Tuesday, March 30, 2021

4 Week Self Check-in.

There are some good things that have so far come out of this new life schedule that I have built. 

I feel better. Not like life-changing-ly better, but just better generally. That should not be a huge surprise, because I was feeling pretty busted and burnt out there for a while. The schedule has forced me to feel a kind of responsibility to myself. I think that is a good thing. Life being the what it is, it is easy to forget to look after yourself.

I’ve been running more. A LOT MORE! Not as much as I’d planned on, but significantly more. I’m so appreciative of the recent time change; I have so much more light after work. I’m budgeted for 90 minutes of running, but lately I’ve been going for more like 2 hours. I have gotten to do so much more exploring! Yesterday I ended up on top of a hill and I could not only see the ocean at the horizon, I was high enough that I could see the ocean itself spreading out giant and dark blue all the way to the edge of forever.

Slowly, very slowly, my body is getting better at sleeping. For a while there (months) I couldn’t really get to sleep or stay asleep, but I’m getting a little better at it. The running helps because by the time it is time to crawl into bed, this body is worn out.

I have consistently been doing my silly little stick figure drawings each morning and while there there is not much in the way of great artistic value to them, few things in life feel better than having a project that takes a very very long time. I have no idea how long I’ll keep doing those, but I just so enjoy starting the day by doing something … anything … even if it is just an embarrassingly simplistic drawing of a zookeeper giving a goat a hat.

This here blog. I have been pretty consistent about writing here. Now, same as above, the quality ain’t nothing to brag about, but I’m sitting here and I writing this and let me tell you, that isn’t nothing.

My diet is better. At least during the week. It is pretty standardized and what it lacks in spontaneity, it makes up for in for in reliability, ease, and not-being-junk-food-ness. I’m slowly learning to enjoy cooking … a little.

There is, however, much I am still failing at. My shoulder and arm are still giving me trouble and so the morning yoga has just been out the window lately. Yesterday though I was finally able to schedule some physical therapy appointments! AND they don’t start until AFTER I get my second shot, so that’s good.

In the evenings, running long and then cooking take up more time than I’d expected, so I have not been writing as much and I have not been reading as much. After work is supposed to go: run, clean up, make dinner, write, read, sleep. I’ve found myself running out of time to fit all that in after work, but I’m working on it still. I may need to adjust the schedule a little, but I’m not convinced of that yet.

The weekends: I still haven’t worked out a good schedule for managing my weekends. I want to allow time for laziness, but right now that’s all I’m allowing for. I need a better plan than this.

I will tell you though, the single biggest achievement to come out of all this effort, is that I have made some progress toward de-centering work in my life, which was a big part of the point of all of this. If I am not on the clock, but find myself getting stressed out about work, I will tell myself, “Jamie, that is not what this time is for,” and I will redirect my attention to the schedule and whatever I am supposed to be doing right then. That, that freedom right there, is perhaps why I have been feeling better generally. I feel more like a person, as much as one can under the continued quarantine circumstances. 

You know, the number of things I have read that said like, “The keys to being happy and healthy are to have a routine, eat healthy, exercise and get sleep” would blow your mind, but you know what, I don’t know that I’d ever actually understood that those things were not being prescribed all hippy-dippy by someone selling healing crystals. They were being prescribed as a discipline; eat healthy doesn’t mean “no junk food” it means eat healthy. Sleep doesn’t mean, “Make sure you get some” it means prioritize it. And like any discipline, it’s hard. One would think that attempting to be better should trigger some instinct in the body that makes it easy to do, but the opposite is true. It’s not hard to change oneself, it is hard to improve oneself. The two are not the same and I think I always kind of thought they were.


Monday, March 29, 2021

Everything Ever Given Gave Us.


Like the rest of the world (or maybe just Twitter) I’ve been deriving a lot of psychic glee the last week watching the saga of the gigantic Ever Given ship wedged across the Suez Canal. Why was it so fun while it lasted? I think because it was simply the absolute stupidest possible problem, caused by all the problems of our world and simultaneously wreaking havoc on the very systems that create all those problems.

