093 // Time Already Spent

Taking it slow and easy today. I’ve injured my back doing something so mundane it’d be embarrassing to give the details and that has left a lot of my to-do list impossible without further pain. So, the bare minimum and plenty of time on a heating pad are all the Sunday plans I can manage.

I’m spending time with the cat too. We have less than a week left until our appointment to euthanize her…I hated typing that sentence. I’m sad it has to be done, though I know in my heart and am reminded every time I look at her that this is the right thing.

Still, saying it to other people puts a sour taste in my mouth and a small seed of guilt in my chest. I worry that there is a greater moral law I may be breaking. Life and death are not mine to wield, my soul screams, but my human mind says if you can then you must.

I’m trying hard not to make this about me, though. It helps keep the grief at bay if I focus on making her last days peaceful and enjoyable. I let her sleep on her heating pad as much as she wants. I’m giving her treats by the handful. She can lay with me, or on me, as she pleases, and, when she is crying, lost, or in pain, I find her, reassure her, or help her to the bed or couch to rest her bones again.

I’m dreading the coming week. Not just because of the cat situation, but the workload too. I’m also feeling anxious and afraid. I have to drive somewhere new. I have to meet with some very important people. I have to teach in front of a class and take a class to learn to teach another one too. And that isn’t even a full work week!

The foreseeable future is all filled up. The time already spent before the present could arrive. It’s not so bad though. It means next weekend is just a few—large but narrow—tasks away.

055 // Sense the Enormity

I woke to the news of Russia invading Ukraine and have been living in a kind of shock since. I know so little about the “why” and I have even less to offer about the “what now?” but I can sense the enormity of the act. It’s so big, but it’s also so far away and there is so much suffering close by that I can’t see past. How can we do it all, fix it all, save them all?

There are dire predictions and grave warnings floating freely across social media timelines today, leaving me overwhelmed, powerless, and, frankly, disappointed in those who aren’t. I hope, as a country, we will do more than center our fears while homes burn and lives are lost half a world away. I hope we will do the right thing, fight on the right side, and for the right reasons this time.

I read something on Twitter this afternoon about the times we are living in being “very, very precedented. I have a feeling that we are all trapped together in a terrible cycle. It’s as if these same dreadful events keep happening again and again. Only the date, and the technology available, changes. We keep living and inflicting the same patterns of pain on one another again, and again, and again.

These past years have worn me down. I can hardly watch the news or think about politics without a low and vague sense of panic I cannot name or place gripping me. Every day is the worst day. Every headline signals the end of life as we know it. I won’t live long enough to fix any of it. Sometimes, it feels like the only thing I can do is focus on loving where I can, being kind where I can, changing one mind of billions at a time, but at that rate, I wonder why it matters?

Then again, as I sit here wondering what love can do, there are those who spread hate and never stop to doubt its power. Hate has done so much damage, why wouldn’t love be capable of as much good or more? Of course it is.

Of course it is!

054 // Wintering

It’s been a biting and bitter cold day, but looking forward through the forecast to next week is keeping me optimistic. Spring is making her first furtive steps toward the front range with warm temperatures and, hopefully, melting these persistent snow mounds for good.

Of course March has always tended or be our snowiest month, so I have doubts as deep as the drifts, but it’s possible, right?

My return to work was rather rough. Besides the cold outside I’m also feeling a little under the weather myself. I suspect a bit of tonsillitis or a bout with my old and familiar nemesis Streptococcus. I took another Covid test thinking I might have actually caught it this time but it was negative again so I went in.

The gloom of missing my wife through her Covid isolation is hanging about too. She’s here, close enough to talk to, to see, to care and feel sorry for, but too far to comfort and find comfort in. It’s hard to hold on to hope what you can’t feel the sun. It’s hard to be grateful with the clouds hanging so low. I’m beginning to lose hope this winter feeling will ever end.

I wish the days felt this long in the Summer. It’s strange how those long hours fly by and the short ones between sunup and sundown drag so. The cold can freeze time too it seems.

053 // Losing Hours

Today is my Sunday and so, I guess you could say I have the Tuesday blues. These hours, though not spent at work, already belong to work. There is nothing I can start for myself because I have to prepare for others. There is nothing I can enjoy because my mind has flown off already exhausted and anxious over the next five days.

It doesn’t help that I rose later than I meant to this morning. The sun warmed me awake early, but I lay in bed stubbornly, defiantly, like a child doing the opposite of what I wanted because it was all I could control. In the end, only I am hurt, and in the end, there is only me to be at times angry with, and at times disappointed in.

Losing a few early hours didn’t used to matter, but more and more, what I’m trading them for feels like a waste. If it were as simple as needing more rest, I may not mind so much, but lately, it’s been me I am fighting with, and I don’t want to fight anymore. I have the time I have and I don’t have the time I don’t. I can’t deny that. I can change it, but I have to accept it first.

This past weekend I’ve also accepted that the apps and algorithms are winning. They are sucking other hours out of my life that I hardly even knew were there before they were gone. So, I’ve set timers for the worst offenders: Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.

