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

Goals // Week 09: My Own Worst Enemy

This week I may be looking at a lot more free time than I’ve had in weeks and I do not want to waste it. I want to write, or at least to complete those tasks that have been looming over me. This week I have to be mindful, willful, and fierce in my defence of my focus and my boundaries. I have to be hard on those who would distract me and harder on myself still. I am my own worse enemy and my most clever and insidious saboteur.

This week I will:

Read 200 pages of It by Stephen King. I’m nearly 400 pages into the tome and I’m desperately trying to reach the approximate 600 page midway point. I didn’t read as many days last week as I’d hoped to but the days I did pick it up I was able to read quickly and blast through over 50 pages in a sitting easily. If I did this every night and shot for just 30 or 40 pages I could hit the halfway point by Sunday and perhaps glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel. Bonus: Finish reading A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift.

Turn a few of those notes scribbled on scrap paper that I call “ideas” into post drafts and choose one to explore and write 1000 words on. The desk in my “creativity room” is overflowing with notes on post-its, scrap paper, napkins, envelopes, and notebooks most of which I’ve waited so long to revisit that I cannot recall the context or meaning but if even 1% of those ideas is viable, I would have a wealth of concepts to write about. It’s time I start digging into the heap and turn the fragments into fully realized pieces.

 Start a distraction journal. A schedule and a plan mean nothing if when it comes time to sit down and do the work all you can think about is the 100 other small things you have to do (or could be doing instead). I’m one of those people that writes two sentences and then gets up to do the dishes or switches tabs to check my email or picks up my phone to send a text and never gets back to the work. I’d like to keep a journal, or at least a piece of scrap paper next me where I can unload these impulses and thoughts onto, and then when the work is finally done I can devote guilt free time to these little tasks.

Finish my taxes. I have no excuse why this isn’t done yet except that I just keep forgetting to do them. It’s a daunting task and there are so many things to get done that feel more urgent. My mind is a limited space and the immediate tends to outweigh the important. What I fail to realize is that “immediate” should not have a monopoly over “important” and I have to be more mindful and more willful about what needs to get done “now”.

 Vote. Just like my taxes my mind pushes my ballot to the back burned with the excuse that there is much to do now and this is both simple, straightforward, and not immediate. I have plenty of time so why not put it off in favor of what has to get done now? The problem is there is always more to do now and often what is not immediate or urgent becomes so from too much stalling. Either that or it is forgotten entirely until it’s too late. Avoid the guilt and the regret. Do it now and be done with it.

Be mindful of how much of my time I give away. I love hanging out with my friends and coworkers but sometimes we get carried away and a short visit takes up two hours or more of the day and when that starts to become a daily habit I lose a lot of time I could devote elsewhere. Of course I still need to see them, to laugh, to vent, to feel a part of a group and community but there has to be balance.

Schedule weekly phone calls with my loved ones. I’ve been carrying so much guilt about how much time passes between talking with my family and friends. The guilt builds up and the longer I take the harder it is to make the call but I desperately want to be the one that keeps the ties of my family and relationships strong. I want to be a part of people’s lives. I want my loved ones to know I love them; I think of them, and it matters to me what is going on in their lives.

This week I will not allow the failures of the past to keep me from moving forward. It’s no secret I struggle with self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. It takes me longer than most to recover from even the smallest mistakes and missteps and in my despair I lose passion, drive, and focus. This week I will work hard to talk to myself and understand my mistakes as I would a close friend or loved one. I will not engage in the self depreciating talk I have in the past. I will not give up on myself.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 08.

Photo by Drew Lindsley on Unsplash

Goals // Week 08: Find My Footing

This week I have a little break from all the expectations and obligations that have long become routine. The weekend is a long one. I have an extra day off from work and the next class of new employees won’t begin with me for more than a week more. That means I have a chance to stop and think. I have a chance to look ahead and to find my footing before I take another step. 

This week I will:

Get well. I’ve been fighting a bad cold for over a week now and I’m feeling like I’ve fought my way through the worst of it and might just be on the mend. But I do have a chronic illness and the medications I take to have an impact on my immune system. If I’m not careful, if I don’t take care of myself by managing my stress levels, eating well, staying hydrated, and eating well this cold could gain a stronghold again or I could very easily catch something else.

