Five things I’m doing to myself

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that I’ve recently been paring down the number of non-essentials in my life, as well as putting together a list of goals to work on so that I’ll be happier and healthier this winter.

And I thought now would be a good time to write this all up. But first, let me talk about “goals.”

Why most people’s goals suck.

I’m not a fan of most of what we’re taught about choosing and stating goals. For example…

  • Lose 10 pounds.
  • Learn Spanish.
  • Sell more copies of my book/knit caps/bits of jewelry.

These are the sorts of goals most people choose and commit to. And, in my opinion, they’re awful. They’re awful for a lot of reasons, but mostly because they commit you to a result but don’t describe actions you can take to get there.

By way of an explanation, compare the list above with this one…

  • I will walk 20 minutes a day.
  • I will take a Spanish class.
  • I will post about my book/knit caps/jewelry once a day on my various social media accounts.

These are the sorts of goals I like. You can see that each is designed to get the same result as its cousin above, but instead of simply committing you to getting that result, they commit you to doing something.

I have three priorities.

In light of the above, I decided to take two passes through all the assorted crap in my life. The first pass was to figure out what my top three priorities really are. The second pass was to choose goals based on those priorities.

So let’s look at my priorities first. In order, they are…

  1. Health
  2. Family
  3. Photography

Putting health at number one should be obvious. If you aren’t healthy (and I include mental health, here) then you’re not going to have much success at anything else. Your body and mind are the foundation upon which everything else in your life needs to be built.

Family comes next. My various issues often make socializing with anyone harder than it is for the average person, but whatever “social energy” I do have needs to go to my family first.

Lastly, photography has become increasingly important to me this year, and it’s something I think I have enough talent and passion for that I owe it to myself to see if I can turn it into more than just a hobby.

Now, just because something isn’t on this list doesn’t mean it gets no love. Rather, these are the things which get loved first. We all have limited time and energy to spend on things. So, think of that time and energy like water, and the things you spend it on like buckets.

Every day, you get a limited though varying amount of water, and you need to fill all of your buckets with it. Well, my health, family, and photography are the first three buckets I fill. If I’ve got water left over that day, great! I’ll use it for something else. If I don’t, well, at least I got the most important stuff taken care of.

I have five goals.

Next, I picked goals. Since “health” is my highest priority, and it encompasses both physical and mental health, I’m giving it the most attention. Specifically, it gets three goals all to itself. My family and photography each get one.

Here’s my list…

  1. I will spend one hour a day exercising and stretching.
  2. I will use a meal planner to eat healthier.
  3. I will spend one hour a day on meditation and related practices.
  4. I will spend one hour a day with my family members.
  5. I will spend one hour a day on photography.

Most of these are no-brainers, and all of them describe either definite actions or set aside a definite amount of time. That said, two are a bit vague, and I should explain them.

First, my “eat healthier” goal doesn’t set a calorie count or describe the nutrition I want in detail. I’m not terribly happy with that, but I’m letting it slide for now, because I’m going to use a meal planner app to track all of that as I go. If the vagueness bites me, I’ll revisit it.

Then there’s “meditation and related practices.” I’m intentionally leaving it vague (ish) here on the blog (for reasons I’ve covered briefly before), but I’m actually going by a much more solid metric privately. For now, though, I’ve stated as much of that goal as I’m comfortable with. Besides, it’s a fairly decent description even in this slightly vague form.

Check-ins are coming.

I’ve decided that I’m going to do a weekly check-in, both as a way to keep myself motivated, and to inflate my post count here. Every Monday, I’ll run down the list, write about how I did, and how I feel about that.

Also! If all of this somehow ends up motivating you to do something similar, let me know in the comments.

In no particular order

This isn’t a real post.

Lately, I’ve been trying to make my Friday posts more informative or generally useful, so that this blog of mine isn’t solely a collection of barely-coherent, stream-of-consciousness rants. And I’ve got one of those posts ready to go, but this week? Enough random things have irked me that writing a barely-coherent, stream-of-consciousness rant seems like exactly the sort of thing I need right now.

