Goals // Week 33: Let Yourself Move Forward

This week was off ahead of me before I could find my bearings. My mind and body are dragging, but I’m keeping one foot in front of the other and doing my best to at least fall no farther behind. It’ll take focus and willpower, but the plan is made, and the time is there if I seize it.

Already this morning I’ve worked on my calendar and got my to-do list in order. I spoke with my team and made a back-up plan too. I deleted that one last distracting game on my phone and set my alarm 15 minutes earlier. From here, the week looks long, but at least it’s smooth.

This week I will:

Meditate every morning and every evening. Work through the basics for 10 minutes before work, then practice long guided sessions before bed. Breathe, check in with the body, give space to the emotional and physical state you are in rather than the states you wish you were, clarify your intentions: to give your body the best chance to heal, to cope with the pace of healing, to be your best self for your loved ones and your team, to be an example of what meditation can do.

Make time for being creative. Don’t let go of your artistic goals and project in favor of more writing, more reading, more cleaning or resting. Creativity is as important as the rest and giving your mind time to work through your hands, to take a break from screens, to find meaning and metaphor in image the way it does words is vital to every other goal you wish to achieve.

 Write every day. I am making so much progress on the pieces I’ve been wanting to write and coming up with new ideas every day. I’m sorry nothing has been shared, but I’m just not ready. I’m not putting that pressure on myself right now, not with the health and work stress I already have going on. Writing has to be my secret joy and escape right now. Writing has to belong to me alone for a little while longer.

Finish week seven of The Science of Well-Being. I’ve been on a roll these last couple of weeks, making time just 3 days out of seven to watch a few videos, take a few notes, and reflect on how this new knowledge might change or impact my life for the better. Knowing isn’t everything, it might not even be half the battle by far, but it’s the first step and every step after gets a little easier. Bonus: Implement some weekly retirements.

Practice the WOOP exercise. WOOP stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan. Sit down and choose an outcome, a want, desire, goal, or achievement. Visualize the very best outcome you can. Now switch gear and visualize all the things that will get in your way, including emotions, beliefs, bad habits. Now, what will you do to overcome that obstacle? Going to implement this reflection into my weekly goals and actions plans.

Get through the last of my very big and very important training classes by the end of the week. Despite the challenges, I’ve been trying to get some new certifications under my belt for work and this week is the last of my classes for a while. I’m feeling incredibly nervous and flighty right now. I’m on the verge of sabotage and outright avoidance but deep down I know, all I have to do is my best and I can make it through with flying colors. Just do it!

This week I will not give in to despair. These past few months have been a long struggle. I never meant for the focus of this space to become my chronic illness, but when you live life in pain, with anxiety, shame, and plummeting self-esteem it’s hard to think, let alone write, about anything else. Already this week I got some good news and some bad news. I got a plan and an end point, and now I have to let myself move forward through the pain, anxiety, shame, and low self-esteem and back to life.


Photo by Rory Hennessey on Unsplash

Goals // Week 32: Getting Better Every Day

This week is going to be a busy one, though not hard, although it is off to a rocky start already. I’ve already written about the health issues I’m coping with and though I’m still suffering, I’m getting better every day and fully expect to feel much stronger and more capable by the end of the week.

It’s hard to feel so limited. To have to remind yourself to keep your expectations, your focus, your goals so narrow, but I’m trying to remember it’s better for the long run. This week I’m not looking too far into the future. I’m focusing on here and now, on my mind, my body, my mental and physical health, what I need to do each day, each hour, and with each action to take care of me first.

This week I will:

Rest when you need it. It’s hard enough to admit to yourself when you just can’t but it’s so much harder to have to admit it to your superiors, your team, and your loved ones. Remember that they want the best for you too. Remember that even if they don’t, it doesn’t matter. You are your own responsibility. You are the one who must live in this body. You have to put you first and heal so that you can take care of work, relationships, obligations, or passions.

Medicate, meditate, and hydrate. Rest is important, but there are other needs to be met. Don’t forget your medication. Don’t forget to drink water. Don’t forget to be present, to focus on your breath, to observe your world, your thoughts, your emotions without judgement. Stress is your number one trigger and to quell it takes only 10 minutes a day. You can give yourself at least that.

 Make something with my hands. There is more than one way to meditate. Put on a podcast, get out your X-Acto knives and magazine pages and clippings. Find words to play with, scenes to reimagine, bodies to remix into your own reflection. Find your flow and lose a little time to something that belongs to no one but you. Don’t forget, the healthy mind needs new challenges and novel ways to think and play.