Update: I’m feeling 100% again and the memory of that sinus pain and congestion misery is already fading. I did my best to stay hydrated and made sure to take (most of) my supplements often and on time. I’ve been sick a lot this season but nothing like that last cold and it’s left me with a bit of anxiety and paranoia. I’m sterilizing everything and washing my hands raw trying to avoid another infection.

Make a plan. I have neglected my calendars and to-do lists quite badly lately and as a result, no progress has been made. In my defense, my work life has been a bit chaotic and my health has made it impossible to maintain energy or focus outside of my obligations but the excuses aren’t holding up any longer. I know if I can make a plan I can find a way to do one small thing a day at least. It’s time to really try again.

Update: I made progress, but I did not stick with it. I have a list and a calendar now but they are not fully filled in and I have made little effort to keep either in front of me rendering both completely useless. But, progress is progress, and even if I only just keep filling it in every week for a while something ought to stick in my brain at some point.

 Read 150 pages of It by Stephen King. I’m sure I could make it further than that especially since I have decided to make T.V. time the new reading time these past couple of weeks. But I would like to move on through another book or two in my Penguin Little Black Classics set so I’ll have to split my time between It and Wailing Ghosts by Pu Songling and settle for fewer pages of one so I can enjoy a little of both.

Update: I did get a couple of good reading days in but only made it about 80 pages toward my goal. I found myself very distracted both on my breaks at work and at home. My schedule kept shifting and changing and it never felt like a good time to pull such a heavy book out and start reading. I was able to finish Wailing Ghosts though and that counts for something.

Complete my Heartsaver Instructor Essentials Online course. Before I can take the hands-on CPR and First Aid instructor course I have to complete the online potion. I’ve been putting it off because I’m nervous about it but my class is just a few weeks away and I do not want to mess up my opportunity to become an instructor because of a little irrational fear. This is a great opportunity for me, and I have to be brave, focused, and proactive and if I can’t be those things I better pretend until I am.

Update: It was long, and it was incredibly boring but I got it done. I did gain a lot of useful information about the process of teaching a CPR class which is very different from attending a class and learning CPR. Weirdly the new knowledge only made me feel more anxious rather than comforting me but I’m trying to tell myself that I am excited, not afraid.

Vote. I’m so grateful that the great state of Colorado makes it so easy to vote. We have early voting and mail-in ballots. We have 24-hour ballot drop off sites all over the city and here independents are allowed to vote in the primaries. So, I have no excuse not to participate in this election or any other. But sometimes when things are easy to do they are even easier to forget.

Update: I simply forgot. I know who I’m voting for and I only have one little circle to fill in before folding the ballot back up and dropping it off on the way to some other errand or destination. It’s simple, too simple. It’s so simple my mind considers it insignificant and not worth the effort of committing to memory. This is exactly why I have to keep that calendar and to-do list in front of me.

Write something, anything. I don’t necessarily have to write here and I don’t necessarily have to write to share. I can write something privately. I can write something that’s boring, unimportant, confusing, and bad. I can write as little or as much as I want or can and I can type it or use a pen and pad. I can write whatever I want so long as I write something real.

Update: For something I love and long to do writing is sure hard to make myself do. It’s difficult to begin or to know where to go. It’s hard to develop a voice and a message and it’s hard to silence my self-doubt and insecurities. It’s hard to make time when what is easier to do feels better now, but in the long run this feels so much worse and the longer it takes for me to begin the harder it is for me to get out of my own way.

This week I will not forget this list. For weeks now I have been setting goals and promptly forgetting them. This week I will not let I must do for others eclipse my personal passions so completely that I forget them entirely. This week I will not put myself on the back burner.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 07

Photo by Shaz Sedighzadeh on Unsplash

Goals // Week 07: Keep It Simple

This week is already starting off on a rather negative note. I have a throat infection I’m fighting off and had to take the first day of the work week off to rest so I’m ready for the infusion center and my new medication starting on Tuesday. All this while still teaching the new employees at work and trying to keep in mind the pile of little errands and items to complete before the week’s end. I’m overwhelmed, anxious and exhausted already but I’m doing everything I can to turn that around and into excitement, enthusiasm, and energy.

