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New Year, New Me… in June

New Year, New Me… in June
The New Office

I think we all know by now that 2020 is just all types of fucked up. So I don’t see any reason just to hit the reset button on a number of things both personally and a professionally. It is time to pull out of this deep dive and get back on course. And no better time than now.

The year started off bad for me. Closing Factor Four Magazine was pretty hard on me. I was already in a creative slump with my personal writing, but when I lost the magazine it was kind of an end game for me. And that decision was made at the very end of 2019. Not the best way to close out a year and start another one.

The depression was real, but I made myself a couple of promises entering into 2020. Some plans to keep the depression at bay and to refocus myself and my life. The end goal was to return to my own creative spirit.

The first was that I’d run a 5K by the end of the year. I’d start my None to Run program in April with a hopes to be ready by summer for my first 5k. It is a 12 week program so I planned to be ready by the end of June.

The second was to make an effort to stay connected with my best friend by seeing her at least once per month. We used to work together and I saw her 5 days a week. When I changed jobs in 2017, that stopped and it wasn’t easy for me. I have a phobia of messaging people out of the blue, let alone inviting them out. I worry I seem clingy, needy, overreaching, and maybe even a pest. I never think that people think as high of me as I do of them. And I figured if I committed to one outing a month with her, I’d start to break down some of those walls. My job offers very little social interaction now, and I need the interaction despite my inability to break the ice.

Well, as we all know, COVID is a son-of-a-bitch. Working from home, everything is closed, and the general fear of the unknown all came slamming at us all early in the year. My wife is an essential worker and has to go to work every day. I used to work one day a week at home, and five days a week seemed great. No commute, even though I just bought a new car for a more comfortable commute, seemed like ideal.

Wear a mask, it isn’t that hard.

But as weeks went by it becomes obvious the impact it has on you to be at home all the time. I worked in my home’s “media room” and after awhile, working in there meant I didn’t was to be there after work hours. Which meant I didn’t want to do some of my favorite things like gaming and watching movies.

Of course, there was no way I was able to see my friend once a month and that goal was shot. It was a real bummer for me and kind of made me feel like I had nowhere to turn anymore.

My son’s hockey team was making a playoff run and that was canceled. I lost the interaction with my fellow hockey moms, which was a fun source of social interaction while enjoying my son’s hockey.

I was able to start my None to Run program early, but around week 9 my knee was injured and that put it on pause to heal. And I still really haven’t picked it back up yet. The lost momentum is more to blame than any injury now.

One of my first weeks on the None to Run program

In general life just seemed to be on pause.

I did decided to start a long needed home project. To take one of the really large rooms and create an office. Where once was my son’s really large bedroom and a tiny utility room, would now be a place for me to work that was separate from the other areas of the house. My wife and I decided it was a good use of the time and stimulus money. Plus we needed to fix some unsafe electrical work.

That project was longer, harder, and more costly than I expected. It drained my savings (which is a new source of stress) and took a lot of hard work. We added Ethernet and coax to the entire house and made the electrical safe again. It took two months to complete, though it felt like ages.

But this week I was finally able to work in the new office space and it has me suddenly inspired. It feels like a space to create, build, and relax. And despite working in it all day, I am quick to switch from the work laptop to mine at the end of the day and start creating.

Add that, my middle son, who is quickly becoming a very avid reader, has started to read my books as well. And talking books with him has been enjoyable. This combination has lead to a sort of “ah-ha” moment.

So this week I fired up my personal laptop for the first time in months. It took ages to power on and update. But once it was ready I needed to get the creative juices flowing. And I knew where to start.

I was right here at this website. I needed to bring the old blog over to the website for a more seamless experience. And I needed a website I could update easily. And so I’ve spent my week working on this website and I’ve decided I need to make some other promises to myself.

Ultimately I need to hold myself accountable, but I also hope that by sharing the journey with my friends, family, and supporters you can help me.

