Dissents speak to a future age. It’s not simply to say, ‘My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.’ But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that’s the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today but for tomorrow.”
If you can work in such a way that the process will be pleasurable enough that even if nothing comes of it, the work is an end in and of itself—then you’ll be ok. It’s not a means to an end, the work is an end.”
— Jia Tolentino, On writing for the sake of writing
“Things are prettier in June, but they’re clearer in July.”
― Sophie Flack, Bunheads
After months and months of spring and early summer that seemed to drag on and on with catastrophe after catastrophe, after we floundered and continue to flounder leaderless and lost, July gives way to August and yet further uncertainty and strife.
Still, we are finding our footing slowly and despite what you see on the news and what you hear from the politicians, if you look up and look around people everywhere are coming together, supporting each other, growing and pushing forward with strength and compassion.
The consciousness of the country is rising, and though they fret and fight, those who would have our country return, or perhaps never leave, the hazy dream of individuality and universality, law and order, and hard truths left unsaid, undesirables lost to the dark and to silence, those people will be, are being, left behind in favor of a world more inclusive, for connected, more giving and forgiving than we’ve ever dreamed.
At least this is my hope because to be an American right now and watch the failure, the cruelty, the death all around you and closing in is to feel hopeless and utterly ashamed. I’m fortunate to live in a state where even though cases are rising we are not seeing numbers as high as others and the people have elected a Governor who, though not perfect, is trustworthy and has his heart in the right place.
Protests are still happening regularly, but I worry that attention to racial injustice is waning as justice takes its time and the cause is trivialized. I worry I haven’t done enough for my part to keep the country’s focus.
The end of July marks the end of summer’s spirit, and the issue on everyone’s mind now is the reopening of schools. There seem to be no definitive answers about the safety of students, teachers, or staff, only a rising insistence that schools reopen no matter the cost or concern. Working for a school district has made an already stressful time all the more terrifying. None of us know what will happen and though we all want to return I have not spoken to one fellow employee who is in any way anxious to return to work right now.
As for me, I’m trying not to dwell on what I cannot control. I returned to work months ago, but only in office and without students to transport. Looking toward the start of school in just a few short weeks, I’m taking stock of my own options, my own boundaries, the compromises and the precautions I’m willing to take and deciding what is right for me. I have my health and the health of my loved ones to consider. I have to stand up for what I believe is right, to keep us all home and safe so that more of us can live.
To distract from it all, I’m focusing more and more on my mental and physical health. I’m making time for more of what I love through schedules, lists, priorities, focus, and self-care. I’m meditating, eating better, taking my medication, and resting often and without guilt. The paradox of July has been that I feel both at my best and at my worst.
With August’s arrival, I plan nothing more than incremental and infinitesimal change. I’m doing the right things now and if I find myself doing these same things 30 days from today, I will count that a monument’s success. The goals going forward are to fight, to breathe, to rest, to work, to learn each a little bit every day…
but before I do, here’s what I am currently:
Writing essays. They’ve been slow to write and even slower to post, but every day I find some new idea or take time to flesh out some part of a new piece. The hurdle has been consistency and persistence. It’s easy to begin, but the challenge of finishing is hell to overcome. I’m working on my self-confidence, getting comfortable with vulnerability, and chasing that elusive state of high challenge and high capability known as “flow“.
Making collages, blackout poetry, and cut out poems again. Last month I bought a desk wide self-healing cutting mat and now creating new work is as easy as folding my laptop away and pulling out my X-Acto blades, markers, and magazines, putting on one of my favorite podcasts and zoning out for a while.
Planning every hour of every day. Throughout the day and at the very least each evening I spend time updating my calendar, to-do list, and digital logbook in preparation for the next day. It’s been helpful to clear my mind of so much clutter and to always know what the next steps should be.
Reading less than I should be and falling farther and farther behind my goals. These past few weeks I’ve found my way back and finished a couple more from my Penguin Little Black Classics Set. I’ve purchased a couple of new one to add to my TBR pile to keep me motivated too. There is still a lot of year left to make up for time lost.
Watching I Know This Much is True, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, and Perry Mason all on HBO. I’ve been into dark dramas lately. They are comforting for the mind the way weighted blankets are for the body. I’m missing movies though, and movie theaters particularly, and hearing that so many studios have pushed back their premiers breaks my heart.
Learning about The Science of Well-Being on Coursera. After so many months of putting my learning journey on the back burner, I’m finally finding the time by asking just 5 hours a week from my schedule to log-in, watch videos, read, and reflect. It sounds like a lot, but waking up earlier on the weekends has given me more than enough time to make it happen. I’m still on Duolingo too if anyone wants to be friends.
Anticipating the end of summer. This is typically my favorite season of the year. Summer is when I feel the most free, the most myself, but between Covid-19 shutting the whole world down and my own health holding me back, this summer has been nothing but disappointment and loniliness. Sometimes “not the same” is worse than “not at all”. I’m ready to move on and try again in 2021.
Reflecting what exactly it feels like to be alive right now. As hard as it is to navigate these trying times, to be frustrated, to be afraid, to grieve, this is the life I am given and though much has been lost all need not be lost. I can still let myself feel. There are times now when feeling is all I can do. I won’t give that up too. Even when it’s hard. Even when it hurts.
