A fiscal, physical, metaphysical fast

I guess you could call this fasting. 

Since August 26, I’ve not posted on social media. I did sneak and check it a time or two (each day) until Thursday, September 3. This is my 7th day cold turkey. Coincidentally, we are also on a VERY tight budget until the 15th, so I haven’t been able to rely on my other addiction, fancy food. No Uber Eating. No foodie treats. Just regular budget-friendly food.

Toast and cheap coffee or tea for breakfast. Ramen noodles or a sandwich for lunch. Spaghetti and peas for dinner.

Functional food.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I usually eat my feelings.

Now that I can’t do that, I’m forced to just sit with the overwhelm. Actually, I don’t have time to sit.

My “day job” of being a high school English teacher and curriculum writer takes all day and much of the night to do “in this virtual environment”, and I’m still woefully behind. Like, I-don’t-think-I-can-ever-catch-up behind. I’m pretty much working during all my waking hours.

I’m miserable.

Then grateful to have a job.

Then miserable again.

At least I’m not dying. 

Last week I had a radiating pain in my left breast. My anxiety-prone mind jumped straight to breast cancer and stayed there. A doctor’s appointment and mammogram later, those fears were laid to rest.

Better the fears than me.

I’m glad to not be prematurely dying.

Yet, this doesn’t feel very much like living.

Do I exist?

Reliant says “your account does. Pay up.”

I took on a contract job, writing curriculum. I clearly don’t have time for that, but…here I am. We need the extra money, and I need the opportunity to build up a portfolio. It’s the only way forward.

Good lord I’m exhausted.

When will it get better?! 

Going the distance

They will judge you

whether they know enough to do so

or not,

because a lie is the shortest distance

between a stranger and a threat.

Certain skin, shapes, tongues,

ways of loving and of seeing God(s),

the way your body moves or doesn’t,

these are no mystery

though, maybe, magic.

You are a map, unfurling.

There are no shortcuts to the truth.

FHB

Status

I’ve decided to get off social media for a while. I don’t know for how long. I do know that it had become a terrible time-suck and source of emotional self-flagellation. You see the posts. You read the comments. You click the links. You watch the videos. You hate everything. You “like” other things. Repeat cycle.

I want to get off this train.

I don’t trust myself anymore. 

What I hope this time and this journal writing experience will be is a return to center, to full honesty. And, if I’m honest, I don’t know that I will write every day. I know that I want to write every day. That will have to be enough.

I want to keep track of how I spend my time and what thoughts I allow to linger. Keep tabs of all that I take in. It is supposed to be a more curated life, isn’t it? Not just a whirling, floor-dropping shitstorm. I want to love life again. 

So, where do I begin?

I’m sitting at my desk, still in my robe and the pajamas I’ve had on the last 2 days. I did brush my teeth and wash my face, but other than that, no other physical maintenance. Instead, I have plopped myself down in front of my laptop and second monitor to try to “catch up” on work during these two days of school closure due to the threat of Hurricane Laura. 

She skirted by Houston without so much as a “boo”. She focused all her considerable energy on points east and north, plowing through Lake Charles, LA and the surrounding towns. Leveling them. I assume. I haven’t actually looked at much of the post-hurricane damage footage. (No social media). 

It was strange waking up this morning to a world ostensibly untouched. There had been so much news coverage, so much hurricane prep and panic buying, so much sky-watching. And…nothing. At least for us. 

There was something disappointing about it. Maybe I was looking for an excuse to not do things. Another reason to interrupt regularly scheduled programming. As if the pandemic itself, and the racial tensions and protests, and politics of re-opening schools haven’t been enough. So much upheaval. Why not throw a hurricane on it? I wanted a reason to pause and try to catch my breath. It’s so hard to justify doing that without an excuse that everyone can clearly see. 

“Hey, I need to take like a week – 6 months off because life has been too much, and I’m about to lose it” makes you look weak. Your job and the people counting on you just want you to keep doing the things. They say they care (solidarity and such), and yet…somebody needs to do the things. Also, bills.

So, I don’t take the time off. I feel too guilty. That’s why I needed the storm. It’s ridiculous, I know.  

Yet, here we are. No excuse. No pass. Just having to face the music. 

So what do I do with that?

