Press and hold

I was having trouble with my internet service the other day. At one point the technician, Sanchez, had me press and hold the router’s reset button for 15 seconds. Fifteen Mississippi! He made it clear: it’s not enough to press the reset button. You have to hold it in.

A metaphor for vacation if I’ve ever heard one! It always takes me a while to stop noticing the absence of inboxes and anxieties that compete for my attention in daily life, to relax enough to feel genuinely at ease and not like I’m just slacking off. A snow day is nice here and there. Weekends mean more time with friends. But they aren’t enough for me to reset.

Soon though, hopefully! I’ve got a solid winter break awaiting me — two full calendar weeks, plus this weekend — and I’m getting ready to hold that button. Slack? Signed out. Twitter? Deleted. Out of office reply? Set and set. Even as I type this, I find myself wanting to check Twitter, or my email, but for what? Just habit.

My new camera’s1 manual informs me that it can only remember the time and date for about four days with the battery removed. Then it gets reset. Pull my battery, baby. I don’t want to know what day it is.

  1. Went with the Ricoh GR III. I’m not confident in using it yet but I’m taking to it quickly.

Endless shelves

Dropbox is raising their prices, as is seemingly every other digital service of late. So I’ve been scaling back where I can. Dropped Netflix and Hulu down a level, canceled a few subscriptions here and there. There’s an intentional inertia to these services (eels, John calls them) that makes them hard to shake. If I get rid of Dropbox I have to rejigger how 1Password works, for starters, and I can’t even remember what all other services I have syncing through it. What will break if I stop using this? Do I even feel like figuring that out? It’s exactly the kind of annoying project I hate taking on, but if I don’t take it on, the procrastination gets rubbed in my face every month to the tune of $11.99 + tax.

And that’s just the practical inertia. There’s also the sort of emotional intertia that explains why I still have unopened boxes in my closet that have been with me in three different homes now. The mental energy one needs to go through old shit, to actually look at it and process it, is not an energy I tend to have in abundance. That infinite closet of cloud storage means we can pile all kinds of shit in there. You don’t even have to stack it if you don’t want to! The shelves go on and on and on. A rummage sale of remnants of your own digital life.

But I am trying to shake it, trying to have less, even digitally. It got dark fast earlier today (the today of when I wrote this); a storm rolling in. I found I was able to redirect energy I’d thought to use on a run to finally start cleaning up Dropbox, the biggest of my infinite closets. Abandoned projects, abandoned blog posts, photos of when I was fat, or sad, or fat and sad, or with people I don’t get along with anymore, or that I regret losing touch with. And good things, too, of course; things I’m proud to have written and made and had completely forgotten about … and hey, all of my hoarded pug photos are now in one place. More of a timesaver than you’d imagine.

It’s weirdly emotional work, just tapping away at my arrow keys, hitting command+delete on every third item or so. But it’s healing in a way. Digital or analog, it feels nice to unburden, to put things in the trash. It wasn’t taking up space, but it had weight. Feeling lighter already.

Fits and starts

My habits go in fits and starts. Discipline is hard for me. But I stick with more than I don’t, eventually, and I’ve learned to be easier on myself when things slip. I used to get frustrated about my bullet journaling habit, for instance. For a week, two, three, I’d use the shit out of that thing, and then suddenly, for no particular reason, a week would go by where I didn’t even carry it with me. And then I’d have a mini-existential crisis about it. No good.

Like anything I intend to do regularly — exercising, writing in my journal, day planning, practicing piano, eating vegetables, whatever — I think I’d be a happier, healthier, and more productive person if I did them every single day. And I probably would. But I know I’m a happier person if I don’t beat myself up about not living up to that standard.

Moving forward by degrees is still moving forward.

Why not?

One of several moments when I should have turned around on a long dumb dangerous drive.

I wrote this a month ago, but felt like I couldn’t quite finish the thought, so it just sat on my desktop, a taunting little text file called “why not”. So I’m just going to take my own advice and post what I’ve got. Why not?

It’s been a month since Mom died. I have made it, very much by design, a busy month.

I’m grieving, of course, but I decided I wasn’t going to let grief steal another year of my life. A friend asked me last night what it feels like when it hits. I said it feels like I’m a cartoon character who’s had an anvil dropped on my head. Just absolutely, suddenly, crushingly stunned. I’ve had to put my hands out to steady myself on walls when walking, struck by some fleeting thought, some innocent memory. So I’m grieving. But I just could not, was not going to do it balled up on my couch, alone. I grieved the loss of an old life during my divorce, grieved when mom first got her cancer diagnosis, grieved the death of a beloved teacher, the death of a best friend, the loss of friendships, of partnerships, of a cherished relationship … I’m tired from it. I don’t want to feel like the shape of my life is outlined by loss. So I knew I had to make new things, keep going, trying, fighting. And I’m doing lots of new things, things that seemed scary before. Why not?

I drove Dad’s truck back, a 2,000 mile road trip through bad weather to clear my head, because I wanted to. Why not?

I’ve shot seven rolls of film, which is seven more than I’ve ever shot in my life. And I’ve been sharing them, and bought a new old film camera, and already got some prints made and am scheming on hanging a show somewhere. I’ve always wanted to have an art show somewhere. Why not?

