Currently // November 2019: A Month of Waiting for What Comes Next

“The world is tired, the year is old,
The faded leaves are glad to die…” 

Sara Teasdale, “November”

Time flows strangely in November. The month passes slowly and then all at once it is here and gone and over. It is a month of waiting for what comes next. The time is spent in a joyous and terrible state of anticipation and anxiety waiting for the holiday rush and stress to begin. At the end we are in worked up into such a frenzy we can barely think. We gorge ourselves, indulge ourselves, we’re drunk and merry and tired, and still waiting, still waiting, on what more December will bring.

And while we were warm and waiting, merry and full inside, the beauty of autumn passed and the dreary and drab look of cold and death settled over the world. November is when winter really begins to dominate, to show it’s strength, to lash out in a strange insecurity. Soon it will settle, when it no longer fears the return of summer’s warmth nor the hope of spring’s return. Soon we will all settle into a duality of happiness and hopelessness.

I am doing my best this year not to let that cold hopelessness seep into my bones. I’m brining the memory of summer with me and letting it warm me whenever I begin to feel low. November need not be all waiting. This year I wrote, and I read, I got out into the world more than most Novembers. I found much to be grateful for and let my accomplishments outshine my failures. I learned not to let the snow or the freezing temperatures keep me down. I found beauty in the season and I hope to find beauty in the next too.

But before I do, here is what I am currently…

Writing every single day. This month I read Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing and I was reminded what it felt like to both take my writing seriously and to have fun with it. I was reminded of when I used to wake up in the middle of the night to jot down ideas and how excited I was to share them no matter how ugly or jarring my words were. I miss simply enjoying the work. I miss considering it work! So, going forward I am refocused. I am not thinking of what a writer should be, or even of the writer I want to be. I am simply being the writer I am right now. I’m writing what is in my head and heart now, what excites me now, what feels good to finally say, right now.

Making cut up and blackout poems and collages, still. I had stopped last month thinking that these little pieces I created were rather pointless and dumb but my wife has convinced me otherwise recently so I am back at it. This month I cleaned up my side of the “creativity room” separated my space into a writing space on one side and an art space on the other. Going forward it’ll be easier for me to slip into “art mode” and to share more of my work in the coming year as it improves.

Planning for the new year. The last month of the year begins tomorrow and I think the best use of the days leading up to 2020 are to spend them figuring out my goals, priorities, expectations, and obstacles. I want to have clear ideas for projects and at least a basic idea of the steps to take, how to spend my time, and what to do when I fall behind. I want to take my failures and their lessons with me next year but not as baggage. I want to see my weakness clearly and plan how I might overcome my most disappointing and persistent shortcoming going forward.

Reading The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Moral Letters to Lucilius: Volume 1 by Seneca. I’m almost done with both actually and in addition to finishing Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, and, as I already mentioned, Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, plus the two more for December: Ethics by Baruch Spinoza and The Plague by Albert Camus, should put me just 10 books behind my 2019 goal. That’s a lot but I’m choosing to focus on the good. I have read more books every year than the last and 2019 is my best year yet. I know I can hit my goals in 2020.

Watching The Crown on Netflix, Shameless on Showtime, Watchmen on HBO, and re-watching all the Star Wars films on Disney+ in preparation for seeing Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker next month. Beyond that, and the news playing in the background most of the time, I’m trying to limit my time in front ot the television. I lose far too much time and sleep to the comfort of the couch and mindlessly binging episode after episode of shows that aren’t all that entertaining or exciting when I really think about it.

Learning about Modern & Contemporary American Poetry and International Women’s Health and Human Rights, still. To be honest, I made not a bit of progress throughout all of November. I’ve not had the time or the energy to finish any courses this month and I’m not sure I’ll be able to pick them up again until after the new year. I enjoy learning in such a structured way and I miss the feeling of accomplishment I got week after week but finding time for writing is my top priority now and that is hard enough without adding expection and excuses to procrastinate.

