Goals // Week 08: Keep Doing What Works

This week my work days will begin get longer as I continue to heal and my ability to take on more roles and responsibilities grows. It’s been almost a year since I was last able to pour so much of myself and my time into my work but I’ll need to be mindful of my energy levels and make sure not to push myself too hard or too far.

With the extended days and lengthy lists of tasks that have piled up I know it will be all too easy to exhaust myself trying to make up for lost time.

This week I’m just to keep doing what works and focus on my most basic needs. It’s remembering to do the little things like meditate, drink water, rest, and eat that make the big goals possible. If the foundation crumbles the mind, the body, the mood, the whole day, and any chance at at productivity come down with it.

This week I will:

Wake up with my alarm, the first time it goes off!. I utterly failed at this goal last week. Worse than simply hitting snooze a few times I would get up and then actually return to the bed. Between the time needed to meditate and my resolution to start the workday 30 minutes earlier, I can’t keep starting my days this way.

Meditate every morning. Last week I only managed to work in one 10 minute session and it wasn’t nearly enough. Meditation and mindfulness have been critical elements to managing and coping with chronic illness. I have felt my mental health steadily declining since I stopped the practice, and I worry how far I will fall if I don’t return soon.

Eat meals and take medications on time. My work schedule has been a little chaotic lately which makes it hard not only to eat on time but to remember to be hungry at all! This has made healing all the more difficult as I miss out not only on the nutrients I need but miss the mealtime triggers for my medications. Bonus: Stay hydrated by taking a few sips of water at least every half an hour.

Not eat lunch at my desk. I’ve been missing out on 30 or 60 minutes of uninterrupted journal or blog time by blurring the line between personal and work time. My work day is already being extended enough and in order to maintain a healthy relationship with my work I need to draw clear boundaries and take advantage of time I have every right to claim as my own.

Write 500 words every day toward new blog posts. Last week I opened a few old unfinished drafts and managed a few awkward paragraphs of progress on each. This week I’d like to keep the momentum going and work down my running list of future posts one by one with the hope that I’ll find my old groove.

This week I will not fall into despair or self pity. It’s easy to get low especially now with so much uncertainty and loss around us. Our personal problems seem magnified. Our loneliness is deepened, and all of it feels impossible to overcome.

Personal goals feel unimportant in comparison to global grief but time hasn’t stopped ticking and we’ve already lost too much. It’s time to start trying again. It’s time to let a little bit of the pain go.

You can do this.


Photo by Klim Musalimov on Unsplash

050 // It Still Feels Good

I started the day feeling sluggish and stupid despite getting my third night in a row of uninterrupted sleep—a feat unheard of in my personal “new normal”.

Since that slow start, things have sped up quickly and the sluggish and stupid feeling gave way to a feeling of optimism that’s been building steadily since my first sips of coffee. I want to blame the caffeine, but I know there’s more to the change in mood.

Perhaps it’s because the end of the week I’ve been waiting so anxiously for has finally arrived. I hate to take the rest work week for granted like this, but time has been dragging so and I have been feeling such boredom and restlessness at work it’s driving me crazy! I’m in desperate need of real time to myself for a while.

I have started writing a few things in the gaps of time between emails, tasks, requests, and meeting. Nothing that amounts to much more than notes and outlines, but it’s a step forward from ideas and dreams, so I’ll take it.

This weekend I’d like to carve out time to do a lot more. I don’t want to lose what momentum I’ve gained. I want to use this new energy and excitement to polish and publish old drafts I’ve struggled to clarify and conclude.

It’s going to be tiresome and awkward path forward, but that doesn’t matter. It still feels good to be back in the chair, thinking and typing away about the little things that matter to me.

049 // Save Your Strength

I’ve had two nights in a row of uninterrupted sleep, a rare occurrence and exciting development. This might be the first sign of real healing.

I have an appointment with my doctor later this morning, and I’m hoping the good news on my end will mean good news on her end too. I’m hoping that we’ve finally hit on the right combination of medications, diet changes, and stress management techniques to calm my immune system and stop the inflammation.

