Tag Archives: Mental Health

My New Year’s Resolution

I have always been attracted to the idea of New Year’s Resolutions, because I love having a sense of direction in life. I love the idea of building something. It’s not enough just to earn money to stay alive. I love having a project. But I’m not entirely at ease with the concept of Resolutions. I don’t think people should be made to feel that they have to have one. If you’re happy, why change? A cynic might argue that having a Resolution is a sure way to make yourself disappointed in the future. When I listen to other people’s Resolutions, I find they’re most often based on eschewing perceived vices. Vowing to stop eating donuts, smoking cigarettes, or watching porn. But come Spring they have Type 2 Diabetes, a voice as rough as a cement mixer, and they’ve swiftly gone blind. And while I absolutely encourage efforts to live a more healthy lifestyle, it’s not quite the type of Resolution I’m drawn to. It’s what I think of as a Negative Resolution- aimed at resisting a temptation of some kind. It’s often seeing how many months you can go before you’re rushing out to the store for a box of Shipley’s, a packet of Camels, and presumably a fresh stack of tissues.

I’m more interested in what I call Positive Resolutions- an end goal that I work towards. However, I realize we live in an age that encourages dreams and the entitlement to individual achievement. And so it can sometimes be unhelpful to pressure others to feel like they need a dream or a target of their own. I certainly endorse the idea of striving to improve as a person, but you don’t need some grandiose, lofty Resolution to do that. I asked three people on New Year’s Eve what their Resolutions were. The first to answer was an old friend of mine, who declared he wanted a new job. A nice, solid goal to work towards. The next to respond was his cheerful girlfriend, who was less certain. After thinking about it for a bit, she then decided that if she were to have a target, it would be to compete again in a bodybuilding competition (she’s ripped). The last fellow to answer was the most caught off guard. We thought of Resolutions for him, but concluded that honestly he didn’t need one. Resolutions are like freckles. Sure, they look cute & pretty & distinctive, and you might want them- but you don’t need them. Similarly a Resolution is a fine thing to have, but you’re not missing anything by not having one.

I had the same conversation a day later with my family as we sat down for the first supper or 2018. My brother went first, and with wild-eyed excitement told us that he wanted to try a new hobby, something completely new, exotic, and challenging like Kendo, ballroom dancing, or amateur dramatics. My mom went second, and opted for the becoming less-reliant-on-chocolate-to-get-through-the-day route. When it was my dad’s turn, he answered with a stony face and a gruff voice “I don’t believe in Resolutions.”

Then it was my turn. As the eyes around the table fell on me, I thought about what I wanted from 2018. There were a bunch of areas in my life one might think ripe for a Resolution. This blog for example. What’s the next step for TumbleweedWrites? To reach 1000 subscribers? To blog full-time? The answer is I want this blog to steadily improve, to grow, but I don’t have a specific target in mind for it. I will most likely finish my Study Abroad series of personal essays pretty soon, and I have another big subject lined up for this Spring that will surely feature quite heavily in my writing for this site. More details on that will come very soon.

And what about other aspects of my life? Of course I intend to keep my job and perhaps even get a promotion, but it’s not my Resolution. The same can be said for fitness. I need to lose some of this chub and get my stamina back, but once again, that’s not my main ambition for the year. Those of you hoping for a Mrs Tumbleweed to emerge sometime soon will also be disappointed, because getting a girlfriend is not my focus either. If Mrs Right comes along then that’s swell, but I have decided that I’m not going to treat being single as some kind of problem. I need my energy for writing, and I’m not prepared to enter into a relationship that isn’t organic and natural. So I won’t be reinstalling Tinder or hitting the bars.

I would say that my main objective for the year is to find a literary agent for my novel, which (judging by my current rate) ought to be finished by February sometime. But I don’t think it’s helpful for a writer to worry about something beyond his or her control. Maybe it will get represented, maybe it will get published, maybe it will be on shelves at a bookstore near you- but none of those are things I can really control. At that point your manuscript is in the hands of other people. All a writer can do is write. I hope to write at least one other novel before the end of the year, so that’s a more interesting and worthwhile target I think. Finish the current novel and write a second one.

