All That’s Left …

Beauty.

There is always beauty.

That is all that is left.

So many times in my life, I thought I had come to the end of me.

So many times, I thought I had broken myself, into pieces too brittle and infinitesimal, to ever believe that I could put myself back together again.

So many times I thought I had broken those I loved, those who loved me.

So many times I felt the cold hollow cave made of stone and frost and filled with a chill wind that blew eternal in the pit of my stomach, the sum total of all the lies I told, of all the hearts I broke, of all the oaths I abandoned.

So many times.

But that last, that last was worst of all …

Lost to the dark.

Alone, in a ball, in a hole, in a wall, in the deepest darkest crack I could slither in, and crawl.

So many times.

So many times.

Darkness.

And then …

A glimmer …

A glimpse …

I would open my eyes.

Dry, burning, bloodshot, blurry, and red.

And I would look up.

And the height, the height of just where I fell from.

It was so high.

I had fallen so far.

All that trust built.

Smashed to bits with a single action, a cruel word.

But I would get up, like I had all those countless times before and my spine felt so weak and all I felt inside cold wind and hollow.

And I would get up.

My stomach would spasm reflexively from all the ragged crying and my eyes burned.

And I would get on my knees, scarred and pitted from gravel digging in, from years of gravel digging in, digging all the way into my cartilage.

I would wait there, gasping, until that pain was too much, and I would reach out and grasp that first rock again, with cracked hands that split from countless cold December nights when my hands were soaked wet from bleach and piss and mop water and Fabuloso and Murphy’s Oil Soap, from countless nights of cleaning and wiping and scrubbing, and I would begin the slow climb, back up to the top, back up, to the light.

And so I would grab another.

So many falls.

And so many climbs.

So many promises made.

So many promises broken.

So many scars, from within, from without.

Holding the hand of the one whose heart I broke.

What else could I do?

I couldn’t stay down there.

Not when I was needed up here.

Not when, if I couldn’t make us better, if I couldn’t heal us and make us whole, I could at least help you.

Help you get through.

At least I could do that.

So I did.

And those whose hearts I’d hurt, saw that I did my best to heal.

I left, but I did my best to heal.

I left, and I hoped that they had healed.

And to my surprise, they did.

As sure as spring follows winter.

As certain as day follows night.

As raw and red and as certain as the dawn, or a healing wound.

And time would pass, just as sure as spring follows winter.

As certain as sunshine follows rain.

And, with that passing left the pain.

And those who I made cry, I now made laugh.

I repaired what I could, and now, gray-bearded and older, I keep my vigil.

I watch and I care and I protect.

But I stay away.

And I marvel that in the passing, the pain fades away, like shadows melt away at dawn, and with that growing dawn light, in that shining sunlight, only the beauty is left revealed.

And nights, dark and dim they may be, are now just nights, because now I have the knowledge that the sun still shines on the other side of the world.

Nights reveal starlight, and moonshine, and the reflective glimmer of cats’ eyes.

I know this, and I shall never forget – in my depression I have hurt people, and though it was my depression, it was still me.

I know this, and I shall never forget – in my depression I have hurt myself, and though it was my depression, it was still me.

And I know this, and I will never forget – I have managed my depression.

I have named my demon and I have locked it within a faux-gold-covered wooden box.

And I will never open it up.

For I know this – with time and work and the healing-fevered pain of resetting bones, all the bad fades away.

Fades away, but does not dissipate.

It is always an ever-present reminder.

But what comes to the foreground, what comes into focus?

Beauty.

The pain, the dark fades away.

All that’s left is beauty.

A Dying Bee, My Brother, a Chance at Good Karma.

The dying bee landed on my chest.

It fell seemingly from nowhere.

At first I didn’t know that it was a bee. Nor did know that it was dying – yet.

A cloud of flies and mosquitoes skimmed and buzzed about me as I lay on our outdoor patio sofa as if I was an Imperial Cruiser under attack from Rebellion fighters. They didn’t really bother me. I didn’t really feel anything. I was numb and drowsy from the day, from pipe tobacco smoke, from dragon smoke. My mind wandered far afield.

