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.

Obligatory parental post

Alex turns thirteen this week.

It’s been a weird adventure. And if you, too, feel deeply unqualified for adulthood, yet are inexplicably expected to help another human being navigate the world, you know exactly what I mean.

I can barely be counted on to return my library books on time, so how the hell they let me out of the hospital with a baby is anybody’s guess.

She’s turned out pretty awesome, though, even if I can’t imagine how. She’s hilarious, a fantastic writer and illustrator, and quite literally my favorite human.

And since I’m starting to get that urge to write out some overly-sentimental, saccharine missive on the now-lost pleasures of raising a tiny person, I’ll wrap this up with the one piece of advice I think is indispensable for expecting parents…

If someone gives you case of diapers and a six-pack of onesies for your baby shower, kiss that person full on the mouth.

With tongue.

Even more insomnia and sickness

I’m trying to be better at updating this blog and attending to my various social media things (you’re following me on Twitter and Instagram, right?) but the plague and my growing, insomnia-induced madness are making it difficult.

In no particular order…

  • My daughter was sick, leading to a couple of missed days of school for her, and a lot of laying awake worrying about her for me.
  • My back’s been rebelling against me on and off for the last few weeks.
  • My mother took two trips to the emergency room (one via an ambulance I summoned through the magic of 911) for pneumonia and related “fun.”
  • I’ve gotten around twenty hours of sleep. Total. Over, like, the last week.
  • And now I’m coughing, my throat’s a little sore, and I’m pretty sure that the crow perched on the phone pole across the street isn’t just there for the view.

So, yeah. How’s your September going?

P.S. The one thing I’ve managed to do consistently is take photos, even if those photos were just me playing around with newspaper and various combinations of lighting and contrast tweaking, like the one on this post.

Hanging around (with the sickness)

Alex has been sick for the last few days–sore throat, fever, tired all the time. According to the doctor, it was “something viral.”

The specificity…it burns.

She’s feeling better today, though. Maybe she’s still a little lethargic, but her fever’s gone, her sore throat has mostly followed suit, and she’s off to school after missing two days. And since this is a kid who hasn’t missed a day of school in, like, two years, well…let’s just say the relief is palpable. This thing hit her like a ton of bricks.

Anyway, it should go without saying that I’ve done a whole lot of nothing this week. Between the sick kiddo and my back being screwed, I’ve pretty much been stuck at home. Hmm? What’s that? Oh, you didn’t know my back was bothering me? Well, you would know if you followed me on Twitter, or ready my last post.

Damn! Did you see that slick segue into self-promotion I just dropped? Totally nailed it. I’m getting awesome at this!

Oh, whatever. Like you could do better.

Right, that’s what I’ve got for you today. And since this is a short, almost non-post, up there to the right is a photograph I took of a bird on my feeder. My yard is pretty much the only thing I’ve been able to shoot in days, but it has its charms.

Don’t Speak (Or, Wait For The Coffee)

Morning people creep me out.

There’s just no other way to say it. If you’re the sort to “rise and shine,” then I’m pretty you’re also the sort with one or two dismembered paperboys in your cellar. Paperpersons? Newspaper carriers? What’s the preferred nomenclature?

Whatever.

The point is, I have never once, in all my years, woken up and been happy about it.

At best, I wake up with a vague idea that I slept reasonably well, and I can find the coffee pot on my first try. Usually, though, I wake up wondering what more I can do to this body to keep that sort of thing from happening again.

Don’t get me wrong–it’s not that I want to die in my sleep any time soon. Rather, it’s more that should it happen, I won’t miss the first hour of my day.

It’s an awful, awful time, marked by cups of coffee swallowed while still scalding hot, and the smoke from as many cigarettes as my lungs can absorb without turning into jerky.

And people trying to talk to me.

I’ll never understand that. And by “that,” I mean “words,” when I’m still trying to boot up.

Why do people even still try?

Until I’ve got half-a-pot of coffee in me, and had a good hour, hour and a half to get both eyes open, there isn’t a prayer in hell that I’ll a) understand what you’re saying, b) care what you’re saying, or c) remember you even said it.

And the only way my early-morning mental capacity could be more obvious would be if I dropped my coffee mug, and shuffled toward the nearest family member while groaning: “Braaaaaaains…”

Seriously, let the caffeine and nicotine clock in, turn on the lights, and get the machines going before you try interacting with me.

If you don’t, neither one of us will be happy with the results.