When the timer is up, the app lets me know I have to wait until tomorrow for more content and I am released to reclaim my attention. Some might say it shouldn’t take that, but when you have companies spending more money than you can imagine unlocking all your weaknesses, putting in front of you the content they know you can’t turn away from rather than the content you came to see, it takes more than pure willpower to fight back.

On the flip side, I am also experimenting with the timer for apps I want to be on. Those apps I use for reading books, apps for learning a language, and apps for free courses I want to finish all have timers too and I have to stay on them until the timer is up. This helps me to do the work I want, without getting overly focused on one thing to the detriment of everything else I hoped to accomplish.

It’s mid-evening now and I can feel the time left ticking itself away. I’m choosing to be grateful for the extra time I did have away from work. I’m choosing to do at least three things for me before bedtime: write these words, get past a few chapters of my current reads, and, lastly, make a plan for the hours I’ll have tomorrow—a plan free of excuses and regrets.

052 // Small Joys and Strained Gratitude

I woke up early this morning dreading the grocery shopping, the cleaning, and the caretaking. It’s not that I don’t want to do any of it. I’m actually happy to do it. It feels good to do it. It’s only that I am tired and my brain is so full and stretched so thin that I fear a rip, or small breakdown if I can’t find some small escape.

My wife is feeling a bit better. Technically, her Covid isolation ended yesterday, but she still has to wear a well-fitting mask around others until the end of her 10-day possible infections period. So, to be safe, I’ll spend a few more sleepless nights on the couch.

While at the store, I bought her some donuts and some flowers for her bedside. She was happy to get them and it was nice to put a smile on her face. She’s been so hard on herself for contracting Covid in the first place. She’d been so careful, but one night out in a crowded place where masks were a bit impractical was all it took.

I honestly felt it was bound to happen, and I suspect I’ll have my turn with the virus soon enough. I suspect we all will. The federal response and imposed restrictions were so haphazard and half-assed that we never really had any hope of containment. But that was never really the goal anyway, was it? I think all we really strove to do was keep panic at bay. We wanted the virus to spread as quietly as possible so that capitalism and consumerism would be minimally disrupted.

But the missteps of my government and my own lack of control are too much to bear thinking over for too long. All I can hope for these days are small joys and strained gratitude. My little life is as far as I can comfortably contemplate.

051 // I Got This

We’ve had many warm days these past few weeks, and in typical Colorado fashion, we’ve had some of the coldest and snowiest yet too. Today is one of the many warm ones, but it feels like the first to carry a genuine sense of spring in the air. It’s the first where the warmth did more than comfort. Today’s sun has me up, moving, and motivated.

The usual Sunday chores are underway, but at a much more relaxed pace than usual. The holiday tomorrow means I don’t have to worry about work, and more than that, I took Tuesday off too. All my anxieties are days away, leaving me with a rare Sunday of peace and contentment. A Sunday that belongs fully to me, to right now.

There will be plenty of time for me. My wife is getting through the last of her Covid-19 quarantine and with her stuck in the bedroom and me stuck out here, there isn’t much more I want to do than think, write, and read.

We are grateful that her symptoms are mild, that we have good jobs that offer paid time off, and that I am able, finally, to do more for us than I ever could before. I am well. I have been working on my driving anxiety, and I am happy to take care of her for a change.

I’ve spent almost all my adult life feeling like half a person and a less than adequate partner. It’s refreshing to see the proof of how much I have grown and to see the relief in someone’s eyes when they know they can count on me—that I got this!

Our weekend trip had to be canceled, and I have been on the couch for much of the week, but it’s all okay. Yeah, I’m bored and lonely, and a little worried, but somehow it really wasn’t a terrible weekend at all. I’m looking forward to making up the time together. I’m looking forward to my own bed and sharing responsibilities again. I’m looking forward to knowing, not just hoping, that she will be okay.

341 // Nothing More Than Maybes

I woke sometime in the middle of the night and felt at ease, relaxed, happy even in the certainty that I was waking to a Saturday morning in which I had nothing more to do than all the nothing I wanted. I was deeply disappointed when just a few short hours after my alarm went off and I remembered it was only Tuesday and I have many more days left before I can claim any significant time as my own.

Still, today isn’t so bad. There have been plenty of disappointments and quite a few setbacks, but for some reason today, none of it is bothering me. I’m going with the flow and seizing as many moments as I can.

The cause of this great turnaround, and the depression that came before, I’m beginning to believe, are almost entirely hormonal. Last week I felt as if a switch was flipped inside my mind. At that moment, the world lost its wonder and I lost my interest, and this morning, suddenly, the light is back on.

I’ve only just begun to get an inkling of the pattern and I won’t be sure until I’ve tracked a few months more at least, but this inability to maintain focus and motivation may not be entirely preventable—or my fault.

Today I’m staying inside. The weather has taken a late but sudden turn toward winter and the bitter winds blow right through to my bones. If I keep out of the frigid air there is hope yet for my general mood. I’m lucky to work in an office where I can control the thermostat and even if others want it kept low, I keep a small space heater under my desk for emergencies.

