317 // Mismatch

My emotions are all over the place today. My wife and I are heading up to the mountains this evening for a little photoshoot and finding the right outfit has been… difficult.

I don’t much talk about my gender or gender expression here but over the years I’ve become more and more comfortable with the term “non-binary” and “they/them” pronouns. I’ve always been a little masculine of center in the way that I dress though it’s only that way because truly androgynous clothes do not exist in easily accessible or affordable department stores.

That being said, I was assigned female at birth and this body is more feminine than my inner self would like. This means there never seem to be clothes that fit quite right or make me look quite the way I see myself when I close my eyes.

It’s distressing to have your outer self exist in such contrast to your inner self and if you’ve never experienced this mismatch of sex and gender, of body and culture, you cannot understand.

So, each special occasion is accompanied by a minor breakdown and a wife at a loss how to help. Nothing helps right now but time. Nothing will help in the long run but losing a little weight and even then I’ll never be quite what I want. There has to be a higher dose of acceptance and perhaps adding time and a budget line for tailoring.

This morning the world is a little rosier, despite the cloud cover. The gloom is forecasted to lift by morning’s ends and I expect a cup of strong coffee and a hot shower will lift my spirits. Deep down I am looking forward to the photography, and the mountains, and a beautiful time with my love. I can’t say I’m not looking forward to the end too and to a cold glass of wine on the couch with warm blankets and a movie to lose myself in.

Until then, smiles on and one foot in front of the other. Nothing is ever as bad or scary as you imagine.

316 // Long-Earned

It’s a long-earned early day home from work this Friday. The weather is nice but I’ve decided to stay in and catch up on some notes and fragments I’ve collected in notebooks and across app timelines. I’ve got a window full of sunshine and Flow State Radio playing on in the background. I’ve got my timer on and a big cup of coffee from the Moka pot. I’m ready to work.

It feels good to be back in my little space, somewhere I have been away from for far too long. The reasons are all so varied it’s hard to know where to begin. Any explanation is only an excuse. Then again, an explanation isn’t really owed, is it? All I will say is so much has changed, I am changed, and I am excited to fill you in and catch you up, little by little.

For now, I simply want to celebrate a whole week of being brave. For those who don’t know, I’ve long suffered from severe driving anxiety. It has hindered my independence, limited my opportunities, and devastated my self-esteem, but this week real progress was made!

My wife and I got a second car this month, and it has been just the push I need to push myself past my fear. Every day I wake with knots in my gut. I want to cry or vomit or both every time I sit behind the wheel, but this week I drove, anyway. I drove to and from work, home for lunch, to get gas, and even to get a flu shot! I have so many more places I plan to go as I slowly, slowly, slowly venture out of my comfort zone.

This may seem a small victory to those for whom driving is nothing to fear at all, but just imagine your greatest fear—heights? spiders? snakes? germs?—and having to face it multiple times a day. This is what I am going through. I have faced it but the truth is I’m still afraid and will be for a long time, maybe the rest of my life, but there is a seed of confidence that grows each time I prove I can do it.

For now, I’m focusing on the positive alone. I am feeling capable, strong, and fully human. I feel good about myself and that turns out to be the most important change of all.

301 // COVID Scares

The mornings are feeling rather frigid now. Increasingly they are frosty too. Autumn is well underway and I know soon it’s going to start feeling like winter long before the season’s calendar changes. The colors of Autumn are just past their prime now and the once vibrant leaves are dry and drooping. There is still beauty to be seen as they flutter from the tres in a flurry on every breeze. I’m trying to find ways to love the fall.

I woke this morning still not feeling quite like myself, but I’m a little more me than I was yesterday. There are further COVID scares at work and a coworker commenting to me on the minor outbreak confided in me that while she hope she wasn’t infected because it would disrupt operations, she kind of hoped she was because she could use the time off.

This is what I was talking about yesterday. It’s sad we have to hope for sickness, for this particular sickness just so that we might have a little time to rest, to reflect, to recover from the overwhelm and uncertainty of these past couple of years. We’ve all joked about faking a positive result but the jokes are sounding more and more serious all the time.

To be honest, I am scared of the rising cases and I am frustrated by the lack of transparency. I’m outraged by the relaxed rules for the vaccinated. Yes, I know that the chances of severe disease and spread are low, but almost all of us got vaccinated over 6 months ago and that means our immune response is weakening. There are breakthrough cases and some of the staff, not to mention the children, are still at risk.

