At Home Post 2: On Finally Discovering My Passion

It’s the last day of April y’all, and by putting in a little elbow grease to end the month I’m still remaining on pace to make my crazy blog goal! Yay. With the world being in a relative state of turmoil, one must take victories where one can get them.

So aside from my extensive book review, the reasons for which I will get into later in this post, I have written an unfolding series of stories about my (our) response to Covid-19. Hey, maybe this kind of stuff will be important for the historical archives someday, when someone in 2050 is unable to imagine what this time and the time before it was like. “Wait, you mean people used to have to get in these things called cars to go to work? Weird.” Well I don’t know if we’ll go quite that far, but…

So I keep alluding to her, but I want to talk in this post more about what it’s been like being around my wonderful wife for the vast majority of these now forty-one (41!) days. I’ll tell you, if you want to discover whether you are compatible with and can enjoy the presence of someone, take away nearly all choice to do anything else but be with them and find out. Actually though, we’ve been having a great time. We sit on the couch and do things that make us laugh a lot, which at least to me is a key part of my survival. We also have read a couple of books together, because there suddenly is nothing else but time.

One of these was Unorthodox, by Deborah Feldman. You may have seen the documentary series on Netflix, but she is a previously Hasidic (don’t know if I spelled that correctly) Jewish woman who felt the need to depart that community after some tough experiences while married to her arranged husband in New York. I am told that the book departs quite significantly from the series, especially as it concerns what happened after they married.

The other of our reads, I said I would not admit allowed because it sounds silly. It’s Playboy Pilots, by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland. It’s their third in a “series of stand-alones,” and we had read the first of these, Hate Notes. It’s a typical, fairly cheesy, love story with a lot of sex, but it also explores the challenges of forming a new relationship when someone has things in his or her past of which he or she is less proud. Oh and it has a lot of travel, which I can only dream about these days. I ultimately did like the book.

The main thing my wife has helped me with though, using her incredible coaching skills and a willingness to talk deep into the night, is that battle I’ve been fighting for the last 17 years: trying to figure out WHAT DO I WANT TO DO. Every go I have with the different career and life coaches hits basically this same snag, and so I knew that it was time for me to figure out that thing lurking in my brain and wishing to escape. And what have I often said to myself but not really acknowledged? I want to find a career that allows me to center myself around reading. So, the emergence of the book review! I will, over the next few months, be using this space to practice different types of review and styles of writing until I truly find my voice, then I hope to make my way into some freelance outlets. I am excited to finally embark on this journey, and perhaps it will even have a satisfactory ending for me. So if, like me, you are struggling to find your way in this confusing world, just stop and listen to yourself to hear what you’re already saying. Therein might lie the answer.

Book Review: Labyrinth of Ice, by Buddy Levy

In Labyrinth of Ice, Buddy Levy writes about the Greely (1881-1884) Arctic expedition that starts with so much promise, but in the end goes horribly wrong. Commander Greely and his band of mostly military men set out to travel to the “farthest north,”, and while they do make it, the return brings about much peril.

In modern times, it is hard to imagine being so disconnected from civilization that one has to depend on only those around him, but this was of course the case during the Greely expedition. In fact, the only way they could transmit messages between themselves and those that might try to rescue them was by leaving them in cans whenever one of the ships managed to reach a location where it might be retrieved. From there, they had to hope.

The book strikes a very hopeful, excited tone for most of its first half. The men, and they were all men on this trip, enjoy forays into icy waters, play games and celebrate holidays at a fort they have constructed near the coast of Greenland. They have plenty of food and resources to go around, and make judicious use of them. Some wrinkles do appear while they are at base though, most notably rebellions among the leadership.

The real trouble starts once they decide to set off from the fort in the hopes of locating a relief vessel that will sail them back south. Food and tempers are shortened, and, well lives are lost. As in most true disaster stories, the reader gets a sense of the men’s deep despair, and wonders when or if they will be saved.

As the exhibition rolls along, we particularly see a change in Greely’s leadership from a more authoritarian style to one that is more democratic, which has a big positive effect on morale. There are also changes in other characters, for instance an initially discharged lieutenant who shows such great leadership skills in the end, and missed the last ship out when he was to have been sent home, that he is reinstated. In the character portrayals, we experience how many of us might have reacted under such harsh conditions, even as we ponder the wisdom of having placed oneself there.

This is a usual American exploration story, in that it celebrates what some might see as White men’s exploitation of the land and absorption of the locals. The Greenlanders who participate are given what might nowadays be considered offensive nicknames such as “Eskimo Fred,” but in the end they are treated fairly well and become an important part of the overall story. Some of the feelings of exploitation no doubt also arise from the fact that many of these men were of military origin, and relied heavily on their ranks and their desire to establish pride in the USA.

On the whole, Labyrinth is an enthralling story with which the reader, if consuming during this time of Covid, can strongly identify. It actually helps one to ponder how to cope with extreme isolation and the sadness that can result from being out of contact with family and friends for an extended period. Probably the rushed ending, wherein Greely’s other accomplishments are laid out, could have been excluded. But give it a go anyway, and you might come away with a little more appreciation of life’s fragility and why it must be protected.