But truly, my New Year’s Resolution is much more personal than anything I have listed above. Mental health is my primary concern. I’ve spent the last 24 hours deep in thought. I’m reevaluating my progress as a person, and I’ve realized that I’m far from where I want to be. Anxiety is a part of me for better or for worse, and I know I want to manage that better. A panic attack is a wake-up call- a reminder that however much I might feel like I’m doing better, I can slip right down to rock bottom at a moment’s notice. I think my Resolution will be trying to become more self-sufficient, more mentally strong and to be able to handle things on my own. I’m still too much of a people-pleaser, I still compromise too much, I’m passive, and lacking in confidence in the moments when I need to back myself the most. This year I hope to be as thoroughly myself as I can possibly be. And this post here is where it starts. My blog has always been a way to hold myself accountable, and TumbleweedWrites will serve as a record of my progress. When I look back on this post in December, what will I think?

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My Year in Review: 2017

I’m not sure what I expected from 2017, except more of the same. The same half-hearted attempts at being productive; moments of inspiration that disappeared as quickly as they came- little flashes in the great gray amorphous cloud of boredom and lethargy. The same desperate attempts to recapture isolated instances of joy, which similarly flashed briefly out of a default state of depression. I was in the mindset that nothing would ever change, for better or for worse. That I was being railroaded from one year to the next, that life existed only for me to watch- and not to create. Every year I make a resolution, but there’s always an underlying belief that I don’t have the strength, knowledge, or willpower to follow through. Each year seemed like running the same race over and over again, that I was a greyhound bolting after a rabbit that I would never attain. I’d never read all the awesome novels of the world, I’d never finally finish writing my own, I’d never meet that perfect, “wife-material” lady (somewhere between Emilia Clarke and Hannah Witton), I’d never achieve a more balanced, contented mood.

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In fact, the year started on a rather uninspiring note. I went to a New Year’s party and whilst the party itself was fun, I got pretty drunk and whenever that happens my anxiety levels really spike. I tend to peak ahead of everyone else, before suffering some kind of anxiety attack that snowballs into the morning and the rest of the week. I don’t get hangovers or anything like that, but I have a tendency whenever I drink a lot to get depressed and strangely paranoid. For the first two months of the year I didn’t do anything at all- I couldn’t sleep, I was tired all the time, and I hardly moved. But beginning with March, things seemed to get better, and the year presented me with a few surprises and a decent number of highlights to look back upon. So here’s my Year in Review for 2017:

 