So without further ado, and in no particular order…

Social media sucks.

Twitter and Facebook have both become that weird uncle your parents warned you about. They’ve never been particularly good, per se, but over the last year they’ve really devolved.

I’d do away with them altogether (and actually have, in past), but the simple, hideous fact of the matter is this: if you have any pretensions at all of running a business in this, the year 2017, you need to be on social media. Sure, you might be able to get by without it, but those who use it are provably better off.

This sucks, of course, but it’s reality. We can (and perhaps should) work to change that reality, but we have to work with reality as it actually is in the meantime. And so, Monday through Friday, I’m on the socials.

The weekends, though, I’m taking off.

It’s my way of separating my needs as an alleged professional something or other, from my needs as a thinking and feeling human being.

Updates suck.

I’ve been using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom on my phone for a couple of months now, and have been reasonably happy with it. It crashed a bit more often than I’d like, but each incremental update (about one every couple of weeks) has improved its stability. As of a week ago, it hardly crashed at all, and was just about perfect.

So, of course, Adobe went and turned it inside out with the big, 2018 update to their Creative Cloud suite. Now it’s called “Lightroom CC,” and it’s gone back to being crash-happy.

Eff. Emm. Ell.

I suck.

Despite the ongoing process of boiling down all of my priorities to the bare minimum, and focusing on what’s really important to me, I still feel like I’m missing the mark somehow. More specifically, it’s still rare that I go to bed thinking I made the best possible use of my day.

I can accept that, a bit, because I’m still not done cleaning house. But…I’d hoped to start feeling the effects of my new, “efficient” life choices by now.

I mean, think about it this way: you’re carrying a hundred pounds of crap for a while, finally decide to drop fifty, and…the weight feels no different? It’s not a perfect analogy, to be sure, but it works well enough. I don’t feel significantly more productive, though I do feel a little less stress.

Basically, this whole paring-down process has kind of been anti-climactic.

That said, though, I’m mostly doing okay. So I don’t really think I suck, as this section’s heading claims. I just sort of wanted to keep the “_____ sucks” theme going.

Enjoy your weekend.

It’s not meningitis (probably)

It’s Wednesday, so you know what that means. Time for another barely passable, list-ish “Wednesday Update” so I can maximize my weekly post count.

Because I’m all about value.

My neck is a poltergeist and my brain is the furniture.

I’ve had a nagging and vaguely disconcerting pain in my neck/shoulders/brainstem for a couple of weeks, now, and it doesn’t seem to want to stop. I’ve bought a new pillow, changed a bunch of posture-related habits, and performed a whole cheesy 80s workout video’s worth of stretches–nothing’s helped but what I’m guessing is a staggeringly unhealthy amount of store-brand Aleve. And even that hasn’t helped much.

So, I’m at the point where I should probably see a doctor about this, but also? Kinda don’t wanna.

I’ve been down the musculo-skeletal pain road so many times that I’m more than 80 percent sure the doctor’s going to tell me one or more of the following…

  1. Lose weight.
  2. Exercise more.
  3. Stop looking down at your phone so much.
  4. Here’s some Vicodin.

And I’m going to be like…

  1. Working on it.
  2. Working on it, too.
  3. Shut your filthy mouth, Luddite swine!
  4. No thanks. If we’re down to just masking the pain, I’ll choose cheap whiskey. It’s like homeopathy that works!

So, yeah. Probably just going to keep ignoring it, and hope I don’t end up like terrifying woman from Pet Sematary.

Winter might not suck so bad.

I talked with one of my mental health people about my winter fears, and got a mixture of advice and sympathy which quelled most of them. Among other things, though, she suggested I look into some sort of special table lamp you’re supposed to shine into your eyes, and that scares off the demons or something.

I’m paraphrasing.

Seriously, though, the light somehow resets your internal clock, or makes your brain think the weather’s awesome, or whatever. It sounds like it’s just a crystal shy of straight-up, whackadoodle pseudo-science, but if it’s cheap enough and being recommended to me by someone with an actual medical degree, who am I to argue? So, I looked it up, and saw that the cheapest one she recommended is $250.

