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.

Goals // Week 20: Celebrate this Ending

This week marks the end of what certainly feels like the longest school year I’ve worked in all the 15 years since I first joined the district. So much has changed. We’ve had major staff and policy shifts. I’ve been working and readjusting to a new role. The kids have gone and come back, gone and come back. They’ve missed major milestones and grown through an incredibly volatile and terrifying time.

We all have.

But now the school year is just nearly over and there is a solid sense of normalcy on the horizon as we shift to summer our summer schedules and some of us start thinking about a little sun and fun.

This week I want to enjoy myself a little more and I’m setting goals that to reflect that. I still have a lot to get through before the weekend is here, but I’m going to be mindful, grateful, and optimistic. I’m going to celebrate this ending that was so hard won and much-anticipated beginning of new schedules, projects, and expectations. I’m celebrating change and coming to it with open and welcoming arms.

With that being said, this week I will:

Bring my longboard out from storage and start learning to ride it. It’s been a couple years since I got it and I’ve been too scared—and too embarrassed—to actually get on the thing. I don’t want to fall. I don’t want to look silly, but you have to be uncomfortable before you can be comfortable. You have to fall a few times in order to learn.

Finish Professor Robert Sapolsky lectures on Human Behavioral Biology. Finally, something I can be proud to binge watch! I’ve been watching these for a few weeks now but they are sometimes hard to follow and if you aren’t giving 100% of your attention, you can miss important concepts. Some of them I’ve had to watch twice, but it is getting easier to grasp and setting the playback speed to 1.5x might just get me there.

Pick up reading The Stand again. I am still struggling to meet my daily reading goal and though alarms have helped, I just can’t seem to relax into reading. The problem might be the material. I’ve been focusing a lot on non-fiction lately and it may be that I’m just a little burned out. My mind needs something exciting, something fanciful, something far removed from this world, somewhere to escape.

Spend evening with ass in chair and a list of pieces I would like to write. I have a few drafts very close to publishing and a few that are little more than a 6:00 AM streams of conciousness. My wife is our house witting for a few days and, since i have no one to talk to and all our shows have to be watched with both parties present, I’m looking at hours every evening in need of filling.

Tackle a house project, give something away, and take care of yourself. I know this is a vague one, but I know what it means and what it will take. I have something I want to do for my wife. Something I want to do for someone in need. And, because stress levels have been running high, there are things I need to do for myself. Being kind is the key.

Laugh. I have been feeling very introverted and irritable. I’ve been uptight, tense, and judgemental. I’ve not been very much fun at all. My amazing friends have been understanding, and have given me space when the signs have been clear I need it but I fear I am pushing them too far. Laughter is good for the body and mind. Its revitalizing and relaxing. It’s medicine.

This week I will not let distraction get the best of me. I’ve noticed that, when I am alone or feeling bored, stressed, or tired—states I find myself in much more frequently these days—it’s too easy to get lost in my social media timelines. It’s too easy to sit down on the couch, pull out my phone, and open Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. It’s too easy to let hours go by unnoticed, un-experienced. Days that quickly add up to days and, over time, whole swaths of your life you let slip away.

Too often, we are indifferent to the loss. Too often, we welcoming that slipping.

Sometimes you just want to escape, but those platforms and post, they aren’t real life. They feel nothing like living. If you must, there are other ways, more fulfilling ways to escape. Every time you want to open Twitter, open a book, open Coursera, open a new document and write something. Hell, open a door and step outside entirely instead.

Do whatever you want as long as you are doing the choosing and not the app developers and their algorithms. Do not let them use your impulses and instincts against you. They will only twist them to keep you hooked, to keep you scrolling, to keep you generating ad revenue, but at what cost to you? Pay attention to what you pay attention to.


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.

Goals // Week 20: Nothing Changes If Nothing Changes

This week is the beginning of the end of the school year for many grades and that means a winding down of one aspect of my job, and a ramping up of another. For me that means it’s time to do all the employee training that we didn’t have time for during the year and even more so now that we have to make up for what was missed during the Covid quarantine months.