  • I finally got around to passing my driving test after stopping and starting my lessons over a two and a half year period. It was a huge relief because I was close to the point where it had been two years since I passed my theory test, and if I were to fail my road test on my fourth attempt back in February, then I would have had to retake the theory exam, and I can’t think of anything more disheartening than sitting through that piece of shit again. I may have given up on the whole idea of driving altogether and waited instead for those fancy self-driving hovercrafts to take the market by storm.
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  • I had the honor of serving as the wedding photographer for my best friend Elizabeth as she married her soul mate in Witney, UK. It was an awesome experience, not just shooting the wedding, but being included in such an intimate way in the craziest week ever as my American family completely overwhelmed this quaint English village in the countryside.
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  • I got my first pair of glasses this year, after noticing that I couldn’t make out the score when watching Chelsea games or the subtitles when watching Downfall. It was really sudden how my long-distance eyesight deteriorated.
  • I started this very website, and so far it’s grown to be longer than The Hobbit. I’m real happy with myself for writing something over 100,000 words and not getting bored of it. The response from my friends and subscribers has been so encouraging, and it’s moments of kindness like those that have been the best part of the blogging experience.
  • As the year started to improve with Elizabeth’s wedding, I noticed that I was on something of a happy-streak. For once my mood seemed solid, as though I could rely on myself to be happy on a day-to-day basis. It was the first time I could actually remember feeling happy in a permanent sense. I know that sounds hyperbolic, but I genuinely had never felt that sense of being happy for no reason. My mind was clear. I told Aaron and said “Maybe I don’t need the pills anymore.”
    He replied, “Don’t you think it might be that the pills are working?”
    Aaron was right. I had started out on Prozac in November 2015, before switching to Citalopram in the New Year, and doubling the dosage a few months later. It’s the kind of drug that takes an affect after a long period of use, and 2016 saw little progress except for making me ravenously hungry. So I decided to stay on the pills after my doctor told me there were no drawbacks to doing so, and that it was entirely about how comfortable I was with them in my life. 2017 has been an amazing year for my mental health; I feel happier, more productive, and I have completely stopped dwelling on mistakes, failures and depressing memories. For once I’m looking forward and I actually want myself to succeed.
  • Following up on that point, this year has seen me approach food in an entirely different way. Not just my attitude toward eating, but the very mechanics of doing so. I can now drink without looking down (something I figured was due to my fear of barfing). I don’t spend forever chewing, I eat quicker, and I eat more. Two years ago I weighed 139lbs (9.9 stone) and now I’m about 190lbs (13.5 stone). At the rate I’m going I’m gonna turn into Jabba the Hutt if I don’t swap the cheesecakes for some kale. As soon as I walked through the door to the doctor’s office this year, my doctor exclaimed “Woah, you look different!”
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  • I spent the summer in Texas with my best friends Aaron and Anne-Marie. It was my fifth period of living in the USA and the fourth summer in a row of living with the two lovebirds. It was the only summer in which I was able achieve a near-perfect balance between productivity and fun, between personal growth and social success. Highlights of my stay include tagging along to Aaron and Ann-Marie’s engagement photos, making an ass-ton of food for the NBA Draft, having the best July 4th yet poolside at a swanky apartment complex, gaining experience of sales and solar energy, making pumpkin bars with Anne-Marie, playing with our border collie Adelaide, and going to the beach on Galveston Island.
  • I started drinking coffee this year and now I don’t know how I ever managed without it. My whole schedule is built on caffeine.
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  • I have worked two jobs. Before the summer I worked as a cleaner at a bar in Nailsea. It was a pretty awful job cleaning up puke and sprayed fecal matter, but I’ll definitely carry that experience with me for life. After the summer I started working in the kitchen of a Middle-Earth-style tavern, also in Nailsea. So far I have quite enjoyed it. It’s frenetic and intense, but it’s an interesting environment. Shout out to my friend Daniel for getting me the job and going out of his way on my behalf.
  • Lastly, I have finally committed to writing an extended piece of fiction, instead of the poems and short stories I have been working on since graduation. At the moment I’m writing a novel and it’s going quite well. It’s already the longest thing I’ve written in over a decade, since that 250-page novel I wrote when I was 14 about wizards fighting sentient robots.

Thank you so much for reading and supporting my blog! It means the world to me. Let me know in the comments if you have any targets for 2018 and what you’ve learned from the year just passed.

How to Create a Schedule and Get Out of a Slump

A great way to get yourself out of a slump is to create a schedule- whether you’re a writer or not. But it’s not as straightforward as I once thought. The trick is to turn that schedule into a lifestyle; doing it so many times that the components become as unconscious and effortless as the day-to-day rituals of showering or brushing your teeth. I’m going to use my progress this year as an example, because the only way to learn how to improve is by looking back.

I wrote a few weeks ago how the most important quality to defeating lethargy and procrastination is your Bouncebackability. You’re gonna fail and fail until you get it right. But the key to getting it right is to examine those failures, because each one holds the secret to success. Your failures are the best resources you have.

I’ve tried so many times over the years to set a schedule for myself but they just never seemed to stick. My thinking was that inevitably each one would crumble because I’m an inherently lazy person, and that the best strategy was to just keep initiating the same schedule. Sure, there were a few tweaks here and there, but each one was hopelessly set up to fail- like a house made of garlic bread.

The first and most important rule to creating a schedule is not to set yourself up for failure. I know that might sound obvious, but what I mean is don’t be over-ambitious at the start of your journey. If the schedule is too punishing, you’ll slip back into laziness. And that brings us to the second rule- implement a schedule that feels like a lifestyle and not a list of chores. Traditionally all my schedules were based off of the Pomodoro method. I broke up the day into regimented slots of about 30 minutes each. The problem came when I wasn’t hitting my targets as effectively as I wanted. But how did I realize this?

