Jakub Schikaneder (1855–1924), Podzimní červánky (Autumn Red) 

I am tired. I bet you are tired, too. This has been a weird year. Has it even been a year? Has it been a thousand years? I feel like I’ve aged immensely in these last 365 days and yet…I’ve experienced nothing. I can’t quite convince myself I’ve done nothing, I won’t allow myself to think that. No matter how furiously that self-effacing little demon on my shoulder tries to bully me into thinking it! I have idle tendencies, but I’m not lazy.

And I don’t mean to say that you are lazy if this year has been too much for you and you can’t function. No. But “I’m not lazy” is a mantra I have to repeat to myself, internally, all the time until I believe it. I grew up thinking I was lazy. I was told in so many ways that I was lazy. I came to believe that I am, indeed, a lazy, indolent person. Perhaps because I am slow to move and act. Often times this has to do with fear and anxiety. Also because I have a tendency to act only when I am ready to act. Don’t rush me! Perhaps also because I am not hugely ambitious, at least in the ways that the rest of the world, and perhaps my generation, define success. But I am not lazy! A few years ago, I made myself look at my progress and motivation and drive, and dammit, I am not lazy. But I still remind myself of this, every day.

Artist: Sonia Lazo

I am always working on something. Baking, gardening, knitting, researching, writing, sometimes even making myself do the things that scare me! I mean, I published a book this year! This year, of all years! That counts for something right? But at the same time, I don’t feel like any of it counts at all, like it is entirely possible that this year hasn’t actually counted for anything. Although I have done things, learned things, made progress on, and completed personal projects… I have not gone anywhere new or exciting (or even old or boring) or seen or met anyone. All of these things are different marks that add up on the yardstick for which I measure my years, and this year is terribly off balance.

This past summer, I think I felt that keenly, and so I overloaded myself with tasks and projects and all manner of what I suppose amounts to busy work. I may not have been able to travel to see friends or family, but I dabbled in a multitude of cuisines, I perfected my sourdough starter, I finished a knitting project that I have been working on for five years–I can’t say that I didn’t do anything. I did all of the things. But…it all feels pointless? Wasted? And now it’s December and the year is ending in just over two weeks and I am tired. And I need to rest. Why is that so hard to admit?

On the knitting front: I think this is the first time I’ve worn something I knit in over a decade!

While I love to knit, I discovered that it’s more about the process and the journey for me, than it is about the destination and end result. When I am done with a project I set it aside until I feel I’ve found the right recipient, or, more frequently, they reveal themselves to me mid-stitch, before the pattern is even complete. I’m never sad to say goodbye to these projects because they were never meant for me to keep.

This sweater, though…maybe it’s going to stay with me a while. I hadn’t knit a sweater in a very long time. I tend to stick to things that don’t actually have to fit, like intricate shawls and the like. Measurements mystify me! But I was gifted a book of patterns late in 2019, so I thought I’d give it a another go. It was probably a fluke (because I did no maths, and much like merging onto the highway, I just close my eyes and prayed for the best!) and wouldn’t you know? It was perfect!

Of course, living in Florida, there are not many opportunities to wear such things. But today is chilly and here we are! Warm and cozy and it fits beautifully.

I think this one has found its home.

This was meant to be a divorce blanket for my baby sister. She could have gotten married and divorced again in the 4-5 years it took me to knit this!

Each and every square was knit with my deepest heart’s love for this beautiful, brilliant, brave woman, and with wishes and dreams that her life as she goes forward is exactly as she wants it to be. And more or less it has been, I think, and utterly without the help of this blanket! Well, it’s the thought that counts, anyway.

Thank you to the many friends who have contributed yarn to this project over the years. I appreciate you all for your help.

Reading: Though I’m a life-long fiend for all things horror, my love for the genre does tend to wax and wane. Sometimes I become a bit unplugged, only to dive back in with a voracious ferocity that’s probably a bit alarming from an outsider’s perspective.

Recently I was gifted a copy of Matt Glasby’s The Book of Horror: The Anatomy of Fear on Film, and it has marvelously rekindled my love for all things horrid, haunting, and harrowing. Glasby examines some of the most frightening films created and explores with us what it is exactly, that makes them so scary. Which sounds like it might be a dry, scholarly affair, but it’s not even a bit! The analysis is tightly written, wryly humorous, and exceptionally insightful, and, coupled with the spare elegance of Barney Bodoano’s striking black and white artwork—I’m utterly immersed and enthralled and I haven’t been able to put it down.

