Setting Myself Up For Success

Working from home provides unique challenges to overcome. Sure, I love the freedom and flexibility of setting my own hours and accepting the jobs I want to accept, but I don’t have a boss peering into my office to make sure I’m being productive. The only pressure I feel is the internal need to do what I promised to do and make sure I have enough cash to not starve. It takes discipline, focus, and a sense of entrepreneurship that school didn’t train me for, particularly when it comes to my professional projects that I don’t get paid for. When I’m writing or creating art or exercising there is even less pressure because the only person I will let down is myself, and I tend to be very forgiving, I can always relate to my own excuses.

But, the most important thing I’ve found to keep me on task and doing my work is to establish a system for success. For me, that system starts before the day does. The most important 30 minutes of every day actually starts the night before when I meditate on the day and prepare for the next.

Every night (well, every night that I’m not a huge slacker), I have a staff meeting with myself to figure out what my goals are for the next day. This includes everything from paid work to exercise plan to writing. I type up my expectations for the next day and then I print it out and set it prominently on my desk.

For example, the list sitting next to me says:

Saturday 2/18
– Khan Academy, Stoic Study, Meditation
– Exercise – 5-Mile Run
– Exercise – Yoga Video #7
– Website – Complete Book Recommendations Page and go ive
– Website – Write one blog post
– Book – Research new computer for Audible recording
– Reading – 1 hour
– Errand – Home Depot for shovel and planting soil
– Work – Civitas – Complete XX project and continue XX project ~4 hours

Once I have a list of tasks for the next day I get my house and office ready. I know that when I wake up my motivation will be at an all time low and I need things as organized as possible to encourage success. First, I set out my workout and work clothes for the next day. Each morning I put on my workout clothes and don’t take them off until I’m done exercising. As much as I loathe pants, I don’t work in pajamas. Then I get the coffee prepped, set the necessary workbooks and such next to my computer, and clean up my desktop.

After that, I clean the house. This involves cleaning the kitchen and bedroom first, and sometimes the bathroom. I don’t clean things deeply but I do pick up the clutter and sweep daily. I’ve found that having a dirty home kills my productivity. Not only does it become a distraction to see things out of place, but it creates an excuse that pulls me away from what I should be doing. It is hard for me to motivate myself to work, particularly my writing, and any excuse I have to procrastinate I am tempted to take. It is amazing at how clean my house can become when there is other work I should be doing. I was the same in college, whenever I had a rough deadline it suddenly became necessary to clean my house, reorganize my bathroom, call my parents, etc. Basically, I remove as many excuses as possible and set things up in a way that allows me to transition into the day with minimal speedbumps.

Maybe this is a little anal of me, but it works for me. Setting up my day the night before has really upped my productivity and happiness. I have fewer wasted days where I look at the clock and wonder where the hell the day went. Maybe someday I won’t need this type of habit to create, but that day isn’t today.

Regretting Being a Parent is Okay

I’ve used the words “mother” and “parent” in this blog mostly interchangeably. In our society, the vast, vast majority of the pressure for parenthood is placed on the mother. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that many people would view a woman who voiced regret about having a child less favorably than a man who actually acts on that regret by abandoning the child.

Parenting is probably the most important job in our society and it is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Not only should parents passionately want to have and raise children, they should also have the means and knowledge necessary to do that in today’s world.

Unfortunately, society doesn’t treat parenting that way. Instead of treating parenting with the respect it deserves we pressure people to enter into it unprepared and at too young of an age. Our society continues to pretend this difficult task that will alter the course of multiple lives will just “come naturally” and we shun women (and, to a lesser extent, men) who say that they don’t want children. People are often even forced to commit to having multiple children before experiencing raising one child (sometimes by partners and sometimes by society), or they are encouraged to have more children when they aren’t ready.

But, there is a group of people who receive even more vitriol and acidic hatred than those who choose not to have kids: those who have kids but admit to regretting it. Fortunately, some people are speaking out.

Parenting is more than just a job, it becomes an identity that is nearly impossible to escape. It becomes all-defining and casts a shadow over nearly anything else that a woman can accomplish. Attachment to any role is unhealthy because eventually that role will change and you will be left alone. Parents may technically be parents forever, but there will be a day when the children no longer need the parents and there will be psychological hell to pay if too much emphasis is placed on that identity.

Not only that, but a parent who regrets being a parent seems to break a social taboo and have betrayed society as a whole. It is the regret that dares not speak its name. The bond between mother and child is supposed to be so strong, so spiritual, so supernatural that it is seen as a moral failing of the highest degree to wish that bond never happened.