I wrote a new song, and memorized it, and took it out and performed it at an open mic night, which is a thing I have never done before even though it’s been a goal of mine for years. Why not?

I got a new therapist. I’d been meaning to for a year, made some half-hearted inquiries, never followed through. This time I got it done in an hour, made the appointment, went, set some goals. Why not?

I was feeling sad that I’m not better friends with someone I used to date, so I invited them to lunch on a whim and told them exactly that. Why not?

One of the last gifts Mom gave me was courage. It’s almost impossible to imagine something that will be harder than that night a month ago, watching her fade away and die and forget who she was, who we were. Which isn’t to say I’m immune to nerves, nor even especially confident – I literally shook with nerves the entire time at the open mic. But it feels like I’ve been through the worst, and lived. And, while I don’t believe this in a literal sense, I do feel Mom’s presence in my life still, encouraging me and rooting for me. I miss you like crazy, Mom. I love you bunches. Gonna keep giving ’em hell. Why not?

A good little start

Gratitude journals seem to work wonders for folks. It’s not quite my bag but I am always trying to notice, to at least tell myself in the moment: this is good. Today? Now? My day is off to a good little start, and I am grateful.

It’s above zero and the sun is shining, which feels downright tropical compared to the past week. I checked Twitter when I woke up, in bed, on my phone … not the first thing I checked, but one of the first. That’s a dumb thing that I should not do, but I got lucky: someone had said something nice about my book. So that put a little spring in my step, along with the weather. Then, walking to the coffeeshop, the neighborhood vintage shop guy recognized me and said hello. He was at a stoplight, piloting the big maroon moving truck they use to haul furniture. I quite like that kind of thing, clerks and bartenders and barbers that remember my face, sometimes even my name, that say hello, how’s it been. Helps a guy feel like he’s supposed to be where he is and is where he’s supposed to be. Grateful.

Saw a pug being walked. All black. Too far away to say hello, but grateful, nonetheless.

It’s 90s alternative on the coffee shop Pandora. The Cure. Smashing Pumpkins. Radiohead. Pixies, now, as I’m writing this. Coulda been butt rock. Coulda been Mumford. Grateful.

THEN I got an email with a Lyft ride credit for rides to First Avenue, which is timely as I caught a ticket to the Never Better 10th Anniversary show. It’s warming up but it’s not warm enough to take the bus to a show without a coat. I’ve got some dancing energy I gotta get out tonight, so Lyft it is. Grateful.

The coffee’s good. The half and half is fresh. I’m having a good hair day. Grateful, grateful, grateful.

Pictures from the drive home

Drove Dad’s truck back home to Minneapolis after Mom died. It’s my truck now. 200,000+ miles and a lot of rough edges, but we gave it some love. Replaced the cap on the tailgate, new front valance (the plastic bottom half of the front bumper), new CarPlay stereo, cleaned what was cleanable, new brake pads, a few other fixes I’m not remembering.

It was good to have a project, something to keep us talking, working, focused.

I don’t know why but I just couldn’t bring myself to get on a plane and fly home after it all. Too simple, too sudden. I’d been in the house down there for weeks. Anchored. Waiting. Home felt like something I had to earn again.

Found one of Mom’s old cameras, a Nikon FunTouch 4, while helping Dad tidy. It’s nothing special. I don’t even remember it that well (I picture her more with the Canon Elph). But I felt drawn to it, so I took it. Picked up some film at Walgreens and tried to remember how film cameras work on the road back.

I spent half the trip full of adrenaline, the other half exhausted. Bad weather, worse roads, dumb drivers, dumber deer. It wasn’t fun. (I wasn’t in a mental place for fun anyway.) But it was right.

Things that aren’t money anymore

I’ve had a truck for a couple weeks now. (Long story.) So I’ve been taking care of niggling errands around town, and visiting places I haven’t been to since I was dating someone with a car who took me to them.

Today’s errand was cashing in my change at a Coinstar machine. The places that have them around me are all bike-hostile; mega shopping centers and the like. So my coins have been piling up for years now.

These things, it seems, are not money, or are money no longer:

A hand holding two chewed up pennies, a CR2032 battery, an arcade token, and a mysterious coin.

I should get a bank account here, in Minneapolis. I know. But aside from needing my coins counted it hasn’t mattered.

While feeding my coins through, no fewer than three people asked me “Do they charge a fee?” Yes, they do. It’s exorbitant. But now it’s done and I don’t care. You can pick a gift certificate with no fees, but I couldn’t see myself spending $130 at Applebee’s. The last time I was at an Applebee’s my traveling companion had gone to bed at 9pm so I walked across the hotel parking lot to an Applebee’s and got drunk on $2.50 Long Island Iced Teas (meaning I was tanked $7 later). $130 worth of late night happy hour Long Island Iced Teas at Applebee’s could kill a bridal party.

The money’s already spent, in my head, anyway. I bought a camera I don’t need this morning from a Craiglist ad. I’m on a film photography kick now. So if anybody wants to buy this camera in, say…April? May?…let a guy know.

A Nikon FE2 camera on a table with 8 rolls of film behind it.