Love words, agonize over sentences. And pay attention to the world.”
“It is December, and nobody asked if I was ready.”
― Sarah Kay
December for many is dull, dreary, and depressing. For others, it is the exact opposite, a time of brightness, warmth, happy memories and memory making. For me December typically falls into the former description. I’ve never liked the bitter temperatures or the snow storms of Colorado winters though I have lived here most of my life but this year I tried to find the good, or at least the usefulness of the season.
I still have not learned to love the weather but I see the value in all the rest. The brightness, the warmth, happy memories and memory making, they are tools to get us through the dull and dreary and depressing. We turn to family, food, giving and gifts. We turn on bright lights and turn out for parties, for feasts, for shopping, and for what little activity the winter has to offer. We seek warmth where we can and when it can’t be found for the body; we manufacture it for the soul.
And now winter is in full swing and the holidays are nearly over. Though the calendar confirms there is a long way to go still, our patience with the cold and clouds is already running thin and the more the month wanes the more we begin to question whether we will make it through these next months of sacrifice and suffering now that the lights, the feasts, and the giving and getting is done.
But the new month and the new year are not here yet. We have one more day to celebrate, to share, to reflect, to carry with us into the cold of January. December is a month of letting go and of hoping. We hope to become someone new, someone better, someone we always knew we truly were. I admit I’m not ready for such a chance this time around. A new decade of myself is too grand a thing to imagine so I’m resolving not to put my future self into a box or to dictate to her who I, in my ignorance, think she ought to be.
So for now, for today, I’m simply coming to terms with an end I thought would linger for a while but ended up passing by the same as the whole of the year that came before, far too fast. I did enjoy the end despite the stresses of the holidays and the resurfacing of old health issues and one thing I’ve learned is that our problems are reminders of our blessings and the problems I do have are better than the problems I could have. I’ve learned to find happiness under every obligation, frustration, and pain through gratitude, giving, and self-care.
And somewhere deep down, I think I’m looking forward to the new month, the start of a new year, and a brand new decade with enthusiasm and optimism. I have so little to regret and so much to look forward to, to experience, and to accomplish, but before I do, here is what I am currently…
Writing whatever pops into my head whenever I can. The content is not as important as the act right now. The point is to just write, write, write. I’m writing daily blog posts, personal essays, and flirting with prose poetry. I’m writing in pocket notebooks, in handmade journals, and the margins of books. I finishing neglected drafts, creating lists, and using any means and inspiration available. I’m writing as consistently as I can and my hope is that eventually I will begin to recognize a pattern, a purpose, and a message. I’m hoping, through hours and hours of all kinds of practice, it will get easier to WORK RELAX DON’T THINK as Ray Bradbury advises.
Making Cut out and blackout poems, still. I haven’t had the time or the courage for proper collage work but working with words has always been easier for me than working with images. It’s nice to take a creative break from pulling words out of my own head and to use the words of others for a while. It’s a small way to get my mind out of any ruts it might have dug and to think freely for a bit. I’ve found a lively collage community on Instagram too and that only makes me want to make and experiment more. I only wish I could find the same kind of community for my writing too.
Planning nothing at all. This isn’t 100% true. I’m planning each day, one by one, and that is all. Planning for anything longer term than that hasn’t really gotten me anywhere these past few years. Plans never work out and always go awry. I go awry. So, for 2020 I’m changing the way I spend my life by planning how I spend my days. I’m looking at life hour by hour and already I have found so much time that was slipping away unnoticed and unused. Of course, not every free hour can be given over to writing, nor should it be. There are hours for my loved ones, hours to read, hours to study, hours to eat, to walk, to rest, hours for art, for cleaning, for date nights, for shopping, and even hours for mindless TV too, but it’s all scheduled. Each thing must have its beginning and end.
Dreaming about a comic book again. A long time ago when I was a different, younger, more creatively ambitious version of myself I dreamed of creating an epic dystopian graphic novel but there is a steep learning curve to pen and ink and I was not dedicated or driven enough to put in the work. These past few months I’ve felt characters stirring inside of me and some are even beginning to gather into visible entities. I fear soon they may develop personalities and, worse still, desires! Maybe 2020 will be the year I begin to play with real art and storytelling?
