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.

300 // The Bad News Too

The good news is, whatever I have, though it’s awful and nasty, at least isn’t Covid. My results came back yesterday evening and made it all that much easier to put my well-being second and come into work. It’s also the bad news too.

It felt good to take time away, to nurse myself, to heal in my own time. Being sick at work means pushing through, sucking it up, and prolonging it all. Part of me wishes it had been a mild Covid infection. Part of me knows it would have been easier that way. That got me thinking about how Covid—though tragic and terrifying—has no doubt been a good excuse for finally enforcing boundaries and putting ourselves first.

The shutdowns last year were the closest I could get to my ideal life. Even when I did return to the office lowered capacity meant half days and fewer coworkers in at once. The mask mandates and social distancing rules were what introverted dreams are made of. Even now Covid symptoms, exposures, and tests mean unquestioned time away from work.

It’s funny that sinus infections, the common cold, the flu, and many other communicable diseases are all held to such lower standards. It’s frustrating that I can protect others and care for myself if I have Covid but not if I have any other kind of sickness or infection that could present as much a risk to myself and the kids I serve. It doesn’t make sense that we haven’t been living like this all along!

The sad reason we haven’t is simply that we’ve gotten used to one kind of risk and not another. I would argue that all bouts with sickness should be held to the same standard. Ten days away from work in quarantine to rest away from people while we are contagious. I would say I should never have come in at all today and I would say some of the guilt is on me.

It’s on all of us who enforce such harmful norms and those of us who adhere.

The world should be different in this and so many more ways.

299 // That Old Dream

I’m home for the second day in a row with whatever head cold I’ve been unfortunate enough to contract. I felt awful when I woke up, but as the day wore on and I slipped in and out of sleep my symptoms slowly improved throughout the day—enough even for me to commit to heading into work tomorrow!

Of course, by now my symptoms are returning and I’m regretting all the assurances I made to my coworkers. More than regret I feel angry. Honestly, I want to be able to simply take the remainder of the week off to recover, without guilt, without all this pushing and prodding, without all the worry and shame.

If I’m really honest, I know deep down this anger isn’t really about just this week. It’s about having to work any day at all. It’s about the loss of my days, the loss of control, and the loss of my passion.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love my job. It’s easy, fulfilling, respectable, and sometimes even enjoyable, as far as jobs go. Over the years I have found some purpose in it and made the role critical to the long-term operation of my department. I’ve managed to muster enthusiasm for my day-to-day responsibilities but it’s never felt as satisfying as spending my days circling deeper subjects and following subtler leads around life.

I suppose that old dream of making something of myself, for myself, from myself is feeling a bit renewed. My day job allows me to make a difference but I want to leave a more personalized mark.

And when the time is right staying motivated and focused comes easy. Nothing has to be so forced. The right ideas, the right instincts, the right words come without having to be called forth. Time presents itself and space opens wide.

298 // Home Sick and Hoping

I went to bed last night with an awful sore throat and throughout the night declined until I found myself sleeping on the couch popping cough drops one after another in a desperate attempt to calm the irritation and get some sleep.

Today I am staying home sick and hoping it’s not Covid so I can head back to work tomorrow morning. Not because I want to, but because I don’t want to feel bad about being home.

I have serious doubts I’ll make it in though. For one, I have a complete loss of appetite and for two, my supervisor herself is out with Covid that began with the same symptoms I am presenting now.

Since I was off almost all of last week, there’s no chance I was exposed to her but I was out shopping and visiting with family all over town in close contact with maskless strangers. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if the test came back positive. I’ve been far too lax about protecting myself.

And this is why I believe in mask mandates. Of course in an ideal world, the choice would be our own. In an ideal world, we would all make the right choice too but the reality is it’s too hard for humans to change and too easy for them to change back. Our minds cannot fathom the risk and we certainly can’t hold on to alarm for long.

Even for those of us who believe in the effectiveness and support the measures forget. Even those of us for whom the measures are made to protect forget! Humans tend toward the convenient and the comfortable and without specific and frequent reminders we lose sight of what is right.

Still, I may not have Covid at all, but further still, my point stands. I know my immune system is both over-reactive at times, and ineffective too. I know I have to protect myself against all kinds of infection. I know that I have to protect others too. These past months I’ve done a poor job of both. It’s no wonder I’ve finally come down with something.

Every lesson must be learned—and relearned—the hard way.

287 // Carry the Burden

This morning was hard, but not nearly as hard as last night.

Some stories aren’t mine to share but what I can say is that having a loved one diagnosed with a severe mental illness can be confusing, frustrating, chaotic, terrifying, and, at times, traumatic. It’s hard to see someone you love hurting so, to see them carrying such a heavy burden. It’s hard not being able to do more than listen and support.