The boat is too damn big. It’s bigger than the Titanic. We make them that big now so we can fill up all those containers with crap we don’t actually need. We ship it all around the world so that there’s new junk to buy every time we go to Target, which is a place we should not be going anyway because there is still a pandemic going on.

And then the boat gets stuck because when the French were digging that canal in the 19th century, no one then alive could have ever imagined we’d have the hubris to build boats so big.

And then the boat is good and stuck and the entire world economy - which ain’t really that great even when it is functioning the way it is supposed to - starts to get backed up because it turns out that this one dumb canal is of out sized importance to our ability to move junk around.

And now the boat is unstuck. 

What a bummer.

I think that for the last week this one dumb boat kind of began to expose what a silly silly silly world we live in. It started to pull back the curtain a little bit on the fragility and idiocy of the systems and structures we little humans have imposed on the world and on ourselves. But god forbid we ever be forced to actually look at the world we have made. So they dug that sucker out as fast as they possibly could, because the alternative would be that people might start to ask questions like, “Does this whole situation seem unmitigatedly stupid to anyone else?”

I’m so sad to see you go Ever Given, you are up there in the pantheon of boats now. You, The Pequod, The Love Boat, Boaty McBoatface, the aforementioned Titanic. I’m so sad to see head up the Suez, out into the Mediterranean, and off to your ultimate destination. You taught us so much Ever Given, and yet we hardly knew you. I hope that sink very soon.




Friday, March 26, 2021

What I Learned in the Merchant Marines.

If you are the good and wise citizen of the world I suspect you to be, then no doubt you have been watching the situation in the Suez Canal and thinking to yourself: So basically our entire world-wide capitalist system is moving closer to collapse because one ship got stuck??? Good system. Smart economy.

To be fair to the people driving the ship, there was apparently a huge dust storm and I imagine it is hard to steer a boat that big through a fairly narrow canal when you can’t see anything. I don’t know what kind of collision alarms a ship like that has, but I’m guessing not many because those things are so god awful big that by the time the alarm goes off, simple physics would dictate that there’s nothing you could do to avert the collision.

None of that is what’s interesting to me about this though.

Last night I saw a picture of all the shipping traffic that is now diverting down around the Cape of Good Hope in order to avoid the Suez entirely. There are whole fleets of ships that diverted south, now racing down along the coasts of Africa like they’re 16th Century spice traders. 

The picture made me a little sad because there are just SO MANY ships and I immediately thought to myself (because somehow everything is about me), “Man, I would really like to sail around the Cape of Good Hope!” 

I used to tell people that after high school I joined the Merchant Marines for a few years, but not knowing much about the Merchant Marines, when they asked follow up questions I’d just say something like, “You know, some bad things happened and I don’t really like to talk about it.”

But if I HAD joined the Merchant Marines, I wonder if I would have gotten to sail around the Horn of Africa. I wonder how much of the world I would have gotten to see. I’ve resigned myself to the fact there are places I’ll never get to see, maybe that is one of them. 

I try not to dwell that much on the paths I didn’t take in life. Truth be told I’m happy with most of what I have done and the other stuff I have at least come to terms with, but it was a kind of funny feeling to look at all those ships, denoted as little arrows. I thought about how in reality each of those arrows was a gigantic steel ship with people working on it and sleeping on it, making meals, and drinking coffee and maybe absently gazing out the window through the rain to that dark little smear of land at the horizon, Cape Town looking back at them. I wonder if they think to themselves, “How amazing has my life been? Good thing I joined the Merchant Marines after high school, because otherwise I never would have gotten this job and so wouldn’t be getting to make this amazing journey.” 

Or maybe they’re sitting there sipping their coffee and thinking, “How for the love of god, did they get a ship THAT stuck in the Suez Canal??”




Thursday, March 25, 2021

The Wisdom of The Crowd.


This will have to be a short post today because I am running a little behind schedule this morning.


Well calm down, that is why I am here at all.

OKAY, SORRY FOR OVERREACTING! The crowd shouts back in unison.

