Goals // Week 27: Asking Nothing More

This week I’m taking a break. I’m reading and writing and nothing else. My own personal retreat. I’m feeling better and I’d like to continue that success. I’m resting and waiting. I’m watching and processing. I’m accepting and yielding. For that reason, I’m reluctant to set any goals at all. For me, the pressure to produce is suffocating, and expectations only lead to failure and the obligation only leads to avoidance.

This week I’d like to just get up early every morning and see where the days take me. I’d like to ask nothing more of myself than to spend part of each day at my desk away from social media and another part between the pages of a few good books. Still, there are a few guidelines, reminders, and tasks I’d like to set for myself to keep from wasting time or wandering too easily when things get hard.

This week I will:

 Keep up my daily routine. It’s too easy to fall into old habits, especially when away from work. I tend to stay up too late and lose too much of the day by sleeping in. I tend to forget my meals and my medication. I forget to drink water, to move my body, and to take care of my basic self-care and needs. This week I want to start and end each day as if I were heading off to work and instead of leaving I’ll spend tie cleaning and writing as my duty and service instead.

Finish my next long-form post. I’ve been working on the same piece for weeks now and it’s grown disordered, unwieldy, and full of tangents and side stories. I have the time now to hack and force it back into shape, but I know I will be reluctant to finish the job. If I remember that 90% is good enough and that no piece is beyond revisiting then I can finally make something somewhat cathartic and coherent out of these ugly words. Bonus: Go back to using Google Docs to draft posts. The built-in dictionary and “explore” feature keeps me from getting distracted.

Make some new collage art. I finally have the desk-wide self-healing cutting mat of my dreams, more X-Acto knife blade replacements than I will probably ever need, and plenty of magazine material to flip through. There is no excuse not to make a little something every week or so. Writing is great but time spent off screen making something with my hands give my mind time to rest, to breathe, to slip into a more abstract space than typing usually allows. One art feeds the other.

Read. I made great progress this weekend but I am still three books behind where I should be for this years reading goals. If I spend an hour each day at least reading a Penguin Little Black Classic rather than watching an episode of a show or scrolling Twitter I should easily be ahead of schedule before the end of the week. Next week I’ll move on to tacking the new ebooks I downloaded from Verso Books. Bonus: Tackle a few of those articles that have been piling up in your “to-read later” folder too.

Get ready for our big trip. In a few weeks my wife and I are heading up into the mountains for some much-needed time away from work, from the news, from the internet, from everything. It’s coming up on the one-year anniversary of our wedding and though it’s been one of our happiest (we’ve been together nearly 18 years now), it has also been one of the most stressful. We’re in desperate need of a reset and I want to make sure I’ve got everything we need squared away so we can leave the stress down here in the city.

This week I will not feel sorry for myself. I haven’t been feeling great and the world is in chaos. I’m feeling anxious and all around me there seems to be despair and death. I feel powerless, small, anxious, incompetent, and incapable, but I know none of those feelings reflect reality. They are only a reaction. They should be given their space to exist. They should be heard. They should even be learned from, but then they must be let go.


Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Goals // Week 23: Some Kind of Normalcy

This week will be my third back to work and to some kind of normality. I’m easing into things and for that reason I haven’t really been pushing myself to set or meet any goals or expectations and I’m glad I had the foresight not to. These past weeks have been exhausting and there would have been almost no time or energy left to accomplish much of anything outside of basic self care.

This week I’m increasing my work hours from four a day to six and though there still might be nothing left of me at the end of the day for pursuing these goals, I want to try but with the compassionate caveat that my well being must come first. If I do nothing outside of work but sleep, shower, exercise, and hydrate that’s good enough for me. No regrets, no shame, no should-haves.

This week I will try to:

 Choose healthier alternatives. Every week I do a little better and this is the first week that almost no sugary sweets were purchased. (I couldn’t deny myself a little ice cream now that the weather is getting warmer but it, and any other sweets I manage to get my hands on, cannot be an everyday indulgence.) There are health goals to meet and my gut health to think about right now. This week I have dried fruit, fresh mango, cuties, and cashews to have in place of fruit snacks and chips. There should be no reason to give in to passing craving or moments of weakness.

