an impenetrable wall of lists

OK so hello and good morning from the unemployment line. Yes your boy is once again out of a job. Yes this is the 2nd time in 2-ish years. Hard not to take it personally!!! But [gestures grandly to literally the entire world].

My company was informed on Thursday that we were being shut down, immediately, right that second. The decision was made by a bunch of Swedish people, who were upset about something that had happened in Saudi Arabia. It was definitely the opposite of personal.

A few months ago I posted on an HR Slack group: “Between the economy and the AI stuff our jobs are definitely going away. Anyone have an exit strategy? A Plan B? A reasonable idea for something we can all transition our careers towards?” No one did. I stand by the post. Prescient.

Marie Howe: “One day it happens…the exact thing. No matter what you say or do.”

Anyways it happened. I was very aware, watching myself experience this thing unfolding, that I was not quite feeling my feelings. That I wasn’t even sure what my feelings were. Maybe I was feeling nothing, maybe I was feeling everything at once and unable to pick any of it apart. In any case I did the thing I usually do, which is start making lists.

List of ways to take care of myself (mental/physical/emotional health).

List of projects around the apartment I have always intended to do something about and now suddenly have time for.

List of things to do this week; (from which we pick a shorter) List of things to do today.

List of things it would be nice to get out of the apartment if we had an external storage space (admittedly now purely aspirational).

List of things to add to my resume when I get the energy to look at it.

List of jobs to maybe apply for when I finish my resume.

List of extremely dumb company names.

List of things we don’t need to spend money on.

(A new one) List of places it might be nice to have lunch. Now that money is a more immediate concern I’m suddenly obsessed with eating out. It was an easy thing to put on the “Things we don’t need to spend money on” list because…we never spent money on it. I can count on one hand the number of times I ate lunch out in the last 6 months. But now I can’t and so now this is a hardship, a thing to be endured, and I walk or run past restaurants that never interested me in the past and think: I would totally eat lunch there, if, if, if.

Unbelievably tiresome but I am who I am.

I have this sense that there’s some natural balance to be located between Taking care of myself and Not wasting the day. which means doing things for my family, doing things for others, working on my job search, networking, forcing myself to relax, having projects, watching a good amount of TV but not too much TV.

List of topics I could post about on linkedin even though it kills me but that’s part of my job search, like it or not.

List of people to call/text about this news of my unemployment.

List of people I haven’t seen in a while and maybe should try to reconnect with (except we can’t go out to lunch!!!) now that every day stretches out unbelievably emptily in every direction.

Predictably none of these lists forms a wall that prevents my feelings from eventually arriving.

List of feelings: anger, frustration, self doubt, worry, relief? kind of? but mostly sadness. Confusion about what to say when people ask me how I am. I don’t know! emoji shrug!

Donald Hall: “What else could we do except what we do?”

Anyways that’s the update. No call to action. I am actually fine. I do believe in my ability to hustle my way through this, and do tend to take the view that whatever’s happening at the moment, however good or bad, is just one chapter in a longer story. Mostly today I am just: annoyed/frustrated/bored. Hence writing, hence blog post, hence reaching out. Wooo. Click off the lil’ dopamine hit there.

wheels down for public failure

My New Thing is that I decided I wanted to learn how to rollerblade. I don’t recall the inciting event, exactly. I guess it was just that youtube served me a video of someone absolutely sailing through NYC down Broadway and I was like…damn that looks fun.

I tried to learn to roller- & ice-skate when I was young, but both were a disaster. Waaay too much pressure from skating parties (deepest personal nightmare, ages 6-14), plus my brother was a natural at both so I was like OK let me find something else to be good at I GUESS. Plus falling is scary.

So then a few days after the youtube video a coworker mentioned! randomly! that he was teaching himself how to rollerskate and I took that as a sign from the universe (I remain big on signs from the universe telling me what to do.)

The final thing was that I was browsing around on ebay, and I found an extremely new & barely used set of rollerblades my size. Exactly the ones I would buy, but half as expensive. So I put in a very modest bid, thinking I will not win this, but I did. And once you have spent your family’s hard-earned on rollerblades and a stranger is going through the hassle of boxing them up & bringing them to the post office, you are obligated to follow through on the thing.

I don’t have anyone in my life, that I’m aware of, who is either learning to rollerblade, or already successful at it. So I spent a lot of time on youtube watching beginner tutorials. And while I waited for my protective gear to arrive I just wore the skates in my bedroom, not even trying to move, just trying to get use to the feel, finding my balance, standing on both feet, shifting my weight from one foot to other, seeing what muscles I would be learning about now.