Part of me is reluctant to hope for too much. I don’t want to start dreaming of a better tomorrow. Hell, I don’t even want to live like I have a better today! Not because I think I’ll jinx myself or anything like that. It’s just that whenever I think I’m better, I start pushing myself too hard.

I think I can be the person I used to be and do all the things I used to do, but the path from sick to better, to well, to healed is gradual and winding, often looping or doubling back in strange and unpredictable ways. A favorable stretch or promising directional change may only be temporary. The key and the hardest lesson: slow down and save your strength because you never know what perils lurk around the next bend.

A little better is only that, a little, and that is the most I can give myself or anyone else right now: a little.

048 // The Numbers Don’t Matter

A dense fog has fallen over the city, making the morning mysterious and dreamy, and making me contemplative and deliberate.

This is one of those days where focus comes easy. It’s the kind of day you want to spend alone with your thoughts and your work. It’s a good writing kind of day, and I am lucky that there will be time to match the motivation.

My mornings are slowly returning to a calmer and more effective routine. I’ve been able to get up with my alarm two days in a row, and for the first time in almost a month I had some time to meditate. Watching that run streak turn over from zero to one brought back that old excitement and sense of accomplishment, but it also brought back that old sense of anxiety.

I wish these kinds of apps didn’t track your “days in a row”. I know why they do it. That anxiety I feel is what keeps me logging in, watching ads, or paying subscription fees, but it isn’t good for morale. That counter will keep you coming back until the one day when you inevitably “fail”. Then it’s only all that much harder to come back to your good habits.

I tell myself that the numbers don’t really matter, that a day away here and there is okay. What matters is the effort. You don’t fail until you fail to try again.

Easy enough to say but harder done to believe.

047 // A Little Optimism

The weather is finally warming, though we’re forecasted to hover near freezing for the rest of the week. Next week is looking a lot more spring-like, and I’m reminded that having something to look forward to is all it takes to muster a little optimism.

Many of my coworkers are enjoying a four-day weekend, and though I’m expected to head into the office, it will at least be an easy and early day. I’m assisting with a CPR class, which mostly means I’m on mannequin disinfecting duty. It sounds worse than it is. In fact, I often prefer these quiet, solitary tasks to team work.

The early day means more time to write. Nothing profound is coming to mind today, but a few unfinished pieces are a few awkward paragraphs closer to done. I just have to get back into my old groove, but I know that as long as I have been out of it, is as long as it may take to get back in.

Writing is my passion, but it isn’t easy. It isn’t always fun, and it doesn’t always feel good. The joy is in “having written” but it’s a lot of misery getting there.


My heart goes out to the millions in Texas dealing with freezing temperatures, power outages, and water shut-offs. My little sister is among those being affected, and I’m wracked with worry for her. Her power has been out for over 30 hours and she resorted to staying in her car for warmth as all the hotels in the area are booked.

I hope everyone can find a warm place to sleep tonight My sister has friends to go but I know there will be many out there who don’t have loved ones to take them in.

Stay warm. Be safe. Show compassion, please.

Goals // Week 07: The First Steps

I’ve struggled to follow my own advice lately. In my defense, I have been dealing with a lot of loss and a lot of pain, a lot of depression and disorientation. I’ve lost my way and my motivation to find it again. I’ve been miserable and motionless. I’ve been feeling sorry for myself and making excuses.

So, what is different this week? This week I’m finally getting tired of my own bullshit. I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired of being sick. I’m tired of stressing, worrying, and dwelling. I’m tired of being afraid.

This week I’m taking back my sense of control. My choices are often limited, sure, but they are not nonexistent. Inspiration can be found anywhere and time is only waiting to be found. Energy might be in short supply and motivation is hard to muster, but if you remember that managing both is the real work, the rest will come easy.

This week I will:

Wake up with my alarm. For months I had been doing so well willing myself out of bed without hitting the snooze button but returning to a full work week has meant needing more sleep than I’m used to and made it harder to head the morning alarm. This week I’d like to work out a way to get the rest I need and wake up when I want to, not when I have to. Bonus: Stop taking so many naps. At best they don’t help and at worst they make the fatigue worse.

