The Prodigal Writer

I’m back!

Maybe less like a phoenix rising from the ashes and more like Pete “Bleary-Eyed” McPartypants on a post-Cuervo Saturday morning. I won’t be off to a rip-roaring start as I rekindle my online presence, but I intend to get back in the game and show some hustle.

Over the next few posts, I plan to address some likely questions:

Why does your blog seem different (i.e. broken)?

Where have you been?

What have you been doing?

What haven’t you been doing?

How about those “experimental resolutions” you talked about early this year?

I hope my friends are still here and willing to lend an ear. If not, that’s fine as well. I’ve been known to talk to the air a time or two.

That doesn’t mean I’m not going to plant some Angus-candy as an incentive to come back and hang out:

angus-ice-cream-side-eye
“I don’t like the way that dog’s looking at me, dad.”

-Phillip

2016 Check-In

Angus ZooHappy Beginning of 2016.

A quiet urge nudged me to come back and provide a State of the Phillip address. So here I am. It’s a new year, which of course means it’s time for the requisite resolutions that we rarely keep.

So why do we rarely keep them?

I see two obvious problems:

  1. It’s generally known that people don’t follow through past the first month (if that), so there isn’t much social or personal cost to quitting. It’s expected.
  2. For those folks that do take their resolutions seriously, they make the mistake of committing to something that would be better treated as an experiment and beat themselves up for not making it to the end of the year.

I’ve experienced both of those gotchas before, so as to avoid them again, I instead present to you key ideas that I’ll be experimenting with and adjusting course as needed. These are goals that I’ve formulated organically over the past month or two, all in response to my life in 2015 plus what I’ve found myself reading/thinking about. Without realizing, I noticed they encompass the tripartite of the human — mind, body, and soul.

Read more “2016 Check-In”

Weekly Recap – November 13th, 2015

2015-10-29 13.27.57
Why can’t we do this every day?

Halloween has left us, Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and Christmas is way too close for comfort. Oh, then there’s that whole New Year thing.

It’s going to be a busy couple of months, but I plan on taking time to reflect on what this blog was, and is becoming. I started it just over four years ago as an outlet for writing. The people I’ve met, the things I’ve learned–it almost feels like I attended a four-year writer’s college, and let me tell you, it’s been an amazing and wonderful experience.

But, as many of you know from my recent posts, things have changed. Not just in my drive to write. I mean, heck, I went from over-sized adolescent to father right in the middle of my schooling. I’d say that sort of flipped my world on its head.

But as I look at the tagline that’s been sitting on the top of my blog for quite some time:

A writer seeking employment as a Gentleman of Elegant Leisure.

It just doesn’t speak the truth anymore. Surely the second half sounds right, but the “writer” part? With my dearth of posts and lack of fiction, not so much lately.

I realized the other day that in these four years, I’ve never taken an extended break from this blog. I think the most amount of time I’ve managed to skip out on has been a week or so, but many folks I know have taken a longer hiatus. Sometimes they come back. Sometimes they don’t. I think in either case, the majority of the time, they discover what was right for them at that point in their life.

A well-functioning body and mind require rest. It’s a lesson I’ve needed to relearn time and again. It’s not necessarily an esoteric thought. Days of rest are common in many religions. In any exercise regimen, the muscles need rest in order to repair the damage done to them. That’s not to say going full sloth is the way to live, but the hard-charging “Go! Go! Go!” attitude is just as disastrous.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: balance. I need to spend some time figuring out what gets me excited about writing again.

Expect to see me still popping up here and on your blogs in the next few months, just maybe not as frequently. Just know I still care about what you guys are doing and will support you however I can.

Have a great weekend everyone!

-Phillip

Weekly Recap – November 6th, 2015

The Simpsons have arrived!
The Simpsons have arrived!

My apologies for the blurry photo, but selfies while holding a squirming one-year-old should be an Olympic event.

This past week has been bittersweet.

We had a fun time over Halloween. Angus got to be in costume for the first time — he was a cute little Bart Simpson, though keeping his hair spiked up was a losing battle. All-in-all, I’d mark the evening a success.

