Friday, March 15, 2019

Mid-March Meanderings

There it is.

Every year, sometime in March or April, I have a moment when I feel it--the return of spring. I felt it the day before yesterday, walking back to the library during lunch. It was almost sunny, almost not chilly, and a slight breeze was blowing through the not-yet-budding trees.

We just sprung forward, this last Sunday, so the sun (when we see it) lingers into the evening later. Daffodil shoots are thrusting from the cold, brown ground. Birds are starting to pep up and sing more. And of course, with the slightly-warmer weather, come the tornie warnies; we spent a fair bit of yesterday afternoon at the library taking shelter as a strong storm and possible tornado moved through the county. So, winter has almost relinquished its hold. And as much as I dread the upcoming summer--hey, at least it's not summer in California. I actually had a dream the other night that I lived in California; that the summer was coming; that months and months of brutal sunshine and unrelenting heat were approaching. I was so sad. Suffocated. Trapped.

That time in my life, thank god, is done. I'm coming up on my third year Back Home Again; the exciting novelty of the first year has of course worn away--much like it happens in a relationship after the honeymoon period. But what remains is ideally what happens when the honeymoon is over; the love I have for my home has deepened, hopefully matured. I think I know my home's beauties and flaws, but just like in a relationship, I hope that I will continue discovering more. And like what should happen in a relationship, I shouldn't take my home for granted. Shouldn't ignore it.

(Funny that I seem to know how a good, long-term relationship should work, yet I've managed to sustain...well, none of them. 😂😂😂)

Whatever. The spring is almost upon us, and now it's time to shake off the winter doldrums, put away the heavy sweaters, and plan a few adventures and road trips and maybe just some jaunts around time. Here are a few of the places I'd like to venture forth to in the next couple of months:

Jordan Greenhouse, on campus (although, to be fair, it probably would have been a great place to visit during the worst of the winter months).

Southeast Park: For three years, I've been driving past this little park. From the road, it's a pretty space, with a little stream burbling through. Why haven't I made the time to go there? This spring, I'm going to make sure this happens.

Le Petit Cafe: In my defense, this place is not the easiest place to visit. The hours are funky. But there's a lunch buffet sometimes (a buffet of French food? Um, yes.) And the restaurant scene in Bloomington is a bit of a tricky scene--places come and go--so I need to move fast on this.)

Spring and summer are great times to venture forth and see new places and do new things. Anything you're planning on for the coming warm months?

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Fuck Off, February!

The subject says it all, yes? Fuck off, February!

Maybe it was the winter doldrums, finally getting to me and depleting my energy, motivation, and productivity. Maybe it was the health scare (my doctor found a lump, I had to get my first mammogram, I imagined I was going to die, and thankfully it turned out to be nothing). Maybe it was the work stress, occurring simultaneously. Who knows? What is a certainty is that February was a nasty little month. The best part about this last month (other than the fact that I am not likely to die in the immediate future) was that, hey, at least it was a short month.

Now, on to March. It goes in like a lion and out like a lamb, or something; this just means that the meteorologists have an excuse to fall back on whether there is a blizzard, tornado, or heat wave. We will spring forward, which I absolutely hate, and spring starts, which I kind of want to happen, at least for a minute or two. We're already a day into March, and at least for me, it hasn't been as shitty as February. It's still cloudy and cold, and there's snow in the forecast for tomorrow, but the daffodil bulbs are starting to thrust out of the never-dead earth. I'm hoping for a renewal of my normal energetic, bustling, cheerful self, and I am ready for a new month. What about you? Was yours a good February, or was it rather thorough in its shittiness? And what do you have planned for the month ahead?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Let's Review! January

Well and so! We've finished January, the first chapter of 2019. We've had a month with our plans and goals and resolutions, whatever you want to call 'em; a month to set our intentions and buy the various equipment we thought we need to support us; a month to spend a few days leaning into those goals and a lot more days resenting them. Some of us set ourselves up with the "one word" idea--one word to encapsulate how we want to conduct our lives in the year to come. I don't fall in with this notion, myself--limit myself to one word? Poppycock! Like that will ever happen--But I have kind of fallen into line with the concept, "Be proactive."