A lot of my life lately, a lot of my hobbies, end up being about me trying to feel present in my body. Meditation, singing (I just realized I haven’t posted about my voice lessons, which was my last most recent New Thing), even drawing. I swear I’m not collecting hobbies to distract myself from the pain of living or whatever. But even if I am they seem to be focusing my attention back inward anyway.

So, lots of balancing in my room, lots of youtube videos. I knew I had to get outside at some point and I realized I had a feeling about it: it wasn’t a fear of falling, or a fear of not being able to do it: it was a fear of sucking in public. I live in the city, there’s always people everywhere. There are no quiet secluded areas where I could look like a total idiot and fall on my ass without someone seeing.

Recognizing this, I made a commitment in my men’s group (my last most recent New Thing before voice lessons, I should write about that too I guess) that I would practice outside in public at least 3 times before our next (monthly) meeting. I definitely low-balled myself, 3 is extremely do-able; or at least I knew i would have no trouble doing it twice, but saying it aloud in public made me push myself slightly harder about it.

Anyways. I tried to get one of my kids to come with me, just to keep me company and feel like I had support/someone to hang out with while I did this, but they are teenagers, so you know. I went by myself. It went OK! I spent about an hour going back and forth across a nearby parking lot, with plenty of breaks. By the end I had almost started to feel comfortable-ish, or like I had learned more about balance. I definitely need to learn how to stop and how to turn, as those skills mostly still escape me. But I’m better than I was yesterday, anyway, and I had a hint of that feeling where something goes from completely inscrutable to potentially possible. I got a few looks, a few people said Hi as they walked through the parking lot, but no one laughed. And I only really completely fell on my ass once.

ways of being in 2 places at once

My mom had knee surgery recently. Total knee in the jargon of the various healthcare workers we met along the journey. I stayed with her for a few weeks to help with her recovery. It was: a lot, and it was more than I expected, because we had already done this once, a few years earlier, when she’d had her other knee done. But we realized early on that neither of us had any recollection whatsoever of what we had done or how things had gone with her previous knee surgery recovery.

Whatever we experienced was just gone. She has the metal knee to prove it happened, and we have a shared, vague sense that her recovery was easier that time? Maybe? But that’s it.

We also neither of us had any memories of her recovery from her heart surgery, or her recovery from her diaphragm surgery. These were all in the past few years but any details of them have been stricken from both our memories. Self-preservation, maybe? The way you return home from the hospital with your newborn thinking: No way are we ever doing that again. Then look at your toddler a few years later and think: Hell yeah more of this.

Previously: getting dumber, and: my lists. The realization that all the lists, all the blog posts, are maybe my only way of hanging on to memories that aren’t of immediate need. So I need record this:

My mother’s surgery was on a Thursday. She came home from the hospital on Friday. She was still very shaky on her feet. Had strict instructions from the medical community at large and me personally to not do anything on her own, but even so, she decided to take herself to the bathroom at 7am on Saturday. She fell, onto the toilet, cracking the toilet tank, unleashing a flood of water onto the floor, and into her bedroom, and down through the floor, and through the light fixtures, and onto the bathroom and hallway of the floor below her. And because the toilet kept trying to refill itself, the water kept coming and coming and coming.

This was how my morning started, startled awake at 7am by a crashing noise down the hall, running in to find water: everywhere. I’m running around the house trying to find buckets and towels to catch the water, wondering how badly my mom is hurt, absolutely no idea what to do about this mess, just a vague sense that this happening on a Saturday makes solutions even more difficult. A sense of being outside my body, watching this happen to me, wondering: how the fuck does he get out of this one?

(Answer: a call to my brother, who had recently been through a similar situation. 3 hours later a crew was setting up a series of fans & dehumidifiers all over the house, and one urgent care visit later we had determined that my mom was fine, no permanent or increased damage to her body.)

While I was helping my mom, my schedule, my normal Flow of Life, was pretty thoroughly upended. So many errands and housekeeping chores and care-taking tasks that filled the day, and much of the night. I wasn’t really writing, didn’t work on music, didn’t draw much. Just the cleaning, laundry, tidying, cooking, shopping, making phone calls, organizing notes, fetching things from across the room or upstairs, etc.