About two weeks ago, during a lull between the constant rain showers that came with the hurricane storm systems from the Texas Gulf, I took advantage of the semi-fair weather and brought out the sofa cushions to laze about on my Saturday afternoon.

The mosquitoes and flies had the same idea, apparently.

I did feel the small but substantial thump on my chest.

I did see the small insect bounce off my chest and arc down onto the patio concrete.

My senses weren’t so completely numb to make me believe that it was a huge fly.

It took me a second to register that what I had saw and felt was a bee.

I looked down from the sofa. The bee crawled around the cracked concrete of the patio. Something was wrong with it. One of it’s wings was opening and closing slowly, out of sync with the other.

You know that cliché about staggering drunkenly? That’s exactly what the bee was doing, in circles, and leaning to one side. I reached down and as gingerly as I could try to help right itself with my index finger. It didn’t help.

You see, I had held bees before.

Many bees had entered my classroom, and being a teacher of children, their reaction, after shrieking in fright or delight, is always to swat it or crush it. But I don’t want to encourage that in my students. I want to encourage them to have a healthy respect for all living things. So I would just quickly but calmly reach for it, and let it land on my hand, let roam about. I would explain to them that bees only sting when they feel threatened, which they do anytime anyone projects their fear and shrieks.

I would show them how harmless they could be if they were treated gently and with respect, then I would open my classroom door and then open the door that led outside ( I’ve been lucky to have a classroom right by the hallway exit) and release it.

I don’t like killing living creatures – even insects. If they look dangerous, and are in my house, then I do, because I don’t want to risk my mother being bitten by something poisonous. Call it guilt-ridden anxiety. But bees are fine.

Except this particular bee was obviously not, however.

The bee flipped upside down. My own buzz was just making it worse. I tried to calm myself and focus – I didn’t want to damage it’s wings. After a few more attempts I sat up and reached down with both hands. I was finally able to get the bee onto my hand.

I studied it, sadly. It was dying. The thumping landing on my chest made sense now.

A thought occurred to me then.

My older brother had had a really bad weekend a week prior to this. He and his partner had moved back down to Laredo from San Antonio three years ago to help care for my father who had been diagnosed with terminal gall bladder and liver cancer, and they have stayed ever since. But like any couple moving from their own home in which they lived alone for years back into the home of a parent, their space has become limited.

I’d been in that situation before – my ex-wife and I had to share living spaces with her mother and their family many times over the eighteen-year period we were married. Those times were at best, manageable. So the cabin-fever brought on by days of rain culminated that weekend prior.

Then there was the squirrel.

Later that week my brother had told me that the tipping point for that weekend was a squirrel. He had found a dead squirrel out in the front of our house. He had found something to wrap it in and placed it in our trash bin outside.

Later the thought had occurred to me why he hadn’t buried it – I would’ve gladly helped – but in retrospect the idea of burying the poor creature would have been too much for him. After dad, the aspects and realities of death and dying affected all of our family in varying and unexpected ways.

I laid the bee gently down on the blue seat cushion, where my ashtray, pipe, and pipe tobacco rested, making sure it was placed so that it would not fall off again. I thought of my brother and his weekend from Hell before. I hesitated a moment. Then I texted him to come outside quickly.

This felt right.

He came outside to the backyard. I held the bee out towards him in my hand, showing him, and I told him. It’s dying, help me place it somewhere safe so it will die in peace, without fear of being eaten.

Where, he asked.

I looked about our backyard – and I saw one of the bushes growing lush with bright yellow bell blossoms, the wells inside of which would keep it well-hidden from predators or from falling back onto the unforgiving lawn.

I handed him the bee. Place it in there, I told him. With both hands out, he took it. We walked over to the bush, found an upright bell with a sturdy stem. My brother placed it gently inside. There you go, he said softly. The bee slid gently into the well.

