NaNoWriMo 2019 Day -335 (Saturday Morning Musing)

I did it. I broke one hundred thousand words in a single month (since I wrote this post last night). I ended this post with a total of one hundred thousand eight hundred thirty-five words for the month and I am immensely proud of myself. I even bought a bottle of champagne–excuse me, sparkling wine–to pop as soon as I finished this post and, while I’m too cheap to buy good champagne, it was nice to just have something to pop at the end of the day. It tasted alright, too, but I can’t really tell the difference between various wines and I don’t really care that much about it so I’m cool with that.

It was nice to actually manage this goal, given how my month went. So much happened…  Honestly, I’m pretty curious about how much I could accomplish in a month if I didn’t have to spend a lot of it learning to cope with my grandfather’s mortality and the constant stress of trying to lead my team at work into a new process I developed. If I actually had energy when I got home from work… The thought of just how much I could get done is staggering. I’ve done an average of three thousand three hundred thirty-three words a day and yet my actual median is about five thousand. If I could do that every day, I could do fifty percent more words in a month, and that’s at my current pace with my current levels of energy. If I keep up this writing thing, I might be able to get even more written during a focused hour than my current record of two thousand words. If I get a better handle on my mental health, especially my anxiety and depression, I’ll have more energy and get even more done in a day. There’s always room for improvement and I’m excited to see how I continue to improve.

While I’m sure plenty of people write more than I do, even if I do get up to one hundred fifty thousand words a month, I’m not looking to compare to them. Personal accomplishments count more to me, anyway. I’d rather beat my own record than compete with someone else for the high score, in both video games and my personal life. I love a challenge, I love having a rival, but I’m more about support and helping each other achieve new heights rather than trying to out-do each other or trying to be top frog in the well. As much fun as it might be to say I’m the best, that’s not really what motivates me. Striving to be the best is a journey with an end. Striving to be better is a journey that can take you from the day you start to the day you die. I’m all about the long-term, really, in everything thing I do. Finances, career, self-improvement, romantic/platonic relationships… Everything. I’m good at predicting outcomes and I rely on that skill to guide me. Trying to always be better than myself only ever leads me forward and upward.

As much fun as this was, though, I’m really looking forward to a thirty to fifty thousand word month. I need some rest and the winter holidays are going to be stressful enough without trying to spend every second writing. I mean, I’m not going to stop myself from writing when I want to, but I’m not going to force it again. I need a break to rest my mind. Since your brain is like a muscle, in that it gets stronger the more you use it, it is just as important to give it a chance to rest after pushing yourself to new heights. So I’m going to let my brain rest and recover these next few weeks and then we’ll see just how much stronger it’s gotten as a result of this month by trying some new personal challenge. Or, you know, just adding a reasonable amount of book writing in addition to my blog writing. It doesn’t need to be another month of one hundred thousand words. I’ll probably just aim for a thousand extra words a day of book writing. That seems reasonable but also ambitious enough to keep me moving forward. I’ll probably aim for a total over a month rather than a daily limit so I can deal with busy days that don’t leave me room for writing without feeling stressed out about missing a thousand words.

Honestly, as much as I really want to outline my plans for the next year, I think I need to rest before I do that. It’s not even nine and my brain is already so fuzzy that I have to go back and read through sentences I just wrote to figure out what I’m trying to say as I write them. I’m also looking forward to sleeping in. And an end to stress headaches…

As much as I want to keep going, I think I’m going to call it here. It’s time to rest and, while I plan to continue to update my blog every day, I think I might take an entire day off of writing for the first time in several months. Just… play some video games or something. It’ll be nice. Thanks for taking this journey with me and I hope something I posted was of use to you. I also hope you’re continuing to write. It’s a pretty great feeling to see your words on the page or screen, so I hope you get to enjoy that for a while longer.

Today is day -335 of #NaNoWriMo2019 and I’m excited about next year already! Really, though, this is a Saturday Morning Musing post and I wrote 999,999 words last month so I’m gonna rest now. I’m so tired.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 19 (11/19)

I meant to only do my daily minimum and then go to bed, but I wound up staying awake super late as I wrote an extra fourteen hundred words. I hadn’t done much writing yesterday since my ill-fated trip to a coffee shop ended in disaster. Not a real disaster, mind you, just the “I wasted an hour and a half of my time on this” kind of disaster. The place was super crowded, full of kids, and louder than I thought possible. By the time I’d realized how bad it was–it takes a while for noise and crowd levels to permeate my pre-caffeine brain–I’d already ordered a coffee and a breakfast sandwich, so I couldn’t just leave. I had to sit and wait for them to come up, eat them, and then figure out what I was going to do about the crowds and noise. Which was leave. I wound up leaving after trying to write and complaining to my friends about the noise for a while.

I was then going to go home and write at my desk, but I started playing Pokemon Let’s Go and got caught up in that until it was time to run Dungeons and Dragons. I was going to stop it at eight, but they were making such good progress I extended the session until ten. Then, finally, after six hours of Dungeons and Dragons, I finally got down to writing. Except I got super caught up in trying to get my iPod to fully back up on my external drive and subsequently spent an hour fiddling with its settings and some of the songs on it that stalled the backup process. The hour was spread out over three, from ten until one. I was going to go to bed at that point, but I told myself I’d just round my word count up to the nearest thousand since I was only three hundred words away. The next time I checked my word total, I’d written more than a full-page and was fewer than five hundred words away from three thousand, so I just rounded up again and went to bed.

