257 /// Guilt

I’m home sick today. Feels like I have been just slightly under the weather for weeks now. Every day there is a bit of a sore throat, a bit of fatigue, a bit of sinus pressure, a bit of a runny nose, but then it clears for a time and then it comes back for a time. I worry I may be sick, but it’s hard to know for certain. I am certain that I am miserable though, so today I stayed home to see what a bit of rest would do.

Unfortunately, what it did was make me feel bad for resting; worse, it made me worry about work.

Oh well, it felt good to sleep, and maybe knowing that staying home does so little will help me accept my circumstance. I’ll go on and assume it’s just seasonal allergies wearing on as the summer season wears out its welcome.

It’s late in the afternoon now but I’d like to salvage something of the day, if I can. A cup of strong coffee and around-the-clock house music has improved my mood and I am challenging myself to stay in my office chair for at least the next hour though I think it will come to little more than these words and a few pages in a notebook.

Maybe the germ of an idea will be found, perhaps a few sentences added, or a new concept turned over that I can turn again later. Mostly this just means I’m reading more of James Baldwin’s Collected Essays, marking down the past day’s events in my logbook, jotting a few thoughts in my journal, and collecting interesting things on Are.na, nothing rather important, but enjoyable nonetheless.

And that’s enough. Even if it’s only for me, it’s more than enough. I hate that I have to insist on it that way but I have to convince myself first and foremost. We’re socialized to believe that doing something that isn’t for practice or profit, that no one asked you to do, that you don’t need to do, that you won’t be sharing or promoting, something that’s not for anything, is a waste of time.

I think perspectives are changing, though. We’re realizing the consequences of having to earn your existence. The truth is, it’s already yours and you can do whatever you want with it. The truth is, nothing anyone does really means more than anything else. It doesn’t matter whether you work another shift, sell another thing, make a new product, or take a cozy little nap, the sun is still going to engulf the Earth in a few billion years either way.

Might as well be happy while you can—in whatever way feels right for you.

253 /// Autumn for a Day

I woke this morning to drizzling rain and a chill that had crept throughout the house. Quite a change from the record heat wave we suffered only two short days ago. This taste of autumn won’t last though. Summer has never left the front range so quietly as that. We’ll see days 30 degrees warmer by the work week’s start.

So, it’s officially a lazy Saturday, and not by accident this time, but by conscious choice. I know that taking a day for myself means giving up a day later, but I need it—desperately. The school year has been off to a particularly hard start this year.

I’m spending the day under warm blankets with hot cups of tea, bad movies, and internet rabbit holes.

Many of those rabbit holes are of my own making. I’m organizing my Are.na channels and sifting through old blocks. There are interests I have abandoned and new ones waiting to be named. I have old concepts that have revealed new threads and new concepts waiting for categorization and context.

I’d like to make a little progress through James Baldwin’s Collected Essays too. He’s a fascinating man, one of my favorite “Great Minds“, but he isn’t always easy to follow. The places he leads are the place where we are most hurt, most raw. It’s uncomfortable to face and your instinct is always to fight or fly or freeze, so if you really want to be changed you have to give yourself time to acclimate. It’s a slow journey.

As all journeys are—as all journeys should be. Growth takes time as the old truism goes. It’s one of the great tragedies of human existence. By the time you have finally gotten your heart and mind into a good place, your body is ready to fail you. I’m sure I will be no different. Not at this pace, and certainly not with so little discipline. Some things are beyond even time to change.

Luckily, there are other joys in life.

229 /// Good News/Bad News

The beginning of any school year is at once exciting and exhausting, but this one in particular is markedly more chaotic than most. The added challenges—though frustrating—have also reminded me why I enjoy my job so much. I miss having problems to solve. Novelty is a human weakness. We will take bad over boring any day, I suppose.

The week is dragging on but I’m still feeling optimistic, surprisingly. There’s something to be said for having so much work you don’t have time to think about the stress you are under or the minutes you can’t get back. All I have mental space for is getting shit done and getting what sleep when I can.

The break I’d hoped would come with the change of schedule never materialized. My hopes have shifted past Labor Day. I fear even that will come and go without a chance to rest, recuperate, and reflect. My fear is that summer has already gone from me and I hardly got to enjoy it.

The good news is, I still feel good. My body is still strong and resilient. I’ve come through with enthusiasm intact and gratitude is becoming an almost automatic practice. I cannot let myself forget that I have so much more than most. I’m allowed to have bad days, sure, but I would do great cruelty to myself if I didn’t stop to feel the sun on my face, to smile at a friend, to see the blessing behind every hardship.