Fearing what the end of the season will bring. I’m afraid of returning to work more fully. I’m afraid of being around more coworkers, more kids, more chances to contract the virus. I’m afraid I’m not doing enough to protect myself, my loved ones, my coworkers, or my community. I’m scared of the worst I see predicted by news outlets and over social media. I’m scared of the combination cold, flu, and Covid season to come.
Hating anti-maskers. It’s hard not to see people like that as the enemy. It’s hard not to wish the worst on them for their ignorance and disregard for life, but I’m trying to remember that they are human like me and prone to fault and failure. As a species, we will never be perfect. We must cope with the contrarians, drag the ones we can, kicking and screaming, and make right the mistakes of others the best we can.
Loving Colorado’s monsoon season. The heat of the summer might set me free, but it is the monsoon season that gives me life. Each afternoon as the summer starts to wind down we see afternoon thunderstorms roll from the mountains, through the cities and off toward the planes. They pick of strength as they swirl and gather most times unleashing their fury over the eastern half of the stats but some night the city feels the wrath in the form of rain, hail, flooding, bright lightning, and deep rolling thunder. Nothing is more soothing.
Needing some good news. I’ll take it personally, professionally, or politically, I’m not picky. I’m desperate. The good has been so hard to find. Everywhere I look there is nothing but bad, and pain, and anxiety, and anger, and death. All our usual means of escape are cut off and our usual means of connection along with them. I need something good to balance all the bad. I need something good to balance myself and make it through.
Hoping one foot in front of the other can go on being enough for now. I hope this not just for me, or just for you, but for us all together. Life may never return to what it was and we are going to be limping along, broken, lonely, angry, uncertain, terrified, and the weight of failure and loss trying to find a new way.
The only thing to keep on dragging one foot in front of the other. The only thing we can do is not give up. I hope we won’t stagnate. I hope we won’t lose hope. I hope, in the end, we won’t give up on one another. I hope we learn the value of community. I hope we learn to love more and to let love, and care, and community guide us forward into this great unknown we face, together.
So, yeah, all in all, July was…not the worst month of 2020. The bar is low, sure, but everything felt a little lighter. The world took a moment to breathe in and come August we will breathe out and begin. There is still work to do, life to live, a year to get though, and just now I can begin to sense, a new year beginning to form on it’s end that we’ll have to ready ourselves to begin starting now.
But what about you? Were there any celebrations? Any trip? Any bit of good news or chance for joy? Are you still wearing your mask? Are you still doing your part to keep the people you love and people you will never meet safe? Have you registered to vote?
Let me know in the comments.
The inspiration for these posts comes from Andrea at Create.Share.Love
“Words of Emancipation didn’t arrive until the middle of June so they called it Juneteenth. So that was it, the night of Juneteenth celebration, his mind went on. The celebration of a gaudy illusion.”
― Ralph Ellison, Juneteenth
After the past three months of uncertainty, change, and fear I had hoped to settle into a new normalcy this June. Covid-19 cases seemed on the decline. I had returned to work. The precautions and the masks were quickly becoming habits. I was starting to feel safe and secure again. I was daring to feel proud that the world had grown more connected and empowered as we came together to face the pandemic and keep one another safe. Sadly, that new normal, that sense of safety, and that faith in humanity were short lived.
Covid-19 cases are back on the rise again and every day I see videos of people protesting stay at home mandates and refusing to wear masks that keep us all safe. I dealt with my own incident of indignation as a fellow employee in a CPR class I was teaching spit near me in retaliation for being asked to comply with precautions in response to the pandemic.
And as if the pandemic weren’t enough, police officers all over the country continued to brutalize protesters and murder POC in what could have been routine stops if any of them were trained in deescalation and possessed an ounce of self-awareness. They’ve learned nothing—listened to nothing!
The President continues to exacerbate every level of our problems and offers no reason for hope or words of wisdom to sooth or inspire the country he ought to be leading through these crises. The country grows further divided as the Left moves further left and the Right embraces and openly enforces old world systems of classism, racism, and sexism to hold on to power.
Instead of stability June brought only more uncertainty and anger, but none of it has been in vain. Change is happening all over the country and inside each of us and so much of that change is for the better and, slowly, slowly, I’m learning to not only accept, but to embrace and demand that change in others and in myself. This year has been a wild, frightful and wonderful ride and we are only halfway through it!
Working for a school district means July is another kind of New Year for me. This second beginning brings dire predictions and unpleasant truths, sure, but I’m committed to moving forward by focusing on one day at a time, one thing I can control at a time, one emotion at a time. I have a plan, a project, and so much to learn and say before another six months roll by. I’m excited to begin again…
but before I do, here’s what I am currently:
Writing one essay a week. With the second half of the year comes the perfect time to start a new project. This project has been a long-time dream of mine and it seems life, and work, and illness, self-doubt, and laziness keep on getting in the way, but I’m determined to start. My first piece goes up this Thursday and, unless extraordinary circumstances prohibit, every Thursday thereafter.
Making new collage pieces and poems, or at least I hope to. I have a new clean setup in my “creativity room” with a new full length self healing cutting mat and plenty of material to work with. It’s been months since I last held an X-Acto knife and lost myself in the precise cutting of words and images and remix them into something all my own.
