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Cursed Days

December 8, 2014

Somewhere in my drafts folder are a minimum of two posts about the Timehop app. I’m unlikely to finish or use those drafts, so I’ll mention it tonight: I’ve been using Timehop for a while (two years if I had to guess), and aside from reminding me how long I’ve been on Twitter (January 2008, a whole virtual lifetime ago) and Facebook (a decade?!) and all the other assorted things, I’ve noticed how much my years follow cycles. Some of this has to do with working in education, where a new set of students plus fairly consistent routines yield similar behaviors, but it goes beyond just “wow I’m busy” declarations. Sure enough, I find that I tend to tweet about needing to clean up / get organized around the same time every year (March) and tend to hit silent periods around the same time (right in the middle of each grading quarter, usually). For a while, I saw a Ted Leo (with or without the Pharmacists) within the same half week window over multiple years (I mention because he’s playing the Aimee Mann Christmas show in Boston tomorrow night).

As each year goes by, I observe more of these trends. The first happened during my second year of teaching, when I noticed how tired I’d get around the first weeks of December and April. I concluded that it was my body still responding to the undergraduate schedule nearly half a decade later (to be fair, I spent two years in grad school with a similar schedule, but I observed it in the year in between undergrad and grad school, plus my first few years of teaching). Last year, I realized that I always hit a minimum of one incredibly frustrating December day. It must be from a combination of many factors: being close to the first significant vacation of the academic year, the rest from the Thanksgiving non-break ceding to the exhaustion of the non-stop fall onslaught, the rollout of cold weather, holiday shopping stress, lack of sunlight, etc. It doesn’t show up in Timehop because I tend to keep these things to myself.

I’ve been thinking about that because today was that day this year. Nothing significantly bad happened; no illness, injury, or emotional damage occurred, and I didn’t incur any significant costs, but today was the day where ten tiny frustrations lined up and greeted me nearly hourly. I left work exhausted (despite a double dose of coffee, which didn’t help) and drove home in darkness (which didn’t help). Unlike past years, I caught myself in the moment the way Liz Lemon realizes that she can anticipate her cast’s meltdowns by reading her diary. I forced myself to sit down on the couch (after eating a two-part dinner, in what seems appropriate for a Liz Lemon reference) and by writing this post, I realized two things that have made me feel a little better.

1. I really can’t complain.

I didn’t detail the list of things that rat-kinged me today in part because I don’t want to remember them next year (or, more accurately, I don’t want to think about how dumb I was today). They also don’t matter. I leave today annoyed, but in good shape. I’m tired, but I’m in a good place. I’m trying to figure out the difference between acknowledging problems and annoyances and wallowing in them (or, letting them smolder in resentment), and today is the type of day I’m prone to open the door to self-pitying. If I’ve learned anything about myself this year, it’s that I’m not helping myself by lying.

2. We need to look out for each other.

That said, this is a tough time of year for a lot of different reasons. If you’re in a good place yourself, keep an eye out for your friends and loved ones. It’s easy to let things accumulate this year, and under the banner of “the most wonderful time of the year,” for many people it’s easier to stay silent rather than reach out. This year in particular feels especially heavy, so we need more of us to help bear that weight. I’m grateful to the friends who reached out to me today (some of which didn’t know that sending a random text or email was a necessary distraction), and I’m going to try to do the same as soon as I hit publish.

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