thanksgiving

Exit 224. I need to be patient with myself.

It’s time for another hiatus.

Life is just overwhelming right now.  I’ve been really busy with the usual work responsibilities.  My schedule got disrupted a couple weeks ago, with two days of school canceled because of smoke blowing down from the recent fire in Butte County.  (Just so you know, I’m about 100 miles from any areas that were actively burning, so I was never in imminent danger.  But the fire was so big and the wind so strong that smoke spread all over Jefferson and northern and central California.)  Although those two days gave me plenty of time to relax and prepare for my trip to visit my family for Thanksgiving, it also gave me more work to do this last week to adjust for having missed those two days.  I also have a lot to do around the house.  Laundry and dishes pile up so quickly, and I have a few home repairs I need to address as soon as possible.  Life definitely isn’t all work; I’ve been making time for fun too.  It’s December, which means lots of fun holiday events with friends, in addition to the usual game night group and my Dungeons & Dragons game.  The UC Davis football team is also in the playoffs at their level (NCAA Division I-FCS) for the first time since the school’s athletic program moved up to that level in 2004.  We won, and going to that game was totally worth it, but it also took up half of my day.  (There are eight teams still alive in the FCS playoffs, and there won’t be any more home games for UC Davis, so I won’t have any more games to go to this year.)

I need to take time for myself sometimes.  I need to be patient with myself that I can’t get everything done.  And I need to realize that sometimes it’s okay to spend money to get something repaired, rather than trying to do half of the things myself, and not doing a good job of it, and letting the other half of the things go until they cause worse problems down the road.  That’s especially true now that money isn’t as tight since I’m not barely scraping by on a private school salary anymore.

So in the interest of not trying to do too much, I’m going to take a few weeks off from this blog.  Whatever holidays you might be celebrating during this time of year, I hope they go well, and I’ll see all of you in 2019.

Exit 134. Thankful.

Since 2009, I have been attending a weekly partner dance event at a dance studio in Sacramento.  When I first started, it was a combination of blues dancing and West Coast swing; it has now changed to blues-based fusion dancing.  Since around 2011, I have volunteered to work the front desk, taking people’s money for part of the night.

Every year, on the weekend of Thanksgiving, this group has an event where, essentially, we write notes to each other to tell others why we are thankful for them.  Everyone has a bag with their name on it for people to just drop notes in as the night goes on.  This is one of my favorite nights of the year, at least as far as dance activities go.  I’m not trying to be an attention whore, but it is a great uplifting encouragement to see that someone took time out of their evening to tell me that they enjoy dancing with me, seeing me welcome them every week, or that I make great chocolate chip cookies.

In addition to this, I also look forward to the opportunity to tell others that I enjoy dancing with them, or just talking to them between dances.  I’m not always good at saying this kind of thing to someone face to face, because of my introverted nature, and this gives me a chance to express something I might not be able to do otherwise, as well as to make others feel the same way I do about this night.

What always strikes me about this is that it is provides a contrast to the way I often feel about the blues fusion community in general.  Specifically, I often feel that I don’t fit in, to the point that I question whether my continued involvement in blues fusion dance is helpful or harmful.  I enjoy the dancing itself, but I am not a dancer by nature.  I had no experience with dancing, other than a few awkward moments at middle and high school dances, until that brief time in the late 90s when swing dancing was a huge fad.  I got back into swing from 2007 until about a year ago when I got really busy with life, and I still go occasionally.  I got into blues a couple years later through some regulars there who I already knew from swing.  To this day, I still feel like I’m doing this more just for fun, as opposed to trying to be the best dancer ever and win competitions.  I don’t have time to devote to training for dance competitions, taking lots of classes and workshops, or traveling to multi-day dance festivals in other states, as many of my dance friends do on a regular basis.  The blues fusion community also tends to attract people with lifestyles and values very different from my own; I want to be accepting of others, but given my much more conservative and sheltered upbringing, I often find their lifestyles strange and a little frightening.  I often feel isolated because of this, and sometimes others will say things, or share links on social media, that I find hurtful toward people with values like mine.

But despite all that, the blues fusion community continues to surprise me with the kind of notes they write to me for this event.  Sometimes I get complimented by people I don’t know well about things that wouldn’t even have crossed my mind as something I did that others would appreciate or remember.  I even had someone tell me in person that she started to write me a note, but didn’t put it in my bag because she had a lot more to say than would fit on the card, and she didn’t want to write me a “half-assed” note, so she would give it to me next week after she finished.  Of course, that made me feel like the three-sentence note I had written to her was pretty half-assed, but that’s not the point.  The point is that, despite the fact that I feel so different from these people on the surface, there are many nice people in this group, and so often human beings have so much more in common than the differences that we choose to obsess about.  So maybe I need to be looking for the positives instead of dwelling on the negatives.

Exit 82. Take nothing for granted.

Thanksgiving is this week, at least here in the USA.  This always lends itself to thoughts and conversations about thankfulness, people sharing what they are thankful for and the like.

I’ve been going to a new church (new to me, at least) the last two weeks, much smaller and a bit different compared to most of the churches I’ve been to before, but not in a bad way.  At one point, the pastor asked us to get into small groups of four or so and discuss what we are grateful for, and tell about experiences that gave us a new perspective on gratitude.  (The sermon tie-in, besides Thanksgiving, was to Job 42:6, where Job essentially repents from all his complaining to God.)

I always find this kind of conversation humbling.  I can be like Job at times, focusing on everything that has gone wrong without remembering that I actually am a lot better off than so many people in the world, even than so many people around me.  The first thing that came to mind in this discussion is that I’m grateful that I am relatively healthy, and this is something I tend to take for granted.  This was on my mind because of a relative who I’ve just gotten to know in the last few years.  I hope it isn’t too awkward that I’m mentioning her here, because I know she reads this.  It isn’t my story to tell, but basically she is seriously ill and doesn’t have much time left.  She is around my age, late 30s.  I think of people like her, faced with an illness in the prime of her life, with a family to take care of… or like Alpheratz, the student from the school where I work who has never known a normal life because of the brain tumor she got in first grade, yet who is always upbeat and cheerful about life (I wrote about Alpheratz here)… and I realize that I really don’t have any right to complain.  I have a roof over my head, I have a job, I have food, and while I may not have a wife or children of my own, I have a lot of friends and relatives who care about me.

So wherever you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, take nothing for granted.  Remember what you are truly thankful for, and do everything you can to reach out to those less fortunate.  I’m just going to leave this here now.