Anticipating a very busy December! This month we have “Friendsgiving”, a production of Shakespear’s Twelfth Night, a new Star Wars film, Christmas shopping, Christmas Day, a possible trip, and New Year Eve celebrations with friends. It’s a lot but I’m looking forward to it all. I had purposely left November’s calendar blank thinking I would relish the down time before the holiday season. In reality, I felt quite the opposite. I felt restless, bored, cooped up, and lonely. I hate venturing out into the world when the weather turns frigid but I am learning that that isn’t very good for my mental health. I’m trying, instead, to keep busy, to get outside, to see people, and enjoy the winter rather than feeling trapped by it.

Reflecting on all that I am thankful for and how I can better show gratitude. November is the month of giving thanks and no matter my feelings surrounding the origin story of Thanksgiving, I do think a holiday meant simply for being with the people you love and expressing gratitude before the end of the year is essential. I’ve made vast improvement over the years in my ability to take stock of all the good in my life not just once a year but nearly daily. Where I need to do the work now is in learning to express that gratitude to the people I love, an act that for some reason surfaces deep feelings of embarrassment and inadequacy. I’m exploring and working to overcome the reasons why I feel that way when all I want to say is, “thank you”.

Feeling tired. My health has not been good lately. Since the start of autumn I have had an upper respiratory infection, an ear infection, a bout with a stomach virus, and now the worst of my ulcerative colitis symptoms have returned. I’m stressed, disappointed, worried, and, above all, exhausted. I had hoped to end the year with a reduction in both the number of medications I was taking and the dosage of the ones I was to stay on but now I may be back at square one, taking steroids and looking to start yet another medication. I am getting ahead of myself though. My latest round of lab results are not back and the doctor has not decided the next course of action but even the waiting wears me out.

Fearing a possible upcoming promotion at work. I’m excited to take on a new role and to have more time to do the things I feel passionate about there, but I am afraid of not getting it and worse I’m afraid of not getting it due to my own lack of preparation. I’m afraid of failing, so I am avoiding working on my resume, gathering letters of recommendation, or practicing my interview answers, and that, in turn, is making me even more afraid to fail, which is only making me more avoidant. I know how to stop the cycle, but the fear of responsibility and of the unknown is overwhelming. I need help.

Hating holiday expectations. I’ve never been big on Thanksgiving or Christmas. I enjoy the food, and the time with friends and family, but the cloud of consumerism and the expectations we place on each other and ourselves to show our love through things disgusts me. I am disgusted with who I become this time of year. I’m disgusted by all the wanting and the disappointment I feel from not receiving what I desire. I am disgusted by the anger I feel when I have to force myself not to buy things for myself and I disgusted by my envy of what others and buy and have. The season brings out just as much bad in us as it does good.

Loving coffee! A cup of coffee is such and ordinary and everyday thing but I’m practicing not just finding joy in the ordinary but in injecting passion into the ordinary. I figure the best place to start is the most consistent part of my day, my cup of coffee. During the summer months I cannot bring myself to drink hot coffee and instead brew endless pitchers of strong cold brew to get me through the heat of the day but now that winter has come I have been able to make coffee with varying degrees of strength and taste through the Moka pot and my French press. I miss my espresso machine and doubt I will get to replace it this year but I’m considering buying an ibrik soon to practice making Turkish coffee.

Needing more time for me, always, always, always more time for me. The time exists but I feel guilty for claiming it. When I spend my hours on myself all I can see are hours I am taking from others. I am not contributing. I am not giving. I am being selfish, not selfless. I am being introverted, not extroverted. I am not being productive. I am wasting my time. So, I guess what I need isn’t the time but the strength, and the perspective, and the support needed to take time for myself and the things that are important or fulfilling to me no matter how little they contribute to or produce for anyone else.

