An ordinary life

***Thank you all for your absolutely lovely comments on my last post. It took a lot to post that, and it took a lot out of me, to be honest. Reading your comments, and the support your offered me, made such a difference. So thank you. Again, I am grateful beyond measure for the community we have built. <3***

I’ve noticed a bit of a theme in the quotes and passages that I have saved in the last few weeks… the idea of striving for an ordinary life. That not all of us are meant to be extraordinary, shining stars, brilliant points of light in the Universe.

No, most of us on this earth will live perfectly ordinary lives.

And that is perfectly fine. In fact, it may even be better than being pressured to become extraordinary, and then to stay that way. At least, in my opinion.

Because, really, what is wrong with living a (mostly) ordinary life? I think most of us want to be fulfilled in our daily lives, to feel like our time here on earth is worth something, that it contributes to the long arc of human history. But you can do that while living a lovely, ordinary life. You don’t have to be exceptional to make a mark on the world, or to touch the lives of the people you encounter throughout your life.

There is some comfort, for me at least, in being one of the masses. One of the legions of people out there living ordinary lives. Obviously some ground rules apply – treating others well, not committing crimes, etc. I hope that for most of us that’s obvious – and easy to achieve. But if you treat others well, if you live your life on your terms without hurting others, or infringing on others’ rights, if you make some contribution to society, take responsibility for your actions… you may be living an ordinary life, but you are contributing to the collective good that keeps our society and our species moving forward (at least for now).

I’m ordinary. And you know what? It feels good to be ordinary. Removing the pressure of being “the best” (for me, especially, in my work life), and knowing that my ordinary life and work ARE contributing? That is enough for me.

“But the more I grow as a human, the more ordinary feels like the most true, most relieving, most human kind of life to find ourselves in… I think we lose sight of our humanity when we prioritize winning over everything, success over contentment, the Next Big Thing over feeling at peace in what we’re doing, followers over connection, and a continual upward trajectory over being present with what we already have/do/are.” Lisa Olivera

I’ll have no trumpets, triumphs, trails of glory.
It seems the woman I’ve turned out to be
Is not the heroine of some grand story.
But I have learned to find the poetry
In what my hands can touch, my eyes can see.
The pleasures of an ordinary life.

Judith Viorst

On photos, or the lack thereof

NOTE: This got super-duper long, and I don’t expect anyone to read through to the bitter end. It was just important for me to put this out. πŸ™‚ Also… this was a really vulnerable post to write, which I’m sure you’ll realize when (um, if) you read it.

Something that has become increasingly clear to me – whether others have noticed or not – is the fact that I share very few photos on my blog. If you engage with me on Instagram – and follow me, especially – you may have noticed that the same thing is true over there. Of the few photos I have shared, none are of me, as far as I know.

This has become glaringly obvious as I read multiple blogs that I love, in part, for the pictures, and as I connect with the same people on IG.

Even if you haven’t noticed, it’s been bugging me that the difference is so obvious, and so this post is my attempt to explain that. Before I even get into it, I do want to say that this was a very vulnerable post for me to write, as it touches not only on practical reasons why but also some highly personal ones.

But starting with the practical… there are 2 main reasons: 1) my desire to keep my work and personal lives as separate as possible, and 2) the fact that I live in, well, a not-very-scenic area of my town (and the immediate area around where I live is where I, of course, spend the most time). As I’ve mentioned on the blog, I work at a public (state) University. I’m easily Google-able if one knows my first and last name. I have always viewed my work life as being completely separate from my personal life. People at work only know as much about me as I want to share, of course, but that really isn’t a whole lot. I do share some things (e.g., where I live, if people ask, although I’m a bit vague about the exact location) but nothing that I consider very personal. I do have a couple of close(r) friends from work who know a bit more, but they are closed books when it comes to sharing with others, so I know that anything I do share will stay with them. That’s important to me, so I don’t plan to change it.

