Categories
Emotional Work

Day 329 and Thanksgiving

I have so much to be thankful for this year. I don’t have a lot of poetic thoughts on it, though I have written extensively about my feelings on some of the bigger moments of the year. So click those if you want essays as this is going to be mostly a list.

I’m grateful to have recovered my health in 2021. I’m equally grateful I had the money, support and willpower to achieve it.

I’m grateful I have a husband who understands me and gives me the love, support and freedom to be me.

I’m grateful for having a space to share my thoughts daily, and rather than be punished for speaking my mind, I am rewarded for it. That includes WordPress, Twitter and all the people who made the internet possible.

I’m grateful I can live in Colorado and still do the same work I previously thought I would only do in New York or San Francisco.

I’m grateful my mother sent me to Waldorf school. I’m grateful I have a father who supported my development as a full human being.

I’m grateful I can afford to buy whatever dumb shit I like for my hobbies which range from expensive skincare to preparedness.

I’m grateful I can consider buying a home that will have the capacity to provide safety even as the world around me has risks.

I’m grateful to have business partners who share my vision for investing and founders and entrepreneurs who allow me to help them.

I’m grateful I never have to worry if there is enough money in the bank to buy a book.

I’m grateful that the supply chains have held so that I have an apple pie that I ordered online the day before the biggest holiday of the year which I picked up in my car that I was able to buy even as global trade was strained and our currency was inflated.

I’m grateful for the time to pursue emotional capacity and the money to pay for it.

I’m grateful for chemistry and the wide variety of pharmaceuticals and supplements that I take every day.

I’m grateful for my iPhone, it’s applications and games I use daily on it that have connected me to a world of people virtually that I love as truly as the people I interact with physically.

I’m grateful for shitposting.

I’m grateful William Gibson still writes. And I’m grateful that Twitter has let me interact with my favorite writers.

I’m grateful for West End BBQ and Spruce Confections.

I’m grateful for my raw milk dairy cooperative and it’s farmer Daphne.

I’m grateful for sunscreen and for apple cider vinegar.

I’m grateful for Costco.

I’m grateful for my parents making good decisions when I was younger that have compounded into incredible luck and prosperity for me.

I’m grateful to be American and I’d like that to remain a thing for which I am grateful.

I’m grateful for democracy, the enlightenment, free elections, a free press and liberalism.

Categories
Reading

Day 273 and The Newsstand

I used to travel a lot. It seems like another life, but before the pandemic airports were my most important liminal space. Even as a child this was true as my father loved taking us on trips. That emotional weight meant the airport have always had significance to me. This persistent exposure to airports lead to me to developing certain affinities and aversions in my routines around travel. But the one that I liked the most was buying something at the newsstand.

There was a period as a teenager where I thought carrying both the The Economist and Rolling Stone (neither of which I read anymore) was just the height of intellectual signaling. And no place was more crucial to signal than inside an airport. I could meet someone in passing that would change my life and they needed to see immediately that I was both smart and cultured. Yes it’s embarrassing now.

But this signaling was part of a wider ritual I felt was important to ground myself. Even if I felt the unsteadiness of traveling, I could bring routine and ritual into it. I knew no matter how much I anxiety or uncertainty I felt around a given trip I could always treat myself to buying something to read from the airport newsstand.

Generally I would pick up some kind of periodical. I’d leave myself time to browse the newsstands for at least ten minutes so I could adequately cover all the weird genres. Because I grew up in a small town and not a proper city, the only newsstand I ever encountered was at the airport. There was simply no place that held as many magazines covering as many topics.

And while I had the Internet very early in my life, the actual transition away from physical publishing wasn’t as far along. It’s not that I loved magazines so much as it was the only place I could find writing that wasn’t a novel was in newsstand. Now of course I read blogs, email newsletters, forums, Subreddits and my beloved Twitter. But the memories I have of finding new worlds came from newsstands. And while I may have literally been going someplace new, it was never quite as horizon broadening as picking out what I was going to read.

Categories
Internet Culture Reading

Day 271 and Correspondence

I love writing to others. I had some pen pals as a child but it wasn’t until as a teenager that the Internet gave me the chance to correspond with practically whomever I liked. And it’s been one of the great joys of my life to reach out to others for conversation.