It was an experience. A good one, mostly. I forgot how tiring Dungeons and Dragons can be since it’s been almost three months since I ran this particular campaign, but it felt good to run it again. I missed playing with those guys and the story we were telling. Pokemon was super fun and very relaxing, since it has a lot of the elements of the game that I enjoy plus some new interesting mechanics behind finding shiny or rare Pokemon. The only problem is that there’s a monetary restriction on how much leveling up you can do since getting XP from wild Pokemon encounters requires catching Pokemon. Poke Balls are cheaper than ever, but they still cost a lot and I’ve already gone through over one hundred of them and I only just got to the first gym. The catch combo mechanic the most fun since it increases the amount of XP you get per subsequent catch of the same Pokemon and because it also increases the chance of encountering shiny Pokemon. It will also make rare Pokemon start to spawn if you get it high enough, like my beloved Cabbage the Bulbasaur from the Viridian Forest. I’ll go into it more once I’ve gotten a chance to play more of the game and have the time for reviews on here again.

Honestly, the only part of this past weekend that rankled was the fact I stayed up until two in the morning last night and the absolutely unproductive nature of my Sunday coffee shop trip. The first was good, if not terribly productive, because I got to spend some time with my friend, but the second just felt like a waste of time since I pushed myself to get up and out the door in the morning for what turned out to be nothing but noise and chaos. I have coffee, breakfast foods, and apple cider I can heat up at home. There was nothing I gained by going out except for being able to say I left my home at least once yesterday. That’s valuable, sure, but there are other places I could have gone, other things I could have done that would have added more value that sitting in an overfull coffee shop in the sunniest table I’ve ever found inside a building.

It’s really quite difficult to try to manage my time without descending into panic and neurotically measuring the time I spend on everything in such a way that I never actually enjoy anything I do. If I’m super litigious about how I spend my time, I get stressed out and wind up getting nothing done as all my time goes to analyzing how I spend my time, recriminating myself for wasting time, and breaks from all that to browse the internet since I’m clearly too stressed out to work. If I’m super lax about it, I don’t do anything until the last-minute and wind up sacrificing sleep. It’s funny, actually, since I’m doing a project at work about increasing efficiency and managing our processes so we never wind up pushing up against our deadlines in such a way that we need to cut things in order to make it. I really should treat my life-like this work process stuff, break it down, and figure out what is keeping me from actually making timely progress on any of my projects. It’s definitely not a result of a lack of planning and preparation on my part.

It’s probably the fact that I tend to be impulsive when it comes to spending my own time and I’m the first to sacrifice my own sleep on the altar of getting something done, even if that something is video games. From there, it devolves further because even a single night of inadequate sleep makes the next day more difficult and time-consuming. It reminds me of something one of my professors in college said. “If you do you best work the night before your paper is due, you don’t do any work at other times.” I heard it enough times that it stuck and discovered, in my senior year, that I was way better at writing papers if I spread them out over the course of a few weeks than if I crammed them into the last couple days before they were due. The same is true of sleep. I’ll probably be a lot better at writing and being productive if I’m well-rested.

That’s kind of the theme of my blog lately, isn’t it? “I need to sleep more! But I’ve got so much to do! I’m not doing a good job of staying focused while I work on all of these projects, I wonder what the reason is for that?” I know the reason, I just don’t like admitting I need rest. I also extremely dislike laying awake at night, unable to sleep, with nothing to contemplate but my life, existence, and the universe. That is one of my least favorite things. I even wrote a whole poem about it. I wouldn’t mind a less complicated relationship with sleep, that’s for sure.

Anyway, I hope your day is going well! I hope you’re making good progress on your writing goals and that you’re staying strong as we approach the end of the middle third of the month. We’ve got twelve days left for writing, so keep it up! You’ve still got plenty of time left. Good luck!

 

Daily Prompt

Do the characters in your world us the bathroom? A lot of stories tend to gloss over things like toiletries and waste disposal, but not all of them do. Maybe their use of a bathroom is a setup for someone catching them unawares because people are often are their most vulnerable when they’re eliminating waste. Maybe no one uses the bathroom in your world because that’s just not how humans work. Maybe it’s not really something you care about and just want to avoid it because it’s often an unimportant detour (I’m looking at you, Wheel of Time series. How many times do people need to brush their teeth or hair while they dissect everything that just happened to them? I mean, I usually turn my brain off and just veg while brushing my teeth or combing my hair after my shower to the point where I sometimes hit places twice because I can’t remember if I’ve gotten that particular spot yet. I know a lot of people probably think, but no one reflects on the minute details of the past two weeks of their lives while poking at their teeth with a friggin soft/green twig. Jesus.). Whatever you decide to do, try to avoid inspiring rants like that one.

 

Sharing Inspiration

Lately, I’ve been revisiting an old favorite TV show during my relaxation/recovery hours. Community, an amazing show recommended by my friend Carolyn (mentioned a few days ago) follows the exploits of an unlikely group of study partners at a local community college. They bond over all the things that make them the same despite being a diverse group of races, political alignments, religions, and mental aptitudes/wellness. They struggle with the same kinds of problems we are struggle with when we’re part of a group that spends all our time together and, despite being characters, feel remarkably human. The show is a comedy, but that doesn’t stop it from telling some really great stories about the human condition and how we all just want to connect with each other. Honestly, the first three seasons are some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever seen and, while the show runner was brought back after a disastrous fourth season, there was no real recovering from it. It took two more seasons after that for it to die.

