I’m really not good at titles, you guys.
So it’s time to check in on my life reboot, and see how I’m doing. As I did last time, I’ll grave — grave? Well, that’s a Freudian slip of the touch-typing fingers, isn’t it? — grade myself on a bit of a curve.
Here are the things I committed to doing, back in October:
- Drink less beer.
- Read more (and Reddit does not count as reading).
- Write more.
- Watch more movies.
- Get better sleep.
- Eat better food.
- Exercise more.
Let’s see how I’m doing since my last check-in, near the end of January. Spoiler: pretty good.
Drink less beer.
I don’t recall specifically when I said this, but I got so frustrated with the last few pounds that wouldn’t fall off, I cut out alcohol entirely in January. It turns out that, though there are some days when I want a tasty IPA or a Jefferson’s Ocean with a single ice cube, I don’t miss it. I’ve also found that this first step (which I didn’t realize was such a vauable first step when I started this) has been incredibly positive and helpful in every other aspect of my life. If you’re interested in some thoughts on this subject, Andy Boyle wrote something that mirrors my experience almost exactly.
I have earned an A+, and I’m wrecking the curve for the other kids in the class.
Read more (and Reddit does not count as reading).
This has been the easiest and most rewarding of all the things I’m doing. I realized in January that I’d fallen way behind on my comic list, and that I was mostly reading non-fiction in the form of magazine articles and long-form online stuff. So I’ve been reading almost every night before bed, and I’ve been making time almost every day to read some stuff. I also gave myself a challenge to read 35 books this year (I count trade paperbacks and Kindle singles as books), because the more I make things into games, the easier it is for me to, well, play them. I’ve been reading mostly great stuff (I abandoned one collection because it was too uneven), and it’s been inspiring me as it entertains me.
Here’s a short list of things I’ve read, that you’ll probably like if you like the things I like:
- Bitch Planet Volume 1: Extraordinary Machine
- Pretty Deadly Volume 1: The Shrike
- Twelve Tomorrows #2015
- Leviathan Wakes
- The Life of the Mind (from The End of All Things)
- The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015
I also have some new stuff that’s less genre, but the heart wants what the heart wants. I get an A on this, grading on the curve, because my reading could be a little more diverse.
So in the ultimate first world problem, I had all this great momentum on a short story that I was working on every day. I was writing between 500 and 1000 words, on average, and I was committed to just getting through the puke draft (which is what my friend Amy Berg calls the very first draft of anything, where you just puke up all the ideas you have onto the page without judgement or editing, until it’s all out and you have a complete draft) when I took a week off to be an actor on The Big Bang Theory.
Yes, you all must be feeling so sad for me right now. I’ll wait if you need to compose yourselves.
So I took this week off (and it was awesome), and then went back to pick up where I left off … and I discovered that all my creative momentum was gone. It was like I was supporting my creative self on one of those non-Newtonian fluids that only stays firm if pressure is applied to it. I let up, and the solid foundation turned into a watery goo that wasn’t under my feet as much as it was slowly sucking my entire body down into it.
I probably could have firmed up the foundation and gotten back to work, but I ended up with a ton of other commitments and blah blah blah blah blah I just haven’t made the time, I haven’t focused, I haven’t kept the commitment, and my main character is currently crouched in the dirt next to a body, waiting for me to tell him what happens next.
I want to give myself an F, because I haven’t written on the thing I want to write, but the curve works out in my favor sometimes, too. In this specific case, when I look at the calendar and see what I could have realistically done in the last month, and when I think about the various ways my Depression has asserted itself, I will give myself a D that is nudged up to a C-, because I have done some writing on my blog and in some private, offline journals.
Watch More Movies.