There, I said, a fine place for a bee to rest. Then I hugged my brother. Karma, I told him, a little light to drive away the dark. A little positive energy to counter the negative.

The moment passed. We stepped apart to let the space of the world back in. I told him that I was still going to hang out here and smoke for awhile longer. He said okay. He went back inside.

I love my older brother.

We clash, of course. We wouldn’t be brothers otherwise. But he’s been both father and mother to me countless times, when my parents couldn’t. He’s been my sounding board ever since he moved back and I had to admit to him my weaknesses that my Major Depression and ADHD brought about – even when medicated. He’s been the voice of reason in my head the few times I stood too close to the edge, and brought me back.

We’re ten years apart. He’s now fifty-three while I’m forty-three – the oldest and the youngest in our family.

He still looks out after me.

The least I can do help his spirit when it sinks.

The least I can do is remind him that there is still some magic in this world, faded though it is.

The least I can do is look after him for all the times he’s looked out after me.

I do.

I always will.

He’s my brother.

What I’m listening to:
Human Qualities by Explosions in the Sky.

Colors, Patience, Superman – Teaching on the Borderlands.

The little boy would not enter my classroom.

I saw him lingering, out in the hallway in front of my doorway, amidst the organized chaos of our morning routine, as the other students were coming in. Then, a moment later, he was gone.

I didn’t think much of it.

He was either afraid, or he was having a bad day. Or both. His teacher – my colleague – had to take the day off unexpectedly because her son woke up with a high fever.

On days when a teacher is out, we normally split up that teacher’s class between the remaining four 5th grade teachers, so we get an additional five to six more students.

We do this because on a campus like ours, located just a mile away from the U. S.-Mexico border, where we service a heavily Spanish-dominant population whose median income is below the poverty level, and we have to prepare them to pass the 5th grade STAAR exams, losing a day of instruction can really hurt these children.

Rather than having twenty-two to twenty-three students doing busy work, increasing the chances of them acting up with a substitute, it’s better they come to us and continue getting actual instruction.

There are space issues. Classroom behavior spikes a bit, but as long as we’re prepared with constant instruction, lessons, activities, the students are too engaged to even try to act up. Usually it ends up alright.

This day, we’re testing our district’s CBAs – a mini diagnostic to check if teachers have been teaching and if the students have learned what their teachers have been teaching. I get my students settled and working on their morning routine while I make room for the extra students.

Our special education teacher comes in and tells me that the little boy went back to his teacher’s classroom.
He’s in the room by himself.
He doesn’t want to come to my class.

I can cut a pretty imposing figure, with my size and my beard, and the children can find it intimidating – even threatening if I stand too close to a child.

This little boy has ED, so there are times when he won’t cooperate, won’t want to go where he is supposed to.

I head over to his classroom.

The little boy is there, standing up against a whiteboard. He looks unsettled, with a small light of defiance in his eyes.

The substitute is there as well.

I ask her if she could go to my class and watch my students since I left them unattended. She does so.

When she’s left the classroom, I ask the little boy if he’s going to come to my class. He just stares at me.

I ask him what his name is. He mumbles. By this time, morning announcements have begun, and with my peripheral deafness, I can’t make out what he’s saying.

I ask again.

I still can’t hear him. I ask him again and I explain to him why I keep asking. This time he yells out his name.
I shift my demeanor and I tell him firmly not to yell at me like that.

I wasn’t yelling at him and I honestly couldn’t hear him. There was no need for it. I tell him he’s being rude.
He says his name again, this time in a softer tone.

This time I hear him. I thank him.

I slowly walk towards him, but he begins to walk around, opposite me, keeping himself equidistant from me. We’re both feeling each other out, and we both know it.

I sit down.

For a while, I don’t talk.

I just sit there, calmly listening to the morning announcements. I’m not frowning. I make sure that my posture is relaxed.

I make sure that I’m giving off an aura of calm. I let him grow accustomed to my presence. I ask him if he wants to sit. He shakes his head no.

I calmly, gently explain to him that he needs to come to my class and I tell him not to worry.