During the three-day lifespans of these schedules, I would be happy and satisfied because my thinking was “I might not be smashing every task, but at least I’m getting something done”. My thought process was that some writing is better than none at all. When 2017 started I wasn’t optimistic. I was in a rut. I stayed up all hours of the night, and generally I felt disgusted with my life. Change was an impossible dream. So when I got around to implementing schedules, they did help me to get out of that depressive state, because by comparison they made me feel like I was doing something worthwhile.

But the schedules never lasted. I had made some progress, but now I was stagnating. And here we return to the wise words of Jabari Parker. In the Sports Illustrated video I mentioned earlier this week, he stresses the importance of giving everything 110%. When we use that phrase we tend not to think about it too much. It’s often dismissed as some kind of idiomatic, uplifting cliché. But what the concept of giving 110% refers to is what athletes call “Overload”. Jabari tells the school children that the 10% extra is absolutely crucial to making your ambitions come true. It’s about pushing yourself and not getting comfortable.

And that essentially is how I changed my schedule. I realized I wasn’t giving the 10% extra. I was living a more productive life, spiced up by three-day spurts of regimented and scheduled work- but I was resting on my laurels. Progress had slowed and I realized that if I wanted to get to where I wanted to be, I had to increase my output. I had to work harder and faster. Simply being productive was not enough anymore. Now it was about urgency, about living as if I only had a year to live at all. That was the moment I started looking back on my schedules with a view to changing them entirely.

To reach your goals and achieve real change in your life, you need to have an evolving schedule. This is where we get specific. One thing that wasn’t working for me with my Pomodoro-esque day planners were the time slots I devoted to coming up with story ideas. Sometimes ideas come tumbling out and sometimes they don’t. And setting aside time to come up with killer ideas for novels, poems, songs (or whatever it is you are working on) is inherently problematic. You can sit there and think really hard but you can’t force the lightning to strike. Deciding that it’s time to come up with ideas is a surefire way for a writer to give him or herself an overwhelming sense of anxiety, stress and self-doubt. If the 30-minute time slot ended and I hadn’t come up with anything, I’d panic because I had to continue the day-planner and the dedicated time for story ideas was lost. The whole schedule would seem tainted because one of the listed targets was not hit.

Looking back on my diaries this week I saw so many entries from 2010 that read “Sat for ages trying to come up with story ideas, and after realizing that the precious hours of the day were dwindling, I gave up and played Age of Empires 2. Day wasted”. So I looked back on these problems and thought about how to fix them. First I asked myself where ideas come from. Well they either strike at random moments, or they happen when I’m reading. The more I read fiction, the more ideas for fictional stories I get. The same holds true for movie ideas, songs, et cetera I imagine. It makes sense after all. So what I’ve been doing recently is reading with a notebook on hand. I read until I get an idea, and when I run out of ideas I resume reading instead of sitting there stressing out. So far the results have been amazing.

Another trick to living a productive lifestyle is to know the best conditions for your success and to replicate them. I do best when I get up early. If I get out of bed with the whole day ahead of me, I’m happy. I write best in the mornings. I know a lot of writers- such as Anne Tyler for instance- do their writing from about 8am-2pm. I need to be happy to write and I need to write to be happy. Simple right? Well my problem for a while has been simply getting out of bed. When the year started I was a night owl, and when I woke up I was severely depressed and lacking in motivation because half my day was gone. I was tired and groggy all the time, despite the medication I’ve been taking for over a year that’s supposed to help. So I looked back on that and thought how best to turn things around.

During my summer in Texas my roommates and I would all get up early and make coffee. I wanted to be a caffeine drinker but I knew I didn’t really like the taste. Luckily, my friends sorted me out.

“My fiancée makes a mean coffee,” Aaron said, and on the first morning of the summer Anne-Marie brought me a coffee lovingly made with almond creamer, caramel syrup and a bit of sugar. A work of art. I tried it and it was the first time coffee ever tasted good. And what ended up happening with coffee was what I always hoped would happen with alcohol- that the more I drank it, the more I’d like it. I started off trying to replicate Anne-Marie’s sweet coffees, and week by week started making them stronger. By the end of the summer I was able to drink black coffee and I didn’t even need it to be warm either.