It’s hard to make time for something if there just isn’t time to be made. When I look at this list, everything on it takes a fair amount of time (a movie is at least a 2 hour commitment, reading is probably around an hour, writing averages three hours) and time is one of those things that is a frustratingly fixed scale. So even though I’ve watched a few movies, I’m not watching the two or three a week I wanted to start watching when I originally made this list. But I have been watching some interesting and inspiring narrative television (Billions, Jessica Jones, X-Files) and a few memorable films (The Holy Mountain, The Atticus Institute, Sicario, Star Wars, The Decline of Western Civilizaton and The Decline of Western Civilization 3). I need to get more out of my MUBI subscription, and I just need to be realistic about how much time I can invest in movies/TV. Because I’m using the curve, I’m going to give myself a B- on this one. Even though I haven’t watched as much as I want to, I’ve taken good stuff away from the things I have watched, whether those things were good or bad.
Get Better Sleep.
This one’s easy: A+. Like, Ralphie’s teacher writing A++++++++++++++++ on the chalkboard. But what am I doing to ensure I get good sleep? Some pretty simple things: lots of exercise, no caffeine late in the day, minimal sugar in the evenings, and it turns out that not drinking at all makes my sleep so much better, and reading before bed helps me quiet my mind before I turn off the light. It also turns out that getting tired around 9pm and going to sleep before 10pm means I wake up between 6 and 7 in the morning, and that’s giving me more time to spend on those things I was mentioning I didn’t have enough time for.
Eat Better Food.
Another easy one. The longer I eat better food, the more I want to eat better food. The more healthy and non-bullshit stuff I eat, the harder it is to eat unhealthy bullshit. This was a huge challenge on the cruise, because those chefs never saw a mountain of salt they didn’t want to put into their food, but I worked it out. I even came back from the cruise at the same weight I was when I left. And because I’m eating much better, I don’t feel guilty if I give myself some ice cream or a little bit of chocolate every now and then. I’ve been using an app to track my food intake and macro nutrients, and it’s made a huge difference. I get an A.
I’m on the final week of my couch to 5K training plan. Today or tomorrow (depending on when the rain gets here) I’ll do the final training run before the first “real” 5K. I put real in quotes because I’ve been covering distances greater than 5K for about two weeks, now, just without running the entire time. When I finish my 5K, and I get into the main story of Zombies, Run!, I’ll add some basic strength training on non-running days, for conditioning and stuff. My grade on this is an A (I’m not giving myself the A+, because I’m writing this now instead of running to get ahead of the rain for sure), because while I was on vacation, on a cruise, I made time to run for close to an hour on about half the days, and I loved it.
Yeah, I have become one of those people who doesn’t just exercise because it’s a good thing to do; I’m one of those people who loves to exercise and misses it when he doesn’t. I’m not gonna lie, Marge: it’s awesome.
Okay, time to tally up the points and see how I’m doing. I had a solid B last month, and this month is…
25 out of 28, for a 3.6 average. I’m going to curve that up to an A instead of the B+, because I have a couple of A+ grades in there, and I’m not unreasonable (no one’s gonna eat your eyes).
Last time I concluded by writing:
I’m scoring off the charts. I feel really good, both physically and mentally. My Depression isn’t being a giant asshole (my anxiety has been shitty, though, which is unfortunately common when I have to travel a lot for work). I look and feel better than I have in years. I’ve lost weight, I’ve lost fat, and I feel more comfortable in my own skin. I’m happy. I’m, like, really happy. I’m able to be present as a husband and father, and I don’t spend any time in my day hating myself, which is a new thing for me.
This whole thing is a journey, and checking in right now is a way for me to assess my progress, reaffirm my commitments, and take a moment to feel proud of myself for reasserting control over my own life.
Yeah, I have work to do, and it’ll be hard at times, but that’s okay because everything worth doing is hard, and I’m doing a pretty good job right now.
I could write mostly the same thing today, with some minor adjustments. My Depression’s been kind of a dick lately, and it’s brought its little buddy Anxiety to the party, but even still, I’m getting an A, which makes me feel really proud of myself. I’m not living under Depression, and I’m not letting it control me. I’m living with Depression, and I’m managing it the best that I can. Oh, and for the first time in years, my scale says I’m under 160 pounds, my clothes fit amazingly well, and when I did @midnight this week, I wore a slim-cut shirt that I couldn’t even button five months ago.
But the best part of all of this is that, mental health issues notwithstanding, I am happier than I’ve been in a long time.