The advent of the winter months are casting their strange spell and making me forget, as I do every year, that baking in Florida in November is pretty much the same as baking here in July. Still, the heart wants what the heart wants (even though the heart doesn’t even care for sweets) and so that means Swedish cardamom buns and cranberry scones.

I really don’t have much to say about them, but I did think they were nice photos!

I have been feeling some kind of way in the last few weeks. I can’t put my finger on what it is, or why…it’s somewhat inexplicable and mostly inexpressible and it’s for sure not a particularly nice feeling.

The closest I can get at it is this: I have been hearing various friends at various points in time say that they need to delete their Facebook accounts or stop scrolling through Instagram or maybe even stay off of social media entirely, because it makes them feel crappy about themselves. They compare themselves to friends and acquaintances who have perhaps had more achievements and successes, who have gotten married or had children, who have traveled the world, who seem beautiful, valued, fulfilled, and happy…and in seeing all of this, they find that they are coming up short in their own lives and wonder where they went wrong. Rather than be bombarded by their social media reminding them of these short-comings every time the page refreshes, they delete these platforms from their devices, removing the temptation to subject themselves to these feelings.

I thought that I never really understood or properly empathized with the dissatisfaction or disappointment or depression/despair they experienced from these interactions (oh, the arrogance!) because I believed that I measured my success differently. I genuinely believed I wasn’t paying that much attention to what everyone else was doing. Or if I was, I was happy to see that they were doing well. And I am!

But I suspect…I’m more attentive than I thought I was to what X/Y/Z person was progressing with, making strides toward and ultimately achieiving and succeeding in. And inevitably, we relate information about others to ourselves, and it would appear that I am not immune to that, no matter how much I imagined myself to be! And while I might not covet the lifestyles and timelines of say, that enthusiastic person posting pictures from their themed-engagement photo shoot, or the third-time mommy-to-be celebrating milestones in her kid’s lives, or the career woman who was just promoted to Regional Director of Whatever…I do take notice of the various ways in which the people whose interests align with mine are putting themselves out there and achieving things. And I wonder what is wrong with me that my expectations for myself are so vastly different and what opportunities I might be missing because of that.

I guess when it’s stripped down to essentials, what I’ve been feeling of late is the dull hum of inadequacy. It’s been buzzing through my brain at a frequency I couldn’t quite attune to, but in writing about it just now, I think I’ve dialed it in. And I hate to blame social media, but it’s so easy to lose ourselves in what we think we should be doing/wanting/having because we see those individuals whom we admire involved in all those things…but are those things really the things we want for ourselves? Or is the algorithm just brainwashing us into thinking so? And so maybe it is better to step back. To remember who we are and what we want for ourselves, and use that clarity to both connect with our identity and cultivate our self-esteem.

Psychology today writes that:

“A stable sense of self comes from thinking about who you are absent any feedback. What are your values and preferences in the absence of anybody knowing about them? Can you be proud of the person you are who isn’t publicly posted?”

So I can certainly see how taking a step back from Instagram and Facebook can provide some time for self-reflection, to strip away all the clutter that you’re constantly barraged and the constant need to “create/curate content”.

I don’t know where I’m going with any of this navel-gazing, because while social media creates these uncomfortable and upsetting comparisons for me, it’s also a source of so many wonderful connections. And while I realize that my efforts fall far short of anything that would be described as a journalistic or literary tour-de-force, I do like to try to keep my finger on the pulse of things, so to speak, for writing purposes– and social media platforms can be such an amazing source for the sorts of tidbits that I like to stay on top of. So what can I do? Just keep it all in perspective, I guess. As poet and writer Lisa Marie Basile wrote on Instagram recently: “The universe is nearly 14 billion years old. I promise that bitch on Instagram doesn’t matter.”

Seen too, just today, via Sarah Faith Gottesdiener’s Instagram:

It is a fucking relief to dive deep into your own well, to move forward in your own integrity, and forge your own path. It is a breath of fresh air to acknowledge your own needs, dreams, and particular talents. We all have our own unique roles to inhabit and our own particular calls to heed. The more we stay in our own energy, the easier it is to attract what is for us. Do you understand?” (Read the rest of it here, it’s exactly perfect.)

I think I do understand. And so maybe you will be seeing a little less of me in my familiar haunts. You can always find me here, though.

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