The bad news is a new wave of new COVID infections is breaking across my workplace. Much of the management team is out with it and we have a few more every day. I haven’t had it yet, so far as I know, but with my immune system the way it is, and my tendency toward severe and prolonged illness, I need to take extra precautions again.

I’m happy to see so many others in my building doing the same, but it’s disconcerting how many people are confused when they find out COVID is being transmitted at all. I feel threatened by them. I feel angry with them. I wish the world was such that I could hide away from them until the risk had passed.

216 // Trying on Other Lives

I’ve been away from my life for a time now. I’ve been busy trying on other lives, other anxieties, and other pleasures. I’ve spent time remembering the people I might have been and forgetting all the reasons why I’m not.

All that is to say I have had a long summer of hard work, delightful travels, and exhilarating adventures but the summer is winding down now, though with this blazing heat you might never know it, and something is calling me back to reality—my reality. It turns out that all those other lives aren’t meant for me. They are only costumes to slip in and out of for a bit of excitement and spectacle. I hope to slip into others still next summer and every year after.

I’ve begun to think of my life as a cycle of seasons, and the summer sun has always beckoned me out and away from myself. I am a citizen of the world and in love with all of humanity. I want to be where the people are and I want to want all the same things they do. The season is for soaking up the experience of living and shoring up enough stimulation to carry me through the dull and dreary winter.

With the school year beginning again in just over a week, and my work schedule forcing me back to regular and routine, I find myself returning to the internal and the intellectual. I’ve, unprompted and quite by surprise, picked up reading again and rummaged and rooted through desk drawers for notebooks that have been buried since spring.

Life is a cycle of seasons, a going out and a returning to the self with a clearer understanding and a deeper love and appreciation not for who I dreamt I might be, but for who I am only just learning that I really am. You have to see for yourself that who you already are is the best version of yourself there is. It’s the long way to self-love, but it is the most fun you can have while healing.

189 // Dogged Days

I’m spending the day at home after a long bout with a tension headache turned migraine overnight. I’m feeling better now, but without a good night’s sleep, I simply wouldn’t make it through the work day. Worse still, without rest, I might risk the pain returning.

I’m up now and trying to write while I have some time. Sadly, as I have learned many times over, the want isn’t enough to bring the right words forth. I can focus, but I can’t find clarity. I can type, but my fingers won’t settle on a subject.

So, I’m doing what I always do when I can’t find the words inside. I’m searching for other people’s words instead. When there isn’t a path you can see, there are always rabbit holes to fall into and many can lead to the most surprising places. That’s the beauty and the bane of the internet. The trick, of course, exploring mindfully, rather than running where the algorithms lead.

Austin Kleon’s newsletter is always insightful and inspiring. I’m ashamed to say that I never knew that the term “Dog Days” referred to a specific time of year, and I certainly had no idea where the name originated.

The term refers to the rising of the star Sirius though and the time period between July 3rd and mid-August. These dates may or may not coincide with the appearance of the “Dog Star” but are often associated with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.”

This time of year has always been my favorite, and it feels right to finally have a name for these days of dogged heat, for lapping up the long hours of sunlight, for the bark and bite of thunder and lightning every afternoon, for the bite of the hand that feeds when the body meets extremes, for the bite from a lover while the rain batters the windowpanes, for the grief that grows as each day passes but gives way, always, to anticipation as the time of fallow nears its end.

There are different ways to work for every part of the year and, I wonder, what kind of work is best done when it’s too hot to move or too beautiful out to force yourself in?

176 // We Dissent

I am still reeling from the Supreme Court ruling yesterday. Having had the warning months ago did nothing to soften the blow. I spent much of the evening doomscrolling and falling deeper into despair and as I spiraled, a great terror rose at what I am certain is building on the horizon.

We are returning to a time when women knew their place, when people of color were kept poor and oppressed, and queer people lived in isolation and fear.

It’s happening all around us. Conservative school boards are banning critical race theory. Anti-trans laws are being passed quietly all over the country. The right to protest is slowly being chipped at and the rising cost of living is wringing all sense of possibility and hope from the most vulnerable among us.

Our political leaders either can’t or won’t work for us, and now, the highest court, which has always been a last defense for the minority, is, at last, an arm of the ruling majority.

It’s hard to see a way forward, but there is a lesson to be learned from the other side. We lost sight of something and, in doing so, we left an opening for our oppressors. We forgot the power of community.