This week I will:

 Get well. So far this winter I have had an upper respiratory infection, an ear infection, and I’m now on my second throat infection that I fear is leading to another ear infection too. I regret not getting a flu shot this year and live in fear every day of contracting it or the equally nasty streptococcal pharyngitis. I have to work harder to get well and stay well. I will take my medications and supplements religiously, disinfect surfaces around me, and wash my hands more often.

Update: This cold was the worst I’ve had in a long time. This one scared me. I was in so much pain I nearly gave in and went to urgent care but I knew it was too soon for them to take me seriously or do very much for me. Rest and fluid, rest and fluids, that’s all they ever tell me so that is what I did and after more than a week I’m in a lot less pain and breathing a lot more easily. I may just live through it.

 Read 100 pages of It by Stephen King. I started It this past weekend and just 40 pages in I already know I will love this book as much as just about every Stephen King book I’ve ever picked up, but I know this will be a difficult read. First of all it’s long, over 1,150 pages long, and it’s heavy so I can’t carry it with me wherever I go. It’s an “at home read” so I will have to dedicate time to it every night. Bonus: Finish Book 7 of Little Black Classics Box Set, Wailing Ghosts by Pu Songling.

Update: I read 300 pages! If I keep up this pace I could finish this tome in just over 3 weeks! I doubt I will keep it up though. I tend to get burned out on long ones just after I pass the halfway point. That’s why I’ve been reading two books at once. This book is so long I foresee multiple instances of burnout and more than one extended break. So, I’m slowing down a bit and adding another book to the mix. I’m shooting for six weeks instead.

Get reacquainted with my to-do list. I’ve been struggling to complete tasks for weeks now and I know it’s because I have failed to even glance at my to-do list in weeks. I had tried to move the list from analog scraps of paper to a list in my Google calendar but the benefit of paper was being able to keep the list in front of me at all times. THis week I would like to get back to that and create a hybrid system of keeping a master list online and a physical daily list in hand.

Update: When I wasn’t working I was dead to the world. I had only enough strength to live in the present and nothing left over for dreaming, planning, or plotting. I had nothing left for anything more than that basics and the bare minimum. I knew it all would have to be put on hold before I could even begin and so, didn’t bother wasting the mental energy on lists or calendars.

Print and fill out an editorial calendar, by hand. Just like my to-do list a digital editorial calendar doesn’t help me much because it’s too easy not to look at. It’s too easy to forget about entirely. I’ve noticed that I sit down to write and if I don’t have an idea or prompt ready to go, I give up right away. This week I’m going to start a new calendar with a list of prompts and projects to work on so I can’t ever say “I don’t know what to write about”.

Update: Like my to-do list I simply didn’t have the time or energy to brainstorm new ideas, start drafts, or jot notes but I made sure to at least print blank calendar pages of the next couple of months and as soon as I am feeling better, more focused, and motivated I will have them on hand to begin filling in.

Make a new blackout poem. Last weekend I started working my way through my hoarder-sized pile of magazines ripping out useful images and blocks of text and tossing the rest. Now that I have a sizable stock of material to work with I would like to reincorporate this meditative practice back into my evening or at least weekend routine. Bonus: Re-work the cutout poem from last week and post.

Update: I couldn’t make this one happen either but I have the pages I want to work from all ready to go on my desk once the headaches and sinus congestion subside enough for me to concentrate without pain. I have the cutout poem from last week reworked and edited but for some reason I cannot bring myself to share it. I may shelve it until the time feels right.

Find a new balance. I’ve been working under the same schedule for years and years but with a new role and new responsibilities comes a new work hours and an increased demand on my attention and energy. I had hoped that these demands would come only every other week or less but it looks like I’ll have to let go of that idea. Things aren’t going to “die down” anymore and if I want to avoid burnout, I need to find a new way forward in my pursuit of an equitable work/life balance.

