As promised, answers to those burning questions I’ve divined from your minds! Hopefully you’ve booked some time to read this. More spilled out than intended.
Let’s kick off with:
Where have you been and what have you been doing?
It started with the lunch walks.
“What?” you ask.
I slammed into a metaphorical wall around the middle of 2015. Call it a mid-life crisis, call it a nervous breakdown, call it much ado about nothing. What is certain is that I was a mental mess. Attempting anything beyond basic subsistence made me feel like Sisyphus. Worst of all, a wellspring of resentment sprang up against everyone and everything I thought was holding me back, including myself. I felt like I’d lost control of my own life. I was trying to be a great dad, a great spouse, a great employee, a great writer, a great scholar, a great friend, and a great athlete, yet I was performing poorly in all categories and subsequently making myself miserable.
Pretty whiny, right? Let’s be honest. My life is far from horrible. Who am I to complain about a damn thing? But like a whiny kid, I was ready to take my ball and go home. That’s when a little voice spoke up inside me:
“Why don’t you?”
So, like, what? Stop setting goals? Stop trying to do my best at all these things?
Just coast? Be lazy? Be…ordinary?
But I’ve spent the past several years working towards building this vision of myself, finally figuring out what I wanted to do when I “grow up.” And now I should just throw it all away and return to mediocrity? That’s okay?
It couldn’t be so simple.
And yet it was. I was tired. I desired a sense of freedom again. I wanted to escape my tyrannical to-do list. I wanted to behave like a teenager, taking life as it came without any “life goals” requiring methodical effort.
So I did.
And it was wonderful.
I slept in when I could. I ate without thinking much about what I was putting in my body. When I had time to myself, instead of picking up a book, I picked up an Xbox controller. I still went to the gym, but I was going through the motions and I wasn’t being consistent. Each workday, I came into the office and did my time.
Again, it was wonderful.
But it didn’t take long before dissatisfaction began simmering. My subconscious was happy to remind me that I was whittling away my life on things unimportant and undistinguished. I began asking myself pressing questions about what sort of role model I was being for my son. Didn’t I want to be a man he could admire and someone he’d be proud to call “dad?” What would I be teaching him by consistently putting off the difficult for the convenient?
It seemed I couldn’t win.
Naturally, the stress returned. Sometimes it got so bad that my legs felt like they were encased in cement. I remember sitting at my desk, noticing what I can only describe as waves of latent energy building up in my body. It was a feeling I can recall experiencing as a kid: burning anxiousness brought on by extreme boredom. It’s one of the worst feelings I’ve ever felt, as if a heart attack were right around the corner.
One day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt that my body would explode if I didn’t move, so I literally jumped up from my desk and left the office. As I stepped outside, I realized I had nowhere to go. I quickly decided to walk to the shopping mall across the street and pick up a box of macarons for my wife. Upon returning to my desk, I felt some relief, but not nearly the amount I’d hoped.
The next day, I decided to step outside again and take a longer, more meandering walk. This time, I brought my phone and earbuds because I needed something to quiet my inner voice. I played the only audiobook I had on my phone at the time — The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. I don’t even remember much of what I was listening to, but I remember the tone of the narrator, the overcast weather, and the cool air giving me a sense of peace.
Walking during lunch soon became a regular thing. I began to listen to podcasts as my treks grew longer. A good friend had recommended particular shows and I latched on to ones that focused on interviews with top performing athletes, artists, and entrepreneurs. During a time of my life where I could no longer fathom caring about doing more than necessary, I was curious as to what would make these people go the extra mile. What got them out of bed for something beyond mere survival?
Over time, the energy of these interviews began to rub off. I can’t specify a time or place–maybe there wasn’t one–but I decided I would work on becoming a better person again. It was time to rebuild the framework from the ground up. I had learned a lot of useful skills from these people: focusing on processes, building grit and self-discipline, and engaging in deliberate practice, to name a few. Perhaps the greatest lessons involved mindfulness and patience.
I resolved to be purposeful in the aforementioned compartments of my life, but I also learned that I had to spend the majority of focus on one thing. I had to determine the single aspect of my existence that would have the biggest impact on all the others. In my gut, I knew the answer.
Or I should say, my gut was the answer.
Over a period of eight months, I lost 30 pounds through diet and exercise. There’s no getting around the fact that we’re physical creatures meant to move. Our brains don’t recline on floating la-z-boys and there are studies showing a correlation between exercise and improved mental function. I’ve become a firm believer that to be healthy mentally, you have to be healthy physically (and of course I mean to the best of our physical capabilities). My acid reflux has disappeared, I’ve gained confidence in my appearance and potential, and achieved a feeling of general wellbeing.
One doesn’t need access to a gym or any complicated fitness equipment. Financially speaking, burpees and sidewalks are about as free as they come (though you’ll feel like you’ve paid a dear price if you’re doing the burpees right). And don’t let anyone tell you that a healthful diet is expensive. Compared to running through the drive-thru, it may cost more in time and effort, but it’s a small price to pay compared to the long-term costs resulting from a daily diet of french fries and pizza. We’re not even counting the mental toll of having a body that works against you.
After reaching a healthy weight, I began working on building more muscle and mobility (what good is muscle if I throw my back out tossing Angus in the air?). That’s where I am now and feeling better every day.
But I still have prior commitments in my life — a day job, a family, and the dream of becoming a published author. Where could I possibly find the time to work towards all these things?
Nearly every day, there’s a little place I begrudgingly visit called 4:30 AM. Not gonna lie: It’s a bitch to get to and I don’t make it as often as I’d like. But it’s never very crowded and it’s mobile. It can be visited at home, at the gym, or the local coffee shop. If there’s one maxim that applies to everyone in this world, it’s that “time doesn’t come to you, you have to come to it.”
So I get up early, I work out, I write, I read, I go to work, I come home to the family. Great. So… What’s to say I won’t burn out again?
Only the belief created through a small existential crisis: I’ve learned to recognize when I’m in need of rest and change. I’m a believer again in stretching beyond one’s current capabilities to get better, but now I’m more conscious of when my rubber band of a life needs release before it snaps.
I can go on for days about what I’ve learned, and I likely will in future posts because I’m excited to share some things that may help others as much as they’ve helped me over the past year. I also hope I haven’t given the impression that I’m aiming for perfection here. Just trying to be a better version of myself, one day at a time.
But enough of the serious business.
Why does your blog seem different (i.e. broken)?
My domain name mapping to the WordPress.com blog expired last month and I had already been hosting a creative side project (more on that later) on GoDaddy’s WordPress servers. I determined I could both save money and increase design flexibility by putting both blogs under the same account instead of paying both the yearly domain mapping fee to WordPress.com and a separate fee to GoDaddy.
Not wanting to lose any history, I exported content from the old blog and imported it here. As you can see, it’s not a process without hitches. I had to fight for a week to repair broken links until I found a handy redirect plugin. I’m pretty sure I’ve missed some items, but I’ve tried to clean up as much as I can at this point without spending hours on minor fixes. I’ll continue to tweak as time and opportunity permit.
If you run into anything out of place, please drop me a note.
The next post will provide an update on my latest creative endeavors and address those New Year resolutions. Until then, take care of yourselves, and as always, thank you for making time to read my blabberings.