Then sadly, we received tragic news yesterday of someone close to the family suddenly passing away. It’s always hard to lose someone, but especially when it’s so unexpected and close to the holidays. 🙁

Hold your loved ones close and don’t let petty arguments cloud your friendship.

I wish you all a happy and safe weekend.

-Phillip

 

Weekly Recap – October 30th, 2015

Can you see me? Is my camouflage working?
Can you see me? Is my camouflage working?

Boy, what happened? It looks like I missed last week’s update, but that seems par for the course lately. All year, I’ve barely missed a day of writing in my personal journal. I inadvertently skipped a whole week on that as well.

The interesting part? It hasn’t bothered me. I suppose it’s just more evidence that I’ve needed a change in routine. I’ve upped my lunch walks to almost two-and-a-half miles while enjoying Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast (specifically the series on the Mongols). A few months ago, my web history was filled with articles on books and writing. If you were to look at it now, I’d seem like a fitness freak. Trade one addiction for another, I suppose…

Oh, and the family has really taken to geocaching! We found our first two treasures last week. Lots of fun. I think Angus will really enjoy the adventures as he gets older.

If you find yourself in a rut like I was, maybe give your current focus a break and try something new? It won’t hurt, I promise.

Have a Happy Halloween everyone!

-Phillip

Weekly Recap – October 16th, 2015

Of all the toys at the indoor playground, this is my favorite.
Of all the toys at the indoor playground, this is my favorite.

It’s been a busy work week. It started at 4am on Sunday morning, continuing with multiple nights of phone calls and troubleshooting, and with likely more excitement heading into this weekend. They say when you play the game of On-Call™, there are no winners. Well, that’s not entirely true since the hope is that people come into the office the next day never knowing that something broke in the night.

In spite of all the fuss, I’m going to toot my own horn: I managed to get in all of my scheduled exercise. Not only that, but I had the kinds of workouts where I was excited upon waking up and then felt entirely focused in the gym. I also got all of my lunchtime walks in while learning some interesting things about whiskey and wine (thanks podcasts!).

I definitely feel like my everyday focus is greater, now that I’m not so worried about writing and reading. I just need to remember that when the next slog comes around, it maybe means I need to change things up again.

I hope you all have a great weekend!

-Phillip

Weekly Recap – October 9th, 2015

1144 smallI was out of town for most of the week at a technology conference. It was informative and I got to visit some extended family while I was there. Of course I missed my wife and Angus, so I was happy to be home last night.

I don’t have anything interesting to say at the moment, so I’ll leave you all with a photo of Angus winding his way through the great and mysterious Retail Store Forest.

Have a great weekend everyone!

-Phillip

Weekly Recap – October 2nd, 2015

Angus discovers the joys of shooting water.
Angus discovers the joys of shooting water.

It’s been a little over a week since my let-it-all-out post.

You guys are the best listeners and I took all of your feedback to heart. I don’t have the capacity to express the huge amount of gratitude I have toward you all.

Sincerely, thank you for being there.

For the past week, I’ve held a steady course, changing things up as I thought I’ve needed to. I haven’t read any fiction and I’ve had absolutely no heartache over it. Writing? Outside of emails and work documents, you’re seeing the extent of it. Again, no nagging regrets.

All good. But instead of what I haven’t been doing, you may be wondering what I have been doing?

As I mentioned, I’ve decided to remain focused on my health. I’m still getting up in the wee hours of the morning and going to the gym, but with a renewed sense of enthusiasm. I’ve stopped listening to music or audio books while I work out, centering myself only on what I’m doing at the time. For example, let’s say I’m doing squats: Instead of seeing them as a chore, as part of some exercise program I just need to get through, I’m instead concentrating on how the various muscles are contracting and relaxing during a single repetition. Each slice of exercise has become a goal to focus on at that particular point in time. This ties a little into the philosophy of mindfulness that I’ve been occasionally reading about, and I must say, it works. Will it keep working? Probably not. There will likely be a point in time where I get bored of this method and need to pop the headphones back in, or just change the routine in general. I think the key is recognizing when this is happening and not fight myself on it.

