Excuse me, would you like some urine? I made it myself!

I spent yesterday morning in the emergency room. That was not fun. Also? Ultimately pointless.

A little after midnight, I woke up with this burning/stabbing pain in my stomach. It sort of felt like indigestion, but some kind of next-level version of it which had fangs and Freddy Kruger hands. I got up, chewed a couple of Rolaids, then tried to go back to sleep.

That didn’t really work out.

I maybe got a minute or two of sleep here and there, but I woke up every time I moved, and the pain just kept getting worse. I finally got up for real around four, and at that point the pain was so bad I started thinking: “Wow. I maybe kinda need to see a doctor about this.”

By six thirty, that thought had become: “I think I need to see a doctor Right The Fuck Now.”

I got there around seven, just about doubled-over in agony, and they brought me into an exam room within five minutes of my walking through the door.

They had me strip down to my undies and put on one of those oh-so-stylish hospital gowns, which are apparently called “Johnnies.” I would have asked them why they were called that, but I was too busy trying and failing to tie up the way-too-short strings in the back.

I eventually gave up and resigned myself to the fact that my ass would just be exposed for the duration.

The next several hours were spent alternately having tests performed, and waiting for test results. These tests included…

  • An ultrasound, which felt exactly like a large man repeatedly ramming the business end of a baseball bat into my gut.
  • Four vials of blood being drawn, which felt exactly like being stabbed in the arm with a needle.
  • An EKG, which seems like would be painless, until you realize that this involves about a dozen sticky things being stuck to me, and that I’m a very, very hairy man. Upshot? I got a free Brazillian. Of course, it’s in the form of a dozen, nickle-sized patches all over my body, but hey. Gift horse, right?
  • At one point they decided to give me a bag of fluids intravenously. I’m guessing the thinking here was that they’d let a full twenty minutes go by without injuring me, and decided a needle in the back of my right hand would solve that problem right quick. This wasn’t really a test, but it clearly fits in this list of violations just the same.

They also had me pee in a cup, which would have been totally painless, except the person I was to deliver it to decided to run and hide on me after I went into the bathroom. So, when I was done, I had the pleasure of standing in a public hallway for five minutes, ass out for the world to see, while I held a container of my own warm, yellow fluids.

Finally, I saw a nurse-looking lady and just blurted out: “Excuse me, do you want this urine?”

She looked at me, and when I saw confusion on her face I quickly added: “It’s mine. I mean, I didn’t just find it in there. I made it.”

There was another awkward moment, but then she seemed to come to terms with the large, hairy, mostly-naked man brandishing a cup of piss at her, and took the specimen from me, with a promise to get it to where it needed to go.

Yup. I still got it.

Anyway, what did I learn from this experience?

Not a damn thing. Every single test came back normal, and between all the poking, prodding, and waiting my pain dropped down to a tolerable level I’d call “mere discomfort.” I was discharged about eleven thirty, with instructions to call my doctor in the next couple of days, and not a clue as to what had caused what was without a doubt the worst stomach pain of my life.

Whatever.

This whole thing did come with a silver lining, though.

The sleep deprivation and stress of yesterday morning meant that last night I slept like the dead. I was out within five minutes of laying down, and didn’t get up until my alarm went off at five. And I woke up with so much raw energy that I feel like a young gorilla hopped up on amphetamines.

I’ve still got a bit of discomfort which comes and goes, but I think I’ll get through whatever this is on my own, rather than go through another round of Pin the Thing on Jeff’s Sensitive Bits.

Refocusing – week two

Well, the second week of my Refocusing (as I’m calling it) has come and gone. Let’s see how I did.

Progress report – week 2

Once again, I’ll break down my progress goal-by-goal, then write about my overall results and feelings.

I will spend one hour a day exercising and stretching.

This went much better than last week. I stretched every day, and got out for a “power” walk five out of the seven days. The weather was still a factor, but I’m working on getting over that.

I’m giving myself a B- here. If I don’t get out for a walk, I could at least stretch again. And I haven’t consistently hit a full hour yet.

I will use a meal planner to eat healthier.

Rocking this one harder than last week! Didn’t go over my calorie count even once, and I added a daily multi-vitamin to the mix. I’ve also taken steps to diversify my diet a bit more, so I don’t get into a boring rut that feels like punishment.

This is A+ territory. I really don’t think I can do much better.

I will spend one hour a day on meditation and related practices.