But that mindset is ridiculous and unhealthy and does nothing but worsen parenting for both the child and the parent. We should be allowed to vocalize our regret for something, it is only through that kind of honesty that we can prevent others from making a similar mistake (or, at the very least, give extra thought to the decision before making it).

We’ve lost the ability to discuss motherhood openly and rationally. We should be allowed to admit that we regret something, even parenting. It doesn’t even require having a shitty kid, some people enter into parenthood naive to what it will take or because they are pressured to do it. Parenting is something that a couple (traditionally) should both be 100% committed to, and if two people are on a different page when it comes to parenthood then that may mean terminating the relationship. Nobody should become a parent to please a partner. There are certain aspects of compatibility that don’t have a middle ground, parenting (like monogamy, lifestyle, etc.) is one of them. Parenting just isn’t for everyone.

 

To have a society of healthy parents without regret we need to stop making “motherhood” the primary role for women (and, to a much lesser extent “fatherhood” for men), there needs to be access to birth control and sex education, we should encourage people to think long and hard about having kids and not rush into it if they aren’t financially (and otherwise) prepared, and we shouldn’t pressure anyone into having one (or more) kids just because that is what you are “supposed to do”. But, most importantly, we can’t shun people who speak out against the norm. Becoming an outcast because of how you feel only forces people to hide who they truly are, which is a disservice to everyone involved.

 

“Buddhism: Plain & Simple” – A Review

Title: Buddhism: Plain & Simple
Author: Steve Hagen
Pages: 159 (including Appendix)
Rating: 5/5 Highly Recommended

It is hard to me to pinpoint exactly when I started to have an interest in Buddhism. I remember learning about it in a high school religion class, but that introduction was little more than “it isn’t really a religion but it kind of is”. I was a hardcore Christian at that time and I have no doubt that I saw Buddhism as simply another Satanic ruse to steal souls from Heaven.

In the decade and a half since high school, my interest in Buddhism has bubbled in my subconscious. I’ve purchased several books about it but rarely finish them. As much as I am interested in Buddhism the works I’ve read seemed unnecessarily vague and complex, I felt like the authors were playing tricks with words instead of just coming out and saying what Buddhism is.

Buddhism: Plain & Simple by Steve Hagen is the opposite of that.

Hagen does a fantastic job of stripping away the ceremony and tradition and supernatural side of Buddhism and gets to the core. He does a great job explaining what the foundation of Buddhism, to simply see the world as it is and to live in the moment. After finishing this book I couldn’t help but see incredible similarities between Buddhism and the Stoic philosophy that I know and love. I can’t help but wonder if followers of Buddha somehow interacted with the Ancient Greeks and helped influence Stoic thought. It seems plausible that in the 200ish years between the life of Buddha and Zeno’s teaching at the Stoa Poikile someone would have made it from India to Greece.

Buddhism and Stoicism are both tools that work to find the truth about the world and encourage rational action in response to the truth. They are about helping individuals live better, happier, more satisfying and authentic lives. This is unlike the faith that I grew up in that demanded obedience to rules and discouraged intellectual inquiry. Buddhism explicitly rejects any hard rules and recognizes that the world is fluid and nuanced and diverse circumstances can easily turn rules into tools of injustice.

Mostly, I enjoy that Buddhism does not need to conflict with scientific discovery. As the Dalai Lama said in the foreword to Destructive Emotions:

I have often said that if science proves facts that conflict with Buddhist understading, Buddhism must change accordingly. We should always adopt a view that accords with the facts. If upon investigation we find that there is reason and proof for a point, then we should accept it.

Here was a system of spirituality that didn’t conflict with the natural world, and I believe that is why Buddhism will end up outlasting many of the religions of today. I am still far from an expert on Buddhism, but Buddhism: Plain & Simple laid the groundwork for me to continue my pursuit of knowledge in that direction. It is an easy, quick read that is made up of relatively short and succinct chapters. I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in understanding this life philosophy.

The Words I Use

A recent(ish) Big Think article crossed my Facebook feed recently and it got me thinking about language. In particular, the language that I use and how it might impact how I see the world. By reflecting on the words I use I hope to live a better life, a life that is more at peace with reality, a life in which I can reach my full potential (or at least one in which I am honest with myself about what that would cost).

