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31 December 2020

Ending in the Middle

Uh, well.  Words continue to fail.  But I'll give it a go.

How to properly synthesize a year that has come and gone mostly like mush?  It's probably not possible, and yet our collective culture remains imbued with the compulsion to try.  Myself included.  More so than usual, TV presenters and news anchors alike have been signing off their final broadcasts of the year with a far more noticeable, and often overt, "good riddance" than the traditional look back.  Fare thee (not so) well.

If you're familiar with my New Year's Eve posts — and frankly, even if you're not — you're probably aware that it's been a good long while since they've had that "holiday letter" quality where I actually recap the highlights of each month individually in any meaningful sense.  I've never really been able to maintain that in the best of times, and — I'm not sure you've noticed — this ain't that.  Sure, I often go through spells of a few weeks to a month or so where I feel I'm deeply uninteresting, but this year, I'm not even sure I could pick out much from my life about the average day from late-March through June.  That, in itself, is pretty remarkable.

So, yeah, after muddling through those first few months of the Covid-19 pandemic (which should need no further context), by July, I'd learned a bit about what works for me and what doesn't when it comes to dealing with the "new normal".  Although aspects of my apartment had honestly not been serving me too well for some time, it's amazing how quickly a living space can almost completely stop working for you when circumstances change and you end up having to use it quite differently.

Fortunately, I also spent much of the extra time at home knowing I would soon need to move from my apartment of 7 years.  Combined with plenty of time in the space and few things to distract me from myself, that provided sufficient motivation to help me cultivate a level of self-awareness that would be necessary to plan a more amenable setup in the new place.

Unfortunately: Moving during a pandemic.  Still not thrilled about that, honestly.  Thankfully, right around a local minimum of cases, which made essential travel and assistance from family possible.

More recently, though, through the holiday season, it's been worse than ever, nearly everywhere in the US.  For my part, the responsible approach has meant a very different holiday period: Christmas Eve Chips-'n'-Salsa over Zoom, though my folks started without me!  One Christmas family gathering that definitely had a time appointed… and then just not followed through upon.  And trying very hard to arrange for some sort of human connection time each day so as to keep my mental health afloat.

There have been positive moments: One reason my immediate family eagerly dug into the chips without me at first was because they had just come out from the cold, having celebrated a brief and "socially distant" Christmas Eve service with members of their church in the parking lot of its brand new building — finally complete enough after rebuilding from a 22 July 2018 fire which I didn't even mention here (I told you I'm bad at this!) that in any other circumstance, it would have been a major celebration.  Instead, services are being recorded inside for the foreseeable future.

Music Camp had to be cancelled of course, but we did a virtual thing which was centering.  I've had some professional and personal accomplishments, too, but it still really hasn't felt right to highlight them amidst (gestures broadly) THIS.

Of course, as I've said before, the end of a year is hardly ever the "end" of anything, but just a reflection point — and, hopefully, an inflection point when necessary.  It certainly feels truer than ever now, heading from what might as well be, and in some ways truly feels like, the 306th of March into the 307th.

I've learned a lot about myself in the last few months, and the work on that — just as our collective work with ending this pandemic — will continue well into 2021.  All in all, I think I've actually been managing reasonably well.

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14 May 2020

The Calm Between

Words fail.  But we try anyway.

By this point, it's cliché and a bit trite to say that we're in unprecedented times, in the midst of an ever-changing situation, living through history… but it's absolutely true.  There were certainly jokes early on, when we were comparatively uninformed, but no one really expected at the start of the year that we'd be in the midst of a global pandemic a few short months later.

Locally, we've come a long way. In just a few minutes, the "Stay at Home" order for Pittsburgh and many surrounding areas, which has been in place since the evening of 23 March, will officially be lifted.  Fifty-two days and four hours in total, just shy of one-seventh of the entire year.  A lot has happened since then, and a lot hasn't.  Events postponed or cancelled.  Plans scuppered, classes virtualized, and goals deferred.  But there's also a long way to go: more testing and tracing is needed.  There will be future flare-ups in our epidemics and, inevitably, more resultant deaths.  May we have the collective and individual strength to face that challenge and keep it manageable.  For now, I'm trying to savor the occasional liminal moment of calm in between all the uncertainty, doubt, fear, and anxiety.

In work and in life, it's been easier than ever to lose sight of my direct impacts.  New patterns continue to emerge, and on average, I know I'm doing okay and contributing positively.  But on any given day, the reality is that everything is, at best, just a little harder.  And the thing about everything being harder is that every thing is harder.  And those things add up.

So it was with great relief that I found another piece of purportedly-free clipart without too much trouble so I could bake another bloggy cake for a special birthday blog.  With 2020 so far being a year replete with almost every cancellation imaginable, it's important to try to keep the easy streaks alive.  It's already digital; no further social distancing is required.  ;)

Random tangent: If this blog were to be anthropomorphized even further and ascribed a female gender, I suppose you could say it's celebrating a quarantinceañera.  That is a portmanteau that exists now.


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01 January 2020


Twenty-twenty.  A new decade.  Yes, even in a technical sense.  No, I don't remember having this same argument ten years ago.  I'm not sure why it's even a matter of debate.

Just like last night, I'm really not sure what to write here today.  I'd love to mark the occasion somehow, but for a number of reasons — not least of which is some work deadlines I have to resume tending to in a few hours — I have not felt up to the task.

One thing I do know is that I'm left with a similar sense of je ne sais quoi right now as I had when I embarked on the last decade.  (Although looking back, I guess it was nine years ago that I wrote that.  Bah.  The convergence of math and culture are hard.)  In the latter half of the decade now past, I embarked upon my career, so inevitably questions now arise such as "What more am I going to do with it?"  And since I'm about to reach a power-of-two birthday, I'm also thinking a lot about life more broadly.

Not that I'm itching to change all that much.  Not right now, and not all at once, certainly.  After all, just like I wrote then, today is little more than the day after last.  But years and decades are long spans of time, and I certainly don't want to stagnate.  (Looking far back, I'm reassured that I didn't actually stagnate as much in as many aspects of my life these past 9 or 10 years as the day-to-day myopic view has often convinced me.)

In any case, 2020 certainly feels more momentous than 2010 (or even 2011) did.  Maybe that's just because it's been talked about for literal years, much like 2016, since basically the day after the last US presidential election.

Or perhaps, as you may have guessed from my doodle, it just has that Barbara Walters ring to it:

Whatever the case may be, I know there's a lot to come in this year and this decade.  Here's hoping it's mostly for good and growth.


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