I developed a habit of writing to journalists, authors and academics whose work I admired. Many of them maintained email addresses and personal websites even back before social media. If you are ever worried that someone will find it odd or unsettling to receive a note from you, don’t fret. I can share that if you are polite and sincere outreach is almost universally appreciated. Most people want to be seen. If you feel you’ve seen someone then you should share it with them. It’s a kindness to you both.

While I particularly like short form correspondence like Twitter, there is no substitute for a more in-depth and layered letter. I’m personally a fan of the threaded twenty response deep email chain. I think of it as like the letter writing of our forefathers. Maybe it’s a bit less satisfying to our heirs than discovering a box of letters but I’ve got a fantasy that the Ken Burns of the future will make excellent use of email and chat logs.

If you aren’t convinced of the benefits of reaching out through writing feel free to test it out on my before you write a letter to your favorite author or thinker. We just might become pen pals.

Categories
Chronic Disease

Day 224 and Wanting a Break

I don’t want to write today. I feel foggy, unfocused and anxious. I had to have a medical procedure last week whose preparation was destabilizing. I felt pretty good coming out of it but a few days on I guess recovery has its own logic.

I don’t want to feel like this. In order to have the procedure done we had to remove me from all of my medications. Not normally something you do unless you have no other choice. Which in the end I didn’t feel I had. And I’m struggling. Modern medicine works pretty well. Some of science is neat.

I don’t want to be writing about any of it though. I’m scared, tired, sad and angry about all of it. I want to be alone. But my mind is so fatigued I cannot come up with any other topics. I tried to focus on fun things like the PR DAO I’m working on and some investments I’m excited about.

But I just can’t seem to make sense without a lot of energy and focus. And the doctors would prefer I keep the energy for my recovery.

So I’m stuck writing baleful takes about sleeping and migraines. I’d rather crawl into a hole and lick my wounds in private but I promised myself I’d write every single day.

And it seems I’m unable to write anything remotely intellectual. It’s all emotions and physical ailments. No wonder I’ve been watching so many BBC period dramas. Their leading ladies seem so relatable at the moment. Which is why I’m stuck writing about life as if I were some talentless version of Virginia Woolf. I’m incapable of writing about anything else but the consuming nature of feeling like shit. Write what you know is all fine and well until the thing you know most intimately is physical frailty.

On the bright side I did learn today that Herman Melville and I share the same diagnosis; ankylosing spondylitis.

Herman Melville endured chronic pains in his joints, back and eyes, symptoms consistent with ankylosing spondylitis, an autoimmune disease.

Maybe pain relief was his white whale too. Of course, he didn’t have the benefit of biologic injections like IL inhibitors. Maybe that’s why he wrote the great American novel and I’ve got a daily writing habit. I know glorifying and romanticizing suffering is a habit I’ve got to kick.

Categories
Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 198 and Kindness from Strangers

I’ve written about how terribly I’ve felt physically for the past 6 straight days. The last positive day of writing I had was 8 days ago. People have noticed the emotional tone of this struggle.

Generally speaking a day or two of being down doesn’t get noticed on social media, but a continuous streak of being “off” tends to get noticed by your community. Your mutuals know who you are even from afar. Your mutuals see your struggles. Your mutuals may know more about you than you imagine. And I’ve found your mutuals may genuinely care about you.

I’ve never felt less alone than I have the past year under quarantine. Maybe it’s because the network of mutuals that shares their personality and life has spent more time on the give and take of commenting, posting, responding and messaging across social media. When we are forced to contend with our own inner emotional lives we can extend more empathy to others.

So while others may have seen politicization, partisanship and other externalized anger on social media, I’ve found mostly grace and kindness. People who I have never met in the flesh have shared their knowledge, their vulnerability and their network with me. When I have opened myself up I have been met with with compassion and understanding.

If you share a period of struggle and your desire to get out from under it you may not be far from help. The kindness of your community is within reach. Even, perhaps especially, your social media community. If you are hurting share that burden. I have and it is much lighter.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 188 and Space

I over scheduled my day today. I figured it was fine as I left some half hour blocks between calls, pitches, errands, workouts and chores. That’s what most lives are like right? You get up, shower, exercise, get the family fed, go to work, have a short lunch break to eat at your desk, go back to work, then you’ve got errands and then it’s back to family obligations.

If that’s what most people’s lives are like it’s no wonder we are in the midst of a rebellion. I’m exhausted. I haven’t had a moment to think or self reflect at all. I feel so far away from myself after the parade of obligations. And I actually meditated and did thirty minutes of “brain training” on my at home EEG. And I went for an hour long walk! So why do I feel like I haven’t had any space today? Those things are restorative right?

