most. The added challenges—though frustrating—have also reminded me why I enjoy my job so much. I miss having problems to solve. Novelty is a human weakness. We will take bad over boring any day, I suppose.

The week is dragging on but I’m still feeling optimistic, surprisingly. There’s something to be said for having so much work you don’t have time to think about the stress you are under or the minutes you can’t get back. All I have mental space for is getting shit done and getting what sleep when I can.

The break I’d hoped would come with the change of schedule never materialized. My hopes have shifted past Labor Day. I fear even that will come and go without a chance to rest, recuperate, and reflect. My fear is that summer has already gone from me and I hardly got to enjoy it.

The good news is, I still feel good. My body is still strong and resilient. I’ve come through with enthusiasm intact and gratitude is becoming an almost automatic practice. I cannot let myself forget that I have so much more than most. I’m allowed to have bad days, sure, but I would do great cruelty to myself if I didn’t stop to feel the sun on my face, to smile at a friend, to see the blessing behind every hardship.

The bad news is a new wave of new COVID infections is breaking across my workplace. Much of the management team is out with it and we have a few more every day. I haven’t had it yet, so far as I know, but with my immune system the way it is, and my tendency toward severe and prolonged illness, I need to take extra precautions again.

I’m happy to see so many others in my building doing the same, but it’s disconcerting how many people are confused when they find out COVID is being transmitted at all. I feel threatened by them. I feel angry with them. I wish the world was such that I could hide away from them until the risk had passed.

216 // Trying on Other Lives

I’ve been away from my life for a time now. I’ve been busy trying on other lives, other anxieties, and other pleasures. I’ve spent time remembering the people I might have been and forgetting all the reasons why I’m not.

All that is to say I have had a long summer of hard work, delightful travels, and exhilarating adventures but the summer is winding down now, though with this blazing heat you might never know it, and something is calling me back to reality—my reality. It turns out that all those other lives aren’t meant for me. They are only costumes to slip in and out of for a bit of excitement and spectacle. I hope to slip into others still next summer and every year after.

I’ve begun to think of my life as a cycle of seasons, and the summer sun has always beckoned me out and away from myself. I am a citizen of the world and in love with all of humanity. I want to be where the people are and I want to want all the same things they do. The season is for soaking up the experience of living and shoring up enough stimulation to carry me through the dull and dreary winter.

With the school year beginning again in just over a week, and my work schedule forcing me back to regular and routine, I find myself returning to the internal and the intellectual. I’ve, unprompted and quite by surprise, picked up reading again and rummaged and rooted through desk drawers for notebooks that have been buried since spring.

Life is a cycle of seasons, a going out and a returning to the self with a clearer understanding and a deeper love and appreciation not for who I dreamt I might be, but for who I am only just learning that I really am. You have to see for yourself that who you already are is the best version of yourself there is. It’s the long way to self-love, but it is the most fun you can have while healing.

189 // Dogged Days

I’m spending the day at home after a long bout with a tension headache turned migraine overnight. I’m feeling better now, but without a good night’s sleep, I simply wouldn’t make it through the work day. Worse still, without rest, I might risk the pain returning.

I’m up now and trying to write while I have some time. Sadly, as I have learned many times over, the want isn’t enough to bring the right words forth. I can focus, but I can’t find clarity. I can type, but my fingers won’t settle on a subject.

So, I’m doing what I always do when I can’t find the words inside. I’m searching for other people’s words instead. When there isn’t a path you can see, there are always rabbit holes to fall into and many can lead to the most surprising places. That’s the beauty and the bane of the internet. The trick, of course, exploring mindfully, rather than running where the algorithms lead.

Austin Kleon’s newsletter is always insightful and inspiring. I’m ashamed to say that I never knew that the term “Dog Days” referred to a specific time of year, and I certainly had no idea where the name originated.