Let’s take a look at the language used to describe people who think differently than I do about political issues. Once upon a time, a lifetime ago, I lived in Washington DC and worked in policy and politics. While living in DC I proudly proclaimed that I lived among “the enemy”. I was surrounded by “evil statists” and “theocrats”. The enemy was everywhere and, while I may have felt like I was fighting a good fight, I was miserable. Not only was I stressed out all the time, I really wasn’t making any positive change in the world.

How could I? When other people are my “enemy” I can’t learn from them or teach them, all I can do is seek to destroy them. You don’t treat your enemy with love and understanding, you don’t seek compromise. No, you destroy them. You dehumanize them. You reduce them to their political philosophy or religion or social views or any other convenient label that pushes them into “the other” so that you can fight them guilt-free. Eventually, even your allies become enemies because they lack the purity of your own point of view. By classifying other humans as my enemy I only succeeded in defeating myself.

Similarly, using negative language (mental and spoken) to describe my own limitations only prevents me from growing and trying. It is easy to blame genetics for my failure (“I’m not creative”, “I’m terrible at learning new languages”, “I lack the musical talent necessary to play an instrument or dance”, “I’ll never have a six-pack”, etc. etc. ad nauseam). This is all a cop-out. Being honest with myself is difficult because when I’m honest I know that I haven’t really tried. Trying may actually lead to disappointment, it is much easier to convince myself that the fates or gods or Darwin made me incapable of accomplishing a difficult task. Why put forth the effort if the result is predetermined?

But that negative view of my own abilities isn’t reality. The truth looks more like this: “Learning to play a musical instrument seems incredibly difficult and it isn’t a priority for me right now, but I could probably do it if I dedicated time and effort to it”. So, by changing my internal speech I become more honest, but an excuse disappears from my Slacker’s Toolbox. I’m forced to admit that something I claim is important (art, reading, music, fitness, etc.) isn’t actually something I value enough to work on.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, words have power in our society. While many people claim that using certain words isn’t hurtful and asking people to change how they speak is being “politically correct”,  that isn’t true. People can be hurt by words and using words derogatorily dehumanizes people. Whether it is using words like fag or retard in a negative way, or intentionally misgendering someone, words can be a weapon used to put people down and claim superiority over them. Sometimes this happens intentionally by people in power. For example, the use of masculine words as the default when the gender isn’t known. When the modern English language was evolving there was a real effort to ensure the masculine reigned supreme. According to 16th Century Grammarian William Lily “The masculine gender is more worthy than the feminine”.

Language has power, both in our personal lives and in society as a whole. It can be used to put people down and control them, or it can be used to lift people up and liberate them. It is a choice we each must make, we can just go with tradition or default to “that’s the way my parents/culture/whatever talk” or we can choose to be more sensitive and eliminate language from use that only serves to harm and separate us from our fellow humans and the potential we each have.

Yesterday

Sometimes, the most difficult thing for me to do is let go of yesterday. I know that yesterday is gone and shouldn’t determine what I do today, but it is difficult sometimes. All the mindfulness meditation and Stoic philosophy that I absorb points to living in the moment and not allowing my mind to be bogged down with things that are outside of my control (and is there anything more outside my control than the past?), but I can’t help it sometimes. Yesterday can become a weight that seems to drag me down a predetermined path, destroying my productivity and making me feel like a failure.

This weight upon today usually takes one of two forms. The first seems positive, but that is deceptive. Whenever yesterday was good and productive I tend to justify taking today off. Maybe I got a lot of work done, cleaned the house, went for a run, spent an hour doing yoga, and did some reading. Maybe I also avoided bad things like Facebook, sugar, alcohol, and weed. A perfect yesterday is a fertile ground for an imperfect today. That shouldn’t be the case, the good I did yesterday does not excuse doing bad today.

The other form is when I have a bad yesterday. Maybe I slept in, skipped the gym, didn’t do any writing, and ate a bunch of garbage. That bad day becomes a momentum killer. Undoubtedly, when I skip one workout it quickly leads to skipping two, then three, then ten. A bad day becomes a rut that drags me down, particularly if there are not any immediate negative consequences. That is the worst scenario, when nothing really bad comes of my slacking. Maybe I don’t work out and eat garbage but don’t gain any weight. Or maybe I don’t meditate but I still feel mentally strong. It becomes easy for me to think, “Well, nothing bad happened yesterday so why should I put in the effort today?” That mindset leads to failure and destruction.

I don’t know what to do about these traps. Every morning is a struggle to develop good habits and accomplish things. My passion to create and the satisfaction I get from having a good, productive day are always at odds with the evolved drive to do as little as possible. Procrastination, slacking off, and being lazy are in our genes, it is one of the features that allowed our species to thrive. But, like many (most?) of the traits that took us out of the trees, they aren’t necessarily good in today’s world. IN fact, they may be harmful.

