215 // This Is Not Optimism

Another bad night and another bad morning to follow. After a night up with pain and down with worry and low self-esteem, I’m tired beyond words today.

I started by trying to fight the fatigue. I got out for a short walk with the dog and made grand plans to clean the house and get some much missed writing time in but I lost the battle quickly to naps that were only interrupted long enough to eat and apologize to my wife before falling asleep again. The rest did me good, though. By early evening I felt part of the living world again and managed to mark one or two check marks of my to-do list.

I’ve already decided to stay home tomorrow. I already know that I’m not ready yet to return to work. I’m taking my medication, staying hydrated, and meditating to manage symptoms, but I’ve just gotten so bad that recovery will take more time and patience than ever before.

In addition to take I’m doing my best to stay optimistic, but like everything else, it’s harder some days than others. Sometimes I wonder what the value is in optimism at all. It feels like nothing but another kind of pressure, another expectation I can’t meet. I don’t want to be optimistic. I want to be realistic. I want to be angry. I want to be sad. I want to be negative and nihilistic.

But that isn’t me, or, it isn’t all of me. I’m angry, but I’m more than this anger. I’m sad but there is more to life than this sadness. I’m in pain but outside of this pain there is still beauty, love, and life.

When you have a chronic illness time moves slower. A few weeks of flare up can begin to feel like your whole life. The pain and pessimism become all you can feel, see, and think about. This low quality of life stretches out behind you and in front until no way out can be imagined. Memory of healthier times and the hope of healthier times to come fade.

I know this is a lie. I know that this struggle is as temporary as every other struggle I have overcome before. Soon, one way or another, things will get better. I will get better. This is not optimism, this is truth. This is being realistic. This is no expectation or pressure. This is an inevitability.

Institutionalize the Values

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah, well, we didn’t complete the cycle of the message, right? You know, I think more people in our generation raised our kids to be more open-minded and to be more thoughtful and considerate. We had the words for it, right?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Right.

MICHELLE: When it comes to fathers raising their girls, I do think that the average father today does believe that their girl can be anything she wants to be and they are delivering those messages around the dinner table.

BARACK: Right.

MICHELLE: We delivered those messages at the dinner table, but we didn’t take them to the boardroom. We didn’t change our workplaces; we didn’t change things outside the home.

We didn’t institutionalize the values that we’d been teaching this generation of kids. So now, they are growing up. They are leaving the dinner table and they are going out into the world and going, ‘The world doesn’t look like what I was taught back home.’ You know, and this isn’t right.

BARACK: Young people are idealistic as they have ever been. I think they are more idealistic now than they were when I was growing up. The difference though is that idealism that they feel as if they can channel it outside of governmental structures and outside of politics.

The problem is, again we’re getting a pretty good lesson in this right now, there’s some things we just can’t do by ourselves or even groups of us can do by ourselves. As a general proposition: we can’t build infrastructure by ourselves, we can’t deal with a pandemic by ourselves.

MICHELLE: We can’t effectively educate the public by ourselves, through individual schools…

214 // A Brief Normalcy

Today is a better day. I’m feeling more solid, physically, more present and connected to my body, stronger. This is always the first sign of healing. Before I can see tangible improvement, before I can see or feel exactly what and where I have begun to heal, I feel it in my spirit. A corner has been turned, but I know that doesn’t mean that the journey won’t be agonizingly slow and that setbacks are not on the horizon.

And so, because I was feeling a little better and because I have been feeling so down, I decided to venture out with my wife for some shopping therapy. The weather was gorgeous and having a few new things for the home made a big difference in my mood.

Of course there were tough moments. This ulcerative colitis flare has progressed so far that I’m left with a great amount of fatigue, pain, discomfort, and anxiety almost all of the time. There were moments today between all the positivity and the hopefulness, when I wanted to break down, but I breathed through it. I sat with my pain and fear and fatigue and I gave it space to breathe too and each moved to let me pass for a time and I am grateful for the brief feeling of normalcy.

Unfortunately, the outing was still just slightly little more than I could handle and when I got home, I crawled right back into the bed to recover.