Here is what I need to do:

  • Get physical. Run again. Both my job and my hobbies are sedentary, and I need to change that.
    • Starting Monday I will go back to my three day a week regiment working to get myself back up to Week 9 conditioning for None to Run.
    • I will commit two days a week to injury prevention training.
    • I will find a strength training regiment that works for me.
    • I will get at least a Virtual 5k in this year.
    • I will find other group physical activities that I enjoy.
  • Read again. I need to read, I love to read, but somehow I never make time.
    • I’ve set a low goal of 8 books for the rest of the year.
    • My website as a currently reading section on the left, watch it to be sure I am reading like I should.
    • Rather than spending hours scrolling my phone, I’ll set aside a minimum of an hour most days to read before bed.
  • Write again. Oh how this one seems to be obvious, but also the most difficult.
    • I am going to get back into my once a week blog habit. When I blog regularly, I always wanted to write more.
    • I will go into the short stories folder of my remote drive, and get them submitted to places. Sure, I’d love to be paid for them but more importantly I just want to get them out there. Move on from them.
    • Set to work writing the third book in The Serenity Saga. It is overdue and needs to be brought to life.
    • Remain active on Twitter so I can stay connected with my writer audience and they can hold me to my progress on these goals.
  • Work out some ways to be more social despite trying to remain safe and healthy.
    • I have to work out a way to communicate with my friends and push aside the feeling that I am being bothersome.
    • Undoubtedly some of my friends will be reading this. Their support will be helpful in bridging the gap when I am too scared to do so.
    • Maybe a once a month video call with a few of my friends isn’t too much to ask after all. Maybe I can figure that out someway.
  • This one is the least measurable and probably the hardest one to obtain. But I really want to return to publishing in some form.
    • I don’t know what that looks like.
    • I should allow myself to continue to think of ideas.
    • Valid ideas should be fleshed out to see if they are possible. If they aren’t move on, if they are explore it.

So there you have it. It is a new year, new me… in June. I hope you’ll subscribe/follow this blog. Follow along on Twitter. And most of all, I hope you find your own ways to maintain your mental health during this unusual time. Please share you comments, thoughts, experiences, and tips below. I’d love to learn from you!

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Hidden Dangers of Being a Writer

Over the weekend I had a number of health scares.  I began experiencing some pain in my right shoulder and arm.  This eventually escalated to waking yesterday morning to extreme pressure on my chest.  It felt as him something had been sitting on my chest.  I tried to dismiss it (mistake number one) and attempted to go to work.  But, my wife (who is clearly much smarter than I) insisted I go to the emergency room.  They rushed me back, fearing I was having a heart attack.  Lucky for me, my EKG was “unremarkable” and my later blood tests dismissed the cause as being my heart.  But, it really had me thinking.

There are a lot of hidden health danger to being a writer.  It is a stationary job.  With the exception of your fingers moving across the keyboard there is little movement involved.  Add to this the fact that my job also requires I sit at a computer all day.  And, like most Americans, I tend to work right through my breaks and lunch.  I sometimes sit 16 hours a day, with only a quick break to walk to my car and back.  This all adds up to the risk of a blood clot.  That lack of movement can result in deadly clot that can eventually break free and travel its way to my heart or brain.

But, this career can also trigger weight gain.  And a lot of it fast.  I won’t pretend I was skinny before I took up writing.  I’d say I was probably down to about 240 (from 270) when I took up writing seriously again.  I am now 285, gaining about 10 pounds in the last month and half.  This is directly related to when I started taking on editing too and increasing my sitting time.

Another thing that writing can cause is a lack of social activity.  I’ve heard it argued that writers are anti-social anyway.  But I can’t believe that.  Writers are diverse.  Sure some may be more social and others may be less social, but we all need to spend time with our friends and family.  Being a recluse will not help you.  It can hurt your writing and your health.  I’ve found myself locked away in my office or at work for weeks on end.  With Facebook and Twitter being my illusions at a social life.

So with all this doom and gloom, you might be thinking I would suggest giving up this lifestyle.  But, I won’t stop writing and creating.  The creative aspect of your mind needs stimulating as well.  Writing is good for you too.  But perhaps we all need to strike a balance.

I’m not a Doctor, so you should always consult one before making any big changes.  But here is what I am going to do to protect myself from more health scares:

First, I am going to limit myself to two hours of sitting at anyone time.  After that I will take a break and walk around for ten or fifteen minutes.  My work has a trail outside I will use, and when I am at home I’ll walk around the block or something.  But I need to get myself moving from time to time.  Get the blood flowing, literally.  Eventually I hope to work myself up to actually exercising for weight loss and not just movement, but this is a start.

