Ah, the fresh smell of a shiny new year. I do love a good fresh start.
I spent some time reflecting on how the last few years have changed me, and I think I came up with an interesting metaphor. Let’s try it on here. In 2018, I got my ish together, stopped meandering, stopped playing like everything was indifferent to me, and I really started climbing the proverbial rope of achievement. I was one whole me climbing towards what I wanted personally (personal goals and achievements), physically (body composition, triathlon, etc), and professionally.
In 2020, when the world shut down, it’s like I fractured into three pieces. Physical me just let go of the rope and crashed to the ground. I went from (for me) prime athletic condition to feeling like a dumpster on fire. Personal me kinda stalled out on the rope a bit, swung myself up to an alcove, hung out there a bit, drew on the walls, sang a few songs to myself, etc. Professional me watched those two idiots and though, “No, we can’t ALL screw up, I guess it’s up to me.” And that one, unfettered by the others, climbed really fast and really far and she’s at the summit, waving at the others, waiting for them to catch up.
After the year of being lost (hey, it was 2020, it was all the rage), personal me got back on track in early 2021 climbing that rope. I certainly can’t say I spent the year of the pandemic doing nothing, far from it, but it was a really weird one and my steps back to normalcy included restarting writing here. She’s climbing pretty well now, writing voraciously since the Muse showed back up a year ago, working on lots of various creative personal projects, not completely ignoring her surroundings, doing some kind of adulting things occasionally, and not zoning out to TV or doom scrolling too much. She’s a reasonably functioning human again. She’s also found a middle ground, somewhere between the indifference and the megamaniacal. Not to say there’s no stress (far from it) but she’s getting better at putting things in boxes again and taking them out when it’s useful instead of just staring at all the things all of the time.
In late 2022, physical me got back on the rope after a few false starts, and she’s been slowly, but steadily climbing. In some ways the medication I’m taking that’s helping some physical symptoms and as a side effect, keeping me more even tempered, is also challenging me here. Right now, in terms of weight loss and the scale, it feels like the rope got slicker, more difficult to grip. But slick doesn’t mean unclimbable. I am buoyed by a full year (since Oct 2022) of consistent strength training, and I’ve finally rebuilt my running base with a slow, careful, and consistent increase. I am a strong, functional human with some decent endurance, which is more than I’ve been able to say in the last few years. I’ve established some good habits, and some bad habits, and this year it’s all about encouraging the right ones. We are what we repeatedly do.
So, what am I looking to repeatedly do this year? I used to think I wanted to be the person I was pre-pandemic. That’s not true anymore. In some respects, I wear rose-colored glasses regarding her and frankly, she had her own sins and failings that I gloss over. While I’d kill to have her body, I’d prefer my mind. So, what really do I envy about her?
I miss her relentless ability to keep showing up, even when it was frustrating, even when it was terrifying, walking through the fire, no matter what was in front of her. So, that’s what I’m going to try to embrace this year. Showing up to fight, to climb, to move towards the various things I want until I feel like all my selves feel like one again.
Let’s start with the physical me, since I think she has the farthest to climb, though she certainly is far from the me who crashed to the ground. At the end of 2024, I’d feel over the moon if I could make some serious progress back towards looking and (most importantly) feeling physically fit. Someone who could describe themselves as an athlete again without snickering.
How do we do this? (hey look, specific goals and actions finally!)
#1 Lose 12 lbs or track 365 days of food/5x week weight
I’ve tried to do this a bunch of different ways to no avail. Or some partial avail. But definitely not full avail. In 2024, I’ll set a dual win condition. I’d like to lose 1 lb per month. Easy, right? Hah. I wish. But at least it sounds simple. The other way I succeed here is relentlessly tracking my metrics and balancing my calories in/out. Showing up every day to face the scale and own up to my decisions, good or bad. The latter will beget the former, as I’ve seen in the past.
I will do this by doing all the same things I’ve been doing, so I won’t belabor the point, it’s just that I’m committed to do this for 365 days without fail. One additional goal: to cut down on my favorite brown relaxant (whiskey). Besides being empty calories, it’s been a crutch as a cue to cut loose and relax and destress a little. I need to establish other ways to do that, the choice isn’t always “have drinks or go to bed at 8:30pm like you’re 70 years old”. I will do this by remembering there are other fun and relaxing things to do after work (games! going to a movie! probably a million other things!) and measuring out the number of drinks I’m willing to have before I do imbibe (so as to not break my calorie bank).
