Goals // Week 19: Lowered Expectations in All Areas

This week got away from me before it even began. Weekdays and weekends are so alike it’s hard to tell where or when one ends and another begins. So, the goals are being set a little late, but with no less enthusiasm or resolve. I’ll need extra focus this week since it may be my last of total freedom.

Next Monday the meetings to decide how and when we come back to work begin and shortly after I’ll find out my schedule. I knew this day would come eventually, but I just thought I had more time, time for me, time away from the world, before all the expectations and obligation had to begin again.

So, this week I will:

 Clear out one bag of trash from the basement and one bag of waste from the yard. The basement had to be demoed years ago and the backyard has fallen into severe neglect. The work that needs to be done is so overwhelming that I never can find the will to start, but a little every week can have both done on a few months if I’m consistant.

Work on the post idea from last week. I’d like to try my hand at writing more timely, relevant, or relatable posts. My hope is that the realm of current events will provide a natural deadline and the pressure and panic I need to actually start and then to actually finish writing things. I can’t let (what little) momentum I built last month wane.

Read another Penguin Little Black Classics. I’ve been slacking so badly on my reading goal and there really is no excuse for it. These books are less than 60 pages each, short enough to finish in a week and certainly within a week. I should be able to finish two or three but the current state of the world requires lowered expectations in all areas.

Finish one week each of courses The Science of Well-Being and Memoir and Personal Essay: Managing Your Relationship with the Reader. This is the last week when things will be easy to do and I have to take full advantage of that. These courses are simple but they are a sort of practice for the much more serious learning I want to do later. Prove you can do it.

Keep working my way through the mess in the “creativity room”. Like all major cleaning projects it looks worse the moment you try to make it better but the more you plug away, the more you purge and organize the better it feels. Soon I’ll have a space I can create in again.

Eat, sleep, move, and hydrate. This si becoming a regular here on the goals list and will continue to be until I get it right. Moving is getting easier, so is sleeping. Eating is still a struggle and hydrating still lags near the bottom of my priority list. It’s getting better, slowly. Bonus: Meditate and take your medication.

This week I will not give myself too many choices. We all want to believe we have the willpower to resist our own desires and cravings but desire, hunger, and need all overwhelm and though we may fight at first inevitably we give in especially when we are contending with fear, uncertainty, depression, and loneliness. When I can do anything I do nothing. When I get hungy I choose the worst things to eat. I say I want to I can’t and when I have to I do my best work.


Photo by Damian Denis on Unsplash

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The weather is really starting to warm up now. Just a few weeks ago it was snowing and now I have to keep all the windows open or the house is unbearable by the time the sun makes its way to the west windows.

I had hoped to walk again this morning but my knee is stiff and hurting again so I spent much of the day laid up on the couch instead. I’d hoped to get outside again or to do a workout at home, but an afternoon nap snuck up on me and I lost too much time. I’d hoped to end the month on a more enthusiastic note. I hoped to write something good today and to finish reading the book I’ve been struggling to get through, but I watched mindless TV and did some virtual window shopping instead.

But tomorrow is a new day, and new month, and after I am done here, I’m going to write out exactly what kind of day I’d like it to be. A new month is nothing but another fresh start, the same as a new year, or season, or hour of every single day. So, no guilt and no regrets, only resolution and resolve. Begin again, begin again, again, again, again…

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I’m really scatter brained today. I have energy and motivation but my mind won’t settle anywhere and I can’t think of what I am meant to do. My to-do list is no help since I forgot to update it and now I have forgotten what I have forgotten. Oh well, a day to wander aimlessly though my thoughts sounds nice too.

My wife has been working more lately and if it weren’t for the fact that I just got a raise and I’m getting paid to stay home, my guilt over doing nothing would consume me. I’m jealous that she at least has some purpose and people who count on her. She has meetings, tasks, a schedule. She has some certainty. I feel lost. The freedom is overwhelming and in that freedom every minute becomes a failure of one kind or another.


I wonder sometimes, if two people live together long enough, if they start to become like one person, thinking each other’s thoughts and feeling each other’s emotions. My wife went for a late walk today, she rarely goes in the afternoon, and she invited me along, another rarity, and it was just what I needed.

The walk wasn’t a hard one, but it’s been a while since I’ve moved so much. My body is growing weak and soft in this new sedentary lifestyle I’ve cultivated and after just 20 minutes around the neighborhood I’m painfully aware that a change needs to be made. These walks have to become a daily routine. I did a few arm and ab things too. There is so much to tone and maybe, if I can get consistent, the weights can help burn off these quarantine pounds I’ve gained.

It felt really good to move. Perhaps when the mind won’t cooperate, it is trying to tell you to change your focus from what is mental to what is physical and give the brain a break, or give it something real to feel, to latch onto, to turn over. We can’t live in the imagination all the time. Something has to come from what is real, what is physical, what the senses can see, smell, hear, taste and touch.