Have one TV free evening. I’ve been watching a lot more TV since the pandemic began, but now that my strict quarantine is over I’d like to break the habit and spend my evenings doing other things. I’d like it to be the same night every week, Tuesdays perhaps, when I have no new episodes premiering and when I won’t have to stop whatever project I’m working on to cook dinner. That’s up to 6 hours straight that I could give to collage, writing, reading, or a free online course. Bonus: Give up one episode every other night of the week too.

Write my first in a series of 52 weekly essays. I’ve been wanting to start an essay a week project, but it never feels like the right time. When I’m ready, the ideas are hard to find and when I have the ideas life gets in the way again. Deep down I think I’m just afraid of writing poorly or failing to meet my own expectations, but it’s time to let go of that fear and begin. The first one is always the hardest to write. No mistakes have been made and if I never start, I’ll never have to face not being perfect but I need to let go of that hope too so I might one day be good.

Read. Every night I am supposed to turn off all screens 45 minutes before bedtime and head to bed where I read as much as I can before lights out. Lately I’ve been staying up too late watching one or three more episodes of mindless TV instead. I just bought a new cover and a few reads for the iPad I’ve repurposed into an e-reader and I have over 60 books left in my Penguin Little Black Classics book set. There is no reason I should still be two books behind schedule right now.

This week I will not lose the progress I have made over the last two weeks. I’ve been eating on a regular schedule, taking my medication every day, workout out every morning, and spending more time on self care than ever. I’m proud of myself for not letting anxiety or fatigue get in the way of these basic habits I’ve worked so hard to fold into my daily routine and make automatic, regular, and easy to do every single day. They are small, but they are the building blocks of grander goals. They are the foundation of feeling good and journeys to happier and healthier.


Photo by Pietro De Grandi on Unsplash

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

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

Goals // Week 17: The Earlier the Better

This week is the last before the state wide stay-at-home order here is Colorado is set to expire. I’ll still be staying inside for a few weeks more at least but the city will be coming back to life and I’m sure that life will find a way inside these walls, or maybe I’ll find a way out, just a little, if it’s safe. If I am safe.

Beyond that I want to make a renewed effort to focus myself and do more real writing: pieces that delve deep and reveal something about me, about us, about the world. I want to focus on real goals and spend less time passively watching and waiting. I want to spend more time being brave, being reflective, and doing what I know is right and good.

So, this week I will:

Wake up earlier. 7:00 AM is ok for weekends but Monday through Friday need to be work days again and the writing needs to start by 6:00 whether it’s blog posts, journal entries, a course assignment, a poem, an essay, or an idea for a larger project I just have to begin and the earlier the better.

Update: I set a new alarm for 6:00 AM but I had set it to vibrate only since I am a light sleeper and my wife is not. I didn’t want to wake her before her own alarm at 7:00. Most mornings I heard it and most of those mornings I was able to get out of bed. One thing I have learned is that the hardest part is getting up. After that, it’s easy to stay up…mostly.

Finish one week each of courses The Science of Well-Being and Memoir and Personal Essay: Managing Your Relationship with the Reader. I’m already behind in Memoir and Personal Essay because it got hard, and I started stalling but even though this goal is small, finishing these courses is one thing I’d like to be able to say I completed before the summer starts and I have to return to work.

Update: The Science of Well-Being is easy enough, I just wish I had access to a printer so I could fill out the handout and track my happiness and emotions as I work through the videos and readings. Memoir and Personal Essay is giving me a harder time since the first writing assignment prompt contained parameters I didn’t feel I could meet but then I decided to stop prying to be perfect and just try to be productive.

