I’ve finally decided to start blogging under (more or less) my own name.  If you like you can follow me at the new blog.

“Bing will not seek re-election as mayor, eyes Wayne County executive position”

Since he has proven himself such an effective leader since he was elected mayor.

As with so much of Michigan political news in recent years:  You really can’t make this stuff up.

The Zen of being laid up

Wednesday night, I dropped a dresser drawer on the big toe of my right foot.  As I told Fang, the woman who lives in the unit next to mine (our bedrooms share a wall) must have thought I was having the best orgasm of my life.  Fang posted some vintage Kathy Bates realness to my Facebook wall in honor of the injury:

Fortunately, the nail stayed on, the toe was not broken,  and the hematoma stayed fairly contained.  But the doc at urgent care instructed me to keep weight off that foot as much as possible for the first 48 hours and to keep it elevated.  My mom, who had spent an entire summer out of commission several years ago after a heavy outdoor stone table fell on her toe, was adamant that I should stay home from work the next 2 days.  I’d just returned after 3 work days away from the office at a conference in Boston; my condo was a mess, I had no food in the refrigerator, and my dryer had broke the weekend before, so the timing was less than ideal.  So I took the first day off but went in yesterday, with the aid of crutches.

While the pain has steadily receded, I’m still trying to stay off my right foot, and it’s been an instructive reminder of how physically active I am.   The day I took off work, I couldn’t resist the urges to empty the dishwasher, pick up groceries and a clothesline, sweep the layer of dust that had accumulated over every surface of the house, do 3 loads of laundry, and pack to spend the weekend in Detroit.  Fang & I were planning to spend today moving the new washer and dryer and taking the old ones to the Ann Arbor Recycle drop-off station, but that will have to wait a week.  Last night, we went out for dinner and spent 20 minutes waiting for a table, which turns out to be a really long time to spend standing on crutches in a crowded restaurant.

Normally I would have started my Saturday morning taking the dogs for a long walk, and then spent the rest of the day running errands and doing house work.  I keep a Google Drive document with a list of all the things I need to get done in a day, and normally that list metastasizes throughout the day;  I cross off one item, and manage to find another to append.  Instead, I’m looking at spending most of the day on my ass, resisting the little voice yammering away about how much shit I should be taking care of.

Overriding that little voice is becoming an unexpectedly Zen-like exercise.  A day of doing nothing?   Sitting around and just writing or reading?  I can’t remember the last time I allowed myself the luxury.  I’ll be 29 in August, and damn it, the clock is ticking!  Who knows what kind of profound insights and inner peace I will discover in the course of my Weekend of Doing Nothing?

So early in the spring

Jokes about Michigan’s abbreviated spring are cliché for anyone who’s lived here for more than a few months.  Winter is interminable, and lingers long into April; we’ve been reminded of that this week, when we got snowfall yesterday.     The trees typically don’t bloom til early May even in the southeast; from that point things evolve rapidly so that by month’s end the daily high is routinely in the 80s, and the air is humid.

I have a considerable chip on my shoulder about the state I’ve spent my life in,* and our climate is one of many reasons for that.  On the plus side, once you’ve lived here, it makes you really appreciate what other parts of the country take for granted.   I had no complaints about the chill of San Francisco in January or the (usually) brief showers in Scotland in September, and Texas in March was almost thrilling.  And unlike Southerners or Californians, Midwesterners know how to drive in an inch of snow.   I like to think this harshness makes us Midwesterners a little tougher than the rest of our fellow Americans.

As I write this the sun has re-emerged after being smothered by clouds most of the day, and the temperature is a crisp, invigorating chill.  It’s perfect for sweater-wearing, and I think the dogs are going to get a walk this evening.

