Sunday, March 27, 2016

#16.004 When Your Friends Are Books You'll Never Read Again

When Friends are Books You'll Never Read Again

I was just eating a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich and thinking about a friend from work. 

I like this guy. He makes me laugh. He's just interesting and unique. He kind of reminds me of my oldest brother in a way, but then again, a little bit like my younger brother. But in his own way that's....different. 

And, between bites of wheat bread and raspberry jam, I imagined my life as a book, and that this co-worker is a character I encounter on my journey.

If I were to move out of town, I thought, it's very possible that I would never see this person again. Like many others, we would stay connected on Facebook, but there wouldn't be any other force that would keep us together. No reason for me to hear his stories in person, and laugh at his quirks. 

And I thought of the stories I've read before and loved, and how sometimes there are these characters we fall in love with, who mean something to us, even though they appear for but an instant. 

And maybe that's OK.

I still feel a strong need to stay connected to everyone I've ever encountered. That if we had a strong connection for a moment, then I want to keep that.

Social media, like Facebook and LinkedIn, make it easier to simulate these connections. We can keep tabs on old friends, and interact with their posts. 

But it's not the same, is it?

Perhaps people come and go in our lives, like characters in a book. Some are major characters who are there throughout. And most others, whether we like it or not, have their moment and then maybe that's it. 

We have the memories though. Moments we can replay in our minds. Remember. Feel a little bit of what it felt like to be around them, back then. 

Like books we can pick up again, we read them again, play with the characters. It's not the same as the first time we read the story. We can't totally recreate the magic of the first time we read. And yet it's still nice to try. There's still some magic there. Maybe the re-reading of the story isn't about reading it again, as much as it is reminding us of the experience we had during our first reading. 

And so it is with my friend at work. I get to enjoy the fact that I've gotten to encounter him at all, and that he has gotten to be a character in my book. And though I hope to encounter him more, both now and years down the road, life has a way of taking us to different places, in a beautiful way, and sometimes even cutting lives short, in an unfair and tragic way. One doesn't know what the next chapter holds. 

So maybe, I thought, I don't have to make this friend a main character. Maybe he's a short blip, but what a fun blip it is. I get to enjoy the encounter as long as it's here. 

And when that is over, I can welcome the next character, for as long as that blip lasts.


Thursday, February 4, 2016


I'm so done. 

I'm over it. 

Fed up. 

I can't live that way anymore. 

Which way? 

I'm going to use the F-word here.


That's right - I don't want to live my life completely devoid of fun. 

Last week I flew to Colorado for Part II of a conference, and everyone there was concerned for me. Are you OK, they asked? They hadn't seen me since Part I four months ago, and they wondered where I went. 

When the music came on, and people danced, this time I didn't.

I was like a big Eeyore in the room, gently swaying my big donkey head to the tune of sadness and resignation.

I had lost my fun.

I do believe that as a society we don't feel like we have permission to play. To include play with our work feels wrong somehow, like we're not really dedicated to our job. I feels un-American.  

I find that I sometimes conflate suffering with hard work. That if I'm stressed and suffering, then I must be doing something important. At least I'm not having fun. Because having fun when something needs to be done is not OK. 

There are articles like this one from 2012 that talk about how the elimination or reduction of recess from schools is affecting the kids' health. Pediatricians and medical organizations are speaking out about the obesity epidemic and how we can't afford to keep kids inactive and indoors, for health reasons.

Which is true. Absolutely. We need recess so the kids don't become obese. 

Aaaaaaand also how about because they're kids! And what the heck is a childhood without playing and having fun? (Let's pretend for a second that there's no bullying happening on this hypothetical playground, even though that is a problem.) Sure, there are many people living today who look back on childhoods that lacked fun. When family situations go wrong, children can lead lives that are downright nightmares. There's certainly no fun to speak of. 

But I'm talking about removing lightness and play by design. Institutionalizing and rationalizing the absence of unstructured fun. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

#16.002 My Poetry, Episode I

I've been wanting to share some of my poetry on this blog. 