It sounds incredibly luxurious when I put it down on paper. I’m doing shit to improve my brain function and I got 10,000 steps (I like to take calls while walking) so why do I feel frazzled? As it turns out I’ve actually faced this problem before. And thanks to my daily exercise of writing I put it down on paper. I can learn from myself.

I benefit from unstructured unencumbered time at rest. It’s not that I need it to be alone time or quiet time as much I need full on rest. I thrive when I have no reason to get out of bed. I do my best reading and synthesizing when my mind is free to wander without any obligation to anything but that space.

When I wrote that I meant it in the context of devoting enough time to active rest. But as it turns out I don’t just need rest on weekends. I need to give myself time in between tasks. I need to let my mind wander off instead of forcing it on to the next activity. I need to take some space to myself between each activity, even if it’s a nice one like a walk, to absorb and synthesize.

I’d encourage you to consider if you are giving yourself enough space to let your experiences integrate back into your mind and body. Sure we all have our obligations but maybe you’d be more efficient at them if you have yourself the space to breathe in between them. On that note I’m going to put on some television and go shit post on Twitter. I need to integrate my learnings from the day.

Categories
Chronicle Emotional Work

Day 164 and Building an Audience

I’ve been writing this blog with complete disregard for whether I’m building an audience. I come every single day and I put down my thoughts on this metaphorical paper and sometimes it’s worth reading and sometimes it’s shit. The rule is simple. I write every single day. And I’ve been enjoying it for six straight months. I value this habit and this space for codifying my thoughts.

Because of the personal nature of the insights and the daily routine pace of the content, I’ve been hesitant to do anything to build an audience. All the strategic things one does – have a theme, give them value, cater to their interests – will force structure into my writing. I’m not sure I want structure. If I add in rules like stick to valuable content on a broad theme I’m not sure I can do that everyday.

This means I’ve stayed away from any of the tactical audience building tactics as well. I don’t encourage signups to read this in your inbox. I don’t have any pop-ups to capture your email. I don’t promote my writing anywhere but a single link on my Twitter account once a day. I rarely out older links to past pieces even if I think it’s a terrific post with insights worth sharing. There are dozens of ways I could be increasing my reach and growing my audience that I am just not doing.

I think it feels like too much pressure. As soon as I make any promises about what content you can find here it will add friction to my one simple writing rule. And friction eats eat away at momentum. I don’t want to do anything to slow or break a successful streak. I’m proud that I’ve written something every single day for 164 days. A lot of it has been genuinely good too!

And maybe I think that my one rule isn’t good enough for anyone but me. Why should anyone else care that I write every day? Daily content that must adhere to rules is practically a guarantee for regular “meh” posts. Sometimes I just won’t be inspired. That happens. I accept that as part of the process but if I cultivate an audience will they?

Of course I could do more to promote the content with the caveats that it’s a personal site with a rule that means you will get a variety of content. If you know what you are getting into than I’m not breaking any promises. I could post to more platforms with clear indications of what I do here. That wouldn’t put any pressure on me and would be transparent with any potential readers. But I’m still hesitant. I’d love to know why.

Categories
Chronicle

Day 92 and Creative Muscle

The more writing has become a daily habit the more I can feel the ebbs and flows of my own voice. Some days I feel a passionate need to share some story or insight, and others, I feel like my voice can barely muster a sentence let alone a full fledged argument.

There are days where fully thought through essays seem to emerge with little effort. As if I wrote them in my subconscious throughout the day and it’s only the slight flick of focus that brings it fully formed to the page. Other days I need to scrape at the contours of my mind to see what fancies or novelties has passed through my attention through the day. Often in theses cases a bit of zeitgeist has stuck in a crevice and I can pull it out and expand on it. I can take a small nugget and chew on it till I find the juice.

I don’t mind the days where I need turn my eye within. The self reflection and additional effort is what I think may slowly be making me a better writer. While I don’t struggle with needing discipline to write everyday, I do need to exercise effort to find ideas that haven’t formed yet. The daily nature of the experiment is building out new thought muscles. It’s making my thinker clearer, faster and crisper. The regular exercise of thought and mind, whether I’m inspired or not, feels as if it’s making inspiration strike more often and my mind see clearly.