Update: This week I swung too far to the other end of the spectrum and took too much time for myself and my needs. It’s what I had to do, but it’s not something I can go on doing. I haven’t found the balance yet, but I have decided that no matter what happens through the rest of this month and the next, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The last day of school isn’t as far away as it feels and one way or another fewer work hours and more time for me are on the way.

This week I will not complicate things. My goals are simple and 100% doable if I make the time to do them. I fail when I get distracted, when I allow new ideas or the needs of the moment to monopolize the now. The goal is to stop trying to do everything all at once. Instead, I should do each thing one at a time. I should not overwhelm myself or place more demands on myself than I know I can meet.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 06

Photo by Bailey Zindel on Unsplash

Goals // Week 06

This week I had hoped to take it easy, to make time for myself and my personal pursuits and interests but it looks like the hectic schedule of the last two weeks will continue for at least two more. That means I’ll need to be mindful of what little time and energy I have left over and do my best to stay positive, enthusiastic, and focused in the face of fatigue and frustration.

This week I will:

 Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I bring a water bottle to work every day with the intention of getting through at least two refills and I barely end put drinking half of one. This week I need to drink water, not Gatorade, not carbonated water, not juice, water, water, water. Bonus: Avoid sugary sweets throughout the day and alcohol throughout the work-week.

Update: While I was dealing with the worst of this last ulcerative colitis flare, I started drinking Gatorade and now that I am feeling better I am having the hardest time switching back to plain water. It’s almost as if I would rather drink nothing than to have plain water. This week I fought through the cravings and the taste and gulped down at least a bottle full a day. It’s getting easier.

 Make those phone calls, send those emails. I have put a sticky note below the keyboard of my laptop with a list of people I’ve been needing to contact for weeks now. Most of them are over important and timely matters and I cannot allow myself to go one feeling anxious or being avoidant. There’s just no reason for it.

Update: I did make some calls but not all and I know deep down I could have but allowed myself to fall into the trap of procrastination and convenient forgetting. Phone calls aren’t easy for me. No form of communication is. Not email, text, fax, none of it but I have to get over that. I have to just grit my teeth and get it done.

Finish reading Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. I’m less than 100 pages from the end of this book and though I’m having issues with it and though it’s getting more tedious and difficult to pick up every day I have to remember that the fastest way out is through. Bonus: finish another book from the Little Black Classics Box Set.

Update: Yes, yes, yes I finally finished Love in the Time of Cholera, and I got through Traffic by John Ruskin, the 6th book in the Penguin Little Black Classics Box Set, too. I’ve mentioned many times how much I both loved and hated Love in the Time of Cholera so I won’t get into it now but I do want to say that I was surprised by how much I loved Traffic especially after the ratings on Goodreads were so low.

Return to writing my Journal posts. I’ve been slacking on both my physical and digital journals and I have felt both their absence through burn-out, irritation, stress, and anger. I’ve had nowhere to vent my feelings except onto other people. I’ve had nowhere to put my thoughts so they circle around in my mind to no avail. For my own mental health, I need these spaces.

Update: I’ve been catching up but making time to journal properly has been hard lately. In my defense work has been overwhelming, and I came down with a nasty throat infection that is sapping what little energy I have left after those long grueling hours. I haven’t given up though, and that’s what really matters.

Start my taxes. This is the first year my wife and I are filing jointly after getting married and after job changes, interest earned, and account reimbursements I know we are facing a hefty bill. Better to get an idea of the damage so we can start planning and paying sooner rather than later. No procrastinating this year!

Update: I just forgot. I meant to begin this weekend, but I had so much to do and so much on my mind that I just forgot. Luckily there is still plenty of time to begin and a long weekend with a lot less to do or worry overcoming up at the end of this workweek. I’ll get it done.

Control my anger. I’ve been feeling very frustrated with processes, procedures, and people everywhere around me. I’ve been snapping at people who don’t deserve it or being harder and harsher with people than I mean to. This isn’t me at all. I have to find a way to resolve what is upsetting more or to cope with what I have no control over before I burn too many bridges or earn a reputation I cannot correct.