Planning for more coronavirus surges and shut downs. The numbers are already up in many states and though Colorado is holding steady, but I have a feeling the mistakes of the Federal Government and surrounding states can’t be kept beyond the boarders. A springtime quarantine was bad enough. It’ll take emotional preparation and work to ready for one in the winter.
Reading Penguin Little Black Classics. There are 80 books in the set and each one is less than 60 pages long. There’s quite an assortment to the collection including short stories, poetry collections, essays, and excerpts. Some are fantastic, some are boring, but each is a new perspective, a piece of history, and satisfying to finish either way. In addition, I was able to find a few free books on police violence and racial inequality from Verso Books.
Watching the entire Avatar: The Last Airbender series on Netflix, followed by Legend of Korra on CBS All Access. I hate to add a new subscription service, but I could not move on without watching both. Luckily CBS comes with the new Twilight Zone series and with Jordan Peele narrating plus just the right amount of nostalgic elements, make the series is well worth the price.
Learning Spanish on Duolingo, but not much more. Going back to work meant a lot had to be put on the back burner and free courses had to be put off. I’m looking for new ways to return to the pleasure of self-education. I’ve started scheduling TV-free nights throughout the week. Some of that time is for writing, but some is for taking a few courses. I’m looking forward to finishing The Science of Well-Being and starting Race and Cultural Diversity in American Life and History.
Anticipating some time in the mountains away from the city, from the news, from social media, and as far from the pandemic as I can manage. My wife and I are celebrating our first wedding anniversary in a luxury tent enjoying gourmet farm to table meals and complimentary wine tasting. I’m looking forward to new hiking trails and breathtaking views.
Reflecting on all the things I never learned. I’m a queer woman of color, but I’m also light-skinned and I’ve had the privilege of an accepting family, workplace, and community. I was raised by a white woman and though she did her best to talk about race with us, I still inherited her innate privilege of ignorance. I’m learning how much I never learned because of what she could never really know.
Fearing the near future, still. Each month brings its own fresh horror, but each is proving worse than the last and we are but halfway through the year. I worry what I will be typing here in 30 day’s time, in 60 days? I’m terrified of the next 90 days.I’m afraid of more and more death. I’m afraid of getting sick. I’m afraid of four more years like the last.
Hating the at times muted, at times contradictory, and always damaging response from the current White House administration to every crisis this country has faced since 2016. Whenever the president speaks he only divides us further and pushes us closer to violence and self-destruction. I’ve never been the most patriotic citizen, but seeing my country in such a shameful state saddens me.
Loving the hard truth telling I see happening in the feeds of every social media platform I visit. I love the way communities have come together to speak up, protect each other, educate each other, and show love. I love the hope I feel despite all the suffering. I love the fearlessness in the demands for justice. I love the ambition and imagination I see in the calls for change.
Needing some energy! Having a chronic illness means my body is always either actively destroying itself or trying to heal itself. It means every day half or more of my energy stores are reallocated, leaving little left for loved ones and personal pursuits. I’m tired of being tired and I’m furious at the unfairness of it all. I’m low from being a burden and ashamed at how one-sided my relationships inevitably become. Just a little more energy would go such a long way…
Hoping that the side of the righteous, the compassionate, the oppressed, and the deserving gain real ground against racism, individualism, capitalism, and hatred in all its forms in the coming months. All around me I see opportunities to for real change and long overdue righting. It’s time we stop thinking in such small ways and moving so incrementally. It’s time lives are made better. It’s time lives were saved.
The world is always going to go on changing, it’s up to each of us to do our part to guide that change toward dignity and justice. I hope I see so much more change in my lifetime. Now is the time!
So, yeah, all in all, June was an enlightening month. I faced some ugly truths about the world, about people, and about myself. I saw the worst in us and I saw the best, the brightest, and the most beautiful too. I’m afraid of what July might bring, but I’m so very excited too. I’m ready to endure anything if it means changing the world toward a happier, more hopeful, and connect place.
But what about you? Have you found a sense of normalcy? Are you heading back out to work and open restaurants? Are you at least wearing a mask? Have you joined any protests, signed petitions, or contacted your state and local governments lately?
Let me know in the comments.
The inspiration for these posts comes from Andrea at Create.Share.Love
“I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day
When it’s cold outside I’ve got the month of May”
— The Tempations, My Girl
This May, much like the April and March before it, was both too short and too long, far too empty and far, far too full. There has been good news in the fight against coronavirus and the world has begun to reopen and life to return to some version of normalcy we can recognize but there is still so much uncertainty and fear. There is still the lingering chance that the numbers of infections and deaths will begin to rise again and we will have to shut ourselves off and away from one another once again.
As the good news of few new cases and deaths were just brightening our spirits, the world found other ways to to fall apart. Protests over not opening fast enough gave us all pause. Displays and deaths due to racism peppered social media streams. Cities all over the country marched peacefully for change during the day, and by night they burned with rage.
The world is a scary place right now and the more they try to push us out the more we want to stay in and the more they push us to the breaking point the closer we all get to boiling over. I’m not sure now how any of this will end and there is a large part of me that predicts it won’t anytime soon, if ever. The coronavirus isn’t going anywhere and racism is so deeply imbedded in our culture I can hardly imagine what life in this country would look like without it.