I need to dig at this workaholic-procrastination-perfectionism thing, examine what makes me feel so damn unaccomplished all the time, so annoyed with myself, and work on that.

That’s it. 

That’s the status.

Re-entry

According to “How Stuff Works”, spacecraft re-entry is “tricky business”. I’m fairly certain that isn’t how aerospace engineers or astrophysicists would explain it. But, hey. *shrugs *

Re-entry into the work world after vacation is tricky business, too.

fireball

The object, you, launched into the freedom of space (space to breathe, to graze, to sleep, to gaze), must return to the real world.

Re-entry is sudden. Jarring even.

Gravity and drag push and pull against you, sucking you into an atmosphere charged with fabricated urgency.  Your calendar is already full. Notifications pour in. Deadlines loom large and lowering. Somehow, tasks have metastasized and spawned action items in your brief absence. The cool aura of peace that momentarily surrounded you burns away. Once briefly and tenuously calibrated, your sense of equilibrium is rocked off-center.

The ground rushes up to meet you as you hurtle, limbs flailing, earthwards. Red warning lights flashing. Alarms blaring.

You slam into terra firma.

Bounce once. Twice. Skid to a stop.

Everything goes black.

A train stalls on the tracks. The network is down. You didn’t bring lunch. The copier is jammed. But the show must go on.

You open one eye. Then the other.

The smoke clears. A voice cuts in.

“How was your break?”

 

 

 

7 thoughts in 7 days off social media

It has been 7 days since I logged off Facebook and Instagram for a while. I’ve had lots of thoughts in that time (like “how can I get someone to find the boy Leila likes on Instagram and see if he has ever posted any shirtless pics without sounding like a sociopath?”). But here are 7 less crazy thoughts about being off social media that are probably worth sharing.

1)  Ignorance may not be bliss, but it’s a ceasefire.

I may not know which celebrity did what or died, or what the latest outrage perpetrated by [insert entity here] is, or where you got to go/do that I didn’t, but in the quiet space left by the absence of media chatter and the resulting cognitive dissonance, there is some peace.  I like it. It gives me time to regroup and ration my ****s. I can’t be just giving them out all willy-nilly. Because, inflation.

2)  One-eyed morning-scrolling keeps you from waking up. #staywoke

For the last 7 days, I’ve gotten up within 10 minutes of waking up. I reach for the phone, check the weather, do a quick check of work email, and get up. There’s nothing else to “check” except myself, and I can do that in the bathroom. Not that I physically check myself.  I just check in to the day. Wake up to my life. There will be enough crazy populating it soon enough without me clicking and scrolling and bookmarking any extra. Bandwidth matters.

3)  It’s okay to be bored sometimes.

There was an article posted recently in Atlantic Monthly about the benefits of boredom. According to fancy scientific studies, it sparks creativity. I’d like to think that the few moments of boredom I’ve experienced in the last few days spurred some ingenuity, but I can’t be sure. There’s this (and another post I’m working on about a word I made up), so that’s something.

4)  If you take a picture of a tree falling in the forest, and you don’t post it, is your reality sound?

Yes.

It still happened. And if I’m honest, I took the picture so that I can look at it, which I can still do. I don’t need anybody to “like” it, because I do. We like “likes” though, don’t we? It’s validating. “Yes, you/your food/your kid/your dog/that thing you’re doing/your Pinterest projects are interesting.”  You exist. There. Done.

Just to clarify…I did not take a picture of a tree falling in a forest. But here’s one in case nobody has posted it recently. (picture courtesy of usda.gov)

Tree falling

 

5)  You’ll have more to say if you say less.

Need I say more?

6)  There’s more than one way to skin a cat, but that’s dumb.

Idiomatically speaking, to skin a cat = achieve your goals. I’d like to think my goals in using social media were to stay connected to people, stay abreast of what’s going on in the world, to be entertained and to entertain. But, if I’m being real with myself, a lot of it was about passing the time or procrastinating. But there are other ways to do those things. It’s possible to connect through good old-fashioned conversation, an activity I engaged in during a mandated team-building time mid-week. In spite of my social awkwardness, it was refreshing. Staying informed isn’t hard to do either, and it’s easier to manage if updates aren’t speeding past you like ticker tape. I still get news notifications, but I feel less compelled to click on all of them. (See thought #1). As for passing the time and procrastination, *shrugs*, I’m trying to quit.

