Event Horizon

It’s been about two weeks since I’ve published a post. I’ve written a couple, part of an extended metaphorical discussion of mental illness that I’ve been adding onto for maybe two months but have yet to feel like it’s “complete” enough for publishing.

Probably that doesn’t matter. I don’t need five or six or maybe seven posts on backlog, although that might not be a bad thing since school starts again in two weeks.

The truth is, I want to write meaningfully. Cheap writing isn’t my style. (Not that cheap writing doesn’t have value; it’s just not the right fit for me.) But this often means I’m struggling to find inspiration. Which is often shorthand for “my depression is making me so lethargic and lackluster that I’m not sure I could write something even if I tried” or “my anxiety is keeping me so strung up that I can’t stay still long enough to even think about writing.”

I’m a work in progress. The world is a work in progress.

So we progress.

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Making Mistakes

Today we’re learning distribution. I’ve just done a few whole-class examples and now I’ve put some practice exercises on the board.

As my students begin copying them into their notebooks (so they can show their work), I begin circulating the classroom.

My intent is clear: identify mistakes and correct them. This is important, both artificially because it’s on state exams and implicitly because the relationship between multiplication and addition that is distribution has profound impacts on number systems that underlie a plethora of physical phenomena and theoretical constructs alike.

The first few students I check in with are plowing ahead, all the way to the second question already. Then I get to one of my struggling learners. Let’s call him Joe.

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Sankalpa

O Lord, deliver me from the man of excellent intention and impure heart: for the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.

T. S. Eliot

In order for a war to be just, three things are necessary. First, the authority of the sovereign. Secondly, a just cause. Thirdly, a rightful intention.

Thomas Aquinas

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.

Helen Keller

So I begin.

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Race Words

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

The world is burning up–from fever and riots–yet I sit at my table, face the window, see the sunlight, the brick-and-blue building across from me, and then look back at my computer.

What am I doing?

What are we doing?

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The Big PVGs

Or: a response to “30 Behaviors That Will Make You Unstoppable” by Benjamin Hardy.

When I spoke to my therapist in early April, he suggested reading Hardy’s article to help me get some ideas for “what works,” you know, that post I procrastinated writing until a few days ago.

Likewise, even though I opened Hardy’s article while I was still on the phone with my therapist, and I kept it open for the next two weeks, I didn’t actually sit down to read it until two days before my next appointment–what happens, I thought, if he asks about it? (Spoiler: he didn’t.)

As I read through these 30 things that promise to make me unstoppable, I felt a plethora of feelings: some of it reminded me of what I read in The Four Desires; some of it sounded too prescriptive, like the “shoulds” that instill shame which Brene Brown warns us against; and some it made me wish for something more, like inspiration and imagination.

But part of me also realized, as I read Hardy, that it’s been a long time since I actually evaluated the big PVGs in my life: my priorities, my values, my goals.

I figured this all out, once, so I’d figured it would end there. But it never does.

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Overdunnit

Has it been a tumultuous two weeks, or is it just me? Between mental health uncertainties, shoulder-deep feelings of burnout, work difficulties, and not least of all the spread of a novel coronavirus, COVID-19, the last two weeks have run past like an Arcanine using Extreme Speed. And now, as I write this, I’m sitting on my couch at eleven in the morning because all Wisconsin schools (and many others around the country) have been closed indefinitely.

They were closed Friday afternoon.

For at least the next month, but quite likely much longer.

So what’s a homebound teacher with wavering mental health supposed to do?

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The Inevitable Return of Pokemon Wednesday: A Retrospective

Can you believe I’ve been blogging for ten years? It’s true: I first created The Writingwolf on January 1, 2010. (That’s why my Twitter and Instagram handles are Writingwolf2010.) A whole decade of blogging has passed. My life has changed in many insurmountable and unpredictable ways, but one thing has always remained: My love of Pokemon.

On the surface, Pokemon is a game about collecting and competition. There’s the challenge of getting all the things, then there’s the challenge of battling and defeating all the other things. It’s the best possible fusion of stamp collecting and Rock-Paper-Scissors that has ever been made. And yet, if this is all you get from Pokemon, you’re missing a lot.

Pokemon–as I’ve addressed at various times throughout the life of my blog–is also a game about adventure, overcoming adversity, and constantly challenging yourself to explore, fail, get up again, learn, grow, and then repeated the process to become a better person. It’s a perfect parable for the journey of life itself.

I’ve been wanting to do a grand reflection on my last ten years of blogging, but I just haven’t felt inspired. Then it came to me: Why not use my unending love for Pokemon as the vehicle through which I explore the last decade of my life (and then some)?

So with no further ado, let the adventure begin.

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Make America Great Again

America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.

Alexis de Tocqueville

It’s hard to say precisely the moment when America ceased being good. Some might even say she never was good–at least not wholly. Our country was built upon interracial warfare and slavery–against American natives, Africans, even the white poor.

To say any of that was ever good is shortsighted and misleading.

And yet, one can’t help but argue that America has always been great: a bastion of freedom, a new exploration of democracy on a scale that hadn’t been seen before, a righteous (but not self-righteous) country whose faith lay not in ethereal deities or divine mandates but upon the collective goodness of the people themselves. Yes, America hasn’t always met these ideals (if ever she has), but striving toward ideals is itself a a constant struggle and a constant celebration of the small victories along the way.

Yet now, amid political corruption and mass shootings, what victories remain?

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Sloom

Sloom. Intransitive. British, dialectal. To doze. Become weak. Drift along slowly.

I like the word intransitive. In middle school when I learned the word it didn’t mean much, but now I can tease it apart and dissect its meaning: trans across, in meaning opposite. It does not go across. It’s an action without object.

Adrift is a good word too. Describes the feeling nicely. Adrift in the ocean: a battered raft riding the waves, sun rays beating down, dehydration, head lolling off the side, tongue lapping at the waters–but if it’s salty, it’s like drinking death anyways.

Or maybe adrift in the air: like a bird gliding through an updraft, slung upward, seeing the ground far beneath it, but unable to do anything but lilt in the wind. Or adrift in space: an astronaut untethered, touched not by gravity. Total silence. Absolute abyss.

Or maybe, like me, adrift in my own head.

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Man in the Iron Masc

This post is part of my 2019 Pride Month series “Proudly Reaffirming Identity, Diversity, and Equity,” exploring present-day issues facing the LGBTQ+ and allied communities.

When I was six or seven, my aunt gave me a copy of The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexander Dumas. It’s part of his D’Artagnan saga, most notably begun as the Three Musketeers. It’s a novel of historical adventure, with a political twist–not quite satire, but enough criticism it probably played a role in catalyzing the French Revolution.

The version I was given, however, was adapted for children. I never read it.

The book sat on my bookshelves for ages, and I probably still have it somewhere, stored away in a box in a closet probably, but because it was a gift, something given to me, I always felt obligated to read it. The intrigue was always present, if my interest in reading it was not: Who was this man? And why did he wear a mask made of iron?

The historical figure we may never know, but the fiction is a story all its own.

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