Present Day, March 28th, 2020

FURLOUGH – day 1A

It does not seem right to refer to this as furlough Day 2. It is Saturday. So I would not be going to work even if I had a job to go to. So we will call it day 1A. Tomorrow day 1B. Then back to the count on Monday.

Spring in my hometown is a bit of a weather roller coaster. Temperatures from day-to-day can vary by as much as 30 or more degrees making you unsure of what time of year you are truly experiencing. However, the past two days have definitely been spring. Mid-70s for highs. Sleeping with the windows open at night thanks to seasonably warm lows. Which makes for good opportunities to get out and enjoy some sunshine. Especially since snow is in the forecast for next week. I told you things could vary!

Today we, the housebound family, decided to go out for a hike. We took about a 30-minute drive to one of our traditional hiking spots, one of the few still open to the public in the midst of this chaos. It was reasonably crowded, as was to be expected, but maintaining our social distancing was not an issue as we would simply step off the trail to let others pass or the same courtesy was extended to us. Unbeknownst to us, there is a new parking lot for this trail. We parked at our usual spot unaware of the new lot. This would subsequently become a problem.

As we passed the midway point of our hike and made the turn for home, we discovered that there were new signs along the trail that referenced the direction to the parking lot. Of course, unaware that there is a new parking lot, we simply took it as new signage routing us through a new trail back to our old lot. Well, that’s what we thought for about 30 to 45 minutes. That is about how long it took us to become fairly convinced and conduct our own GPS check to realize that we were not heading anywhere near our lot. At this point, the options were pretty simple. Either double back the way we came or use our GPS to navigate ourselves to a place that we thought would likely be our parking lot. So off we set through the overgrowth and trees in hopes of finding our way back home.

My wife directed this entire part of our adventure. I simply tried to remain calm, quiet, and not become a stressor in the midst of a stressful situation. At one point we all had to climb through a barbed-wire fence, which was really no problem for anyone other than my fat self. And in the end, we might have picked up a tick or two. Other than that, we were none the worse for wear. Some extra hiking. Some extra time. Some extra sweat.

All-in-all, the pace of Covid-19 life suits me. There is no reason to get into a hurry because all we are all doing is heading back home anyway. Time is in abundance. As long as I can occupy my mind and keep it from racing away, this is how I prefer to live. Slow and steady. No rush. No urgency.

As long as I have to be furloughed…which I am…then I want to enjoy the pace. I know it cannot stay this way forever. But at least for now, it is a chance to find a place of peace. A place of ease. A place of comfort. A place that I have often dreamed of, and now seem to be living in.

Present Day, March 4th, 2018

As someone with a constantly racing mind, a new found practice of mindfulness has been a welcome place of rest. It is still very much a “practice” for me, and one that I struggle to successfully achieve for as short as a 10 minute period. However, I look forward to it each and every day and feel the calmer for it on the other side. At the same time, it does cause me a significant predicament.

I think we are all wired and prone to have an acute awareness of contrast. For example, severe changes in the weather. The audio launch of a rock concert. A bite into a particularly spicy dish. From level ground to a steep incline during a forest hike. We tune into these things, and they cause a sensory response in our bodies. Be it touch, hearing, taste, or even sight and smell. Contrast is simply a part of how we differentiate and how things are set apart in our minds and feelings.

The practice of mindfulness magnifies a rather extreme contrast in my living environment. I am already rather introverted and silent. I already value solitude and quiet above the average person. And I already struggle with the, at times, lack of appreciation other people might share for these same qualities. Couple that with the “contrast” of mindfulness sessions to regular life…and I can go from a state of peace to set on edge pretty rapidly. I know, totally contrary to the whole purpose of my mindfulness practice.

In fact, just finding a peaceful and alone time or location to engage in as little as a 10-minute meditation can be a challenge on some days.

The company I work for is owned by a Japanese corporation and therefore utilizes many of their workplace ideals. One example is the open workspace. Picture Dunder Mifflin from “The Office”. No cubicle walls. No offices except for the few at the top of the food chain. It is also a bi-lingual environment. Meaning that I am often working at my desk with a full volume conversation taking place over my left shoulder in Japanese, and a full volume conversation taking place over my right in English. Mind you, neither of which involve me or are of any importance to me. This environment makes my lunchtime mindfulness session 1) invaluable and 2) often immediately forgotten upon returning back to work. The contrast can be overwhelming.

This is my predicament. The practice designed to bring me peace can highlight an overall lack of peace. The practice designed to help me with a singularity of focus can highlight an ever run amuck mind. The practice designed to calm my life can often do little more than emphasize a greater lack of calm in my moment to moment existence.

For now, I look forward to my 10 minutes a day. And work on accepting the other 23 hours and 50 minutes in all their chaos.

Present Day, November 12, 2017

There is a strange but somewhat consistent and often proven out as true phenomenon surrounding death. I have witnessed it myself. It typically centers around the passing of an elderly person. In this scenario, it is often a grandma or grandpa who has been on their deathbed for some time hanging on by god only knows what power. Everyone, including the medical professionals, anticipate that their last heartbeat would have…should have…already occurred or take place at this very moment. But it doesn’t.

In fact, it is not until a certain visitor arrives. Maybe a loved one from out of town, an estranged child, or just someone with more of a life than the ability to simply stand vigil. It is with their arrival that things begin to change. Yet the arrival is not enough. Typically there is a very specific act, let’s call it “words of release” that are uttered…and death comes. Almost instantly.

“I made it grandma. You don’t have to fight anymore. I love you. Goodbye.”

“It’s okay dad. Be at peace.”

“We promise to take care of everything. Please don’t worry anymore. Just rest.”

And the battle to stay alive ceases. The last breath is drawn. Tranquility comes.

At my worst, this is how I feel. Like I am just waiting to be released. To be freed to quit fighting the demons in my head and find peace. Maybe it is just a survival mechanism or subconscious form of self-preservation, but without that release, I struggle to take those final steps. I envision them. I feel them in the depths of my being. But I am held back by something or someone who will not allow me to “go.”

I think the suicidal urges and ideations of someone with a mental illness are maybe hardest to understand from the outside looking in. The darkness of them is impossible for me to put into words. The tangible “realness” of each impulse.

I have just come through a rather dark period. I mood chart daily and have a level that indicates a particularly bad, desperate kind of day. After having only two of them through a four-month period I had six of them in three weeks. It was rough. And there were days when I just wanted to be released. I just wanted those closest to me to indicate they would be fine without me and that I could finally end the pain. To just hear the words that would allow me to end my torment.

They weren’t spoken and I survived another fall. Is it just me? Does anyone else know how this feels? Has anyone ever longed to know that it’s okay to never again want to feel not okay?

I wonder at times how my life will end. Will I get old? Face cancer? End up in a hospital or hospice care? Whatever the scenario, I think I will be holding on loosely. And when the words come…I will go. Quickly.