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Today was a good day, like, a really good day! The HR department is back in the office at work and my promotion has finally been made official! In addition, it’s very possible that the raise I will be offered will be much, much more than I had expected. I am ecstatic! I am elated! I am so happy and optimistic for the future and all the things I’m going to be able to do now I feel I’m about to explode! This is what I’ve been waiting for. This is what I’ve been working for and it’s finally happened.

I only wish I could go out and celebrate. This news calls for a couple dozen oysters, a bottle of wine, and a rich dessert. Instead, I’m stuck at home settling for whatever liquor we have in the cabinet and a bland dinner I planned a week ago. I know this lockdown is the best thing, the right thing, but damn is it a bummer.

Still, this is amazing news. I feel suddenly more valid and worthy than I did just this morning when I woke up. I’ve known for weeks I got the position, yes, but to have it become real made me feel more real. I shouldn’t wrap so much of my worth up in my work, but I have been feeling so useless and so unseen these past weeks. I needed this and right or wrong it feels good and that’s all that matters.

Interestingly, as I was celebrating this momentous win and thinking about all the ways my quality of life was going to improve, I was also listening to Laurie Santos’s lectures in The Science of Well-Being and realized that the happiness I feel right now is temporary. Chances are, in a year or two, this won’t be enough. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not—it’s certainly a very human thing—but, if I could, I’d for it to be enough, or at least be exciting for a good while longer than that.

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Something is changed today. I feel like I am starting a real week. I feel on top of my tasks and excited about the coming days. It’s probably just my body adjusting to the cold-brew coffee. Caffeine does as much for the emotions as it does for the body.

I spent the morning working on the most mundane task: choosing between this years employer based health insurance options. At least the offerings are much cheaper than any years past and I will see a significant saving over the next 12 months. Adulting can be exciting.

After so much fun I really needed to get out of the house so I accompanied my wife to her workplace to pick up a desk printer. She needs it for work, but I hope to use it to fill out the handouts for The Science of Well-Being course I’m taking. After that it was curbside pickup from Chipotle and a trip to my mom’s to drop off needles and thread for her to make some masks. I didn’t go in her house, but it sure felt good to see her and my little sister.

When we got home, I felt renewed and decided to take some time to work on cleaning my side of the “creativity room”. The mess is more than I could get through in a day, but a little work every day could do the trick. I’m thinking again about what else a little work a day could get me.

A long time ago I had a goal of writing an essay a week, 52 essays for the year. It’s easier than trying to get from the start to the finish of a piece in a day, but it still requires a daily practice. Maybe…maybe…

Goals // Week 18: More of the Same

This week looks a lot like last week, and the week before, and the week before, and on and on back. The world around me was set to restart today, and I was planning on returning to work soon, but just over the weekend county officials announced they would extend our stay at home orders through May 8th at least. The weeks, it seems, will go on being the same for a half a month or so longer and I imagine when things change again they will change just as abruptly as they did nearly six weeks ago. So, this week will be more of the same and I will plan on more of the same for the next, only better, more.

This week I will:

 Seek better input in the hopes of better output. I’ve been thinking a lot about Austin Kleon’s ideas on input and output and trying to get to the bottom of my lack of ideas, my reluctance to start, my inability to finish a writing piece or project. I spend my time either trying (and mostly failing) to write or (when I can’t or I give up) I spend my time consuming junk from social media or TV. There is a third aspect I have been missing, quality input.

Allow time for doing nothing, or at least doing things that do not require a screen. Having a screen in front of me is not conducive to deep thinking. Screens create input sure, but they do not allow for new ideas to form easily. This week I’d like to do more analog free writing and exploring ideas that my own mind generates from the menagerie of concepts and stories that I encounter through the types of media I choose to consume and contemplate.

Finish one week each of courses The Science of Well-Being and Memoir and Personal Essay: Managing Your Relationship with the Reader. The Science of Well-Being is going fine except I don’t have access to a printer for the handouts and Memoir and Personal Essay is going better since I’ve let some of the pressure off and decided to do the assignments in a way that works for me. These are free courses and though it’s important to take them seriously enough to get something out of them, I don’t have to take it so seriously or pursue perfection to the point that I cannot move forward.

Finish reading Borne by Jeff VanderMeer. I’m very close to finishing and if I don’t make the same mistakes as last week, I can finish it quickly and finally move on to my ebook experiment. The key will be going to bed on time. I have an alarm on my phone for 8:15 PM that reminds me to get ready and go read until I fall asleep. Lately I’ve been dismissing it, this week I’m going to heed it. Bonus: Read some Essential Essays about Feminism.