Second, I need to give up the junk.  Not completely, but moderation is the key here.  I tend to go a bit overboard with the fast foods.  This is for two reasons:  One, it is just good.  I like it.  So I eat it when I can.  Two, I often write right up to when I need to leave for work.  Leaving me little time to make lunch, resulting in hitting the drive-thru on my way in.  I’ve already started bringing more lunches and keeping them in the work freezer.

Third, I need to socialize more.  Despite the name social networking, Facebook and Twitter are not a satisfying social experience for me.  My work co-workers (well most of them) are a lot of fun to talk with too, but it isn’t the same.  Time with my family and friends is important.  I need to take time from everything I am doing to spend some time with them.  I’ve also been keeping very active in my community.  This has allowed me to meet with and socialize with a group of people for a little bit.  It is also a commitment that requires me to break away from my writing for a minute and get out of the house.

Writing is a fun activity, but too much of anything is bad.  I need to look for a change in my lifestyle so that I can continue writing for many more years into the future.  I think I’ll go for that walk now.

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Exercise

I think I am going to deviate a bit from my usual topics of writing and talk about exercise.  I have to say I have a few people who have got me thinking about my own health and exercise.  A post by Michael McDuffee (here) got me thinking about my own health issues, weight issues, and how to change it.

Watching my kids play their first season of soccer these past few months reminds of the time when I used to be in shape.  For those that don’t know, soccer is played in two 45 minute halves.  I used to play a game and referee three or four in a day.  That is a lot of running.  Of course, now I would be lucky to run to my fridge and back without getting winded.

Me in 2000

Of course, that didn’t last.  It didn’t last for two reasons:  Diet and Exercise.  I kept eating fast food.  I love that crap and I keep eating it.  It was fine as a young man because I exercised more than enough for the calories I was taking in.  But, when I got out of High School, I stopped Soccer.  So, I also stopped exercise.  I had a job where I spent my days walking.  But I slowly was promoted to a job that required I spend more time behind a desk.

Fast forward to June 2009, I was 275 pounds and gaining.  I was also getting sick to my stomach all the time, to the point of being to sick to work.  It was a job I loved so I didn’t like missing the work.  But also, I hated getting sick.  The Doctors still have no answer for it, other than my weight.  And while it is now a manageable issue, I still have this issue.

Me 2009 at the Ribbon Cutting for my business.

My response in 2009 was to cut out a lot of things from my diet.  I gave up fast food.  I stopped drinking Coke (my favorite, and I still miss it now).  I was drinking almost exclusively water.  I also participated in yearly walk for education.  And it was working.  Within around six months I was down to 255 pounds, and a few months after that I was down to 245.  It was great.

Me at the 2010 VPEF Loop the Lagoon Walk

Well, that was June 2010.  For some reason, I tried to eat fast food again.  Big mistake, because it didn’t make me sick.  So guess what I started eating.  Well here we are now, December 2011, and I am 272 (as of this morning).  And, guess what is getting worse.  My health.  Like back in 2009, I am feeling yucky way more often.

I have a gym membership, but I haven’t been in nearly three months.  I get very upset with my lack of motivation on this topic.  I want nothing more than to lose the weight and feel healthy.  But, I just can’t get my but in the gym.  I just can’t seem to give up the foods I love (though I still haven’t had a Coke since June ’09).  People tell me the trick is not to give it up, but to use moderation.  But, I am not sure I know the meaning of that word.

I have a friend, Jeanne, who talks of going on runs and hikes.  I’d love to be able to go hiking but I could never keep up with most of my hiking friends (including Jeanne) because they are at another level.  The running life style is something that always has intrigued me.  I’d love to be a part of it.  But for some reason I lack to the motivation.

I have always preferred exercise with friends.  I like the company, and I also like the knowledge that someone else is depending on me to be there.  It makes “canceling” had for me.  I don’t like to miss out on anything.  Another friend of mine, Allen, is a gym fanatic.  But again, he is far above my level.

These are all just excuses.  I know this.  I just have to go to the gym.  I need to eat better.  I know it.  After all, what am I paying for?  I suppose the real purpose for this blog was to motivate me in a way I know how.  Writing about it.

It is that time of year for New Years resolutions.  So, my resolution is to change my diet and hit the gym.  Fingers crossed that this time next month, I will have already be down the right path.  I’ll update you all then!

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