I explain to him that I don’t want him to get into any trouble.

Then his special education teacher comes in and begins talking to him in a rough manner.

She needs to take him to her room so she can give him his test.

I use this time to call the front office and ask for our assistant principal to come by.

I step out into the hallway and when she reaches me, I explain to her the situation.
She tells me she’ll take care of it and tells me to go back to my class.

I do, and I get my kids settled down and pass out their tests.

As soon as I’m done, I see the little boy at my door.

The security guard escorted him. I tell the boy, hi! Come in and sit by me. I gesture at a chair on one end of my banana table and I sit. He walks in slowly and sits down.

I have a colorful tray filled with different types of markers that I use to create my classroom posters. I give him loose-leaf paper and push the tray towards him.
I ask him if he likes to draw.
He says yes.

I ask him if he could draw me something he likes. I sit there beside him as he draws. It’s a crude child’s drawing of Superman.

I tell him that I like Superman. I tell that I like to draw also.

I ask him, would you like to draw with me? I could draw you Superman after you finish your test.

He smiles and nods yes. His teacher comes for him and he leaves my room to take his test.

I tell him goodbye and that we’ll draw as soon as he’s done.

He never comes back.

Later I find out that he was sent home because of his behavior.

This was Thursday.

It’s Friday now.

We have two 5th grade teachers out all day at a training.

This time I get seven additional students.

We’re done with testing.
It’s “activity” Friday, and I give my students an extra thirty minutes.

Again I’m getting all the students settled and working when a student stops by my class and asks if I can step outside so his teacher can talk to me in the hallway.

It’s the little boy again.

He doesn’t want to go into his classroom teacher’s room.

The special education teacher is there again and she says he wants to go back with me because I told him that I would draw him Superman.

She sounds angry and frustrated but I respond cheerfully, of course he could come with me!

I ask him to come with me.

He follows me.

As I pass, I tell the special education teacher to come by later, once he’s settled down, so he could be picked up and do whatever work he needs to be done.

We can’t have a student out in the hallway unsupervised. It’s a safety concern. Better he’s with me in my classroom where I can keep an eye on him.

The boy sits down back at my banana table.

I sit beside him. I gently explain that he is always welcome in my room and I’ll always find time to draw with him, but he has to go with his classroom teacher later and he has to go with the special education teacher so he can learn and be smart.
He says okay.

Then I explain to him that I have to go about teaching my class and showing them the activities they need to complete.

He doesn’t blow up.

He doesn’t have an episode.

He nods and sits and waits calmly.

I go to my instruction area, I get my students attention, and I begin modeling the activities for my students using my document camera.

Then out of the corner of my eye, I notice something.

I have the lights off, so the class can see what I’m doing on our smart board.

Off to my right, in the back corner of my room, the little boy is standing up.

I continue my modeling with one eye on him and I see what he’s doing. I was actually surprised.

He’s straightening up my banana table, organizing my papers, throwing scraps of cut paper into my recycling basket, putting all my stray markers, pens and pencils where he thinks they belong.
I pause in the middle of my instruction and I tell him thank you, you’re doing such a great job and I appreciate it.

Then I finally reach a stopping point.

The class is working and they’re in their flow, so I’m able to go back and sit down with him.

I have my phone jacked into a speaker system, and I start playing some instrumental chill hop and trip hop. That always gets the kids working but it doesn’t over stimulate them.

The lights are off, but I have a multi-colored octopus lamp that bathes the room in a soothing glow.

I start drawing Superman for him.

He watches me, smiling with delight as Superman slowly takes form, flying up into the air, his cape billowing around him.

It’s not my best work.

I stopped practicing my figure sketching in college, but I would sketch occasionally, and I’ve slowly taken it up again as I sketch out character ideas for the manuscript I’m working on.

I’m smiling, too.

I’m keeping an eye on my students making sure they’re on task, but I’m relaxed.
When I finish, I hand it over to him, and he starts coloring, asking which part of his costume is blue, which is red, and all that.