Write something every day. You’ve set up a schedule and made the work easy enough. You have ideas to explore and even if nothing gets finished, posted, shared, or turns out in any way the way you meant it to, even if you get lost, frustrated, or feel wholly incompetent and full of doubt, you have only to keep writing and it will pass, it will get easier, it, you, will get better. Just try a little each day, that’s all I ask.

Finish that book, then finish another one. Too much rime has been spent on screens lately. Uninstall that game, those apps, shut it all down by 8:00 PM every night and pull out a book instead. You’ve only got 20 more pages left on this one, and the next is less than 60. #) minutes before bed will get you a lot farther than that and is much better for you than that phone.

Reach out. I’ll expand on it later but, since the time of Covid began, I’ve found it harder and harder to reach out to family and friends. I’m becoming more and more isolated, and I’m struggling to both understand why and break through this reluctance. It’s as if I’ve decided I’m living in a time outside of time, a life outside of my life. I’ve decided I am alone and left the conclusion to stand, but life is passing by and the people I love are still out there living, loving, suffering, changing, growing farther and farther away. I don’t want to come out of this alone.

This week I will not get caught up in every passing emotion, thought, or physical sensation. My body is me and my mind is me, but not everything that happens or occurs is me. Not everything is a thing. There is control to wield if I would seize it. There is peace to be had if I would allow it. There are blue skies over every cloud, and every cloud is always on the move. It’s okay to let it pass. Let it pass.


Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

214 // A Brief Normalcy

Today is a better day. I’m feeling more solid, physically, more present and connected to my body, stronger. This is always the first sign of healing. Before I can see tangible improvement, before I can see or feel exactly what and where I have begun to heal, I feel it in my spirit. A corner has been turned, but I know that doesn’t mean that the journey won’t be agonizingly slow and that setbacks are not on the horizon.

And so, because I was feeling a little better and because I have been feeling so down, I decided to venture out with my wife for some shopping therapy. The weather was gorgeous and having a few new things for the home made a big difference in my mood.

Of course there were tough moments. This ulcerative colitis flare has progressed so far that I’m left with a great amount of fatigue, pain, discomfort, and anxiety almost all of the time. There were moments today between all the positivity and the hopefulness, when I wanted to break down, but I breathed through it. I sat with my pain and fear and fatigue and I gave it space to breathe too and each moved to let me pass for a time and I am grateful for the brief feeling of normalcy.

Unfortunately, the outing was still just slightly little more than I could handle and when I got home, I crawled right back into the bed to recover.

The evening is settling in now. We have some rain clouds cruising in from the mountains, but they don’t appear too threatening. I’m looking forward to a calming and cleansing rain. Much of my cleaning was done last night and I’m basking in the peace of knowing I have nothing I have to do and nothing anyone is asking of me. I may write for a while or work cut and compile a new collage piece.

Or maybe I won’t push myself to make, or read, or write anything at all. Maybe I’ll give myself permission to just lay on this couch, watch some mindless TV, and enjoy a couple of glasses of wine with my wife before turning in early. I deserve it. I need it.

210 // Struggling to Recover

Today isn’t at all like yesterday.

My morning meditation didn’t feel very smooth. My stomach was hurting and couldn’t get my mind away from it to focus on the breath. At first I was upset about it. I felt like I had not only failed but wasted the session too, but looking back I realize that every session doesn’t have to go well, nor should it. Encountering difficulty is a chance to learn and grow.

At the time, though, I struggled to recover. I feel worse physically than yesterday. I got less sleep and my symptoms are flaring badly again. The good news is my doctor is allowing me to go back on steroids, which I guess is also bad news too. I’m not looking forward to the side effects, but I’m looking forward to having energy and feeling good again.

I’d planned to go to work, sit at my desk with my headphones in, and work through my tasks and projects one by one, alone, but as soon as I got there I was told my workplace was being taken over by another staff member and instead I would have to sit in an open area where there was nothing but distraction. I got very little accomplished but I will admit, being forced to interact with people did help my mood and made me feel a little less isolated and down. I needed some conversation, some laughs, and lunch with friends.

The afternoon and evening flew by far too fast. I didn’t take my usual hour or more nap, but I’m wishing I had. Maybe I’ll sleep better tonight than I did last night when anxiety had my stomach in knots and my mind running late into the night and well before sunrise. Maybe tomorrow can be more like yesterday than today was, if I start right now?

Goals // Week 31: Building the Habits

This week felt busy before it even began and before goals could even be set obligations were already getting in the way.