I suppose it's similar to what a lot of people say about "Intentional" being their word. What it boils down to is this: I'm turning 39 this year. If I'm lucky, my life is only about half over. But there's a lot left I want to do with my remaining time left--a lot I want to do, see, read, experience, watch, learn. I know I need to be deliberate, strategic, and intentional with all of these things that I want to put into motion; I know I need to be proactive in bringing these goals and dreams about. Some of them are simple (build up more self-care habits), some of them are bigger (go to Australia this year), some of them are seemingly insurmountable (get around to losing that 60 pounds), some of them are simply pleasant but profoundly important (invest more time in my family and friends, read so many of the books that are piling up on my nightstand, work on my scrapbooks and memory keeping), but I suppose they all boil down to how I can proactively live my best life.

So! How did I fare in the first chapter of 2019?

Let's look at the good, for a moment:

Australia-For a while now, my friend, North Star, and I have been talking about going to the Great Barrier Reef. Part of the reason why I worked so many jobs last fall was so that I could put away money for this to happen. And then, in January, we came across round-trip tickets to Cairns for less than $800 per person, so...we bought them. We're going to the Great Barrier Reef this November! We've already booked most of our accommodations, as well, and I've sent in my passport application.

Spending More Time with My Family and Friends: The drawback to the whole working-three-jobs thing is pretty apparent, I should think: I wasn't able to spend as much time with my people as I would have liked. So, in 2019, I'm trying to be more proactive in planning things and spending time with my favorite people: Skype dates with my sisters far away, letters to my college pen pal, after work drinks with one of my work comrades, regular meetup events, Taco Tuesdays, and so on. It drives a couple of my more spontaneous friends a little barmy, dealing with me and my plann-y ways, and I think I maybe need to try to be a bit more spontaneous myself, but I supposed, just start where I'm at.

Build Up More Self Care Habits: Okay, brace yourselves for something that is really, truly sad. I never wake up on time. I never drink enough water. I usually skip breakfast. I make lists and promptly lose them. I come home and play Angry Birds or re-read a book I've read 10 times before rather than read something new, or exercise. These are not the best ways to live another 39 years on this earth, and I'm well aware of that, so I have been deliberately trying to build up better habits. In January, I drank a lot of water and ate breakfast about half the month, so steps, right?

You know what? Let's not ponder the bad or the ugly. I made some tiny steps in my goals, and while I don't think I moved forward a lot, I don't think I lost any ground, either. So...small victories, yes?

What were your victories, big and small, in January?

Monday, January 21, 2019

Blue Monday

There's this fantastic reference book that I quite love--it's called Chase's Calendar of Events. Essentially, it's a catalog of every day of the year, and anything and everything, remotely important (and otherwise) associated with that day. Birthdays of famous people (death anniversaries, too), lunar events, historical events, national holidays, (inter)national whatever months and weeks and days, inconsequential things (think National Cheese Lover's Day--no, wait, that's actually very important.) I love perusing this reference book, because overall, while I usually rather enjoy this life, I'm always looking for silly, fun ways to jazz up my daily existence.

Recently, when idly flipping through Chase's, I came across a rather intriguing date:

January 21: Blue Monday.

Apparently, it's the saddest day of the year, based on some math-y equation that factors in variables such as weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere, days since Christmas and New Year's (and the corresponding resolutions that are probably faltering, blah blah blah). Basically, on that particular Monday, we are assumed to be disillusioned, in debt, and stuck in the doldrums of winter, and therefore, at our saddest. Stuff and nonsense! I say. I mean, if you want to be blue and miserable, that's totally your prerogative, and your feelings are valid, etc. etc. But as for me--the doldrums of winter are almost my very favorite time of year! What's not to love? While we had a little bit of cold sunshine during the day, by the time I left work, it was below freezing, and the heavy, gloomy clouds had regrouped and crowded in. Home beckoned, warm and cozy, and I was happy to get there and curl up in my armchair and listen to the wind moan.