So, I struggle on. Each morning requires a refocus and hard work, and it requires forgiving myself for bad yesterdays and suppressing my ego after good yesterdays.

The Banquet of Life

“Remember to conduct yourself in life as if at a banquet. As something being passed around comes to you, reach out your hand and take a moderate helping. Does it pass you by? Don’t stop it. It hasn’t come yet? Don’t burn in desire for it, but wait until it arrives in front of you. Act this way with children, a spouse, toward position, with wealth – one day it will make you worthy of a banquet with the gods.”

Epictetus, Enchiridion, 15

This passage seems to really have two key messages in it. The first, which doesn’t seem to be the main point, is about moderation. At a banquet (or, I assume any event with free food and/or drink) we should consume in moderation for both individual and social reasons. It is healthy for us, both mentally and physically, not to lust after things or allow ourselves to act on our carnal desires. It is bad to give up logical control and eat and drink to the point of gluttony or foolish intoxication. Also, it is healthy for others. If we consume in moderation then there is enough to share with other people at the party (or in life). All things are finite and if we hoard things then that leaves less for other people, and what remains is more difficult to attain.

The second point of the passage seems to be focused on patience, that all the good things in life will come to us at some point if we wait until the right time. I kind of agree with this, but I also kind of disagree. I agree that we shouldn’t rush things or try to attain things when we aren’t ready. The most painful example of this is pursuing love or a relationship with someone because you want to be married (or social pressure), not because you are compatible with our partner. This is akin to scarfing down the food at a party you don’t like simply because it is close to you (or because the crowd is cheering for you to eat). So yeah, in this way I agree with Epictetus and I think we should have patience.

But, I also think you should be proactive and pursue the things you desire. If you want to meet someone and get married, then you need to go out and do things that you like to do. Sitting around and just waiting for the tray to be passed around doesn’t work if you are curled up in the corner refusing to make eye contact with the server. Patience isn’t enough, action is also required. Things in life don’t “just work out”, you need to say yes to opportunities and take risks to live the life you want. The timing will never be completely perfect and nobody is coming to sweep any of us off our feet and rescue us from the situation we are in.

**I am currently using “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman as a daily practice. I think I am going to share my thoughts as I go. It will be interesting to explore the works of the Stoics and see where I agree with them. I highly recommend the book if you are interested in an introduction to the ancient Stoic life philosophy**

A few notes on writing

I’m wrapping up the final edits and formatting of my first book and had a few thoughts I wanted to share about the experience. I am painfully aware that I’m not an expert on the subject, but maybe that is okay, maybe the perspective of a struggling novice can be valuable.

  • Writing my first book was a lot like sex. The first time was awkward and kind of terrible and I’m glad it’s over. You can’t aim for perfection, but you can aim for a completion, and completion is pretty damn satisfying. Despite how painful and tiring the first time was, I’m super excited to try again soon with a new subject.
  • Don’t compare your writing to the successful works of famous authors, it is better to look at their early works. Very few people have heard of “The Burning Wheel” by Aldous Huxley, “For Us, The Living” by Robert Heinlen, or “Rocannon’s World” by Ursula K. Le Guin, many authors don’t find success until decades after they start writing, and many early works are absolutely dreadful. Or, better yet, don’t compare your work to anyone
  • I kind of wrote my book in three phases. I started by writing the whole thing as a skeleton, providing structure. Then I edited to add muscle and organs, strength and function. After that, I went in and added skin and hair, making it beautiful.
  • Asking people to read your work and provide feedback is valuable, but not everyone will share your vision or philosophy on writing. It is okay to reject someone’s edits for any reason, even just “that doesn’t feel write to me”. Don’t lose your voice trying to please everyone.
  • Finding a system that worked for me was incredibly important. In the beginning, I gave myself certain writing milestones instead of setting aside time. Later, during the editing process, I switched over to setting aside time.
  • Always have something nearby to record your thoughts. Sometimes moments of clarity and inspiration will come at bizarre times like when you are exercising or standing in line at the DMV or in the middle of the night. An idea only exists if you record it.

So, those are some of my thoughts on the process so far. I still have a ton to learn, which is pretty damn exciting.