As for me, I like many others have learned that sometimes the best we can do is allow those who can fight to fight and those who can’t to do their duty and stay out of the way. I spent much of the month waiting. The shifting return to work schedule made it hard to plan projects and after two months of isolation and anxiety I was too emotionally exhausted to write. All I could do, all I felt I should do, was rest.
And now I have gone back into the world and the days and weeks have picked up a rhythm I can follow. I work four hours a day, Monday through Friday. I come home and eat lunch with my wife, clean, and sometimes cook. I watch my shows. I write. I sleep. I try to get used to life again.
As I move into June, I’d like to hold on to a little of that time I spent in quarantine and take what I learned about myself and about what I can still do and take more of an active role in the life that I am building. I want to have more time for myself and not what happens to be left over after work. I want to have more time because I gave less of it over to work. This has been the biggest lesson from all of this the value of my time and what I can do, and what I don’t have to do with it. From now on so much more is going to be up to me.
But before I learn to take back and protect my time, here is what I am currently:
Writing an essay a week. I know I’ve been talking about this project for a long, long while now, but I finally feel ready to commit. I’m actually not ready at all and this is probably the worst time to start any project but one thing I’ve learned these past few years is there is never going to be a right time especially with anxiety and procrastination so readily available to get in the way.
Making better choices. Being cooped up in the house day in and day out made it hard to practice good self-care habits but now that I am returning to some form of a schedule I am finding it easier, and more important than ever, to be mindful of the choices I am making. Now I’m picking healthier food alternatives. I’m going to bed on time. I’m exercising every day. I’m reminding myself that a habit is more than a task you don’t have to think about, it’s one you don’t want to think about. So, stop thinking and just do.
Planning my days and weeks. I’ve been keeping a text-based to-do list and logbook in google docs for a couple of months now but I’ve only just recently gotten to a point where I am updating and reviewing it on a daily basis consistently. I’ve added comments to each date where I track things like weight, meals, steps, mood, and what I’m listening to, learning, and reading. I track the weather, the moon cycle, and the day of the year too.
Reading Femme Fatale by Guy de Maupassant and There Is No Outside: Covid-19 Dispatches, a collection of essays published by n+1 magazine. I’ve been slow to make progress toward my yearly reading goal and am sitting 2 books behind as of this writing, but I’m hoping to get ahead again in June with more time scheduled for writing and an easier way of carrying them with me.
Watching Mrs. America on Hulu, a miniseries following of the struggle to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in the 70’s, Homecoming on Amazon, a psychological thriller series, and Insecure on HBO, a comedy-drama series written by Issa Rae. I’m currently binge-watching Showtime’s Homeland, a spy thriller I love to hate and Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix, arguably the best animated series ever written.
Learning nothing. I was taking The Science of Well-Being from Yale University, but I’ve been too busy, too tired, and too full of excuses to finish it. I made it through all the videos of Memoir and Personal Essay: Managing Your Relationship with the Reader by Wesleyan University, but I have yet to finish the writing assignments. Some of these will be the first posted in my essay a week project. As I scale back on TV and social media time I hope to get back to these courses and more.
Anticipating the summer. The season, despite the oppressive heat and violent storms, is my favorite of the year by far. I’m disappointed that this year there will be so little of it to enjoy. Then again, even a low-key and abbreviated summer is better than no summer at all. The world is opening back up more and more and though I’m not quite ready to do all the things available, I’m ready to try to do some things, slowly and safely.
Reflecting on what the quarantine has taught me. The pandemic was and continues to be a devastating tragedy, but that doesn’t mean nothing good came of it. We learned that if we are bold, cooperative, and committed anything and everything can change. I’ve learned what is important to me and how I had been denying myself peace and personal fulfillment in the name of productivity that turned out not to worth very much to me after all. There is a lot I learned about myself these past few months and a lot I’d like to hold on to even as we return to normalcy we can recognize.
Fearing what the near future holds. The world feels like it’s in free fall and no one anywhere can provide answers or even a plan for how we will make it through these next few months with our health and humanity intact. With the possibility of Covid cases surging, economic devastation and sweeping budget short falls, partisan politcs and protests and riots erupting all of the country it’s hard to see a way through it all, to feel safe or secure, and to know how to help or at least how not to hurt. We’re all afraid and we are all in this together, no matter what side you are on. We’ll have to find a way to the other side together too.
Hating the police. I saw a post on Twitter lamenting the lumping in of all cops under the same categorization and pleaded with other to understand not all cops were brutish, power hungry, or cruel. Someone replied with something like “you’re right, not all cops are bad, some are just complacent.” The indifferent are now as culpable as the cruel and the blood shows equally on both hands. There is so much grief and anger that it can no longer be controlled or constructively targeted.
Loving the support I see from the media, politicians, and even some police officers for the BlackLivesMatter protesters. Now feels like the right time to make a change in the world. We’ve got as close to a blank slate to rewrite our laws and reaffirm our commitment to true justice and equality. We have already remade the world in profound ways let’s be bold and imaginative. Lets spread love and support even as we spread anger and grief and see what beautiful and righteous connections and changes we can make.