I tell him, but I also encourage him to color however he wants to, change it up.

I sit beside him and watch.
My students come to me with questions about their assignments.

I answer them.

Eventually, the special education teacher comes for him, and he leaves, not one complaint.

I take a breath.

Seven students working on their own separate activities, my twenty-two students working on their assignments, and this little boy, who calmed down when I began drawing him his Superman.

Teaching children is a nonstop job. You have to be good at juggling and have a quick mind.

You need to teach them the skills in Reading, Math, Science. Writing, often. Social Studies when we can.

But that’s fifty percent of the job.

The other fifty is seeing to their needs – and there are twenty-two very different students with very different personalities, with different levels of learning.

Guiding them when they do their work. Building their confidence by showing them that they can master any concept. Showing them different ways to try and solve problems. Teaching them to recognize their own self-worth. Showing them how to use their words and communicate with one another in respectful ways to settle differences.

These are not suburban kids.

Many of the students I teach have fathers and uncles and cousins in prison.

They come from homes where the stress level is high, parents, single or together trying to make ends meet.

Quite often the default tone at home is yelling.

Some only have the breakfast and lunch the district provides for them as their only meals.

There are some parents, single, grandparents, stepparents, who really care about the education of their children.

And there are an unfortunate few who don’t pay attention.

All these children want is to know that they can be good at something.

All these children want is to learn and be a success and have fun doing so.

All these children want is to know that there is someplace safe, with regularity, stability.

All they want is to know that there is someone who cares about them.

And I’ve grown with them.

I’m a forty-three year old man. I have Major Depression and adult ADHD.
I’ve been medicated three years now, and I finally feel that I am the teacher I want to be.

The loss of my father and my longtime relationship has tempered me.

As a Gemini I seek peace and balance. And all of that has informed my teaching.

I’ve grown into a father figure for my students, my children, whom I love driving thirty minutes from my home to teach.

I’ve been teaching 5th grade at this campus for eight years now.

To teach, it truly takes love – not some squishy, saccharine love, but a fighter’s love, a fighter’s heart.

It takes dedication.

It takes an almost monastic devotion.

There is a craft to teaching children, an art.

It takes a fair mind – free of bias or prejudice.

It takes kindness.

It takes a soft word and a firm but gentle hand.

It takes never giving up on any students.

Not.

One.

It takes humor.

It takes breathing – a lot of breathing.

And it takes patience.

And sometimes, just sometimes, it even takes some colors and Superman.

Where’veI’veBeen???

“I shut and locked the front door

No way in or out

I turned and walked the hallways

And pulled the curtains down

yeah I knelt and emptied the mouths of every plug around …

I’m in hiding …”

-Pearl Jam, In Hiding.

I am a man adrift on a raft on a sea of my Major Depression management.

It’s funny – I totally believe in medication – prescribed and administered properly.

God knows it’s helped me. But it’s never a cure-all. There’s a mental health saying that goes, “recovery never happens in a straight line.” And it’s true.

I know I’ve gotten better.

I feel it.

My psychiatrist told me he wasn’t worried about me anymore – and that was months ago I’m done grieving – both for my father’s passing away and my breakup.

So I’m feeling a strange kind of numbness.My emotional state goes from numb to even to content.

However, setbacks – predominately at work – really do set me back. I still feel the gravitational lethargic pull to my bed, to fall in, stay, and disappear.

One day I took off from work, I stayed in bed for most of the day. The following day as well. I recover back to neutral.

I go on.

I’ve isolated myself.

People and their problems were too much for me.

I had kind of lost myself in trying to be available to help others – as a way of avoiding my own problems, but also as a way of doing penance for the wrongs I’ve caused others. But people are people, and they’ll do whatever they’re driven to do anyway.

I did.

So I cut off everybody and cocooned myself.

I’d sit outside, smoke my pipe, and think. Sometimes listen to music. Often without, instead listening to the sigh and sway of The Three Sisters.

It’s calming.

Now the school year’s ending.Summer’s coming.

Summer’s coming.

