New Year’s Resolution: Self-Care

Most New Year’s resolutions are about things we will do, things we will ask of ourselves.

But I am tired of pouring from an empty pitcher. 

My utter neglect of good and proper self care has negatively impacted me, my wife, and even my daughter, and it is time to fix that.

This is the year. This is the time.

I’ve been doing a good bit of research into self care,  and I’ve come up with some plans for different areas of my life.

I’ll be writing an ongoing series about my efforts this year. 

But for now, this is my public declaration. I will  take better care of myself,  starting now.

Long Journey, Part 2: A Long Road That Has No Turn

​https://youtu.be/sGs9V7iDuZU

Yesterday, I talked about how the changes I want to make in my life all promise a lot of effort, even pain, with no guarantee of arrival. 

I’ve been thinking about that since I wrote it,  and it occurs to me just how  fortunate I am.  

The goals I have to struggle toward are self-actualization goals. The first four levels of Maslow’s needs hierarchy are pretty much taken care of. 

I have a good job (one I enjoy most of the time)  with benefits and truly good co-workers. 

There is plenty of food in our panty,  fridge,  and deep freeze,  and money to eat out of we don’t feel like cooking

Our house is safe, dry,  un-infested, and everything works. 

I live in  a safe neighborhood.

I only drive about 2 miles to work.

As a white (cis, het) man, the world is an infinitely safer place for me than it is for most other Americans. 

I have a loving wife and daughter. 

I have an extended family, and we love each other (even my in-laws, which I understand makes me really lucky).

Truthfully, my stakes are low. If I fail at these personal goals, I will be upset with myself, and my life will not improve. 

But my kid won’t starve, I won’t lose my house, I won’t be raped and then watch my rapist get 6 months in prison, and I won’t be gunned down while buying a bb gun at Wal-Mart.  

We all want to improve ourselves and our lives, but it’s easy to lose track and think that if we can, anyone can. For people like me, that kind of thinking is part of the problem. 

A Long Journey, with Much Pain, and No Guarantee of Arrival


I realized something today about all the things I want to change about myself: 

Every one well be painful and long.  None will be accomplished overnight. They will require me to hurt for a fairly long time. 

Muscles will ache. My mind will wrack  with ideas and extended effort, long after inspiration has passed. 

And not a single one of them comes with a guarantee of success. 

There are smarter ways to work, tactics to prevent injury and burnout, and tips to lighten the load, but there will be no more easy victories. Becoming vegan was the only one of those I’m likely to get. 

The sooner I accept this,  the sooner I can really get started. 

Heh. Does this mean I’m finally growing up? 


August So Far: Sleep, Exercise, and Rekindling a Creative Spark


I’ve outlined some writing goals and life goals for August.  I’m writing this on August 7, so I thought I’d report  on how the first week went. 

I’m still struggling with sleep, but I have determined that 7 hours a night is not enough for me.  My next test will be to see whether I need 7 1/2 or 8 hours. 

I did manage to exercise three times the first week. I swam twice,  I did chair squats once,  and we took a walk the park once.  At this rate,  I won’t be ready for the 2020 Olympics,  but it’s a good start. 

As far as writing fiction goes, I’m beginning to wonder whether planning plots is really the best move at this point.

After I finished my dissertation, I immediately started writing what I thought would be a novel or novella,  but ended up being alongish short story. 

It’s rubbish, of course,  and by the end I just wanted it to be over. I only finished it at all because giving up so close to the ends would have been a self-sabotaging defeat. 

And I’m still stuck right there, in a mess of my own making. 

I get enough sleep to do well at work, but not enough to have any energy or clarity left after we’ve put the little one to bed. 

Honestly,  I don’t have any desire to write our do anything else after we put Daughter to bed. Most of my experimental cooking is on the weekends, even.

 and I’m not getting to bed early enough to get up an hour early to write or do  whatever before work. 

Still I’m simplifying my goalsfor August:  Forget everything else.  Sleep matters. 

As for my creative side, I’ll be taking some concrete steps to refill the old gas tank,  beyond just getting more sleep,  but I’ll talk about those in an upcoming post. 

August Life Goals

Yesterday, I shared my progress on my July writing goals and announced my August writing goals.  Today,  I’m setting out my August life goals.