I write in my journal, usually before going to bed. Not every night, but frequently. 

About a year ago, what started to come out on the page was some combination of poetry, prose, and spoken word. Images and feelings, sprinkled in. Metaphors and symbols. It's the sum of my thoughts and emotions, squeezed into words and phrases that kind of spill out on the page. I was starting to write not by thinking, but by following the feeling. It's more heart and stomach and less brain.  

Today's blog post is just here to share my most recent entry from a week ago. I believe it was late morning, and I was outside. 

The sun beats down  
The sun soaks
Everything in its light.
Well, not everything.
Everything that dares to be seen.
Anything willing to stick its neck out. 
Flowers and trees grow in the direction of the sun. 
They crane, they stretch, stretch, stretch 
to get a drop, a peek
They put themselves out there. 
What about me?  
Am I getting the sun's rays? 
Am I heating up? 
Getting warmer? 
In the right spot? 
Or hidden... 
Out of sight... 
If you want to see the light, 
feel the warmth, 
Step out.  


Thursday, January 7, 2016

#16.001 Go to Health

On January 1, in the evening, I began to feel a little soreness in the back of my throat.

Oh yes...there it is again

Oh no. 

I hadn't been sick in months, so it was only a matter of time. Plus, I should not have been surprised. The evening before, to celebrate New Year's Eve, things had gotten quite out of hand, what with all the sparkling apple cider and raucous board games. Fortunately, the police never got word of our family's wild celebration.

Now it is a week into the year and I'm still sick. I've spent all of 2016 under the weather. 

However, I'm not complaining. In fact, I think it's the perfect time. 

To appreciate health.

To appreciate time, especially time while I have my health. 

To be reminded of why I build habits to exercise, eat right, take my vitamins, and wash my hands. 

For me, it's a chance to slow down and remember to enjoy and utilize the rest of the year, when I'm not sick - knock on wood.

So here's to a healthy 2016. 

Now, as my Grandma Ellie would say: 

"Go wash your hands!" 


Editor's note: Hey guys. Me again. 

A couple of things. 

1) Since it's a new year, I figure I should start a new numbering system. In 2015 I started numbering for the Your Turn Challenge, and then just kept it going, so basically it was a running count of posts in 2015, up to the most recent one, the 26th. Starting this year I want to keep numbering, but make it less confusing from here on out. So this is 16.001 and it will keep going up for all the posts this year, and next year will start with 17.001. So there it is. A new secret code. Shh, don't tell anyone.

2) I said I had a couple of things, so this item is what rounds out the list and makes that statement true. The second thing is that, like I said in my last post, I am committed to posting every two weeks before each Friday. It's a new rhythm I'm trying. So this post will go up before tomorrow, the 8th. The next one will go up before Friday the 22nd. And so on. Through the whole year. Maybe I'll go crazy and start writing every day. Maybe I'll write my first blog post in Spanish. Or Portuguese. Hey, it could happen. But the one thing we do know is that I'll be posting at least every two weeks. It's even on my calendar. 

Thanks for reading. PS. If you're reading this, and you don't tell me, then I will never know. and have no idea this got to you. So please let me know when you read, it would mean a lot. Thank you. OK, this is now almost turning into 3 things, so I'd better sign off. Adios! 

Friday, December 25, 2015

#26 - Beginning again (7/7)

I learn a lot of lessons in life. 

I try to figure them out. I work hard at it.

And I'm still a beginner. I still have so much to learn.

Like this blog, I still feel new at it. But at least I've started. And restarted. It's taken so much just to keep writing. To practice, and learn how to just put it down. And then, most importantly, hit "publish."

But I'm on the road. I've come so far and yet have so much to go. 

Next year will be a year of new beginnings. Of continuing to learn and grow. It really does take just one step. Keep moving forward, inch by inch. Keep showing up. 

This week I showed up. Seven out of seven times. For the second time this year. That's a nice way to end the year.

