A November request.

Nine years ago, Stueve convinced me that the best way to heal a broken heart would be to write. And the best way to get it all out was to just get to 50,000 words in 30 days. As I write that now, I think of the quote attributed to Ernest Hemingway: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.”

I was a little surprised at some of what fell out of my brain during that initial draft, and even more surprised when Stueve thought it was worth publishing.

It took another four years of hard work, but with the help of good editors, we polished that initial draft into something that I still am pretty proud of.

I don’t know if other writers experience this, but there’s a vibe, an indescribable push in my brain when I know I’m ready to write. I’ve tried NaNoWriMo every year since that first book, hoping I would get lucky to end the month with a polishable draft. And every year I have failed.

I think it’s because that vibe just wasn’t there.

About a month ago, I started to feel that push. My brain would start composing while I was driving, doing my hair, or taking walks. So I opened a new note on my phone and started writing down titles, themes.

NaNoWriMo starts in two days, and I have a list of 22 personal essay topics. I might not write all 22, but the ideas are there. I hope as I write them, connective tissue forms, and in a couple of years, I have something to publish.

All this is to say:

I’m doing NaNoWriMo 2020, so if you see me on Twitter, ask me what my word count is. If you notice I’m recently active on Instagram, ask me if I’ve met my daily goal.

And if you are so inclined, feel free to send encouraging messages throughout the month—I know I’ll need them.

But if I text or email back and you think I’m stalling, ask me to share the best sentence I wrote that day. And if I don’t have an answer, tell me to stop stalling and start writing.

Thanks, pals.

Content. No, really.

It is 7:45 on Sunday night and it hits me: I am content.

I don’t feel the hopelessness and uncertainty I’ve felt since March. I take a moment to think about what has happened in the past three days to make me feel more relaxed.

I read a book from start to finish.
I finished an audio book I’ve been working through for a few weeks.
I practiced the piano.
I slept late, then had breakfast in bed three days in a row while watching episodes of Sports Night.
I watched football.
I chatted with friends over text and—gasp—the phone.
I took naps.
I cleaned, albeit reluctantly.
I worked on a vision board of sorts—started building a list of all the new furniture I will buy in June, whether I have a new place to live.
I watched cooking shows on Netflix and Sling.
I listened to podcasts.
I made a list of the things I can start doing now so that if I actually move in June, the move itself is less stressful.
I recorded, edited, and published a podcast.

I was lucky enough to have to stay at school late on Thursday so yearbook editors could work on pages, and somehow mustered the motivation to get all my work done before walking out of the building. It freed up a three-day weekend, and I am amazed at how…normal I feel right at this moment.

So I wanted to document this moment, this weekend, because if you listen to doctors (and I do), the pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better. The election is in 9 days, which brings a completely different slew of possible hellscapes, and I’m facing down a five-day work week with two sports broadcasts to produce. My future is still uncertain.

But at this moment, I am content.

Restlessness.

It starts with just a generally unsettled feeling. I’m restless all the time. My brain is whirring like a maxed out hard drive running too many programs. I can’t pinpoint the restlessness at first, but it’s familiar. I know I’ve felt this way many times before. And after several weeks, the hard drive slows down, and I can name what I’m feeling.

Though at this point in my life I call Nebraska home, for many years, I claimed no hometown. Such is the life of a military dependent—my first two moves as a human aren’t even registered in my memory, I was so young. The third move, I remember stepping out of a hotel room in Albuquerque, New Mexico to the sight of hundreds of hot air balloons, but even that memory is fuzzy—do I remember it, or do I remember my mom telling the story of it?

All other moves are etched in my memories though. Listening to my first Amy Grant cassette on the road to Alabama. Staring out the car window trying not to cry on the road back to Nebraska—we’d only been in Alabama 10 months, how could I possibly be sad to leave? Sulking in my dad’s truck on the way to Montana a month before my 16th birthday.

The moves in my adulthood weren’t quite as fraught, as they were my choices, but there was always a mix of excitement, fear of the unknown, and sorrow at what I’d left behind.

Even though the family put down stakes in Nebraska in 1994, I bounced out of the county three times in 12 years. In 2008, I came back, and I’ve been in the same apartment for 10 years.

For someone who spent 35 years moving every 2-4 years, 10 years in one space is a long time.

And that’s the restlessness, I am sure.