Strictly speaking, skinning cats is not a good use of time. It’s also gross.

7)  You have more time than you think, and it’s better than it seems.

There never seems to be enough time. Just 24 hours. But when I add back the time spent posting pictures of falling trees, one-eyed morning scrolling and skinning cats, there’s more of it. I’m estimating about 1-3 hours a day. I can fill those hours with reading or writing or playing check-up with Maya. Or with nothing. It makes me appreciate the other hours, too. Gratitude is never a waste of time. It draws out the moments around it. It creates time. Try it. Take a few moments to list the problems you DON’T have, the people you do have, and the good in you.

See?  More time.

There is enough.

So the hiatus continues.

****************************************************************************

Since I’m not on social media right now, I’m relying on readers to post this on theirs. Otherwise, this is a metaphorical tree falling in a digital forest. Alternatively (or additionally), you could comment here. Mama needs a fix.

 

-FHB

Making Space or Whatever

I decided, rather abruptly, to take a break from social media. No Facebook. No Instagram. Haven’t tweeted in years, and only snapped like once, so no change there. I wish there was a deep reason. Something about transcendentalism or enlightenment or minimalism or mindfulness. But I can’t make such bold claims.

Really, I think it’s about clearing some space in my life for…you know… living. Tamping down my addictive nature. I really haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about “desired outcomes”. I leave that for my day job. All I know is that, for me, there is more of an illusion of connectedness than I wanted to admit to.  Social media can make you feel like you know people, that they see you. It was getting to be too much of a crutch.  This thing, posting and scrolling, reading and tapping, started to feel rote. I don’t know.

I guess what I’m saying is that there wasn’t really a big plan for this disconnection, or even a definite time frame. I’m assuming that I’ll know when it’s time for this to be over just like I knew it was time to start.

In fact, I wasn’t going to blog the process. So many others already have, like Blogger who quit social media. Besides, what do I have to add to the conversation?

Randomness and honesty.

That’s what you’re here for, right?

We’ll see how that goes.

Today’s Highlights

I wore a bright blue pleated skirt that my grandmother made for me. Every time I felt surrounded by crazy, I remembered that I was literally wrapped in love.

Me,: “Maya, do you wanna do some school work?”

Maya: “Ummm… Not yet.”

 

 

 

Lamenting on Lemons

LemonTree2

Lamenting on Lemons

 

There is a lemon tree in our backyard.

Two, in fact.

Last year I had enough to make

A dozen jars of Lemon-Basil marmalade

And give them as gifts for Christmas.

Because when Life gives you lemons,

You make marmalade.

 

This year, there was supposed to be more money

So I could give more than jars,

And travel to new places.

Money to make even more of life.

But there isn’t.

And there are reasons and no reason for that.

 

I am looking to the lemon trees.

It’s November.

I only just noticed that there are hardly any.

Not nearly enough for marmalade

The one tree offers half a dozen acne-pocked lemons

Loosely held in leafy fingers

Threatening to toss them to the ground.

The other bore no fruit at all.

I see why Jesus cursed the fig tree.

What happens when Life won’t even give you lemons?

What do you make then?

 

-FHB

Because April is the cruelest month

Teachers know.

April is the cruellest month

Houston doesn’t really have much of a spring. Can you even call it spring when there wasn’t really a winter?

No.

April is early summer. Temperatures in the upper 70s, low 80s. Longer days. Sun. Thunderstorms.

The weather itself mocks both teacher and student. It feels like summer. But it’s not.

Summer is freedom.

April is testing. And prep for more testing come May.

But there are festivals and parks and patio bars calling, and you want to go do all the things. Or nothing. In a hammock.

April is that one friend throwing pebbles at your bedroom window, slyly begging you to come outside and play when she knows you’re grounded for 2 more months.  sad cat

Breeding lilacs out of the dead land

The lilacs are the children.

The dead land is you. Or so it seems, on Sunday night, when there are still papers left to grade. Calls still unmade. Lessons undifferentiated. Emails still flagged. And you haven’t washed your sheets/hair/car/Tupperware.

But you’re not dead. Dead tired, maybe. But not dead.

There is a layer of hope beneath the cracked topsoil. A water table. Not all of the bulbs will bloom this season. Some will. Some, next year. Some in 5. Some at a future date TBD… maybe.

You are doing fine.

If someone else’s grass looks greener, just know, it’s probably Astroturf.

Mixing memory with desire

There’s a good chance you’re looking back on Spring Break with longing, or back to last summer. Or even further back to the halcyon days of…whenever. Things were easier then. You were happier, right? (But were you? Hindsight is a Snapchat filter.) And you want that again. Now.

But it’s April.

At this point, every Friday is good.

Stirring dull roots with spring rain

Maybe your roots are dull (and, as if to add insult to injury, graying). Maybe your students, the lilacs, are dull-rooted, too. And in April, it’s hard to imagine them springing to life. Or to imagine it for yourself when the alarm clock goes off at 5:30 am. And it’s only Tuesday.

After all, you’ve tried. For months. Years, even.

But if you close your eyes and breathe deeply, there’s an earthy, metallic quality to the air. Thick and redolent. A welcome presage.

There’s word for this. Petrichor.

From the Greek word for stone, petra, and ichor, the blood of the gods. Petrichor is the smell of impending rain.

That’s the thing about April.

No matter how dull the roots, no matter how many dry days lie ahead… it will rain.

single-green-plant-desert-close-up-43526626

 

 

Eliot, Thomas Stearns. The Waste Land. New York: Horace Liveright, 1922

 

*This essay is dedicated to LAR.

End-of-Summer Musings

Summer break 2016 has come to an end, and I feel…a lot.

I sit here in the bed, showered but unpacked, ready for tomorrow, and not, watching Maya in the baby monitor. My last baby. Such a little character! I wonder where she gets it.

I’ve relished the last few weeks being home with her every day. Watching her play with play doh and dolls and plastic bags, try out new words (up to 2-3 new words every day now), sing along to her favorite shows (Bubble Guppies and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse), dance. I’ve soaked in the feeling of her tiny warm body sprawled across my chest for her daily nap. The faint scent of grape seed oil in her hair. Her warm breath on my neck.

I’ve watched her older sister, my firstborn, her once lanky form shape-shifting before my eyes. She moves from couch to couch, room to room, bristling with emotion, switching between energy and ennui without notice. We’ve summered together. We shopped and sang, basked and baked away the days. Concerts and museum visits and Netflix binges.

I want to hold this time in my hands. But as with all time, it slips through my fingers like tiny diamonds. I can’t hold them, but I can remember them, these moments, if not individually, then as a sort of mosaic. Or more like a pointillist painting, a scene best seen when you step back, composed of a million little moments. Points perfect.

I hover between tenses; past, present and future.

Longing for days still warm from my having just been there. Basking in the after-glow. Anxiously awaiting the school year ahead.  Innovative ideas springing into mind like pop-ups.

This time I will..

With this class..

I was made for this.

I’m obsessed with creating the conditions for finding meaning and purpose.

It’s a virus. This desire to evoke. Educate. Educare (latin): to draw out that which lies within.

I’m infected…and contagious. I hope.

It is my protest.

The longing I feel for moments with my own children, for the freedom of summer, for the solace of it is matched with the longing to make learning meaningful for someone else’s.

And so I set my course for another year. Another campus to make home.

And after the day is done, I’ll come back to them. My own babies.

I’m as ready as I can be.

Year 12, a year of magical teaching.

13474968_1251395404893370_4039746823709624214_o

You Are Here

So the year-long “optimism in the face of ignorance” experiment ended about 3 years ago. Then I got pregnant and the blog became about that. See The Vault. The verdict: People! Ugh! Eff ’em. (i.e. this whole Trump thing, the Stanford rapist, cable companies, bathroom fear-mongering, institutionalized racism, etc.)

NOW this blog is about honesty. Being real. Being an adult (which mostly sucks). Trying to figure this whole thing out (which is fun, actually). It’s about the real person behind the Instagram filters. The crazy one. You’re not alone. I’m positively ridiculous…and so are you.

So here we are. 5d9c2b19fdcc9d03d20649852e4a32d0

It’ll be mostly PG-13 here. For the ranty, spicily-worded stuff, there’s  Room 13. A key is required for that, though. I’d say, to be safe[r], leave that alone. You’ll be fine here.

Here are some of my previous blogs.

If you want to know me, this might help. Consider yourself warned.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.