Reading Ethics by Benedict de Spinoza. The book is short, I can tell already it will be slow going. It wasn’t a very good reading month. I only managed to finish one: The Plague by Albert Camus, a simple story of very big ideas about a town suddenly ravaged and isolated by a deadly plague. It was not a good reading month for me. I had hoped to end the year only 10 books behind schedule but it looks like I will miss even that goal by 2 books. That’s ok, I did better than the year before and I know that in 2020 I will do even better still. I am considering creating a list of books to read in advance but so often I find books at thrift stores or on impulse that it makes it hard to commit to any particular book, author, or genre.
Watching all things star wars. This month my wife and I re-watched every single star wars film in preparation for The Rise of Skywalker. (I love that she is so willing to indulge in my little obsessions with me.) The films are terrible but somehow I love them for their fault as much as despite them. I enjoyed The Rise of Skywalker though I do have some issues with the way the story was told and the big surprises revealed. I finished The Mandalorian on Disney+ and it was a breath of fresh air from the films. On Saturday mornings I’m re-watching the animated series Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels in preparation for the rumored returns and premiers of many more Star Wars shows and films to come.
Learning math again on Khan Academy, again, and Spanish on Duolingo, still, but not much more, for now. I haven’t used Khan Academy in a while. I realized quickly that though math isn’t harder for me to learn than any average person, math after a certain point is hard no matter who you are or what your aptitude. I would like to get back into it though and finish learning what I never got a chance to in school. Spanish is also getting harder and I am resolving now not to keep on doing the easy lessons but to move on to new words and harder grammar. My work on Coursera has been on hold mid-august when my work schedule grew more rigorous but things are beginning to settle down now. With this new year comes a new beginning and I have a plan to start again and all of my study and deep learning time will be strictly scheduled. No excuses.
Anticipating some big changes, opportunities, and projects in 2020. At my day job there is a quickly approaching opportunity for advancement and with it comes more freedom, more chances to learn and to grow, and a lot more responsibility too. I may be taking new classes and I am being sent on my first out-of-state conference trip. I have some big ideas about how to change the way we do things and the way we teach people too. At home my wife and I will tackle some big house projects, we’ll attend some big events, and we’re planning some big out-of-state trips for ourselves too. I’m terrified of all of it but I’m learning to be open to these changes, to be flexible, and to even be excited.
Reflecting on the past year. 2019 really was a good one. I got married. I got to travel. I got to spend time with my friends and I got to try some new ways of doing things at work. I feel different, but in a good way. It’s important that I take a moment to take stock of all the ways I have changed and how I hope to go on changing going forward. Right now I feel stronger, more secure in who I am. I feel more content with my life and more willing to try new things. I feel safer, smarter, and I have begun to realize my own power. Going forward I’d like to become even more fearless and bold. I’d like to learn how to be bored, to be silly, and to be a better role model. I want to become more me in all the ways that are possible.
Feeling not so good, to be honest. Around last Thanksgiving time my ulcerative colitis symptoms returned suddenly and severely after two years of blissful remission. Since then I’ve been put back on old medications and a high dose of steroids and I am still struggling to recapture remission. I’m improving and I have an amazing doctor but this disease can be debilitating, isolating, embarrassing. I have anxiety about leaving my home and I grow increasingly depressed by what I cannot do and by the burden I place on others. I’m frustrated by my body and angry that chance has chosen me to live with such a condition, and I have nowhere to direct any of it. I’m learning to cope with it but every day brings new challenges. Keeping my goals in focus helps. Resting when I need to helps. Helping others through online support groups helps. Knowing that eventually this will pass too, helps.
Fearing failure. I have so much to look forward to and so much more I want to do but I am afraid that none of it will come to fruition and, worse still, that it will be due to my own failure of talent or failure to try. I fear ending next year the same and this one and the year before this, exactly in the same position as I ended it, no healthier, no more fulfilled, no closer to my dreams. I fear that I will always be all talk, no action, no progress, nothing at all to show for all these hours spend working and writing. I fear staying ignorant, staying small, staying put. I fear that my fear of success and change is greater than my fear of failure. I fear that failure is who I am.