Hoping that somewhere between here and 2020 something good happens for me, for the people I love, for every human all over the world. God knows we all need it. THis past year has been a hard one for everyone. Humans, humanity, we all need a win, a boost to our self-esteem and our desperate need to believe in the good of the universe and the good in each other. We need something to go well, to go right, to go the way we hoped. We need a little peace, love and understanding. We need the kind of holiday spirit we talk about but rarely see anymore. I hope we all can find it if even just a little bit. I know it would make all the difference.

So, yeah, all in all, November was a good month. I enjoyed my holiday, and all the time I took to rest and to wait, and though we saw a couple of significant snow storms for the most part even the weather cooperated. I’m looking forward to December and to the end of another year. I’m grateful I get to have it and all the good and bad it will bring too.

But what about you? Did you have a good Thanksgiving? Did you find much to be thankful for? Have you fallen very deeply into seasonal depression yet? Are you ready for a new year? How will you spend the last of this one?

Let me know in the comments.

“There is October in every November and there is November in every December! All seasons melted in each other’s life!”

— Mehmet Murat ildan

The inspiration for these posts comes from Andrea at Create.Share.Love

Photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash


The Week’s End // A Thought-Provoking Round-Up

Happy Saturday everyone! If you’re looking for some interesting things to read or watch while you kick back and relax, look no further, here are my favorite things from around the web this week:

1. “I’m just a guy who’s had 21 years worth of anxiety fixes tried on him by doctors and cognitive behavioral therapists. I’d like to share with you which ones have worked for me over the next 30 days.” — 30 Practical Tactics to Decrease Your Anxiety (Intro) // CJ Chilvers

2. “Our energies are overwhelmingly directed toward material, scientific, and technical subjects and away from psychological and emotional ones. Much anxiety surrounds the question of how good the next generation will be at math; very little around their abilities at marriage or kindness. We devote inordinate hours to learning about tectonic plates and cloud formations, and relatively few fathoming shame and rage.” — Alain de Botton on Existential Maturity and What Emotional Intelligence Really Means // Brain Pickings

3.Neurosymphony explores three distinct perspectives on the brain, using videos of the scans made freely available by the NICC. The video pairs the imagery with an excerpt from the album Chapel by the US electronic musician and music-cognition researcher Grace Leslie, in which she converts her brainwaves into music.” — Neurosymphony // Aeon

4. “Training is based on deep-dive EI activities, such as mindfulness and meditation, as well as empathy and compassion exercises to strengthen their relationship with guests. Employees are entrusted to make on-the-spot decisions to improve a client’s experience.” — New research suggests this is the best way to teach emotional intelligence // Fast Company

5. “There is an overflowing pipeline of “feel-good” stories traveling from local to national news, showcasing inspirational tales about adversity and how community members support each other in times of need. However, these pieces, seemingly easy to report out because of their surface-level levity, often eclipse overarching, unexplored narratives about labor, health care, education, and more, indicated by the lack of public or private support detailed in these stories themselves.” — Beware of the feel-good news story // Vox

6. In absolutely sickening news: “A bill to ban abortion introduced in the Ohio state legislature requires doctors to ‘reimplant an ectopic pregnancy’ into a woman’s uterus–a procedure that does not exist in medical science–or face charges of ‘abortion murder’.” — The Guardian

7. “A general view shows a statue among abandoned items and debris in an entry area for the canteen inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University on November 20, 2019.” — Photos of the Week // The Atlantic

8. “Maybe you’ve heard Biden talk about his boyhood stutter. A non-stutterer might not notice when he appears to get caught on words as an adult, because he usually maneuvers out of those moments quickly and expertly. But on other occasions, like that night in Detroit, Biden’s lingering stutter is hard to miss.” — What Joe Biden Can’t Bring Himself to Say // The Atlantic

Bonus: More notes on stuttering // Austin Kleon

9. “You might think that in everyday life, the things you see and hear influence what you feel, but it’s mostly the other way around: What you feel alters your sight and hearing.” — The Wisdom Your Body Knows // The New York Times

10. A re-aired episode of The Ezra Klein Show I missed from last year with Lilliana Mason. From the synopsis “…Mason offers one of the best primers I’ve read on how little it takes to activate a sense of group identity in human beings, and how far-reaching the cognitive and social implications are once that group identity takes hold.”