In addition to the morning workouts, I’ve been getting off my duff at lunch and walking. No more fighting sleep while I try to read or write in my car. I’ve walked a mile-and-a-half each day at work and it’s been so relaxing to escape the office space, soak in some vitamin D, and just move. During these walks, I’ve allowed myself to enjoy listening to a couple of podcasts:

  • The Tim Ferriss Show – Recommended by one of my best friends. Very motivational. Tim has had some excellent guests this week, ranging from an ex-Navy Seal to the comedy duo of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. I can’t say I’m a big Rogen/Goldberg fan, but I came to appreciate them more through their interview.
  • WTF with Marc Maron – Again, some great guests, but with a little more comedy thrown in. The Sir Patrick Stewart interview in particular was awesome, but that might be due to the fact that I’m a bit of a Trekker.
  • I look forward to listening to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast. I’ve heard nothing but great things about it.

These walks have been lightly intensive in the physical sense, but mentally relaxing. By the time I return to the office, I’m ready to get back to work without stressing myself out.

Let’s see, what else…

Spending quality time with my family. Since I’ve put down the books and writing tools, I feel like I’ve gotten more enjoyment out of playing with Angus or watching television with my wife. The anxious voice that says “You need to be reading more,” or “You need to be writing more,” has dissipated and I’ve allowed myself to be more in the moment – mindfulness popping in again. The photo you see of Angus here, running through the water spouts, was one of those pivotal moments where I was just happy watching him be happy. Work, reading, writing–I remember consciously thinking afterward that none of those things crossed my mind at the time. I was fully engaged in that moment of his pure joy.

In between these things, I’ve also been playing again. Turns out grown-ups need a little recess time, or at least this one does. For me, it’s mainly been crossword puzzles and The Simpson’s Tapped Out. I love that I can take a moment here and there to unwind just by popping onto my phone.

Oh! On another health note… For most of my adult life, I’ve had a pretty bad post-nasal drip/acid-reflux problem that makes me nauseous nearly every morning. Medications haven’t seemed to help and diet changes have had minimal effect. I’ve returned to using a neti pot daily, something I had done previously but had given up for some reason. Things still aren’t perfect in the mornings, but they’re a lot better when I use it. The neti pot combined with purposefully breathing more through my nose than my mouth has lessened the phlegm buildup (sorry if TMI) and made the mornings easier to handle.

At least for the past week, it seems with all of these approaches combined, the random anxiety attacks have greatly diminished. Even when “emergencies” have come up, I’ve been able to tackle them in a more relaxed manner.

How long will this last? Your guess is as good as mine, but I hope that I can take some of the lessons learned here and apply them when times get tough again. I just need to be aware of two things: Not every day will be a cakewalk and change isn’t always a bad thing. If I can accept these truths for what they are and accept that my emotional responses are my choice, I’ll be a happier person.

Here’s to wishing you a fantastic weekend everyone, and that you’re kicking butt in your own battles.

-Phillip

Weekly Recap – September 25th, 2015

Oktoberfest, here I come. I need to steins filled with milk, stat!
Oktoberfest, here I come. I need two steins filled with milk, stat!

You guys are the best. There’s no other way to put it. I promise to respond to each of your comments individually, because you deserve no less.

But…

Today has been a fire-fighting day at work. That’s why this post is coming late. Still, I wanted to take a moment to let you know how much I appreciate your friendship and that I’m not going anywhere. I’m just in one of those self-evaluation phases. There will be plenty more random posts and photos of that cute little guy up above.

I hope you all have a great weekend.

-Phillip

Weekly Recap – September 18th, 2015

baby gap audition
Just practicing for my Baby GAP audition…

Sorry folks, no words of wisdom for you today. Nothing really struck me this week, quote-wise. Instead, lots of things broke at the office and though I finished ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, I decided to take a break from my time-consuming book reviews. I’ll just say that it was classic King, though you could tell it was one of his earlier books–he was still forming his style, but the seeds were all there.

I wish you all a wonderful weekend. I’m definitely looking forward to mine!

-Phillip