*and about a lot of other things, obviously…

Words as therapy

One of the reasons I decided to try to start writing again on this blog was that I was already doing so much daily writing.  Journaling has always been one of my two main go-to methods of therapy.  When I’m in the grip of a particularly acute attack of anxiety or a sleepless night, I can easily fill pages with “Dear Diary”-type dreck of varying degrees of navel-gazing.  The value of this kind of writing to anyone besides me is questionable.  On the other hand, clearly I’m not the only person struggling with mental health issues;  in my case, mostly anxiety and insomnia secondary to that anxiety.  Online blogging is a way to share what I’m going through with others, both to help me process it and, ideally, to start a conversation that can help some of my readers too.  And if nothing else,  it’s a way to leverage at least some of those hundreds of words I’m scribbling each day for better use.

Now that I’ve released this blog from its previous topic constraints, you can expect to read more about mental health, both my own and in general.

In which I discuss my new commute, which is going to blow

So effective late August, it appears I’ll be making the commute to work in Ann Arbor from Ferndale, 5 days a week.  (Well, probably from Ferndale — there’s a remote possibility we’ll stay in Detroit — but that’s a topic for another post.)  With the exception of the last time I lived in Ferndale, for a couple of months in 2007, I’ve never had a commute of more than a couple of miles and for most of my working life I’ve walked, biked or taken the bus.  It’s something I’ve prided myself on, low carbon footprint, etc.  I always secretly looked askance at my colleagues who commuted from far away — why didn’t everybody just pick up and move down the street from where they worked like I did?

Hence this lifestyle change has generated some major cognitive dissonance for me.  I already commute to & from work from AMD’s* place in Detroit from time to time and have got the routine down pretty well.  In the morning, I get on the road when it’s still dark, turn on Morning Edition, savor the coffee in my travel mug, and on clear days I get to enjoy the sunrise.  The afternoon is not as pretty, but I have the choice of All Things Considered on 2 different stations (Michigan Radio and WDET) to help me power through, and an excited welcome home from 2 Cairn terriers (and a more low-key kiss from AMD) to look forward to at the journey’s end.

So it’s not that it’s an unpleasant commute; far from it.  It just feels wrong.  Going back at least as far as Sex and the City, my generation has been trained by mass culture that young. childless people get to work by the subway or a similarly urbane method; that hippies, health nuts, and the environmentally conscientious get there by bike; and that a commute by car is reserved for old people with kids and responsibilities.  I’m going to be one of those old people with responsibilities, alone in my car for 90 minutes-plus each day, stuck in traffic, and it’s freaking me out.

*AMD = Astronaut Mike Dexter, aka Fang aka my boyfriend/partner/the old ball & chain.

April 16, 2013

It felt like something was missing, so I’m going to try writing again.

I have started a number of different online blogs and they always end up fizzling out sooner or later.  With Motown To TreeTown, I started it following Penelope Trunk‘s advice that you should focus your blog on a specific topic rather than making it a general “Dear Diary” type blog.  (I’d cite the exact post where she advised this but I can’t find it anymore, and I’ve subsequently realized Penelope Trunk is completely batshit anyway so there’s no point in taking her advice as gospel.)

I was super into urbanism at the time so that’s what I decided to blog about, and I needed a niche, so I focused on my own peculiar geographic circumstances.  And it worked pretty well for about a year and a half.  I pushed myself and kicked out over a hundred posts, many of them quite lengthy.  But eventually I got depressed about the subject matter (because frankly southeast Michigan is kind of an urbanist’s nightmare), distracted by, well, living my life, and tired of spending so much of my spare time in front of a computer screen.  It was starting to feel like work, and I already have 45 hours of that per week not counting time spent commuting.

So I’m back, and I am going to keep my ambitions modest:  1 post per day, 100-200 words, this time no topic constraints.  I thought about starting an entirely new blog and thought, Why bother?  I’ll just keep what I have now and re-brand things as I go.  What’s important is getting the words out.  Eventually I think I’ll just write under my own name and register a domain name like, say, MarkMaynard.com.  But I think I’ll hold off on that til I’m safely and securely self-employed, which may not be too far off.

I’m already at 250 words which is tl;dr so I’m going to wrap this up.  More to come.