Eat, sleep, move, and hydrate. Now that I now longer have to take so many pills with my meals, I’m not longer avoiding my meals. I’m going to bed earlier and I’m drinking more water too, but moving has been the hardest habit to build lately. Part of it is lack of motivation, but most of it is a body that can’t or won’t cooperate. New knee braces are on the way. I’m split my workout in half to alternate, and I may give yoga a try on days when weighted workout are too much.

Tell myself no. I indulge and spoil myself too much but will power is not an absolute recourse, it waxes and wanes, it must be strengthened through use the way any muscle does. I’d like to start by saying no to myself at least once a day. No to sleeping in. No to sugary snacks. No to putting it off until tomorrow. No to another drink. No to self-pity. No to giving up, to giving in, to wasting time or energy. Just once a day and when that gets a little easier, I can try twice.

This week I will not let my emotions rule me. Being isolated for weeks on end can leave one feeling lonely, angry, irritable, and afraid. Even with my wife here and the pets and plenty to do, I am quickly approaching my limit. I’m sensitive, on edge, and ready to blow up under the slightest provocation. I need to get outside. I need to mediate. I need to get it all out and write it all down. I need to reach out. I need to understand it normal, understandable, and completely preventable but I have to do the work on myself.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 17

Photo by Jean-Philippe Delberghe on Unsplash

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It’s my first Sunday without writing my coffee share posts and I have to say, it feels really nice. I miss the chatty nature of the posts and the change to purge my mind of the week behind me but the extra time I have now to relax, to brainstorm, to get a head start on my goals, it feels good. It feels more right.

I realized this morning that I hadn’t watched the news on TV in over a week—I’ve been catching up over social media (from trusted sources) and through podcasts—and thought I should turn it on to see what I have been missing. Within five minutes I understood why I have been avoiding it. Between the sensationalizing and speculating of the news and the advertisements trying to pull the heartstrings and capitalize on the pandemic, I could not maintain an optimistic or motivated mood.

Even after the world restarts and we find a new normal to live with, I won’t go back to letting the news play in the background all day anymore. There are ways to stay informed that don’t play with my emotions so much.

I got my goals for the week all spelled out and this time I am adding them to a little sticky note to keep on my laptop so I don’t forget. These past few weeks I’ve been thinking them up and thinking them through, writing them out and then promptly forgetting about them for the next six or seven days. That’s why I have been failing so miserably. I have zero focus and no way to bring myself back to the path.

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The stay at home orders for my county have officially been extended through May 8th. I haven’t yet heard from my supervisors and coworkers about how that affects our plans to return to work in the coming weeks. Obviously our return is delayed, but by how long is the question.

Saturday continues to be my favorite day of the week. There has been very little to do any day of the week for over a month now, but on Saturdays there is even less. I wish time would slow down so I could enjoy more of it, so I could luxuriate in it.

I’m back in the “creativity room” though not much of substance is being created. The good feeling isn’t as simple or short-term as happiness. I’d say maybe I feel hopeful, or optimistic. Life feels promising and as long as my path continues straight forward from here, things can only get better. That doesn’t mean things are great right now, it just means the future feels bright.

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Today was a bad day, but it wasn’t my bad day alone so I can’t share any of the details except to say that being isolated with no outside stimulation or social interaction magnifies every emotion especially the negative ones and being isolated together just doubles the ammunition and the inevitable explosion.

Things are better now, but I had to devote the entire afternoon to self care in order to move past it. I decided it was a good day to deep clean my dreadlocks and have a nice cold shower “beer” (I’m partial to hard ciders) to take the edge off. I feel refreshed and renewed now. The hurts and humiliations of before have been washed away and the evening can be enjoyed free of worry or distress…for now. It may take pizza and a glass of wine to keep the good feelings going.

That was all I could manage to do today, and even that took more effort than you could know. I’m proud of myself for not falling back into old habits and for not giving in to the urge to do nothing at all and wallow in self pity. I’m glad things turned around and I have feel confident that tomorrow will be so much better.

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The late nights are starting to get to me. I’m waking up late again and my head is full of fog all day long. I took the first nap I’ve had in weeks today completely unintentionally. I was out for over an hour and I didn’t feel much better when I woke up. I’ve decided to impose old bedtime rules again as if I were working and to get back to waking up on time. It’s good for my health and productivity but it’s also in preparation of my planned return to work in a couple of weeks.

Despite the fatigue I somehow felt up to doing some cleaning and working on a Coursera writing assignment that has been plaguing me since last Monday. It’s just not possible for me to meet all the requirements of the prompt but today I realized that writing about how something doesn’t apply to you counts as writing about it and I also realized that if some aspect of the assignment doesn’t apply to me then that’s ok. It’s only me that that I have anything to prove to and if I know I did my best then as far as I’m concerned all requirements were met.

It might be a silly, insignificant online course, but you get out of anything what you put in, right?