Time…What We Make Of It

Wow, if last year showed how slow time can be, then this year is poised to do the exact opposite. An insurrection, inauguration, vaccine distribution and rollout finally making headway, new virus variants emerging, celebrity scandals, political scandals, financial scandals, billions lost and gained in a (legal?) massive market manipulation: all this, so much more, and January has not yet even passed. If this is any indication of what is to come, 2021 is not playing around and going full blown from the onset. Still, the question is, in these ridiculous early days what have you managed to accomplish?

Because that is the rub, right? Even with everything that has happened and will continue to occur, we still made plans, declared goals, and are still solely responsible for our own actions and progress. Maybe your plans were derailed a bit already. Maybe you are perfectly set and still going. You may have hit a wall already on that reading goal. Or stalled on learning that new skill. Or writing that book. Screenplay. Pilot. Starting that podcast. Maybe all you have accomplished so far this year is just surviving the shit that is going on in the world. And you know what, that is enough.

Progress is progress, and, as annoying at times as it may be, the journey of growth and evolution is continuous. Wherever you are on that path, just keep going. We all miss a workout, eat a pizza instead of a salad, miss a deadline, and fall short in some way even if it is just of our own expectations. So what? Who cares? Just keep going. Whatever goal you had for this year has just started. There are still 11 months left worth of time for you to make choices, act, and work toward whatever you want or need.

Sand falling through a closed hand. A watch on said hand with the face shown to viewer.
Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

Will you complete every single goal you put forth? Honestly, I don’t know. You might. You might not. But, again, progress is progress. If you only lost 10 pounds instead of the 30 you wanted to, that is still 10 pounds. Only wrote 20,000 words instead of the 50,000 you set. Guess what? That is still 20K more than you had before. Take solace in the small victories. Fortify yourself and your ego with the progress you made and continue to make.

I didn’t accomplish everything I set out for this month, but there is still time. And I checked more off my list than I left on. So, I will enjoy that. Pick myself up, dust off, and keep going. I hope you do the same, and that we all do all we can to…

Be Better

Community

Humans are social creatures by nature. The whole “lone wolf” theory or mystique was, and is, an idiotic marketing ploy that greatly, and purposely, misunderstood the research and nature of the animals and systems that were being studied. This is not a new phenomenon. Think of any history lesson or story you have been told or learned of. They all, virtually, focused on a single individual, or at best a group of specific people, instead of the masses that actually enabled the change, event, or movement that is discussed.

Black King piece standing while surrounded by fallen or laid down white chess pieces.
Photo by Gladson Xavier on Pexels.com

Of course, that is not to say that individuals are not worthy of discussion or interest, but that solely focusing on an individual’s contribution is detrimental to fully understanding history and how change truly happens. The best general in history was nothing without the armies amassed. The greatest teacher was nothing without students to learn and dispense the knowledge they held to the world. Any leader worth their salt was nothing without the support, instruction, and guidance of their family, friends, colleagues, and community.

We all need a community, and if we are lucky, we will be part of several throughout our lives. At times, these groups we claim as our own and a part of will intersect, cross over, and disagree. We might leave behind some of these groups just as we grow out of clothes or homes that no longer quite provide what we need. Others, like close friends, we will hold close for the entirety of our lives. Thus is the nature of community: it ebbs and flows, grows and shrinks, keeps us honest and stable just as we attempt to do the same for it.

People huddled around a laptop working together
Photo by Fox on Pexels.com

Which brings it all back to one of the primary reasons I started this site: community. I want to change and make changes this year: physically, mentally, spiritually, financially, basically in all aspects of life. As well, I want to be of help and aid to others while figuring out how to evolve and grow. In order to do so, I need help, guidance, and accountability, or in simpler terms, I would greatly benefit from community.

So, I humbly ask any and all readers for some aid. What resources do you recommend for physical activity, mental health, financial guidance, etc.? Podcasts? Social Accounts? YouTube series? Writers? Blogs? What steps have you taken that worked to improve your lives? Which didn’t necessarily pan out? Really, I welcome any suggestions and hope that you’ll stick around as we, hopefully, figure out how to…

Be Better.

Incremental

Today, in the United States of America, marks the beginning of the first full week of the Biden presidency. (Don’t worry, this is by no means a political post or anything. Just employing a useful analogy) Like, pretty much everyone who ran and served before him, Biden won on specific promises and issues, so people all over the country and across the political spectrum are observing what he does. Accordingly, most people were, and are, anxious about what a new administration will do; some are waiting with renewed hope while others with cautious trepidation. And both are discovering the, somewhat, harsh reality: legitimate, long lasting change takes time and effort.

