It started with the lunch walks…

angus-and-dad-walking-shadowsAs 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.

Let’s rewind…

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?”

Huh?

“Just stop.”

So, like, what? Stop setting goals? Stop trying to do my best at all these things?

“Yes, exactly.”

Just coast? Be lazy? Be…ordinary?

“Uh huh.”

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?

“Yep.”

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.

-Phillip

12 thoughts on “It started with the lunch walks…

  1. Glad that you found your stride. Not an easy thing to do. But I think if you allow yourself breaks, that will go a long way to keeping a steady course. Hopefully. Remember, life happens. 🙂

    1. Thanks Nila. I just have to remember that as the tracks start to veer this way or that, I need to turn the steering wheel so I don’t end up in a ditch again!

  2. Really sounds like you’re on a good path now, Phillip. Sometimes it takes an unforeseen change, like your walks, to knock us off a tired track and onto something better. Your new exercise regimen alone is going to do great things for you.

    I used to go that 4:30 am place. I got a lot done in those days, but you’re right: it can be a tough place to get to. I was the only one there too. It’s quiet. I arranged things along the way so I didn’t have to go anymore, so it’s one of those memories I can look back at fondly now (forgetting the pain …).

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Kevin. I’m still working on the ‘arranging’ piece, so until then, zero-dark-thirty it is!

  3. You know I have been behind whatever you decided to do. Still am. Welcome back. I used to do the 4:30 thing myself. Did it for ten years. It gives you an edge that is hard to beat.

    1. Thank you, John. It’s funny how much I’ve come to realize guys like you aren’t just talented…you put in a lot of sweat and hours behind the scenes.

  4. ​Been there. Still am there. Best realisation I ever had was that I’m likely to always be there. But having been there a few times I know it can be overcome. Remembering that is the key.

    The last time I had a low point, was a couple of months ago. I’d ridden out on some remote trails in the New Forest. Was knackered within ten minutes. Ten minutes! I used to head out for hours. Everything came to a head. I lost it. Was doing my usual of focusing on where I wasn’t. What I didn’t have. Had a ‘moment’. Stuffed all the frustration in a big arse stick and lobbed it as far as I could. Promised myself I’d be back there in a year, and I’d have moved forward. Maybe everything wouldn’t be as rosy as I thought I wanted it to be, but I would have made concrete change and I would be able to see how far I’d come.

    So now I’m running, I’m plotting books, and I’m dabbling with my own creative side projects. Planning to relaunch my website early in 2017 along with another business that helps creatives get their own work out there. Still struggling day to day, but I am makeing progress. I know the next step is getting back into the early mornings, but I know myself well enough to build to that. The one thing I’ve not yet mastered is the energy sapping day-job. I need to get that under control first.

    If you need someone to bounce off, rail against, share the pain with-give me a shout.

    1. Colin, I believe you said it all right here:

      “Best realisation I ever had was that I’m likely to always be there.”

      I think it’s easy for us to get sucked into the good and bad times and forget it’s all a cycle. I know that feeling you had in the New Forest. I’m happy to hear you’re forging ahead, though! I’m convinced we all need to get to our own point of “throwing a big arse stick. (Hey, I see a title for your first blog post with your relaunch, or your memoirs!)

      Thanks for stopping by and commiserating.

  5. This: “It was time to rebuild the framework from the ground up.” I think we all need to do that now and then. I definitely have, as you know. I find your story more inspiring than many because I can relate to your periods of existential angst. That you are rebuilding the framework incrementally is an important insight. There’s nothing to say that you won’t hit a wall again, but at least you’ll have some ideas of how to turn things around. Walking is a constant in my life as is yoga so when I need to “rebuild,” I just start with those basics. Some times I go through mental exercises of, “If this was all there was to Life, would it be enough?” And I always say “yes” but, at a minimum, what Life entails is my husband, my friends, my health, my cats. As long as I have these, I’m good. Being published would be nice, but I don’t need it to feel Life is good.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Marie. It does a mind, body, and soul good to remember what going back to basics would entail — it’s not as bad as we might think it to be!

  6. Well I found you and subscribed to your new blog at my primary email. So now I’ll know when you post. Welcome back, Phillip!

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