Clean my side of the “creativity room”. I write best from my desk but when the area gets too cluttered or disorganized, I migrate to the kitchen table, or the couch, or, worst of all, the bed. I can’t write or work in any of those alternate places without suffering severe distraction. The answer is to set aside one hour this week to

Update: My side is such a mess that I don’t even know where to begin, so I didn’t Most of it is post-it notes and loose leaf paper I’ve written a variety of notes on from writing ideas, to shopping lists, to to-do items, reminders, wish lists, and projects. Some pages contain a little of everything and most are so out of context I can’t even remember what past me is trying to say. My goal is to decipher, type, and organize as many of these notes as I can, but the task is daunting. Maybe next week…

Eat, sleep, move, and hydrate. I’ve been, as my wife puts it, forgetting I am hungry. I’ve been going to bed too late and waking up too late. I’ve been house-bound and sedentary. I can’t even remember when the last time I drank a full glass of water was. I’d like to start doing better. I need to start doing better.

Update: I ate, I slept, and I hydrated, but I did not move nearly as much as I needed to. A lot of the reason was laziness, but some of it is persistent joint pain that is making me feel old, invalid, and depressed. This week I’m going to buy a new compression sleeve to support my knee, one that is more comfortable than the one I have and can be worn when I work out or go for a walk. The added support should ease the pain and raise my spirits so I can be more active.

 Watch less mindless TV and more educational videos instead, or listen to more podcasts or music, or read a book. Do anything to keep time from slipping away so quickly. The point is not just to be mindful of how I spend my time, but to be mindful while I’m spending it. Bonus: Spend less time sitting and more time on my feet.

Update: I watch less TV but I still watched more than I’d like. Still, everything counts, and better is better than nothing at all. It helps that my wife is also trying to watch less and that I have binge-watched pretty much all the shows I am interested in any way. Now I just have a few I keep up with and only one episode each of those a week to watch.

Finish reading Borne by Jeff VanderMeer. It’s an easy read and I’m already over halfway there but finding the time, or taking the time I should say, to read has been hard these past few days. All I have to do is trade some Facebook time for reading time and I’ll be on to the next read in no time. Bonus: Read some Essential Essays about Feminism.

Update: This book is beginning to bore me and when I get bored with a book, I start avoiding it. The problem is, of course, that the book takes longer to finish. The fastest way out is through and if I am not going to be the kind of reader who quits books when I don’t like then I have to be the kind of reader that reads consistently and quickly. Get the book over with, then you won’t be bored anymore.

This week I will not do only what is easy and only when it’s easy. The hard thing is always the thing I know deep down I should be doing. Sometimes I read so I don’t have to clean. Sometimes I clean so I don’t have to write. Sometimes I write so I don’t have to work out. I do the things I want but never when I want to and this week I will not give up so much control to my fear and cravings. I will not use one goal to procrastinate on another.


Photo by Aldric RIVAT on Unsplash

Goals // Week 16: Another One Around the Sun

This week is a new beginning of sorts, one of many that come every year. It feels right that my 35th year of life should begin on a Monday, though for the last month Mondays have meant very little. Still, Mondays are our chances to start again every week and this Monday I get to start the first week of a new trip around the sun. I’m excited, but it’s a somber and focused kind of excitement. I’m starting a new chapter but I’d like to write a little more of this one myself rather than simply reading along waiting for the plot to unravel and the twists to surprise me.

So, this week, the first week, I will:

Write one blog post every day. I’d like for them to coincide with the WordPress Discover Prompts but I’m utterly incapable of writing anything short and that means some pieces can’t be wrapped up before the sun goes down. So, if I can’t finish a post before the day is up, I give myself permission to save it as a draft and pick it up again later. I am committed to sharing something for each day of April, even if it must come late. The point is to make a real effort, to get up and try. That’s all.

Read a little every day. With so much writing in the schedule now there will be less time for reading but I have finished the longest book of my entire reading career and can confidently move on to regular sized novels and my Penguin Little Black Classics set of which each book hardly exceeds 50 pages. Bonus: Finish this list of Feminist Writing.

Get back to regularly updating my to-do list, logbook, and schedule. Time seems to be compressing in on each side of the present and the days are harder to remember and to plan. I need a schedule to orient myself, to get a hold of time, to get things done, to remember how I want to live, and in order to do that I have to take the time to sit down and map out not just what is to come but what has passed too. To give my mind proof that though time is always slip, slip, slipping away I can make use of it as it passes.