Now, to be fair, Biden has already passed some major Executive Orders and is in the process of, or at least attempting to, working on his platform. However, the day to day functions of the federal government have also quickly caught up. Frankly, isn’t that how change and growth always happen? How many were excited for the new year, ready to hit the pavement, and get grinding toward the goals they had set? How many of those plans got sidelined because of work, family, relationships, or some other outside force that was not completely accounted for? Or even a surprise that came out of nowhere but is now an obstacle to progress? Or, worst, everything has been going perfectly (eating well, working out daily, practicing mindfulness, etc.) only to realize that not much has actually changed in a month?

Seedling on outstretched palm.
Photo by Akil Mazumder on Pexels.com

Because that is the honest truth. You could do everything absolutely perfect in every conceivable way and still fall short of your goal, assuming you made some progress to begin with. That does not mean that you should not have goals or work toward achieving them, but to be realistic in your desires and the work done to make them reality. Americans are realizing, again for the n-teenth time, that a new authority is simply an opportunity for change. And many who made resolutions and plans for this year are discovering that whatever dreams they had will take time, work, and resources to actually accomplish.

This is not a bad thing. Yes, it is annoying and daunting to realize that losing weight, working on mental health, getting financially stable, etc. are more life long pursuits of ebbs and flows than a quick process with a destination that is achievable in a month, six, or a year. While we celebrate the milestones of progress, evolution is incremental. It is a culmination of every day decisions and actions that go beyond whatever metric we choose to measure at a specific moment.

I do not know what the new administration or new year will bring, how circumstances will change over the next year or four, or predict what possible obstacles will pop up. Instead, I’ll focus on the day to day, making the best choices, and taking fulfillment and insight from the daily actions I take. This is really the only tried and tested method to

Be Better.

Paths – Spirit

Oddly enough, I have a far better and more thorough understanding of spiritual health (by a specific definition of spirit) than mental health; though, not necessarily from a positive upbringing or knowledge. Suffice to say, that my system of spirit is not based on a strict adherence to religious tenets, but more an attempt o enrich and supplement my soul through study of the world and its cultures.

Media

Image of iPad on laptop. Ipad screen has several films and television shows on display to choose from.

Movies, music, television, video games, etc.: we consume so many thousands of hours of media every year. It has to have some sort of impact and influence on us, right?

Well, as someone who strives to create media, I would hope so, and genuinely believe that it does, greatly. I have always enjoyed engaging with various media, and this year will be no different, with one caveat.

I am diversifying my intake. This year, and moving forward, I want to see, listen to, and engage with diverse voices, ideas, people from a multitude of backgrounds to widen my world view.

Books

Image of a bookshelf at a store dimly lit by hanging bulbs.

I have a deep relationship and appreciation of books which is partially why it gets its own section separate from other media.

The other reason is because I believe that the way we engage with books is slightly different from the manner in which we interact with film, television, music, etc. Not stating that one is better than the other; just different.

As well, unlike most other media, books tend to center one voice and perspective: the author. They are, with little other influence, the sole arbiter of what we read. Because of this, I feel that books give different insights into culture, life, philosophy, etc. that is not approachable from other forms of media.

Of course, I could be biased, but, even so, I have a goal to read 52 books from diverse, minority voices and perspectives to soothe my soul this year.

Ritual/Routine

As stated earlier, I have a complicated relationship with organized religion. However, I can still see the benefits and appeal. Humans are, by nature, social creatures, and for many people a church, synagogue, mosque, or any religious center is their first exposure to community and companionship outside of family. As well, religious services provides a sense of serenity, purpose, and comfort for many. There is strength and power in ritual and routine. But can that be found outside of organized religious practice?

Well, yes, I am not saying you should or have to, but the same benefits of strict and specific religious adherence can be found outside of that orthodoxy. We engage in some form of ritual and routine every day. Some are simple and mundane (morning routine, eating at specific times, work schedule, etc.) and some involve more effort or creativity (time for relaxation, having a hot cup of coffee when reading or doing something mindful, etc.). The point is that these little rituals and routines can have massive impact on our well being if we are a bit more aware and mindful of how we go about our day, week, life.

Mind, Body, Spirit. Those are the three parts that encompass a person. Each section needs to be fed, strengthened, and improved to have true growth and change. I have laid out may plans to try to do so this year. Hopefully, this site and whoever chooses to follow along will keep me honest and accountable and help me

Be Better

Paths – Mind

Building a better body or improving physical fitness is only a part of changing, evolving, and growing for the better. With the physical must also come the mental, for what is the benefit of a physique without the mind and mental acuity to guide it? Admittedly, mental health as a subject is a bit more difficult for me to understand, as it has not been something that was taught to me nor prioritized. Accordingly, unlike physicality which has clear goals and plans to enact change, mental health is a completely foreign concept for me to navigate. Thus, the following are some actions I plan to take, but any suggestions would be welcome; as well, an understanding that I will be learning and discovering this part of the journey along with any who follow.