I can feel it.

I’m getting restless.

My energy is coming back, now that it is not 100% focused on my students.

Another change comes with it.

And who I will be after that, who can say?

I just ride the ocean tides.

LivingNighttimeDaydream WakeUp.

And so I’m shedding another skin.

This one was dark but warm sleepy blue like grandfather’s cardigan, and it kept me from the cold.

It kept me sleeping.

I was in a fallow state along with trees in this strangest of South Texas winters.

There was actual snowfall here in Laredo.

Actual.

Snowfall.

I disappeared.

A strange side effect of my ADHD medication is the intense state of hyper-focus it puts me in, and as an educator, I still mark the time the way children do – by the seasons, by the state-mandated school year calendar. It was through this that I saw my rebirth as a focused teacher; every school year was a different fixation, a specific and laser-like focus on one area of teaching. This year was all about my classroom.

I had a vision for my classroom, and the way I wanted to tailor every last bit of towards learner-centered, small group instruction, instead of the shackles of the front and center lecturing teacher.

It began my second week back. I began pulling twelve-hour days, going in at 6 AM and signing out by 6:45 – 6:50 PM. It left me drained, exhausted, and not wanting to go out for anything or anyone – except, on occasion, when my best friend would coax me out. Even then, half of my mind still yearned for home.

My focus was such that I’m just now coming out of it. I actually have the mental energy to write again.

Waking up is always a strange instinctual, mechanical business, though, isn’t it?

That strange segue from the dream state to waking life. Knowing that your mind was somewhere else for some amount of time – that past a gray-misted haze of a memory – as the present comes into slow and clear focus.

I’ve never been more acutely aware of my evolution as a human being since my depression and ADHD diagnosis and being on consistent and effective (for me) medication.

I’ve always loved learning – about myself, about the world – and now I’m getting a crash course in the education of myself as person in more control of his life than he’s ever been, as well as the world of mental illness.

I’ve learned that I’ll never stop learning.

I know that I will continue evolving.

What a strange adventure this is, being human.

Always …

The Last Homely House. 

The magic and comfort of The Last Homely House.

Always a light on.
Always a song to sing.
Always a tale to tell.
Always good food to eat.
Always good drink to drink. Always a chair to sit.            

Always a place of peace, love, and good cheer.

And a fine place for a think, which is what I need right now. 

This Christmas, the Greatest Gift I Gave Myself Was the Gift of Solitude and Rest.

I’m lying here in the den of The Last Homely House. 

I am alone.

My brothers have taken my mom to spend Christmas Day with her sister and my cousins in San Antonio. 

There are no lights on.

Only the darkening whitewashed water color grayblue of the fading light of the setting sun penetrates what windows it can and serves as the only major light source. 

Aside from that, the Christmas tree lights are on, as well as the lights around the Nativity, the scene of the Christ-child in a manger, sleeping in swaddling cloth upon a bed of straw, with his mother Mary, Joseph, the step-dad to be shepherds, sheep of the flocks they keep, the Three Wise Men, and various livestock that would live in said manger. There is also the soft glow of the candles I’ve lit.

The light is warm, cozy.

I feel safe, calm, at peace.

The TV is off. The music I had been listening to on my headphones is off. Right now, there is only the constant whishing whisper duet of the central heater unit and the overhead fan as they work together in keeping the temperature in here a nice balance of warm and slightly chilly.

My head is free of thoughts.

I’m only focusing on the sound of the AC, the fan, and the gently wavering glow of the candlelit Nativity as it flickers softly.

The family plan was to drive up to San Antonio today, stay tomorrow, and leave Wednesday further north up I35 to Pflugerville, to visit my Brother and his family at Moore Manor – what we call the Pfluggervillian post of the Moore clan –  His daughter – my baby niece – has a birthday coming up, and they were going to celebrate it Wednesday. I think by then I’ll be rested up enough to drive, spend the evening there, and then head back early Thursday morning. 