 

Helpful Tips

Being able to manage your diet and caffeine intake is incredibly important if you have a marathon of high-stress like National Novel Writing Month done in conjunction with pretty much anything else. Knowing what kind of fuel your body handles best can mean the difference between being sleepy after every meal or spending all your time between meals snacking. I need a decent amount of protein every day to stay full and empty carbohydrates like most snack foods and breads don’t keep me feeling full for very long, so I try to avoid snacking on anything that isn’t meat. Preserved meats like jerky and the various “snack sticks” are my go-to. When it comes to caffeine, you really need to do some experimenting yourself. Finding out how much caffeine you need for a reaction varies from person to person. For instance, my roommate drinks a cup of coffee and that’s all he needs. He even has to drink it slow to stay sane. I drink a cup of the same coffee and need another. At the same time, he doesn’t react any differently with a soda but I can’t drink soda for anything but caffeine withdrawal relief because it hits me quick and then leaves. Once you know how much caffeine you need, you should set some rules on it and stick to them so you don’t start wrecking your ability to sleep or making yourself unable to function because you’re constantly flirting with over-caffeination.

 

Fall

Dawn in Fall is my favorite time of day.
The soft, warm colors paint the sky

As I clear the sleep stains from my mind
And my eyes gradually adjust
To take in the waking world.
The crisp chill air fills me as wind blows
The orange and pink splattered clouds
From one horizon to another.

Dusk in Fall is my favorite time of day.
The bright colors of late afternoon
Drain from the sky as my work worn eyes
Slowly adjust to the fading light
And my exhausted mind stirs anew.
The smoke scented air hangs heavy and cool
While heavy cold blues appear, descending
Until day has stilled and night reigns above.

The start of Fall is my favorite time of year.
The memory of heat and humidity lingers
Like a sheen of sweat on your forearms
And even the heavy frost of frozen mornings
Is a welcome reprieve from the cloying summer.
The quiet skitter of leaves on breeze
As the world begins to fall asleep
Lets me know that I can finally find peace.

The end of Fall is my favorite time of year.
The advent of snow and blistering cold
Wakes my mind like a dip in a frozen lake
Because there’s something in the failing fall
That tells me it is time to start moving.
The heavy weather gives me something
To push against as my mind roars a challenge
At the quietly dying world,
­­            As if to say “Not me.”

­­­                       “Never me.”

Saturday Morning Musing

When this post goes us, I’ll be busy attending to my soul and mental well-being by going on a hike with a small selection of my favorite people. After several weeks of being too tired to do much and a constant lack of days we can all gather, those of us who are available tomorrow are just going to do something regardless of the fact that half our group is missing. It isn’t ideal, I’d rather spend the day with all of them, but I need to get active and to spend time with people who help me forget myself for a while. With all the stress and anxiety that have been building the past three months, I need to ignore my desire to stay home alone to work on processing review suggestions and actually go do something I know I’ll love.

I’ve always enjoyed walking. I like losing myself in my gait as I wander from place to place, maybe listening to music or just taking in the sounds of wherever I’m at. Hiking is a sort of extension of that, because it takes me out of areas that always grate on me, cities with the constant hum of cars and neighborhoods with the quiet noises of people going about their daily lives. If you pick the right hiking location, you can go the entire hike without encountering anyone. You can embrace the quiet of nature and the irritating hum of modern life that most people only notice when it’s gone disappears completely. You can lose yourself in trees and the quiet emerald peace of a nature at its strongest. If you’ve picked a place with some nice elevation changes, there are a ton of great places to stop and admire the world around you. I’ve always enjoyed looking at the horizon and having an unobstructed view of the sky and there’s just something wonderful about getting both of those things as a result of being on top of something that rises above the area around me. Only in hiking trips can I get all of that at once.

Even though I’m going with my friends, I’ll be able to enjoy that. These are all people who know me well enough that there are no awkward silences to fill. I don’t need to worry about how to maintain a conversation or how to segue from one thought to another because they all just get how my mind works enough to not always need an explanation. I can just be myself around them and their presence doesn’t intrude on my sense of peace and quiet. For the past several years, we’ve always done at least a couple of hiking trips every month, though we’ve been doing fewer of those lately because of how busy everyone has been. They’ve been some of my fondest memories and include some of my favorite pictures. All of the background pictures you’ll ever see on my blog are pictures I’ve taken while hiking. If I could, I’d do all my thinking and writing in a spot that overlooks the surrounding area and has an unobstructed view of the entire sky. My dream house idea focuses mostly around a taller tower with what is essentially a glass dome on the top so I can sit up there and read or write as close to the sky as I can get. Heck, the whole thing might just be a tower of some kind. But it would have to be on the side of a mountain or on the top of a tall hill somewhere. That would be amazing.

After hiking, I’m planning to do the Pokemon Go Community day since I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about the game now that I don’t have my ex to give me a reason to keep playing it. I don’t really feel like it “our thing” anymore, thankfully, but I still wonder if I’m just wasting my time on something that isn’t really adding anything to my life since I have a tendency to play the game alone and let it distract me from the main purpose of my frequent walks. It’s so easy to bring alone and leave running in my pocket, but I’m not good at ignoring it when it’s in there and will start to feel anxious if I don’t check it for a while. It works the same way as notifications on my phone do. If I know they’re there, it will always cause me more stress to just ignore them than to skim through them and either open them or dismiss them. In order to save myself from needless stress, I’ve started disabling certain notifications on my phone and setting up hour-long notification silences so I won’t notice when they show up until the hour is over. I’ve also removed most time-waster games from my phone for the same reason. I also repeatedly install and uninstall Imgur as I cycle between just needing something to kill some time and realizing that I’ll just sit on the couch and browse through Imgur for an hour instead of going to bed or starting my writing. Which is why I’m still on the fence about Pokemon Go. I definitely benefit from still having Sudoku on my phone because it often works as a way of doing some mental stretching when I’ll feeling particularly tired or fogged up from how focused I’ve been on my work.

