Monday, November 27, 2017

Me Time During The Holidays

“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.”
 ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I spent Thanksgiving alone again and it was fine. The two days and nights that followed were spent entirely with my landlords. Something that hasn't happened before, despite living here for nearly eleven months. I craved solitude and when I got it on Sunday, I felt the anxiety float away. They returned and I laughed, with them. 

I've often spoke of the importance of solitude to my friends who are mothers. My friends who are fathers always seem to have that male bonding time during the holidays and never appear as hampered by the responsibility of making everyone else happy, well fed and appreciated during the holidays. I realize this is a generalization, but for me, well from my perspective, it's true.

Solitude is often viewed as a negative, but in small doses, it's a vacation from the act of doing for others. Something most of us do daily, but for a few, the aforementioned mothers especially, it's a myth. A legend they've heard, or a distant memory, since bringing children into this world. We hear the stories, told as jokes, of not even being able to pee or shower, but they aren't jokes. No, they are small cries for help, they've already accepted as being unheard. Shopping, errands, cleaning and the daily commute isn't the solitude they need. A detour, a book, a walk, a glass of wine when the kids are out with their friends, father or simply somewhere where there is no need to worry; that is what I speak of.

My mother used to go for rides. I followed in her footsteps when  I was younger. Do not believe for a moment age is an issue. Young people, yes, even your children need their Me Time too, but for those who carry the burden of providing, it's imperative. It isn't so much as a cliched recharging of the batteries, but taking them out and making sure they're all there. There is no time limit or time frame, but especially during this time of year, we all need some time to reflect. We need time to be introspective, appreciative of ourselves, for us, not for what we do for others. We need time to think about the last few days, weeks or months and think past the trees, menorahs and festive foods. A glass of wine, an ice cream Sunday or driving over the speed limit, without a sound coming from those car seats. A book or movie that has been set aside, or a hiking trail. A one man or woman karaoke show while enjoying a sunset. Whatever the chosen endeavor is, do it alone and remember, at the end of the day, despite what you may tell others, or even tell yourself, you are the most important person in your life. Take some time to remind yourself of that. In a season that sees us overcome with emotions, both good and bad, we often lose our sense of self. Recapture it. Own it. Enjoy it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Riddle Of Thanksgiving

Thankful? I've written about this before. Why are people thankful for things they should be grateful for? To be thankful, is to be happy you have what you expected to have or, in most cases, relieved it's not worse. It's simply a feeling. In many ways, a superficial feeling. I'm thankful when someone sends me a Christmas card, but I'm grateful to have them in my life.

So why is it, in a day when our consumerism is at it's peak, when we cause stress on others to do things we should all do often, when we waste time, energy and money, are we thankful? Before rolling your eyes, realize for most of us, holidays are a stressful burden. A time when we put on a happy face, so that others don't have to see our daily troubles. Are we really thankful for that?

I will be spending my third Thanksgiving alone. Two years ago, I sat in an ice cold house, watching a movie. I don't even think I made dinner. Last year, a lonely motel room. One of two people in the entire complex. A kind stranger offered me a plate. This year, I'll be content, and yes, thankful to have a home, albeit not mine. I will be grateful for the food, however simple it may be. I will try to be festive in my own way. Grateful to a small handful of people. I'll think about the nearly 11 months I've gone without seeing my niece, my brother and sister-in-law. I'll get to see table spreads, where the yearly competition to see who can throw out more food will sicken me. I'll read news and wonder about those who are worse off than I am. I'll feel sadness and be grateful for what I have and that won't be a feeling. It will be determination. That next year, I'll be in a spot to offer my home to others, as my mother did every year. To those without family, friends or the means to "celebrate" a single day. A tradition our family sadly let die with her.

I'll hear stories of those who didn't appreciate someone being rude or someone lacking respect, but will know better. I'll think about a few who may be spending their last or sharing it with someone who is. I'll think about others and hope they are enjoying their day, never once thinking about whether those thoughts are reciprocated. I'll think about the children I know and take great pleasure in their naivete,

I'm not angry. Please don't misread this. I was the year before, and the year before that. Not this year. This year, I''ll be thankful to cook, but grateful for the food. I'll be thankful for the quiet, but grateful it's not merely loneliness. I'll be thankful I'm where I am in my head and grateful for the reasons why. I'll be thankful for the physical pain being gone and grateful for the small opportunities it's given me. I'll be thankful for a paycheck and grateful for those who were able to help when I had none. And as silly as it may sound to most, I'll be most thankful for the bed I sleep in and grateful for the little furry friend, Swag, who has in some odd way, understood my moods better than any human over the last two years. I like to think I protect him, but I know it's the reverse. He's changed my view of animals and I assume, if they knew, they'd be thankful.