Needing everybody to use their critical thinking skills when reading the news these days. Cultivate a habit of reading more deeply, looking for context clues, and asking yourself, “what is missing”?. Who’s story is being told and who’s isn’t? What is deliberately big emphasized and deemphasized? What is the history.of this issue? What change needs to be made? Who is asking for a change, and who is answering or denying that call? Read past the headline. Read more than one story, one platform, one side before you form and opinion and choose a side.
Hoping something big happens soon in the name of good and justice. We’ve had so much bad, and difficult, and painful. We’ve had so much that turned us indifferent, angry, hateful, or sad. It’s long passed time for a little love and happiness. I know it’s unlikely. Perhaps that isn’t how love works. Perhaps it’s in all the little acts that don’t make the news and words that don’t trigger opinion pieces. The good is out there. Talk about it more. Share it more. Spread it more. We need it more than ever.
So, yeah, all in all, May was a chance to reflect and to return. These last few months have been so empty and so lonely and finally we can return not just to each other but to nature too and in that return we can reflect on what we learned while the world paused and, more than anything, May gave us the chance to choose. As June approaches we can choose what our new normal will be and what we will value when we finally rebuild.
But what about you? Have you stepped out of quarantine and back into the world. We’re you ever able to step out at all? How much summer have you been able to enjoy? Have you protested in your city? Have you stayed safe and sane? Has your humanity survived this time for fear and divisiveness?
Let me know in the comments.
The inspiration for these posts comes from Andrea at Create.Share.Love
“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.”
— T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land
April is my favorite month of the year. It’s the month I was born in and the month the earth and nature warm and begin to come alive again. April is a month of resurrection, of renewal, of hope. April is the light at the end of the long tunnel that is winter, but this April was none of that. Yes, the sun warmed, and the leaves began to sprout, but our hearts stayed locking inside as if winter had never ended.
The novel coronavirus pandemic continued to worsen across the globe and much of the world sheltered in place somewhere in the spectrum between voluntary and strict lockdown orders. Schools all over the world have shuttered for the year and many are making drastic changes already to their calendars and curriculums for the 20-21 year. We’re all looking at a changed world but nothing is certain and nothing will be set in stone for a very long time to come.
This April then was one inverted from what it ought to have been then. Instead of hope, we felt fear. Instead of emerging into a bright, lively, and connected world, we slipped further into isolation, depression, and anxiety. Instead of coming to life, we set our sights on mere survival and asked the very bare minimum from one another just to stay sane and safe. This April has truly and literally been the cruelest month.
But not all is lost to despair and to find spring again you only have to look out your window, go for a walk, unplug, or call a friend. Through the worst crises in recent history, we have come together. You may not see it but you can certainly feel it all around you in the cooperation of those who stay home and in the courage it takes for our most essential workers not too. In the end, the human race is a force if not of good or pure determination and we can do so much more than we imagine. April has been proof of that, at least.
As for me, it’s has been hard, but it has been far from catastrophic. I am still practicing strict social distancing and doing my best to keep from wallowing too much in misery or falling too far into self-pity. I’m balancing the pressure to be productive with permission to idle. I’m working to be mindful, to find joy, to be grateful, and to banish guilt. These are absurd times we are living in and there is no right or normal way to feel, react, or be. Gentleness, patience, and persistence is all we need.
April has at the very least given me time to think and prioritize. I think I have taken myself much too seriously in the past and this has been a grave hindrance to my progress. Perfection has been the enemy of any good I hoped to do. Knowing I am not perfect has kept me from trying but what I need to know was that being good at something has nothing at all to do with enjoying something and joy is what I intend to pursue through my writing going forward. I’m reviving an old goal of writing one essay and week and working out a way to reach it through small, enjoyable, fulfilling actions every day.
But before I start, here is what I am currently:
Writing essays and poems. Not one every day, but working on one every day. There is a difference, and the latter is a much better fit to the kind of writer I think I am. I like to dive a little deeper, express more emotion, and find hidden connections, and I’d like to do that a lot more but the pressure to be a blogger who posts daily is high and rather than fail I’ve often opted not to even try. In April I tried a little harder to do things my way. I did write a few pieces in a day, but there were a lot of pieces that I am still working through, and that’s okay. The goal is to finish the drafts by working on them every day, and that’s all I’m asking of myself.
Making an effort every day. I know it sounds like I’m doing a lot or that I have such big goals and aspirations but every day is a struggle and at the end every day feels like a fresh failure. When I was a kid my mom, when lecturing me about my grades would tell me that if a failure had been my best, then she wouldn’t be mad, and then she would look me in my eye and ask me if I did my best and so many times I said no and knew my failure had been on me. I’m asking myself that question now and I’m seeing too many of those same old answers. An effort, that’s all I’m asking anymore.
Planning everything. These past few months I’ve started a new to-do list and logbook system based on a system by Jeff Huang using Google’s docs, calendar, tasks, and keep products. Events and to-do items start out in the calendar. I add them as they come up or pop into my head. Recurring tasks like daily Spanish lessons and reading goals are added to the tasks list. Notes and ideas are added to the keep app all day long. Then, every night, at least, I open the to-do list document and write a few lines about what I did or felt that day. Afterward, I review the calendar, tasks list, and notes in the sidebar and type out all the things I want to do the next day in the document. It has been very helpful, and I have done more this past month than I have in the past year perhaps, but it still needs tweaking.
