A Year in Haiku: The Emotional Arcs of 2022

I haven’t had the time or energy to finish the chapter of Infrared Isolation I’ve been working on, so I decided to collect the highlights of my daily haiku from last year. They’re more of a way to do some daily journaling than a proper attempt to employ the traditional poetry format, but the following poems are representative of the year I had, each one of them named after the day I wrote it. It’s kind of funny, but looking back through my collection of thoughts and feelings without context, I can’t remember what about a quarter of them are referencing. It’s nice to see that my pursuit of a simple, quick emotional expression has done just as good a job of managing my general anxiety as journaling did, but without all of the frequently frustrating and depressing details attached to it. Now I can look back at what I wrote and not worry about being reminded of specific troubles. Instead, I can focus on reviewing the emotional arcs of my life over the course of 2022.

This is far from a complete list, since I wrote three hundred seventy-six of these and am only showing twenty-eight, but they do a pretty good job of transcibing the emotional peaks and valleys of my year. I’m not sure if they’re going to make as much sense to anyone else as they make to me without a degree of explanation and context that I’m not willing to provide, but I tried to pick only the poems that could stand on their own.

Scattered thoughts collect
In the deepest pits and pools
Of my tired mind.

Softly falling flakes
Decorate the salted earth.
Winter lingers on.

I’m doing my best.
Is that still enough these days,
Or do I need more?

My identity
Is an unanswered question
I still ask myself.

A quiet murmur
Insisting you get it right.
Spring winds in bare trees.

Words echo empty
Of all their supposed meaning,
Yet you keep talking.

My mask is flawless.
Even adults mistake it
For my real visage.

I expect nothing
And still I’m disappointed.
The ode of my life.

The ticking clock beats
Against the indifferent
Chest of normalcy

My heart aches for things
I don’t have the words to name
But know I’m missing.

I have awoken
From a dream of somewhere else
I wished I could stay

What do I owe to
Someone who would deny me
My identity?

Everything’s the same–
Laughter, jokes, and warm coffee–
But nothing’s the same.

I can feel the weight
Of this moment in my life,
But not what it means.

Sometimes I wonder
Why I bother doing this?
Will it be worth it?

I can feel myself
Connect to something bigger
And it feels like love.

Grief takes a moment–
One moment that never ends–
To upturn your life.

Waffling, I joke
About food prepared poorly:
Cut tension with mirth.

Warm sun, quiet hum–
I wish I could be care free–
Soft breeze, shady trees.

“All but the waiting”
As I tell myself to breathe
While counting hours.

It shattered my heart
To see someone so ignored
The way that I was.

Summer has returned
As Fall’s cold gives way to heat.
What is happening?

I pace through my day
With measured steps and intent.
Precision and care.

My community,
Something I took for granted,
Is drifting apart.

I’m only insane
If I expect the results
To be different.

Maybe I’m insane
If I still repeat myself
This much anyway.

I laugh through my mask
And tell the made-up stories
That I wish were true.

I’m afraid of change.
I make jokes and excuses,
But I know the truth.

I Miss Being a Part of Large Groups

I participated in an internal event at work the other day that involved talking to people as part of a demo for about eight hours straight. I had a bit of a break in there, for lunch and my usual daily walk, but I still talked more than I have in years. I’m fairly used to talking a lot for a few hours at a time, thanks to running tabletop gaming sessions (which sometimes wind up being very heavy on me talking if the players aren’t really in a chatty mood that day or we’re busy moving things along in a new environment), but yesterday was a strain on my voice in a way that nothing else has been since even before the pandemic. Even a couple days later, after taking care to stay hydrated and treat my throat with some soothing beverages, I still have a bit of an ache that comes and goes depending on how well I’m hydrated in the moment and how much I’ve been using my voice.

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Business Casual and Me

I haven’t had a reason to dress up in over three years. The last time I dressed up for an event, it was when I was Best Man in a wedding, back in 2019, before coming out to anyone, back when I was still living under the gender identity I was assigned at birth, in a time that seems almost unreal at this point. Not because I’ve come out in a big way (I’m masculine-presenting for one thing, so not much has changed so far as it feels from day-to-day especially given that I’m also not out at work yet), but because it happened before the pandemic. I almost went to a Roaring Twenties themed New Year’s Even party back in 2019/2020, which would have meant wearing a suit, but I wound up skipping that to stay at home and hang out with my roommates. We played D&D as I pushed them to see how far they could get through one of the starter kit adventures in a single evening. It was a lot of fun, but I kind of regret missing what felt, for a long time, like my last chance to get fancy before becoming the isolated, comfort-focused individual I am today.