 Enjoy my birthday. Being stuck inside during a global pandemic and a snowstorm is not the ideal way to spend a birthday but it is what it is and there is still so much to be grateful for and to celebrate. My wife, my best friend, my partner, is right here with me and there has never been an end to the joy we’ve been able to find in one another. It’ll be a good day if I decide that it is and what I have is not only good enough but a great blessing.

Work out. My body has been falling apart for years now, but the inherent inactivity that comes with social isolation is resulting in further joint stiffness and increased pain. The only remedy is to move through the hurt and eventually the body will adjust, become more pliable and less resistant. I have everything I need for a good home workout the only thing missing is my willpower. There are no more excuses to make. Bonus: Go one day this week without a sugary snack. It’s a start.

Practice more self-care. It’s becoming harder to remember to do the basics when you have nowhere to go and no one to impress, but the purpose of self-care is not to impress others but to provide a sense of calm, comfort, and care for yourself. Self-care can help you self-sooth. Self-care can distract the mind. Self-care can help you begin the day with focus or end it with peace. Self-care lifts the spirits and energizes the body, and in these times it’s more important than ever.

This week I will not give in to the draw of inactivity. So much of what our bodies crave is not only bad for us but counter to what it is we really need. My anxiety and the creeping depression and loneliness are making it hard to stay motivated and focused. All I want to do is binge eat and binge watch. All I want to do is nothing but I know that isn’t really what I want and it’s far from what will make me feel better. This week I will not let time slip away. I will not reach for what is mindless or numbing. I will not let the walls close in.


Photo by thomas van der vennet on Unsplash

Goals // Week 14: Find a Way to Stay Sane

This week will marks our third of social isolation. I had hoped it might get easier as time went on and as I settled into acceptance and a new routine, but it has only gotten harder. I am surprised to find I do not have the urge to leave or to find things to do, but rather I’m fighting a strong desire to sink further and further into apathy and lethargy. I’m also experiencing irritability and mood swings and a new kind of anxiety that, though it is duller and less defined, is quite large and widespread. This week I expect things will get harder not just for me but for everyone, everywhere and we will all have to find a way to stay sane through it all.

This week I will:

Practice more self-care. When you have nowhere to go, it’s easy to let yourself go. For me work has always been my reason to wake up on time, to shower, to get dressed, to do my hair. Without the prompt of going to work, I found I simply forgot that I still needed to do those things. It will be late in the day when I remember I’m still wearing pajamas and haven’t eaten anything at all. This week I want to start a new “wake up” routine in which I carefully and deliberately take care of my basic needs before doing anything else.

 Teach the dog to roll over. The dog has been loving all the extra walks, extra play time, extra attention and cuddle time she’s been getting and I figure why not take it a step further and make it extra learning time too? She already knows sit, lay down, stand up, turn around, shake, back up, jump up, fetch, and “drop it”, but roll over has eluded her. She loathes to be on her back and most of my efforts so far to teach her have resulted in confusion and frustration for us both. I have a new technique though and I think this week we just might get it.

 Be more active and see more of the sun. The mornings are still too chilly to get back to my old jogging habit but the afternoons have been warming by the day and are just as good a time as any for me to get out and around the neighborhood. I’ve been too cooped up and though I crave to sink further into this isolation, the best thing I can do for my mood and spirit is to remember there is still a wide world out there to return to. I need to get out of this house and out of my head, and the only way is to grab the dog and spend some time in the sun and spring air.

Spend time away from screens. I had been doing a commendable job curbing my obsessive consumption of news in an effort to quell my anxiety but over the last few days I’ve slipped back into my old bad habit of watching, scrolling, and searching for updates all day long. These devices are just too tempting to misuse, and it’s too easy to make excuses to get around my own rules and boundaries. This week I will set up a schedule for screen time and tie that I am to put away my devices and find more analog things to do with my time.