Mental Apps

Image of emoji on phone
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

There are several apps that claim to help with sleep, anxiety, wellness, and other aspects of mental health. Some of the more common ones are Calm, Headspace, Serenity and many fitness apps have a meditation and mental health option in their service. I have never tried any of these personally, but will be doing so to try to adjust my sleep patterns and personal mental awareness. Meditation and appraisal of one’s own mental state seem to be hallmarks of most, if not all, mental care plans. It seems only right that I should, at the very least, attempt such acts.

Journaling

2021 journal

This one seems pretty simplistic, but from what I understand is actually pretty effective.

Journaling forces one to take stock of themselves and what is in their heads. To process thoughts, emotions, feelings both negative and positive in a, hopefully, healthy and calming manner.

I have tried journaling in the past, but for a myriad of reasons did not keep up with it. This public declaration to do so will, optimistically, keep me honest and accountable.

Exercise

Man exercising

Oddly enough, physical activity also helps mental awareness. Apparently, something about a routine that focuses on bodily exertion aids in releasing mental stress.

While I am sure this is old news to many, it was not common knowledge to myself. Nor did it really seem to ring true until I began an actual exercise regimen. For a few minutes a day, my mind is calm and focused on getting my body through the workout of that day. That time is rejuvenating and helps with the rest of the day.

As stated at the top, mental health is a whole other animal for me. I do not know where my mental health journey will take me, nor how I will ultimately arrive at an improved mental wellness, whatever that may be or look like. Still, trying is the first step, and, with some work and luck, I might just figure out a path to follow.

Paths – Body

So, goals have been declared. You know what you want to accomplish. You might even have an endgame to your journey, but what is next? What are the tangible steps to take to actually make progress on the aspirations we have stated. For me these are the first steps in reclaiming my health.

P90x workout video series cover
P90 X

First off, started P90X home workout. Gyms are still a not safe hot zone (seriously, you should not be going to gyms. If you are STOP!); thus, been doing home workouts with the occasional outdoor run (more on that later). At this point, I am at week 3 of the Classic workout. I enjoy the structure of daily workouts with an explicit timeframe and activity to perform. Some are less preferred than others (still not a fan of YogaX), but I see the purpose and benefit of the exercises. I do not expect my body to undergo an extensive and “incredible” transformation at the end of the 90 days; however, it is a starting point with a clear end that can be built upon.

Zombies Run app imagery with several phone screen grabs showing Abel Township, Stats for run, and tracking a run data.
Zombies Run app

I hate running. Genuinely, I cannot understand the whole “runner’s mentality” and am pretty sure that “runner’s high” is some sort of Stockholm Syndrome bullshit people tell themselves to keep up the charade of enjoying running. Basically, I find running to be the worst form of cardio/exercise and would rather do just about anything else.

That being said, I can see the obvious benefit and pros of running. It is one of the few activities that can be done virtually anywhere under most conditions. It conditions stamina and cardiovascular system. It strengthens and tones calves and legs. Frankly, yes, running is, overall, a positive form of exercise; still absolutely hate it. Accordingly, I use the Zombies, Run! app to motivate my running. It’s a fun, narrative based running app that tracks steps, time spent running, average speed, and other statistics for each run.

It is, honestly, the only way I can make myself run. Like, I understand all the health benefits that come with running, but I will, probably, never be that person who wakes up and decides to go for a run for enjoyment. On the other hand putting a few more steps to outrun some zombies and obtain much needed supplies for Abel settlement, well, that is something I can do.

Breath: A 30 Day Yoga Journey with Adriene logo showing a yellow sun between two clouds under the word Breath.
Yoga with Adriene

As much as I am not a fan of running, yoga is on a whole other level of discomfort. I do not know what it is about extended stretching and holding positions that does not seem to meld with my body. However, like running, I can see the benefits of the activity. As such, I began a 30 day program (Yoga with Adriene) at the start of January. While I sincerely doubt I will be converting a “yogi” any time soon, I have already noticed more flexibility and tolerance in my body.

So, I have not always been the most physically active person, but the above is a guide to attempt to mitigate that. As well, to try to build a path to physical fitness that will last beyond the month, season, year, etc. All in all, a methodology to be healthy and physically

Be Better

Goals Part Deux

Finance

Woman counting several twenty dollar bills in her hands

Money makes the world go round. Or so the saying goes. Frankly, it is both true and not. Yeah, I know the whole lack of concrete or dual answers is really annoying, but it is also accurate.