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The Weather Feels Like March in the Middle of January

The weather has been unseasonably warm recently. Usually, at this time in January, the local temperature is bouncing around zero degrees Fahrenheit and the heavy cloudcover means I don’t see the sun for weeks at a time. This year, the only zero the temperature is jumping around is zero degrees Celcius. We’ve had multiple days with almost no wind, a decent amount of sun, and tons of humidity (enough that work is staying at a damp 20% humidity or higher instead of it’s usual mid-winter single-digit levels). All of which followed a week of blistering cold that finished off all the plants still clinging to life thanks to the unusually warm fall we had. Now, as I go for my walks amongst the browns and yellows of dead plant matter, it feels like I missed two months somehow and wound up skipping ahead to late March.

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Rhetorical Questions With Real Answers

Sometimes, when I sit down at my desk or stare at my blank daily checklist and ask myself what I hope to accomplish with my day, I have a pretty good idea of what the answer is. Most of my days are fairly routine, after all. The daily grind of exercise, work, and taking care of my needs (rest, food, etc) is the name of the game, most of the time. Some days bring a greater variety, of course, but not many. Those that do are rarely pleasant, these days, since variety frequently means needing to warp my schedule in one way or another, or needing to do something else that warps my day in a way I had not anticipated nor will I enjoy. Still, most of the time I know what’s going to happen in a day and most of my questions about what my goals are or what I am trying to do are rhetorical.

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Holiday Food And Vanishing Leftovers

As I work through my leftovers from the holiday feast I prepared for myself this past winter holiday period, I find myself reflecting on my cooking habits once again. After all, I’m aware I have a tendency to eat the same stuff over and over again because the recipes are familiar and require very little mental effort. Something like baking a turkey breast might also be fairly easy, but it’s not something I’ve successfully done very many times (I’ve eaten dried-out turkey all but two of the times I’ve made it myself) so it takes a bit more mental effort than even putting together a stew does. That has lots of steps, requires pretty active monitoring throughout the process, and requires a non-insignificant amount of chopping, but it’s still easier to make myself do that than it is to bake a turkey breast.

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The Stories We Tell About The People We’ve Left Behind

Content Warning for non-specific discussions of trauma and abuse.

One of the many lessons I’ve learned about writing over the years is that, if I’m writing about something that happened, about real people, I need to focus on writing about only my experience of the event. I’ve had a few disastrous attempts in the past, where I’ve written about how I’ve noticed someone acting and tried to put to words the feel of what they told me. I don’t think I’ve ever done it in a way that didn’t feel immediately embarrassing. It can be a fine line, the space between the two concepts, but it is easy to write about how I felt listening to someone talk or the part I played in a difficult time in someone else’s life. It is much more difficult to write about what they went through from a first-person perspective. As I’ve slowly worked at writing outside my direct experience, at learning to portray events and feelings I never encountered (frequently with much input from people willing to share their experiences with me, knowing I’m trying to write about something similar), I’ve paid special attention to all the high-profile instances of people basically stealing the life stories of others.

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This Is My 900th Post

While I’d love to claim that this is a complete coincidence, I’ll admit that I did thumb the scales a teensy bit to line up the first post of 2023 with my 900th over all blog post. A teensy bit. My time off was legitimate and I definitely didn’t have anything ready for last Saturday as far as Infrared Isolation goes, but I did decide to still do a post on the 31st and not take an entire week off when I realized I wasn’t going to have Chapter 13 ready just so I could line this up. It was a small amount of effort and is, ultimately, a fairly small thing. I’ve been running this blog since 2017, after all, and while most of those years show huge periods of inactivity from me, 2018 and 2022 saw almost daily posts, and that’s most of 900 posts right there. The rest mostly come from posting in the last third of 2021 and the last two months of 2017, when I got on the daily blogging train for the fist time.

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Reflections on Next Year

As the year draws to a close, I find myself thinking about the future more and more. 2023 is going to be a busy and exciting year for me, at least intermittently. Two dear friends are getting married and I will be a part of that, which involves at least one big trip and then a wedding, all of which will happen within the first six months of the year. Shortly after that, I’ll be moving since I can’t stay where I’m living any longer due to the rapid rise of rent and my personal distaste for how aware I am of everything my neighbors do. From there, my year is unknowable. After all, I’m also looking for a new job and hope to be doing something I can do entirely from a home office, since I’d like to move around a little bit. Try living elsewhere for a time. See what that’s like since I’ve lived in the same major area my entire life (northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin). Meet some new people. Go on an adventure or two.

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