I love my job—it really is my dream job, a job that sometimes I can’t believe I was able to carve out. I’m teaching everything I’ve ever wanted to teach. And I’m close to having 20 years of service in this district. Who leaves a dream job so close to having 20 years with an organization, a benchmark that typically brings with it financial benefits?

Yet the restlessness.

Maybe all I need is a cross-town move, a new space, new furniture, new surroundings.

Maybe I need a new city, new state, new country.

Maybe I just need a new hair color and new clothes.

But of this I am sure: my bones and my soul need a change.

Anyone have any ideas?

Hi, October.

“How many of you thought we’d still be in school on October 1?” I asked my first class during the break we take in our 100 minute time together; twice as long as usual to minimize passing periods in hopes of managing the spread of coronavirus.

No one raised a hand, and several students slowly shook their heads.

Apparently, not many of us expected we would still be in school. So I asked a second question.

“How many of you started school thinking it would last about two weeks and then you’d be home again?”

Again, no hands went up but several heads nodded.

“Me too. I didn’t think we would make it this far. And I think that’s why we might be feeling a little off. Anyone else feeling bad vibes when they’re here?”

Nodding heads.

And then I told them—I think we all need a paradigm shift.

I know I started the year without my usual plans or excitement. The new protocols are mostly manageable, but are exhausting at times. I told myself I could handle things “until we go remote,” thinking it would happen within the first month.

Yet today, I made folders in my Google Drive for Week 8 of lesson plans.

We’re here, pals. And for what looks like the duration.

September felt incredibly bleak for me. The inconsistent weather, the “will-we-or-won’t-we” undercurrent regarding staying in school, not seeing friends or family because who knows what I’m carrying around on my skin, wondering if every cough or general malaise meant a 14-day quarantine—just bleak.

But there is something about seeing the calendar flip to a new month that always makes me feel some motivation to change. To shift the paradigm set by the previous month.

So that’s what I plan to do.

I think I’ve shared the Action for Happiness people before, but I’m sharing it again. If you’re pulling yourself out of similar doldrums, check out their app or their calendar, which has small things to do every day that might make your October a bit brighter.

Today’s action is write down your most important goals for the month. So here goes.

  1. Stop waiting for a shut down that might never happen (a.k.a. set up your damn desk finally).
  2. Revisit the “rewirements” from the Science of Well-Being class. Implement at least 3 a day.
  3. Do the daily mindfulness challenges from the Educator’s Health Alliance.

And because I didn’t want to lose my initial momentum, I went ahead and set up my damn desk today.

The desk in one of my classrooms. I hesitated to set it up for two months. Figured it was time.

Thoughts on a Facebook-less week.

It’s been a week without Facebook, and I’ve only missed it twice.

I’m not feeling the FOMO I thought I would, perhaps because whenever I spent more than 10 minutes there, I started to feel a little sick, like when you stay up until 3 a.m. watching TV and eating junk food. You know it’s awful for you, you know it’s making you feel bad, but you also can’t figure out how to stop yourself.

I never felt happier after spending time on Facebook. To be fair, I don’t feel happier after spending time on Twitter, but I spent less time there this past week. I am pretty sure I spent more time on Instagram, but some of that was for The Thunderbeat, and some of it was actually taking the time to watch more stories. (Stories are fun!)

This morning I watched the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” and while I approach any documentary with a critical eye, it was hard for me to be hyper-critical of this one. I don’t want to give too much information here, lest I sway an opinion about the documentary’s merits. But through interviews with former tech executives and employees, it does give context to these platforms that have figured out how to monetize public division and control how we spend our time.

For me, the question I’ve yet to fully answer is this: how do I maintain relationships with people who no longer live nearby? How do I maintain relationships with people I actually *met* on these platforms?

I moved around a lot as a kid, and the friends I left behind would send a letter, maybe two, in the months right after my departure. And I’d write back, but eventually we would all move on with new friends and new lives, and drop from each others’ existence. I have often thought of military kids today, and how envious I am of their online social structures that help them maintain those relationships.

I guess the answer to my question is that I have to decide which relationships are worth maintaining. And then I have to choose to do the work to maintain them. Emails, postcards, *gasp* phone calls, text messages–it’s not like I actually need any given platform to help me maintain and strengthen any friendship. If anything, Facebook especially has given us the illusion we are maintaining relationships by giving us curated peeks into our friends’ and families’ lives.

But really, it’s just made us disengaged voyeurs.