 So I did a pretty good run yesterday, about 7.25 miles and I got really far out into the wilderness and there was ALOT of going up and down hills. And the day before I did a respectable 6.67 miles and that was similarly rough terrain, but add those two things up and last night my body just threw in the towel. Even my hips were like, “Nope, we are done working for the day, sorry.”

It is so weird that this body can be running up the side of a hill and then an hour later I can barely stand up from a sitting position on the sofa.

YOU CALL IT A SOFA? The crowd shouts.

Yeah, what do you call it?

WE CALL IT A COUCH! WE ALL AGREED. The crowd shouts.

My grandmother used to call it a davenport.

WELL FUCK THAT NOISE! The crowd shouts.

Anyway, I guess that all I’m trying to say here is that having bodies is weird. I have spent most of my life trying to make my mind big and make it work good and only the last ten years or so have I even been aware of the fact that a body - even one as C- as mine - can do cool stuff like run up the sides of hills or backpack up into the mountains or propel a kayak out into the ocean. Yet here we are, where doing that makes one unable to bend down enough to turn on the bathroom faucet.

And look, of course I’m joking. I’m lucky for the body I have. I’m surprisingly healthy and my legs work and my eyes work, etc. I’m not actually actually complaining. I think what I’m saying is that I’m aging and it makes me want to squeeze all the luck I still can out of this body while it can still do stuff. There are so many hills out there that I haven’t run up the side of yet. Part of aging is the realization that a life simply isn’t long enough for us to get to run up and down every single hill out there, but I’m happy this body has time enough still to run up a few more of them.


No, they’re really not, it’s just that these are the things I think about and no one reads this blog anyway and none of you are real, I made up the whole crowd.


Believe me, I know how you feel.




Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Ups & Downs All Day.


Yesterday was one of those odd days where I had a terrible work day, but the rest of my day was actually pretty good. I felt a little more resilient than normal, likely because I have been taking these measures to de-center work in my life.

I don’t want to talk about work other than to say it is difficult right now for a lot of reasons. BUT! I had a pretty good morning and even though I got stuck at work for an extra hour, I still went running, and the run was really good.

As tricky as it has been to adjust to the time change (was this possibly exasperated by quarantine do you think?), those extra hours of sunlight at the end of the day really do make a difference.

I live next to a huge “national monument” (basically a giant nature preserve) and it is crisscrossed with webs of hiking and biking trails and lately more and more I have been running straight out into the thing. Rather than sticking to the routes that I’ve learned, I’ve been going out deeper and deeper into the crazy open wilderness of it.

Yesterday I went straight out for about 4 miles. Up and down ridge lines and through little valleys. It was a really enjoyable run. By the end the sun was starting to sink through the treeline and the light out here this time of year is a wonderful bright orange and yellow late in the day. It really was beautiful.

The other nice thing about getting to do these longer runs is that the running actually starts to feel better and easier the longer you’re out there. Runners will sometimes say, “The first mile is the worst” and that is very very true if you’re a determined but not terribly good runner like me. Yesterday I did six and a half miles and that is pretty good for me. When I lived in Arizona a couple years ago, I’d routinely do ten miles at a go and sometimes (just for fun) I’d do 13 miles just to knock out a half marathon all by myself. It should be mentioned that every time I did that, those last two miles were excruciating, so obviously there is some up and down in the feeling-good part of a run.

When I’m out there, sometimes I don’t think a lot. I usually have a podcast on that I sort of half listen to, but one of the things I’ve always preferred about trail running (as opposed to running on streets and sidewalks) is that you’re brain has to always be busy because you’re literally on trails and you’re constantly having to hop over things and adjust your stride depending on the terrain you’re crossing. Trail runners say, “Every stick is a snake until proven otherwise” and holy shit is that true. 

So you don’t think much because your brain is constantly engaged in making sure you don’t break your ankle or fall on your face trying to cross a bank of sand. I really love it. You’ll be busy trying to get to the top of a hill and then you get there completely out of breath and you have to pause to slow the thundering in your chest, so you look around and you realize you’re standing on top of a hill miles away from anyone and the view is amazing and there ain’t anybody else out here doing this, so you get to just savor it for a few seconds and so then you get to think and so you think something like, “It’s good I did this. It is good to be here. It is - in fact - actually good to be alive. To be in the world.”