I want to carry the burden for a while. I want to take the pain away.

It’s hard to contend with the disturbing fact that you want to control another person and the reality that you never can. I understand the importance of autonomy and respect that this is their journey to grow through, but I can’t shake the desire to take away their choice just so I can keep them safe. Just so I can ease my hurt a little while.

For now, for me, all isn’t right, but all is better, and some days that has to be enough. Today, it will be enough to simply survive—for all of us.

At least there is comfort in these October clouds and my routine, though physically demanding, will be a welcome escape. I’m trying to remember there are good things happening. I just wish they didn’t feel so far away. There has been more time to call my own this week though I haven’t used it as productively as I’d hoped. It’s ok. Today is a new day and all stressors aside, I can still start again. I’ve already started here.

282 // The Feeling of Fall

The feeling of fall has crept in through the cracks overnight and we woke with the late sun to chilly air and the urge to stay in bed all day. A day of rest sounds nice in theory, but deep down I know it’s not what I really want. I miss the summer mornings when it was easier to begin. When the sun started early with you and made you feel that the day ahead was so full of excitement and possibility.

These past weeks since summer’s end have been so calm, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Truthfully, I need the peace too. Fall mornings are for slowing down and keeping your expectations low. Fall mornings come complete with permission to do as little as you want.

I’m using this morning to catch up on old news and saved articles. I’m organizing all my bookmarks and notes from across platforms and devices to construct a coherent timeline of thought and interest into posts and threads of possibility. My journals are out and I have plans to get to them sometime this early afternoon.

I won’t have the whole day to myself. This evening I’m celebrating my second nephew’s 3rd birthday and it will be time to get ready before I know it I’m sure.

I’m excited to see family though and to celebrate such a special boy. It’s hard to believe he is already so old and somehow to believe he’s still so young too. Over these years, he has grown and changed so much both physically and intellectually that in my mind’s eye he’s pushing five or six instead. He’s got good parents and his big sister has helped along the way too. He’s smart and kind, full of energy and so very brave. I can’t wait to see how much more he grows between now and his next birthday.

Tonight I’m resting. I have plans for scary movies and a few small glasses of wine for my wife and me. Neither of us is feeling great today, which might explain the lethargic leanings this morning and not the season or the sun at all.

Goals // Week 40: The Hard Thing

It’s been a while since I’ve last set down some intentions for myself and I have missed the motivation and the chance for accountability. More than that, I have always enjoyed keeping track of the way my goals shift and the way the things I want from myself change.

These past weeks have been hard on me, but my hope is that this will be the one in which the demands start to wane and the to-do list shortens. The calendar is already lighter than this time last week and I feel calm, focused, and strong.

I’ve been trying more than anything to be disciplined. To do the hard thing. To say no to myself, and to keep in mind what I want in the future and not what I want right now. Cravings are hard to curb and executive function is hard to muster in the moment, but I have been practicing and I’m getting better and better all the time.

With that being said, this week I will:

Keep reading. There are no number of pages to get through or a time limit I must meet. I just need to remember to read whenever I can, a little every day. My lunch hour is the perfect time to get a few paragraphs in, or a bit before bed—if I can manage to turn the TV off in time.

Reduce snacking. I’ve done a great job altering my meals to be more nutrient-dense, but snacking continues to be a problem. Intense cravings come on in the afternoon and I find myself reaching for cookies and candies with no will to resist. The key is to remove the temptation.

Wake up on time. Move your alarm across the room. Avoid hitting snooze. Turn on the lights. Drink some water. Get out of the bedroom! Do whatever it takes to give yourself enough time to adjust to the day to take each task one at a time. The extra time will make all the difference. Bonus: Use the extra time to meditate.

Spend an hour in the evening all on your own. Between the long work hours and the demands at home, there just never seems to be enough time for all the things I enjoy doing. My journals are neglected. I’m behind in my reading, and it’s been over a year since I’ve made anything with my hands. A little time every night to call my own is sorely needed.

This week I will not let social media get the better of me. It’s easy to lose track of time scrolling through timelines and laughing at silly videos but before you know it the sun has gone down and you’ve done nothing that makes you feel any good. You end the day filled with guilt and self-loathing. How could you be so weak? How could you give up so much of your time and attention?

I’m tired of the waste. I’m tired of being the product. I’m tired of algorithms and ads, controversy, and click-bait. My intention is not that there should be no joy, no laughter, no fun, but I want to find joy in the things that interest me, in the things I seek out, not the things that are fed to me. Not the things that are sold to me.