Health & Fitness, Philosophy & Religion

Updates! Mayhem! Radical Changes!

September’s been going well, my curious friend. (You know. The one who reads this blog.)

I’m not tracking my success/failure at this 10-month adventure, but I think I’m safely north of the 80% success rate one should hope for in any enterprise.

There are some changes. Good ones. I’m sleeping better, getting fitter, and in some ways, I’ve been happier. Life is good, which is sort of radical, I suppose.

In a separate document (my notebook), I wrote some ground rules that sort of define my approach to life change over the next 10 months, and I thought I’d share them today. Why not? Two-thirds of this blog will be boring AF, so what’s one little boring post?

Track nothing.

Yep. Kinda flies in the face of most self-improvement literature you’ve read, huh? Well, I’ve dropped the spreadsheets, the charts, the guilt…I’m just focussing on each hour as I’m living it.

There is no past.

I don’t know about you, but my morning failures often turn into entire days in which I make no progress, and likely go backward a bit. “Well, I already blew it,” I think, “might as well eat an entire Dominoes pizza.” Days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months…you know where this is going.

Take one day off each week on purpose.

You probably don’t need me to describe what this looks like to you. Yes. It’s limited hedonism. Lots of studies have indicated that this isn’t just healthy, but important when trying to stick to something difficult.

Celebrations don’t count.

This one’s tricky, because my brain could easily use it for an excuse to abandon the program at will. That’s not good for business, so allow me to define what this means exactly: No, I can’t eat that Dominos pizza just because the Broncos won a game, but I’m eating Thanksgiving dinner and probably not writing a damn word on Christmas.

If I’m a guest, I graciously do my best.

With all respect to my friends who are passionately committed to a lifetime of this lifestyle choice or that (being vegan, hating Coldplay), I just can’t bring myself to allow my personal choices, regardless of how passionate I am about them, to fly in the face of my host.

When it comes to eating and drinking at someone’s house, if I have a dietary choice I’ve made, it simply doesn’t apply. If I have options, I’ll choose the option that fits, but I don’t expect my friends to know my current requirements and whatever they put in front of me, I’ll smile, thank them, and enjoy every drop and every bite.

Rabbit Trail

I realized just now when writing this that so much of what I write about involves food and drink. This isn’t by accident. Food and drink are central themes in my life, and very, very important to me. They simultaneously give me life and make my life better, despite being my most dangerous vices. You’re going to notice that I use food metaphors quite a lot, and that’s just who I am. I should probably write a post dedicated entirely to food…

Those are my ground rules, and quite honestly are what keeps me on this path. I don’t think I could continue without regular “breaks” from the schedule. It’s an inhale/exhale thing.

Health & Fitness, Philosophy & Religion

September: Discipline

About 2 years ago, I raised several health concerns to my doctor, a tiny Chinese woman with very little tact.

“Lose weight. Eat more leafy greens. Take up yoga.”

This was her matter-of-fact response. Easily one of the best prescriptions I’ve ever received.

A couple of months later, I was complaining to a friend about my inability to follow her simple instructions.

“Seems like you just lack discipline, man.”


September’s my first “focus” month of this journey, and Discipline, a value of mine I happen to be lacking, is what I’m focusing on.

I’ve read countless articles on the topic, and most experts seem to agree that discipline works very much the same way that physical fitness works: you gotta work at it to have it, you gotta work harder to get more of it, and if you stop working at it, it goes away.

In other words, you have a limited supply of self-discipline each day, and exactly how much that is depends largely on you.

Agree or disagree, this is how I’m approaching it. My month will be spent largely on restricting myself, as indulgence is my biggest enemy right now.

September’s Rules

  1. Wake up at 6:00AM every day.
  2. Abstain from alcohol and tobacco.
  3. [insert rule so personal I can’t share]

I’m writing this one from my phone, so I’ll be brief. Also, I’m going to try and pepper in some entertaining posts now and then, once I have my computer back…

Philosophy & Religion

So, I’m flawed, but not fundamentally.