The term refers to the rising of the star Sirius though and the time period between July 3rd and mid-August. These dates may or may not coincide with the appearance of the “Dog Star” but are often associated with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.”

This time of year has always been my favorite, and it feels right to finally have a name for these days of dogged heat, for lapping up the long hours of sunlight, for the bark and bite of thunder and lightning every afternoon, for the bite of the hand that feeds when the body meets extremes, for the bite from a lover while the rain batters the windowpanes, for the grief that grows as each day passes but gives way, always, to anticipation as the time of fallow nears its end.

There are different ways to work for every part of the year and, I wonder, what kind of work is best done when it’s too hot to move or too beautiful out to force yourself in?

170 // An In-Between Day

It’s been some time since I have shared a small update or thought fragment. Longer than I would have liked and longer, perhaps, if I am honest, than was necessary. Life and love, and the summer sun have kept me away, but the good thing about writing is that it’s always ready and waiting for your return.

Today is an “in-between” kind of day. One of those days where all the things you were stressing about have passed, but many of the things you might be worried about are yet to begin. It’s a day to breathe, to shore up energy and resources, to think, and to not think.

I plan to take some time for the things I care about and the things I have neglected. My wife has been quite sick this past week and I finally have time to take proper care of her and our home while she recovers. My dog is desperate for attention and many of my plants are looking sad. The refrigerator is empty; the laundry has piled up, and the trash bin is overflowing. It’s a lot, but it feels good to get things back in order and back to normal.

(I want to take a moment here to say that though I hate to see my wife so miserable and exhausted, I’m also grateful for the push it gave me to step outside of my comfort zone. I tend to lean on her a lot, but this week I had to stand on my own, for the both of us. I made incredible progress through my driving anxiety and I feel so much more confident. The world is a little less scary and I am not so small or incapable as I once was.)

Between chores and doses of medication, I’ll be at my desk. I have missed this space and all my little interests and obsessions terribly. I have missed myself. There are journal pages to fill and notes to organize. There are podcasts to listen to and articles and items in need of attention and sorting. Luckily, there is also plenty of cold brew coffee chilling in the fridge to keep me going.

I wish a happy Father’s day to those that are, and a happy Juneteenth to the ancestors who built this country and the descendants who will never forget.

144 // What We Will Live With

There isn’t anything left to say. My hope has waned to nearly nothing, and now I must cope with what was once shock and indignation but has grown and spread with each tragedy into an overwhelming rage I worry I may lose hold of.

It isn’t just the news of 19 children killed today, or even the mass shootings that happened only last week, or the babies that we have no formula for, or the withering rights of women, or the pandemic we are pretending never happened, or just ended, or both, or the wages in free fall and the masses drowning under the cost of living, or even the threat of war.

More than all that—and wouldn’t all that be enough?—it’s the resounding and remorseless silence I can’t stand. I’m not sure if my sanity is slipping, or if I am among the few left who can still think clearly. I feel trapped between what I know is right and what the utter evil I am forced to live with.

It is absurd to think we can reconcile the carnage on our screens and the callousness of our leaders and their supporters, who have measured what a life is worth and judged each a mere trifle. It’s all utterly absurd! I didn’t think we would let it happen again, and now there is nowhere left to put my grief. And mine isn’t even much! Don’t ask me to fathom what those parents are going through, and all those children…

How can I sleep tonight? How will anyone ever again?

But the terrible truth is I will, and tomorrow I will go to work, and in a week I, like much of the American public, will simply forget—while we can. What else can I do? How else can we live? What does that say about me? What does that say about us all?

The worst thing about human beings is not what we will do, but what we will live with.

123 // A Way of Living

The rain is waning, and the breaks between clouds are growing. The wind is warmer, but a chill is forecasted to stick around through Thursday. My mood and motivation never fair well through these grey days, and the longer they linger, the lower I sink. I’m trying to focus on the sun. I soak it up when I can see it and I remind myself that even when I cannot see it; it is there, trying to warm us.