We had some snow last weekend, and when I left for work on Monday morning, there was still plenty of snow, all around. It didn't trouble me a jot, stuffed into my heated car as I was, and of course, I rather loved looking at the snowscape and the cloudy skies and relished how safe and cozy I felt. But it made me pause and ponder: the ability to enjoy winter is, in and of itself, a privilege and a luxury. I need not worry about a lack of food, or being exposed to the cold. I have the resources to acquire more sustenance, and the concept of a poor harvest isn't something that troubles me. I have shelter and warmth, and am never exposed to the elements for a prolonged period of time in my travels. Briefly, I tried to imagine my ancestors in Indiana, back in the 1820s and 30s and 40s--there were no roads, really, and the only modes of transportation they had to get about wouldn't have kept them warm. There weren't necessarily reliable sources of food, beyond what they themselves could provide. I've no doubt that my great-great-great-grandparents did not look on these snowscapes with pleasure.

I also have no doubt that my great-great-great-grandparents knew what a Blue Monday in January really was.

Monday, December 10, 2018

And Now, December

Now, December. It's a morning with a lowering grey sky, a morning with just enough chill to allow my breath to linger in a little puff. As a child in Florida, walking with my sisters to our school bus stop, I would huff away continuously, delighted by that rare (for Florida) reminder of cold weather. I'd be lying if I said I didn't prounce and puff about in these chilly mornings, even now, as I push into middle age. I've still not acclimated to the delight and gratitude that surge through me whenever I realize that I'm here, home, and able to experience the progression of life, happening in cycle with the season.

Fourteen years ago, around this time I hopped on the bus and rode it into campus for my last classes of my first semester of grad school. Then, I was 24--so young, although silly me, I didn't feel like it at the time. So certain about so much. That certainty is one of the things that dies with youth, I think--thank goodness. I knew I was loved and that I had a life partner who would stick by my side through thick and thin; I knew I was surrounded by fun, young, smart people, each of us enduring a similar grad school experience. I knew that there was so much still ahead of me, if only I could survive grad school.

And then this morning, I hopped on the bus and rode it into campus for my last class of the semester. Perhaps because it's cold and early, perhaps because we have become a population absorbed with our phones, the crowd on the bus was silent, each rider wrapped up in their own thoughts and world. Normally I'd be happy to immerse myself into social media, but this morning, I gazed out the window at the bare trees, the students and faculty hustling about, the grey limestone of the university buildings, the endless rhythms of academia expanding and contracting. I'm no longer 24 or even particularly young; the partner and friends I had have all moved on, although we are all, more or less, in touch. Graduations, jobs and careers, cross-country moves, marriages, divorces, even death have been our lot. Climate change, hope and change, recession and recovery, making America great again which made it worse again. It's like a Billy Joel song, without the music.

I'm older but not wiser, sadder, yet strangely, happier. Certainly more content. Hopefully able to keep things in perspective, to know when to fight, when to give something up as a bad show, when to stop when I'm ahead. Hopefully able to appreciate this fleeting life and its countless privileges, and hopefully able to embrace opportunities and adventures.

Today is the last class of the semester. Somehow, I survived (I mean, really, there was no somehow about it; it's not like I was actually going to not make it through)--at the expense of my social life, perhaps, but I'm enough of a natural hermit to put that shit on hold for a while. But three jobs simply require too much of my mental resources; it's difficult to devote all of my mental energy to one particular job at a time, to say nothing of the other facets of my life. It's not fair to anyone, so at the end of this semester, I'm indefinitely giving up teaching. I'm no longer in the first flush of youth, but I ain't old, either, and it doesn't make sense to me to keep plugging away, working so much, when there are places to go, people to meet, things to create, lessons to learn, winters to wallow in.

Now, December, for a moment.  But not forever.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Remember September

September has drawn to a close. It was a bright, blessed kind of month, which honestly, surprises me a little. I honestly didn't expect to have the time to enjoy myself much. But somehow, I contrived to wrest a little delight from my crowded days and nights.