Reading Borne by Jeff VanderMeer. April was not a great reading month. At the end of March and through the first few weeks of this month I was making a lot of progress but trying to write more ate up time and feeling down when I couldn’t ate up even more. I watched way too much TV, slept in more than I’d like, and simply gave up trying. But that’s only half the excuse. Borne is also boring me a little. It’s interesting but a little too sci-fi to allow me to suspend as much belief and required and I end up putting it back down after only a few pages. I’m not a reader who can bring myself to quit though, so I have to push harder in May. No more excuses.
Watching Mrs. America. The show, starring Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly and Phyllis Schlafly as Gloria Steinem, follows the women’s rights movement of the early 70s and the struggle to pass and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment against a growing conservative women’s opposition. I’m also all caught up with Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I’m still as confused and thrilled with Westworld as ever. I’m losing interest in Killing Eve fast. Insecure is still making me laugh, and old episodes of Six Feet Under are keeping me entertained in between.
Learning about The Science of Well-Being and tips on writing Memoir and Personal Essay. The Science of Well-Being is interesting, but I felt I wasn’t getting the most out of it without access to a printer for the handout and “rewirements”. Luckily we were able to borrow my wife’s desk printer from her workplace and the hurdle was quickly cleared. I would have made more progress through Memoir and Personal Essay, but I got stuck on the first assignment trying to work out an idea that perfectly fit the prompt. From now on, I’ll focus on doing my best writing and take the prompts and strong suggestions only.
Anticipating returning to work. Everything is going to be different from the role I play to the way I work. The promotion I was offered in March has only just been finalized this past week but it means when I do go back to work I will be doing a bit of a different job and under very different social norms. Already there is talk about wearing mask and gloves all day and working one on one during our training classes rather than in groups of 3 or 4. My work is going to become a lot more tedious and a lot more emotionally draining and will take a lot of strength and enthusiasm from me. I’m looking forward to new challenges.
Reflecting on what I am learning about myself during this time. Looking back over the past six weeks or so I can see how much I have done to take care of myself and work out my own needs and goals and there is so much I’d like to go on doing and being once this is over. I’ve already mentioned the writing, but there’s more to it than that. It’s the focus and the direction. It’s the passion and the emotion I am trying to harness. I’m learning that I have to dig deeper and the roadblocks are showing me something too. I need more life. I need to do more, live more, talk more, learn more. So much has changed already and so much more is going to change too and for the first time, instead of being afraid I’m excited.
Fearing that these economically motivated calls and initiatives to reopen the country will win out over the value of human life and undo all the hard work we’ve done and sacrifices we’ve made to flatten the curve and save lives. I’m afraid capitalism will win and no changes at all will be made to protect worker’s rights, well-being, or safety. I’m afraid of the widespread homelessness and hunger I feel approaching on the horizon if those with the means and the power don’t muster the courage or the imagination and compassion to adjust their priorities and reshape the world while we have the chance. I’m afraid voters will forget all too quickly or misplace their blame and anger and allow the status quo to continue unabated.
Hating how quickly major brands and corporations were able to create advertising campaigns to pull at the heartstrings and capitalize on the pandemic. From car manufactures and dealers to home colon cancer testing kits, every commercial I see now tries too hard to pry their way into our pockets by forcing a narrative of understanding, compassion, and connection. I’d care and identify with a company much more if I saw a commercial that simply said what they are doing to help save lives, not how they’ve made it easier for them to continue to take my money.
Loving my friends and family more than ever. I miss them all so much, though I haven’t been the best at showing it. It’s always been hard for me to reach out to the people I care about and it’s always been hard, I believe, for them to reach out to me, but it’s never frustrated me or hurt me as much as it does now. For a while I was wallowing in a lot of self-pity over it but this week I’ve started to shift my perspective from a self centered and victim centered on to one of gratitude. I am hurt because I love and am loved in return. I feel lonely because before this pandemic I was so rich in warmth and community. It’s up to me to maintain that community, so re-establish community and lessen my feelings of isolation.
Needing nothing at all. I’m one of the lucky ones and to ask for anything more right now when so many are losing everything feels wrong. I am content as I am, which what I have. I ask nothing from others or the universe and only from myself. I need more from me, for me, and perhaps for others too. I certainly haven’t given enough in any sense of the word. Perhaps what I need then is to donate, to offer my time and money, to find a way to help that is more than just getting out of the way. I need to know, when this is all over, that I did something.
Hoping that life doesn’t just go back to normal after all of this. If we simply carry on like nothing happened, then this will have all been a terrible and tragic waste. We are so much better than we give ourselves credit for and we can be so much better than we imagine. We’ve seen that, haven’t we? We’ve proven it, surely, so let’s do better and be better. I hope that people all over the world who have lost jobs, healthcare, and stability remember what was needed when it comes time to vote and I hope that those who profited from the pandemic or who would like to profit when it ends, remember that our memory is long and clear. We won’t stand for the way it “used to be”. Either you are for the people or you will find the people are no longer for you.