Hating the necessary social culling that comes with age. This year I lost friends I never thought I would, some by my choice, and some by theirs. It hurts and the urge to dig at the wound, to try to repair the relationship by blurring my boundaries and making concessions, and to know why, why, why is strong and painful but I know that such prodding will offer me no answers, no happiness, and none of what used to be. People come and go and that is okay. People will not always like me and that is okay. I will not always like others or my like may at anytime turn to dislike, and that is okay too. What isn’t okay anymore is the indifference, the unreciprocated efforts, and the hurt and I simply don’t have time anymore for what isn’t working. Though it’s painful to let go, it is unbearable to hold on.
Loving myself. Even though I am not my best self at the moment, I have to say that I am so proud of all I have experienced, accomplished, and fought through this year and every year. My sprit is strong. I am a good person. I don’t give up and I don’t give in. I do what is right. I help people. I have a big heart and a passionate curiosity. I still have a lot to improve but everyone does, the point is that I like me. I enjoy time with myself. I feel safe with myself. I no longer fear the strange thoughts and inner workings of my mind. This year I have made long strides in learning to self soothe, to advocate for myself, and to fight for my time, inner peace, and needs. I have learned not just to love myself, but how to show it too.
Needing to learn the art of leisure. I have plenty of time to myself throughout the day but I spend most of it doing the most mindless things just to fulfil a sense of purpose and worth. When I should be doing nothing I think about how much money I’m not making or how little I am contributing. When I do nothing I feel like I am nothing. I don’t think I even know how to do the things I love without feeling guilt and I certainly have no idea how to do nothing at all. I’m not sure doing nothing is even possible, for anyone, anymore! I’d love to try though and to be honest I think it’s something we all need not just as individuals but as a society. We have to find a way to value simply existing.
Hoping for another good year filled with love, friendship, health, warmth, and vibrant life. I’m hoping for everything and most of all for more hope. I’m already beginning this new year with more hope than I’ve ever beginning any other and It’s not just because this past year was so good but because I feel so much more ready for all the things life has to offer. I feel capable and deserving and that opened me up to the possibility of finding joy in the act of hoping alone. I feel protected from disappointment and from despair should my hopes come to nothing because I know I can simply hope for new things and feel hope’s joy whenever I choose.
So, yeah, all in all, December was not really a good month in itself but became one through the act of reflecting on a year that contained so much good. I suppose that is what Decembers really are. They are all the 12 months you lived before rolled into one by memory, good food, gift giving, and being with those who loved us through those months too. Perhaps Decembers are growing on me?
But what about you? How did you spend your holidays? Did you receive the gifts you wanted? Has looking back on the year given you a sense of accomplishment, happiness, or hope? Or have you avoided looking back out of regret or sorrow? What do you want for you in 2020?
Let me know in the comments.
“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”
— Dr. Seuss
The inspiration for these posts comes from Andrea at Create.Share.Love
Why are you so afraid to create? Why do you put so many obstacles in your own way? You drown your strength, you waste it.”
— Anaïs Nin, “The Four-Chambered Heart” (via violentwavesofemotion)
Different ways to tell a lie/mixing secondary colors/the addicting bitterness of coffee/how to ask the right questions/books that fit in your pocket/vulnerability in friendship/henley shirts/freshly sharpened pencils/the times of day that feel safe/the thrill of spicy food/cold showers/knowing the world through emotion/suddenly ostracized members of elementary-aged friend groups/Solipsism/the build-up of dead skin cells in the winter/how quickly X-Acto knives wear dull/what the word “sorry” means to me/birds that collect shiny objects/sleep procrastination/how much hate gets expressed in love/seizing the means of production/the quiet companionship of plants/pomegranates/where people go when I forget them/manifestos/is it possible anymore to do nothing at all?
Inspired by the poet Topaz Winters
“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
There is no more efficient way to expose your own mundanity than through writing. So be it. Perhaps the mundane has some minor value.”
How long has it been since you wrote a story where your real love or your real hatred somehow got onto the paper? When was the last time you dared released a cherished prejudice so it slammed the page like a lightning bolt? What are the best things and the worst things in your life and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?”
— Ray Bradbury