Siege Diaries 1/19/2021

Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt:  Good or bad, high or low, do I still have choices?

If you look at it, life is nothing but choices.  Some of them are more significant than others, but they’re all a product of who you are and what you stand for.  I chose to get up this morning and to log into work.  I then chose to work on a workflow my first hour working, so I could get it out to people who would be reviewing it tomorrow.  I chose to embroider at lunch, and I chose to eat soup with a couple of brioche rolls.  I chose to do some proofreading in the afternoon.  And so on.  I also chose not to go out and to respect the current stay at home order.  None of these choices are, on the surface, any thing exciting.   But doing the workflow first thing was a matter of prioritization. Embroidery at lunch was a matter of taking a bit of time to do something creative.  The proofreading was a product of my commitment to a publication I care deeply about.  The rolls and soup?  Taking advantage of what was freshest on hand, while at the same time watching my portions and food choices.  Not going out?  Well, we heard today that we might finally be starting to see some impact from the lockdown that started on Boxing Day.  I’m doing my part in that.

A friend posted a TED talk about multipotentialites. Although I aspire to be a polymath, this is really a better word to describe this essential part of my personality from a very early age. The speaker talks about “what you want to be when you grow up?” and I remember circling through teacher and journalist and astronomer and biologist before I want to college and switched from genetics to history, and then I switched from early medieval to 13th century for my PhD, and then I ended up being a project manager…and, yeah. I’m pretty flexible, and able to pivot when faced with challenges or opportunities. I’m also often best on shorter, intense, and deep projects (see the latest on the embroidery work below); I actually found my PhD bogged down when I lost that sense of intense engagement a couple of years into my research. But I was minded to recall some of the many rabbit holes I’ve been down over the years–because that is completely my headspace (one of the reasons I do fairly well in trivia.) Every single one of these was a topic of a significant deep dive, and, unlike what’s described in the TED talk, I never really “got bored” with any of them–I just get to the point where either something else distracted me more or where I reached limits of what I could learn with a basic level of research. The list starts circa 1973 and goes up to the current day. In more or less chronological order (and including where my degrees were:)

Current events (I was reading the newspaper in the first grade)
Various countries of the world (Russia/USSR, Thailand, Iran)
Astronomy, particularly planetary
Continental drift
Volcanoes and famous eruptions
Ohio State football
Horse Racing
The Titanic
The US Civil War
Composers: Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann
Roman History (including Cicero, Claudius, and Roman Coins) (BA)
Peter Gabriel and Genesis
Amarna period Egypt
Theoderic the Great (BA, MA)
Thirteenth century England, especially Simon de Montfort
Medieval popular religion (PhD)
Medieval Rus’
Medieval clothing
Medieval manuscripts
Detroit and its ruins
The Kent State shootings
Frank Lloyd Wright
Art Deco design and architecture
Joy Division/New Order
Love Canal
Halifax Explosion
Clothing 1918-1945
Siege of Leningrad
Dmitri Shostakovich

And speaking of the last on the list, here is the latest embroidery update. I completed the shirt tails and part of the sleeve on the left, and I’ve started what I call the guide threads on the trousers (a technique I learned many years ago from crewel work). This is how I can suggest the flow of fabric or the fur on a cat or the contours of a face.


Less than 18 hours now to what I hope is a kinder United States–but the wounds are still open and raw, and they will not heal quickly. I just hope that the events of two weeks ago prove to be the last gasp of a desperate minority–although I fear that it is a cancer not easily excised, and that the treatment will be long and painful. But I’m pulling for you, America. I’d like to come home someday for a visit and not be consumed with a deep and abiding worry for the state of your soul.