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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Me and My Brian

Or “My Brain and Me.” Or “This is fine.”

There’s a fine line between the grace and elegance of Stevie Nicks spinning in a circle, her shawl flowing around her like a spring breeze, and a drill boring into your teeth.

How swift the metaphor changes, an image of beauty replaced with an image of pain–and if you’ve ever had an unpleasant dentist experience, you probably cringed as you read it. That tenuous balance is the realm I live in: one second things are peaceful; the next it’s hell.

I’m not kidding.

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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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I was responding to a recent YouTube video by Wood Hawker, a favored content creator I follow who frequently reviews video games and occasionally talks about mental health. He was asking for suggestions as he begins building his new channel, and I said I enjoy his videos about mental health but at times they feel too long and heavy. And I realized that when I talk about mental health I fall into the same pitfall: I only talk about it when I hit the bottom, but I never talk about the real day-to-day life of living with mental illness.

So I thought, why not? When I hear how others struggle to win their daily battles, I feel like I’m not alone. I feel empowered. I feel more confident to take on the day.

But I haven’t done that myself, so today I want to change that.

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A Rose by Any Other Name

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

We all know Shakespeare. We all know Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps not the first illicit love, but surely the most notorious. MacBeth gave us witches, and Hamlet gave us unanswerable questions, “To be or not to be?” and Romeo and Juliet gave us words.

Words, however, should not be underestimated.

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Edging

Sharp lines define: the corners of a square, the borders of a tattoo, the ends of a smile. Sharp lines form an edge, and I’ve sharpened some edges like hunters sharpen knives.

There’s a fine line between light and darkness: where the shadows blur and intermingle, the edge of twilight simultaneous beckons us forward and pushes us back.

Treading upon this edge has been my journey of late, and every misstep brings me closer to the blades upon which I try to balance.

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On the Cusp of Past and Future

It’s been 126 days since I blogged last. In that time, I have…

Taught approximately 360 lessons
Graded nearly 800 exams and quizzes
Used four of my five allotted sick days
Attended at least 40 hours of professional development
Spent about 60 hours preparing and submitting my edTPA
Written a 42-page, single-spaced, original research paper
Backed 23 new campaigns on Kickstarter (while not funding my own)
Listened to “Sky Full of Song” and “Hunger” over a hundred times, and
Worked out a lot less than I wanted to.

But all of that is merely the minutia of being a grad student-math teacher-advisor-TFA corps member-writer. Except half of that is suddenly behind me.

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Read Me

If I were Alice, I’d have exhausted my share of Drink Me’s and Eat Me’s with all the time life has made me feel bigger or smaller than I am. It’s a part of growing up (thinking you’re bigger than the world, to learn you’re not) and becoming an adult (thinking you’re too small for survival, to learn you’re not so small at all), but if I’ve got one thing on Alice, it’s all the Read Me’s piled up around me house.

On my nightstand. My coffee table. My kitchen table. The bookshelves. The floor.

Books abound, beneath my TV, beside my couch. It’s a glorious feeling.

Except all that Read Me is getting a bit too much to swallow. Would it be too apt a metaphor to say I’ve got the words stuck in my throat, sentences strung around my molars and tethered to my tongue?

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Dialectic

It’s the patch of fabric scratching a patch of skin that’s agonizing and incestuous but you can’t get enough.

It’s biting the side of your mouth with your back teeth, the sting of flesh splitting, the intrigue of electricity pulsing in your skin, the sweet discharge of ferrous blood onto your tongue.

It’s the first few breaths after orgasm, lungs empty, yearning, muscles locked in place and paralyzed, every inhalation aromatic and awe-some: you’re smelling oxygen for the very first time.

I’ve been in a mood lately, fostering new views, melding old ones: Creation is destruction, there is attraction in repulsion, beauty exists in the most ugly and painful things.

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Ten Weeks

Have you ever felt happiness so raw your cheeks hurt from smiling? Have you ever felt such joy your eyes are forced to squinting because it’s too overwhelming to see how beautiful even the most mundane corners of the world have become? Have you ever felt longing so intense every cell seems polarized, pointing in unison toward that point on the horizon where all your hopes and dreams stand in wait, longing equally for you?

I’ve been keeping a secret from you, dear reader, and I’m too excited not to tell.

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