Money, in all its forms of currency, is useful. Outside of very specific circumstances, it is how most of us are able to obtain food, shelter, clothing, and the few luxuries we can allow ourselves. It is, by far, not a perfect system, but it is the one we currently have. And changing anything requires an understanding of it.

I am by no means advocating for chasing money or pursuing success through monetary means alone, but being financially secure is a boon we could all benefit from. Thus, I want to figure out how to improve my personal financial situation to have a better life for myself, family, and community. Because having financial stability allows for planning, taking risks, and, yes, providing more aid.

Community

Diverse group of people sitting down and listening to a woman speak

While money is good for helping, it is not the only means. Which is where the other major part of this project comes into play: building a community.

We are all part of a group; in fact, we all most likely belong to several groups that interact, grow, and change, both because and in spite of us. Even so, we are hardwired to be social creatures, and we need these communities to be the best versions of ourselves.

So, this year, I want to figure out my true communities. To find them, help them, build them.

So, this is the second part of my goals for this year, and beyond. The first part was personal. This is the more community based. These are the hopes that will guide me for the next year. I will most likely fail or fall short at some point, but change only comes through work, obstacle, and perseverance. Here’s to change and the chance to

Be Better.

Goals

Change is everlasting, ever occurring. Evolution and growth don’t really end; at least, not until death, and, to be fair, no one can be truly certain of what lies beyond that checkpoint. Still, having a metric upon which to measure growth is useful, and, at times, necessary. So, what are some goals, and in some perspective challenges, for this year?

Physical

Screen shot of personal physical statistics ranging from current weight to BMI to Bone Mass and so on.

These are my current physical stats.

They are not great, but that is one of my personal goals for this year: to finally improve my physical well being and get my body under some level of control.

My family has a not great relationship or past with health. That is the primary reason why I know I need to change my own. However, there is definitely a vanity component which, frankly, is not the worst reason to want change; as long as it does not become a debilitating obsession.

With that knowledge, I am seeing a nutritionist, starting a workout program, and studying both nutrition and physical science to see what works best for me. In fact, by the time this is posted, I will have already been doing these things for several weeks.

As with most things, starting and consistency is key.

Mental

Scrabble letter tiles spelling out the word anxiety

Mental health is always something I have struggled with in the past; mostly because I am unsure of what it is, how to measure it, or how to go about addressing any potential deficiencies.

That will change this year through research, study, experimentation, and seeking help. I am unclear as to what “good” mental health looks like, but I intend to find out this year.

Spiritual

Stones stacked on top of one another to form a tower near an ocean shore

Spirituality, at least here, is not meant to be a specific religion or belief system.

While, probably again like most, I was raised under a specific religious edict in my earlier years, I questioned the legitimacy and morality of those beliefs from nearly the onset for a myriad of reasons. Still, I see the significance, use, and power of belief and ritual.

In essence, I want to find that semblance of strength without the baggage and weight that many religious systems carry. Not sure what that will look like, but isn’t that the point of discovery?

Mind, Body, Soul. A seemingly simple trifecta, yet finding balance between the three is a journey with perhaps no end, as it should be. Change is constant. Whether that change is positive or negative is where our actions and choices come into play.

This site, these declarations, these goals are an attempt to pivot personal change toward positivity. A first, but most definitely not last, step to:

Be Better

Better Late Than Never

I had plans. I had lists, diagrams, charts. I got started early. And then life happened. I realized I was lacking some skills to get done what I wanted. I got backtracked with work, family, relationships, responsibilities that delayed my actions. All in all, like with any new venture, shit happened, and I was not able to launch when I planned to.

But, honestly, so what? We all had plans, undoubtedly for the year 2020. I, for sure, did, and, like most, those were utterly upturned with the pandemic, social and civil unrest, protests, economic setbacks, and well *gestures around to indicate ENTIRE WORLD events*. And, again probably like most, I saw the New Year as an opportunity to make resolutions and promises to change, grow, evolve, and finally figure stuff out. Unfortunately, a new year, new season, new day is utterly meaningless.

Don’t get me wrong. There is something oddly refreshing and empowering about a shared new period or experience. It’s why so many celebrate a new year or season across cultures and regions whenever they happen, but, ultimately, any change, any REAL change, is a series of choices that go far beyond the luster of the NEW. Which is what this project is at its core: a choice.

For myself, it is a choice to learn, to write, to hold myself accountable to my desire and choice to improve. For you, it is, hopefully, a choice to read, listen, and, potentially, learn yourself. And perhaps through that exchange grow a community that strives to improve and evolve themselves and their communities.

In essence, it is a choice to try to:

Be Better.