  • Get at least 7.5 hours of sleep each night.
  • Get to bed early enough to write,  read, pray, exercise, or otherwise greet the day
  • Exercise 3 days a week, rain or shine
  • Continue eating a plant-based diet
  • Try to do something actively helpful for someone (family can be included,  but ideally this should reach beyond them)  each day
  • Listen to music, go outside,  and do other things to rejuvenate myself

Well,  that’s more than enough to do for one month. I will  let you know how I did at the end of the month. 

Resistance

Every time I’ve tried to get my stuff together, I’ve always faced resistance. 

When I started exercising,  I would soon get sick or hurt. 

When I started trying to go to bed earlier, 1,000 things would come up to keep me up (a student distraction each night,  it seems).

And when I do get to bed earlier, I always feel worse at first, moody, as if sleep deprivation were an emotional anesthetic. 

When I started writing consistently,  life seemed to explode with physically and/or emotionally draining mini-crises, until I was so ragged I could hardly even think straight. 

Resistance.

It’s why we don’t succeed, why we let our dreams remain dreams instead of bringing them to life. 

Resistance. If I am really going to get my act together before this year is out, I’m going to have to learn to resist back. 

Steven Pressman literally wrote the book on overcoming resistance – two books,  actually: The War of Art and Do the Work.

Kicking Darkness, Bleeding Light  


I have been feeling a little depressed lately,  for a number of reasons. 

It’s nothing clinical or health –  threatening,  but is unpleasant,  and it makes me just not want to talk to anyone.

As a part of getting my stuff together (In case you haven’t heard, 2016 is The Year Tim Gets His Stuff Together), I’ve been going through the houses in our storage room, or at least my boxes. 

And tonight, I found a scrap of paper, probably a decade old or more, a scrawled note from a novel that never really came to fruition.

And it was just what I needed to hear. 

“Sorrow lasts for the night,  but the dawn will break.  You can choose to live under the night,  become a part of it, turn your back on the hope the sunrise brings.  And then when the dawn comes, where are you?”

“I’m sure you’ll tell me,” Ashe said, glancing over his shoulder at Jack. 

“If you don’t fight the darkness,  don’t allow yourself to suffer,  you can lose your love for the light.  And then dawn finds you crawling deeper into the shadows,  huddled I’m fear of the joy you once longed for.”

Okay,  so it’s a bit unsubtle,  but I think i needed to hear it. 

This has been a rough summer,  all around. I need to admit that,  and not start resenting a job I genuinely like 90% of the time. 

Time has been right, but mostly, I just haven’t felt up to calling and starting better touch with my friends.  This is a vicious circle,  because it is a symptom of feeling down and a major cause of it.

I have gotten hurt and sick a couple of times this summer, and that has put me off of exercise,  which is always a struggle for me. It is so much easier to just let it slide.

And with the later hours and earlier mornings, of course I haven’t been getting enough sleep.

But as I said yesterday, I am drawing the line on that.  

The only way out of anything like this is through.

As Bruce Cockburn sang, you’ve “got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.”

Legacies and Honeybees

I want to do something that may last beyond me.

I doubt my writing will.

Maybe it will, if I get much better at it than I am now.

But I think the world has moved on, and is moving faster.

I do not think many people alive today will “last” the way their creative ancestors did.

The world is so different now, and it will be so different.

There are so many voices saying so many things, and that will only grow.

We are no longer great marble statues, enduring through the ages.

At best, we’re a good meal: enjoyable, healthful, giving both pleasure and sustenance

Living on, if at all, in the growth and strength we give to those we nourish.

 

Perhaps I will plant some honeybee-friendly flowers on the edge of our yard,

Far from where my daughter likes to play,

Where their buzz is faint, and their stingers out of reach.

Perhaps I can give them some sustenance, some strength

So they can hold on as a species

Beekeepers struggle to sustain their numbers, often failing

Wild bees dwindle

The species skitters across the slippery slope to extinction

If the bees go, a million plants go with them

 

Perhaps I’ll do the same for butterflies.

But these flowers I’ll plant in the heart of our yard

So we can see their stingless beauty up close

Perhaps this means I’ll write less

But create more.

And I am at peace with that;

A life lived wholly before a screen

Is no life at all.

First, Do No Harm: Aligning My Ethics and My Actions in a Disconnected World

I posted a few Mondays ago that I’d mostly moved on from theological blog posts … well, it turns out I was wrong.

Sure, a lot of the questions I was asking back then are things I’ve settled now, but one big one has arisen: How do I be moral and righteous within an economic and industrial system that is heavily built upon cruelty, exploitation, and oppression?