I have some big meetings scheduled, but they are largely brainstorming sessions. I have a couple of projects on my plate, but nothing outside of my expertise or capability. I have a long virtual training session I’m a little nervous about but it won’t take more than a morning to get through and many members of my team are attending too so I’ll have plenty of help and support along the way. It’ll be a busy week, but in a good way.

My greatest roadblock will be managing my health and overcoming fatigue. I’ve been on a downhill trend for a little while now, but I’m starting a new medication and reviving an old daily meditation habit to help. My hope is that by the end of this week I’ll feel a little more like myself and making good progress toward my goals.

This week I will:

Update my to-do list and logbook nightly. It has been nice to have one place to keep my tasks, notes, ideas, and journal so that I can walk through each day with a clearer head and calmer outlook but the place offers no benefit if it isn’t reviewed, updated, and improved regularly. The goal is to spend at least one half-hour every evening reflecting on the day and preparing my tasks and goals for the next day.

 Meditate every morning. I recently learned that I qualified for a free subscription for the Headspace app and I couldn’t be more excited to return to the mediation habit I strove to build years ago but abandoned to disappointment. I’ve already committed to the practice for the past four days and already I am noticing the benefits. Bonus: Practice short breathing exercises in the middle of the day and join group meditations every evening with my wife.

Complete the work projects I have listed as due by Friday. I’ve been working for the same company for almost 14 years now, but it’s only been three months since I was chosen for a new position. I’m enthusiastic but feeling a bit overwhelmed by my new role and responsibilities. I know I am capable and respected, but avoidance is my usual approach to anxiety, which only ever leads to more anxiety and further avoidance . This week I won’t let my worries win.

Hydrate. The more active, focused, and engaged my mind is with my work and surroundings, the less connected I feel to my body and its needs. I forget to eat, to rest, to drink water, even to take bathroom breaks sometimes! This week I want to exist in my body more and pay attention to my physical needs as much as I do my mental. I’m prone to dehydration right now and if I want to stay motivated and productive, I have to start by heeding those phone reminders and drinking more water.

Find a new time for reading. I have an alarm on my phone to remind me every evening to turn off all screens and spend time reading a physical book. This worked well when I was feeling well but as fatigue takes greater and greater foothold reading just a page or two puts me right to sleep. I can’t make any progress reading at this time so I’d like to try reading earlier in the day and getting through the 40 page per day and catch up to where I should be by now in my reading goals.

Work on my essay a week project. I can’t promise the piece will be done by next week but I have added the daily writing tasks like choosing a topic, researching quotes and facts, outlining, freewriting, and editing to my logbook and tasks lists and plan to time block these items in my calendar as well. As long as I work on each of these items in the time I’m meant to I will consider the goal met. I know that through practice, a habit is formed and through habit I will become comfortable, confident, and consistent.

This week I will not make other people’s problems my own. I will not feel guilt for things that are not my fault or that are out of my control. I will not attribute every mood to my actions. Not everyone’s well-being is not my responsibility. My job is to be kind and authentic and to protect my boundaries first and always. To take responsibility for every emotion or action around me outside of that framework denies other people the chance to reflect, learn, and grow, and deny’s me space to simply be.


Photo by Daniel J. Schwarz on Unsplash

209 // I Already Feel Lighter

Up and down, back and forth, round and round, everything is swinging wildly, yo-yoing, hitting roller coaster highs and lows both thrilling and terrifying.

My health is the main culprit. Perhaps I could better orient myself between work, tasks, rest, and relationships if physical pain, worry, and loneliness weren’t always obscuring my sight and way. Not all days are bad but lately it feels like I get two, three, sometimes five days or more in a row of worse and worse and worse before I get just one where I’m feeling somewhat normal and capable. Luckily today is one of those those good days.

I woke up this morning with more energy than I’ve had in over a week now. I was up by 4:30 without grogginess or fatigue and even got a 10-minute meditation session in on Headspace before work.

Over the weekend I found out they are offering free subscriptions for educators including both teachers and administration and signed up right away. I’m hoping to get my wife and perhaps a couple of friends to build the habit with me. I could use the motivation and the accountability check.

It’s been just three days since I picked up the old habit and I already feel lighter and looser. You ever feel like you didn’t know some part of your body was hurting until you laid down to rest it? That is how mediation feels to me. I’m always so tightly wound but I don’t realize it until I take the time to scan my body, to feel it’s weight and movement, and connect it with space and gravity around me. It’s more than physical. I have to release the tension in my heart the same as I would for my shoulders or neck.