It’s a really nebulous balance and I’m probably going to be working on it my whole life. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to just figure out how much work to do and how much relaxation to put in and when it’s already to simply escape instead of doing something genuinely relaxing. Even though I love writing and reading, they’re still work. Even though I’m super excited to start reading all of the amazing books people have written and mentioned to me on Twitter, there’s still a lot of work to do just to find all the links, titles, and authors. I want to just wake up in the morning and dig right in to my to-do list, but I need to take time to relax and hike and let my to-do list remain undone. I’m still doing at least four hours of writing or book recommendation collation a day, so it’s not like I’m slacking off, I just always feel like it’s hard to justify taking the time to wander through the woods or spend a few hours walking around the city with some friends while we catch Pokemon. I’ve only got so much time, after all. I want to get the most I can out of it and it’s, no matter how long I live, I don’t think it’ll ever be clear how to do that.

 

How to Cope with Exhaustion

Feeling like you’ve scraped the bottom of the energy barrel to the point where the barrel no longer has a bottom? So tired you just kinda want to cry and find somewhere dark to curl up in the fetal position so you can finally let your exhaustion overwhelm you? Feeling like you’re stretched beyond the point of recovery and to the point where all of the stress has invaded your dreams so now you have to deal with it while your awake and asleep? While none of these things is a good position to be in, we often find ourselves in them when the shit hits the fan and we focus ourselves on simply doing everything one step at a time until we’re finished. Or until we collapse from exhaustion. I’ve done both, and neither one works out well in the end because we’re ultimately taxing our mind and body to the point of damage.

There are ways to help prevent some of the damage, or to mitigate the negative aspects of trying to buckle down and work through long days, busy weekends, or months of ceaseless stress. None of them are guaranteed to work and they’ll all need to be tweaked to fit your specific needs, but the core concepts should definitely work for you. I’ve had a lot of experience dealing with various forms of exhaustion thanks to insomnia in high school, business and insomnia in college, and stress and business after college, so I feel like I’m pretty qualified when it comes to figuring out how to cope with mild to extreme exhaustion until you’re capable of resting.

The first thing I’m going to say, despite it making me feel like a total hypocrite, is that these sorts of situations are best avoided. Even short periods of exhaustion or sleep deprivation can interfere with your short-term memory, inhibit the formation of long-term memory, wreak havoc on your immune system and muscles, and will for-sure exacerbate any health issues you have, be they physical or mental. It is good to know your limits and to be able to push past them when you need to, but there’s a pretty big difference between “I need to just push through this” and “I think pushing through this is going to yield the best results I’m going to ignore options that would leave me feeling more rested.” I guarantee that you will always have better results if you can rest first. You can’t always rest, but you should when you can. If you rest up or take good care of yourself, you will see your best results in the long-run.

If resting up isn’t an option, you should really figure out which type of energy you’re going to be running short on. If you’re physically active during this period of low sleep or high stress, you will be short on physical energy. If you’re stretching your skills and abilities in new ways or being forced into new situations without much time to prepare, you’ll run out of mental energy. If you have to take care of people or deal with people who don’t want to be dealt with, you’ll rapidly run out of emotional energy. If you’re doing something that involves all three, then I feel so sorry for you and I wish you the best because most of my strategies for coping with a low energy of one or two types requires relying on the other(s) to help carry the weight or be turned into the type that’s running out.

If you need more mental or emotional energy, some quiet meditation or music is usually very helpful. Something that will help you feel a certain way or that will help you process the feeling you’re dealing with at that moment. Maybe you need something to make you feel powerful or something to help slow you down to alleviate some of the mental strain you’re experiencing. If it’s physical energy, I suggest taking it easy by sleeping, playing games with friends, or watching something while you let your body rest. Even a couple hours of any of these activities, while you continue to work on other things, can help get you back to a point where you can make it through the day. I’d recommend against anything that might be destructive, like excessive eating, alcohol, or drugs. I haven’t got much experience with the later, but I’ve seen enough people make that mistake to have learned the lesson.

Additionally, a change in your diet can help keep you going. Avoid too much sugar since that is going to just set you up for a terrible crash later, unless you’re eating natural sugars from stuff like fruit or vegetables. I recommend eating plenty of both to keep you going since it helps to have something to do with your mouth while you’re trying to focus. At the same time, having an idea of what kinds of foods provide the most energy for you will help a lot. I know my body processes protein very efficiently, so I can delay encroaching exhaustion by eating a lean, protein-rich diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit. It’s not really going to make you feel energized, but it’ll keep you fueled and prevent your body from taking too much energy away for digestion. Throughout it all, avoid sugary sources of caffeine. Stick to things like coffee or tea and don’t add too much sugar to them or else you will get an immediate boost followed by a crash when the caffeine kicks in so you’ll feel exhausted and be unable to rest it off. Also, drink more water than usual. A good goal for water consumption is to drink half your weight in ounces of water. If you want something a little easier, I suggest going for at least three quarts or liters. It’ll help keep your mind clear and hydration is key at all times.

The last thing, and the most effective, is getting organized and writing things down somewhere. The exact methods for doing so depend a lot more on how you think and how you tend to organize information, but it’ll help if you do it, regardless of how you do it. For instance, the only reason I’m still sane and productive these days is because I’ve taken to writing to-do lists and journaling things as the day goes on. Not only is it helping my emotional energy, but it’s take a constant source of mental energy drain (trying to remember everything) and offloading the work onto a notebook. I can write down not just how I’m feeling, but also what my thoughts were on whatever meeting I just had, save ideas for later, and get a little mental clarity when I set everything else aside for five minutes so I can write things out. For people who don’t have issues with remembering things that only exist electronically, there are a ton of applications and programs out there, most of which you can get on your phone. Heck, even Google Now does a lot of that stuff.