So here we are, almost last week of April. And, I will have to make a massive push to meet that goal I set a few weeks ago. I shall give it a go, even with the relative dearth of content these days.

How are we? It’s been five weeks, and still no buildings entered, no person seen outside of my wife and her sisters. That in itself is unreal and would have been unthinkable a short time ago. Like all of us though, I have better days and worse days. The latter has kind of predominated of late, but I am praying that I’m starting to emerge from the fog and get going again.

Of course, a large part of my sustenance, and the thing that reminds me that life is still going on beyond these four walls, is the Internet. Can you imagine if we had something like this happen in the early 90s? How would we have stayed entertained. Found stuff to read. And most importantly, stayed connected.

Like all of you, I suddenly find myself doing everything online these days. First, I have already experienced three Zoom meetings: two of which were with the Norrie Disease Association. There was also a third wherein someone instructed us on making Google Docs accessible with screen-reading software. I was pleased to discover that the Zoom software is easily accessible, and I could hear people in fairly high quality. Plus, whereas our phone NDA board meetings tend to feel more stilted, the one we conducted over Zoom felt a little closer to the natural flow that occurs when in person. I must admit though that I still had (have?) Qualms about enabling my video, because I don’t know what y’all sighted folk are seeing or the reactions it may cause. It does show a nice still photo of my background, though.

SIDENOTE: A country song by the group Big and Rich called Stay Home just played on my Apple Music. It’s clearly written for this period. Interesting, first I’ve heard of such a thing.

Anyhow, my other tele-experience occurred yesterday as I spoke with the nutritionist to whom I had been recommended by my doctor. The medical folks of course use a proprietary platform, and here I also could not get myself to be seen. I asked her if this mattered, and she said not really. We had a good conversation, but the changes she suggested will require me to eat more unusual vegetables. Hmmm…

Other than that, still beating the job search grind. I’ve recently also acquired a representative at NC Works, the program that is run by the office that also administers Unemployment benefits. We’re doing the 11th re-design of my resume, but I think her idea, that of composing a combination resume, is one of the best. Not sure when or if I will return to my old employer, but amazingly to me they’re still open and about 80% staffed, according to their latest update. This makes me feel a little questionable about not going, but I also have a more complex set of health needs. Hopefully we’ll soon see these numbers start going back down if people can be patient a bit longer, and we’ll all be able to return to our lives and livelihoods.

In theory, I will be writing to you again on Sunday, then I’ll have to get entry number 4 in by next Thursday. Perhaps. Till then, stay safe.

On Goal-setting and Recurring Dreams

Before this Covid stuff began, I set a crazy goal to write the number of blog posts that correspond with each month of the year. Easy in January, not so much by December. Realistically, I’m already finding it difficult to do so as a malaise creeps in as day what? 18? Who knows, of this time locked inside rolls around.

I came up with this idea for a couple of reasons. First, I have set, and mostly successfully met, reading goals every year since 2015. I have no doubt that reading as much as I now am is increasing my comprehension and ability to take in large amounts of information quickly. I guess I am hoping to have a similar impact on writing, though this is admittedly a much harder mountain to scale. It depends on coming up with good topics and being able to wax poetic on them on a consistent basis, a benchmark which I can by no means guarantee.

But then that’s just it, isn’t it. I want also to get myself to post on a regular basis, as I must do if I hope to really turn this into something. So sometimes it will just have to do to sit here and bang on the keys, letting the thoughts stream onto my screen as I rock (literally in my recliner) to music streaming from my Bose speaker.

So what do I have for you today, after all that prattle? Recurring dreams. I seem to have them, or at least some really similar versions of them, more than the average bear. If asked, I would put them into three categories: some kind of crazy family drama, college or high school oddness, and not reaching my destination on some form of transportation.

The family dreams naturally leave me the most unsettled. They usually involve people arguing back in my childhood days, or me doing or saying something at home that I definitely shouldn’t. I mostly feel like these occur because I need to call my parents, something I do not do nearly as often as I should. In the latest of these, I break an oven when trying to prepare some sort of meal. Perhaps that just means I need to stay out of the kitchen?

Then, there are the dreams of going back to school. In one of the more amusing of these, Tupac is teaching a class at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind. I do not know about what, but of course the room was packed. Mostly though, I’m in my college dorm room wondering if I should have registered for classes by the time we get to the day before. Or I somehow still have a room even though I am definitely no longer a student at the university, and live in constant fear of getting caught. In another, the housekeeper encounters me in the hall and tells me “you have to go downstairs because you’re in the way!” “Can I go back in my room and get my stuff?” I asked. “No,” she says as she shoves me into an elevator that leads me into a basement with no exits and what sounds like a loud boiler going. It was scary.

The last kind involve getting onto some form of transport; a bus, train, or plane, and never quite reaching my destination. The plane starts to land, and just goes down, down, down, until I finally awake. Or the bus seems to continue on the highway for hours, days even, without stopping. In the latest, one of my sisters and I were on a train. We did reach our stop, but had to run nearly a mile to get out of the car before it pulled off. Somehow we managed to slam through the doors just in time. Without question, these transit dreams are the most common.

I wonder what these mean, if anything. Would you say you have recurring dream categories like that? Dreams have always fascinated me with their depth and complexity.