This week I’ll have to focus a lot more mental energy on my day job than I have in the past weeks we consider our “down time” of the year. I’m actually looking forward to it. It turns out that having too little to do for so long can be just as nerve-wracking as having too much. I’m ready for a change of pace. I’m ready to feel useful, knowledgeable, and accomplished again.

With the reallocated metal space comes the need to be more increasingly mindful of how I spend my free time. I’ve learned over the years that one of the way to stave off burnout during times of increased workload or stress is to make sure you do not waste what little free time you have. Make sure you mark it. Make sure you fill it with what truly soothes the soul.

With that being said, this week I will:

Finish editing my review of Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil and my piece for World IBD Day. Enough words have been written now. Adding more will add nothing. Instead, focus on subtracting, rearranging, and substituting. Take this unorganized, unclear, and, probably, uninteresting mess and mold a readable post from both. Do not let perfect be the enemy of done.

Read for 30 minutes every night before bedtime. I failed again to make this goal happen even one day out of last week, but in failing I have learned a lesson. I realized if nothing changes then nothing changes and if I expect this week will be a success, I can’t keep doing what led to failure before. So, I have a “reading time” alarm and a routine on my phone that turns on “do not disturb” and turns of my wi-fi and mobile data to keep me off of social media.

Heed my meditation schedule and food restrictions. I’ve been weaning off of another round of steroids and as I come to the end of the taper my appetite and cravings have gotten the better of me. For someone with an inflammatory bowel disease this is like playing with fire. This week I will take better care of myself and remember that while the schedules and restrictions aren’t much fun, they are what keeps me happy, healthy, and productive.

Take a daily walk. Though sunshine has been very spotty lately the temperatures are rising and, most days, there is some time to get out and at least around the block. For the days when the clouds and cold, or rain and thunder roll in, there is the treadmill. There is no reason to continue to be sedentary and with the increased appetite and the additions snacks and calories coming in I have to find a way to increase my physical activity too.

Move my scheduled hour of writing from after work to after dinner. It turns out there are a lot of things I need to do after work and almost none of them are related to writing. Instead of fighting myself every day, I’ve decided to simply ask what works better? It turns out, after the day has already been lived, after the to-do list is done and you’ve done had your fill of people, that is the best time of day to do your thinking in and I’ve always done my best thinking when I write.

This week I will not get too far ahead of myself. I will not let anxiety over the coming weeks workload push me to take on more than I can handle or avoid altogether what terrifies me. The key is to know how much each day can hold and fill every one of them just to the brim. No more, no less. There is always more time we wish we had and more we wish we could accomplish, but some must always be left for tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.


136 // Something Will Get Done

Today is not as much of a “do-nothing” kind of day as yesterday was. I always forget that if you try to rest all of Saturday, you must do double duty on Sunday and this Sunday’s to-do list is quite long. Add that to the late start and the gloomy skies and my mood is bordering on irritable and I’m close to giving up and letting the universe implode or whatever happens when you decide to stop being a responsible adult for more a day or so.

Today’s coping tool is the timer. I’m alternating between writing time, and time to work through the to-do list. I set 30 minutes and type away, then I get up and complete a task. I have a drink and a snack maybe then set another 30 minutes and start typing. I’m not perfect. Sometimes typing time turns into Twitter time and sometimes task time turns into TV time, but I’m trying. In the end, something will get done today.

I admit this isn’t the most effective way to structure my Sunday. My wife is the type to separate her task time and free time entirely, as I think most people are. She spends her morning on errands and chores and then has the whole of the afternoon to herself. It sounds nice, and I have tried to break my days up this way but while doing one I’m always thinking of the other. When I’m washing dishes I want to write, when I’m writing I want to wash dishes and in the end neither is done well or efficiently.

It’s better for me to know that I only have to focus on one thing for a little while. I can enjoy the peace and satisfaction of one task without the guilt because I know I will get to the other in time.

I still wish I had another day to myself, at least. I really wish I had whole week to call my own! More time to do more of what I want in and more to spend with the people I love most. I will always believe the 40 hour work week was one of the cruelest inventions of humanity. And with that thought comes the usual Sunday afternoon blues…

135 // Harder Work Than Working

It’s a do nothing kind of weekend here, the first I’ve had in a long time, and I’m exceedingly excited for it. The last few weekends have been far too busy and any free time I have over the next many have already been allocated for events and to-dos. So, I’m enjoying this peace while I can. I’m soaking up lowered expectations and reveling in not having a plan for anything.