Update: I’m learning to step away, emotionally if not physically, when I feel myself getting irritated or frustrated. I’m learning to examine why it is I feel the way I do and to ask myself why it matters or what the impact really is on my life. I’m learning to be grateful, proud, and focused on my accomplishments, my privileges, and my goals and not to let the actions or opinions of others to take up so much space in my mind and in my life.

This week I will not try to be perfect. I will not try to do it all and I won’t worry so much over the mistakes of others. We all have a right to learn by trying, by making mistakes, and by correcting our mistakes. I have to allow, or, better yet, embrace this process in myself and in others.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 05

Photo by Grant Lechner on Unsplash

Goals // Week 05

This week is the last of the month and the last of this crazy work schedule I’ve been struggling through since mid-January. I expect things to die down by mid-week but it won’t last long, I hear. There is another new class of employee lined up and ready to to start training come the start of the new week so I’m determined to make the most of this lull in work while I can. It’ll be another two weeks or more before I can claim any real time for myself again.

This week I will:

 Eat regular meals, on time, and take all of my medication. In order to avoid nausea, I have to spread my medication and supplements out throughout the day. That means more frequent meals, which are hard to remember let alone make time for during the chaotic workday, but I can’t make such excuses anymore. My health comes first! Bonus: No candy or sugary snacks!

Update: I did pretty good. I took almost all my medication and supplements on time and I didn’t miss any meals. I only wish I had been more mindful of what I was eating. Too many of the meals I ate weren’t as healthy as I wanted them to be. I gave in too often to cravings and ate what was easy when I was tired. Worse still I indulged almost daily in sweet treats from my boss’s office and ended the day with sluggishness and stomach aches.

 Work out every other evening after work. As someone who suffers from anxiety, who struggles to get a good night’s sleep, and who it trying to lose a few pounds put on by this last round of steroids, exercise is very important. I may not feel much like it after a long day but that is the magic of moving your body it creates more motivation than it takes. All I have to do is start.

Update: I failed miserably for another week in a row. Obviously something isn’t working and I need to begin again more simply. I’m thinking of committing to shorter workouts or to simply moving my body more during commercials or once an hour while working. Everything counts.

Finish writing the last few book reviews I started. Of course the reviews are only for me but writing anything is good for honing your craft and good for developing a habit. It’s been a long time since I’ve written a real blog post and sharing what I learned, what I liked, and what I loathed might help boost my confidence and enthusiasm.

Update: I had every intention of finishing these but my schedule was altered abrubty and the time I thought I could devote to writing I had to reallocate to boring old work. Where I failed was not using the entire free day, I had to writing an instead putting it off thinking I could do it later. Writing is a daily practice and I need to treat it as such no matter how hard it is or how tired I am.

Make and share a new “found poem” on Instagram. I miss the peace and the satisfaction that come from creating things that exist outside of screens and the internet. I miss working with other people’s words and reworking them into new meaning, and, anyway, if I don’t something soon it’s going to get harder to justify the stacks of old magazines piling up to my wife.

Update: I made one, but I didn’t share it, but not because of fear or because I thought what I’d created wasn’t good enough but because I agonized over the placement of one line—whether it should be near the beginning or whether it should be near the end and which conveyed the meaning I meant better—and I could not come to a decision until 3:00 AM this morning. I’ll post this evening.

Read 100 pages of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. I’ll have a whole lot more time to read this week than I have over the last two and if I don’t want to fall behind in my reading goal for the year than I need to take full advantage of it. Bonus: finish another book from the Penguin Little Black Classics box set.

Update: Yes! I finally hit my weekly reading goal, and some! I’m now just 65 pages from finishing. I also finished Aphorisms on Love and Hate by Friedrich Nietzsche, the 5th book in my Penguin Little Black Classics set. I’m now proudly sitting one book ahead of schedule for my my 2020 reading challenge.

Take a break. I take pride in being a good employee. I take pride in a job well done. I like knowing others can count on me. I like getting things done before anyone has to ask. I like being a team player, going above and beyond, and coming up with solutions, but all that pride can’t come at the expense of my peace of mind. I have to practice balance and I have to learn to step away, for just a moment, to breathe and be reminded of who I am outside of work.

