Don’t forget to breathe

“When you were little, you were so carefree. But these last few years, more and more, it’s almost like I can feel you holding your breath… You get to exhale now, Simon. You get to be more you than you have been in… in a very long time. You deserve everything you want.” – Emily in “Love, Simon”

This morning when I woke up everything felt tight, strained. I’m 43 and that means that things have indeed started to hurt more in odd places, but this was more than that. I felt clenched.

I turned to a guided meditation on my phone. It helped a little, enough to get the ball rolling in making me see where the clenching was coming from, or so I thought. I was looking at how stressed I’ve been lately for various reasons.

I can feel the burnout creeping in around the edges, enough that it might start effecting my work. I can taste it on my tongue and feel it in the way I interact with the word. I knew when I signed off for the day I needed to unplug for a day or so, at least from writing code and wrapping my mind in those logical thoughts, useful as they might be.

I lit some incense, took a deep breath, and started to unclench. Then the noisy neighbors came home and wrecked the mood I had so tentatively started to foster. Fine then, I’ll just watch a movie, right?

I had heard about “Love, Simon” from a friend and they were pretty passionate about it. All I knew going in was that it was a teenager’s coming out story and I was guaranteed a happy ending, which is so welcome right now.

I liked the characters, enjoyed the soundtrack, and was very much appreciating the whole thing. And then I got blindsided by that bit of dialogue above. In the moment I didn’t understand why, but I started crying. Okay, sobbing is more like it.

The words are what the mom, Emily, says to her newly outed (by another student, not by choice) gay son. A little while later, the dad says some similar kinds of things. I could not stop crying. It’s been a half hour since the movie ended and I’m still crying.

In my spiritual tradition (as much as what you can what I do a tradition) we call this kind of experience a “heart opening”. Something comes along and just breaks you wide open and the feelings are overwhelming and intense and beautiful, if a bit painful as well.

I realized how much I needed to hear those words. In that moment I realized how much I, too, have been holding my breath. Unlike Simon, though, it hasn’t been four years. it’s been more like thirty-four.

I’m queer, this isn’t news to most and definitely not news to me, but my parents don’t know. I don’t have a partner. They’re conservative. I know they would still love me if I told them, but they wouldn’t get it, I don’t think, just how like they don’t get that I’m on the autism spectrum, though I have at least tried to explain that.

They don’t know about my spiritual path or lots of other small, personal, fragile things about me, either. Being exposed to them for the better part of the day yesterday left me feeling both tired and wired. Nothing was wrong, we had a nice time, actually, but I felt that gap between us, that secret. I was holding my breath all day.

This movie hasn’t made me suddenly want to tell them. I’m not planning all of a sudden on coming out. It has made me, however, realize that I hold my breath a lot. I have all this tension just balled up in a tight coil inside me. It’s not just my queerness, my spirituality, my personal beliefs. Not just being afraid of the world we’re living in and how it all feels so wrong.

It’s about how I’m approaching things, too. I’m not finding enough joy, or making my own. I’m not taking care of my health, spiritual, physical, mental or otherwise. I’m clenched all the time, with fear and nameless (and named) anxieties. I’m not resting enough.

I’m not breathing enough.

I don’t know what the next step is from here. I’m open and raw right now and that’s okay, it’s good. I vaguely was aware that there was a barrier up around me and it’s wrecked now and that’s good, too.

As Robert Fripp once wrote, “It is necessary to know the next step, but not the step after that.” My own “next step” was to sit down and write these words, to get it down on the page and find the connections.

There’s more digging to do, as well. I’ve got unreconciled feelings of something that might be regret, but it’s waiting for now. I also know that the world will do it’s best to come creeping back in, the good and the bad and that the intensity of these feelings will fade and it’s very possible I may even forget that this evening even happened. I like to hope not, though and to also hope that I can start building from here.

Is it strange to say that I wish any of you reading this a similar experience? It’s not fun, it’s not one of those “nice” feeling things. There is a chance though that it can be very healing and will do more good than harm when you recognize it for what it is. You may even feel like yourself again, though a slightly different version, when you come out the other side.

It’s not too difficult to start. You can begin by taking a nice, slow breath…

Weekly Reads 2018: 10.15-10.27

The Architecture No One Needs
Yeah, I’m giving a big yes to this article. SPAs seem to be more trouble than they’re worth.

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Reboot, Resets, and Reasoning | CSS-Tricks
Techie, but it was interesting to read about the mostly current state of css resets for browsers.

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The Whippet #56: Enough to sustain a living hoard
Just go read the “unsolicited advice” section because it’s fabulous. Do your best not to get distracted by the platypus facts.

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How Technochauvinism Derailed the Digital Future – The Atlantic
The only way to make technology that helps a broad array of people is to consult a broad array of people to make that technology. But the computer industry has a multi-decade history of gender discrimination. It is, perhaps, the industry’s original sin.

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The Absinthe Enthusiasts Hiding Bottles in the Swiss Woods – Gastro Obscura
Never tried absinthe and I’m not a fan of anise, but the idea of it all has always held a certain mystique for me.

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The revolutionary strategy hidden in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Instagram feed – The Washington Post
The young women who have come to Congress have come to elevate, praise and admire one another. Not because they’re immature fangirls but because this coalition-building is their best hope for success in what remains, at its core, another mostly male workplace.

Weekly Focus 2018: 11.18-11.24

  • LSQ
    • Website rebuild
    • Editor’s Ephemera column
    • Issue production
    • Reading stories
  • Storybin tests
  • Studying
    • Tea app work
    • Rails api
    • Comp Sci study
    • Ruby OOP book
    • YDKJS books
  • Enrichment
    • Prep book release

Much of my focus doesn’t vary from week to week, which is part of why I don’t actually post these weekly. LSQ work continues, studying continues, and my book is due out next month as well.

On Certification

“Software Engineering”, a field of interest launched in 1968 that aimed to bring product design and construction skills to computer scientists by having very clever computer scientists think about what product design and construction might be like and not ask anybody.  – Graham Lee

The idea of certification and licensing for software engineers came up in a Slack I’m on. Of course I accidentally ended up writing a wall of text that really needed to be a blog post, so here we are.

I think those algorithm coding white board tests used by many tech companies to vet potential employees are meant to be some kind of measured standard. However, as an industry it’s been collectively decided (mostly by default rather than intent) that there should be alternate paths to a career, which makes that kind of standardization feel like more like gate-keeping.

Additionally, the vast array of technologies available make it hard to quantify knowledge like that. Are you certifying for front end, backend, general knowledge? Say you’re going to have multiple certificates. If it’s front end, are you standardizing a particular language or even framework? How long would such a thing be valid for?

Setting standards also means being able to take a step back and evaluate the industry as a whole. It would surely slow progress of new technologies, but then I don’t necessarily feel that’s a bad thing, if I’m being honest. Move fast and break things was meant to be an approach to solving problems in new ways (yes, and make money fast and easy) but unfortunately seems to have taken the discipline of writing software along with it.

It’s all something to think about, and standards, if not licensing as other engineering disciplines have, is not the worst idea I’ve ever heard. I even say this as someone who didn’t graduate college. If licensing was put into place, I’d be out of the running and at the same time I feel that so much software is built in a way that’s harmful to users and maintainers alike that something should probably change.