I’m not exactly sure when it started, but at some point in recent history, the tone of the world started to make me feel guilty for who I am. Fundamentally, I mean.

Not everything about me, but specifically this: I’m a white, 30-something, middle-class, American, Christian, heterosexual male. I belong to what is essentially the least marginalized, most privileged group of humans alive today. I’ll never truly understand what it’s like to be…

  • Black
  • Female
  • Gay
  • Abjectly Poor
  • Muslim
  • A Cat

Now, I’m certain that if I asked anyone who advocates for cats or for women’s rights or racial equality or whatever, they most certainly would not say that being what I am is wrong in and of itself. They would agree that I’m not fundamentally a mistake, and there’s nothing morally wrong with being W3MCACHM. (Trust me, it’ll catch on.)

The thing is, I’m not talking about any one person making me feel this phantom guilt. It’s the tone of media. The conversations I read online. The issues du jour. And seeing others in my little racial-sexual-religious-socio-economic class vilified (c’mon, you know it’s true), often just for the spectacle of it.

I’m not denying that I come from an incredibly privileged perspective, relatively speaking. And I’m definitely not denying the importance of bringing social issues to light and addressing them. I’m not going to say “my life is harder than you know”, or “you don’t know where I come from”, or anything of the like. Please don’t lump me with the All Lives Matter crowd, and please don’t think that I’m crying about how tough it is to be a white boy. Because frankly, it’s not.

What I am saying is that if I’m going to success at this 10-month journey I’m on, I have to start with what I accept as an axiom: I’m flawed, but there is nothing fundamentally wrong with who I am. 

There is plenty of stuff in my life to feel guilty about. Plenty. Simply being W3MCACHM is not one of them.

Those are things about me that I didn’t necessarily choose, and are mostly impossible to change. So I shouldn’t feel any shame about them, and they aren’t really things to be particularly proud of, either. They’re just who I am. Part of my makeup. And feeling guilty for them is just as ridiculous as bigotry cast at anyone different from me.

Moving forward I’m going to remind myself daily, as a part of this process, that though I have flaws that I’m working on, I am not fundamentally a mistake. I am not a moral aberration. I’m uniquely me, and that’s totally okay.

Necessary Disclaimer Note: I’m most certainly not making a case for not drawing attention to the social issues that are so incredibly important today like racism, sexism, etc. If you think I am, you’re missing the point of this post, and likely this here blog thingy.

Health & Fitness, Philosophy & Religion

How I’m gonna do it.

So my 10 months of weirdness started today, and I have that strange mixture of excitement, determination, and boredom that goes along with any time I start a new endeavor. There’s a lot of rocket fuel to get off the ground, and then it’s just the drudgery of the every day.

The general idea is that this is something akin to a monastic or Nazarite vow, to pull from religious traditions. This ancient practice has been used for millennia for many purposes, but when it comes to my own purposes, I think of it as righting the course, so to speak. My life’s gone a tad off-course, and so I’m messing with things a bit to get back on. [insert better sailing metaphor here]

Throughout my life, there have been times like this. From Marine Corps boot camp to intensive internship programs, to attending a restrictive religious university (and joining that university’s extra-restrictive RA program), various temporary “vows” have helped shape me. Temporary phases of restriction that, hopefully, helped me shed negative habits and adopt positive ones. (Unfortunately, sometimes the opposite has been true, but that’s another post for another time.)

The main difference here is that this is self-imposed, with nobody managing the process but me, and nobody holding me accountable to it…but me. I have a solution for that, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Essentially, for the entire 10 months, I’m going to have general rules of engagement that apply the entire 10 months. Likewise, I’m going to have some goals that I’m giving myself the entire 10 months to accomplish.

Then, each month will have a theme, and in that month, I’ll have additional rules by which I’ll live, and specific goals to accomplish by the end of that month. Where will these themes come from, you ask? My values, of course.

See, I’ve made a rather nerdy list of the values I hold, and some of them, I feel that I currently treat with the appropriate levels of attention and passion they deserve. Other values, however, I’m not doing so great at, um, valuing. And so, there’s need for realignment regarding what I give attention to.