So, yeah, all in all, April, though isolating and often terrifying, was full of some very big wins. My wife and I, our loved ones and friends, and even our pets are all safe and healthy, working or at least being paid, and the future is still bright and life is still worth living. I have learned something, written some things, rested, and reflected. That’s more than I have been able to ask of any month in years. I know it could all end in the blink of an eye and I am watchful for that other shoe to drop.
But what about you? Are you and your loved ones staying home? Staying safe? Staying sane? Are you working in person? At home? At all? Do you think we are ready to restart the world? How do you think the world should change now that we have had a glimpse of how vulnerable we all really are?
Let me know in the comments.
The inspiration for these posts comes from Andrea at Create.Share.Love
Oh, you do me wrong. Would I do anything wicked? I’m a peaceful soul, bothering nobody and leading a gentle, herbivorous life. And my thoughts merely drift among the oddities and quarks of how things are (as I see them). I, humble observer of phenomena, plod along and puff my silly words into the air rather unspectacularly, I am afraid.”
— Tortoise, Godel Escher Bach, Douglas Hofstadter
“March is the Month of Expectation.
The things we do not know—”
— Emily Dickinson, March is the Month of Expectation
March, typically, is one of the most boring months of the year. If it weren’t for the start of Spring and for the designation as Women’s History Month, March would be wholly unremarkable. But this March has been something else entirely. This March has been one of the hardest and, frankly, terrifying months I have ever lived through.
When the month began, life was essentially normal. I was working and worrying about an upcoming interview for a new position at work. I was anxiously counting down the days until Spring break. I was so looking forward to a trip down to Texas for a conference. Life was good, and everything was looking up for me. Then the news reports, the ones that had been increasing for weeks and the ones I had dismissed as media hype, were growing increasingly concerning.
There was a new virus spreading quickly, and every day the numbers of the infected grew higher, and grew closer. Suddenly I was hearing words like incubation period, quarantine, and pandemic. Suddenly there was hand sanitizer everywhere. Suddenly we were being told to stay home if we were sick. Suddenly there were lists of vulnerable populations on the news and a list of vulnerable workers at my job. As the first couple of weeks of the month wore on, rumors began flying everywhere. Rumors about how bad things would get and the severe measures that may have to be taken. Then, suddenly, everything changed.
As I write this, my wife and I have been off of work and hold up at home practicing social distancing for nearly three weeks now. Almost every business in the state has closed their doors, and the Governor has issued a “stay-at-home” order. Last I heard from the school district I will return to work on April 20th, but I am hearing rumors again. Rumors about how much longer this will go on and how much worse it will get.
As for me, I’m getting through it the best that I can. I’m one of the lucky ones. I not only have the opportunity to stay home to protect myself and others, but I’m being paid to do so. I’m only being asked to endure isolation and boredom. I’m choosing to make the most of this time partly because I feel guilty for resting so much while the world burns around me, but also because I need to keep my mind occupied.
Going forward, I have no big aspirations. April will be a month of simply coping and doing what small things I can do to keep myself from falling victim to loneliness or depression. I’d like to read a few books, write a few posts and essay, and perhaps create a few collages and poems. I’d like to take better care of my physical and emotional health and complete a few projects around the house. I’d like to spend time with my wife and give my pets and plants the attention they deserve. I want all the things I always wish I could be doing when I had to work instead, but before I do, here is what I am currently:
Writing a couple of real blog posts. I’ve been using Google docs not only to track my daily to-do items and store my daily logbook lately, but to work on my drafts and essays too. I’ve been able to free write, take notes, add comments, and perform searches for quotes and facts right from within the documents. It helps to avoid distraction (when coupled with the use of a timer) and in this time of social isolation I feel like I finally have the time and a system in place to get my ideas organized and perhaps get some real writing out there instead of just talking about it.
Making lists. I’ve written a little about it already and plan to write a lot more about it soon, but I’ve been working on a new to-do list and logbook system I shamelessly stole from Jeff Huang. I’m incorporating suggestions from Cal Newport on adding time blocking and action plans and recently discovered a whole blog dedicated to Plain Text systems. I’m using Google docs to facilitate accessibility across devices and working on a system to incorporate calendars and links to other documents to track an editorial calendar and easily write and publish new blog posts.
Planning for a lengthy stay indoors. To be honest, nothing can be planned for at the moment. We don’t know when we will be able to go back to work, see our loved ones, travel or attend events. Everything I had been planning for or looking forward to had been postponed indefinitely, and all I can allow myself to plan for now is a day or two in advance. The silver lining is that for the time being I can live in the present and focus fully on spending the time I have today the best I can. One day at a time is the only way any of us can hope to digest the future that awaits us.
Reading It by Stephen King, still. I’ve been chipping away at this tome for months now and though progress has been slow, it has been made. I expect that by this time next month I’ll have finished this and two or three more. I hope to close the two book gap between where I am and where I should be by now if I want to beat my 2020 reading challenge. Going forward, I’m going to make an effort to read more digital books. I have an old iPad I’m repurposing as a dedicated e-reader. I have plenty of gift cards for Amazon, Google, and Barnes & Noble that I can use for this experiment and plenty of time on my hands to work on my comprehension and focus when reading from and screen.