Totally nailed this one again. In fact, I can probably afford to spend a little less time and energy on this, and use those savings on other goals.

That makes this another A+.

I will spend one hour a day with my family members.

Doing great here, as well. I’m taking the earbuds out more often, and interacting with everyone. I still see some room for improvement, but I’m generally happy with how this is going.

Let’s call it an A.

I will spend one hour a day on photography.

This one is a bummer. The point of this goal was to get me creating something every day. Instead, as I mentioned last week, I left it open and vague enough that I can spend my time doing everything but creating something and still call it good.

For example, I’ve been spending about half an hour on Instagram every day. That time totally counts as far as this goal is concerned, but apart from “popularity,” it’s really contributing nothing to my art. I have thousands of followers, get hundreds of likes on every photo I share from my archives, but haven’t actually taken more than half a dozen photos in the last couple of weeks.

That’s, you know, not good.

But that’s not all! Despite my best intentions, I’ve somehow managed to mentally box myself in as a “nature photographer,” and now that the flowers are dead and the leaves are off the trees, I’m having a hard time finding any sort of creative spark for photography. I really just don’t feel like pulling out my camera at all.

That’s, you know, really not good.

So, I’m coming back to this goal with a hatchet and a bad attitude. I need to scrap this vague-ass permission slip, and give myself a specific commandment. Right now, I’m thinking: “I will spend one hour a day creating something.” This puts the focus on doing actual, creative work, but also relaxes the photography restriction. I could write, draw, or craft for instance, and get credit for it.

Not sure yet. But since I started the week with the goal in bold up above, let’s grade myself.

Going by the letter, I have to give myself an A. But if I went by the actual spirit of the goal, this is as solid an F as they come.

Results

Once again, I’ve been in a great mood. I feel awesome, both physically and mentally, and lost another two pounds.

The time change is throwing me off a bit, though. I’ve been tired yesterday and today, but I’m not too concerned about that, as you can probably guess. I’ll adjust.

Likewise, my stress and anxiety is basically non-existent at this point. When I feel either begin to rise up, I’m able to quickly recognize it, and just as quickly adjust my thinking.

I can’t stress enough that I never for a second thought this Refocusing would have this kind of pronounced, instant positive effect on me. And while I realize I still have a long way to go before I’m where I want to ultimately be physically (specifically, I have another 64 pounds to go), I have no doubt that I’ll get there, and much sooner than I would have hoped.

How are you doing?

Why you should keep a journal

I believe that if you’re not keeping a journal, you’re doing it wrong. This statement is mainly directed at creative-type people (whether you’re a writer, visual artist, or whatever), but it can really go for everyone.

Journaling is great for self-analysis, helps get your mind working, and is just an overall amazing tool to keep you focused. In fact, my journal has become a cornerstone of sorts in my efforts to be healthier and happier. So, it’s not just for angsty teenagers, or “sensitive” adults trying to get in touch with their feelings.

Here, rather than write up some kind of abstract pitch as to why you should keep a journal, let me show you how I use mine. (The entries I’m sharing here have been narrowly-selected and lightly-edited.)

The Obligatory Early-Morning Entry

Every morning, as soon as I have enough coffee and nicotine in me to hold a pen, I crack open my journal and write. I start with the date and time, how I slept, and usually follow this with a gripe about my deteriorating body. After that, I write down any appointments or tasks which must be done that day, and round it out with whatever I want to do or should be doing.

Here’s an example:

4/14/17 – 6:20am

Slept like shit last night. This pinched nerve in my shoulder/back/whatever needs to chill. Whatever. Have an appointment at nine. Awesome. Need to get Alex off to school, hop in the shower, then see if I can get at least some work done on my novel. Need to be gone by like 8:40. Weather’s supposed to be good, though. Maybe I’ll just grab my camera and head downtown early.

Dunno. Sounds like a good idea, though. Sure. Okay. Shower, take off early, walk around downtown, then appointment. Get back around ten, grab something to eat, then depending on how I feel I’ll work on the novel for an hour then read. That’s a good enough plan for now. Time to get another cup of coffee and a smoke.

The hardest part of keeping a journal is actually keeping it. That’s true for everyone. So, planning out my day, every day, forces me to write something. If the only entry I manage to write is the date, time, and “Slept like shit. Got nothin’. Gonna watch Netflix,” then I consider it a success.

A first entry like this is also helps me organize my thoughts, and focus my energy in the most effective way I can. That bit above where I start out thinking I want to work on my novel, but decide I’d be better off shooting photos? You’ll find stuff like that cropping up in these entries all the time, and it’s one of the main reasons why you should keep a journal in the first place.

