It’s been just over a month since I wrote about rebooting my life, and I thought it would be a good time to check in, see how I’m doing, and give myself some grades. If you were inspired to reboot your life, maybe this is a good time for you to check in, too.
So the only way this works is when we’re honest with ourselves. We have to honestly assess how we’re doing, take credit and feel good about the stuff that we’re crushing, and work harder on the stuff where we aren’t. I think we also have to be gentle and kind with ourselves. Regardless of how you end up grading your efforts, if you can honestly say that you are doing your best — and you accept that your best can vary from day to day — you get points for that.
Here are the seven things I did to reboot my life:
- Drink less beer.
- Read more (and Reddit does not count as reading).
- Write more.
- Watch more movies.
- Get better sleep.
- Eat better food.
- Exercise more.
I’m going to check in on each one, give myself a grade on them, and figure out the average.
Drink less beer.
As I said last time, this was much easier than I was expecting. As much as I love a good IPA and finding out what the Bad Idea Bear in the bottom of a bottle of W00tstout has in mind, I really don’t miss it. Over a few months, I’ve gone from drinking two or three beers every day to one or two beers a couple of days a week. I sleep better, I feel less bloated, and though my secret admirer isn’t buying me presents at the moment, it’s a great trade off. I’ve lost about 4 pounds in about 6 weeks, and I’m not a tubby as I was before.
I also didn’t realize just how much time drinking lots of beer (or whatever your booze of choice is) takes up. Whether it’s staying in one place for an entire evening, or feeling like crap for a significant part of the next day, or just being too tipsy or outright drunk to do anything useful, the time you lose when you drink a lot is something I don’t hear people talk about, and I think we should.
Also, I’m not judging or shaming people who want to go get their drink on. Booze affects different people in different ways, and maybe it doesn’t suck up five hours of your night and the entire first part of your next day. But it can do that for me, and that was a big part of “this isn’t working for me”.
I’m giving myself an A on this one.
Read more (and Reddit does not count as reading).
I’ve spent a lot of time on planes since I started this, because I’ve been working on both The Big Bang Theory, and Powers. I fly between Atlanta and LA a bunch, and sitting on a plane is very conducive to reading more, at least for me.
But I want to read every day, and I haven’t made the time to do that. I was going to say, “I haven’t been able to do that,” but that’s not really true. If I wanted to make the time, I would have spent it reading instead of running Greater Rifts in Diablo 3.
Still, what I’ve read has been inspiring, which is the whole point of this part of the process. I also count certain podcasts, like The Black Tapes and The Message, as reading, because they’re dramatic narrative that make me think about storytelling, balancing plot development and exposition with character and story development, and make me want to create my own fictional narrative works. I’d like to give myself a B on this, but I think that I haven’t earned it. I’m going to give myself a C, even though I probably deserve a C-, because I get a little bit of a curve, due to all the creatively demanding work I’ve been doing.
I get an F. Oh, boy do I get an F. I get a big old F in red pen with “see me after class” written next to it.
I could make some excuses, and I even believe some of them: I’m working so much as an actor, the creative part of my brain is completely focused on that task. I’m exhausted at the end of a day on the set, and the last thing I want to do — and maybe the last thing I’m able to do — is switch positions on the field in the ninth inning. Writing, for me, takes thought, and focus, and a willingness to be emotionally open and reflective. When I’ve been living in someone else’s skin all day on the set, I don’t want to do that. I’m sure I could, if I really wanted to (Felicia wrote like a boss when we were working on Eureka together), but I’m not making myself do it.
I’m posting tons of stuff on my stupid Tumblr thing, and adding a lot of original thoughts and commentary there, but I don’t count that toward this particular grade because that’s not the kind of writing I want and need to do more of. I’ve made notes in my notebook for the story I want to finish, and I have almost all of it worked out in broad strokes and basic ideas, but the real fun of writing it down and telling the story and surprising myself with unexpected discoveries hasn’t happened.
I’m giving myself an F on this one because the task is a simple one: write more, and I haven’t even written the same amount that I was writing when I hit the reset button. Yes, I’ve been busy, but lots of people are busy and still find time to do the things they want to do. And that F doesn’t mean I’m a failure, it just means I’ve failed at this particular task, because I’m not making the effort. I’m creatively fulfilled in other ways, at the moment, so I don’t need this the way I usually do. Because I don’t need it, I’m not motivated, and while that isn’t the end of the world right now, once I slow down and have the time, I better motivate myself. The reason I need to see myself after class is so I can tell myself this, and make sure I understand that I know I can do that, and I expect it from myself.
Watch more movies.
Just like reading more, the point of watching more movies is to get inspired, to open and maintain a strong connection to my creative self. Like I wrote last time, this has been the hardest thing for me to do, because of the time involved.
But, I’ve been on planes, and I have thumbdrives and a laptop, so I’ve watched at least one movie on every leg of every flight I’ve recently taken. I’m focusing on classics, like Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and Badlands. I’ve also been watching quality television that feels like movies. Shows like Narcos, Jessica Jones, and The Expanse have been entertaining and inspiring me.