It has been hard to remember that some days, especially on the bad days of the last year. On the lonely days and on the really dark ones. Being reminded of it from time to time really matters




Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Taking Stock: Week 3.

Okay, so where are we?

This is Tuesday of Week 3 of my Getting-My-Shit-Together Plan.

Last week was rough. I got my shot on Monday and I experienced a lot of fatigue as a side effect. Last week was also the time change which didn’t help with that. Also last Friday was a big high-stress event at work that I’d been preparing for for awhile and so work kind of ate my life. 

So not a great Week 2. But I still did SOME of my Get-My-Shit-Together things: I showered every morning (funny how that helps), I did my daily drawings every morning (find those on Instagram @standard_kink), I did three of five of these daily morning posts. I ate healthy almost every night.

The weekend was still too lazy, I still don’t have a good plan for the weekends. I spend most of Saturday thinking about the film “We Bought a Zoo” and making random Twitter posts about it for my four followers. I also cleaned up my herb garden by getting rid of anything that was dead and planting some new seeds (I also bought a couple more succulents at the grocery store) and did my family Zoom call on Sunday. So not a waste of a weekend, but still not as effective as I need weekends to be.

Yesterday was Monday and I worked and went to the doctor in the afternoon and that ate up so much time I didn’t get to run. The doctor gave me a referral to physical therapy for my shoulder, so that’s good, but I kind of don’t want to do that sort of frequent close-contact stuff until I get my second shot, so I’m not sure how to handle that yet.

Today work will be a lot of meetings and I just hope there is time in between to get things done. We are going to plan on going running right at 5pm when I clock off. That means I have to clock off at 5pm. With last week being all weird, I haven’t gotten to enjoy the upside of the later sunsets (ie: more running time), so hopefully that will start today.

That’s where I will focus this week: just getting out the door for those longer runs.

The one area where I have COMPLETELY failed is in the mornings. I’m supposed to be getting up at 6am and doing a half hour of yoga and I have been consistently not doing that. The mornings here have been just the right kind of cold where I can’t quite bring myself to crawl out of my nice warm bed. I’ve also been waking up tired because even though I get in bed on schedule at 10pm, I am not going to sleep. I blame the phone. I know! I know! No blue light in bed, but the thing is I haven’t been TIRED at 10pm. But that’s what the runs are for; you make the body that good kind of tired so it can drag the brain off to sleep.

Okay, so that is the stock taking today. Let’s see how this goes.

Sorry this blog post is boring, but I needed to write it.




Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Where To Go When We Can Go.


I keep what’s called a bullet journal. It is called a “bullet journal” because it is built around the concept of bullet points, not because it is just a diary that has a topically masculine word in it to make men feel better about. Do you know how many ads I see for “tactical pants” and “Get-Home Bags” with pockets for a conceal-carry handgun? A lot.

Anyway. I keep a bullet journal. Every day I make some notes in it about my day. The fun thing about bullet journaling is that you’re also supposed to keep lists and make plans and such. IT is one part diary and one part life organizer. I draw a new little calendar every month and I use it to keep track of when I water my succulents and which days I work from home (hint: it’s all of them). I keep a list of books I want to read and movies I want to watch and when I hear a song I like, I put it on the list so I can go track down the whole album to listen to.

I also have been keeping lists of places I want to go. One list is sort of a big trip list (Morocco, the Cordoba Mosque, walking the Camino de Santiago, etc.) and the other lists is smaller, more manageable trips, mostly in the US, the kind of trips I could knock out in a couple of days if I stumble on a cheap flight. 

Lately I have been thinking a lot about that second list. It seems likely that international travel will be largely off the table for Americans through probably the rest of this year, but once more Americans get vaccinated, domestic travel will likely come roaring back. Here are some of the smaller US-only trips I’ve been daydreaming about:

 Pittsburgh - I really want to see the Cathedral of Learning and I dig a city with lots of bridges.