I spent all my time before lunch in a long brainstorming session with my team. We’ve been meeting every few days to share ideas, make plans, complete projects and generally spread and share our enthusiasm. I’ve enjoyed these meetings but the additional workload is starting to stress me. I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve got an amazing team behind me and that no one is going to let me fail. Through them I feel more secure and more confident in my work than ever.

The rest of the week is a busy one and already tasks are being pushed and postponed to make room. I’m blocking in time for writing, reading, and creating too and taking advantage of early morning hours to make the most of my time. I hope every day will feel like this one but even if they don’t, at least I got one.

P.S. Headspace is also free for healthcare workers, free for a year if you are unemployed, and heavily discounted for students. I’m not affiliated in any way with Headspace. I just love the app and think everyone can benefit from daily meditation.

203// Feeling a Little Lighter

Not every long day is a hard one and not all stress is bad. I still have a lot on my plate, but progress is being made fast and I feel good about the work I am producing. Tomorrow will bring new more meeting and more time spent in debate and back and forth. Sometimes I miss the old days when I was a team of one, when I had no one to consult or consider. I miss not having to compromise, to vote, to agree all the time.

Still, my team is good and looking from outside of my narrow perspective, I can see how much worse things could be. At least we are all heading in the same general direction, matching each other’s enthusiasm, and speaking with a calm compassion no matter how much we disagree.

New opportunities are showing up on the horizon too. It’s nice to have things to look forward to again, or at least something new to be anxious about for a change. I’m taking an online training course on the history, laws, and “best practices” of transporting people in wheelchairs and in a few short weeks I finally get to complete my Crisis Prevention and Intervention course that had been cancelled months ago due to Covid-19. The silver lining here is now it’s only one day of in-person training instead of four. It means being a lot less nervous, self-conscious, or socially awkward.

The evening had some rough edges, and I struggled to find my groove and fit. There were more expectations than I could meet and the experience left me feeling down, disappointed, and disheartened. A mellow playlist, an hour spent cleaning the house, a couple slices of good pizza, good conversation, and a hug turned it all around though and I can drift off feeling a little lighter tonight. Until tomorrow…

202// Gratitude Helps

Today was the most normal work day I’ve had in months. I’m still not back to the low-key work days I’m used to and there are still many more expectations and obligations, but it’s calmer and so am I. Gratitude helps. I’m grateful to be at work at all, and grateful to be allowed to do the work that I do while I’m there.

It wasn’t easy getting back into the groove after my vacation, but it felt good to be working back at my usual location and to know that I can relax into a routine for the foreseeable future. More and more I’m taking work home too, which was scary at first. I don’t want to have to war with myself about how much I am working or what projects I am taking on, but as long as I keep the same hours being here rather than there is a gift.

Tonight is my wife and I’s first wedding anniversary, but since all the celebration was used up last week, we’re just cooking a simple meal together and enjoying a glass or two of red wine. I’m looking forward to one more night of indulgence before returning 100%, physically and mentally, to the work and worry of reality.

More than anything though, I’m looking forward to another new beginning at home full of love, warmth, surprise, support, change, compromise, growth, healing, and happiness.

Goals // Week 30: Resettle

This week I’m coming back to a schedule that feels more like normalcy and safety than I’ve been able to work for a very long time. I’ve missed having control over how I allocate my time and choosing the work I want to concentrate on or produce. This week I get to have a little more of that again and it makes all the difference toward increased morale.

That isn’t to say this week won’t be a difficult one. I have a big project on my plate and many meetings and deadlines on the calendar. I have virtual training sessions to attend, and a new class of employees getting ready to train, and a to-do list that will take me well into next week even if everything stays smooth and right.

But this is the work I have always done. I don’t feel anxious or incompetent. I don’t feel incapable or alone. My team is supportive and helpful, and my part is but a small piece in our grand scheme. The pressure is spread evenly and there is time enough for everything I need to do.

Still, just to keep the stress levels down, I’m not making any big changes this week. I’m not cultivating new habits or chasing radical shifts in perspective or productivity. After so much uncertainty and so much time away, I need to resettle into reality. This week I’m focusing on the boring, the background noise, and the basics of life. I’m looking for contentment, for good enough, for ordinary.

This week I will:

Keep the vacation frame of mind. Last week I spent ample hours away from the internet, from the chaos and confusion of the pandemic, and the tragedy of the daily news. I remembered that there is more to the work than what is splashed across my screen and the rest gave me a chance to rejuvenate and refocus, but my heart and mind can’t wait around another year to recover again. I have to find a way to step outside of myself and my life to a place where more than just human struggle and strife exist. I have to find nature, find wonder, disconnect, reconnect, and, finally, see.