This was my first full month of teaching my class over at the university. Once more, I am co-teaching with another instructor, which is a life-saver. I don't think I'd be able to do it on my own. It's still a lot of work, but now that I am not totally new to instructing any more, I find I am more comfortable, and slightly less intimidated, which means I can learn stuff, now, too. And weirdly, I rather enjoy my quiet evenings in my office, my head bent over the articles and readings.

My primary work continues to be challenging, but in the best way possible. Right now I am responsible for a unit of 40 people, without immediate supervision. Of course that means far more work than I can do in the 37.5 hours per week that I can do the work in, but even that is an opportunity to hone my prioritizing skills and my willingness to delegate. And that's the important lesson that I learned this month: sometimes it's essential to ask for help, because if you don't, you won't be able to provide the best support to the people who depend on you. All along, folks have been offering to assist me during this transitory time, and at first, I didn't want to accept. I felt like if I accepted help, or delegated, I was shirking my own work; that I was admitting that I couldn't do it all and that I was weak. Finally, however, I accepted, and whether it was that a psychological burden fell off my shoulders as soon as I asked for help, or that the help was substantial (I suspect both), I almost immediately noticed an improvement in my ability to catch up, then keep up. Ask for help, folks: we will all be the better for it. And guess what? Most people want to help others, myself included.

I've had a little bit of an opportunity to enjoy myself, in one of the most simple yet lovely ways possible. We had a lot of ridiculously warm, sunny days in September, but also, some fall teaser days. And on September 22, the first day of actually behaved like fall. And since then, we've had some bright, beautiful, almost-warm days; some breezy evenings; some misty mornings.

It's the easiest thing in the world for me to pause in the middle of whatever I'm doing--rushing out the apartment to work in the morning, trundling along Kirkwood at lunch time, laying in bed late at night--and just remember: even though I don't currently have time to do all the things I want to, I am still living my dream.

I even managed to spend some time with friends this month. On one memorable Sunday evening, my friend Jessica came down from Indy and we gorged ourselves on an obscene amount of sushi, and then spent the rest of the evening lolling about on couches, agreeing that we had no regrets. (Still don't. In fact, sashimi sounds really good right now.)

And on a perfect fall Saturday, my colleague Erica and I headed out to Musgrave Orchards, and then Oliver Winery, for apples, and cider, and a picnic of cheese and more cheese.

It was a golden September, in a golden year. Let's hope October is similarly splendid.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

And all at once...

Never has this quote been more relevant than this fall equinox, just passed. All last week it seemed, we were tormented by endlessly sunny days and temps in the low 90s. And all at once...

Saturday, the first day of fall, rolled around. And most obligingly, on the Fall Equinox, the clouds gathered, the temperatures dropped, the drizzle dampened the air and the Earth. I ordered a punkin spiced latte, half-sweet, and decorated my home, and reveled in the coziness.

Lord, how I love these autumn days! The air that dithers been almost-warm and just-a-bit-chilly doesn't punish, doesn't suffocate. These perfectly-balanced days seem almost brittle, like they could shatter into tiny fragments, so small that they will be swallowed up and subsumed into the harsher weather that will, inevitably, come. But hopefully, not before giving us some time to enjoy the glory and comfort that comes as we pause and drink in the gentle golden sunlight, the leaves drifting reluctantly to earth, the mums and punkins and corn mazes and cider and laughter and the sluggish blood in our veins quickening its pace as once more, we encounter invigorating change.

And yet...

(There's always an "and yet", ya know?)

I'm always somewhat predisposed to woolgathering and melancholic remembrances of former years, former friends, former lovers, former opportunities, all long gone. And with these dying days, with the crickets' song fading along with the heat of summer, with another year of my life drawing to its close, it's hard for me to not to become a bit ruminative, a bit questioning of my progress through this world. I know things will not always remain this way; that I will not always be content with this quiet existence of unceasing work and desire to be of use. Oh, perhaps, just perhaps, I shall carry on and continue to love it, and one day wake up and be 50, or 60, or 70, still working, still pursuing this life of solitude, still avoiding things that I am afraid I will fail at.

In the meantime, I'm going to go out into the bright September sun and drink up the beautiful days as they unfold.