Bonus: Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity by Lilliana Mason

Have you read, watched, written, or posted an interesting or inspiring thing this week? Has something on the internet made you feel strongly, think deeply, or see the world in a new light? If so, drop a link in the comments, we’d love to check it out!

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

I’m resting today, again. The holiday and the shopping were too much and not only am I dealing with the usual ulcerative colitis pain and exhaustion but my legs are also sore from all the walking too. I’m preparing myself physically and emotionally for a family brunch tomorrow, a busy work week after, and a bland diet for the foreseeable future.

I’m hanging out in the “creativity room” at least and doing my best to get a few blog post up. It feels good to have the space and the time to put on a couple of podcasts and to try again and again to WORK DON’T THINK RELAX as Ray Bradbury says. I’m not good at it but that’s ok. All I ask from myself right now is to practice.

Happy Black Friday! We’re braving the madness this year to get a jump on holiday shopping this year but opted to go out later to avoid the crowds. The stores are still packed though and the deals hardly seem worth it. I almost wish we had stayed home but the promise of peace of mind, of knowing that there is less I will have to buy later is keeping me going.

We figured the best use of our time was to start at the mall. There are more stores and options per square foot and less need to be in traffic or hunting for parking spaces. The stores are packed of course and though there is still plenty left to buy the lines are too long in many places to warrant the purchase. We left many stores empty handed because we didn’t want to wait. There will be more sales, and more days to shop in the weeks to come. It doesn’t all have to get done today.

I’m still in pain and still feeling miserable but my wife treated me to a fancy lunch at a new fancy place which made all the difference and gave me a few more hours of high spirits and optimism but It’s getting dark now and we’re still out shopping but even her energy is waning. It’s time to head home, heat up those leftovers, and make a few drinks. We did good. I’m proud of us.

Happy Thanksgiving! We’re up early making breakfast and mimosas together and listening to the parade in the background. I’m still not feeling well but my excitement dims my pain and exhaustion. We have so much good food and plenty of delicious drinks to last us all day and a whole lot more. We opted to have lamb for dinner instead of turkey. I wanted duck but the store was all out.

I’m still sad that I’m not with my family this year but it feels good not to have to go anywhere or deal with a huge mess or any flaring tempers too. I’m even entertaining the idea of spending Christmas—maybe every holiday!—this way too. No, that would get old, and my wife and I would probably start to feel too disconnected, too lonely to sustain that. We need more than just each other in the long run and the holidays are for expressing all kinds of love and gratitude after all.

Besides eating and drinking copious amounts of food and alcohol I have blog post drafts to work on and the last of The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx to get through. We also have six more Star Wars movies to rewatch in preparation for The Rise of Skywalker mid-December. So much for less T.V. time right?

But what else can I do while I’m feeling so sickly and pushing myself to worse with overeating such delicious and hard to digest food? I imagine after this week is all said and done my gut will need a nice long rest consisting of bone broth, Jell-O, and Gatorade morning, noon, and night until I heal up again.

It’s the first day of Thanksgiving break but I’m already dreading the end. I was supposed to go into work this morning but I’m in too tired and in too much pain for the money to be worth the rest and peace of mind. I didn’t really have to be in anyway and with the snow still piled up everywhere and the roads still slick I’m sure that hardly anyone else made it in either.

So, I’m spending the day on my own while my wife visits her mother. I’m planning our Thanksgiving dinner and hoping that by the time she gets home and we go back out to shop for ingredients that that there will be enough left on shelves to make a good holiday out of. I wish we had big plans with family. I wish all of my siblings were here again like they were for my wedding but flights are so expensive and there has been no time to plan.

Still, I have so much to be grateful for and so much to celebrate. I can’t lose sight of that this week.