Like I said earlier, it is best to avoid pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion, but hopefully these tips will make it easier to cope when you don’t really have any other choice. Good luck!

Saturday Afternoon Musing

I just took a five-day weekend and I already need another. One of the things I’ve been reflecting on recently is that it has been quite a summer. Two weddings because the relationship I was in, the end of the relationship I was in, throwing myself into my writing and my work in order to take attention away from the end of the relationship I was in, working more than ever so I could pay off my car loan, paying off my car loan, tons of flooding in my area, winning the Hamilton lottery, going to see Hamilton, trying to enjoy my long weekend and the game I took it for and being unable to because the internet has been going in and out without warning or pattern… A lot has been going on.

Sure, some of it has been good stuff, like the lottery and Hamilton, but that’s a still lot of emotional energy that gets spent. I can tell I’ve reached a new low because I’m always filled with the kind of existential exhaustion I associated with my depression but none of my other usual symptoms that go along with it. I also find myself spending an hour or more sitting on the couch, doing nothing or letting the TV just run because I know the internet is out again and, sure, I could write in a Microsoft document and just past it into WordPress when I’m finished or I could even just grab my phone and write my posts on it if I don’t want to bother with a bunch of temporary files but that’s a lot of effort and it’s taking all the energy I’ve got to just stay calm about how unreliable the internet has been and how that’s been negatively impacting my relaxation activities. Which isn’t at all a description of how I spent my early afternoon while waiting for the internet to come back so I could finish today’s post and get it online.

It definitely doesn’t help that work has been super stressful as well. We’ve got a big deadline coming up and I’ve had to assert my priorities to some senior coworkers a lot more than I’d like to. I’ve also had to deal with the prospect of getting put on a future project that continues a current project which has been a total nightmare of everything going wrong and one person domineering the design decisions. It’ll be a great product eventually, of course, but a lot of the time it feels like it’ll be good despite some people’s best efforts to turn it into an unholy abomination of things that sound good but are totally useless. I am extremely uncomfortable with conflict, but I keep finding myself gearing up for them at work because I don’t mind telling people they’re wrong or that they’re wasting my time. I’m one of the only people stubborn enough to sit through an hour of a meeting and stick to my (correct) line of reasoning rather than just agreeing so the meeting will end. I don’t blame my coworkers for not being willing to fight to the death like I am because they’ve been dealing with this guy for much longer. Most of them are much friendlier than I am with people who waste their time and none of them are as stubborn as I am. I’m a perfect storm of the right personality traits to confront people like this person and the sincere desire to never be in conflict ever. I’ll fight the battle because I recognize it needs to be fought and, if it turns out well for me, will save me stress and effort in the long run, but I’d also rather just keep my nose down and get through each day as it comes.

Some days, it feels like a lot of my life is like that. Lots of stress and effort now so things will hopefully be easier later. As I see this particular thought crop up in my life, I find myself wondering at what point I stop thinking “it feels like” and start thinking “my life is”? I think the main problem the later is that it’s easy to go from reflecting on how much effort I put into everything in my life these days to a whole slew of negative thoughts. Stuff like “is it worth working this hard” or “I have to work this hard because nothing good ever happens” or “I wish something nice and easy would happen because nice stuff never happens to me,” all of which are false. If anything, this past summer has taught me that this isn’t really a “good” versus “bad” scenario, this is a “work” versus no work” scenario. I did no work to get the Hamilton Tickets. Spent twenty dollars and clicked stuff on an app every day for so long I forgot I was doing it. That’s not any kind of definition of work in my book. That was a good thing that happened to me. It was an amazing thing that happened to me and I’ll be holding on to that happy giddiness for months.

I don’t sleep enough. I take care of myself last of all. I have depression that leaves me feeling listless and unable to do anything but focus on moving myself forward through the day. I get so caught up in my anxieties I can’t breathe. I have a hobby that fills my soul with meaning and helps me set direction for myself. I have good friends around me who care about me and the stuff I care about simply because I care about it. I have terrible luck, but it often turns good in surprising ways and at unexpected times. I can support myself and am only financially limited by my willingness to work extra hours. I make enough that I don’t actually need to work more than my required minimum number of hours to make ends meet. My life is pretty well-balanced, honestly. It’s not bad. It’s not great, either, but it’s on the positive side of neutral. I just have to work hard pretty frequently. Not because my life or lifestyle is in danger if I don’t, but because that’s the cost of making progress on my dreams. I wish it was easier, but then I probably wouldn’t value the time I get to work on my dreams as much as I do. I wouldn’t value a quiet weekend in the woods as much as I do.

Today, I don’t wish my life was different. Today, I just wish I had a few extra hours each day. There’s so much to do… It’d be easier if I suddenly got four extra hours every day so I could sleep more. I bet I’d get a lot more done if I was well-rested all the time. Maybe that’s what I should do with my next vacation. Just go to bed every day at ten at night instead of staying up super late because I know I don’t need to get up for anything in the morning. It’s worth trying, some day.

 

Saturday Afternoon Musing

Some days, what you really need is to hang out with a new friend online and repeatedly punch each other in the face during a custom PVP match only to eventually betray each other with ridiculously over-powered guns so that you both wind up fighting over who gets the ammo for the over-powered guns by returning to punching each other once again.

