Tortoise

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

Currently // March 2020: Everything Has Changed

“March is the Month of Expectation.
The things we do not know—”

— Emily Dickinson,

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

Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash

Erica Avey on Subjectivity

“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?”

— Erica Avey

Currently // December 2019: Warmth for the Body and the Soul

“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

Photo by Luke Hodde on Unsplash

Concepts I’m Lingering With

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

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash