What's in the gallery?

We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.

What's in the gallery?

We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.

Going Clubbing (secret code for staying home)

a tiny adorable sweet potato roll with zaatar and sesame seeds rests on a wooden trivet

Tiny baking in a tiny house: the most adorable miniature sweet potato roll, with zaatar and sesame seeds…


Going Clubbing (secret code for staying home?)

A breath for right here right now

Hey friends, what a time to be alive — that phrase being not exactly positive, not exactly derogatory; but like, not not-derogatory.

Certainly I personally am glad for life, glad to be, glad to be alive, a beautiful miracle, any beautiful miracle in a storm, but also wow, so many agonizingly painful disasters in the world right now.

Glad and thanksful to be here, truly full of thank-you in my fullest thank-you heart, and extra appreciation to CQ for dropping that amazing quality and turn of phrase in the comments of the last post, a glorious word that is much better than its predecessor.

Here, breathing, as thanksful as we can manage, and also not ignoring what is hard, painful, challenging, unjust or just really fucking sucks, many things in all of those categories at once.

And still we ride (and rise), here we are.

Here we are

Anyway, here we are in troubled and terrifying times, and also in thanksful-times in many ways.

And I very much hope you are holding steady, able to take some porch breaths or window breaths or hand-on-heart breaths, or whatever does you some good.

Last time we talked about December Obsessions (and other wishes), and before that about the surprising and unlikely power of sometimes, occasionally, just letting things be unfulfilling, it’s better than it sounds.

And today I want to talk about the way I get things done, but to do that I need to talk a bit about life with Long Covid, something I mostly avoid discussing, so let’s be brave and just do it.

Reality just is

January 7, which is even more just around the corner than it sounds, will be two years since I woke up to a new personal reality, though of course I had no idea what was coming for me.

Here are some aspects of Long Covid life I’m dealing with, and I know that I am much luckier than many:

  • Changing sheets on the bed is such an exertion that I need to take breaks while doing it
  • Often can’t hold in my head what I’m doing from moment to moment
  • I get dizzy from the smallest things, bending to pick something up, lifting something not particularly heavy
  • The loud whistling and ringing in my ears for hours at a time, sometimes all day…
  • And if I know an exertion is coming up (laundry day, for example, or a doctor appointment), I know I have to schedule rest and only rest for the days before and after.

Another example

I baked these very delicious, extremely tiny, extremely cute sweet potato rolls (pictured at the top of this piece) last week, and I love them so much. Dream life addition to breakfast.

But I had to make them over the course of several days.

The first day, I washed, peeled and sliced sweet potato. The second day was for steaming and mashing the sweet potato, and measuring out the dry ingredients. On the third day, I prepped the dough and baked half.

In other words, something that could have been a brief activity in the past is now a three to four day event. I’m not complaining, or at least I hope I’m not, it’s just: things are really different now. And often significantly harder.

I go slower, and I do less, because that’s all I can do.

And because if I don’t, I will pay for it later, and it simply isn’t worth it.

And yet

And yet we still exist in the world, the world of bills and obligations, the various deadlines, and there are things I need to do to stay alive. So how does that happen when I am disabled, alone, isolated, in the wilderness, with no support networks?

It happens in part because I am very lucky to often or at least sometimes have some energy, as opposed to the many people living with long covid who have zero energy.

And I conserve this energy, and protect it like the precious cargo it is, which means am extremely careful and with what I do and do not do, always following the protocols.

As you imagine, this is often not fun, and I need things to be fun and enticing, because ADHD means everything that is not a current obsession is boring and unappealing unless I can find a way to make it fun…

And this is how I came up with the idea of clubs, or, as I call it, going clubbing. LET’S GO CLUBBING!

What are the clubs

A club is an imaginary place and designated container of time for anything at all that I wish to do every day or at least do some days.

A club can also be a goal or an aspiration, or taking any steps in that direction.

I go visit one club and then I go visit the next. That’s what I do with my day, I’m out clubbing! And in between, I’m at Club Rest More, if that is what’s needed.

And of course, I do these in non-zero amounts, it doesn’t have to be much, we are just touching in. If all I do in Cooking Club is peel a sweet potato, good job, babe.

However much I do extremely counts as You’re Doing Amazing, Sweetie.

Let me tell you about my clubs!

I don’t name clubs for things I am able to do automatically (for example, when I wake up, I dry brush, get dressed, light a candle or turn on a lantern, hydrate, brush teeth), but that’s because I’m doing really well right now, and don’t need those reminders.

Sometimes these things do require a club to get them done too and that’s fine.

You might have noticed there’s a theme

Yes, these clubs are mostly grounded in the concept of non-zero — do a non-zero amount of movement, get non-zero nourishment into my body, take non-zero steps towards the most important things on the list.

As long as I’m still moving forward, taking any next step, no matter how tiny or symbolic, that is a big deal.

And when I can’t, I can’t. The point is, we’re trying.

If/when I get stuck, then we go to Surprise Dance Party Club, aka turn on one song and bounce it out, and yes, sometimes this happens in bed, good job, movement and aliveness.

Here are my current clubs…

Rest In Beauty (RIB) Club

This for bravely closing my eyes for Seven (Ideally Eight) Delicious Hours or more, whether I sleep or not, good job to me.

It’s also an acronym for RIB, a reminder me to keep my ribs anchored and not compress my lower back…

It’s going better now that I’m not calling this club Go The Fuck To Sleep Already For The Love Of God.

Club Happy Lizard

Once I wake up and do my first morning things, it’s time to make sure I’m a happy lizard (cozy in my aquarium), this is really about winter cheer and coziness in the context of oh right I live in an unheated tiny house in the mountains…

Cheer, coziness and deliberately making it harder to accidentally tumble into the pits of despair when things are extra cold and grey in these parts.

It’s making sure I have my warmest hat on, a heating pad to sit on, curtains open, maybe lighting loose incense that I made in a different club. This is the club where I check in with myself and ask the very useful question, what would help most right now, in this moment?

And then I try to do some of that..

Jog Club

I like to jog (this is a very generous word for a semi-bouncy walk) figure eights in my tiny kitchen, both in the morning and the evening, to stay warm, and also for thinking my thoughts.

Sometimes I listen to music or a podcast. When I am feeling especially brave, I will be alone with my thoughts just to prove that I can do it, but I don’t entirely know that I recommend this!

Sometimes it’s a slog, in the category of unfulfilling but I do it anyway, sometimes it’s fine to fine+, and quite often, it helps my mood. More and more often, it’s in the category of And I Crave It, but either way, it’s my club and I show up.

Anyway, yesterday was twenty three days in a row of a real commitment to both morning and evening jog time. Designated time to just bounce around and keep it moving.

It’s doing something good for my brain, and it’s good for my joints, I’m having fewer nightmares and, as we always say, whatever works.

Cake & Coffee club (this is my favorite club!)

The coffee isn’t always coffee, anything in the category of a Delicious Warm Spiced Beverage will do. It’s a ritual, and a form of light sorcery: something is brewing, something good. Often with chiltepin pepper.

The cake is usually banana bread (chocolate cinnamon, or coconut and brown sugar) that I make in my tiny, tiny oven that looks like a child’s toy, though I have been known to make other cakes as well.

Cake & Coffee Club started as a way to allow me a sweet and comforting transition from morning jog to whatever is next, a way to bribe me into not giving up on the rest of the day.

Over time, it’s evolved. When I skip stones (journal) with my incoming selves, we often talk about the day or week that was, what’s working, what’s needed. And several future selves suggested that I try making this time more special, more intentional…

As in: clean the kitchen table first. Light a candle. What if instead of using this time to read email, I use it for gazing out at the trees and the fields, just breathing and being, enjoying the pretty light…?

Sun Club / Get More Swift Club

Before long covid, I was so strong and liked to do an obscene amount of daily sun salutations. Now I have altered the practice so much that I don’t know if they’d be recognizable as such, but have found my way into a flowing sequence of gentle movements my body can handle on most days.

When things are bad, I do a few and then need to rest.

Lately I have been in a groove and they’ve been feeling better, but I often just don’t want to do them even when they feel good.

Sun club is for shifting that. It’s for greeting the day, tuning into all the qualities of turning towards the sun.

Swiftness is about speed and agility, but also a reference to that Time Magazine piece about Taylor Swift, and how she trains for her concerts by singing her entire set while on the treadmill.

This club is about the slow motion montage, building endurance, calling on all swift powers of recalibrating, and keeping on keeping on. Music helps. Repetition is good for my brain. This is a club of entrainment.

Non-Zero Stretch Club

This can be one song. Sometimes it’s five minutes. Sometimes it’s half an hour.

As long as I get a quad stretch in there, I’m good. Non-zero counts.

Do I miss having more stretching / yoga / feldenkrais / etc in my life? Of course, but we rebuild slowly and with intention, and right now one song is a good amount for me to aim for. If more happens over the course of the day then god bless, but the point of this club is truly the non-zero.

Club H.A.V.I. / sometimes known as HAVII

The acronym stands for either “Havi And Vegetables? Intriguing!” or “Have A Vegetable, I Insist”, and it relates to this monster fear-story I had when I was really sick that I was going to succumb to scurvy or something terrible, because I was not consuming enough food at all, and definitely not enough vegetables.

This club, which many of my friends have joined and I appreciate that, is just a way to remind me about the existence of vegetables, and to remind my monsters that yes, I do in fact consume them.

As a result I now eat a ton of vegetables because it’s always on my mind, and also the name of the club makes me laugh.

Yesterday for example, I had an onion spinach green chile dish with jalapeño, and leftover sweet potato onion hash, and then it’s fun at the end of the day to see that yes, we had vegetables! Yet again, monsters are virgins who can’t drive, and also they are wrong about me being not well-nourished.

Club HAVI makes sure I am well-nourished, and it turns food prep into a bit of a game. And honestly, I fully believe, for the record, that our bodies are wise and able to turn pretty much anything into the nourishment we need, so no worries if you’re in a situation that demands Twizzlers instead of vegetables, or whatever.

CvT Club

CvT Club aka Captain Von Trapp Club is probably most important club of the day? I mean, obviously Cake & Coffee Club is the most-most.

But CvT Club is about being as sexy, focused and disciplined (and sexy, did I mention that part) as Captain Von Trapp himself by which I mean Christopher Plummer in the Sound of Music version.

I was a fairly spacey, dreamy person even before a traumatic brain injury and then long covid stole my ability to focus. And thanks to ADHD, if I’m not hyper-focusing on an obsession, what am I doing? Unclear!

In CvT Club, I invoke all the Captain powers, choose/name my points of focus, and use the forest focus app which makes sure I won’t be distracted by my phone for two hours.

Usually the first thing I do for CvT time is wash and dry all the dishes, wipe down the countertop, clean the sink, as a form of entry. Then I have an open document for that day’s CvT plans which I check.

Sometimes it’s writing, sometimes it’s liberating an iguana (doing something I don’t want to do). It could be dealing with the Box of In. It could be brainstorming and problem-solving. Captain time is focus time. And if I can’t focus, I might journal or do Cooking Club ops.

Cooking Club

This club is for making sure tomorrow-me will also be well-nourished. Some days it’s for small things like making a simple syrup or gathering vegetable scraps for the freezer to make stock the next day.

Or prepping dry ingredients for a future batch of banana bread.

Other times, when I have more energy, I do more serious food prep.

This helps me make sure that even if there’s a power outage, or I just don’t have energy to make food, there will still be something to eat. I used to resent Cooking Club, and now I really enjoy it.

Club Dish Zero

What it sounds like.

I like to wash up as I go, but either way, I want to make sure that tomorrow-me doesn’t have to deal with bullshit from today.

If it’s the kind of day where my only options is leave dishes or eat snacks from jars in the pantry, I’ll leave dishes.

It’s a concept, not a rule. We are not strict here. The club exists to support me, not to punish me.

Club Interiority

Also known as Non Zero Words Club. This is for writing time, or: writing and processing.

I find it stressful to force myself to write; interiority and aiming for non-zero words feels more neutral.

Sometimes this happens in the morning, sometimes in the evening in bed, sometimes during CvT time.

I know some people really need a specific time, like morning pages or whatever, but for me, as long as it happens, I’m good. And for me, personally, it really varies from day to day when I want to be writing.

If I’m too tired to focus, I just skip stones like What’s Working, What Would Help Most Right Now, Where Is The Treasure, What Don’t I Know Yet?

If I don’t have any answers, I invite the cowboy, the assassin, my Neal Caffrey self, my Cowboy Drag Sharon Stone self, any iteration of Slightly Future Me, and so on…

Congruencing Club / Non-Zero Gleaming

Any amount at all of cleaning something or putting things away or doing pantry consolidation.

Slowly, slowly. It all counts.

Any Self-Care Club

When things get hard, I immediately drop all the practices that help most.

This is the club that gets me to comb my hair or moisturize or, again, whatever would help that I am not doing.

Club Porch Breaths

This is non-zero going outside, it could be a walk to the mailbox but if all I do is open the front door and take a breath of fresh crisp porch air and commune with the trees for a moment, good job to me.

♣️ Avoidance Club ♣️

This is for celebrating being off social media sites that are big time-stealers for me, I love to be in Avoidance Club.

Today is my twenty third day not reading Reddit, a place I often am drawn towards in order to be comforted by the reminder that other people’s problems (and opinions!) are usually worse than mine, a place I go when craving distraction.

It’s not about the place, it’s about what I call pellet-pushing. Like when rats in an experiment will keep pushing the lever in the hopes that they might get a pellet.

When you want a positive feeling so you go to the place that sometimes delivers a positive feeling, but more than not, it does the opposite.

Anyway, like with everything, YMMV, and a place that isn’t great for me might be fine for you, or serving some sort of need you aren’t ready to let go of, no worries there. We are all just human and figuring things out in a world designed by the smartest engineers to steal our attention.

Four new clubs!

Lately I have been tentatively feeling a bit better, some more energy, so I added more clubs, we’ll see if they stick.

Two were wishes that really scared me (keeping the inbox down and tab count down), one was something I’d been really missing, and one just showed up.

So now I have Small Inbox Club, Tabs Club, Arabic Club (40 day streak!), and Bonus Wins Club which is about naming anything else I did during the day that doesn’t fall into another club.

This is a chance to award myself even more sparklepoints, for existing, and making it through another day. Bonus wins! There’s always one somewhere, and if not, there will be a chance to try again tomorrow.

What is clubbing for!

For one thing, it’s a great way to get a headstart on new year’s wishes (or the word that rhymes with revolutions), if you do that kind of thing, or if you want to skip that, it’s just a fun thing to have a club!

A way to practice and experiment. For me, clubs are a no-guilt container; they do not exist to make me feel bad about myself, they are just a framework for trying things.

You obviously do not have to start with (or end up with) a million clubs like I listed here, I started with one or two clubs, and then more invited themselves to the let’s go clubbing party. Maybe one club is the exact right amount of clubs for you!

For me, the most fun part of my clubbing lifestyle (other than using that phrase as someone who is a hermit in the woods), is naming the clubs. And then renaming as needed. But also it’s helping me get more done, stay a little more focused, be a little less stressed.

Join me in a little Club Non-Zero Anything?

While it is true that I am getting way more done than I did in the days before Going Clubbing was how I set up my day, I also think it’s just fun to be in a club.

Even in an imaginary club, even in one that is just me.

Much like my fake band of the week, Cake Adjacent.

And it’s even more fun to name a club.

So you are welcome to join me in inventing any clubs that appeal to you, or something else. Maybe your thing isn’t going clubbing instead of doing things on a list, maybe it’s a secret third thing, and I support that, because of course.

Let’s play. And if you’re not in the mood or right headspace for clubs, totally understandable. I will light a candle and take some porch breaths for all the many hard things getting easier for all of us.

Come play in the comments, I appreciate the company

What clubs are you inviting into your life, or wishing for?

You are welcome to share anything that sparked for you while reading, or anything that helped or anything on your mind. I am lighting a candle for all of it!

Or anything you’d like to toss into the wishing pot, the healing power of the collective is no small thing, companionship helps.

Whatever comes to mind (come to heart?), let’s support each other’s clubs, hopes, wishes, dreams…

Thank you, everyone who reads, porch breaths, the winding path, the many clues that land when they land, receptivity, tiny hope sparks, keeping on keeping on.

Bonus question

Big progress on bonus material on how I relate to time and map out my quarters, lmk if there anything you want to know more about?

Anyone who gives to Barrington’s Discretionary (see below) will get these by email when I finish the edits!

A request

If you received clues or perspective or want to send appreciation for the writing and work/play we do here, I appreciate it tremendously. Working on some stuff to offer this coming year, but between traumatic brain injury recovery & Long Covid, slow going.

I am accepting support (with joy & gratitude) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, it all helps with fixing the many broken things.

And if those aren’t options, I get it, you can light a candle for support (or light one in your mind!), share this with someone who loves words, tell people about these techniques, approaches and themes, send them here, it all helps, it’s all welcome, and I appreciate it and you so much. ❤️

December obsessions (and other wishes)

cheery blue sky, the happiest green tree, a magical labyrinth

I visited a labyrinth and asked for support, and it just said “Keep doing what you’re doing”, not sure if that’s helpful or not, but it’s a direction…


December obsessions (and other wishes)

How are we doing, sweet friends

How are we coping, how are we holding up?

Are we managing to do a non-zero amount, however tiny and symbolic, of any the things that help, whether doing them feels good in the moment or is mildly unfulfilling..?

For example, attempting a hip stretch or a shoulder stretch (or both!) for the first time in [REDACTED], which is of course absolutely heroic, even if we just thought about doing it later and planted the seed. 🫡

Thinking about doing is also a step

Thinking about it is also a step, which makes it non-zero effort, in the invisible continuum between zero and one, and I love this for us.

And I mean all of that very genuinely.

Quite often I need to think about things I might do or wish to attempt before I go for it in real time, and yes, the invisible steps are also steps.

Groundwork is groundwork and it counts

Groundwork is groundwork, heroism all around.

It’s brave to try, and also to consider trying. This is something I would have thought was extremely silly twenty years ago, and now I understand that there is so much wisdom and compassion in being able to perceive the invisible seeds of wanting.

There is so much courage in the invisible seeds, and in the patience to let them do their thing in their own right timing.

Still following the protocols

This past week I’ve been having some Total Breakdown days, or semi breakdown days, or whatever, I don’t know, a non-zero amount of breaking down. It happens.

It really does. The extenuating circumstances are many, these are not easy times, and the world is the world.

So I have been following the protocols, because when in doubt: follow the protocols. And when in a breakdown, definitely-definitely follow them.

Two questions

Your mileage may vary of course, because we are different and we all need different things

The protocols, for me, start off with two questions:

  1. What is useful about this breakdown?
  2. What would help most right now in the moment?

Not all questions need answers

The first question does not need to be answered; it only needs to be asked.

This is important, actually. It is a question that exists to be a reminder that many, many times in the past, these breakdowns have turned out to be useful.

Maybe these breakdowns revealed an insight or some direction.

Or maybe they got me to clean my floors, amen.

Or maybe they got me to do some journaling after all the crying.

It’s good to be reminded that these experiences of falling apart can be useful and even important, that they are a step in a process, and while this particular step is not enjoyable, the larger process might turn out to be meaningful and fulfilling. It probably will, it quite often does.

The second question grounds me in the moment

The second question grounds me in the moment: What would help me most right now?

Not what might help in general, though that’s a useful list to have on hand or to come up with, but what might help me right now in this moment?

These can be physical things: sixteen breaths, hand on heart, feet on the ground, maybe a mini dance party to one song…

And they can be comforting, reassuring reminders, like now is not then, practicing acknowledgment & legitimacy, remembering to ask what’s true and what’s also true

Anyway

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to, following the protocols, asking the questions, doing the things that help or might help, one step and then another step, good job.

And trying to focus on December Obsessions and other December Wishes.

As you know, I love a good obsession, as well as the idea of a good obsession, any obsession port in a storm. My ADHD brain needs to hyper-focus on something enticing, give me the deep dive.

Some good candidates for December Obsessions

I’m thinking about trying a different recipe for tahini brownies (gluten free, vegan) every week until I either find the one true love tahini brownie that knocks my socks off, or, alternately, until I decide that this is not my yes, and some other small dessert can be my winter love story.

Similarly I’m thinking about making granola, though I’m not entirely sure why, or if it would even work with my impossibly tiny oven, since doing things in batches does not always work well with ADHD life, and I am extremely likely to forget what I’m doing and give up partway through.

And I’m thinking about a return to hiking (aka a leisurely meandering walk of an hour or less), something I haven’t done since summer, and then I wasn’t feeling well for a few months. But lately I’ve been training, and endurance is up, and I think I’m up for it too.

Tabula rasa, as symbolic as it needs to be

As always I would love to obsess over any form of a clean slate: an empty inbox, a clean bedroom, closing the tabs.

Obsessing over vocabulary quiz, obsessing over remembering to do LUTW (Legs Up The Wall), obsessing over delicious nourishing breakfasts, obsessing over Do Less To Get More, I’m here for all of it.

What do I know about this

I was thinking this morning that my wish about the tahini brownies is really a wish to have a vegan and gluten-free dessert recipe that I can just make without thinking.

Like I do with chocolate sesame banana bread or with coconut pudding, former obsessions that are now just integrated into my life.

But then I was thinking that this is not a new obsession, this might even be a continuation of a fantasy from childhood, when I would imagine being an adult and magically able to to just whip up some cookies or do some art, like my mom could.

Something about…

And something about how maybe I focused my attention on those specific types of [let’s call them domestic pursuits, even though they don’t have to be], because I knew I would never do the main one.

Ever since I have known myself and remember myself as a person, I have always known that I did not want to be a parent, and I also knew that becoming a parent was what was expected of me as a person. So maybe I solved that in my mind by imagining myself baking instead. We’ll see what my imaginary therapist says about that.

The art of a fifty minute hour

I love a fifty minute hour, be it therapy or a soak in the hot pool. It’s kind of how I do my writing hour (non-zero words, for five sets of ten minutes), and it’s how I do kitchen jogging, set a bell for an hour and the last ten minutes are for slow-down…

An hour is a big commitment, but fifty minutes is somehow more doable.

A fifty minute hour means time for entry, or exit, or both.

I am also thinking about hourglasses as a potentially lovely way to spend a period of time. If I get lost in hyper-focus then I won’t even know how long I’ve been away at sea, but in a good way.

Obsessions with ritual

Because my brain is how it is (ADHD plus traumatic brain injury plus long covid, the trifecta of being super fucking out of it a lot of the time), I use ritual even more than usual to set the form of my day.

Ritual is the container.

It does not matter how I feel when I wake up in the morning (tired, panicked, confused, unsure), I do the morning things in the order of the morning things. It helps, even when it is unfulfilling, though quite often it both feels good and helps more than I expect it to.

So how can we slowly and steadily layer on more and more of these?

Monsters

Obviously my monsters of self-criticism have formed a choral group (it was also Monster World Cup last week if anyone noticed extra monstering in the air) to follow me around and sing songs about how I make poor life choices and have ruined my life, etc etc.

They think obsessions are silly, they think tahini brownies are a bad idea.

They say I am just setting myself up for failure and disappointment, what if I don’t even like my obsession?

But guess what

But guess what, obsessions are a vehicle for passion, but the object of the obsession is neutral and can be changed. If brownies aren’t the thing, maybe a green chile apple crisp is the thing.

We’re experimenting. We are trying things out in order to set into motion the experience of caring about things again, and if I can care about things again, I can care about life and aliveness, I can do a better job of taking care of myself.

It’s not nothing. It’s a lot.

Alright, what’s working?

Honestly, this December is already better in many ways than the last one.

The enormous projects of replacing the two windows on the north side of the tiny house trailer and getting a new hot water heater installed took over a year, but now I can wash my hands in warm water, which is life changing, and the house holds in heat much better than before.

Tea lights are lit, with loose incense I made. And the December experiments are going strong.

The experiments are starting strong

I’ve already run some Hannuka experiments (can you make latkes in a waffle iron, hell yes you can, wafflatkes are delicious) for this next week, and in general maybe even feel a little less deer caught in the headlights about the passage of time than I usually do.

Trying to tire myself out with movement has sadly not been helping with getting me to want to go to sleep, but I think it is helping my mood, so that’s something, and the experiments with a more firm schedule (operation we run a tight ship) are helping too.

Let’s name some December Wishes…

Cozy comfort.

Someone to go on hikes with and explore.

More fifty minute hours. It holds itself.

More joyful obsessions, good ideas sparking. It solves itself.

Infusing rituals and [containers of time] with more pleasure, more joy, more of the good kind of obsessive.

More winter cheer. Better sleep. Waking up with a passion for something, anything!

Some deus ex machina solutions to my two biggest house-related problems.

Something to be excited about and maybe even look forward to, I need this.

What’s next?

Hannuka starts Thursday night. Chag urim sameach, a happy festival of lights.

Then Tuesday, December 12, is the new moon and also National Ambrosia Day.

I do not know what that means, but to me it suggests making a delicious hot beverage, so I am definitely going to do that.

So, between now and next Tuesday, how about a trial run for December Obsessions, with as many do-overs as we want, throughout the month and beyond….

Do-overs forever

After all, these December Obsessions themselves are a trial run for 2024 Obsessions, and there’s a beautiful wish hidden in there too:

The obsessions write themselves! The obsessions run themselves!

All I have to do is pay attention, and they can channel excitement and they can channel grace, enough for me, and for the collective too.

Hello, December

One week in. How are we feeling, what are we noticing, where are we being pulled, what is needed most, what is useful about feeling what we are feeling, even if it happens to be end-of-the-year upheaval?

(Which it might not, obviously! People Vary, and you feel what you feel, it doesn’t have to be related to what I’m feeling…)

What good obsessions can we brainstorm, what low-stakes experiments can we embark on, or what non-zero movement can we take in that direction?

Wishing is the invisible part of generating momentum, maybe, and either way, it couldn’t hurt to make room for the vulnerability of wanting something better.

I am wishing everyone so much love, support, grace, comfort, treasure, whatever you need for this time.

How about you?

Thankful for each day that I get some focus and energy, for each good song on the radio, for all hope sparks, for the lovely and thoughtful comments people left on the last post (thank you!), for porch breaths, and all moments of calm. How about you?

What are your wishes? How was your week! I am lighting a candle for all of it.

Come play in the comments, I appreciate the company

You are welcome to share anything that sparked for you while reading, or anything that helped or anything on your mind. Wishes you are wishing.

Or anything you’d like to toss into the wishing pot, the healing power of the collective is no small thing, companionship helps.

You can wish any wishes that come to mind (come to heart?), or echo “Oh wow, what beautiful wishes!” for my wishes or anyone else’s.

Bonus question

I’m working on bonus material on how I relate to time, if there’s stuff you want me to cover, let me know!

Anyone who gives to Barrington’s Discretionary (see below) will get these by email when I finish edits.

A request

If you received clues or perspective or want to send appreciation for the writing and work/play we do here, I appreciate it tremendously. Working on some stuff to offer this coming year, but between traumatic brain injury recovery & Long Covid, slow going.

I am accepting support (with joy & gratitude) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, it all helps with fixing the many broken things.

And if those aren’t options, I get it, you can light a candle for support (or light one in your mind!), share this with someone who loves words, tell people about these techniques, approaches and themes, send them here, it all helps, it’s all welcome, and I appreciate it and you so much. ❤️

The (unlikely) power of unfulfilling

frost on the glass window blocks out the light, bonus drops of literal ice on the wooden frame

This is sadly what my windowsill (the inside of my kitchen) looks like in the morning, but hey at least now that my home is colder than the inside of a refrigerator, I don’t really have to refrigerate things overnight…


The (unlikely) power of unfulfilling

Where were we

Where were we? Oh yes, in the pit of despair.

Last time we talked about a favorite power (or focal point, or approach) of mine, the power of non-zero.

In other words, when you feel very stuck and seemingly cannot do anything, you do not fight with yourself. Instead of trying to force yourself into doing the things, you just aim for non-zero effort.

Non-zero effort: a smallest something, a not-nothing. And it helps.

Sometimes even much more than you expect it to.

Today we are talking about an even less likely power, the power of unfulfilling, and maybe it needs a new name, but we will get there when we get there.

Unfulfilling

I did my morning hour of kitchen “jogging” yesterday, and it was unfulfilling but I just did it anyway.

Some days it clears my head, some days it is therapy through movement, some days I enjoy watching the sunrise.

Some days this time of quiet, repetitive figure eights is revealing, and what it reveals really depends, a depth of anger and sadness that I wasn’t previously aware of, for example.

Other days it just feels good to be in motion.

Some days I do it just because I know that it loosens up my joints and helps with back pain. And most days I do it because it’s what I do in the morning.

It’s what I do

Yes, it’s the first thing I do upon waking, after hydrating, dry brushing, brushing teeth.

Okay, and sure, you could also say that mainly I do it because my tiny house on a trailer does not have central heating, and it is simply too cold to remain still once I bravely exit the bed and into the front room where I turn the space heater on.

But I also do my morning kitchen jog (“jog”, a very generous term) for reasons related to ritual and steadiness. A way to calm myself down, clear my head, help my ADHD brain entrain itself into a more steady rhythm…

A more steady rhythm

I do it for my anxiety and for my lack of focus, and as a way to start the day, a bookend of my day. It helps that when I wake up, no matter how high my anxiety, at least I know what’s happening next:

It’s time to kitchen-jog.

Most days it feels good, or at least minimally revitalizing.

And yesterday it was unfulfilling, but I did it anyway.

Taking a small break for for clarifications

Sidebar!

As some of you know, my biggest and most ridiculous (and therefore also reasonable) fear is the fear of being misunderstood.

The fear that launched a thousand ships. If by ships we mean parenthetical asides and explanatory clauses. So here are mine.

So, just to clarify!

When I talk about the good within the unfulfilling, or the power of do it anyway, I am not by any means encouraging or advising you or anyone to stay in a shitty situation. God forbid.

If you are stuck in an unfulfilling job or unfulfilling relationship or a situation that is really not working for you, I am cheering on your exit strategy, even if it exists at this point only as a kernel of an idea. Here’s to all the possibilities for Something Better.

Truly, I am lighting a candle for your sweet escape into that Something Better. May it be so. I am calling in all deus ex machina powers, all the support you could possibly need.

So please don’t let this musing on the power of [Unfulfilling] be a reason to stay in a not good for you situation, or to keep forcing a ritual or practice that used to give you something but isn’t a good fit now.

Everything changes, and that is as it should be. Yes? Okay, great. Onward!

Onward

There are many things in the category of [Mostly Good, Sometimes Unfulfilling, I Do It Anyway].

For example, this morning my coffee wasn’t great for some reason (a word my phone very appropriately changed to treason!), not-good coffee really is treasonous.

Sometimes yoga and stretching feel good, sometimes they are unfulfilling, but I do them anyway.

Same for slow sun salutations which I can only do on days when bending doesn’t make me dizzy.

Same for writing. Same for cooking. Same for my ten minutes of practicing Arabic.

Anyway, whether these rituals and practices, or aspects of daily life, are fulfilling or not, I keep doing them. Though sometimes I need to make them fancy.

Fancy

I toss a chiltepin pepper into my morning hot caffeinated beverage, because sometimes I need life to slap me in the face a little, but in a good way. A little heat is good for this desert cowboy assassin.

A favorite mug helps. Homemade cardamom fennel simple syrup helps. A colorful cloth napkin. Light a tea light.

If I wipe down the table first as if I am an honored guest, this helps too.

Similarly, with all the other things that are sometimes fulfilling and sometimes deeply unfulfilling, they can sometimes be improved with music, a candle, a warmer sweatshirt and so on.

But if they are still unfulfilling that day, IIWIMI (It Is What It Motherfucking Is), and we keep going.

Useful

What is useful (or could be useful) about these situations of I do the things I do because they help but some days they are just unfulfilling and I do them anyway…?

In some ways I find it vaguely reassuring that it simply does not matter whether the thing that helps is pleasurable or meaningful or fulfilling that day or not.

Some days it’s bliss, some days it’s tolerable, some days it’s medicinal.

That’s fine.

That’s fine, actually

There is a certain maturity to being fine with it all, a wisdom of having been alive long enough to know that the same practice, ritual, habit or [anything] can vary wildly from day to day.

Some days it’s engaging, some days it’s a struggle.

You do it for the reasons and you do it for no reason.

I am going to turn forty seven this year, if the gods are willing and luck allows, and I quite often have the perception that I do not even slightly have anything figured out, I am barely functioning at being an adult, I do not have it together in the most basic ways. I am, as my monsters say, an entire mess.

But this is the place where I can see some hard-earned wisdom in my life, and that gives me hope for other areas. I can let the things that help be unfulfilling sometimes, without fighting it.

Of course we can also play

For example, what I said before about making things slightly fancy, improving the view…

For example, making something 3% better (or any other non-zero amount)…

Or adding some spice, the ongoing work of Operation Winter Cheer…

This week I spent a lot of time considering the relationship between the power of unfulfilling on the one hand, and Slightly Fancy on the other.

Slightly Fancy, or possibly cosplaying as royalty?

Royalty, for example

This is an idea I got from Hannah Goldfield, New Yorker restaurant critic and general smart person, who, in an otherwise bummer of an interview about feeding her children, gave me a lovely clue:

“I sort of need to cosplay as the Queen of England if I’m going to make breakfast exciting.”

I am so very glad that I don’t need to convince a four year old to eat vegetables, especially one who changes their mind daily about how said vegetables need to be cut, which might actually be all four year olds, this is extremely not my area of expertise.

What is my expertise though?

Honestly it’s enough work getting some vegetables into me each day.

And to be clear, I admire both Hannah’s commitment to her kids and her four year old’s strong certainty about the exact correct way cucumbers should be cut in order to make them palatable as a snack, but that’s not the point.

The main thing is that I really latched onto this mission of how can we make breakfast (or anything for that matter) more exciting than it currently is…

That’s actually something I’m pretty good at.

Even more exciting, even more enticing

Whatever it takes, even knowing that some days it might be unfulfilling, and we keep it moving.

What helps? What adds some spark?

And what is the comfort in knowing that sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t work, and either way, breakfast happens and Havi Is Fed…

These are the thoughts on my mind this week, the power of letting things be unfulfilling sometimes, and also small tweaks and additions, adding a little fancy to the ritual, in case it helps…

Maybe it will still be unfulfilling, and that’s okay, and also we tried something, so points for effort.

A Mini Friday Chicken (Check-in)

It’s been a minute since we did a Friday Chicken, naming the hard and good things in our week in the interest of noticing the passage of time and how we felt about it, being present with what was, even if it was unfulfilling. Maybe even especially in that case.

So here is a small one.

What were the hard things this week?