Cleveland - I was supposed to go here for a work conference last year and I feel like the pandemic stole it from me, so as a fuck-you to Covid, I’m going to make the trip. I’ve heard the downtown and theater districts are pretty cool.

The Gulf Coast - I’m just a California kid that I’ve internalized the idea that the ocean is supposed to be west of me. I think it would be fun to stand on the beach and look at an ocean that is south and east of me. 

Key West - Can you get more weird and distant than Key West? You know they declared themselves their own country a while ago. A friend of mine who lives down there says there are barge bars you can only get to on a boat.

Four Corners - I really want to do the hopscotch thing between all four states. Yes, I’m embarrassing, I know.

Yellowstone - How have I not been to Yellowstone yet???

Great Sand Dunes National Park - Did you know America has sand dunes?! Like Sahara Desert stye sand dunes just hanging out in Colorado?

Minneapolis-Saint Paul - I really want to see the skyways. Damn you 99% Invisible for making me interested in this! I’m going in the summer though.

Humboldt - I’ve been a central and southern California person, I know nothing about the forested magical medieval weirdness of northern California.

Chesapeake Bay - I don’t really understand it.

That’s it for now. I need to start crossing some of these off.




Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Not Quite Yet, But Soon.

So yesterday I got my first shot of the Covid vaccine! I live in California and work in higher education, the vaccine tier for education in California opened up March 3rd. I felt really conflicted about it, I wish they would have prioritized elementary school teachers. Even though a medical program, I can do most of my work from home. The first week or so I was a little less intense than I might have otherwise been about trying to hunt down an appointment, on account of feeling kind of guilty about my own eligibility, but then last week I stumbled onto an appointment via the county website and I took it because Dr. Fauci says we should all get vaccinated as soon as we can.

The anxiety I was feeling yesterday morning largely dissipated as I had to go through the rigmarole of driving to the pharmacy and waiting around in my car for my appointment time. Everyone was super chill about the whole thing. The pharmacy was in the back of a kind of dumpy Safeway grocery store, which seemed odd. I think they only did one vaccination each half an hour, so there was no line or anything. It felt word to get my shot — this thing that will kind of change my life, at least in the near future — and then walk out into the bread aisle.

I felt fine afterward. On my drive back I made a pit stop at the beach (I live in the central coast) and I walked up to a bluff and looked out at the roiling windswept ocean and I cried a little bit for a minute.

Then I came back here to my little apartment and logged back into work for the rest of the day. 

I felt fine, but by quitting time I was completely exhausted. Like eyes drooping exhaustion. Right after work, when I would normally go for a run, I dumped my body onto the couch and took an impromptu nap for more than an hour, which is a thing I rarely if ever do.

I felt tired as I made dinner and then eventually went to bed a little early. And then, this morning I overslept by a damn hour and a half. 90 whole minutes, which is really a thing that almost never happens. Today I’m still tired and feeling kind of run down. I don’t feel bad or anything, just so very tired.

Apparently fatigue is a common side effect, but mostly after the second shot. Of course, this could all be due to the time change, so I’m not making a big thing out of it.

Today as I’ve been working, I’ve also been thinking about so sort of small, safe thing I can do soon. My second shot is April 12 and it’s supposed to take about two weeks for the vaccine to really kick in after that, which would mean that about the end of April/beginning of May I could maybe sneak away for a weekend to … I have no idea. I won’t do any real traveling until more people are vaccinated and I don’t intend to visit friends of family until they are also vaccinated, so no matter what it turns out to be, I’d probably still be alone. 

But maybe around the start of May I can get a pretty little AirBnB someplace with a nice view and just for a night or two be someplace that isn’t my apartment. In the last year I have only spent a single night away from here. 

What I would really like is a nice tall hotel, someplace with a bar. I don’t even need to go to the bar, but maybe I could order a drink from room service and sit on a balcony and drink it slowly.

I could also do that here in my home, but that’s not the point.