The Less-Obligatory (Though Still Helpful) “Check-In” Entries

As I go about my day, I go back to my journal and note how I’m doing, or jot down a thought or idea that seemed interesting.

10:07am

Christ, that appointment sucked. No energy. Took a lot of photos and got some exercise walking around, but now I’m wiped. Don’t think I even have enough brain to read. Gonna make another pot of coffee, grab a smoke, then see how I feel.

 

These check-ins are usually much shorter than my first entry of the day, and follow the pattern of: what I did, what I’m going to do next, and why. This helps me re-focus, in light of any distractions, and that helps to keep my creative energy and inspiration flowing as the day goes on.

The Slightly-More-Obligatory End-of-Night Entry

I round out my daily journal habit with an end-of-night entry. It’s basically a recap, with a specific focus on what I did, not what I didn’t do. This is another reason why you should keep a journal: it gives you a place to review and celebrate your accomplishments–important stuff for staying positive, which can be hard sometimes…

8:25pm

Tired. Looking forward to curling up under my blanket. Hopefully I sleep better than I did last night. Today sucked, but I got some stuff done. A bunch of photos, a blog post. Took another walk. Exercise-wise I’m doing pretty good. Just so mentally drained, and I’m not sure I ever fully woke up today. Here’s hoping tomorrow will be better.

I rarely get everything done that I set out to do (especially when I have an appointment in the middle of the morning), but I almost always get something done and that’s what I write down.

 

And Finally, Some Tips!

Here’s a few tips which help me. Maybe they’ll help you.

  1. I use a physical journal and a pen. For journaling, I much prefer the feel of actual writing, as opposed to typing. Other people are totally the opposite. Try both and see which works.
  2. I don’t share my journal with anyone, nor do I intend to ever do so. It’s not that I’m writing state secrets, but I don’t want to feel like I’m writing for an audience–even subconsciously. I want every letter in my journal to be honest, so it’s off limits to everyone but me. (Hence the “narrowly-selected and lightly-edited” disclaimer at the beginning of this post.)
  3. Related to the above, I don’t take my journal out with me. It stays in my house. I could toss it in a bag and be reasonably sure I won’t lose it, but my brain’s not always reasonable about things like that.
  4. Also related to point number two–in fact, the whole point of that point–is that your journal should be a judgement-free zone. Not that you won’t use it to judge yourself (a journal is great place for self-critique) but that what you write in it doesn’t have to be profound or even good. My journal is full of hastily-made grammatical and spelling errors, as well as full-frontal nonsense. I once wrote a three-page rant on how terrible season eight of the television show Bones was. And a few entries before that? A paragraph on how I should eat fewer onions because of how much they make me fart. We’re not trying for a Pulitzer, here.
  5. Ultimately, there are only two rules: write at least one entry every day, and what you write should be honest. It doesn’t matter if you follow my format or not (though I do think it’s a good place to start), it doesn’t matter if you begin with “Dear Diary,” or if only manage to write “Don’t feel like journaling today,” three days running. Just write something, each day, and make sure it’s the truth.

Now go forth and journal.

Plague and smart-ass-ness

Yesterday was Halloween, which is always fun and always a bit of a madhouse in my neighborhood. We get hundreds of kids at the door, and hundreds of houses to siege down for their sweet, sweet candy.

Alex the Plague Doctor.

Alex loves it, and I kind of love it too. I’d love it more if I wasn’t forty years old, 65 pounds overweight, and a maker of bad decisions when it comes to how many layers of warm clothing I need to keep out the chill. Still, this year I found it all especially awesome because I was in a great mood and not exhausted. That’s novel.

She went as a plague doctor this year, and her costume was a solid hit. At the end of her own trick-or-treating expedition, she hung out on the porch in costume to hand out candy for the last half-hour, and had one small child steadfastly refuse to approach her.

If that’s not a good review, I don’t know what is.

My daughter’s awesome. Also? Kind of a smart-ass.

She asked me to order a book for her, the sequel to one she’s already read, and I asked her to write a note with as much information she could give me, so’s I’d be able to find it on Amazon.

This is what she wrote:

"The Giver (Probably should look it up with the keyword 'book')"
“The Giver (Probably should look it up with the keyword ‘book’)”

Part of me says I ought to try to get her to curb this tendency, but mostly I find it hilarious.