#2 Continue to earn my right to run
In this, my fourteenth season of doing triathlons and fifteenth doing running races, I realize that my goals and interests ebb and flow here over the years. I am honestly not sure where I’ll be, or frankly, where I’ll be interested in being in December 2024. I do know this – keeping my “runner” card is one of the most important things for my happiness, health, and sanity, so I’m going to focus my goals here on keeping that membership and maybe trying to move up to gold status or something.
In 2024 I will show up each day/week to do:
- 3x week, strength training. This is, and will always be henceforth, priority #1. There is no running without weights. Me without weights is an injured, broken me.
- Consistent recovery. I need to hit at least two recovery methods (boots, ice, stretch, roll) per day, and shouldn’t go more than 2-3 days without hitting each one (e.g. I need to stretch 3x week not just do the boots/ice every day since it’s easy). There is no consistent running without recovery.
- Run 3x week. Yep, third priority behind strength and recovery. I want to run longer in the seasons with nice weather, shorter in the summer when I split my focus to triathlon but show up even if the weather suuuuucks (and remember that I have a treadmill half a mile down the street).
- Keep walking on non-running days until it gets hot as balls and then do those low intensity miles on the trainer to compensate the lack of steps even though it’s way less fun.
- Once running gets shorter, pick up cycling and swimming again. Do these at least 1-2 times a week each when it’s time.
Races? I’d like to do at least one official half-marathon (and run the whole way), and the same three triathlons I did this year. Would it be cool to hit some other races? Yeah. Maybe a 5k or 10k? Possibly.
How about some speedwork instead of just heading out to do 10:30-10:45 min/miles no matter how short or long they are? That’d be cool too. But again, right now I’m focusing on keeping my body in good condition so I can show up consistently to keep doing the things I want to do.
Let’s move onto the personal. Like I said, she’s more or less back on track after the great meandering which was the pandemic, and the great work/life imbalance, which was during and immediately after. I feel like the non-professional, non-athlete aspects of identity are mostly intact. The way I judge this is imagine introducing myself to someone without mentioning my job or that I did an Ironman.
“Hi, nice to meet you. Me? I really enjoy running, lifting weights, and taking long walks – in beautiful places when I can – but if not, just getting my errands done on foot brings me great joy. When I can, I snap tons of photographs in interesting places and edit them later and post them on Facebook to annoy and confuse people about where I’m currently located. Oh, yeah, I paint sometimes too, when the mood strikes. My goal when I was little was to fill my house with my own paintings someday, and while I’m definitley not there, I’ve got about 20 canvases hung. I finally got some inspiration and started working on a novel about my silly genderfluid bard from a previous D&D campaign last year and I’m rounding the bend on book 2, and I’m casually playing in a few different current campaigns. I play games for either 5 minutes or 5000 hours, and my current more-than-5-minute addictions are Bloodbowl and Peglin.”
In previous years, I couldn’t have called myself so well-rounded. In a world where a fulfilling job and a time-consuming hobby like racing is probably more than enough for many, I’m happy to have other sides of me to fall back on should either of those come crumbling down (like with racing during the pandemic).
One thing I haven’t done so well at – pre- or post- pandemic – is adulting. Some people are so good at this, and as an achiever, I should be so excited to check things off my list but I’d much rather go run 10 miles than call around and get bathroom quotes or find a tax person or clean out the freezer. Often, I HAVE employed that tactic of filling my time with other things so I had a good excuse not to deal with it (I’m training for a half-ironman, I’m busy, I’ll clean out my closet later). Since it’s the most challenging to me, I’m starting there. In 2024 I will:
#3 Adulting Stuff
- Complete the kitchen cleanout – we did the pantry, just need to do the fridge/freezer.
- Redo the Master Bath. If that goes well, maybe replace the tub in the guest bath.
- Finish the great bedroom/bathroom cleanout. We made such great progress over break, there’s just a little more to go.
- Get some quotes and get someone to do the work.
- Project: move Joel’s office to the guest room.
- Move the storage at the end of the bed in the guest room to the bedroom.
- Clear all the rest of the furniture out of the guest room.
