Today I Got To:__________

My dad passed away on January 22nd, and ever since then I feel like I’ve been running on a hamster wheel deciphering confusing mail, filling out inscrutable forms, and settling his financial affairs with an array of agencies, businesses, and people. My lists have sub-lists, an abundance of color-coding, and pages of carefully written explanations of what I’ve done and when I did it. There’s lots of waiting for other people to do things, which they seem to get right about 60% of the time. My brain is a Tilt-A-Whirl of tasks, appointments, and emotions. Wild times.

I bought a 5-Year Hobonichi Journal from Wonder Pens late last year and have have been faithfully jotting down a few lines about each day. For the first month and a half, my entries were simple recaps of my day, trending toward the negative. “Slept badly.” “Work was nuts.” “Cat still sick.” “Dad is failing.” Yeesh. As the entries piled up, I realized that compiling five years of complaints was not how I pictured this project going, but my brain seemed stuck in a “glass half empty” mode.

Until the universe—well, the universe in the form of Johnny Gamber—gave me a way out of the wallowing.

I’m a “Nubbin Stage” supporter of The Erasable Podcast via Patreon, and every so often, the three podcast hosts send little bonuses to us. In February, a sweet pocket notebook printed by Johnny’s Pencil Revolution Press arrived in my beleaguered mailbox. Ahhh, happy mail! While the notebook is great, it’s the list of writing prompts included in the package that’s made all the difference. In particular, Johnny’s prompt (pictured below) flipped my mental switch from the staticky “overwhelmed and anxious” channel to the crystal clear “grateful” channel. Just. Like. That.

Now I write about my lunchtime walks…

and the lazy days…

and letters and cards I’ve written…

and even those pesky appointments that now seem like something to celebrate rather than complain about.

Today I got to: Thank Johnny for his idea—for these four simple words that are helping me find the gems in even the trickiest days. These entries have become a kind of puzzle to solve every evening—looking back through the day to find the goodness, smiles, joy, humor, and connections—all a balm for one’s soul. I honestly can’t wait to see what the next five years bring.

Analog Coping Mechanisms

2022 has been a rough year so far. My 93-year old dad, who lives in a nursing home because of advanced Parkinson’s Disease, tested positive for COVID-19 on January 3rd. I’ll spare you the details but it has been a very tough/distracting/emotional time since then. Yesterday he “graduated” out of the COVID ward and I was finally able to see him in person, but I’m not sure he knew I was there. I like to think he did.

During this time, I’ve craved hibernation and bed, but, of course, one must keep going. But how? I’ll always default to things that keep my mind soothed, simple things that feel good, things that take the edge off, even for a little while.

I’ve been journaling like CRAZY. Lots of pages. Lots of dumping ink and my heart onto the page. Lots of pep talks to myself and to my dad. Conflicting thoughts. Difficult thoughts. Pleas to just stay present and to not play the “what comes next?” game. I’m ripping though ink and journal pages and am proud of myself for showing up every day, though the urge to stay in bed is strong.

And that blue hourglass. Incredibly calming. I don’t know why I bought one, but now I’m glad I did. There’s something soothing about that blue glass and the gently streaming sand. A little reminder that we don’t necessarily have all the time that we think we do.

Sometime last year, I developed the habit of sticking inspiring quotes inside my pocket notebook. I push them along in the notebook as I fill up the pages, then transfer them to the next notebook. They’re starting to lose their stickiness so it’s probably time for a refresh, and maybe some new ones, but, boy, have I been leaning on these lately.

Especially the Rilke one. “Just keep going. No feeling is final.” Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

In my free time, usually in the evening, I’ve been working on a HUGE crossword puzzle that recently came in a special puzzle insert with the local newspaper.

We don’t get the paper, but my mom gave me the section and after I finished the cryptograms (my all-time favorite puzzles), I started tackling the crosswords which are normally not my thing. These particular puzzles are just difficult enough to be challenging but also easy enough to be doable. The perfect balance.

But what I’m REALLY enjoying is the feel of the soft graphite in the Blackwing Vol. 93 Corita Kent pencil on the newsprint. How incredibly satisfying to write an answer in that deep dark print. Soooooooo smoooooooth.

I hope 2022 is treating you well, but if there have been bumps in the road, please know that I am with you in spirit.

“Just keep going. No feeling is final.”