And re: where I live, well, it’s the truth! I live in what can’t really be classified as a true urban environment, or a true suburban environment. I think of it as “built-up suburbia”? And I think it’s a unique type of environment that occurs more frequently in towns – like this one – with highly transient populations (in this case, University students, staff, and faculty). I live in a boring apartment complex. My apartment “view” is of another building in the complex. I don’t have ready access to a true nature trail unless I drive to another location – the trail by my apartment goes along some very not-scenic train tracks. And my pictures would reflect that. I know that I can find beauty anywhere, but honestly, there is very little natural beauty (or even interesting neighborhoods, sadly) near me. So yeah, lack of supply of nice photos –> no photos for the blog. Or IG. (Note that I DO share photos when I happen to be in a lovely location that lends itself to beautiful photos… however, you know, COVID. So that hasn’t really happened recently…)

And that brings us to the personal reasons. Oof. This is harder to explain and the more I think about it the more discombobulated I get. So I’ll try to make this logical and understandable… The main reason I don’t post pictures of myself is I dislike – intensely – my physical appearance. Before you go down the road of body dysmorphia, or imposed societal expectations, know that the primary reason I feel this way is how different my appearance is from how I looked most of my life. If you compared a photo of me now to one from 12+ years ago, you would be hard-pressed to say it was the same person.

There are multiple reasons for this change, but the primary ones are medical, related to several acute issues I’ve had over the last decade+ as well as the (as yet undiagnosed) chronic condition with which I live. Some of the changes have resulted from behaviors I’ve changed over time, but most of those are also related to the acute and chronic medical issues.

So when I look in the mirror (which I try very hard not to do, to be honest), for a second, I don’t recognize myself. I don’t see “me” in pictures – I see someone else. And I don’t like how she looks – particularly when I think about why I look this way. It’s been a long (medical) road for a decade+ and I’m always, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I never know when an acute event will occur, with additional ramifications for my health AND my appearance. I never know if new symptoms (often affecting my appearance in some way) are just temporary, or related to my chronic condition. The unknown is one of my least favorite things, but I try to accept it because I don’t really have a choice.

The physical manifestations of my whatever-it-is also make me look (I hate to put it this way) not normal. Different. Unusual. They are things I can’t control, no matter how hard I try, and because they are physical manifestations, many of them are visible to others. And of course they show up in pictures, too. So I not only don’t recognize myself in pictures, I’m also confronted with external evidence of the medical issues every time I look at one.

That is why there are no pictures of me on the blog or on IG. Oh, and there is one other completely stupid reason. I cannot take a selfie. I literally have never, ever been able to take a reasonably decent selfie. I end up being all forehead. I know this is related to phone angles and how I hold the phone and the lighting and etc. etc. etc. but I’ve never been able to figure out the right combo!

Wow. This got long. Lots to unpack here. Let me first say that while I dislike how I look now, I do NOT dislike myself. I love who I have become over time. I love my stubbornness, my insistence on creating my own unique path, and of finally embracing my differences and weirdness.

I have no idea how to end this post. If you read this far, well, you have greater fortitude than I would have had in the same situation! While this was a hard post to write, I felt it was a necessary one, and so, in my quest to have Courage this year, decided that it was time. As I work towards at least accepting – if not loving – my body and face, I find comfort (as always) in some of Mary Oliver’s words (from one of my favorites, Wild Geese):

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting β€” over and over announcing your place in the family of things.


OK, I’ve had a few questions circling in my head for a week or so now, and think that you all might be able to help me. Any insights/answers/suggestions to the following would be much appreciated…

  1. Can you wear black and brown together? I’m dead serious – I have no idea. I’ve alluded to the fact that I have, quite literally, no fashion sense. My clothing is one of the least interesting things about me. I grew up somehow thinking that one cannot wear black and brown together. But I’ve done it once or twice recently (note: not when I am in public, this is usually when I am working from home) and it seems like… it is okay? Thoughts from the more fashion-conscious out there?
  2. Earbuds/airpods/wireless headphone recommendations? Do you have some you love? Why? I would like to get some that work with both my phone (iPhone 10XR) and work computer (Dell laptop). I’m having a lot of difficulty with my voice recently (long story) and so having earbuds/wireless headphones that will help pick up my voice while not tethering me to the computer would be nice. And for the phone/apps, too, of course. Right now I do a lot with the phone on speaker and that drives me bonkers.
  3. Has anyone ever come across a recipe for a *savory* muffin/granola bar that they like? Long story on this one but I am looking for something non-sweet, portable, that I could add protein to in some way (e.g., flax meal, hemp hearts). A baked good seems the best option but I’m not finding much out there.
  4. This is a vague request but… I’m always seeking inspiration/guidance from books. I’ve been trying to find my next “inspirational” read but I’m having difficulty landing on one that speaks to me. To provide some context, in the past I have really enjoyed Brene Brown’s books (and do have her newest one on my TBR, so that could be my next read, I suppose). I also enjoyed a few from Martha Beck (of Oprah show ‘fame’). My other favorite source of inspiration is books of poetry – primarily Mary Oliver and David Whyte, right now. So, my request/question to you is, what is your favorite/most treasured book for inspiration/guidance/helping you see beyond the borders of your life? I’ll note that while I am not a religious person, I am not averse to reading books with a religious orientation. Is there one that you recommend over and over? Or, a particular author?