Plus work! Working From Home! A home, but not my home. So Work Work managed to follow me, but not My work. One child and one pet came with me, which was nice, but the rest of my life remained in Cambridge. There was texting and phone calls and facetime so I could hear what’s going on with them, what I was missing. What cute things did the cat do that I am missing. Daily, I felt some acute need to be home, even just for a minute. Sometimes for emotional reasons, sometimes for practical. I realized, not for the first time, that I pack for a trip like an absolutely maniac. Why did I bring all these pairs of pants but not any of the t-shirts I normally wear?

The stuff I need, the routine I love, is far away. Why do some things come with me and not other things.

I spent time wishing there was a way to just pop home and back with the snap of my fingers. It’s a 90-100 minute drive, so there is no popping there or back. Teleportation still not a thing. Quantum entanglement mostly theoretical. Astral projection not one of my skills. I meditated on the concept of the 4th dimensional flat circle, a sort of comfort in knowing I’m there (and here), always will be and was there (and here), even when I’m here (and there).

When my mom was finally well enough that I could come home, I found that the work of her recovery was still with me. I was back in my house, ready to resume my life, but instead still very focused on texting my mom, helping her remember things. Doing as much as I could for her from farther away.

“You’re having trouble not being there,” Rosalie said. “You’re still there.”

Yes. Exactly.

future-proofing hobbies

Recently: increasing annoyance at technology slash our (my) reliance on it do to Normal Things I Enjoy.

Recent obvious example: laptop suddenly stops charging. Rearrange the next 48 hours to suddenly buy (on credit) new one, shipped in time to transfer everything over before the old one dies permanently. Was unable to transfer my music library off. Currently have dead laptop sitting on floor of bedroom; waiting for a solution to magically appear.

(Although I will say/give myself credit for being very Whatever about it. Even though I’m sure there’s stuff I’ll be desperate to listen to at some point, so far I haven’t missed any of it or felt like I need to freak out about it.)

Another example: was excited to get back to work on music after a few days away and the USB adapter necessary to connect keyboard to laptop suddenly stopped working. Not a super expensive or permanent problem, but still, WHY did it stop working, why do I now have to buy a new one and wait for it to arrive before making more of my dumb little songs.

(Small amount of frustration that simply Playing Guitar doesn’t scratch this itch for me; it’s the whole process of finding sounds, recording, editing drumbeats, mixing levels, etc that I enjoy, doesn’t translate to analog world.)

Also: I had an older iPad that I used/needed only for doing the crossword and reading comics on the Marvel Unlimited app. (A great value, an app I insisted was necessary for anyone who wants to read comics.) But at some point the iPad reached an age where the OS wasn’t updating anymore, and so app developers weren’t supporting it anymore, and so the Marvel Unlimited app simply stopped working. So the iPad instantly became an extra tray table without legs. I’m not buying a new iPad just to read comics. It occurred to me I could probably still read comics on my laptop (where I do the crossword now) but it’s not the same, so I just cancelled my subscription. (It was impossible to read them on my phone.)

Anyways, increasingly interested in non-tech hobbies. Writing still thankfully one; even though I mostly do it online, I don’t have to. And drawing still being my main current one. Multiple pencils cost a dollar, drawing notebooks cost about $10 and even that is an unnecessary extravagance. Aside from the pleasure I take in drawing every day, there’s the added benefit of feeling secure in the knowledge that I am setting myself up for success in a (the approaching) post-apocalyptic society by having a hobby that will transition very easily. One less thing to worry about, at that point.

Some OK Things (first half 2023)

This is just some stuff I liked, not an exhaustive list of everything I experienced.

Media Stuff


  • The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Naylor (2022)
  • Something New Under the Sun by Alexandra Kleeman (2021)
  • The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon (1002)
  • Bluets by Maggie Nelson (2009)
  • OK I haven’t read a lot of books so far this year lbr


I mostly just listen to movie podcasts lately so:

  • The Big Picture
  • The Midnight Boys
  • The Rewatchables


  • Time Trap (2017)
  • Dungeons & Dragons (2023)
  • The Brothers Bloom (2008) (rewatch, they were showing it in the local theater for some reason)
  • Barbarian (2022)
  • Are You There God It’s Me Margaret (2023)


  • Keep Breathing (favorite thing on this list)
  • The Recruit
  • Single Drunk Female S2
  • Will Trent S1
  • The Night Agent S1
  • The Diplomat S1
  • The Great S3

Project Stuff

  • Still having fun with making my dumb little songs for my podcast
  • Also still having fun trying to do drawings

Life Stuff

  • Family doing good, kids no longer annoying teens, back to being a fun/interesting age
  • Feeling better than last year, healthwise (physical & mental)
  • Getting back into running

THE END….or is it? (It’s not.)