171 // Painful Obstacles

“Thank you for being there, for checking on me, and always making me laugh. Thank you for being my father and my friend.”

I wrote this in my Father’s Day card yesterday. I hadn’t seen my dad since my grandmother’s funeral this past February, and our quick dinner at the local barbeque place felt wholly inadequate. I miss him and I miss the closeness we used to share. I want to say so much to him about all the ways he failed as a father and all the ways he succeeded too. There just never seems to be the right time or the right place

I suppose I should be grateful. At least we have a relationship at all. My siblings each fall between indifferent, indecisive, and angry at my father. My family, as with many families, has troubling histories and harmful cycles to face, but anger and fear, however justified, prove to be painful obstacles.

None of us can control any other and doing our best, being self-aware, open, encouraging, and willing has only so much impact on the behavior of others. They have to want it too. They have to be ready and they have to see a reason. They have to see your reason and no amount of explanation alone can force it. Having patience while gently, gently planting seeds and setting good examples is all you can do.

And this, I think, is the job of any big sister but to be the oldest sibling means bearing both the burden and the blessing of radical love and acceptance and it has to be held for the self as much as for others.

170 // Hurting From Head to Toe

I’d meant to return to mindfulness and discipline this morning and wake up early to write a bit and organize some of my ideas into an actionable list, but the stress of the past week caught up to me in the form of a worsening headache and a generally exhausted and icky feeling.

I’m chalking it up to a week of being on my feet too much, then sitting in chairs that made proper posture impossible all while hardly eating, or eating poorly, getting too little sleep, and drinking little more than coffee and energy drinks.

As a result, my body is hurting from head to toe and I’m craving rest badly. It was hard to leave the bed and I admit I couldn’t manage it until nearly two hours after my first alarm went off. I think it’ll take a day or two of rest and strict adherence to good eating habits, my medication and supplement schedule, and any kind of exercise whatsoever to return to functional.

Mentally and emotionally, I’m somewhat better than just a day or two ago. The latest crisis is working its way toward resolution and I’m able to attend to unresolved emotions.

With each wave, with each pull beneath the surface and each rising and breath, I feel myself grow stronger. I can see others growing and gaining insight too as we fight through these troubling waters. I’m only glad not to be alone. I’m glad that we are safe—for now. I’m glad there is strength left yet.

169 // Readjusting or Time In Between

I got back in town last night after a few days away for a work conference and it’s taking a surprisingly long time to readjust back to my life. I certainly got more sleep, but getting ready for the day felt confusing, and returning to the workplace was hard on my nerves.

I think it’s a lack of peace and quiet affecting me. I learned a lot while I was away and I need space to reflect on all the notes I took and ideas that were sparked over these past days. I need time to organize my intentions and plan a path forward.

Instead, my mental space has been taken up with small talk and small tasks. The urgent is over taking the important and the worst part is it’s not even my urgent. Other people’s problems are threatening to become my problems and the battle to preserve my mood and motivation is hard fought and far from won.

Even when nothing is being asked of me, there is an incessant amount of clamor and chatter and around me. The way others can feel enclosed, trapped, and panicked by lack of space, I feel enclosed, trapped, and panicked by sounds. They are all around me today and closing in.

There are only a few more hours left in the workday and I’m hopeful for a few hours after that I can call my own. I need a chance to reset. To sit down with everything from the past weeks—my notebooks, my goals, my emotions, and my needs—lay it all out and figure out what to keep and what to throw out, what to use and what to give away, what to share and what to hide.

It’s hard to make time for this sort of reorganization on any given day. I already have things I’m having trouble making time for including family, friends, home projects, and rest. I’d have to make time out of that time and most days that feels absolutely impossible.

I have to get back to making time in between. That means between meetings, between classes, between events, between phone calls and to-dos, episodes and intimate moments there has to be time to think. There will be days when I can make real time but when life gets hectic and expectations are piling up, I can’t lose sight of my own creative needs both personally and professionally.

163 // Saturdays

I’ve forgotten that for some, perhaps even most, of the world, Saturday is considered the end of the week. Working for a school district has conditioned me to consider Sunday the end and Monday to be the official beginning. As such, I know what Sundays are for, and I dread what Mondays mean, but I’m never quite sure what to do with a Saturday.

For the most part, I consider Saturday to be my day, but the designation is vague and subject to whims and cravings. They are the days I sleep in. The days I spend on the couch, binge-watching shows, and eating snacks rather than meals. They are days I go hiking, visit friends, or get a little retail therapy. They are the days I do nothing that could be considered constructive at all, and there is nothing wrong with any of that per se except that at the end, I’m left with guilt and regret.

The guilt I chalk up to capitalism and the culture of productivity and dismiss it the best I can, but the regret is more personal. The regret comes from wishing I’d made a little more use of the day for me.

I’ve decided what’s needed—and what I have the time and energy for—is reflection. That is, time to take stock of wins and losses, successes and failures. Time to make cuts and make changes. Time to make a plan.

I haven’t been so great at that lately. I haven’t been present in my life for a long while now and what little gets done gets done without thought or awareness. Sure, I’ve had moments of clarity and flashes of motivation and resolve. I’ve had nothing more than a few fleeting moments of focused energy and passion. Most of my day—too much of my day—is spent in dense clouds of near unconsciousness. Nothing has been coming in and less has been coming out.

Starting today I’m taking stock of my week and looking back there is much to be proud of. The truth is, I have been making great strides for months now, building confidence and facing many small fears and for the first time, I’m ready for more. It will take some clarity and forethought and I can do that from the bed, from the couch, and all the while I’m watching my shows and enjoying my snacks.

There can still be time for plenty of nothing too.

Ubuntu

A person is a person through other people strikes an affirmation of one’s humanity through recognition of an ‘other’ in his or her uniqueness and difference. It is a demand for a creative intersubjective formation in which the ‘other’ becomes a mirror (but only a mirror) for my subjectivity. This idealism suggests to us that humanity is not embedded in my person solely as an individual; my humanity is co-substantively bestowed upon the other and me. Humanity is a quality we owe to each other. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am. The ‘I am’ is not a rigid subject, but a dynamic self-constitution dependent on this otherness creation of relation and distance.”

— Michael Onyebuchi Eze (via Dense Discovery)

Teaching Kindness

Who has ever been taught how to be kind? Who taught you what kindness looks like? Who taught you what it feels like? Who have we been taught to be kind to? How have we been taught to be kind—by explanation or by example? What were you taught about why we should be kind? Were you taught anything about kindness at all, or were you simply told to be kind without knowing what it meant? How do you teach kindness now?