319 // Catching Up with Myself

For weeks, maybe months now, I’ve been longing for time to do nothing but what I want to do, even if that means doing nothing at all, and finally that day has arrived. The plan is to catch up on much-needed sleep, reading, journalling, doomscrolling, and more sleep.

The weather has taken a strange turn since this morning. The day started sunny and calm, but very quickly the wind began whipping around the house and dark clouds rolled in on it. I could hear trash cans, and furniture, and things blowing through surrounding yards and all day hoped the fences, trees, and power lines would hold upright.

Besides the cold creeping in through every hidden crack and failing seal and the eerie sounds waking me again and again from those much-needed naps, the winds passed with little more than threats and this evening we’ve returned to quiet and calm.

Inside I’m feeling far from peaceful though. Yesterday I spoke with my doctor and we are officially and finally changing course in my care. There are going to be new medications, new expectations, new hopes, and new norms to get used to—again. It’s a good thing really, because what I am doing isn’t working, but change is always scary.

So, in addition to resting, I’m processing what all of this might mean and how I feel about all of it. I’m working hard to practice acceptance, gratitude, and self-love. I’m forgiving my body and focusing my thoughts on how strong I have been through all of this. Moving forward I’ll have to keep being strong and that means gaining a new perspective. That means crawling out of this funk and finding the blue sky, even if I have to wait for a few clouds to pass first.

Moral Monsters

I’m terrified at the moral apathy, the death of the heart, which is happening in my country. These people have deluded themselves for so long that they really don’t think I’m human. I base this on their conduct, not on what they say. And this means that they have become, in themselves, moral monsters.”

— James Baldwin

I Don’t Know How to Speak

I speak a lot, I mean, a lot of words, and I rush, and it always comes out wrong. And why is it that I speak a lot of words and it comes out wrong? Because I don’t know how to speak. Those who know how to speak well, speak briefly. So, there you have my giftlessness—isn’t it true? But since this gift of giftlessness is natural to me, why shouldn’t I use it artificially? And so I do. True, as I was preparing to come here, I first had the thought of being silent; but to be silent is a great talent, and is therefore not fitting for me, and, second, it’s dangerous to be silent, after all; well, so I finally decided that it would be best to talk, but precisely in a giftless way, I mean, a lot, a lot, a lot, to be in a great rush to prove something, and towards the end to get tangled up in one’s own proofs, so that the listener throws up his hands, or, best of all, just spits and walks away without any end.”

— Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons (via Erica Avey)

314 // From the Warmth and Comfort of My Couch

Winter has returned today with gloomy skies, steep temperature drops, and fat snowflakes falling off and on throughout the day. Thankfully, I’m working from home and get to watch this weather roll in from the warmth and comfort of my couch.

For the next three days, I’ll be attending a big and important virtual conference for work, and my district has trusted me to bring everything I’ve learned back to my coworkers. I’m excited about the opportunity and honored by the trust but I can’t help feeling a little bummed that the event isn’t being held in person, that I am not staying in a hotel somewhere in a city I’ve never been, enjoying a continental breakfast and networking in the lobby.

Still, there were some very cool moments, including the chance to hear animal behavior expert and autism activist Temple Grandin speak this morning! She is such an interesting and insightful speaker, and I feel ashamed not to have heard more of her talks until now. I fully intend to scour the internet for every video I can find of her. Might re-watch the film based on her life too. Might even buy her book!

Still, not everything has been good today. That great weight that had previously been lifted from my chest has already been loaded back on. My workplace has reversed position and asked that staff members return to work as early as this week.

At the same time, I’m also reading reports that my state is experiencing an uncontrolled spread of the novel coronavirus. I had hoped that management would allow us all some time away to take the precautions we needed and keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, but I guess the priorities have changed.

This all leaves me feeling very…angry. I simply can’t see any reason why we have to come back in so quickly. The students are staying home and the district has agreed to pay us through the next month. So, between the risk of contracting the virus and the benefit of having us all at home (including the chance to disinfect our work areas), I just don’t understand the reasoning.

Underneath that anger, there is fear. Even by the districts own metrics it isn’t safe for us to be at work and without knowing how my coworkers are spending their personal time or what precautions they are—or are not—taking I don’t feel that simply wearing masks, using hand sanitizer, doing our best to maintain a six feet of distance between us will keep me safe.

But what choices do I have?

313 // Moving Against the Wind

The exertions of the last few days to weeks have finally caught up with me. Every muscle above my waist is sore, and I can’t seem to find the energy for even the most basic items on my to-do list. A can of Redbull and a little music are helping at the moment, and knowing that for the next three days I get to work from home and by midweek my time will be all mine for at least the next three weeks.

