COVID-19 No. 15: In Search of Solitude

IT FINALLY HIT ME the other night, and the wonder of it is that it didn’t happen sooner.

I am both an extrovert and an introvert. The extrovert in me loves public speaking, cracking the joke that makes everyone in the conference room laugh, and joining 45,000 other fans screaming our heads off in support of the home team.

The introvert in me needs to go away by himself on a regular basis to recharge the batteries, refill the bucket, and simply enjoy the solitude. It could be browsing through a bookstore and then settling in at the cafe to enjoy coffee and my new reading material. It could be a bike ride by myself. It could be staying up when everyone else goes to bed so that I can watch a ballgame or play Halo. If I don’t get that time, I get squirrelly and anxious.

The past month has not been the most conducive for solitary activity if you live with others, as you may have noticed. The four of us have found our own spaces during the day, which has helped. But on Thursday night, the reality of indefinite forced togetherness — even with people I love — got to me. I felt off. Not depressed exactly, or anxious, but helpless and angry.

A little later on, R. and I settled in downstairs to watch 1917. I’ll have some more thoughts on the film later; it suffices for now for you to know that it is very suspenseful and quote engrossing. The two hours zipped by, and R. and I spoke only sparingly.

By the time the end credits rolled, I felt better. It was as if the escapism of the work itself provided, or perhaps served as a stand-in for, that much-needed solitude, despite the fact that I wasn’t alone.

I consider it a valuable lesson learned, one that I will need to call upon to stave off the inevitable feelings of mental claustrophobia as these ominous weeks drag on. | DL

COVID-19 No. 1: Some Introductory Thoughts

THERE IS NO SHORTAGE of admonition or advice regarding the new coronavirus and COVID-19, the respiratory illness it causes, but as a writer, I found one piece of counsel most interesting and compelling.

Document this time.

I saw it on Twitter, proof that social media really can be used for good instead of evil, and more than one account I follow shared it. The thought is that once all of this is behind us, historians will want a record of how ordinary people lived through it. Not the rampant, immoral public deception of a presidency incapable of the barest modicum of decency and honesty, but the everyday experiences of the rank and file — women and men with jobs and schooling, kids and parents, siblings and friends, mortgages and rents, all of us trying like hell to muddle through this.

I am an off-and-on journaler, someone who almost always finds benefit in emptying a kinetic mind onto paper yet has failed to make it a regular practice. If there were ever a time to document daily happenings in hopes of quieting the noise, this would seem to be it. If it happens to serve history, so much the better.

And so this is the first in what I intend and hope will be a regular recording of … what? Each day’s situation, perhaps, its feel, its activities, and one person’s reflections on fear, hope, frustration, and, perhaps, optimism. For even as my fellow Americans react in some truly awful ways to a situation unseen in the lifetime of anyone currently alive, I choose to believe that good will come out of it.

In the late summer and autumn of 2001, when some reacted to evil with evil of their own, there was also grace, compassion, wisdom, and unity. These were the smaller, quieter moments, acts often outside the public eye, which made them that much more meaningful and important. It may be irrational optimism, but I think that when this time in history is accurately recorded, we will read of similar selflessness, courage, and honor.

We’re all in this, friends. Let’s help each other out and see it through with grace and good health, shall we? | DL

The Elusive But Vital Pursuit of Balance, Part 571

TDsweatsTHINGS WERE proceeding smoothly, until suddenly they weren’t. Everything blew up.

Work exploded, as the calendar moved into my department’s busiest time of the year and we took on a major new project on top of our usual other duties.

Home exploded, as the girls added play rehearsal and spring sports to their already lengthy litany of activities, as I tacked t-ball coaching to my bulletin board of commitments, and as J. and I delved further into the planning stages of a big-time renovation initiative.

And I exploded, as months of wintertime consumption and hibernation had me feeling heavy and dull, my clothes uncomfortable and my body looking decidedly middle-aged.

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Chocolate, Professional Development, and Writing Beyond the Job

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THERE WAS chocolate, of course, as we were in Hershey. Even better, there was astoundingly rich camaraderie and fellowship to match the professional development offered by this year’s annual spring CUPRAP conference, a gathering of secondary- and higher-education communications professionals.