Update: Oh, I took a break. I took a whole day in the middle of the work week all to myself. I didn’t use it as wisely as I wanted but I rested and needed that more than I needed to write or to read or create anything. I’m proud of myself for being strong enough to see past my unnecessary guilt to put myself first.

This week I will not let anyone make me feel bad for taking the time I need for me. At the same time, if I am going to set those boundaries I have to respect myself enough to keep the promises I make. I will not accept what I know is less than my best. This week is the start of showing my intentions with actions and not just words. I deserve better from, and for, me.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 04.

Photo by Brad Fickeisen on Unsplash

Goals // Week 04

This work week will be a lot like last week, busy, chaotic, and stressful, but it will be shorter week and though I don’t expect to complete every goal or to maintain my focus or enthusiasm through to Friday afternoon but I do expect to do better than last week. As the demands on my time slowly return to normal, I can begin slowly to move my attention and priorities back to personal pursuits and away from work projects. This week will be tough but it will also be better, and that is certainly something to look forward to.

This week I will:

 Write a book review for Ethics by Baruch Spinoza. One goal I had for this year was to write a book review for every book I read. I’ve already finished two books and if I don’t want to fall so far behind that I give up I need to get started this week. Of course they don’t have to be long, or even good, but they do have to get written and posted.

Update: There was simply no time for writing. I’m starting to sound like a broken record and even I am having a hard time believing my excuses. It really was a hard week, and I gave so much of myself up during my day job that there was nothing left in the evening to give to writing. I am going to do better.

 Read 100 pages of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. I had hoped to finish half of the book last week but until my work-life schedule becomes a little more balanced, I can’t hope for so much time to myself. I was able to ready 75 pages last week. I think 100 isn’t too much to ask. Bonus: Finish As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Update: I made progress, but I didn’t hit my goal. I did finish As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Gerard Manley Hopkins and The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue by Anonymous and if you up all the pages (minus the bonus book) I was only 20 short of reading 100 pages of something.

Eat one vegan meal. Before the holidays I was up to two or three meat-free meals a week but since then it has been hard for me to return to my old habits. Eventually I would like to go meatless Monday through Friday but I have to start slow and begin again.

Update: I made some delicious and easy roasted sweet potato and cauliflower tacos (with “chipotle cashew crema!). One vegan meal a week is good, and I’ll do my best to stick to it going forward but eventually I’d like to eat more meatless meals. I’d love recipe recommendations if you have any.

Work out three days this week. I was doing so well a few weeks ago but between my chronic illness and fatigue and the demanding work week I’ve hardly been able to remember to work out let alone get to a point where I can consciously avoid it. This week it is in the calendar with notifications turned on.

Update: Yeah, no, not even a little bit. I worked out zero days and I am beyond disappointed in myself. There really was no excuse. I just didn’t try hard enough.

Spend more time with my headphones in. Regulating my mood is hard when I’m tired or stressed so instead of trying to do it on my own and risking lashing out at coworkers and loved ones I’ll use the power of music instead, the best mood manager. Bonus: Catch up on my favorite podcasts too.

Update: I kept my headphones on hand the whole week and though I didn’t listen to a lot of music it was from lack of want rather than lack of time. There were just too many good podcast episodes I wanted to catch up on to make time for music. The point was to tune out and I definitely do that.

Stay hydrated. Drinking water is important for everyone but since I am taking so many medications and supplements every day I feel it is especially important that I fill and empty my water bottle a few times throughout the day. It will help with the headaches too I’m sure.

Update: I’ve been drinking a lot of Gatorade to stay hydrated and replenish electrolytes but there is so much added sugar and artificial flavors I know I have to get off of it but it’s going to take time to get used to water again. I stayed hydrated, I just didn’t drink water.

Get outside and into nature. The extended weather forecast is looking very nice, and I have been missing our old trails terribly. I think it’s time to get my hiking boots out, pack up the dog, and head toward the mountains. I just hope this winter hibernation hasn’t withered my endurance too much.