As of 7:00 AM this morning 10.5 inches of snow has fallen outside. It’s 10:00 AM now and I know a few more inches have fallen since. I’m grateful for my neighbors snow blower and his generosity. I only have to shovel from my door to the car today. Not that we are going anywhere. With over 500 closing alerts across the city there is nowhere to go even if we wanted to.

Those of us working for the school districts were gifted with an even longer Thanksgiving break. I have nothing planned for the day but there shouldn’t really be plans or expectation on a snow day. They should just be enjoyed, savored.

I’m in our “creativity room” this morning cleaning up and making room for writing and making art again. My desk was covered in notes, books, trash from my backpack, and even a dead plant. It’s about 75% clear now with dedicated spaces for my laptop, my books, and my collage work. I have fresh notepads, new X-Acto blades, and a renewed sense of purpose.

There is a nervous excitement all around me today. A snow storm is forecasted to move in tonight and there is a real possibility it will at least be significant if not record-breaking. We hope with each storm for a snow day, but this time, in a week where we’re only scheduled to work for two days anyway, we are daring to allow the certainty of it.

I’ve still got Ray Bradbury in my head telling me to WORK RELAX DON’T THINK. I’m up to the task of writing 1000 words or more a day but I’m not sure what those words should be about or what form they should take? Should I write in a stream of conscious? Should I simply begin in my preferred genre, the essay? Should I start with an idea, a quote, a point in mind? I have the time but too much self-consciousness to begin.

That sounds as sad as Bradbury said it would.

I finished Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury tonight and I’m convinced that it’s the greatest book on writing I have ever read (except perhaps for On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King but that may only be because I read it first).

It has been a long time since I felt so enthusiastic about writing and so willing to try again, to fail, and to have some damned fun with it. I remembered how it felt when I first started to write and how I felt when a few publications accepted my work. It has been a long time since I wanted to feel exactly that again.

I’m picking up The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx next. It’s another short one. I won’t reach my reading goal by far this year but I’d like to be well of halfway there come December 31st. I’ll probably read Ethics by Baruch Spinoza. It’s less than 200 pages long.

If We Were Having Coffee // Time Before and in Between

Hello and happy Sunday! Thanks for stopping by for a bit of conversation and catching up over a cup of delicious coffee.

I’m feeling a bit fatigued this morning but I’m fighting it tooth and nail. I have too much to do to let a little chronic illness get in my way. The house is a mess. My resume still isn’t finished. The laundry is piled up. I have meals to prep, dinners to plan, pets who need attention and later, if there is time enough left, I’d like to do something for myself before the workweek begins. There may not be enough coffee in the house to get me through but there might be time for a nap in the middle of it all if I can keep moving now while I have the energy.

So, please, pull up a chair and grab a cup. I’m still in love with my French press though I’m starting to feel guilty for neglecting the Moka pot. I have a fresh bag of blond grounds and a fresh carton of sweet almond milk too though I am starting to miss the silkier texture and the firmer foam that comes from soy milk.

Let’s talk about last week!

“Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love.”

― Charles Maurice de Talleyrand

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that last week felt like a particularly long one. Between the weather, the added workload, and the raw anticipation of a Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving break, December, Christmas, and the New Year is making the time before and in between drag.

Most of the week was warm enough but around midday Wednesday things started to turn. A frigid wind blew bringing rain that froze overnight into heavy snow and icy roads by Thursday morning. I had checked the weather the day before and expected the storm to blow out of the city early in the morning but unbeknownst to me, the forecast had changed. We saw snow through the rest of the morning and the early afternoon.

Cold weather makes for hard days when you work in a transportation centered industry. It makes for even longer days when you are transporting the world’s most precious resource, children. The district opted to delay the start of school though none of us who have to venture out in the elements understand exactly how this is supposed to help. To us, it just adds chaos and confusion.