Finish reading It by Stephen King and book eight from my Penguin Little Black Classics book set, A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift. I’ve been getting a lot more reading time in these past couple of weeks, and I cannot let myself lose the momentum. I have just over 100 pages to go now for It and less than 10 for A Modest Proposal. Those are both entirely reachable goals for the week. If I keep up this pace, I’m sure to catch up and ultimately get ahead of where I should be by now if I want to beat my 50 book challenge for the year. Bonus: Finish book nine too, Three Tang Dynasty Poets.

Get more cleaning done. I have been lax about disinfecting the house, especially after either my wife or I has left and come back or after bringing in items from the store or having items delivered to the house. I’ve read a lot of different timelines for how long the novel coronavirus can live on various surfaces but the CDC had a handy page of guidelines for how to clean different type of surfaces and materials and recommends going over “high touch” areas daily. The is the second most important thing I can do for my family right now, the first is to…

Stay home. It’s hard to stay in and when we start feeling cabin fever coming on and loneliness creeping in we make excuses for why it’s okay to head out for a little non-essential travel. I’ve seen videos of people visiting friends and family and congregating far too closely in public spaces. I’ve been guilty myself of going to stores not just for groceries but to simply browse the aisles, anything just to get out of the damn house! But doing these things puts us all at risk and the truth is no matter what your gut tells you it just isn’t worth it.

This week I will not let the walls close in. This past week the President announced that the CDCs social distancing recommendations would be extended through the month of April and I have serious doubts I will return to work before the summer. That means I have to make peace with this seclusion and find a way to joy and fulfillment within this tiny space. I have to learn to self start, self motivate, and self sooth. I have to get used to not having time away, or alone. I have to use my imagination and to start where I am using whatever I have on hand.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 13.

Photo by Jason Krieger on Unsplash

Goals // Week 13: Loose Expectations and Broad Guidelines

This week marks the beginning of my “extended Spring break” and the second week of social isolation. The days are very much running together and I am finding it hard to establish a schedule or settle into a routine. How can I when I don’t know from day to day how things may change? How can I when there’s nothing to do but worry about yourself, about your loved ones, about every damned thing in the world? Still, I have to try. I have to put together some loose expectations or some broad guidelines on how I should spend these days away from the rest of the world and my work. I have to do something to stay sane.

This week I will:

Spend at least an hour a day in the “creativity room”. While a month of binge-watching whatever Netflix keeps trying to get me to watch while scrolling through a rotation of social media apps sounds great, I would really like to make better use of my time even if I’m not sure yet what it is I want to do or accomplish. I’m not putting too much pressure on myself for output I know that nothing good—nothing at all—will come from spending my days on the couch. I have to get up, get ready, and get to a place where I can find the work I want to do.

Update: I tried to stay motivated and productive, but I underestimated how much staying at home all day every day would affect me. There were many days when I hardly left the couch, hardly ate, and hardly took care of myself. So, I did get in the “creativity room” for a little while there were many more days where I simply couldn’t fight my way out of anxiety or melancholy to make any progress. It’s surprising how much it turns out that I need other people to cheer and focus me.

 Set alarms for daily activities. I didn’t realize how much of my days were decided by my day job. I didn’t realize that all my prompt, my cravings, my wants, needs, and thoughts were all decided around the hours I worked. Now that I have no hours I can’t for the life of me remember what I am supposed to do and when. I used to have alarms on my phone for things like meals, medicine, even water and walking breaks because I would get so caught up in what I was doing. I think it’s time I go back to that.

Update: The alarms have been set to remind me to wake, to take medication, and to go to sleep. I’d like to add more, to utilize reminders for other regular chores and to-do items, and to start setting timers to help me move through reading, writing, and cleaning, to remind me to work through one task at a time, and to keep track of what tasks are next. Habits are hard to establish, and there is no shame in seeking help.

 Complete one small house project. The laundry room is in desperate need of a deep clean. The basement storage area needs purging. The water heater needs to be drained for the season, and the roof over the back deck needs repairs. Those are just a few off the top of my head projects I could do around the house to pass the time, keep my mind occupied, and achieve a feeling of accomplishment and usefulness. More than writing, or reading, or finishing a course, this would be the best use of my time stuck at home.