In the meantime, I’m simply doing my best and trying hard to let that be enough. It hasn’t been easy though. Everything I touch or try to do today seems to be going wrong, and I’m falling into negative thought patterns too easily. Instead of this mistake being normal, understandable, forgivable, I’m seeing every misstep as a confirmation of some inherent badness in me.

I’m holding these false narratives at bay, for now, but guilt and low self-esteem are threatening like dark clouds gathering on the horizon. I’ve just got to keep moving against the wind and I should make it to the end of the day, but if I stop for even a moment to look behind I know the blue skies will be overtaken and I’ll be engulfed in gloom and doom until morning.

312 // Something for Me

Even though it’s the weekend, and I’d be off from work anyway, it still feels like the first day of my second quarantine which is feeling more and more like a kind of vacation from all those things that have been terrifying and stressing me so much lately. I woke up light, happy, and feeling more like myself than I have felt in a very long time.

Today was also first time in weeks—months maybe—that I have been able get out of the house and do something for me. Some much needed shopping was done and some shopping that was just for fun. I enjoyed some of it very much, and some of it not at all, but I’m home now, feeling a little tired and very content.

In light of the recent rise in COVID cases I can’t help worrying over my little outing. I hoped the stores would be somewhat empty what with our local officials recommending we all take further precautions but it was quite the opposite out there. The stores were packed. Everyone was wearing their masks but social distancing was nearly impossible and the closeness of all those bodies, breathing all around me, made me feel very anxious. I don’t think I’ll be venturing out into the world again for a long time.

And anyway, too much of what little energy I have anymore is used up during these outings. The time for staying in, for making this house more like home, for resting, reflecting, and recuperating has arrived.

I’m starting right now, spending the evening on the couch wrapped in my comfiest blankets and watching President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris call for unity, peace, and healing throughout the country. It’s such a soothing and calming messages and gives me hope that even if compromises must be made over the next four years they will be made in an effort to move us all forward together because the truth is we are all Americans and so many of us have been left behind in so many ways and on both sides of the political aisle.

311 // Quarantine: Part Deux

A great weight has been lifted from my chest this week. Yesterday the powers that be announced that the school district I work for is finally, finally, moving to 100% remote learning which means I will get to stay home, get the rest I so desperately need, and avoid contracting the novel coronavirus from my often careless coworkers.

I am being asked to return to work in just over three weeks to continue training new classes of employees but with cases rising as fast as they are and the peak of cold and flu season approaching I will make the decision whether I return to work based on the case counts and my health at the time rather than what my superiors would like me to do. I just can’t keep on risking myself and my family for work I know can wait.

A weight of another kind is lifting too as the ballots go on being counted and this country moves closer and closer to an official resolution to the 2020 Presidential Election. The writing is already on the wall and the sitting President’s rants and legal challenges are only postponing the inevitable. I for one am relieved and proud, though still quite disappointed, in the work it took and more motivated than ever to do my part in that work moving forward.

For now though, there will be rest, on all levels and in as many ways as I can think of. I’m going to sleep more, of course, but I’m also going to rest my mind too and take a break from the stress and intensity of cable news and social media.

I learned a few lessons during my first quarantine last Spring and this time I’m a little more clear on what it will be like, what will be required of me, what I can do, and what I don’t have to do. I expect to enjoy this time a whole lot more and to focus on what really matters—my mental and physical health only.

297 // Gloomy Friday

It’s a cold and gloomy day here along the Front Range Urban Corridor. We woke falling sleet and thick layers of ice on our cars and walkways, and as the sun rose we realized there would be very little improvement in the way of warmth and blue skies would likely not make an appearance. So much for a happy Friday.

As for me, things have improved in what ways it can since the last time I posted here. In some ways they are worse too. Every day brings new challenges and every day we discover new ways to be strong, or to fail. I suppose all life’s major changes and tragedies follow this pattern, and perhaps the peaks and valleys never will quite flatten out again, but only shrink toward one another.

Getting back to work has helped some, and being with my wife makes it easier, but even through the laughter and love, emotions of pain, stress, fear, and helplessness continue to be the predominate. My family is in an upheaval and we’re being forced to take not only our circumstances but one another on a day by day basis.

My health has not improved overall either, but the time for answers either way is fast approaching. More tests and a new plan are close enough to give me both hope and anxiety. I’m worried I’ll be told something else entirely from my original diagnosis is wrong, or, worst of all, I’ll be told nothing is wrong at all. I’m worried the answers will come too fast and I’m worried that I will have to wait, and suffer, just a little longer.

Still, I’m grateful for so much. I’m grateful for the family I have and for small victories. I’m grateful to be alive, to fight, to support the people I love and to receive support too. I’m grateful for what I can give, even if all I wish anymore is that I could give so much more.

What I’m learning though is that gratitude is not the same as happiness. It’s only a small part. I need more than gratitude and I’m at a loss as to what that thing is or how to find it right now.