That was my evening. Well, the end of my evening. Played a lot of other games before than and actually did some more progress-oriented stuff in Destiny 2 before inviting a new clan member to a private PVP match so we could punch each other more effectively. I mean, you can totally still punch people when they’re on your team and you’re wandering around a planet shooting bad guys, but there’s never a winner. It doesn’t do damage. No friendly fire in Destiny 2, thank goodness. My clan’s favorite pastime, while we’re waiting for an event to start or for someone to complete a platforming puzzle, is to shoot each other or try to knock each other off of stuff using melee attacks. It’s a good time.

Really, though, what helped the most last night was being able to just relax with my friends and do something that engaged my attention. Additionally, since I don’t have any plans for this weekend, I was able to just read until I finally felt tired enough to sleep. If I’d had plans today, I’d have stressed out about the fact that I couldn’t sleep until about half past one in the morning because I would have needed to wake up and get out of bed at a certain time. Sleeping in and having a leisurely, quiet morning that ended in me playing a few hours of World of Warcraft was so relaxing. I didn’t need to think about anything, there was nothing going on for me to plan or anticipate, just the calm meandering from one task to another that is a big breakfast, kitchen cleaning, and using up all the bonus XP my character in WoW got because I didn’t play for almost a week (which is a great feature, by the way, I really enjoy the fact that I basically got a free level’s worth of XP for not playing).

It’s been almost twenty-four hours since I gave up trying to process how I’m feeling and started focusing on just escaping for a bit. Coping instead of dealing with it, really. I can still feel it there, sitting inside me and demanding attention, but it’s sorta like the feeling your eyes get when you’re tired. It’s easy to ignore as long as I’m staying focused on something. At this point, though, part of me wants to move on to processing it. I’ve taken a bunch of time away from it, gotten a lot of sleep, and recharged as much as I can in a day. I might go for a walk first, as well, just to solidify my peace of mind by spending some energy on a relaxing activity. The weather never got as bad as they predicted it would, so today’s warmth and sun would be quite enjoyable.

That being said, I’m living in a city that’s been devastated by the flooding. I don’t really think I could go on much of a walk without running into signs of the damage. Dealing with it on foot, though, when I’ve got the ability to just pause and consider what I’m seeing rather than just the glimpses I catch in my car as I drive back to my unaffected home, might make it easier to handle. Or perhaps even help me process it. Walking has always helped me work through things and maybe that’d be the ideal venue for processing this feeling rather than meditation. Meditation can be isolating and a lot of my feelings are tied up in a sense of disconnect from the problems plaguing my community, so maybe entering more fully into it would be good. Plus, I haven’t gone into town since Tuesday afternoon, when everything was settling from “dangerous” to “safe, but still destroyed.”

I kind of miss the places I used to walk when I was in college. The town was small, like my current town, but more developed. There were sidewalks everywhere and streetlights often enough that I never worried about being unable to see my environment. Plus, that neighborhood was entirely suburban. It sprawled out, taking up a huge amount of space, because it was a suburb of Green Bay and most people commuted to work in the city rather than anywhere in their town. Plus, it had all the benefits of being a college town without being constantly full of students. I went to a small college, some twenty-five to twenty-eight hundred students, so I was pretty much the only person wandering around late at night when I couldn’t sleep and the few quiet stargazing spots on campus weren’t doing the trick. It really was such a peaceful town. I miss it.

I miss a lot of things about my life before I moved to the Madison area. I miss the sense of peace and possibility I had back then, when it seemed like I’d be able to do anything if I just worked at it long enough. I miss the confidence I had when I considered my future and the ultimately naive way I thought everything would be alright in the end if I just pushed through. Now, I know things will always work out in the end, but frequently not in the way we wanted them too and all too often in a less-than-positive way. I don’t know anything about my future or what I really want out of life, so I just focus on what I think is best for me and what goals I want to accomplish now. I know I can’t do everything, but I’m also much more certain of my ability when it comes to things I know I can do, like writing.

It’s been a long four years and eight months, but this place is home now. Even if I do miss where I went to college, I’ve got a lot more invested in this city. Maybe I’ll eventually find places to walk that I’ll love as much as De Pere, Wisconsin, but I know I already enjoy being able to walk around downtown or through the numerous parks in Madison. Or just through the “downtown” parts of my little suburb. There are plenty of sidewalks there and a bunch of benches that should no longer be submersed. Maybe I’ll bring a book and sit on one of those for a while. That’d be pleasant.

 

Sometimes, I Make Myself Sick

Literally. As a result of six weeks of long days at work, late nights writing, trying to get back into the things I care about, and reorganizing my life in a way that works for me, I’ve finally hit the point where I’ve stressed and pushed my body to the point where it has decided I am sick. Well, I’m pretty sure I pushed myself past that point because usually all I need is a good night’s sleep to not feel sick and this time, I’m actually sick despite sleeping a ridiculous amount.

Usually, I’m pretty good at maintaining my level of stress so I don’t actually go this far. I recognize when I’m getting close to this point and I pull it back. I take a night or two off from writing or trying to keep up with my friends in the various games we play together. I go to bed early and I actually get seven or eight hours of sleep at night. But I haven’t done that consistently in the past six weeks and now I’m paying for it. My head is pounding and congested, my throat feels like it’s lined with sandpaper that grates against it every time I swallow, and I’m just miserably sick enough to make everything sound worse than it is because my combination of symptoms is difficult to relieve without opting for something that’s going to make me sleepy. As I’ve already slept more hours since last than I’ve slept in any two nights this week, I think I’d rather do some reading, play a game, or watch a TV show. I mean, my roommate’s cat is being super needy and I’d really love to just occupy the couch for a few hours of cat snuggling and anime watching. But that’s hard to enjoy when all your day-time medication does is clear your congestion a bit.