Update: Again, it’s been hard to find the motivation, but the energy has eluded me too. I did have my infusion this week, and perhaps I was asking too much of myself after being pumped full of medication. I’m always a little fatigued after these things, and I failed to remember that. Luckily the feeling fades quickly and I should feel a little more myself in the coming days.

Read to page 900 of It by Stephen King. I’m making a lot of progress through tis book so far, and if I keep up the pace, I could very easily finish this massive novel by the end of next week. The trick is to give up some social media time and devote it to reading time, which hasn’t been so hard now that I’m limiting my access to the news. I’ve moved my news check time to 5:00 PM and around 7:00 I put my phone away and take out my book until it’s time for bed. Bonus: Finish two books from my Little Black Classics set and choose an ebook to download and read from my old iPad.

Update: I’ve been spending time reading almost every evening and a couple of days I made sure to read away from the TV and from my phone in order to avoid any distraction. The effort paid off, and I was able to make it all the way to page 1,045 and have just over 100 left to go. I decided to focus fully on reading It since it’s such a long book and skip the catching up on my Penguin Little Black Classics. Going forward I am going to keep my reading goals much more narrowed and focused until I can finally move on from this tome.

Keep in touch with my family and friends. Last Friday, I checked in on my friends. Yesterday my dad called and last night my wife and I joined a “family day” call on Snapchat. My cousin calls regularly to check in on us, and I’ve been texting my mom every other day or so. I miss everyone so much and I am so worried all the time for them, but it helps to call, connect, and vent. It helps to hear they are fine, they are hopeful, they are getting through it the same as me. For my mental health, and for their’s too, it’s important not to forget to reach out.

Update: Time simply got away from me and I didn’t get to make all the calls I wanted to. Most of the checking in I did was after others had called me which was good but if I’m honest was not what I meant when I set this goal. I am happy to report that as of right now all my close friends and family are still feeling well and many were able to begin working from home and others who were without work found temporary work.

Stay well, emotionally and physically. I haven’t been feeling great these past few days and I’m really worried about either contracting the virus or falling back into an ulcerative colitis flare because I am worried about the virus. I’ve already been washing my hands more, using hand sanitizer, and drastically limiting my exposure to the general public, but there’s more I need to do for me too. I have to take all of my medications and my supplements on time. I have to eat regularly and eat healthy. I have to limit my access to the news, and I may even start meditating again. I should get out and walk around the block more, see the sun, forget the crisis all around me.

Update: I haven’t been great at taking all of my medications or eating meals on time but progress was definitely made. I made it to my infusion appointment, ordered all of my medications that were getting low, and took every precaution when I had to leave the house. My wife and I are both feeling well and avoiding leaving the house as much as possible. I’m still very worried that in a week or so one or both of us will come down with symptoms but all I can do is take it day by day and today we are as well physically and emotionally and anyone can expect.

This week I will not feel guilty for enjoying this time. I have flashes of happiness and contentment over my spontaneous staycation away from work, and I almost always feel bad for it. People are suffering and dying, losing money and losing their homes, and I’m not, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get to be happy either. Who knows what hardships are in my future too and the truth is any shred of joy or even peace that I can find now may be just the kind of memory I will need to hold on to later when times turn rougher and more uncertain.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 12.

Photo by kyler trautner on Unsplash

Goals // Week 12: Peace and Productivity

This week, despite all the bad news and the spreading novel coronavirus outbreak, will be a good week. Spring has arrived, the weather is sunny and warm, and I don’t have to work at all. I’m still riding the high of my promotion being made official and I have at least two events I’ve been looking forward to coming up, including a St. Patrick’s Day movie party at my favorite theater. I know I am supposed to be practicing social distancing and isolation, but I promise you I am taking all proper precautions. I’m looking forward to peace and productivity.