Watching the news. I’m trying not to watch it all the time but, like most of you I’m sure, I’ve had to check in regularly not just with national news, which I did all the time even before all of this, but with world and local news too. It’s helped to be informed, but I’ve had to be mindful of where I get my news and how often I check it to avoid panic and speculation. I watch for an hour or so in the morning while I make my coffee and eat, and when I’m done, I turn it off and don’t allow myself to look again until after dinner.
Learning about International Women’s Health and Human Rights on Coursera. I’ve been trying for over a year to complete this course, but I have always failed to make the time or to do the work consistently. Now that I am off of work I have whole days to devote to studying and writing and, hopefully, finally marking this course complete. I’m ready to move on from this (and from my Modern & Contemporary American Poetry course too) and it has been this desire to move on that has kept me from finishing, but the only way out is through and there is no better time than now, when I have all the time I could ever want.
Anticipating my birthday, I suppose. Normally, I spend the whole month of April celebrating my birthday. I tour all my favorite museums. I eat out at my favorite restaurants. I always do something extra special with my wife and I plan multiple events with family and friends, but this year I’ll have to spend it quietly indoors and away from everyone I know. I’m a bit bummed about it but I know I can still make it special if I try. I still have my wife here with me and we can cook my favorite foods and I hear she’s already ordered gifts for me. I can still call my family and friends and perhaps we can plan a hiking trip if the parks are still open.
Reflecting on all the ways life has changed and how easily it has changed, how easily it could have always changed before all of this if we’d all been better, stronger, more kind, more imaginative. We’re seeing now what was always possible and when this is over we are going to have to answer for why we lied to each other and ourselves for so long. We’ll have to face that universal healthcare, housing assistance, and paid sick leave at the very least we’re always possible, affordable, and in all our best interest. We’ll have to face that some things will have to stay changed for the better.
Fearing this virus making its way into my circle of loved ones or into my home. I’m afraid for my parents, who were forced to work far further into this pandemic than I was comfortable with. I’m worried for my wife, who’s asthma has grown more severe over these last few years. I’m worried for my siblings living in other states that aren’t yet taking the measures my state has. I’m worried for myself being on medications that leave me somewhat immunosuppressed and needing to make regular trips into the clinic for care. Every step out of the house is a risk, and so much is out of my control.
Hating the impact this virus has had on my own life and these past weeks. I know it’s a bit selfish, but I’m giving myself permission to be angry over missing so much I had been looking forward too. There was a St. Patrick’s day dinner and a movie date I had planned with my wife that was cancelled. I was planning a big trip to Texas for work that was cancelled. I just got a promotion the day before the district closed and I haven’t been able to have my title or my pay scale changed. I had a class scheduled to become a Crisis Prevention and Intervention instructor that has been postponed indefinitely. Spring has come, and I haven’t been able to fully enjoy one day of it. I’ve lost time, I can never get back, and it’s okay to be angry about it.
Loving how we’ve all come together to beat this thing. I love seeing that so many of us are doing our part by staying home, by sharing supplies, by volunteering, but donating money or supporting local business by ordering delivery. I love that we have chosen to keep each other safe rather than to indulging in petty wants. Even if I am disappointed in the fact that it took this pandemic for life to change, I love that we were able to change for the better so quickly and easily. I’m proud of us all, and my faith in humanity has been restored.
Needing to see some sign of hope. I need to see that what we are doing is helping and that lives will be saved but all I see is more death and more to fear and everyday I grow more depressed and hopeless. I desperately need my spirits lifted and I know I’m not alone. Everyone is feeling this same anxiety and dread and a little good news in these terrifying and uncertain times could go a long way, but everywhere I look there’s nothing but bad. I know the media is keeping us informed and I know they tend toward what keeps us engaged and nothing does that more than what incites panic but please, please, please, show us something good too.
Hoping we can all keep this up. I know the longer it goes on, the antsier we all get, the more we begin to relax the rules and lose our sense of urgency. We start venturing out. We start letting the kids play together in the park. We start visiting the friends and family we’ve been missing so much. We start to believe that things aren’t as bad as the media would have you believe and that the recommendations to stay home have been overblown. I hope we can, for once, keep foremost in our mind what must be done and that we can, for once, find the collective courage and discipline to do it.
So, yeah, all in all, March was an absolutely horrifying month, but there has been some small good in it. I am happy and healthy and so are the people I love. I got the promotion I’ve been working so hard for and one day, when all of this is over, I can do all of those things that I missed out on. I’ve learned to be present and we’ve all learned that we’re all connected and we cannot get through this without the help and cooperation of us all. March has been, at the very least, eye opening.
But what about you? How have you navigated these changes, this fear and uncertainty? How have you been impacted by this virus? Have you stayed well? Have you stayed at home? Do you have enough toilet paper?
Let me know in the comments.
The inspiration for these posts comes from Andrea at Create.Share.Love
“Is speaking/(writing) subjectively an inherently selfish act? Can you still become no one if you find a subjective way to speak for yourself that also speaks for others? Can you speak for all those who came before you (especially those silenced) by speaking now? Do women get challenged more for speaking subjectively than men?”