Raw

A couple of days ago I put a post on Facebook that was kind of emotional and raw. I knew exactly why I was feeling raw, my serotonin was low from a night of rolling during the weekend, but I still wanted to share. I feel like we don’t share our day-to-day negative emotions and experiences in a constructive way on social media, we always seem to either rant and rave about stuff or pretend that our entire world is perfect. We are afraid to be vulnerable and open, particularly when it comes to mental health. Whenever I roll I know that the mental health issues that I deal with under the surface are going to be more exposed, so instead of bottling them up I decided to share them with my network.

Getting feedback from friends and strangers (even when I specifically said I wasn’t looking for that) was both good and bad. I believe everyone that responded had the best intentions, but in some cases, an attempt to diagnose me seemed to be inappropriate unless they knew more about me than you could get from a Facebook post. I guess this is the nature of social media, though when you share a status people assume you want their thoughts on how to fix the “problem”. The general consensus was that I was dealing with imposter syndrome and/or depression, a diagnosis that I don’t completely disagree with. One person also tried to convert me to their religion (I think), which I am sure was well-intentioned because they gain strength from their faith, but it was clear they didn’t know me very well. Just because something (religion, meditation, therapy, etc) is helpful for one person doesn’t mean it is a panacea for another person, if you are going to give someone advice it is best to know something more about that person than just a rant you read on Facebook.

The feedback that I found most helpful came from people who reached out in a personal message to share love and support, instead of posting something public. Those messages felt sincere and I was much more inclined to enter into a conversation and open up. It was through those private conversations that I really had a few epiphanies about my situation and the anxiety I’ve been feeling under the surface the last couple of weeks.

I don’t think depression or impostor syndrome is the right overall diagnosis for me, even if I display some of those symptoms. I think my biggest issue recently is that I’ve been relatively successful at the things I’ve tried and I don’t see any challenges on the horizon. My job is going well, my body is at a health level that I am satisfied with, my book is in the final edit phase, my relationship is great, and my life is pretty damn secure. I know how shitty it is to sound like I’m complaining about success, but for me, struggle is necessary to feel satisfied and happy. I need a challenge and for most of my life, the primary challenge was survival and security. I was stuck on the bottom layers of Maslow’s Hierarchy that now that I have moved up I don’t know how to handle it. I keep feeling like I should sabotage myself so that I have a struggle again.

I don’t really want that, though. I don’t want to worry about paying my bills or whether I’m killing myself with what I eat. I need to move the things I strove for from the “goal” part of my day to the “daily practice and maintenance” part of my day, and I need to find new goals, hobbies, and passions. I don’t know where to start, though.

I am playing around with the idea of writing a new book or starting a podcast, and there are a handful of little skills that I’d like to learn, and maybe I can find some artistic outlets. I also really need to get outside and meet people, working from home traps me inside a lot of the time and it is difficult to make friends in a new town. I need some social hobbies or volunteer work or sports, but man, taking that first step and hanging out with strangers is super anxiety-inducing for me.

I’m going to try, though. I don’t want my new life in Wilmington and the new year to go to waste. This transition is tough, but hopefully, I can make it without backsliding too much.

A New Year is Born

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”

The last 365 days were a whirlwind, both in my personal life and within the world. We saw heroes die and villains raised to power, but we also saw more prosperity and technological advancement than humankind has ever known. My life, as well as the lives of my friends, were filled with successes and failures, disaster and celebration. I mourned the death of friends and felt joy when my friends gave birth, I saw relationships end and new ones begin. It truly was the best, and the worst of times, just like every year will be.

In 2017, I expect much of the same. More icons will die and I will likely lose a personal friend or family member, but new life will come and the world will keep getting better. I’m not really one for specific New Year’s Resolutions, but I do see the value in ceremony and participating in a cultural event that is bigger than myself. Today is a new year, and that symbolism matters and can provide strength, and with that strength and the support of friends I want to refocus my life and seek to make 2017 the best year I’ve ever had. For me, that means finding processes that I can implement to improve my life.

Mental Health – To improve my mental health I need to continue my meditative practice which allows me to focus on the things within my control and ignore the things outside my control. I also need to keep trimming my Facebook feed and unfollow people who only share current events or politically charged posts. Politics and pop culture is beyond my control, which means I am better off ignoring them.

Physical Health – Every day I try and do one thing physically active. That is my only real “goal”, but within that goal, I have other interests I want to explore. I’d like to run a triathlon this year, and I’d like to explore physical activities that inspire challenge me. Yoga, rock climbing, and martial arts are currently on the top of my list to try out. I also want to keep eating healthy, cook more, drink less, and keep improving my knowledge of nutrition.