I’m still wrestling, just with slightly different angels.

I’m struggling to figure out how to align my actions with my ethics in modern America. Most of the things we do to survive, or at least live, seem to be built upon the suffering of others. And that suffering is deliberately concealed from those of us on the consuming end of the equation.

I’m not talking about historical injustices or atrocities, but  ongoing suffering and death, here and now. The kind I can either contribute to or help alleviate.

  • The meat, dairy and egg industries are horrific for the animals and (to a lesser extent) the workers.
  • Overfishing has put the health of entire oceans at risk.
  • Global warming is real. The oil companies and their pet politicians and pundits have spent a lot of money convincing people it isn’t, but I trust actual climate scientists more than lobbyists.
  • Hunger is still an issue around the world, and drinking water is an even bigger issue (even here in the U.S.)
  • Worst of all, a large but hard to determine, number of everyday items include components that were made by literal slaves.

The food in my belly, the clothes on my back, the shoes on my feet … someone suffered for all that. It’s easy to ignore. It’s easier to ignore than it is to learn about, because the men with the money want it that way.

As the old song says, they “you can throw that rock, and hide your hand … but what’s done in the dark will be brought to the light.”

So now that I’ve seen this particular light, what can I do?

I really want to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. How can I passively inflict this kind of damage? How can I cynically make this kind of mess for other, poorer people to clean up? Or for my daughter and her future children to clean up?

Out of sight, out of mind.

Jesus always sided with the underdogs, the outsiders in society (“Blessed are the poor in spirit…”).

When he railed against sin, he was always speaking to the powerful, whose sin was oppressing and exploiting others, usually by making them into outsiders and declaring them unclean.

He never accepted second-hand cruelty. When the system was cruel, he rebuked the system. When the respectable, “moral” people were callous, he called them out.

He called me out.

We’re good at being good, when that just means being nice to the people in front of our faces, paying our taxes, and giving some money to charity from time to time. But I have a hard time believing that that is all that matters.

No matter what you believe religiously, we all stand under judgement. We can’t escape the things we do. Even if there were nothing beyond our mortal material existence, our actions still exist. They are as inescapable as gravity and entropy.

If my lifestyle is having real consequences on other people, don’t I need to change it?

Yes, I do.

Yes, I will.

And I hope that maybe I’ll inspire a few more people to join me. Over the next couple of days, I’ll be following this post up with more detail on the harm that we do, harm that is being hidden from us, and with what I’m personally doing to try to eliminate, or at least ameliorate, this in my life.

I hope you’ll join me.

Meat-Free Monday: Why Vegan?

Animal_Abuse_Battery_Cage_01 CC Compassion Over Killing

So why vegan and not vegetarian?

Well there’s two answers to this, three actually.

First, I’m supposed to be off the dairy for my health anyway. If I’m eating steak I don’t need butter on it. If I’m eating a burger I don’t need cheese on it. I need to be off dairy. Full stop. And that’s the hardest part of going vegan by a long shot. I can’t tell you how much cheese I used to eat on a daily basis.

Now, on to eggs and meat. Eggs are healthy enough, but factory farming conditions for chickens are heinous. We’ve seen the trucks taking the chickens to the the chicken factory just north of Hattiesburg, Sanderson Farms. It doesn’t look like a farm, it looks like really nasty factory, and it smells like it too.

The chickens in the truck were so cramped and packed together and each one was in a box that would barely hold six bagels. The Huffington Post calls eggs from battery-caged chickens “The Cruelest of all Factory Farm Products.” So, why would I participate in that if I’m giving up dairy? Why would I leave eggs in?

On the same point, the lives of dairy cows are even worse than the lives of beef cows, and once they run out of milk, they’re killed just like beef cows.

So it came down to a matter of health and ethics. And then there’s point number three:

I’m terrible at moderation. For years I’ve tried to “eat less meat and more veggies.” I’ve given up dairy a half-dozen times, only to backslide. I know I couldn’t half-do this. I knew I couldn’t give up some animal products without giving in and eating them all. If I was going to do this at all, I need to go “all in.”

Now, I’m only two weeks “all in,” so I can’t comment on my long-term success. And I’m certainly in no position to criticize (for example) someone who’s been a vegetarian for many years and still eats eggs and dairy. But “all in” is the only route I haven’t tried already and failed. It’s the only chance I have to succeed, realistically. So it’s what I’m going to do.