What I really want though is to be around people. I miss people so very much. I’d like a fucking hug, thank you very much. That will come in the next few months, as more vaccine tiers open up and more people can get their shots. And then after that, soon we’ll be able to travel again and I can get one a plane again with just my backpack slipped under the seat in front of me and put this whole godforsaken year behind me. 

Soon. Not quite yet, but soon.

I’m grateful to have made it through this whole pandemic thing so far. I’m grateful that so far my family has made it through and that so many of my friends have. Just a little while longer. We all just need to hang in there a little while longer.

Soon, we’ll get back to something like normal soon. 

Not quite yet, but soon.




Monday, March 15, 2021

Not Going to Miss My Shot.

This will likely be a short post today. I’m feeling some anxiety. See, today I have an appointment to get my first Covid vaccine shot. I am SOOOOOOOO happy about that. Yesterday I did a dry run and drove out to the pharmacy (because it is in a place I had never been before) and it seemed easy enough.

So why the anxiety?

I’m not sure.

I want so badly to see people and hug people and be in the same room with other people (I have been quarantined alone for 12 months), but I think I have a little fear about what the return to life will be like. This past year has been terrible and so incredibly lonely, but I had only lived here about 5 months when quarantine started and I had just barely started to settle into a life. I don’t really know anyone nearby and I didn’t have the chance to — you know --- make friends or do anything more than think about dating. So I think the anxiety is maybe tied up with the fact that when quarantine ends I will have to do the soul numbing work of trying to build a life.

Maybe that will be easy (I think people will want so much to be out in the world, meeting new people, and going to parties, etc.), but maybe it won’t be.

Obviously I will have some time to work all of this out, so I know in my brain there is no point in worrying about it right now, but I’m still feeling the anxiety in my body. 

Obviously I’m over-thinking.


I’m so happy to have gotten an appointment and I’m so happy to be one small part of getting our entire society safe and back to normal, but what is normal going to be next? I think I am a little afraid that I have gotten used to how lonely this past year has been and so maybe I’ll just continue to carry that loneliness around. The thing is, that right before quarantine, my “normal” was pretty lonely. I don’t want to go back to that normal. I want a better one. I have no idea how to do that.

Ironically, I kind of had the proper skill set for staying home, I’m not sure if I still possess the skill set to go out in the world and meet people and make small talk and even god-forbid, try to date.

So yeah, I think that is why I am feeling this way this morning.

That being said, I imagine I will feel much much happier five hours from now when they are injecting me with that sweet, sweet mRNA vaccine! I will get this done today. I will make Dr. Fauci happy. I will do my part today. I’ll worry about the next part after this part.

Wish me luck!




Friday, March 12, 2021

Make the Sentence Make Sense.


One of my goals in 2020 was to fastpack the Trans-Catalina Trail.

That sentence doesn’t make any sense. Let’s unpack it.

One of my goals - Goals were things people used to have in the Before Times. A goal is like a future desired outcome. It is the kind of thing a person can envision and plan for if and when they are confident that there is a future in which that outcome can be achieved. In times of adversity, it is normal for a person’s sense of the scope of the future to narrow to only a time when the adversity is over. There is a subset of people who have been able to plan and make progress toward non-adversity-related goals during the pandemic and those people are called sociopaths.

in 2020 - Math and science will tell you that there was once a calendar year that took place between 2019 and 2021, but sociologists will more accurately explain that in a bizarre and unheard of twist of fate, the year 2020 was actually replaced by the year-long month of March 2020 and that somehow simultaneously absolutely nothing happened and everything happened in that month. No one yet knows how this was possible, but physicists suspect dark matter or mass delusion. See: The New Chronology.

was to fastpack - Fastpacking is like backpacking, but very fast. It can even involve running. It requires packing as little food and gear as possible, allowing a person to cover as much distance as possible. It necessitates almost obsessive planning and reflection on one’s needs and abilities. It is one of those activities that forces people to be honest with themselves, because if they lie to themselves about their needs and abilities, they could freeze to death at night trying to sleep on a mountainside with the wrong gear and not enough food or fire.

the Trans-Catalina Trail - Catalina Island is a little bean shaped island about 26 miles off the coast of Long Beach. It is surrounded by clear waters and deep kelp forests. The island itself is rocky and hilly and there is a trail that runs up and down along the spine of the island. The trail is about 40 miles long and only has a few specific way points for sleeping and refilling water. The interior of the island is populated by wild boar and bison. An elevation map of the island looks like a worrisome cardiogram.