I do hope people enjoy themselves. I realize the stress of planning, preparing, travel and relatives is a chore, but it's only a chore, because we make it one. The irony of Thanksgiving is, those who are most thankful, usually feel so after it is over, and I'm truly thankful I don't have to endure that irony.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Strangest Year

As the sun sets this evening, it will mark an end to most tumultuous year of my life. In the course of the past 365 days, I've experienced an emotional test few I know personally have had to deal with. Do not misunderstand. I am not looking for sympathy, as I at no time was ill. I did not face death or disease, so I consider my troubles self made. It's simply been a painful year, made easier by some, mostly those I'd never have thought would be the ones when the year started. And as IS becoming expected, the ones I thought would be there for me have all but disappeared.

I will not bore you with details. Not to be cryptic or for need of attention, but out of a need to protect my sanity. I don't feel like revisiting certain pains and I don't feel like looking backward. I'm in a better place. Far from what anyone I know on social media would call good, but a better place. I am secure in a home, at least for the next two month and that's not something I could say one year ago today. Essentially being homeless is a little different in this day of technology. I mean, who feels sorry for someone without a roof over their head, when they can log into Facebook? As if Facebook someone shelters you from the storm or gives you sustenance. If I did cry, those cries fell mostly on deaf ears.

The one thing sadness and solitude does is make you reflect and it's a painful journey. One I can not lie, test even those of us who view ourselves as strong. As someone who has always done for others, the prospect of truly needing was humbling experience. It still is. I've received help in the form of money, clothing, food and even one absolute surprise. A gift that allowed me to do something for someone else without the guilt, or shame, of them paying for it. I will forever be indebted to this fine young man. I just hope one day I can pay that forward, as I do not view him as the type to accept reciprocation.

This weekend, despite a joyous time, with laughs, love and incredible food, I had this date in the back of my head. Exhausted from a new job and some new stresses, I managed to block the ill thoughts. For the most part.

So tonight at sundown, I'll do my new evening routine. I'll come home, feed Swag, sip some bourbon to warm by bones and make some dinner. I'll be grateful, never thankful, but truly grateful for those rare few who have stood by me. I'll think of the friends I've lost to much greater struggles than I know personally. I'll thank my mother for being the reason I didn't go up. Says a lot when you don't want to let someone down who is no longer here. I'll thank my younger brother for being the older brother, despite it paining me to accept his help. I'll thank my friends who have been by my side physically and emotionally. I'll thank my cat, Swag and for those who chuckled, you have no idea how different this story would be without him. I'll thank all of you who have made me smile, laugh and maybe even cry. For the support and the kicks in the ass.

And at this time tomorrow, it'll be a new year. The old one will be a memory.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Cold has evaded me for most of my life. Playing outside in the snow as a child, I had to practically be dragged inside. As a teen, the cold weather meant football, sometimes even shoveling snow for basketball. My work as a roofer, made the cold days seem pleasurable in comparison to the 90 degree days of summer. As an adult, shorts and a thermal, maybe a sweatshirt were all I needed for a winter day. Socks were optional.

Then I went vegan.

If there has been one dramatic change, aside from weight and body image, it's been the weather. A comfortable summer, but with much less heat than I anticipated. Less sweating, but also limited activity due to my surgery. Autumn seems to have faded after two, maybe three weeks and winter is here. The first snow yesterday. The second last night. A chill is in the air and has entered my bones for the first time in longer than I can remember. Three layers on my torso and I could feel the cold on my much less broad chest, my puny arms and running down my spine. I still wear shorts, but my once massive thighs, atrophied from lack of use, felt the air. My spindly calves showing the affects of the breeze.

It will be a long Autumn and even longer Winter. I do not look forward to it. I'm not in a position to purchase a Winter Wardrobe and the fatigue the cold creates causes me a slight fear. I know that when the body runs down, sickness inherits the space. As of this Sunday, it will be 67 months since my last cold. A few allergies, stomach aches and a headache or two, but no actual colds. The cold, the fatigue and working with children spells doom for my untested immune system. Positive thinking? I'll try.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Back Where I Belong


Work is a four letter word for most. If you work with children and view it this way, I'd be glad to part ways with you and I mean that with great sincerity. I point to social media often, but the number of teachers I am friends with is astounding. The number of those who complain about their job is minimal, but it's enough to be known. I have no use for these people and in most cases, remain friends out of a favor to others. I simply can't comprehend anyone working with children not feeling pride and joy, each and every day.

Yes, I get it. We'd all love to sip margaritas and leave our pants in the drawer. I've lived that life. Not in the relaxed sense, but in the way where my options were limited and my physical abilities had become a burden. Recently, I returned and while not exactly what I'd like to be doing, I am happy again. I have stories, laughs and I feel energized. So much so, I am sleeping again. I have fears, but not once I'm there. Sure I have days I'd rather be in bed with some snacks and a movie, but then a child reaches up and grabs my hand or gives me a random hug and I forget about me.

That is what it is all about for me and I assume for most. The thing I missed most about working with kids isn't that it's a job. It's not about money, which I will never have enough to be even remotely comfortable with my life. It's about that time. For those hours, every woe; physical, emotional and financial, all get stripped away and four however long I am there, I cease to exist for myself.

I'm at peace with that.