Every morning that summer was spent waking up early, making a coffee, and eating a large apple whilst reading novels and snuggling with our pup. I’ve managed to replicate those conditions now (except for the dog, sadly) and it works. Without coffee, having a productive day was a lottery. If I woke up groggy I would find it hard to do much. So I got myself a coffee maker and now I’ve established a routine aimed at recreating the environment that saw the happiest period of my life. I wake up early every morning, make coffee, go on a brisk walk, and come back to drink it, eat my apple, and begin my strategy of reading and jotting down ideas. The great thing about coffee is that it gets rid of my grogginess, and so incorporating it into my life permanently has seen some excellent results. I’m chasing what Theodore Roosevelt called The Strenuous Life. I want to pull the moon down from the sky. I don’t want to play the game- I want to win it. I encourage you to be aggressive with your writing (or whatever it is you are pursuing). Learn from the past, and approach each day like Jabari Parker flying down the lane to crush a tomahawk dunk.

Seizing the Day

It’s time for another spontaneous post. Last night I unearthed my old journals. I have four diaries, covering four periods of my life: spring/summer 2010, fall 2010, winter 2011, and winter 2015. They all make for depressing reading, and it’s interesting to look back on them and see me try and make sense of myself. It seems I spent a lot of time trying to understand just who I was; a lot of entries ask the question “What is wrong with me?”

The process of reading these journals was a little nauseating. I wrote about how each day blurred into the next, how time slipped me by, and how powerless I felt. I’d sit at my desk thinking of ways to be productive, before giving in and merely “passing the time”. I was desperate to do something with my life. I felt like I had nothing of any worth, no life at all. It makes me realize just how significant 2017 has been in regards to my personal growth.

But why blog about the discovery of these old diaries? Isn’t this all personal? Couldn’t this be worked out in a new journal? Yes, I suppose it could. But to analyze my growth as a person is not the point of this post. Why do I blog at all? Because I want my experience to touch others. I see my personal blog posts as contributing to a pool of human experience. At the end of the day I can only offer my own experiences and perceptions. I can’t tell you why you think the way you do, or what your experiences mean. But we can share our experiences to the benefit of all- we can find aggregate truths. If I was only concerned with my own therapy, I’d hit up the journal. I want to learn from others, and I want others to learn from me. We gain greater understanding by sharing with one another. My experiences are valid because I felt them, I went through them- and the same is true for you. No information we share is useless.

Every morning I go on a brisk walk where I think about the day’s targets. Today I told myself that every day I should leave a legacy of some kind. What am I going to do today that contributes to my dreams? I like the idea of adding a brick every day to an ongoing construction project. And as I said this to myself, I thought about the diary entries I read last night and the times I spent worrying that each day was wasted. Seizing the day seemed impossible back then. Now I have the urgency and sense of purpose I’ve always wanted. I’m not so much like a hesitant foal weighing up the decision to ford a river. I know it might sound corny, but I genuinely hope this blog can serve to inspire others to navigate the pitfalls of lethargy, self-loathing and depression.

This week I’m taking my inspiration from Jabari Parker- one of my favorite basketball players. My roommate Aaron linked me to a Sports Illustrated video where he talks to a bunch of school kids. Aside from being a dynamic power-forward, Jabari is also a wise and articulate speaker. In the video (the link of which I shall post below), he tells the children that the key to achieving their dreams is to transform those long-term ambitions into day-to-day targets. What can I do today to help me get to where I want to be? It’s a sheer coincidence that the day after I watched this video, I ended up unearthing my old journals and seeing how relevant his advice was to the troubles I had back then. Jabari talks about commitment, getting up early, and giving everything that 10% extra effort. I’ve realized myself that whatever you do, you need that urgency. I hope I’m getting through to you. I’ll publish another post later this week about some specific methods I use to stay on track. For now, have yourself a badass Wednesday!

Click here to see the full Jabari Parker video!

Adelaide’s Story

I was wondering, as I went on my run this morning, how best to tackle this post. It’s been wet all week but it hasn’t rained. A thick and creamy mist has surrounded the valley in which I live and it’s been hard to tell where the mist ends and the colorless sky begins. It makes the sky seem lower, the horizon nearer. It’s left me with the dreamy quality of being at the bottom of the ocean, as though the sky might crack and I’d be washed away. Today, however, it’s been bright and cloudless. It’s cold, but the sky is blue. I figured the time was right. I made my usual turn where the edge of town is separated by a lonely road from the pastures of sheep, and thought to myself: this post shouldn’t be difficult to write at all. And yet it is. So I might as well start at the beginning.