The evening is settling in now. We have some rain clouds cruising in from the mountains, but they don’t appear too threatening. I’m looking forward to a calming and cleansing rain. Much of my cleaning was done last night and I’m basking in the peace of knowing I have nothing I have to do and nothing anyone is asking of me. I may write for a while or work cut and compile a new collage piece.

Or maybe I won’t push myself to make, or read, or write anything at all. Maybe I’ll give myself permission to just lay on this couch, watch some mindless TV, and enjoy a couple of glasses of wine with my wife before turning in early. I deserve it. I need it.

Lockdown

Lockdown // Anderson .Paak

You should’ve been downtown (Down)
The people are risin’ (Look around)
We thought it was a lockdown (Lockdown)
They opened the fire (Had to get low, fire)
Them bullets was flyin’ (Down, down)
Who said it was a lockdown? Goddamn lie (Ooh-wee)

Lockdown, we ain’t gotta stop ’cause they tell us to
Downtown, where I got popped with the rubber bullet
Tre pound, got it in my name now, I’ma shoot it
Lockdown, we ain’t gotta stop ’cause they tell us to
Downtown

This is a Pattern

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) Responds to Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL)

“And so what I believe is that having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man, and when a decent man messes up as we all are bound to do, he tries his best and does apologize. Not to save face, not to win a vote. He apologizes genuinely to repair and acknowledge the harm done so that we can all move on.”

I have watched this video through dozens of times just in the past couple of days. As frustrated and infuriated as I am with what Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had to go through I’m happy she was able to respond in this way.

She took her personal but not at all unique experience and brought it to the national stage in a way we can all identify with, internalize, and learn from. She is showing us all how to stand up and speak up, how to hold others accountable for dehumanizing language, and articulated perfectly the very real harm that this language inflicts on all of us.

I only hope Rep. Ted Yoho and men like him learned something too…

Creation and Recreation

Never before had I so realized the miracle of the continued race, the creation and recreation, the weaving and changing and handing down a fleshly elements. That a child should be born of its mother, that it should grow and clothe itself (we know not how) with humanity, and put on inherited looks, and turn its head with the manner of one ascendant, and offer its hand with a gesture of another, are wonders dulled for us by repetition.”

— Robert Louis Stevenson, Olalla

Don’t Complain

Sister, there are people who went to sleep all over the world last night, poor and rich and white and black, but they will never wake again. Sister, those who expected to rise did not, their beds became their cooling boards, and their blankets became their winding sheets. And those dead folks would give anything, anything at all, for just five minutes of this weather or ten minutes of that plowing that person was grumbling about. So you watch yourself about complaining, Sister. What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”

— Maya Angelou (via swissmiss)

210 // Struggling to Recover

Today isn’t at all like yesterday.

My morning meditation didn’t feel very smooth. My stomach was hurting and couldn’t get my mind away from it to focus on the breath. At first I was upset about it. I felt like I had not only failed but wasted the session too, but looking back I realize that every session doesn’t have to go well, nor should it. Encountering difficulty is a chance to learn and grow.

At the time, though, I struggled to recover. I feel worse physically than yesterday. I got less sleep and my symptoms are flaring badly again. The good news is my doctor is allowing me to go back on steroids, which I guess is also bad news too. I’m not looking forward to the side effects, but I’m looking forward to having energy and feeling good again.

I’d planned to go to work, sit at my desk with my headphones in, and work through my tasks and projects one by one, alone, but as soon as I got there I was told my workplace was being taken over by another staff member and instead I would have to sit in an open area where there was nothing but distraction. I got very little accomplished but I will admit, being forced to interact with people did help my mood and made me feel a little less isolated and down. I needed some conversation, some laughs, and lunch with friends.

The afternoon and evening flew by far too fast. I didn’t take my usual hour or more nap, but I’m wishing I had. Maybe I’ll sleep better tonight than I did last night when anxiety had my stomach in knots and my mind running late into the night and well before sunrise. Maybe tomorrow can be more like yesterday than today was, if I start right now?