I’ve been feeling a little bleh over the past couple months. Some days are really good, others are slightly subpar, most somewhere in between. Overall, a pretty uninspiring stretch.
I understand that’s a lot of what life is; uninspiring stretches. But I also understand that much of life’s magic blooms from these underwhelming moments. The moments that make you feel inclined towards change.
I’ve traveled the world because of these moments. Quit jobs. Broken up with girlfriends.
Life-changing? Yes. Catalyzed by uninspiring stretches? Yes.
But these are clearly among the more dramatic results. And usually a result of letting those moments pile up unaddressed over time. Usually far too much time.
But more frequently (especially as I get older and find myself able to identify ruts before they turn into crises) these moments have led to more subtle changes. Far less dramatic but, I’m wondering, perhaps more impactful over time.
This Sunday I was putzing around with meal prep for the week when I realized that I had had enough.
The aforementioned couple months had crescendoed into that very moment in the kitchen as I stood dicing zucchini in front of a boiling chili pot.
But unlike past lives I had lived, I didn’t reach for the eject hatch (see Don’t Burn It Down). Instead, I sat down at this very iPad and started pecking out adjectives describing the type of person I believe myself to be. Here’s what I wrote:
- Remind me of what kind of person Chris is:
- I’m kind
- I’m thoughtful
- I’m equanmious
- I’m patient
- I’m clever
- I’m dedicated
- I’m creative
- I’m organized
- I know when to stop
- I know when to start
- I do not get worked up
- I’m curious
- I have perspective
- People look up to me
- People know I care about them
- I’m focused
- I’m innovative
- I’m present
- I know how I’m going to get where I’m going (even though I might not know where exactly I’m going)
- I don’t worry about the chaos of the world (painted by others), I worry about the magic of the world I experience all around me at every moment
- I’m well-rested
- I’m in great shape
- My body feels amazing
I then looked at that list and asked myself if the things I was doing on a daily basis were something that kind of person would be doing? And vice versa – were there things I wasn’t doing that that kind of person would? Here’s what came out:
- Things I’m doing too much of right now
- Reading news/sports compulsively (usually during work)
- Reading thoughtful articles/newsletters compulsively (they are better read in pre-specified chunks of time)
- Watching TV every day
- Going to bed late
- Things I’m not doing enough of
- Having fun with Jenna
- Waking early
- Reading with pre-specified purpose
Not nearly as dramatic as “drop all this shit and travel the world” but, if this week is any evidence, it was precisely the gentle recalibration I needed.
Compulsive media intake had been using up so much of my mental computing power that I was finding it nearly impossible to focus at work. Add on top of that the low-level anxiety created by worrying about things you have no control over and you have yourself a really bad fucking way to spend your time.
Realizing this, I fired up my Freedom app and blocked the news/sports websites that had slowly made their way back into my life (Note: blocking websites may seem like something for the weak-willed but you can call it whatever you want; working in front of my computer all day means I need all the help I can get. It’s like a junk food addict working at the movie theater snack counter).
I talked to Jenna about my feelings. She agreed and we’ve started making more of an effort to do more little fun things; walks, drinks, dinners.
I started waking at 6AM. Granted, with my late bedtime habits solidly ingrained I’ve had difficulty falling asleep early and am definitely sleep deprived. But even so, the early rises have been more than worth it.
Why? Because that’s when I write.
This post, a creative story, a journal entry, a news satire article. Writing is how I scrape the crazy bits off the walls of my brain, and it had fallen by the wayside. Whenever I let this habit fade, I always think of what Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk said.
Because when I’m writing, all of that negative, all that anxiety goes into the work and my life is so peaceful and so productive.Chuck Palahniuk
The TV part and the reading part are byproducts of the rest of my behaviors. TV is less appealing to me when my brain is reengaged. Reading more.
It is amazing though, how much brighter life is when you’re doing the things you know make you feel good. And frankly, just as amazing how they’re let to slip away so easily.
But I suppose I’m left to simply be grateful for the little moments that always seem provide the inspiration for recalibration, however big or small.