A coworker’s daughter died from a COVID infection. She was the same age as me. I suppose this is what is freaking me out. I know the chances are I would survive, but I don’t like taking the risk. I don’t like risking my loved ones’ lives either, and for what? No one can seem to come up with a good reason, but we keep going out and risking our lives and each other’s lives all the same.

300 // The Bad News Too

The good news is, whatever I have, though it’s awful and nasty, at least isn’t Covid. My results came back yesterday evening and made it all that much easier to put my well-being second and come into work. It’s also the bad news too.

It felt good to take time away, to nurse myself, to heal in my own time. Being sick at work means pushing through, sucking it up, and prolonging it all. Part of me wishes it had been a mild Covid infection. Part of me knows it would have been easier that way. That got me thinking about how Covid—though tragic and terrifying—has no doubt been a good excuse for finally enforcing boundaries and putting ourselves first.

The shutdowns last year were the closest I could get to my ideal life. Even when I did return to the office lowered capacity meant half days and fewer coworkers in at once. The mask mandates and social distancing rules were what introverted dreams are made of. Even now Covid symptoms, exposures, and tests mean unquestioned time away from work.

It’s funny that sinus infections, the common cold, the flu, and many other communicable diseases are all held to such lower standards. It’s frustrating that I can protect others and care for myself if I have Covid but not if I have any other kind of sickness or infection that could present as much a risk to myself and the kids I serve. It doesn’t make sense that we haven’t been living like this all along!

The sad reason we haven’t is simply that we’ve gotten used to one kind of risk and not another. I would argue that all bouts with sickness should be held to the same standard. Ten days away from work in quarantine to rest away from people while we are contagious. I would say I should never have come in at all today and I would say some of the guilt is on me.

It’s on all of us who enforce such harmful norms and those of us who adhere.

The world should be different in this and so many more ways.

299 // That Old Dream

I’m home for the second day in a row with whatever head cold I’ve been unfortunate enough to contract. I felt awful when I woke up, but as the day wore on and I slipped in and out of sleep my symptoms slowly improved throughout the day—enough even for me to commit to heading into work tomorrow!

Of course, by now my symptoms are returning and I’m regretting all the assurances I made to my coworkers. More than regret I feel angry. Honestly, I want to be able to simply take the remainder of the week off to recover, without guilt, without all this pushing and prodding, without all the worry and shame.

If I’m really honest, I know deep down this anger isn’t really about just this week. It’s about having to work any day at all. It’s about the loss of my days, the loss of control, and the loss of my passion.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love my job. It’s easy, fulfilling, respectable, and sometimes even enjoyable, as far as jobs go. Over the years I have found some purpose in it and made the role critical to the long-term operation of my department. I’ve managed to muster enthusiasm for my day-to-day responsibilities but it’s never felt as satisfying as spending my days circling deeper subjects and following subtler leads around life.

I suppose that old dream of making something of myself, for myself, from myself is feeling a bit renewed. My day job allows me to make a difference but I want to leave a more personalized mark.

And when the time is right staying motivated and focused comes easy. Nothing has to be so forced. The right ideas, the right instincts, the right words come without having to be called forth. Time presents itself and space opens wide.

298 // Home Sick and Hoping

I went to bed last night with an awful sore throat and throughout the night declined until I found myself sleeping on the couch popping cough drops one after another in a desperate attempt to calm the irritation and get some sleep.

Today I am staying home sick and hoping it’s not Covid so I can head back to work tomorrow morning. Not because I want to, but because I don’t want to feel bad about being home.

I have serious doubts I’ll make it in though. For one, I have a complete loss of appetite and for two, my supervisor herself is out with Covid that began with the same symptoms I am presenting now.

Since I was off almost all of last week, there’s no chance I was exposed to her but I was out shopping and visiting with family all over town in close contact with maskless strangers. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if the test came back positive. I’ve been far too lax about protecting myself.

And this is why I believe in mask mandates. Of course in an ideal world, the choice would be our own. In an ideal world, we would all make the right choice too but the reality is it’s too hard for humans to change and too easy for them to change back. Our minds cannot fathom the risk and we certainly can’t hold on to alarm for long.

Even for those of us who believe in the effectiveness and support the measures forget. Even those of us for whom the measures are made to protect forget! Humans tend toward the convenient and the comfortable and without specific and frequent reminders we lose sight of what is right.