Anyway, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on what lead me here between dreams about being a badass post-apocalyptic warrior using magic spears that can turn into magic axes or, when turned into on giant magic sword, can shoot giant pillars of holy fire at the evil scum I’m destroying so my people can be safe. If the swords, spears, and sword weren’t taken from fantasy games and books I’ve been reading, I’d seriously write that story. It’s a really good one. I still might, if I come up with a fun way to change it. Maybe that’ll be the next serial story once Coldheart and Iron is finished. It’d be fun to write since apparently I have a thing for apocalyptic stories turning up in my dreams.

Back to the topic at hand, though. My reflections have led me to believe I missed a lot of the warning signs I usually see. Because of the success I’ve been having lately, I’ve been feeling more fired up and ready to push toward my goals than ever. I’m only halfway through August and, thanks to a couple (mostly this one) reviews that got shared by the creators of the comics I reviewed, I’m only a couple of days away from having my best views month ever, despite the fact that my daily views have dropped into the single digits for the first time in over a month. In addition, the long hours at work have been paying off and I can finally see the light at the end of the debt-tunnel. I’m six days away from paying off my car loan and I’ve finally gotten my finances into order so I can guarantee a delightfully high minimum monthly payment. I’m working my way back into being socially active online after a mental health break that turned from two weeks into three months and I’ve been able to perform well in the video games I play with my friends thanks to a few things finally clicking for me.

I’ve had a lot of successes, lately, even if they’re really only small wins in the war for a big win, but they’ve been all I needed to keep relentlessly pushing forward. I’m pretty sure part of me recognized a fall was coming, though. This whole week I’ve been preoccupied with trying to figure out where all of my time is going since I feel like I’m not writing as much as I could be and I’m definitely not sleeping enough. I even bought a whole pile of notebooks so I can start journaling and tracking what I do/how I feel every day in an effort to find any habits I can improve. I think that’s going to pay dividends eventually, when I can look back through it and find out what stuff might be affecting my mood over the long-term. In the short-term, I’m hoping it’ll help with productivity because I’ll actually be writing out everything I want to get done, both at work and at home. Tangible to-do lists always seem to hold more sway in my mind than intangible ones on the computer screen.

I’m on day two of journaling and I’ve already had to move some to-dos around thanks to being sick. I don’t have the mental fortitude to write a poem right now and I obviously didn’t go to work so I can’t do any of my work tasks. They’ll carry over until Monday, though, and I’ll have a decent chunk of writing time this weekend, when I’m watching my youngest sister. Our parents are doing some traveling so us older kids are taking turns keeping the youngest one company. Thankfully, most of my siblings live around Chicago right now, so I won’t have to travel much to help. Just this one weekend.

Which is why I’m just gonna go back to bed now. I’m already tired again and I have a lot of driving to do over the next two days, so the more I rest now, the healthier I’ll be for the weekend. I hope you have a great day! Check back tomorrow for a return to our regularly scheduled programming!

Self-Care is an Important Part of Life

Self-care is a bit of a difficult topic these days because a lot of the online world has begun using it to mean “indulge yourself” when it is really supposed to mean something like “take proper care of yourself and your life, even if it’s hard. ESPECIALLY if it’s hard.” It’s been interesting watching a counter movement crop up in response to the “self-indulgent self-care” movement. People seem to get quite angry or insistent that self-care means scheduling doctor appointments, doing your taxes, and cleaning your place, often while asserting that things like bubble baths, naps, and quiet activities for yourself aren’t really self-care.

Like most things, the truth lies in the middle. Self-care definitely includes getting your taxes done in time, but it can also include bubble baths, so long as the bubble baths aren’t getting in the way of living a healthy life. If you find bubble baths relaxing, then self-care is totally doing your taxes and then winding down from stressing about money by soaking in some scented bathwater and bubbles. Maybe with a good book or a glass of wine. You do you. The important part is that you’re seeing to your needs, not just doing whatever you want all the time.

Sometimes, your needs are quiet time filled with books and video games. Sometimes it is cooking healthy meals, working out, and staying active every day. Sometimes, it can even be some ice cream after a difficult day, so long as it isn’t always ice cream and you’re not eating it by the pint. A pint of ice cream as a reward for doing your taxes is a dangerous step toward self-indulgence. A small bowl of it totally is. Self-care is complicated and varies from person to person, so it can be difficult to work out a definitive list of what “counts” and what doesn’t.

For me, self-care is a lot of the important stuff that I don’t like to do, such as scheduling appointments, updating my budget, limiting my expenses so I stay within my budget, and cleaning my room. I’m already really good at the self-indulgent side of things, which I really ought to scale back a certain amount. At the same time, sometimes I just need a quiet evening of popcorn and favorite cartoons, or a good book, because I feel every kind of drained. Tonight’s going to be one of those nights.

The occasional night like this, and every version of self-care like them, is important to me because I spent a lot of time wrapped up inside my own head and sometimes need a chance to be pulled out of it. If I spend all my time wrapped up inside my head, my thoughts get muddle, my emotions go haywire, and I usually wind up making myself feel miserable because I get so wrapped around whatever problem I’m trying to work through that every other part of my life fades away. I need something engaging and fun to pull me out, but that still makes me think about things, so I can stretch my mind out again. Pull it away from the problem I’ve been worrying at for however long. Give myself a chance to recover and the thoughts/problems time to breathe. Usually, after a few nights of this kind of peaceful relaxation, I have the clarity I need to finish working through whatever’s on my mind.