I’ll spare you that monthly list, and instead launch each month with a description of how that month will differ from the month preceding it. However, I will share, for the curious, the overarching rules by which I plan to live for the next 10 months:

  1. Read for 30 minutes every day.
  2. Write for 30 minutes every day.
  3. Exercise for 30 minutes every day.
  4. Meditate for 30 minutes every day.
  5. Sleep for 7 hours every day.
  6. No refined sugar, except in bread & pasta.
  7. Fast once per week.
  8. Meet with my mentor once per month.
  9. Meet with my accountability partner once per week.
  10. Take one day off per week.

Easy, right? Nothing all that tough or exceptionally out of the ordinary. Well, except for maybe #6. That will likely be the most difficult of them all. (If you wanna know why I appended “except in bread & pasta”, hit me up. I’ll be happy to explain.)

So keep up with me, if you’d like to. Or don’t. But please, if you see me, ask me how this is going. I could use the social accountability.

Also, if you could forget my age, that’d be great.

Health & Fitness, Philosophy & Religion

My life now.

Yay, I’m starting a blog!

Boo, it’s during a particularly crappy time in my life!

Those close to me have been aware that the last few years of my life haven’t been the awesomest, culminating in a particularly shitty 22 months or so, directly preceding this post. T’ain’t been easy, folks, t’ain’t been easy. I’ll spare you the gory details, because most of you have probably had periods much like this where your career, relationships, and health all sort of splat onto the concrete at once, leaving you to a sort of “WTF do I do now?” way of life.

Some context, though, to more or less set the tone for how I’m going to approach this here personal lifestyle blog:

  • I’m not happy with who I am right now.
  • I suffer from sometimes crippling depression.
  • I want to do something about both of those things.
  • I like making lists.

It seems that as of late, ideas like self-improvement, self-discipline, and self-help have sorta’ become passé. I understand this, as each of those compound words makes me throw up a little in my mouth. Having navigated my formative years in the 90’s, I find myself a bit put off by these ideas likely because they were crammed down my throat for so long.

To use the old cliche, let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Yes, one (I) can easily fall into the pitfalls of being too critical of himself, body dysmorphia, low-self-esteem, and the like, but that most certainly doesn’t make the desire or attempt to better myself wrong or harmful. Like all things in life, a little moderation is simply in order.

I turn 40 next year. Actually, exactly 10 months from today. (gulp) Forty is indeed an arbitrary age to care about, and I’m not particularly afraid of it; it’s more that 40 is an age that we as a society have agreed is the start of “middle age”. And for good reason: the average human doesn’t even live twice that long. So, yeah…odds are I’m already halfway done with my life. There’s some gravity to that, don’t you think?

Now, I have no plan to go out without a fight. Dying at 70 or even 80 doesn’t appeal to me. See, I have big plans for my 80’s that include over indulging on every vice I’ve avoided or approached with temperance over the years. My 80’s are going to be a blast, and I’d like to be alive for that.

Furthermore, I think those average lifespan numbers are skewed a bit. If you look into healthier communities (say, triathletes, for example), anyone tough/lucky enough to make it past cancer and other life-threatening ailments can remain pretty active in the 21st century well into their 80’s and perhaps even their 90’s.

Okay, I’m getting off the point here, which is that I want to live a long, healthy, happy, vibrant, fulfilling life. And I’m not living that life right now. I’m not living my best life. My best story. I’m not the best version of myself that I can be.

And that’s for me to judge, friend, not you.

I haven’t arrived where I’m at without a little help from myself. I’ve made bad choices, developed bad habits, and generally failed to take care of myself. It’s been a slow decline. I woke up at 39 and realized that I’m so far off the path that I’m not even enjoying life anymore. It’s true, and that’s tragic. We only get the one, so enjoying it should probably be pretty high up there in terms of priorities.

So starting today, I’m turning a corner. I’m going to spend the next 10 months cleaning up my act, getting back on the path, and learning how to love life again. And I’m going to document it right here. My struggle to be not bad, but good.

Tomorrow. I’m going to start tomorrow.