I’m pretty sure it would be cheaper for me to just fly to a place where winter wasn’t a thing.

Serenity now!

Only partly-related to my winter suspicions, I’ve resumed some meditation and concentration practices I was doing earlier this year. At this stage, it’s mainly just taking fifteen minutes a day to mellow the hell out, as well as making a conscious effort throughout the day to focus on my real priorities.

I’m still vague-posting a bit, here, because I’m not sure I want to get into anything that the general population typically considers “spiritual” or “religious” in nature. This blog’s focus is hazy enough as it is.

Suffice it to say, I’m doing reasonably well mentally.

I just wish my body felt the same way.

Night Thoughts

These are the thoughts I think when I should be sleeping and not thinking…

Someone should make a science-fiction re-skin of House, filled with aliens, and with a main character who specializes in xenobiology. Kind of a Babylon 5 with Dr. Stephen Franklin as the focus, type thing.

They should make shoes with removable, washable linings. That way we wouldn’t need socks. Wait. Damn it. I think I just described socks.

Why are we still using terms like “mobile phone,” “cell phone,” and “smart phone?” Why don’t we just say “phone” at this point? And now that I think about it, why are we even referring to the phone part of these things in the first place? Isn’t that their least used function nowadays?

Since cats have barbed, Hellraiser penises, doesn’t that mean creationists kinda have to believe God is a dog person?

You know, if I had Bill Gates’ money, I’d drop, like, half of my $80+ billion fortune into a non-profit built to work with groups like the Girl Scouts of America to get girls and young women seriously exposed and into STEM. Just grab up as many awesome educators, engineers, and scientists, create study programs and materials, and raise just about the most incredible and populous generation of lady nerds in history.

Man, I hate gum.

And then I drift off to sleep.

Winter and mental illness

I have a mental illness.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t really like to talk about it. Not because I’m ashamed, or afraid of what people might think of me. I’ve long since stopped caring about that. I don’t discuss or dwell on my mental illness because it brings me down.

It sucks, there’s little I can do about it, and running through all the ways it affects my life is an exercise in self-abuse.

But this winter…worries me.

I’ve never really noticed a seasonal component to my mental illness. Some people struggle once the weather turns cold, but I don’t. Or, at least, I didn’t.

I’m worried things will be different this year.

Since I took up photography, I’ve been getting outside more and more. I’ve been taking long walks with my camera, stalking flowers and trees, and loving every minute that the sun beats down on me. I’m loving it so much that it’s hard for me to describe just how awesome being outdoors has felt, without sounding like some kind of deranged hippie.

And that’s great, of course, but it’s the flip side that bothers me. When the weather’s been rainy and nasty, my mood’s gone alarmingly downhill.

Every day of gray skies and drizzle this year has found me on the couch, tired, and miserable. Without the sun above, I feel like I’m six feet below. It’s an awful, relentless feeling that I can still work around for a day or two, but a whole season?

I already hated winter, but for purely practical reasons. It’s cold, wet, and “shoveling snow” ranks right up there with “lumbar puncture” on the list of things I never want to experience again. This winter, though? It feels like it’s going to be double-plus ungood.

So, I’m writing a list of things I can do to keep my mental illness at bay this winter, or at least dial back the dread. It’s not a given that things are going to be shitty once the snow’s on the ground, but having a set of activities to help keep my brain happy if they do sounds like a reasonable precaution.

Things I’ve put on it? Watching movies I’ve been meaning to see. Reading books I’ve wanted to read. And yes, getting outside, despite the ice and cold, is also on there. Meditation and a deeper commitment to what you might call my “spiritual” practice appears as well.

I’m still working on the list, still trying to fill it out, but just getting it started has made me feel better about how I’ll handle my mental illness this winter.

So, if you’re struggling too, why not make your own? If you do, leave a comment with what you’ve chosen to put on it.

We could all use some new ideas.