Proper self-care is important. If you aren’t taking care of both your mental and physical health, you’re going to wind up causing worse problems for yourself further down the line. Taking care of one at the expense of the other can work for a short time, if you’re in desperate need, but it isn’t something I’d recommend doing if you can avoid it and definitely something you shouldn’t make into a habit.  It can be incredibly tempting to lose yourself in some athletic activity in order to avoid what’s on your mind or to indulge in a giant bag of chips or some sweets because it pushes the happy buttons in your brain. Once is not good, but it isn’t bad. Repeatedly losing yourself in athletics until you’re too tired to think or eating a bunch of junk food because it feels good becomes a serious issue.

Well-rounded self-care is key. Some therapy for the mental stuff, rest for your body and mind, healthy meals and exercise for the physical stuff, and a decent amount of the things you enjoy to keep your spirits up. Moderation in all things, of course, but that’s more of a suggestion than a rule or a guideline. You’re really the only person who can say when something goes from self-care into self-indulgence or self-harm, so make sure to keep an eye on what you’re doing and how it makes you feel.

I’d like a Prescription of Sleep to Address my Tiredness Problem, Please.

The last couple days, I have reached mid-afternoon and felt totally exhausted. I finish up whatever I’m doing (Pokemon Go Community Day events yesterday and moving the bed set I bought from a friend today) and, as soon as I take a moment to relax, I’m suddenly so tired I want to collapse.

Because of my insomnia and tendency to avoid sleep in order to maximize the amount of time I have to do things with my day, I tend to crash when I go to bed instead of just fall asleep. While I could easily blame this for my sudden exhaustion after doing something moderately active (lots of walking and moving a bunch of crap), I’ve lived in this state of perpetual crash-readiness for over a decade now. You can’t lie awake staring at the ceiling for hours because you can’t turn your brain off long enough to fall asleep if you’re so tired your brain shuts off as soon as you’re in bed. You can’t waste your night feeling anxious if you’re too tired to feel anything but sleepy.

Yes. I am quite aware this isn’t healthy and I’m taking things to an extreme to make a point. I live like this all the time, even when I’m being very physically active, so why am I suddenly exhausted when my day is barely even half over?

As I lay on the couch, trying to not fall asleep so I didn’t let my dinner burn in the oven, it struck me. I’m so tired because I’ve been spending so much mental energy on myself lately. Normally, my mental energy is what I’ve got in excess and what I use to help mitigate a shortage in either my physical or emotional energies. It is my will power and I’ve been spending it a lot as I try to make myself focus on something I’ve been deliberately ignoring for a couple of years or longer. Which means my relatively low levels of physical energy due to sore muscles from my weekly fighting practices and my very low levels of emotional energy because I’ve been digging through some tough shit don’t get replenished. This can cause weird moments like how I felt when I got back to my car after dropping off the U-Haul van I rented to move the mattress, box spring, and bed frame. I wanted to just collapse on the seat with the door open, cry my eyes out (not for any particular reason, I just felt like crying), and then drive home without calling my girlfriend to see if she wanted to do anything like we originally planned or just rain check it because she was tired from the engagement party she went to the night before. I just burned through all of the energy I had and was left with only the last dregs of my willpower.

I did not of those things. I turned my car on, took a few calming breaths, spoke with my girlfriend, and then drove myself to get some things for dinner. Now, having eaten my dinner and had a bit of caffeine to help me hobble through the rest of the day, I’m updating this blog because I’m not letting anything stop me from updating it daily. Even now, as I write, I want to just lean back in my chair and cry. Or put my sheets back on my bed as I exhaustion-cry before closing the blinds and collapsing onto my bed to sleep until time has no meaning and idea of “Chris” has melded with my new mattress and the universe returns to being the illusion new age gurus would have us think it is.

This leads me to believe that my willpower is limitless or at least a poor concretion of a difficult abstract idea. I’m doing none of those things. I’m doing what I think is an important part of my day-to-day life, keeping up with the goals I set for myself, and taking the requisite actions to ensure that my health (physical and mental) doesn’t deteriorate beyond repair.

I used to really love the “spoons” metaphor as an example of what it means to live with a chronic illness (mental illnesses are included in this) but I’ve kind of found that it doesn’t exactly work for me. If I feel something needs to get done and I have no way of making it easier on myself by adjusting the goalposts, I will just get it done. It’s hard to say I’m restrained to a certain number of spoons if I just give myself more for free when I feel the situation calls for it.

Now, I wonder if I am hurting myself by pushing myself past the point where all I want to do is collapse, or do I just feel like I want to collapse because my depression and mental illnesses tell me that I’ve done so much already and deserve to rest? Do I naturally have this energy and don’t feel like I do because my depression hides it behind a steady litany of how unable I am? I’ve heard of a lot of people who have similar anxiety, OCD, and depression problems who have said they felt like they regained a ton of energy once they were on a medication that helped treat their mental health without over-burdening them with horrible side-effects. Part of me wants to try out the medication route again just to see if I can get a similar boost. Even if I have the same amount of energy overall, no longer needing to fight myself and this weird feeling of consumptive exhaustion in order to use it would be amazing.

I don’t know. I’ll talk about it with my healthcare providers and we’ll see what comes of it. In the mean time, I’m going to reflect on my habit of exhausting myself, why I feel so tired this weekend, and how I can seem to spend so much energy on untangling my mind without realizing it. I hope you had a great day and found something in this rambling reflection piece that got you thinking. I know I did.