So that sentence has obviously been rendered meaningless by the black hole suck of the supposed year 2020. Let’s replace that sentence with this one:

One of my goals in 2021 is to fastpack the Trans-Catalina Trail.

 See? That’s better. The sentence makes sense now.




Thursday, March 11, 2021

Hot Turkey, William Faulkner, and the One Big Project.

Here is the new way I have come up with to justify to myself the fact that I am still sort of a C student when it comes to improving my life: rather than going cold turkey on how I had been living and going hot turkey on this new lifestyle, what I should have done was PHASE IN the changes. “Phase in” means that I should have done it over time, I should have spread it out. How did I not think of that? It is only LITERALLY what any article about changing habits says!

I’ve been doing a pretty good job. I do some small creative stuff (like this) in the mornings just for me, and I have been running almost every day and I have been very good about sticking with my healthified new diet (by “diet”  I mean “new eating regiment” as opposed to “diet” as a thing one does for a while to lose weight) and I have been reading and writing in the evenings rather than listening to podcasts and endlessly scrolling Twitter.

Where I have been failing is in the mornings, but we have talked about my shoulder and how stiff and sore it is in the mornings, so I have not been consistent about doing my morning yoga. The other way I’m failing is with my writing in the evenings. I’m kind of just tinkering. I honestly don’t have the ONE BIG PROJECT right now, so each night I’m kind of just playing around. And that is okay, because the important thing about writing that people aren’t told enough is that the most significant part of any writing practice is to put your butt in the seat everyday. The writing flows from that act, not the other way around. There’s a famous quote usually attributed to Faulkner that goes, “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.”

That’s kind of what I’m doing in the evenings. I’m trying to rebuild that part of my writing practice. I’ve had a weird last few years — and while weird is not always bad — they have decimated my writing practice. There are a lot of reasons for this and we will no doubt get into them at some point, but for now, I’m doing a kind of writer’s physical therapy after a car accident and I’m metaphorically learning to walk again.  

So if you need me any evening, I’ll be sitting right here from 7:30 to 9pm, relearning how to place one foot in front of the other and remembering who I am and what I do.




Wednesday, March 10, 2021

My Only Very Occasional Commute.

Yesterday was what counts as an unusual day in quarantine.

It was cold and rainy in the morning. There was some work I needed to do that absolutely 100% could not be done from home. I’d gotten all three permissions I needed to go into the office, so I did my old commute.

Where I live in Marina (just north of Monterey), the Pacific Ocean crashes down cold and heavy on windy beaches and giant sand dunes. As you move east, my dumpy little beach town is all strip malls and smoke shops, and then the University with its hundreds of old empty buildings left over from when this was a 20th Century Army base. Those buildings, most of them long abandoned barracks, have been left largely to age and collapse quietly in the salty air. Ghost places. Keep moving east and you get to where I live; the weird little overly planned out subdivisions of leftover base housing. Pretty little streets and culs-de-sac that you can just tell were a mid-century fever dream of Americana.

From there I drove east, to where the town ends because the land becomes a cliff’s edge as it drops fast down into the Salinas Valley. I love that part of the drive. A Thelma & Louise plummet down a narrow tendril of two lane road. You can see all the way across the valley to the eastern edge of peaked green hills where the clouds hang out on rainy days and the sky is bright purple like an hours old bruise.

Down on the valley floor, I made a left and headed north toward the city. This is my favorite part of the drive and I like to roll my windows down as I shoot past fields in my little car. The fields change week to week and sometimes ever day to day. The air so often smells like celery or broccoli. And on wet days like yesterday, the air has been wiped clean by the rain and the whole world has that wonderful, deep wet-dirt odor. A smell rivaled only by cut grass of the first few minutes after rain hits concrete.