- Determine whether we need to store one of the beds in the attic (would prefer if we can do it without).
- Turn Joel’s current desk (in my office) into a retro gaming corner with the new consoles we just acquired/store any unused crap in the closet.
- Get the garage back to a place where two cars can fit in it, not using one side as the recycling station/storage/staging area.
These are big, shared projects that I can’t just do on my own, so my success is tied to Joel’s motivation here too. My goal will be to be as motivated and helpful as I can so we can tackle them together.
My sub-goal is to notice when clutter starts to pile up on/in things and try to spend at least a few hours a month just getting stuff that is no longer useful or enjoyable to own from places where it has gone to disappear and die for years. For example, I cleaned out my shoe closet last week so I could offer Joel some space there. I’m sitting here eyeing our coffee table which has a bunch of storage, and I have NO idea what’s in almost any of it. Little stuff like that.
Also, a few other non-house-related things:
- Get a dedicated accountant to help us with money stuff. I’m sick of paying penalties because I’m lazy and not employing experts to help me.
- Frame more of the art in the tube of death. We do, in fact, have wall spaces and I have room in my office.
And, now back to the fun stuff. The things that bring me joy and fulfillment, not dread and annoyance.
#4 Staying Happy and Well-Rounded
My first goal here is to not confuse work travel with vacation. I made that mistake this year and it bit me in the posterior. I will travel once a quarter for personal reasons, and I won’t take stupid half days during it so I can make meetings and check my email and teams all throughout it. If I have to do that, it doesn’t count. Like I tell my people, paid vacation time is a perk, and it’s not intended to mean you’re not in the office but still tied to your devices.
We’ve got nothing booked, but some intentions:
- Likely somewhere for my birthday in March. Vegas?
- Bonaire in May-ish. It’s been too dang long since I did a dive trip.
- Somewhere in Europe after anticipated work travel in Sept. Maybe a cruise to get a taste of a bunch of different places?
Our only camping plans right now are our yearly Krause Springs and Kerrville long weekends. I think we’re both a little frustrated with the camper and want less work with our time away. It’s something to think on a more permanent solution, but maybe not solve this year.
In terms of all my various and sundry hobbies, I’m going to set two actual goals:
- Finish Book 3 in 2024 and have a loose roadmap through the end. I’m making this a goal because this has become one of my favorite things I’m most proud right now. It was something super intimidating to me and I relentlessly started showing up and writing through the uncertainty. I’m at the point of “despair” in Book 2 – meandering, rudderless, crappy first draft words about 2/3rds of the way through with no clear vision how it ends. But I conquered it once, and I’ll conquer this one again. And again.
- Finally edit the damn Paris pictures by the end of 2024. Yep, I said it. I’ve been putting it off since it’s THOUSANDS each day to sort through. I keep clearing other projects first, saying I’ll get to it. I’ll never be that caught up. It’s next after I finish Germany.
Other than this, I’ll just set some intentions:
- I started a London At Night series of paintings and I picked things that intimidate me (a perfect circle, they all have perspective, etc). I want to tackle these this year, and spend some time on the fiddly bits, working on improving my technique not just finish them and move on (quality over quantity).
- I’m not sure I need any special motivations to keep taking photos, editing them, and posting travel blogs, but I’ll mention that I want to because it makes me happy.
- I meant to get really into a bunch of different games, but instead, I started playing Peglin, this rogue-lite peggle game that Joel’s played for 125 hours and watching the Great Brittish Baking Show. Somehow it feels less legitimate than playing something like Baulder’s Gate III or Persona 5 (neither of which I touched over break), but it’s better than just noping out because I don’t want something serious or that I have to put my full attention on. I’ll just state this intention: play more games. Even if it’s just Peglin. 🙂
- Get back to playing guitar. No specific interval or goals. It’s just a really nice monofocus activity and a great break from work and relaxes me.
And finally, how do we keep track of all this? We keep metrics for the important stuff. I’m trying the absolute lowest-tech method (along with all the other ways I track):
Yep, I’m going to the good old piece of paper and pen, like a heathen, and giving myself proverbial gold stars by writing down the things that I show up to each day (and what I miss). It’ll be my accountability for my consistency. And consistency will finally bring together the pieces in places I feel I’ve been lacking.