A good start

Well, it’s Monday, so that means it’s time for my first weekly check-in.

Last week I wrote a post describing my five goals, which I chose to help me focus on my three highest priorities: health, family, and photography. So how did my first seven days go?

Progress report – week 1

I’m going to break things down goal-by-goal first, give myself a grade on each, then summarize any results I feel are related to all of this. You’ll see what I mean.

I will spend one hour a day exercising and stretching.

This has been a struggle, mostly due to the weather. We’ve had several days of rain, and the sort of wind which makes an umbrella useless. So getting out for walks (my go-to exercise) has been a challenge. But at least I’ve been stretching, right?

Ehh…sorta. It was really rough at the start. I didn’t stretch at all the first couple of days, and I honestly don’t know why. Stretching is relatively easy, but I just didn’t do it. It’s not a question of forgetting about it, I just…didn’t wanna. I finally got around to it on Thursday, though, and managed to stretch at least once a day ever since.

I’m giving myself a C on this goal, but only because I’m cutting myself a little slack due to the weather. I probably deserve a C- or a D.

I will use a meal planner to eat healthier.

I’ve been doing really well on this! I’m using an Android app called “Fat Secret” to track my calories and overall nutrition, and it’s made me think long and hard about my food choices. I’ve been eating a ton of greens, choosing much healthier snacks (like baby carrots), and staying focused on my nutritional needs. I’m also drinking a lot more water and finally feeling properly hydrated for the first time in I don’t know how long.

That said, there have been a couple of times at the beginning of the week where I went a little over my calorie count and shouldn’t have.

This gets an A this week. It’d be an A+, but I really can’t ignore those little slips.

I will spend one hour a day on meditation and related practices.

I am totally rocking this goal. As I mentioned last week, these “meditation and related practices” are more involved than I’m comfortable discussing right now, but any way I look at this goal I am thoroughly kicking its butt.

That’s an A+, hands down.

I will spend one hour a day with my family members.

At first glance, I’ve been nailing this goal as well, and doing so for well in excess of an hour a day, but I have to keep something in mind. This goal isn’t about just occupying the same space, but really interacting with (and enjoying the company of) all my family members.

Sitting in a room, watching and talking about a show or a movie totally counts. Sitting in a room, listening to podcasts via my earbuds and phone, while everyone else is watching and talking about a show? Not so much.

I’m giving myself a B, here, because I’m mostly taking the earbuds out and interacting more often (and this weekend I hung out with the family a lot), but there’s definite room for improvement.

I will spend one hour a day on photography.

I’m also kicking this goal’s butt, but only if you go by the letter and not the spirit of the goal.

In my case, “photography” is an umbrella term which includes taking photos, editing photos, posting photos, and reading/watching/learning about photography stuff. And I’ve certainly spent an hour a day (or more) doing some of these things, but the one thing I didn’t do hardly any of was actually get out and take photos.

That’s…not what I wanted. So, this goal might just be too vague. I may need to narrow my focus, narrow my definition of “photography” in this context. For now, I’m going to leave it worded as is, and I’ll try to maintain a better ratio of “taking photos” versus “everything else.”

In the meantime, I’m giving myself a B, here. I’ve absolutely done something photography-related for an hour a day, but I’m leaving an important part of the picture out. (See what I did there?)

Results

I haven’t felt this good, or happy, in years. Maybe ever.

For starters, I’ve slept well every single night this last week. Minus a trip or two to the bathroom, I’m getting good, deep, quality sleep and waking up feeling refreshed and alert. For a chronic insomniac like myself, that’s insane. I don’t think a week of sleep like this has ever happened to me before, at least not that I can remember.

Related: I’m not tired at all during the day. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve gotten tired in the early afternoon and just wanted to take a nap. This week? Not even a little bit. I’m alert, focused, and enjoying pretty much every waking hour.

Oh, and I’ve lost five pounds. And I’ve done it without starving myself or otherwise feeling hungry all day.

Combine all this with much reduced levels of stress and anxiety, and the fact that a lot of my little, nagging aches and pains (including my haunted neck) are becoming a lot less achy and painful, and…wow.

I never, never thought I would experience anything approaching these results so quickly. And didn’t really expect some of them (like sleep) at all. I’m still in the honeymoon phase of this plan, so I need to keep in mind that my results are probably skewed a bit due to optimism, but damn, son!

So that’s how my first week has gone. An overall grade in the B range, and huge positive returns for the effort.