This week I will:

Read for one hour every day. I’ve fallen behind in my reading goals for the past couple of weeks or more, but now that I’m home for an extended Spring break I will have plenty of time to catch up. I had hoped to be finished or nearly finished with It by now but the book is so long and Stephen King is so long-winded in this one that I am finding it hard to keep up any pace at all. I’m over halfway through though and I cannot allow too much time to pass or for the time I’ve invested to be wasted.

Update: To be honest I did not read every day but instead I’m marking it done by counting my time through averages. There were days when all I did was read, and there were days when I didn’t read at all. I made a lot of progress and even though I’ve fallen “two books behind schedule” I know it’s only because this particular one is so long. I fully expect to start catching up in the next week are two.

 Write two blog posts. One for my personal blog here and for my other blog, Zen and Pi. I’ve been wanting to both write more substantial pieces here and to turn Z+P into a proper publication, but since I have been working my ass off to earn this promotion, I simply haven’t had the time. Well, I finally earned that promotion and now it’s time to find a proper balance between my day job and my personal pursuits. It’s time to pick a direction and do the work for me.

Update: This goal and all writing goals I have set for my blogs have been too big and too broad. Going forward I am going to start breaking them down into steps like: Choose 2 prompts or concepts to explore. Free write for one hour around these topics. Find key concepts and organize them. Find supporting quotes, ect. This week I chose a couple of prompts and I have spent time free writing on both. This will get easier!

 Walk at least three days this week. It’s going to be hard to practice social distancing and isolation and to cope with all the time away from work. To keep from going stir crazy, it might help to get out in the sun and around the neighborhood for a few minutes every afternoon. The extended forecast predicts warm temperatures through Thursday, and after that we’re looking at drizzle through Sunday. Better take advantage of the good days while you can so the cold and lonely ones won’t be so bad.

Update: I only managed to get out and around the neighborhood for one day and although there were a few days of frigid and snowy weather I could have done much better. I have to find a time that works for me. The mornings are preferable, but they are still too cold. The afternoons are warmer, but I am too tired by then. The closer we get to summer the easier this will be, but for now I still have to force it.

Get through my CPR Instructor’s course. I had thought that my class would be canceled but according to their website all classes are still on but extra precautions are being taken. I’ll be expected to wash my hands as soon as I enter the building and then to use hand sanitizer, alcohol, and gloves, and to keep my own personal mask and one-way valve. I was already nervous about the class itself, but now I’m worried about the virus too, but I can’t let my anxiety get to me. I can’t panic or let opportunities slip by.

Update: I really had nothing to worry about. The class was easy and enjoyable and getting through it really boosted my confidence in both my skills and my ability to teach those skills to others. I’m really excited to return to work and to start practicing the process of certifying others to help save lives.

Finish my taxes. I was supposed to have the forms filled out and sent off a month ago, but I’ve been doing that thing I always do when I’m afraid. I’ve been avoiding it, putting it off, forgetting it, and telling myself there is plenty of time, that there are more important things, that it can wait, wait, wait. Well, I can’t wait anymore. There are new goals and bigger milestones I want to meet financially and I cannot move forward with those goals until I get this done, taken care of, and paid.

Update: I got as far as I could for now, and I am happy to report that the damage is not any worse than I expected it to be. I was happy to hear the IRS has relieved some pressure on all of us and extended the deadline, though I still have every intention of finishing before April 15th. I feel better knowing where we stand and knowing that next year will be so much better for us both.

Limit access to the news. Yes, there is a pandemic happening and every day there is new information, guidelines, and closings I need to be aware of but staying connected 24/7 has really taken a toll on my mental health and I need to step away if I’m going to be able to make it through these difficult, confusing, and terrifying times. I have to unplug, step away, and redirect for more of my day. I have to focus inward, on the immediate, on what is close and what is under my control.

Update: This has been a lot easier to do than I thought it would be. I went from running CBS News all day and obsessively refreshing local news Twitter accounts to listening for one hour in the morning tops and checking those Twitter accounts only after 4 or 5 in the evening. It helps when you accept that between those times not much is happening or being reported anyway, and all you are hearing is either redundant or speculation.