The warmth makes it easy to stay in my seat and focus on organizing some of these notebook pages and paragraphs into publishable pieces. I’m working on some small goals for 2022. Not resolutions so much as hopes. As I age, I realize that those “best-laid plans” go awry much more than just often. I have also realized that the things we think we want—from ourselves, for life, from others—change all the time.

I simply won’t be the same person 12 months from now. I won’t want the same things I do today. So, no promises, only hopes. Nothing more than maybes.

317 // Mismatch

My emotions are all over the place today. My wife and I are heading up to the mountains this evening for a little photoshoot and finding the right outfit has been… difficult.

I don’t much talk about my gender or gender expression here but over the years I’ve become more and more comfortable with the term “non-binary” and “they/them” pronouns. I’ve always been a little masculine of center in the way that I dress though it’s only that way because truly androgynous clothes do not exist in easily accessible or affordable department stores.

That being said, I was assigned female at birth and this body is more feminine than my inner self would like. This means there never seem to be clothes that fit quite right or make me look quite the way I see myself when I close my eyes.

It’s distressing to have your outer self exist in such contrast to your inner self and if you’ve never experienced this mismatch of sex and gender, of body and culture, you cannot understand.

So, each special occasion is accompanied by a minor breakdown and a wife at a loss how to help. Nothing helps right now but time. Nothing will help in the long run but losing a little weight and even then I’ll never be quite what I want. There has to be a higher dose of acceptance and perhaps adding time and a budget line for tailoring.

This morning the world is a little rosier, despite the cloud cover. The gloom is forecasted to lift by morning’s ends and I expect a cup of strong coffee and a hot shower will lift my spirits. Deep down I am looking forward to the photography, and the mountains, and a beautiful time with my love. I can’t say I’m not looking forward to the end too and to a cold glass of wine on the couch with warm blankets and a movie to lose myself in.

Until then, smiles on and one foot in front of the other. Nothing is ever as bad or scary as you imagine.

316 // Long-Earned

It’s a long-earned early day home from work this Friday. The weather is nice but I’ve decided to stay in and catch up on some notes and fragments I’ve collected in notebooks and across app timelines. I’ve got a window full of sunshine and Flow State Radio playing on in the background. I’ve got my timer on and a big cup of coffee from the Moka pot. I’m ready to work.

It feels good to be back in my little space, somewhere I have been away from for far too long. The reasons are all so varied it’s hard to know where to begin. Any explanation is only an excuse. Then again, an explanation isn’t really owed, is it? All I will say is so much has changed, I am changed, and I am excited to fill you in and catch you up, little by little.

For now, I simply want to celebrate a whole week of being brave. For those who don’t know, I’ve long suffered from severe driving anxiety. It has hindered my independence, limited my opportunities, and devastated my self-esteem, but this week real progress was made!

My wife and I got a second car this month, and it has been just the push I need to push myself past my fear. Every day I wake with knots in my gut. I want to cry or vomit or both every time I sit behind the wheel, but this week I drove, anyway. I drove to and from work, home for lunch, to get gas, and even to get a flu shot! I have so many more places I plan to go as I slowly, slowly, slowly venture out of my comfort zone.

This may seem a small victory to those for whom driving is nothing to fear at all, but just imagine your greatest fear—heights? spiders? snakes? germs?—and having to face it multiple times a day. This is what I am going through. I have faced it but the truth is I’m still afraid and will be for a long time, maybe the rest of my life, but there is a seed of confidence that grows each time I prove I can do it.

For now, I’m focusing on the positive alone. I am feeling capable, strong, and fully human. I feel good about myself and that turns out to be the most important change of all.

301 // COVID Scares

The mornings are feeling rather frigid now. Increasingly they are frosty too. Autumn is well underway and I know soon it’s going to start feeling like winter long before the season’s calendar changes. The colors of Autumn are just past their prime now and the once vibrant leaves are dry and drooping. There is still beauty to be seen as they flutter from the tres in a flurry on every breeze. I’m trying to find ways to love the fall.

I woke this morning still not feeling quite like myself, but I’m a little more me than I was yesterday. There are further COVID scares at work and a coworker commenting to me on the minor outbreak confided in me that while she hope she wasn’t infected because it would disrupt operations, she kind of hoped she was because she could use the time off.

This is what I was talking about yesterday. It’s sad we have to hope for sickness, for this particular sickness just so that we might have a little time to rest, to reflect, to recover from the overwhelm and uncertainty of these past couple of years. We’ve all joked about faking a positive result but the jokes are sounding more and more serious all the time.

To be honest, I am scared of the rising cases and I am frustrated by the lack of transparency. I’m outraged by the relaxed rules for the vaccinated. Yes, I know that the chances of severe disease and spread are low, but almost all of us got vaccinated over 6 months ago and that means our immune response is weakening. There are breakthrough cases and some of the staff, not to mention the children, are still at risk.

A coworker’s daughter died from a COVID infection. She was the same age as me. I suppose this is what is freaking me out. I know the chances are I would survive, but I don’t like taking the risk. I don’t like risking my loved ones’ lives either, and for what? No one can seem to come up with a good reason, but we keep going out and risking our lives and each other’s lives all the same.