I always figure that the people we know are the ones we should ask when we have these types of, well, completely random questions. After all, the people you affiliate with likely share some characteristics with you, so it’s likely that any information/insight they provide will work for you, as well. So, thank you in advance for sharing your wisdom (particularly on the black and brown together thing; I’m doing it again today and wondering if I am committing the world’s biggest fashion faux pas and don’t know it…).

I’ll be back later this week with some thoughts on courage, and having the courage to show up as myself. Let’s just say that conference last week was good – I saw so many people I know in such a short time, and it was lovely to see them in 3-D – but it also brought up some really interesting thoughts and issues for me. Ones that, handily enough, align with my word of the year, and my intentions for the year. Isn’t it nice when life works like that?

Heaviness and Courage (of course)

Oh, friends. Despite my best efforts and intentions, it seems I can’t get here to write more frequently than every two weeks or so. I guess that is what will have to do, for now. I have so many things that I think of sharing with all of you during my days, and they never make it to the screen (and, perhaps you should be grateful for that, as my mind is truly a Random Idea Generator).

As so many have acknowledged on their own blogs, the world is just so heavy right now. War, the pandemic, ongoing political… um… let’s go with ‘messiness’ and leave it there for now, here in the US, and on top of that all of the individual things we all deal with on a daily – sometimes hourly – basis.

It’s a lot. Being human is hard (I had a “sometimes” here and then realized that, no, really, being human is hard). Being an empathetic, caring human who thinks about others, and worries about the world, is even harder.

And yet. I have to believe that somehow, some good will come from all of this. I believe that because to think otherwise would mean giving up on our future, on our ability to eventually shift the currents of life so they lead to a better world. If I didn’t think change was possible (again, eventually), I don’t think I could get out of bed in the mornings. It’s been hard enough as it is – with the tail end of winter reminding us northerners that we’re not quite done with it yet.

Your blogs give me hope. Knowing that there are people doing good things gives me hope.

Yet I struggle with the smallness of my own life, and wonder whether I’m putting enough good back into the world to eventually shift the balance. I am still having trouble finding the courage to put myself out there. I am struggling with finding joy in my daily life. The one element of my 2022 intentions that is going reasonably well is the “be kind” part and, well, that’s just sort of who I am, so it’s kind of a gimme. (Is that cheating on my intentions, if I use something that I generally do anyway? I am going to say it isn’t…)

Life is about to force my hand, though. Thursday morning I am driving 4 hours round trip to present a poster at a regional conference. I thought about attending the whole conference but the monetary and time costs were prohibitive. Still, though – I’ll be with hundreds of other people for the first time since you-know-when. That might chew up my courage reserve for the month! But oh, there will be joy in once again sharing science and friendship with people I’ve met through the years.

I feel a bit like I am going from 0-60 in terms of seeing and interacting with people. From hermit to conference. I’m sure it will be fine – I just hope that I remember how to talk in front of a large group!

As Brene Brown said… “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort. You cannot have both.”

I guess it’s time for me to really choose courage.

I hope that you are all hanging in there amidst the uncertainty, the upheaval, the challenges that Life These Days is presenting to all of us. Knowing you are all out there, dealing with the same things (in addition to many other things I don’t have to deal with in my own life!) helps tremendously. I hope it helps to know that I’m here, too, trying to put some good back out into the universe.

Sunday randomness

**Edited to add** This post will come across as ridiculously frivolous in light of all that is going on in our world. I have been following the news out of Ukraine, of course, with a heavy heart. Yet, for the first time in a long time, I find myself needing to step away a bit. I still pay very close attention, but I also need to find space for non-doom-related thoughts. This post is in that spirit. I will come back to the war, and my thoughts, at some point. But for now, I’m finding that a bit too much. I hope you understand.

I usually try to have a focus for my posts, but today I just have random thoughts zipping around in my head, and thought, well, maybe I’ll bore the internet with some of these. So feel free to mosey on by to something more substantive than my musings! I’ll just ramble on here for a bit, then hopefully get back to normal programming at some point.