My plan is to keep posting every two weeks. It's already a reoccurring event on my calendar. And so we'll try again another year. 

Mastery, I'm learning, takes lots of practice, and even more patience. So I'll keep going and keep writing. 

I'd love for you to join me in 2016.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

#25 - A Time for Make-Believe (6/7)

Many children live in a world of make believe. 


Santa Claus is on his way to your house, right now. 

It's a fun game, and for them, it's completely real. That is what is happening tonight.  

As adults, we grow up. Or at least we think we do.  

I was just watching a TV show, and I noticed that I get attached to the characters. The storyline. The romance. The adventure. 

I think, yeah, my life could be like that. See? It all worked out for them. 

I have to remind myself that they're just characters. Actors reciting lines that writers created. It's all make believe.  

We watch Christmas movies and listen to the music. After listening to "Let It Snow" and "White Christmas" on heavy rotation, I walk outside in a T-shirt to 60-degree weather (here on the West Coast at least).

We seem to believe what we want to. We enter a different world. 

A fantasy land. 

What happens when that fantasy comes crashing down? When we have to stare reality in the face?

I suppose we have the opportunity to meet the full honest truth. 

Authentic. Real. 

True and Honest.

The make believe is nice. We all spend time there.

But like Santa Claus' visit and the nostalgia of Christmas music, it serves its purpose for a time.

It can feel sad when, in the coming weeks, we take down the lights and haul away the Christmas tree. The fantasy gets packed up in a box until next time. 

But we trade it for spring. For a new year, and a new perspective. 

Instead of missing the snow and pretending it's there, we can enjoy the weather that is there. 

Instead of waiting for Santa Claus to bring us joy through the chimney, we can create it with one another. 

Just us. Maybe that's all we need. No make-believe required.

#24 - Stuffed Elephants & Why I sit in my car (5/7)

I'm sitting in my car right now. Writing this entry on my phone.

Earlier today, I needed to do some reading, and I ended up bringing it to my car and reading there for about 45 minutes.

It's this odd quirk I have. I've noticed recently how much time I spend in my car. I gravitate toward it.

But what a place to read: there's natural sunlight. A comfortable seat (which reclines). Privacy and security (it locks). No wind or noise. A cupholder.

I think it makes sense.  

And yet I admit it's kind of weird. Why do I do it?

Why do I like sitting in my car so much? 

Then it dawned on me.  

I feel safe here. Comfortable. It's familiar. 

In fact, it may be the only place that has stayed consistent in my life over the last 8.5 years. 

I've moved houses at least 5 times. Rooms. Jobs. Careers. States. At my teaching job I sat in the same chair (essentially) for 5 years. That's changed. I had the same comfortable mattress that I loved for most of that time. Just got rid of that. 

And when I saw it from that perspective, I thought: 

Wow. No wonder. 

It feels safe and familiar. I feel protected, almost like a cave or cocoon. 

So in everything I've gone through this past nearly 10 years, I could always retreat to my car. 

And read.
Listen to music.
Get lost in social media.
Have long text conversations. 
Meditate and breathe. 

And it would feel like home. 

It's been the thread that ties everything together.

It makes me think of material possessions and how silly we humans can get with them. They're just things, after all.

Little kids with their blankeys and stuffed elephants. 

Necklaces and jewelry - maybe a family heirloom.

Teenagers and that hoodie sweatshirt they wear every day of sophomore year. 

But maybe they are more than that. Maybe they represent some thread that connects us to our past, brings us back home. 

What are the threads in your life? What things do you find always by your side? Where are the places you find yourself retreating to? 

I would guess that it's not by accident. 

You might find it interesting to explore these questions. See what turns up. What you find may surprise you. I certainly never thought of my car as that significant. But I guess it is. 

Next time you see someone attached to some object, instead of judging, what if you wonder what the story is? What if we actually ask the person? 

As for me, you can always ask. I'll do my best to answer. 

Besides, you already know where to find me. :)