Self Experimentation – I am going to continue to experiment with my body and mind. This includes introducing new nootropics and supplements into my diet, as well as trying new things that have interested me but that I haven’t explored as much as I’d like, such as parts of my sexuality, skydiving, read more books, pagan spirituality, podcasting, theater, gardening, volunteering, woodworking, and art.

Writing – I try and write or edit every day. Right now my focus has been on my book, but once that is completed in the coming weeks I am going to start blogging more again. I also would like to take some creative writing classes, continue with the grammar lessons on Khan Academy, read more, and try to expand my vocabulary.

Fiscally Responsible – The less money I need, the less I need to work and the more leisure time I have. I want to keep finding ways to trim my budget and spend less money. I’ve done a pretty good job so far by living without a car, getting a gym membership at the YMCA, and cooking 90% of my meals at home. But there are still places to improve.

Relationships – One thing that I’ve been lacking in Wilmington is new relationships. It is difficult to meet people, particularly when I work from home and am fairly introverted. I need to start getting out of the house and trying new things to meet people.

So, those are my basic goals. The best process for me is an Excel spreadsheet that I mark off as I accomplish something in each category each day. Sometimes the accomplishment is small like I priced out skydiving lessons, but the process works for me. Any day where I am able to advance my health in some of those six categories is a good day. I find this method to be much more effective for me than setting goals like “Lose 10 lbs.” or “Read 30 Books”.

I’m excited for this next year and everything that it can bring in my life. Most of my unhappiness this year was due to things outside of my control, hopefully, I won’t fall into that trap as much in 2017.

My Need For Feasts

I spent the last five days “feasting”, and boy did I need it. I ate anything that I craved, including heavily processed foods, I stayed up late playing video games or watching movies, I drank more beer than necessary, and I neglected my fitness routine and my writing. I need a time dedicated to possible gluttony and slothfulness to be healthy and happy in my life, and I also need it to grow stronger.

Part of life is having a good time and enjoying leisure. Pleasure is a good thing and we should enjoy it when we can. It is certainly important to eat healthy foods, exercise, and be responsible, but that isn’t the point of living. Those practices are means to an end, and the end is joy and pleasure and fun and new experiences. We can’t spend our whole lives preparing and getting ready for some unknown day in the future when we will cash in all our hard work. No, we should seek out vacations and long weekends and sinning in regular intervals. If we don’t allow ourselves to enjoy life a little bit it can be mentally unhealthy.

If I don’t allow myself to enjoy life a little bit it can be mentally unhealthy. The first two days of my winter feast I felt incredibly guilty. I had this feeling in the back of my mind that because I wasn’t being 100% productive towards goals I was being wasteful. I felt like inefficiency was a betrayal of some sorts and I felt an internal panic. I got anxious and frantic because I was watching Netflix instead of writing, I was eating french fries instead of vegetables, and I was playing video games instead of reading. This knee-jerk anxiety towards leisure is unhealthy for me and I need to allow myself to be inefficient occasionally, I need to allow myself to be human and to have a few days or hours of guilt-free living in the moment. This is a psychic muscle that I must in order to have a healthy mind. It is unhealthy for me to hold myself to an impossible standard and sabotage my own happiness because I’m not living up to that standard. Hell, I may not even care about that standard but decades of schooling and working in an office has internalized a need for constant productivity at all costs.

Now that my break is done, I am now 10x more motivated than I was a week ago. The aches in my body from eating terribly, drinking too much and neglecting my exercise motivate me to get back into a healthy routine. The time off from writing and creating allowed me to come back more focused and with a handful of new ideas. I’m ready to finish my book, start new projects, and see what I can do with my body. I’m actually excited again to experiment on my mind and body.

If I had just pushed through the winter season without a break I would have burnt out on everything. These last five days made me realize that I really need to schedule in feasts, as well as other “off” time throughout the year. I need to establish systems of leisure and celebration, and I think using the seasons is a great way to do it. The pagans are on to something with seasonal festivals and I think having a 5-day break every 3 months is a good foundation for me. I think I’ll pair that with monthly long weekends and one day a week where I don’t have any specific goals or measures. Those types of breaks should help keep me healthy, allow me time to appreciate the reason for living, and excite me for future productivity and fitness.

Now I have some things to look forward to. Next Wednesday I can take the day off if I want and relax, and in a few weeks I’m going to Colorado for a wedding and may not do anything productive, and then in March is the Spring Equinox and I will feast again. All of it guilt free and filled with pleasure.