I continue to take on more responsibility and to stress myself out, for now, because I’m looking at the possibility of promotion. Before the year is over, I expect things to calm down. They have too because I am wearing myself out. I’m feeling worse, physically, but it’s not so bad that I can’t function, but I know from experience that things move downhill very slowly and then all at once I’m in pain, too sick to work, and sliding into depression. I’m emailing the doctor today so we can hopefully start doing some tests and get this thing under control before I’m too bad off.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you even though this week was a busy one I was able to plenty of reading time during lunch hours and in between work tasks. Last Thursday I wrote that I’d “finished Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky on Sunday, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller this morning, started Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, and made slow progress through Moral Letters to Lucilius: Volume 1 by Seneca nearly every day.”

I will probably finish Zen in the Art of Writing tonight or tomorrow and next, I have The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and then Walden and Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau, maybe. Since finishing The Song of Achilles I’ve wanted to read more fiction, maybe more from Madeline Miller too?

My next goal is to get back to writing my old “what I learned from..” book reviews. I like sharing the things I like and I like documenting and tracking my tastes and what I gained from what and from who. This blog, after all, is supposed to be a sort of second brain, and friend, a place to think and to bounce thoughts, ideas, and feelings off of. I already started a few drafts, but the starting has never been my problem, finishing is where the challenge lies.

Other than reading there wasn’t a lot I accomplished. In the evenings when I came home from work I had only enough energy to cook meals, clean, and care for the pets before I started

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that Thanksgiving is fast approaching and I still have no idea how I am spending the holiday. I feel like no one has the energy for it this year. I know I don’t. I’ll ask around this week and see if any of my family is planning on cooking and would like me to stop by, but if not it’s okay. I quite like spending holidays just my wife and I. I’ve already floated the idea of a seafood feast rather than turkey and the usual sides.

I’ve got to get my black Friday shopping itinerary in order too. I want to get my Christmas shopping early and there are a few things I’m hoping to snag for myself and our home too. A new thermostat, a phone upgrade, a new Roku perhaps so I can watch Apple TV+. There are an overwhelming number of craft markets popping up over the next few weeks and Target’s gift sections are already beginning to look picked over and bare. I have to get going on this soon!

Yesterday my wife and I decided that getting new tattoos together sounds like a nice couple’s Christmas gift for one another. For the past few years, we’ve only been getting little things here and there and we both agree it’s time to start something big. She’s considering a back piece and I might get my knees done finally, or maybe my thighs, or my stomach, or, or, or…It’s hard to choose so this week I’m going to start settling on some ideas.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that next week should be an easy one. I’m only working for three days, maybe only two depending on how much snow next Tuesday’s storm drops on us. I have some things scheduled but nothing major and knowing my boss and my coworkers it’ll be fun. The mood always lightens before a break.

The week after that will be hard though. I’m scheduled to teach another class of new employees and we have no idea yet how many there are going to be. I’ve been told anywhere from 4 to 20. That’s quite a spread. I’m looking forward to the overtime but not to the lost hours I normally give to reading and writing time.

I’ve been learning lately that not everyone can balance work and personal pursuits every day. Some days are going to be spent doing what has to be done and then there will be whole days where you get do whatever you want instead. I’m working on remembering this when I get stressed, frustrated or feel burnt out. I’m working on recognizing when my time is mine again and learning to spend it doing what will make me feel better in the long run and not what will feel good right now. I’ll really need to focus through the rest of the year if I want to begin 2020 with the right mindset.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the sun and the chilly air coming in through the west windows is only reminding me of how close tomorrow is and how much more I still have to do. It reminds me of just how tired I am too. If I want to get anything done and then get any rest, I guess I had better get going. 

I hope you had a good week. I hope that you had plenty of time for yourself and you can rest easy today knowing you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. If you didn’t or if you can’t I hope you know every day is a new chance to try again.

Until next time.

Exhale // Kemba ft. Smino

Written for the #WeekendCoffeeShare link-up.

Photo by Julien Labelle on Unsplash