This week’s hard, for me, included:

  • A scary power outage, not something I enjoy in the cold of winter
  • A miserable experience attempting to get vaccinated — one pharmacist hadn’t heard of Novavax, the other didn’t know where they kept it, no one masked, one pharmacist sneezed into her hands then tried to hand me a pen (luckily I already had one), they kept me waiting for over half an hour for no apparent reason
  • Oh god, the deep, awful loneliness, like it’s always there a little but when the big waves hit, it’s so bad
  • Feeling helpless and scared, and it’s so boring to still be in that loop
  • Itchy skin stuff
  • Anxiety and more anxiety, both over specific small things in my life, and about the hostages who are still being held by Hamas, and about all the many heart-breaking things in our world…
  • And someone I love is in the hospital and there is just no way to help or get solid information
  • It is so cold and so grey, and I cannot believe that there are months more of this, how do people survive winter, I don’t get it and I want a plan…

What was good this week?

I did the things that help, even if they were unfulfilling.

And I did my morning jog and evening jog, non-zero stretching, non-zero sun salutations, fed myself vegetables, sat down to write, kept on keeping on.

In good news, the girlfriend of the person I know who is a hostage in Gaza was released, the two were taken captive together from Be’eri. I am hoping she will have some reassuring news and that L will return soon, but mainly I am just happy for her and her family. May peace, comfort, protection and healing/rehabilitation make their way into this painful, awful nightmare, for everyone in Israel and Palestine, amen.

I am lighting a candle for peaceful solutions, humanitarian aid, miracles all around.

At long last, successfully boosted with Novavax, that’s been on the list for a while and is one of the things that keeps me up in the early hours, so I am glad it is done, and so far feeling okay, no noticeable reaction.

Made a very good chocolate cinnamon banana bread that made up for the not-quite-right coffee.

How about you?

Grateful for each day that I have some focus and energy, for each good song on the radio, for all small moments of hope, for the lovely and thoughtful comments people left on the last post (thank you!), for porch breaths, and for all the moments of calm steady grace. How about you?

What are your wishes? How was your week! I am lighting a candle for all of it.

Thank you, everyone who reads, thank you to porch breaths, to the winding path, to the many clues that land when they land, and the tiny hope sparks that we keep cultivating, one breath at a time.

Come play in the comments, I appreciate the company

You are welcome to share anything that sparked for you while reading, or anything that helped or anything on your mind. Wishes you are wishing.

Or anything you’d like to toss into the wishing pot, the healing power of the collective is no small thing, companionship helps.

You can wish any wishes that come to mind (come to heart?), or echo “Oh wow, what beautiful wishes!” for my wishes or anyone else’s.

Bonus question

I’m working on bonus material on how I relate to time, if there’s stuff you want me to cover, let me know!

Anyone who gives to Barrington’s Discretionary (see below) will get these by email when I finish edits.

A request

If you received clues or perspective or want to send appreciation for the writing and work/play we do here, I appreciate it tremendously. Working on some stuff to offer this coming year, but between traumatic brain injury recovery & Long Covid, slow going.

I am accepting support (with joy & gratitude) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, it all helps with fixing the many broken things.

And if those aren’t options, I get it, you can light a candle for support (or light one in your mind!), share this with someone who loves words, tell people about these techniques, approaches and themes, send them here, it all helps, it’s all welcome, and I appreciate it and you so much. ❤️

The power of non-zero

steaming hot cider in a ceramic mug

This was a hard week for me, I hope it went easier for you, but I found comfort in small things, for example hot spiced cider in my favorite mug that I do not use often enough, I hope you can feel the steaming comfort and coziness all the way from a cold day in southern New Mexico…


Non-zero

Non-zero is a superpower, possibly my favorite.

Or at least we can say it’s the one I am most consistently devoted to, the one I have been spending the most time with. Non-zero as a practice, non-zero as mindset.

I am cultivating a relationship with non-zero as an approach, to my day, to a long cold winter, to the daily effort of existing.

By which I mean: the challenges of being a person in a body, in this culture, in this world, and the ongoing work of keeping on keeping on.

Non-zero is a way of simplifying.

Simplifying

Non-zero simplifies and clarifies.

It is the power of do less, but hey, we are still doing something.

Do less, but still something

Less is still something, even [a very little] is still something, and something is not nothing.

And not-nothing is a big deal actually.

Any amount of effort, any amount of progress. It counts and it matters, good job, good job.

It changes the question

Am I going to do an hour of yoga like the monsters in my head think I should? Nope, but I am going to try for non-zero movement.

Maybe that’s a neck stretch, maybe that’s hugging myself, maybe that’s rolling on the floor for the duration of one song. Maybe it’s dancing in the kitchen. Good job, non-zero movement!

Am I going to empty my inbox and close all the tabs? Probably not! But can I close a non-zero number of tabs and archive a non-zero amount of email? Amazing work, progress!

From a stress-goal to a doable something

Am I going to keep setting impossible (for me, currently, in this moment) goals like spend time outside every day, or can I start where I am with a non-zero version of that, like taking three to five porch breaths?

Do you see? We are lowering the bar, we are seeking a shift in focus…

A shift in focus

Shifting my focus to non-zero takes me out of the stress-mindset of striving and achieving, and it keeps me from sinking into the devastating bitterness when I am simply unable to do any of the things on my list, as often happens, because my brain is broken.

I am not trying to do all the things, or even most of them, or even some of them.

Instead I am aiming for non-zero in a few categories. We’ll see how it goes from there. But non-zero is a big deal, and we celebrate it.

One small step, or maybe more, or maybe not

When I am attuned to the power of non-zero, I am are not forcing myself to think big, aim high, reach further. I am just zeroing in. What small, low-effort and immediate steps are available to me in the moment?

One step and then another step. Or maybe just the one.

It’s still a non-zero amount of forward movement, good job, good job.

It’s not nothing, it’s so much more than nothing!

I love you and I’m proud of you, babe! Look at you, making non-zero progress!

This is what I say to myself, when I can, but in case you need this too, it’s also for you if you want it…


Not nothing

We are not focused on finishing, we are focused on non-zero.

It’s not nothing, it’s more than nothing, and it counts. It matters.

When everything is effortful and feels impossible, even a very symbolic amount of effort is game-changing.

And it serves as a reminder that non-zero is possible, which is encouraging.

In fact, it’s almost always more encouraging than I expect it to be…

You wins some, you win some later

Is it in fact true that sometimes (often) non-zero effort leads to more? Yes it is, but also that’s not the point, and even if it doesn’t, non-zero is still non-zero.

Progress is still progress. Patience is still patience, and we’re playing the long game.

You win some, you win some more later.

Lowering the bar

I think we’ve talked about this theme many times over the years here, but it’s also so easy to forget.

Just as it can be hard to practice acknowledgment and legitimacy in challenging times, it is hard to remember that non-zero is a good starting point.

We are existing in challenging times (in the world, maybe also internally) and sometimes we have high expectations of ourselves, plus we exist in a world that rewards achieving and does not appreciate process.

But here we are, sometimes things are a struggle. They often are, for me. So what does non-zero look like?

Surprise inspiration

I cannot express exactly how inspiring non-zero number of anything can feel when it happens…but it is!

A non-zero amount of, for example…

hydrating
decluttering
dishes
de-piling
moving or stretching
journaling
cleaning
being outdoors
etc

Noticing is also on the list of non-zero things

As in: I noticed the non-zero things I did, and gave myself credit.