I was also less inclined to leave due to the fact that I was up late last night from going to the Catholic midnight mass at La Catedral de San Agustín downtown. I haven’t gone since I was a child. It was beautiful. And worth it, but because I normally don’t stay up so late, it really took a toll on me this morning/afternoon. My mom woke me a little after noon, and I said my goodbyes. 

Now it may sound bleak and depressing to you, maybe it sounds like a punishment even, but my depression doesn’t work that way.

To me, this is bliss.

Even though I am and can be a very social creature, who loves spending time talking and being in the company of others, it can also be exhausting – a characteristic common to both introverts and people with depression.

You see, I’m very empathic, I can sense the moods and tensions of those around me, and it physically affects me. I act like a human emotional sponge – I’ll soak up some of what you’re feeling and I’ll feel it too. It can be helpful sometimes, but others, it can be too much, so I have to pull in my sensory feelers and put up a barrier. And maintaining that requires an exhausting amount of energy. So, an empty house means a free me – no additional emotional energy to absorb or block. My shields are down. My guard is down. My sensory feelers can be fully extended and feel nothing.

All I’m feeling right now is a sleepy, relaxed state of bliss.

This is how I recover from my mental stressors: silence, calm, music, resting.

This is how I recharge, restore balance in myself.

But I’m not altogether about living the life of a monk. I began last Christmas building up my talismans, my weapons, my rituals for self-care: my skin care products, my soaps, my beard balms. I invested in that as well as my writing desk and my shelf to create my study. 

Over the summer I did a lot more decorating to my room, and now, finally, I end this year with treating myself to the last of the items I wanted off of my list that I would enjoy. I bought a great pair of wireless Sennheiser over the ear headphones. They’re an excellent brand for audiophiles and I find the gentle pressure of over the ear headphones calming. I got a great deal on a 32″ Samsung Smart Hub TV. It’s HD only – not state of the art QLEV or anything like that, but it does have all my subscriptions: Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.

I also bought myself a wireless sound bar plus a subwoofer, along with a Chrome book, but those haven’t arrived yet – also Samsung – also great deals since they were mid-range items and not top of the line. 

And I didn’t even spend a thousand on all that. I love quality, but I’m no snob and I’m not stupid. I research and find the best quality I can get for the lowest possible price. With that, I can finally, fully enjoy my time at home, when I’m not reading, writing, painting, or playing the drums.

This is self-care. This is how I take care of myself. These are not substitutions for happiness nor are they status symbols signifying that I have “arrived” at some vague and unimportant level of “success,” showing that I’ve “made it.” No. These are merely the tools I choose to use as entertainments, as diversions.

These are the tools I choose to use to keep me even.

Tools that I was lucky enough to have some money for and that were just the right price for me to afford.

Now I’m forty-two. I’m single. I have no children, and I’ve been blessed to have a pretty decent paying career for almost fourteen years now. I can afford this.

But I have friends who are starting out, in college, or just finishing college, or just beginning their lives. Just like I have friends my age who are married and have kids or who are single parents who have kids, and you’re thinking, “I don’t have that kind of money.”

That’s not the point. The point is what feels good to you: 

What recharges You? 

Your spirit? 

Your soul? 

Exercise? Quilting? Crossword puzzles? 

My point is, it could be anything – as long as it does the trick.

Take care of yourself.

 Put yourself first. 

Now that doesn’t mean you get a green light to become totally self-absorbed and narcissistic, no. That just means that you must make time for you, so that your mind, body, and soul are refreshed and sharp, so that you may be able to properly take care of others. And even if you don’t have the terrible privilege of caring for somebody, still, don’t forget to make yourself a priority.

You deserve it.

These items that I’ve been blessed to treat myself to, they are all great gifts. But the greatest gift I’ve given myself this holiday season – as someone battling Major Depression, as a teacher to twenty-three sharp and intelligent students, as the past caregiver to my father, and as the future caregiver for my mother when the inevitable eventually happens – the one truly greatest gift, and the one I’ll get the most out of, the one I will remember the most, is an opportunity for silence, for rest, and for solitude.