Update: I had hoped to take advantage of the early Spring-like weather we’d been having but the weekend got away from me and I never ended up making the proper preparations by the time Sunday rolled around. Luckily the forecast for the coming weekend is looking even better and I’ll have another chance at the trails.

Clean up the backyard. Spring is on the way and I have quite a list of home projects to complete before next winter rolls around. The dry and mild weather is a chance to get a jump on some of the projects I know I’m going to want to avoid later. Perhaps a “little at a time starting” strategy is better than “all at once whenever I have the energy and the will power”.

Update: It was nothing but pure and simple forgetfulness on my part. I obviously asked too much of myself last week and didn’t take into consideration at all how much I’ve been struggling just to get through the bare minimum I ask of myself every day.

This week I will not give up. It’s going to be hard but the light at the end of this work week is closer than most Mondays. I only have to get through four days of it and no amount of frustration, fatigue, or failure is going to stop me from putting one foot in front of the other and giving my best to every task I undertake and every person I meet.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 03.

Photo by Byron Johnson on Unsplash

Goals // Week 03

This week is going to be another busy one. There is a new class of employees starting and I will need work long hours to get them trained and ready for the kids. That means very little time for personal goals and pursuits. That means the calendar is out the door and I will need to be flexible and focused whenever I have a more than a moment for myself alone.

This week I will:

Read half of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez, or 25 pages per day, on average. I will read as much as possible during my lunch breaks at work but with my rigorous work schedule I may be eating on my feet this week. That’s ok though. There will be time over the weekend to catch up. I’d really like to finish this book within the next two weeks so I can start on my new Penguin Little Black Classics Box Set as soon as possible.

Update: Yeah, no, not even close. I read a mere 75 pages all week which may not sound like much but it was something. This year I’m trying not to let a week go buy without having made at least some progress, any progress, through one of my books. Considering that goal, I succeeded.

Journal every day. Time for blogging and writing will most likely be non existent but I cannot go the next 5 days without writing something. Writing is first and foremost for me, always. It keeps me centered and sane, so even when I cannot write for others I must make time to write for me. I need a place to vent and a place to remind myself of what is good and I need that space every day.

Update: This was my most disappointing failure of the week. In my defense I am still getting used to journaling by hand again and I often forget to do it. Going forward I would like to start carrying my notebooks outside of a bag so that they are always within eyesight and always on my mind.

Exercise every other day starting today. Since I’ve started to wean off of my medication, my energy levels have plummeted and working out is not as easy as it was even as early as a week ago. Still. I have been doing well and I do not want to lose the momentum or motivation I have built up. Even if I have to cut back on reps and rounds that’s okay. I will do as much as I can and remind myself that everything counts.

Update: Once again I had just one day this week with enough energy and willpower to get through my goals. This one is easy to forget when it isn’t scheduled and since I knew I would be so occupied by work I never made the schedule. Oh well, lesson learned.

Make something with my hands. Between work and rest I doubt I will get this far but just in case I am on top of my game and crushing it I wanted to add a goal to create a little art if I get a chance. It’s been weeks since I had a chance to spread out some magazine clippings, to zone out with my X-Acto knives, to make a mess, and to surprise myself. I probably need it more than I know.

Update: Another failure for the week but I’d like to focus on the progress I made instead and note that I did make time to clean up the creativity room and to make space for my art. I’m also giving myself permission to consider art a weekend pursuit rather than something I have to commit to practicing every single day.

Breathe. My health depends on me managing my stress levels and that means being mindful of how long and how much work I have been doing and taking breaks before they are needed. But breaks don’t just mean stepping away from the work physically. The kind of breaks I will need are more akin to meditation. A chance for my mind to quiet and for me to focus on the body and breath.

Update: Sometimes breathing is all you can do. Sometimes breathing is all you can ask or expect from youreself. Sometimes simply breathing has to be enough.

This week I will not push myself too far. It’s often hard for me to see where my limits are and I often don’t learn their importance until after I have stepped across them but I will tread lightly and do my best to see the signs of burn out and declining health before they force me out and down.


For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 02.

Photo by adrian on Unsplash