Non-zero credit to me! A thousand sparklepoints, at least….

This also shifts the focus.

Instead of saying, “Ugh I didn’t clean the house this weekend like I was going to”, I can say something else.

The non-zero cleaning I did this weekend included sweeping the floor, cleaning the sink, wiping down the kitchen cabinets, good job to me.

The connection between non-zero and hope

This amazing thought via a dance acquaintance:

“Finding hope is an important ambition these days, with the world on fire…”

So true, put it on a poster, graffiti it on buildings.

Finding hope is an important ambition, and for me, non-zero and all related practices of do less but do something, exist on the winding path towards hope.

What else would help?

What else would help?

In addition to all the powers of non-zero, I am also calling (in, on, up) all superpowers of…

patience
I play the long game
slow & steady wins the race, and either way: slow & steady
the cowboy abides
the clues are invited to the party (I only have to invite them)
loving clarity
there’s time
putting my faith in a tiny walk
what if slow is powerful
what if a little helps more than I think it will…

What else is or can be slow and powerful

Walking, cooking, baking, journaling, training…

Taking an entire day to make a pot of delicious Tunisian beans with braised spinach and onions for the week, letting them soften until they are impossibly delicious.

Yes, we are back to the slow motion montage, to chop wood, carry water, write words. One step and then the next step…

Not alone. Not empty. Non-zero.

Speaking of slow is powerful…

I was listening to the Samara Joy cover of Someone Like You

And it is sooo slow.

And I Need You To Turn To, Arik Einstein covering Elton John, which is slow in a different way.

What else is slow?

What else is slow, in a good way? Magic, hope, strength-building, spell-casting.

Salt, water, garlic, onion, whatever helps.

Walking for three minutes, heating water for tea, listening to a song, whatever helps.

Outside of time

Process, healing, rehabilitation, moving through time after a traumatic experience, or through an ongoing traumatic experience. Slow, but also: outside of time.

Non-zero progress can translate to big gains in this not-in-time space. And so we continue, one small symbolic step and the next, as indicated.

What appeals? What is small and doable? Let’s start there. I’m with you.

Small but important thank-yous

Thank you to Marisa, my wise mathematician friend, who brought non-zero into my vocabulary.

Thank you to Holly for reminding me that non-zero is powerful magic, whether I remember that or not.

Thank you to Amanda for reminding me that the big list of what is still undone is not a helpful thing to fall asleep to, when I can instead celebrate each non-zero win from my day.

And thank you to everyone who reads what I write here, you are the reason I sit down to write non-zero words and think non-zero thoughts so that we can play with them together and on our own.

Non-zero gratitude, and then a whole heartful, isn’t that beautiful? I think so too.

What are your wishes?

What are your wishes? I am lighting a candle for them, and for your own investigative process, and whatever treasures are revealed from the act of wishing.

Oh wow, what beautiful wishes. I love to wish wishes with you.

Thank you, everyone who reads, thank you to porch breaths, to the winding path, to all the many clues that land when they land, to receptivity, and to the tiny hope sparks that we keep cultivating, one breath at a time.

Come play in the comments, I appreciate the company

You are welcome to share anything that sparked for you while reading, or anything that helped or anything on your mind. Wishes you are wishing.

Or anything you’d like to toss into the wishing pot, the healing power of the collective is no small thing, companionship always helps.

You can wish any wishes that come to mind (come to heart?), or echo “Oh wow, what beautiful wishes!” for my wishes or anyone else’s.

I’m happy you’re here with me.

Bonus question

I’m making progress on bonus material about how I relate to time and map out my quarters, let me know if there anything you want to know more about specifically? Drop any questions or thoughts here…

Anyone who gives to Barrington’s Discretionary (see below) will get these by email as soon as I finish editing, I hope soon.

A request

If you received clues or perspective or want to send appreciation for the writing and work/play we do here, I appreciate it tremendously. Working on some stuff to offer this coming year, but between traumatic brain injury recovery & Long Covid, slow going.

I am accepting support (with joy & gratitude) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, it all helps with fixing the many broken things.

And if those aren’t options, I get it, you can light a candle for support (or light one in your mind!), share this with someone who loves words, tell people about these techniques, approaches and themes, send them here, it all helps, it’s all welcome, and I appreciate it and you so much. ❤️

And other autumnal delights

yellow slices of pear on a ceramic rectangle

Cheery yellow slices of a sweet Bartlett pear, on a ceramic trivet that my friend Miya made, with the excellent reminder to EAT MORE, plus a glass of my homemade spiced apple shrub that is the most delicious thing I’ve had in ages, here’s to pleasure…


A quick check-in

Hi friends, I hope you are safe and well, adjusted to the time change if that’s something that takes you extra-adjusting, that you are finding comforts, useful clues, some pleasure where you can, or whatever is most needed.

Today we are exploring Autumnal Delights, as well as what helps when I get overwhelmed, and my rebelliousness around holidays, perceived shoulds, forced gratitude. But also some thoughts about how we might find our way to something new and better…

And other autumnal delights

Noticing, what am I noticing?

Something I have noticed (previously, over time, and also very much lately)…

I can find myself in the moodiest mood, and I either try to find reasons or try to find solutions.

But actually, for me, a moody mood is usually a reflection of a need for blank space, in some form or another.

That is to say, there is too much going on in my line of vision in addition to inside my head, and it’s overwhelming.

I need to look at a clean surface, or gaze out at an open field with big sky.

Getting there

So, there’s the reason (not enough blank space), and the solution (make some blank space), but it takes me a while to get there, to the realization, to the remembering. And then sometimes I can figure out what else is upsetting me, and what would help.

I know what helps, but I forget.

And then, once I get there, it takes me even longer to remember how to access that blank space, wide open, steadying calming experience.

Sometimes I just move everything off my kitchen table, sometimes I go outside and look at the sky.

But I always feel better when I make space, literally as well as emotionally, to be in my big mood.

The usual dilemma (1)

Yes, I crave blank space to be able to function. A wall with nothing on it, an open vista, a clean table.

Versus the powerful ADHD urge to gather, and compile, to fill my space with dozens of reminders, because of course I am the most out of sight out of mind person who has ever lived, and what will I do, how will I know what to do next, without being reminded…

Forgetting of course that I also forget to perceive the reminders as reminders, and only perceive them as blocking my view of [the thing I crave, what is it, oh right, blank space].

The usual dilemma (2)

If you’ve been hanging out here for any amount of time, you know that I am intensely allergic to the holiday season, that I dread American Thanksgiving, and Christmas…

These two days are tied for number one in the category of Loneliest Day Of The Year.

And you also know that I am on an ongoing quest to make them better, or hate them less, or get through them with less distress, I don’t know exactly.

Sometimes my calendar is too much like my kitchen table, cluttered with reminders, but not enough space to plan.

Progress report

As you know, I love a feast day, I love planning a menu, and I mostly love being the lone cowboy of the bunkhouse.

So I am trying to view or perceive American Thanksgiving (next Thursday but really that whole weekend) as an opportunity to go through a chrysalis of sorts.