 Not just be mindful, but also willful about how I spend my time. I’ve been fighting fatigue and malaise to very little success these past few months and falling farther and farther behind where’d I’d hoped to be by now, but I think the solution is much easier than I’ve begun to imagine it would be. The simple truth is I haven’t been doing my best and if I just try to do that much and nothing more, I think I could turn this year around. So, even on days when there is so little time or energy to give just use what little you have. Nothing very big has to be accomplished. I only have to be present and choose.

Get back to my “52 essays” project. I started the year-long posting challenge a couple of weeks ago, but after just one post, life quickly got back in the way. I’m disappointed and reluctant to try again now that I feel I’ve already failed, but I know that if I ever want to reach my goal, the best thing to do is to get right back to work. I know that writing is what I love. It’s the only thing I can create from myself alone and give to the world and no matter how small, or ugly, to bad my little words and writings are they are so important for me to share. This project is more than a goal, it is self-care.

Keep up on medication and meal schedules. My health has been improving though by only the most infinitesimal increments and only when I am 100% compliant in taking my medication and supplements and eating the right kinds of foods, in the right portions, and at the right times of the day. It’s been a long road of trial and error, successes, and failures, and I am still so far from where I would like to be, but if I just stay with it I know I’ll get there. I owe it to myself to care enough, to remember, to commit to the work of healing.

Read. I had hoped for more reading time while I was away, but the desire to unplug and the desire not to weigh down my bags made it impossible. While we were up there, I did find a neat independent bookstore and managed to come home with two new additions to my already overflowing bookshelf. I can’t wait to get to them, but first I have to make it through others that have been waiting far longer. This week I’d like to do more than read books. I have an embarrassing number of articles saved. I’d like to make progress there too.

Try yoga, both for a light workout, for mindfulness practice, and to relax. Running and weight lifting are still my workout types of choice but both have been putting too much stress on my body but rather than let my muscles atrophy and undo all the benefits I’ve earned, I’d like to find something easier on my bones. I’d like something that’s conducive to a calming climate and keeps my immune system from going haywire. I’m starting with a few Sun Salutation sequences in the morning and a few Moon Salutations at night. Nothing strenuous or stressful.

This week I will not be too easy on myself. Normally I have the opposite problem, but looking back over the last few months I have struggled to hold myself accountable to any number of expectations. I know, I know, I needed the rest. I needed the time to adjust. I needed it to be okay not to know what to do and not to want to do it when I did, but life is moving on and I have to get on with coping, with changing, with growing and sooner rather than later. Tomorrow is uncertain, scary, unpromised, but today is here and now. How will I choose to meet it?


Photo by Aldric RIVAT on Unsplash

201// What I Needed

I was away for a few days and I only just realized I forgot to say goodbye. It wasn’t my intention but trying to wrap up work things and to prepare for a trip, all the while trying to manage my health issues meant a few things we left undone and unsaid. But I’m back now, and though I failed to make mention of my send off, I at least would like to take some notice of the return.

To begin at the beginning, last week we travelled out of town. My wife and I are celebrating our first wedding anniversary and felt the occasion coupled with recent stresses and successes warranted something bigger and grander than a standard date night.

Our first year as a married couple was both wonderful and still quite terrifying. After Our home has never felt more warm, safe, or loving, but the world around us has fallen farther and farther in the opposite direction, leaving us disjointed and unfocused. This time away was meant not to reconnect so much as to resettle. We longed to get back into our old grooves, to be the sun, and moon, and stars, the light, the calm, the way for one another again.

So, we went up into the mountains for a little time away from the city, from work, and as far from the pandemic as we could get, and it was all exactly what I wanted, needed, it to be. I needed nature. I needed spoiling. I needed to focus on myself and what was directly in front of me and directly inside.

We spent much of the last few nights drinking, eating good food, napping during afternoon rains and warming ourselves next to campfires. We hiked, and shopped, and sometimes we did nothing at all but sit, listen, and see. Our accommodations were stunning, and the setting was gorgeous. I was sad to leave it all behind but having the memories and the experience to carry with me means everything to me.

We’ve been back for a couple of days now and though we immediately had to return to life, to family, and to work, I’ve found I still feel relaxed. I feel refocused. I feel rejuvenated. I feel that by disconnecting from all the noise and reconnecting with what really mattered I can recommit to all aspects of my life once again.