I am currently on “spring break”, which means we do not have classes, nor are we *supposed* to have meetings. So, yeah. I have a meeting tomorrow, three on Tuesday, two meetings and an evening webinar on Wednesday, and another meeting on Friday. Mmm hmm. In between, I am hoping to make some progress on those things that take a backseat to prepping for class each week (e.g., manuscripts, reviewing articles or others’ papers/drafts/etc.). We’ll see how it goes.

I hit the wall yesterday. I knew this would happen – it does, at least once every academic year. Started with feeling rather punky on Friday afternoon and then yesterday I felt like I was staring at my computer screen and trying to put together 2 brain cells to form something resembling coherent words. So instead of pushing it – and producing something I’d regret later – I… cleared out the ~75 browser tabs I had in my work browser.

Seventy. Five. Give or take. I couldn’t find anything when I was looking for it (e.g., a tab that remains open to a course that I am taking this semester) and it was giving me extreme anxiety. It took hours. But I feel so. much. better. A good use of time when I was definitely not firing on all cylinders! (Note: You may think that this post shows I am still not firing on all cylinders, to be fair…)

I hope you are all managing to stay awake today post-springing forward. I tend to do okay with this one –it’s definitely easier for me than the Fall, most likely because I don’t sleep very much anyway. BUT I also know that I will be ready for bed while it’s still light out tonight. Oh, well, ’tis reality for someone who goes to bed way too early, even in summer! (And, it should be noted, I did doze a bit while doing my morning reading on the couch this morning. It was just so comfy, and warm, and I had tea, and…)

My car started doing a “weird thing” yesterday and it’s stressing me out. I’m taking it in tomorrow (thank goodness for spring break in a University town – everyone else is, well, out of town!) and hoping against hope that it’s not the transmission, or something super-duper expensive. I get very anxious about these types of things, mostly because I’m such a moron when it comes to mechanical/car-related stuff. I have to drop it off and take the shuttle so will be fretting all day that I won’t be able to get it back at the end of the day. Ah, the joys of a brain that loves to borrow trouble. Please keep my 10 year old Prius in your thoughts. I am hoping to get at least another 5 years out of it, if not 10.

It was snowing lightly when I went on my super-early walk this morning, and I suspect it might be the last snow that we see for a while. Then again, this IS Wisconsin, and I distinctly remember a nasty turn in April 2020 (well, other than that whole COVID thing) when we had highs in the 20s after having highs in the 40s+ for weeks. That was what prompted the purchase of my cheapo folding stationary bike – still the best pandemic purchase for me. Although I love winter (really, I do) I will not miss taking 5 minutes to get ready to walk out the door by layering up, figuring out which coat to wear (the heavy one or the REALLY heavy one), etc. Summer is just so much easier in that regard.

Somehow, I have managed to agree to and book a trip to Florida. In May. With my parents. Despite the fact that Stephany lives there, making it a much better place than it would be otherwise, I’m still wrestling with the idea of spending money in a state that legislates hate. Sigh. Yet, this was what I could afford, and what was accessible for me, and for my parents. Part of me wants to donate to organizations supporting LGBTQ+ youth and public health initiatives… I’ll have to ponder that as the time gets closer. And, of course, in the context of what the car needs. Sigh, again.

This post is so totally in line with how my brain was this morning on my walk… random stream of consciousness thoughts that I’d share (and bore you to tears with) if you were sitting here with me today. This morning’s randomness led me to remembering when I first worked in the DC area, the people with whom I interacted at that job (Donna, Ric, Jean… most of whom are probably retired by now!), and even what the parking permit looked like (it was a little car, with the year on the “tires”… it was one of the cutest parking permits I’ve seen).

There is an Event in the community room right now (just down the hall from me). I am betting baby shower. Lots of female voices and high-pitched squeals of “I haven’t seen you in forever!” It makes me smile to overhear these things and think about the different stages of life. πŸ™‚

I have Goals this week, in addition to (sigh) Meetings. I hope to get the bathroom closet finally cleaned up, clear out some ancient files in my desk filing drawers (do I really NEED documentation of my job search from 2000?), and (car willing) take books to the 1/2 price bookstore. We’ll see what actually happens, though. If I can get one thing done, it will make me happy. All 3? We’d be verging into ecstatic. Ha.

OK, this is a really, really long and boring post. Thanks for letting me do a bit of a brain dump though. Time to move on to the next thing on the work to-do list!