I want to perceive this time as a passage of my choosing rather rather than a hellish pitfall in the calendar, a place in the year that I dread.

And so we begin with questions…

What would make for a cozy, contented Hermitsgiving?

What supports a playful Zerofucksgiving?

What makes for a calm, sweet day of Naps-having?

What do I already know about this?

What are the known knowns?

The Known Knowns

I think the main thing I want for Hermitsgiving 2023 is a clean house and good food and a clear schedule for chrysalis activities so I can avoid social media and other traps…

Though maybe those wishes are also traps, or they can be, if I allow them to become expectations or shoulds.

Oof, and I want to get my vacuum fixed if it’s fixable or replace if it’s not because it’s giving off a burning smell which scares me, and all this means venturing into far-away civilization before pre-holiday chaos intensifies..

But mainly I am thinking about this Hermitsgiving chrysalis in terms of how it fits into the bigger picture of my year.

And I am considering the humbling question of WHAT DO I WANT, as opposed to reacting to external circumstances forced upon me.

What do I want from this holiday?

I think for me a lot of this exploration is related how reactive I am, because yes, I am a rebellious person who does not like any of the external structures, and I only like my own structures…

Can I find a way to enjoy having a feast day next Thursday without being mad at the world (or really, this country, this culture) for forcing it on me?

What would help me step away from the perception that the whole world is conspiring to remind me that I am all alone while everyone else is gathering, and instead, with great love and intention, choose this chrysalis time for myself…

Can I calmly choose towards the peaceful solitude of the cowboy bunkhouse, that big open sky that I know I crave anyway?

Yes, alone and quiet is what I wish for most anyway, so why am I fighting it…?

Porch breaths

It isn’t too cold yet so each evening I go outside and take porch breaths.

I love the scent, the crisp air, taking a moment to connect with my tree friends and mountain friends, the great expanse, the fields, the gates, the guardians of place.

Are we calling this a gratitude practice? Probably not, I think I’m allergic to that too, but also yes, sure,
it’s that too. It’s an honor to be here, breathing, alive, taking porch breaths at the end of another day, we made it.

Porch breaths are an autumnal delight.

In the deep cold of winter, sometimes I will open the door for just one, but right now I can take as many as I please. A miracle in its own right.

Flavor and pleasure

Some of you know that I run a test kitchen for the holidays, where I try out as many recipes as I have energy and patience to try, choosing from the ones that appeal most, until I land on some favorites, some True Yeses.

The theme of the Hermitsgiving Test Kitchen this year is And Other Autumnal Delights.

I made a spiced apple shrub with brown sugar, date vinegar, and a homemade toasted spice blend, it is so delicious I almost cannot handle it.

It is pear season, and pears rank high among the autumnal delights. I made a pear crisp with some green chile, because for me a good punch in the face (a metaphorical one, via the tastebuds) is also an autumnal delight, and also IDK IDK, sometimes I just need to feel things, you know?

What else?

I made a chocolate ginger cake (vegan, gluten free), and it was almost too good. Upsetting, honestly. This is what I want from my autumnal delights actually. Yes. Be life-ruiningly delicious.

Be life-ruiningly delicious or gtfo.

This is what I want from so many things, actually.

Destroy me with pleasure. Go big or go home. Go big and go home.

Back to the bunkhouse, with a magical pot of green chile stew, and a hot cider cocktail or mocktail.

What is good about Hermitsgiving?

Or, what would help me see it as something I am choosing towards, and not something I am stuck with, a consolation prize, a making-do?

I get to eat exactly what I want, at exactly the time I am hungry. This is important.

Even better, I do not have to accommodate anyone else’s preferences in any way (food, politics, anything at all), and there is no need to be polite, to placate, to do anything other than what I wish to do.

Popcorn for breakfast? Why not.

Dessert first? I insist.

What is joy?

I have spent so much time thinking about everything I dislike about the holiday season and this holiday in particular that I forgot to pause to think about what is joyful, meaningful, desirable, what I can focus on instead.

What would put me into that porch-breath state of wanting to give thanks, in these hard and scary times, these super intense times when everything feels wildly accelerated and too busy, too loud, too dangerous.

Or, if not joy and not thankfulness, then what brings me closer to Operation Winter Cheer?

How can I add cheer, layer on cheeriness, make this a cozy and comfortable time of meeting myself with more kindness, more patience, more sweetness, more appreciation?

A practice of keeping company

I am wondering about maybe next week, instead of posting an essay here, just having a cozy gathering space for anyone who wants to drop in and hang out in the comments (you are welcome to use an assumed name, whether for safety or playfulness or both)…

And that way we can have some together along with the holiday, maybe wish some wishes or call in some superpowers or just notice what we are noticing, make some space, mark the day, take some breaths.

You can tell me what you are eating, and I will try to take pictures of whatever I end up cooking, assuming I have energy to cook. It might just be popcorn and leftovers, we will see.

What do you think? Next Thursday? Here?

There are a lot of ways to be festive, and sometimes my feast days are more pensive than festive, but what if that’s part of marking a holiday too…

Let’s conjure up some autumnal delights…

Or for all southern-hemisphere friends, maybe these are springtime delights for you, rewrite as you see fit.

Here I am thinking about a warm wool hat, sweater weather, getting on a heating pad to stretch.

The vegan chocolate salted caramel sauce that I make for a special occasion, and really, can’t anything be a special occasion? Sometimes the desire to have an occasion is its own occasion.

Desire is its own occasion. Being alive is an occasion.

What is warming, what sweetens, what comforts, what softens, what strengthens, what fortifies me? And what reminds me to go on the porch and breathe?

Let’s call in the delights!

What are your wishes?

What are your wishes? I am lighting a candle for them, and for your own investigative process, and whatever treasures are revealed from the act of wishing.

Oh wow, what beautiful wishes. I love to wish wishes with you.

Thank you, everyone who reads, thank you to porch breaths, to the winding path, to all the many clues that land when they land, to receptivity, and to the tiny hope sparks that we keep cultivating, one breath at a time.

Come play in the comments, I appreciate the company

You are welcome to share anything that sparked for you while reading, or anything that helped or anything on your mind. Wishes you are wishing.

Or anything you’d like to toss into the wishing pot, the healing power of the collective is no small thing, companionship always helps.

You can wish any wishes that come to mind (come to heart?), or echo “Oh wow, what beautiful wishes!” for my wishes or anyone else’s.

I’m happy you’re here with me.

Bonus question

I’m making progress on bonus material about how I relate to time and map out my quarters, let me know if there anything you want to know more about specifically? Drop any questions or thoughts here…

Anyone who gives to Barrington’s Discretionary (see below) will get these by email as soon as I finish editing, I hope soon.

A request

If you received clues or perspective or want to send appreciation for the writing and work/play we do here, I appreciate it tremendously. Working on some stuff to offer this coming year, but between traumatic brain injury recovery & Long Covid, slow going.

I am accepting support (with joy & gratitude) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, it all helps with fixing the many broken things.

And if those aren’t options, I get it, you can light a candle for support (or light one in your mind!), share this with someone who loves words, tell people about these techniques, approaches and themes, send them here, it all helps, it’s all welcome, and I appreciate it and you so much. ❤️

The Fluent Self