When they found Adelaide, she was a nameless Border Collie living in the streets of some Mississippi town, barely a few months old. She was rescued and ended up in the Bay Area of Wisconsin where they hoped someone would take her in. And someone did. That someone was my long-suffering American roommate Aaron, who got Adelaide as a Christmas gift for his soon-to-be fiancée Anne-Marie. I didn’t meet the pupper until the summer of 2016 when the three of us got back from our travels in Europe.

It’s hard to talk about just how profoundly this dog has affected me. It might be something like “masculine pride”, or perhaps it’s a deeper issue I have with seeming weak. But I thought to myself on my walk this morning, what the hell kind of psychological issues do I have if I’m equating love with weakness? When I got the news last year that Adelaide had contracted Dirofilaria immitis, I was broken. Like so many vile entities in this world, the heartworm is spread by the bites of mosquitoes. More than likely it happened during her days as a street dog in the muggy bayous of Mississippi. But that wasn’t important. What I wanted to know was how we were going to take care of our girl.

For the better part of a year Adelaide (also known as “Pun’kin”, “Toots”, or simply “Addie”) has been on a strict regimen of heart medication to help kill the parasite. We had no idea how long the heartworm had been inside her, or how advanced the infection was, but we hoped against hope that the pills would save her. I was shocked by how depressed the news of her illness made me. I found it hard to justify why I was so withdrawn and humorless after the diagnosis. I had never experienced this kind of love, and for a few weeks I entered a kind of grief that touched every part of my behavior, drive and body language. In those days, I was still in recovery after a series of depressive “episodes”. I hadn’t found my rhythm yet. I was still searching for a reason to want to stay alive. And after Addie’s diagnosis I became consumed with morbid thoughts that the unthinkable might happen. I also worried that, if the medication was successful, would Addie still be the same afterwards?

The pills were only a part of what she went through. Her diet changed. She had to stay indoors more so she didn’t get too excited. She lost a ton of weight. She spent the majority of her time sleeping and resting. She couldn’t play like she used to. I went back to see Adelaide this year, desperate to get in as much time with her as possible in case something awful were to happen. I never conveyed this in so many words; I had to try and support her parents- my best friends- and manage my anxiety accordingly. By the time I returned to Texas, she was in the final stage of recovery. I was glad to see that Adelaide was still Toots. What I mean by that it is, she had retained the aspects of her personality that had earned those nicknames.

But who is Tootie and what makes her so special?

She’s an extremely active dog by nature. It’s not just that she’s got so much energy that makes her so lovable, but it’s that this energy is always channeled through excitement. She can jump as high as my chin. She loves squirrels and she loves the birds. When the neighborhood kids see her they tell us how she is the sweetest dog around, and she obligingly lets them pet her.

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She loves belly rubs. Baby girl will spread herself across your lap as you scratch her pinky underbelly and massage her floppy ears.

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This dog acts like it’s your birthday every time she sees you. When I wake up, she’s waiting outside my door and jumps up and down, and climbs up the side of my body for a scratch. When her mom comes home from work, she practically explodes with excitement, watching her out the window and sprinting around the house until Anne-Marie comes through the door.

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Addie Cakes loves unconditionally. If you are sad or sick she will curl up like a donut at your side and watch over you. She bestows little blessings in the form of doggie-kisses. She treats her dad like a climbing frame and it reminds me of a bear cub having drank a scavenged gallon of blackcurrant Fanta and jumping all over their weary papa bear getting him to play with her. She lets her mom dress her up in cutesy outfits and will dance with her in the evenings as she sings “A-meri-can pup”.

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When I came back, Addie was still the same. As the summer went on she became more and more active. Her recovery was finished but it would be several months before we knew if it had worked or not. We took her out to the dog parks of Houston and let her run free for the first time in months. She was growing happy and strong.