Not that it’s easy. Sometimes resting is harder work than working. You have to fight the guilt. You have to fight the worry. You have to know your worth even when you slow down, even when you stop.

For someone like me, who struggles with self care and self worth daily, this is near impossible.I can’t change a whole lifetime of conditioning and time to do anything but work and sleep is too hard to come by, so there are a few tasks on the agenda. I tried to at least stick to only the to-dos I want to do. I chose a small house project to complete and close errand to run. Nothing too stressful or strenuous.

I’ll give in to the culture of capitalism and productivity for a short time so the rest of the day can be spent in the bliss of napping, snacking, and escaping into TV and social media. It’s sad I can’t have a whole day of nothing, but it’s at least going to be a day of gratitude and gratification. I’m happy to have the privilege of even a few hours of guilt free peace.

132 // Meaningful to Me

I spent another night tossing and turning, waking in the night, and struggling to fall back asleep. I can’t even remember the last time I slept soundly through a night or didn’t wake up with dark circles and heavy limbs. Still, considering the chronic sleep deprivation, I’m feeling pretty good today.

I feel light, like a weight has been removed from my chest for a time. I wouldn’t quite call it happy, but something very near it or something very far from melancholy, anyway. It’s more of a lack of pain than a euphoria. Sometimes when you’ve been low for so long, just getting to neutral can be a major sense of hope and pride.

Perhaps it’s only that the sun has finally returned, and the workday is scheduled to be an easy one. I feel ready to focus, ready to work, ready for a few steps forward for a change.

I read a blog post today from someone lamenting that they had fallen short of their goal and only finished half of a draft for their next book. I am by no means invalidating the feelings of failure, but couldn’t help thinking how proud this person should be to have had the courage to start at all and to make it halfway! I’m still working on ideas and anxiety. I hope one day to have gathered half the resolve, focus, and determination this blogger has. I hope they know I’m in awe of them.

The most I can ask of myself is to get through a scheduled hour of real writing. Not reading or research, not image editing, not journaling, real writing, followed by some time spent actually editing. When I say real writing, I don’t mean profitable writing, though someday soon I’d love for that to be my pursuit. I mean, writing that is meaningful to me. Writing I hope holds some value for you.

It may only be a personal essay, a poem, or a book review, but it’s writing I take seriously. It’s practice for something bigger and it’s purifying for the psyche and, for now, that’s all I ask from myself and from writing. I suppose it’s all I can ever ask.

131 // Thinking About What I Think

Today proved a bit more productive than yesterday, or, perhaps not. Perhaps it was only productive in a different way. While yesterday I could find the time and focus for personal pursuits, today I had to return to work obligations and expectations. It was hard at first and I regret not allocating time for writing when I could but it felt good to make progress in other parts of my life too.

We’re hiring in my department and I’m thinking about what it means to have power and privilege over choosing people. I don’t hold much sway in my workplace but my opinions are at least heard if not always considered or heeded. It feels overwhelming to think you could play a role in someone’s employment. That you could help decide whether they have more work or less, more money or less, or are considered for more opportunities or not.

I’m thinking about what I think makes a good employee or coworker and by what criteria do I choose to recommend someone be brought on or let go. I think I lean too much on my gut and rate social or personal personality traits far too highly. I think too much about whether or not I will like a person and not enough about whether or not they can perform the work.

Whether or not I like them personally is a “me problem” just like if someone doesn’t like me I consider it a “them problem”. I come to my job to perform a function and receive a paycheck that’s all. It is a transaction and whether I enjoy the work or like my coworkers is besides the point, mostly. My point is being liked and making friends is not what I am being paid for and it is not essential to the role I play in my workplace. I should not expect more from others than I believe should be expected of me.

I should see people for their capabilities, their enthusiasm, their contribution to the goals we set as a team and leave the considerations at that. I also should use what little power I do have to further normalize this kind thinking when it comes to who should be offered advancement opportunities.

Be the change and all, you know?