This week I will not panic. Life as we know it is changing every day. More and more people are testing positive for the virus and more and more are undiagnosed cases are suspected. The stores are out of the essentials we all need and everyday social restriction grow tighter and tighter. This week, I will not let despair and worry get the better of me. I will not let listlessness and loneliness keep me from using this time wisely. I will not lose patience with myself. I will not try to control what I can’t. I will not forget that we will all get through this together, if separately. I will not forget there is light at the end of this tunnel, somewhere.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 11.

Photo by kyler trautner on Unsplash

Goals // Week 10: We’re Going to Be Okay

This week is going to be much like the last few. I’ll have long hours and plenty of work to fill them with. I’ll have few hours left for me and even less energy to make much use of them. This pace is growing tiresome, and it’s getting harder and harder to fend off burnout but I’m trying to remember that when all else is out of my control I can still control my reaction. I owe it to my coworkers and more than them I owe it to myself to fake that enthusiasm and energy until it becomes real.

This week I will:

Stay present in the moment, do my best to maintain perspective, and practice gratitude at the end of every day. It’s going to be another long and stressful one, but that’s okay. I can make it. It’s not so bad. All of our problems are simply reminders of our blessings and I am grateful for the responsibility because it signals respect. I am grateful for the work because it means I can care for my family and provides opportunities to find purpose. I’m grateful for my conflicts and difficulties because it means there is room to grow. I’m grateful to have another week to make it through at all.

Read 100 pages of It by Stephen King. I had hoped to reach at least the half through these 1,150 pages by now but with this book being so big I can’t carry it around with me when I go out the way I have other books. That means reading time is limited, and it’s going to take me a little longer than usual to finish. That’s ok though. I have my Penguin Little Black Classics set and working my way through those tiny books is a much easier endeavor. If I make the time that is. Distraction has been hard to overcome lately. Mindfulness and limiting screen time are crucial this week.

Write for one hour every day without distraction. That hour can fall anywhere within the day, before work, during my lunch, after work, before bedtime, whenever, the point is that it must be completely distraction free. One tab with a text box for writing, a “lofi hiphop” Spotify playlist going in the background, and a timer set so that I won’t even have to glance at the clock. I’m shooting for one hour but I knw there will be days when that is asking a lot so, in the spirit of this year’s motto (Everything counts!) I will accept a half an hour as long as that is my best.

 Create a blackout poem. I have 3 pages of solid text torn from a magazine I’ve been carrying around for weeks I’ve been meaning to mine for new poems but I’ve just been too lazy and forgetful to look over them. It easy to put it off, to opt to watch T.V. or to find some chore or to-do item that’s more urgent instead, but this is my meditation. This is how I return to the present. This is how I slow down and give my mind and body a chance to reconnect. This is how I unplug. It’s as important as food, water, medication, and writing.

Drink more water! Who knew Gatorade could be so addictive? I can go a day or three without it but because water isn’t as refreshing or as flavorful when I don’t have Gatorade I often have nothing at all. I’ve noticed a dry throat and cracked lips returning and as someone with a chronic illness, intermittent anemia, vitamin deficiencies, and a suppressed immune system I cannot afford dehydration on top of all my other issues. One full bottle of water a day at least for now and no more Gatorade at all after the bottle already in the fridge.

 Not panic. Between the Democratic primaries and the coronavirus there has been much in the news to be anxious about lately and every day seems to get worse and worse. And the problem isn’t just online or just on the news. Every person I speak to has something to say about either or both and none of it is ever positive. It’s hard to think about anything else right now but what we can’t see is that though everything that is happening is very serious nothing is the end of the world, not yet at least. Chances are we’re going to be okay.

This week I will not let others pull me into their negativity, nor will I allow the actions of others to impact my mood, focus, or motivation. I will not be pushed to distraction, pushed off my path, or pushed to think or behave in ways that do not align with my values or goals. I can’t control other people and to be honest what other people do or don’t do, though frustrating and disappointing, has very little to do with me. All I can do is my best and at the end of each day that has to be enough.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 09.

Photo by Bailey Zindel on Unsplash