Eventually I returned to the United Kingdom. The time for her blood test approached and I could feel my anxiety ramping up. It’s been a difficult October for a variety of reasons. I’ve seen a real threat to my progress manifest in several simultaneous concerns, both emotional and creative. The looming test results made everything worse. I felt myself unconsciously preparing for grief. Now the tragedy of it all felt very real. The idea that our world could be turned on its head in a few days was a strange thing to process. I’m not sure I’ve really experienced anything like it.

Last night the results of Adelaide’s blood test came back.

She had tested Negative. The heartworm was gone. Take that you piece of Mosquito filth! Our little pup will now live a long and healthy life. What has been a difficult month (for a variety of reasons) is ending on a very positive note. It’s strange to think of this event as a kind of bifurcation. We were at a crossroads and thankfully we didn’t end up on a road that would have been extremely difficult and damaging. When you love someone deeply, they have a power over you. You are invested in everything they do; their misfortune becomes a devastating force to your own journey. It kind of reminds me of a post I wrote when I was in Greece on the nature of Philia, and how the happiness of your loved ones becomes your own happiness. The same is true with its opposite. Allowing yourself to love is a risk, but I’m sure one that many would argue is worth taking.

Bouncing Back

Today I let my legs do my thinking for me. I had a lot to work out on this morning’s walk and I wondered if my route was going to be long enough. Walking helps to clear my head but it’s only really the beginning of the day’s therapy; at some point you have to come back hit the day’s targets. This morning, tropical winds brought the dust and debris from the Iberian forest fires and obfuscated the sun’s wavelength of blue light. This caused the sun to rise a deep red, before going a sharp, neon orange- a perfect circle, and ultimately settling into an indistinct, shapeless and colorless blast. It’s beautiful, even though it comes from a place of suffering. The universe is a wholly ambivalent thing, but there is so much poetry in violent skies.

I tried not to look at the sun and pressed ahead. My legs felt weak and starved of proper use. They were reminding me that I hadn’t used them all weekend. I thought about how often I’ve been here- trying to restart my rhythm. Recently I’ve been waking up depressed, and when I have a bad start to the day it’s hard to turn it into something. I’m not entirely sure what it is, but for weeks now I’ve sensed the coiling tentacles of anxiety tighten their grip. I’ve felt immobilized. It’s been a while since I’ve had a panic attack, and 2017 has largely been a year of recovery. Hell, this blog wouldn’t even be possible if it weren’t.

What’s been so frustrating recently is that this latest dark cloud has been so hard to shake off. I’ve come to terms with the fact that there will be good weeks and bad ones, but this most recent episode has proven a resilient obstacle to my progress. Life just seems so heavy. I’m cursed with regular headaches and I’m not advancing on any of my projects. It’s not the problem I had in 2015 and 2016, where I simply didn’t want to even attempt to help myself and struggled to find the most simple reason to get out of bed and try something. Now I have ambitions. I actually want to live. The problem I have right now is enacting those ambitions.

It’s been a bit of a turbulent month as far as my work goes. I’ve been unsatisfied with the pace of my progress, and I’ve tried a few times to shake things up. I know I’m not happy with the way things are. I’m angry at myself for my lack of willpower and my failure to really get going on these projects. However, as I reached the final third of my walk this morning, a thought occurred to me. My legs were indeed telling me something. My sense of physical weakness reflected what was going on inside. My legs taught me that the most important part of a vigorous, productive lifestyle is bouncing back. The quicker the better. I’m tired of building momentum from scratch. If I’m exercising every day, then my body adapts to the routine. A single activity- be it a morning’s walk or anything else- becomes easier when it’s in the context of an ongoing routine. And it’s the same with writing or anything else you’re trying to do. Whenever you are designing a productive schedule, be sure to include a failsafe. Going forward I’m going to try and do a better job of bouncing back. Life will inevitably get in the way and sometimes you’ll just run out of steam. The important thing- the most important thing in my opinion- is the swiftness of your response.

Thematically you can consider this post a kind of sequel to my essay Notes on Productivity & Procrastination, in which I list a few tricks to help get yourself out of a rut and start being creative and productive. But in all honestly, this is more a spiritual successor to my post on The Love of Friendship. I like to think of it as a journal entry that I share with you; something unplanned and unstructured- a “thought of the day”. I intend to release more of these whenever the mood strikes me; they’re going to be short, spontaneous posts that detail my journey.

Thanks for reading!