When we blamed congress, they attended school board meetings. When they redrew district lines, we looked to the President. When they appointed county judges, we stopped voting. Politics is not a top-down institution, but we have been treating it that way and all the while they went about their work putting people in little and low places that added up year after year.

I think it’s time we got back to learning about our local elected officials. There is a lot of power afforded to mayors, city councils, and school boards. There is an enormous amount that a state legislature and a governor can do. We have to take back our rights county by county. We have to expand those rights state by state and all at once.

It takes showing up more often than every four years. It takes being interested, informed, and involved. It takes caring! Changing hearts means nothing if there isn’t action behind it.

Love and justice are not feelings, they are actions.

170 // An In-Between Day

It’s been some time since I have shared a small update or thought fragment. Longer than I would have liked and longer, perhaps, if I am honest, than was necessary. Life and love, and the summer sun have kept me away, but the good thing about writing is that it’s always ready and waiting for your return.

Today is an “in-between” kind of day. One of those days where all the things you were stressing about have passed, but many of the things you might be worried about are yet to begin. It’s a day to breathe, to shore up energy and resources, to think, and to not think.

I plan to take some time for the things I care about and the things I have neglected. My wife has been quite sick this past week and I finally have time to take proper care of her and our home while she recovers. My dog is desperate for attention and many of my plants are looking sad. The refrigerator is empty; the laundry has piled up, and the trash bin is overflowing. It’s a lot, but it feels good to get things back in order and back to normal.

(I want to take a moment here to say that though I hate to see my wife so miserable and exhausted, I’m also grateful for the push it gave me to step outside of my comfort zone. I tend to lean on her a lot, but this week I had to stand on my own, for the both of us. I made incredible progress through my driving anxiety and I feel so much more confident. The world is a little less scary and I am not so small or incapable as I once was.)

Between chores and doses of medication, I’ll be at my desk. I have missed this space and all my little interests and obsessions terribly. I have missed myself. There are journal pages to fill and notes to organize. There are podcasts to listen to and articles and items in need of attention and sorting. Luckily, there is also plenty of cold brew coffee chilling in the fridge to keep me going.

I wish a happy Father’s day to those that are, and a happy Juneteenth to the ancestors who built this country and the descendants who will never forget.

147 // Wonder

It’s the last day of school and I am filled with such a sense of relief I can hardly describe it. Perhaps it is not only the reduced workload, or the promise of sunshine and warmth, or the break from repetition and routine, but something more personal, something innocent and long-past.

This is one thing I enjoy about working for a school district. Being near children and getting to see through their eyes and feel their wonder at what has become ordinary and every day in adulthood keeps you young. It keeps you optimistic, excited, and hopeful.

For them, there are only good things on the way. There is nothing of obligation or expectation, the stress of future choices,4 or the regret of choices past—or not so constantly, anyway. Hard things are easily let go of and pain is soothed so simply.

Why do we have to grow up so completely? Why did we let things get so complicated and grim?

When I was a kid I had a lot of doom and gloom surrounding me, but all it took to find my wonder again was to get outside, hop on a bike, find a park, and sit in a pool of sun or shade in the grass. The smell of dirt and plant matter, the light and the warmth, the sound of bees and laughter made the world a place of marvels. In those moments, I felt pure and part of it all.

145 // I Can’t Articulate

I’m struggling to make it through my day with any sense of normalcy or accomplishment. I left the bed with extreme reluctance and walking into work with loathing. It felt strange to go about finding something to wear and packing a lunch, checking my calendar and worrying over the calendar’s details when such carnage was inflicted on babies less than 24 hours ago.

I tried to integrate the horror with mundanity, but my pain and bewilderment are too painful to look at directly. It utterly shatters me.

The only way I can keep moving is to turn away, for a time. News apps and social media platforms are all off limits. There isn’t much to see beyond further gruesome details and rage spilling and sloshing everywhere. It seems you cannot soothe your pain with the pain of others.

I have to remember that it is ok to enjoy small things. It’s okay to take in the sun, though I know there are those who never will again. It’s okay to laugh while knowing there are those whose have so little to smile about. It is okay to hope, though my rage threatens to overtake me. It is imperative that I hold on to some last love for humanity, or else risk losing my own.

These last days of school cannot end fast enough, though I can’t articulate exactly what it is I’m looking forward to. My schedule is so full that when I think rationally about the summer, I am overwhelmed, but I sense there is still a younger version of me for whom the summer will always be a season of freedom and discovery. I hope she never loses that sense of wonder.