It’s a strange morning. I don’t feel quite like myself. This isn’t the result of the grey days. I know myself even when I’m down. This is something else. I am not anxious, or angry, or even especially anti-social. I am only uncomfortable. My body won’t sit or shift right. My normal routine feels foreign. I feel out of place, even in my skin. I feel unwelcome in places I am most often found.

I think this feeling is an internal sense being confused with an external cause. The cause is being uneasy inside myself, not being unwanted by the world. Somewhere, a disconnect has occurred.

Simply put, the way I would like to live and move through life is incompatible with the daily shifting of expectations and obligations. I am resistant to change and change is all I seem to face. The problem is that the last thing I want to change is who I am but not changing risks living in perpetual resentment of the people that need me and the system that keeps us all needing.

I don’t mean to be so melodramatic. I only have to figure out a new way to do all the things I want to do. I only have to rethink these assumptions about when and where I do my best work and what a radically different way of organizing my day would look like.

The truth is, I am capable of being flexible under the right conditions, but it is up to me to cultivate those conditions. A schedule is nice, but a schedule isn’t static. Time here can be exchanged for time there. The trick is to watch the columns and keep the weight balanced. Move a bit of personal time to work time now, move a little back later. That’s all.

That’s all. So why is my chest so tight and my mood so glum? Why am I so angry and why is it so hard to resist the urge to pack up only my most beloved belongings to go live and work and write deep in the woods, high on a mountain, or on a broad beach next to the open and beating ocean?

Perhaps it’s the fluorescent lighting, or these uncomfortable chairs, or my sinking and shriveling heart. Perhaps it is something in me that remembers what we all used to be.

That ancient and wild one does not recognize the meaning of a spreadsheet, cannot fathom these subtle and serious social structures, cannot stand these suffocating walls. Something in me will not stop longing for a kind of freedom no human has known for eons. I don’t speak of a kind of freedom that was more or less, only the kind that meant the sun on my skin and a way of living that felt closer to life.

122 // Any Season at Any Time

Usually, I’m bright and bushy-tailed on Monday mornings, but I didn’t sleep all that well last night.

We had our first real thunderstorm of the season roll in through the evening and by the middle of the night; the rain was in sheets and thunder cracked so loudly that every window pane shook in its frame. I love the sounds of spring storms, but knowing as soon as I drifted off, another bolt would light up the room and send its boom through the city made it hard to relax.

The thunder eventually settled, but the rain never stopped. This morning the temperatures are slipping and rain is turning to fat flakes of heavy snow.

I feel like people in other cities think their weather is unpredictable, but they must not have spent a season along the front range. We had our driest April on record this year, and just as the calendar flips, we have our heaviest rainfall of the Spring. We’ve seen 80-degree days, and today we’re down in the 40s again. Wind, rain, sun, snow, all in a single week’s time. Spring here means being ready for any season at any time of day.

The goal today is to keep the chill and gloom at bay. All I want is to find a warm and cozy place to wait out the rain, but tasks and to-do are keeping me from it. I’m very near a place of resentment and irritability, but a bad mood won’t get me through any of it any faster. An ice-cold cup of cold brew coffee and a large “sunshine” smoothie* should keep one foot in front of the other through midmorning. I will deal with the afternoon as it arrives.

This evening it is important that I get back to working out at home. At the end of last week, I fell into a self-pity slump and ate a lot of unhealthy food, and spent too much time on the couch. I have to begin again before it gets too bad. I’m keeping up with my journal and picking up White Teeth before I fall too far behind. It doesn’t have to be a perfect week. It only has to be better than the last.


*Sunshine Smoothie recipe:

1 or 1/2 orange
1/2 cup frozen mango
1/4 cup frozen pineapple
1/4 cup baby carrots
2-3 slices fresh ginger
1 cup coconut milk or water
Any seeds, supplements, or powders you desire
Blend
Enjoy!