Still, I may not have Covid at all, but further still, my point stands. I know my immune system is both over-reactive at times, and ineffective too. I know I have to protect myself against all kinds of infection. I know that I have to protect others too. These past months I’ve done a poor job of both. It’s no wonder I’ve finally come down with something.

Every lesson must be learned—and relearned—the hard way.

287 // Carry the Burden

This morning was hard, but not nearly as hard as last night.

Some stories aren’t mine to share but what I can say is that having a loved one diagnosed with a severe mental illness can be confusing, frustrating, chaotic, terrifying, and, at times, traumatic. It’s hard to see someone you love hurting so, to see them carrying such a heavy burden. It’s hard not being able to do more than listen and support.

I want to carry the burden for a while. I want to take the pain away.

It’s hard to contend with the disturbing fact that you want to control another person and the reality that you never can. I understand the importance of autonomy and respect that this is their journey to grow through, but I can’t shake the desire to take away their choice just so I can keep them safe. Just so I can ease my hurt a little while.

For now, for me, all isn’t right, but all is better, and some days that has to be enough. Today, it will be enough to simply survive—for all of us.

At least there is comfort in these October clouds and my routine, though physically demanding, will be a welcome escape. I’m trying to remember there are good things happening. I just wish they didn’t feel so far away. There has been more time to call my own this week though I haven’t used it as productively as I’d hoped. It’s ok. Today is a new day and all stressors aside, I can still start again. I’ve already started here.

282 // The Feeling of Fall

The feeling of fall has crept in through the cracks overnight and we woke with the late sun to chilly air and the urge to stay in bed all day. A day of rest sounds nice in theory, but deep down I know it’s not what I really want. I miss the summer mornings when it was easier to begin. When the sun started early with you and made you feel that the day ahead was so full of excitement and possibility.

These past weeks since summer’s end have been so calm, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Truthfully, I need the peace too. Fall mornings are for slowing down and keeping your expectations low. Fall mornings come complete with permission to do as little as you want.

I’m using this morning to catch up on old news and saved articles. I’m organizing all my bookmarks and notes from across platforms and devices to construct a coherent timeline of thought and interest into posts and threads of possibility. My journals are out and I have plans to get to them sometime this early afternoon.

I won’t have the whole day to myself. This evening I’m celebrating my second nephew’s 3rd birthday and it will be time to get ready before I know it I’m sure.

I’m excited to see family though and to celebrate such a special boy. It’s hard to believe he is already so old and somehow to believe he’s still so young too. Over these years, he has grown and changed so much both physically and intellectually that in my mind’s eye he’s pushing five or six instead. He’s got good parents and his big sister has helped along the way too. He’s smart and kind, full of energy and so very brave. I can’t wait to see how much more he grows between now and his next birthday.

Tonight I’m resting. I have plans for scary movies and a few small glasses of wine for my wife and me. Neither of us is feeling great today, which might explain the lethargic leanings this morning and not the season or the sun at all.

276 // Progress Enough

I woke later than I meant to this morning, but the start was so perfect I hardly noticed I was behind. My wife made perfect cranberry-almond scones and I’ve perfected the art of making coffee from a Moka pot. The sun was shining early and the weather warmed enough to take the dog out for a good walk.

It has been a busy Sunday since, full of chores and to-dos. Most Sundays I struggle through, but I’m practicing being more aware of how my mind works and how easily I can find myself off task or derailed for the day. Being mindful and understanding, gentle but firm with myself, has made it easier to get through the work and find time for the things I love a lot faster. A list helps. Time limits help. Finishing each task one at a time helps.

Resistance is a harder obstacle to overcome. I’m resistant to having to do the tasks in the first place. I feel angry whenever I have to give up time doing the things I love for things that are tiresome and uncomfortable. What’s helped there is to see everything I do as either a kind of art or as an act of service. I do things for my family. I do them for my home. I do them, ultimately, for me.

By staying present and mindful, focusing on each task objectively, I can clean, organize, and complete my tasks thoroughly and to the best of my ability. It feels good to know I’ve done it right. It feels good to give my best to even the smallest and most mundane tasks.

And now, it seems the Sunday blues aren’t so bad. My anxiety has come down since this time seven days ago, since there’s no way the coming week could be any harder on me than the last. I’ve been getting better at preparing for the weekdays, though I have only gotten worse at beginning them.

I’m hoping this week I can do a little better. I’m hoping this week will see as much improvement as each before. I’m optimistic and if nothing else that can be progress enough for me.