Meditate every morning. Through much of January I kept up with my daily habit, but I missed a day and devastation that failure wrought left me unable to start again. The truth is, I can’t afford to keep avoiding the practice. For me, meditation is as important to healing as medication and starting the day with the body and breath makes all difference.

Delegate, or at least ask for help when I need it. I’ve always had a hard time trusting my coworkers to get the job done without my direction or input, but I’d like to learn to be more flexible and open to different ways of seeing the solution and different ways of getting there too. I’d like more mental space for myself, and that means sharing responsibility and giving up control.

Return to my journal. I’ve been away from my physical journal nearly as much and I have from my digital and I’ve missed it just as much if not more. This week I’d like to get back to it, and my planner too, by carving out my lunch time specifically for analog writing. The mornings will now be for digital work and the evenings are for reading.

This week I will not let the failures of these past weeks get me down. This year I will not allow guilt or shame of missing a goal or falling behind in the short term keep me from making the progress I know I can in the long term if I would only take the time to reflect and refocus. It’s a long way from here to December, and it’s unreasonable and unrealistic to expect that each week’s goals can be set and met without failure or falter.

Finish not just each day, but each week, month, and year and be done with it. A new one will always begin as soon as one ends, and you cannot make the most of the current if you are still carrying the weight of the last. Let it go.

The first steps after a stumble are always the hardest. The sooner you get them behind you, the better.


Photo by Patrick Wittke on Unsplash

044 // First Dose

I received my first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine this morning. I arrived over twenty minutes early for my appointment and 10 minutes before they were scheduled to begin vaccinating and there was already a line winding through the entire second floor and down the stairs. I overheard a few of the nurses saying they would give over 500 shots just that day!

The process was efficient and painless, by far the easiest vaccine I have ever received in my life. I hardly even felt the jab! Afterward, I was congratulated and sent to wait in a room with around 20 other vaccine recipients to be monitored for severe reaction. I left with nothing more than a slight soreness in the upper arm and a lightness in my chest as a little of the fear I’d been carrying for over a year now lifted.

I’m thankful to be among the first to receive the vaccine due entirely to my occupation employment with a school district. I wish more of my loved ones would be eligible sooner rather than later, but besides my wife (who works for another school district) I will be the only one in my immediate family to be vaccinated until at least the summer.

I really wish the vaccine had been developed, approved, and distributed on a schedule just a month or even weeks faster. Maybe my grandmother would still be here. Maybe a lot of people would still be here…

I can’t let myself think like that, though. It’s hard enough living through the pandemic, and through winter, and without all the little things and people that used to bring me so much joy, without the addition of what ifs, regrets, and anger. I’ll save that for the summer.

The biggest question I walked away with after my vaccine, the one no one has an answer to yet, is how long the vaccine is effective for? I worry about losing immunity without knowing. I worry about variants that might outpace not only the vaccine but treatments too. I worry that this novel coronavirus will be with us a lot longer than we think, and with it that heavy burden of fear too.

043 // The Normal Normal Now

It’s been nearly a year now since anything has felt normal and I feel like I’m beginning to forget what that old life, that old sense of joy and community, used to feel like.

There were some new glimmers of hope this week. A much missed coworker returned, small snatches of lost focus and passion were felt, and I scheduled my first dose of the COVID vaccine for this weekend. Perhaps just over the horizon is the relief I have been longing for since this time nearly a year ago. Perhaps things will finally get better this time.

Or perhaps things have only begun to feel better with time. It’s been so long since I was myself and life was the old normal that the new normal has become simply the normal normal now.

Albert Camus wrote in The Stanger: “After a while you could get used to anything.” I really believe that is true. Humans feel happiness or misery by contrasts, and the available emotions are growing quite flat. Or maybe it’s only that a small subset of emotions has overwhelmed and engulfed nearly the entirety of everyday life, leaving nothing for the personal pains of ordinary human existence.

My little losses, though great to me, are only drops in the ocean of despair we’re all swimming in, and somehow that makes it even harder to process. My pain blends into the background. My pain hardly even exists.

I wonder, once we are through with this great collective and connective grieving we’re going through now, if there might be an equally weighty but personal and private grief waiting behind it for each of us to bear alone?