I always make sure that I take a moment to look into the fields and see the distant bend figures working the fields. No matter the weather or the state of a deadly airborne transmissible disease, they’re there. Because they have to be and because all of us need them to be. Without being saccharine, the folks like that are why I do the job I do. I didn’t prepare for this job (working for a tiny medical school), but I like doing it because I know that helping to grow these medical people will have downstream effects, that eventually it will make other people’s lives better. People like the ones I see in these fields.   

The drive was nice, but also the affirmation. It’s really quite amazing what a nice clean rain can do for the world and for one’s spirits.




Tuesday, March 9, 2021

How to Have a Good Day.

Most days don’t feel like anything. This is not a quarantine post. It’s just that most of the days of our lives run like sands through an hour glass and who wants to remember that? Do you know how many times I’ve paid an electric bill in my life? Do you know how many I remember? And why would I?

One of the things I’m trying to do lately with the changes I’m making in my life is to find a way to have more good days, not GREAT days, mind you, just low-key good days. Days that didn’t slip away.

Over the last few years I came to a slow realization about what I like to do on a normal, boring, otherwise forgettable day and I have turned it into a simple little metric. I’m going to tell you what it is and at first you’re going to be all like, “Well that doesn’t sound that hard to pull off!”

But I assure you, it is.

Are you ready?

Here it is: Run. Write. Read.

That’s it! 

If you can manage to fit those three things into a normal workaday, normal forgettable, normal day kinda day, then you will have had a good day. 

This is when you go, “Well I could do that!”

Oh yeah buddy? Well give it a try!

It is harder than it sounds.

Let’s do the math: I sleep for 8 hours (obviously the first 6 are in the morning and the last 2 are at night), I work 8 hours a day, but (as they keep telling me) I am “required by law” to take at least a half hour lunch, so really my workday allotment of time is actually 8.5 hours end-to-end. 

Add those up = 16.5 hours, which leaves me 7.5 in a day in which to live my life. 

I get up at 6 and I start work at 8:30, so I have allotted 2.5 hours in the morning. This is for the yoga I haven’t been doing (did some today though), I shower and clean up, I do one of my silly little daily drawings that I post on my artsy Instagram account (@standard_kink), I write a blog post like this one, I listen to a couple of morning news podcasts, I drink coffee. Around 8:15 I drink a meal replacement protein shake and put on my work clothes (Just a t-shirt and a button up. I have worn jeans the entire quarantine. I don’t own sweats).

Okay, so that’s 8 hours of sleep, 8.5 hours of work, 2.5 hours in the morning doing cool stuff, which leaves me precisely 5 hours when I log off work at 5pm. At 5pm I immediately change into running gear and head out the door. (I have to do it this way so that I can draft off the last of my work energy to get me out the door. If I waited until 5:30, I wouldn’t actually go. Plus, the sun sets just after 6pm here right now, so I have to go at 5. Lately I have been running for about an hour. I come back, I shower and clean up, and I start making dinner. Lately I eat pretty much the same thing every night (jasmine rice with sauteed veggies and fish. Throw in some curry powder, some onion powder, soy sauce and black sesame oil … *chef’s kiss*). I watch Youtube while I eat (often the first half of PBS News hour). Then I do the dishes.

By the time all of that is over, it is usually about at or approaching 8pm. Two hours remaining.

From 8 to 9 I have scheduled time to either write or read. Last night I sat down to read and ended up reading until almost 9:30.

BUT! And here is the cool part, because I had written a blog post that morning, I had TECHNICALLY written already (Though considering the writing of a blog post to be “writing” is kind of like in Interview with the Vampire when Tom Cruise in living on rats; it will do the trick, but isn’t really anyone’s preference). 

So yesterday was a Run, Write, Read day! I closed the book about 9:30 and still had about a half hour to kill my brain on Twitter.

I plan to have more RWR Days in the future. Those days make me feel like I did something. Like I didn’t just live another day that will forever slip away, like sands through an hourglass.