As chair of the group’s conference committee, I encouraged attendees to tweet the sessions using the hashtag above so that we could get some nifty online conversation going and allow those who couldn’t make it to follow along. And it worked wonderfully. (Go to Twitter and search for #cuprap13 and you’ll see what I mean.)

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I Never Thought Washing Dishes Would Be a Great Way to Start a New Year

ProseccoHAVING MADE it to midnight, I was hoping to start 2013 by sleeping in. Alas, I woke up at about 6 this morning and tossed for an hour before arising and trudging downstairs to see how destructive our New Year’s Eve party had been.

Mrs. D. had put away the leftover food while I got the girls prepped for and into bed, but given the late hour, she hadn’t done much else. So what awaited me were a dishwasher to empty, a bar to disassemble, a gaggle of wine glasses to wash, piles of dishes to scrape and clean, and a couple of tubs of leftover beer and Prosecco to bring inside and cram into the refrigerator.

I made coffee, turned on my iPod, and went to work.

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Why New Year’s Resolutions Are Crap Without This One Important Thing

YOU FINISH your list yet?

If not, you don’t have much time. It is the 31st, after all. If you don’t figure out how to be a better you in the next 15 hours or so, you’ll have to spend the next year as the current, subpar you.

Then again, if you’re like me, you can make it easy by recycling past years’ resolutions. My annual late-December self-reflection tends to yield the same goals: Continue reading

Okay, So It Wasn’t 1,667 Words a Day; I STILL Had a Good Month Writing

NOVEMBER STARTED with high hopes. But as the month draws to a close, I will emphatically not be among the thousands of writers celebrating the completion of their works and hence their victories in National Novel Writing Month.

blogrssAt the same time, on this final day of November, I am very happy to have had my best blogging month in … years, probably. These posts will never get published, and no more than a couple of hundred people, if that, is likely ever to see them, but I’m writing, goddamn it, and it feels good. It’s as if I’ve reconnected with an old friend and realized over a couple of beers how much I missed him.

So for those who have stuck with it from Shallow Center and Poor Richard’s Scorecard on through to Dadlibbing, my heartfelt thanks. And to the newcomers getting acquainted through Facebook and Twitter, welcome. I’m grateful that you’re here and hope to give you more to read in the weeks and months to come. | DL

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What I Learned at My High School Reunion

HAS FACEBOOK rendered the high school reunion obsolete?

Nope.

Last night I gathered with several dozen people with whom I graduated 25 (gulp) years ago. Several of them are Facebook friends, so I already knew about their professional successes, their personal situations, their kids, and what they looked like. In other words, most of the reasons you go to a reunion had been obviated.

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When What to My Wondering Eyes Should Appear …

LEAVES CONTINUE to fall from the trees, a week remains in November, and all of America will gorge themselves on turkey sandwiches this afternoon. Today’s retail tsunami notwithstanding, we have every reason to bask in Thanksgiving’s glow for a little while longer.

But I’m ready to turn the page. I’m ready for bells jingling, chestnuts roasting, and herald angels singing. I’m ready for Nat King Cole, Harry Connick, Jr., and the Waitresses. I’m ready for classic holiday specials old and new.

I used to delay my Christmas reveling until well into December. Chalk it up to some kind of weird purist streak–one heavily marinated in Catholic guilt–that demanded proper respect for the season and all of that nonsense.

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November: National Novel Quitting Month

 

SEVENTEEN HUNDRED words and change. That’s how much fiction I wrote on November 1, the first day of National Novel Writing Month, a balls-to-the-wall creative sprint in which writers challenge themselves to produce a new, 50,000-word work in the space of 30 days. That works out to 1,667 words a day, so I was right where I needed to be.

The idea behind the thing is to force you to get words out of your head and onto the page, working so quickly that you just don’t have time to listen to the crippling criticism of your inner skeptic or fuss over each sentence until you have the precise word picked out, the exact punctuation marking your sentences. That stuff comes later, after you’re done; for one month you’re doing nothing but writing, 1,667 words a day, your personal editor bound and gagged and locked in a closet like the Gimp.

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