I’m giving myself a B, because this is definitely above average, but I could probably watch more movies than TV shows, if I really wanted to.
Get better sleep.
I’ve only had a couple of bad nights recently, and both of them happened when I was jet lagged from going to Atlanta. One night was awful. I felt like I didn’t sleep at all, and when I was asleep, I was having terrifying nightmares like I haven’t had in ages. I had to keep waking myself up to remind myself where I was, who I was, why I was there, and that the terror was not real. Yeah, that was not a lot of fun. But this grade is about the effort, and the effort to get better sleep includes going to sleep when my body tells me it’s ready, even if I want to stay up and watch more TV or play more Diablo 3. It means eating earlier and not overdoing it so my tummy doesn’t ache when it’s time to go to sleep. It means getting enough exercise during the day to feel ready to go to sleep, and it means consistently doing the relaxation techniques I’ve been learning. This is one of those things that is about me doing everything I can to take care of myself, and accepting that if my brain is going to be an asshole, there isn’t a whole lot more I can do about it.
I’m giving myself another A for this one.
Eat better food.
So the point of this was to think about food as fuel for my body and my brain, and not just as something I want to eat because I’m hungry, it’s easy, and/or it tastes good. This is another thing that’s been a challenge, because I’m on the set a lot, and there really isn’t a lot of good, nutritious food readily available. Plus, being in airports and hotels and on planes isn’t exactly conducive to finding a lot of healthy options. That said, I’m doing okay with this one, pretty close to as best as I can. I travel with some high quality protein powder to mix into a drink every morning, and I take high quality meal replacement bars with me so I don’t have to eat airplane food unless I’m in some kind of food emergency. I’m hitting my calorie goals almost every day, and my nutritional macros are very close to exactly where I want them, but I could definitely do better here, and that’s just about commitment.
I give myself another B, though I’d probably give myself an A if I was grading on a curve (and if I wasn’t eating a giant plate of gluttonous Thanksgiving leftovers. I’m not made of stone, people.)
This is the only A+ I’m giving myself. In fact, I could be like Ralphie’s teacher in his theme fantasy, writing A + + + + + + + all over the blackboard. I walk every day. I run almost every day, even if it means I have to get up earlier than I want to (I was going to say “need to” but that seems to push responsibility off of myself a little bit). I’m into week 5 of my couch to 5K program, and I absolutely love it. Zombies Run! 5K is one of the best things to ever happen to me, and not just because I’ve made an emotional connection to the characters. Being able to listen to someone talking me through my training has made all the difference. Looking at my pace, my total miles run, and scoring little achievements along the way has been cooler and more motivating than I ever expected.
I’m probably going to do week five over once I finish up on Powers, because it has been difficult to get in runs while I’m on location, and I don’t feel like my body will be ready to go into week six when I’ve had two or three days between each training run in week five. I’ve had very early calls, long days on the set, and I’ve been wiped out when I get back to my hotel. That’s not even a lame excuse, it’s a physical and mental reality, and I know that pushing myself at those times is a great way to hurt myself. I make the effort and the time to walk, though, and I do some squats, push ups, and sit ups a couple times a day to keep my blood moving, keep my metabolism up, and make sure my body knows that I expect it to stay in shape.
Still, I went out for a run on Thursday, and gave myself permission to run and walk as I felt necessary. I ended up going about two and a half miles, and I ran one of those miles in twelve or so minutes. It’s much slower than my usual pace, but all things considered, I still feel like I accomplished something.
I really earned this A+, and I’m proud of it.
So what’s my final grade average? I’ll add it up now, because I didn’t plan this out ahead of time. A minute or two will now pass for me, while less than a second will pass for you because reality is weird like that.
Out of 28 possible points, I earned 21. That gives me a 3.0, for a solid B. I feel like that’s pretty accurate. That F is pulling my average down like crazy, but I know I can bring that grade up without much difficulty.
So in a keeping score kind of way, I’m above average with room to improve. That’s really good, and I’m proud of that. In another way, though, Barney is the actual winner.
Wait. That’s not right.
In another way, though, I’m scoring off the charts. I feel really good, both physically and mentally. My Depression isn’t being a giant asshole (my anxiety has been shitty, though, which is unfortunately common when I have to travel a lot for work). I look and feel better than I have in years. I’ve lost weight, I’ve lost fat, and I feel more comfortable in my own skin. I’m happy. I’m, like, really happy. I’m able to be present as a husband and father, and I don’t spend any time in my day hating myself, which is a new thing for me.
This whole thing is a journey, and checking in right now is a way for me to assess my progress, reaffirm my commitments, and take a moment to feel proud of myself for reasserting control over my own life.
Yeah, I have work to do, and it’ll be hard at times, but that’s okay because everything worth doing is hard, and I’m doing a pretty good job right now.