Gratitude Challenge, Days 9 & 10

Once again, I’m posting in a 2-day bundle. I’ll tell you the truth, the last day or two have made it really hard to stick with this challenge, because it’s hard to see things to feel grateful for when one of my closest friends is leaving, even if it is the best thing for her to do. But I’ll give it a try and see what I can do here.

First, I’m grateful for the time I’ve been able to spend with my friend here. I know she’ll still be a part of my life, just in a long-distance way, but her being my friend has been really important to me. Second, frozen yogurt, which is one of the things we’ve gone to get a lot together. All kinds of wacky flavors, and some modicum of nutritional value, too. 3, the new Netflix show Bloodline; it’s not my typical viewing fare, but it’s really engrossing. 4, a video game I backed on Kickstarter called Pillars of Eternity just came out, so that’s gonna give me something to try to occupy my next couple days. Five, my support network, friends and family, because they’ve been a huge help to me in my recovery and managing my depression, and hopefully that will continue. Six, my ability to write, because keeping this blog going has helped to keep me sane and keep my thoughts organized and coherent.

The last two days, work has been more intense than normal, though I’m not sure if that is reality or just my perception; maybe I’ve just been pushing myself harder than normal so I wouldn’t have to pay as much attention to what else is happening, or maybe there’s some other reason I feel so much more sore than normal. Regardless, that’s been my exercise the past couple days, and I’ve had to try to meditate even more than normal to try and keep my back from starting an open revolt.

As for a positive experience that has happened in the last twenty-four hours, I don’t really know. Things have been so hectic lately that it’s been hard finding any time to myself other than when I am either just going to bed or just waking up. As an introvert, that tends to just make me feel drained of energy, and that just means I’m tired all the time, irritable, not as quick on the uptake, and probably seem less sociable than normal. It’s hard to keep up, and even though I’m trying to spend as much time as I can with my friend before I leave, it feels like I may be pushing things too hard just to try to get as much out of it as I can before she leaves. But I know that she’s going to a place she really wants to be, someplace I think she probably belongs, and I have faith that when she gets there, even as anxious as she is about leaving and making the trip, that she’ll find her way to doing what she wants to do. So it’s not really a positive experience, but it is a positive thought for my friend, and as sad as I am to see her go, I think that she’ll be doing much better back where she feels she belongs. I look forward to hearing about her success.

I’m just about caught up on messages of gratitude, but the next couple days are probably going to be a mess, so I don’t know how that will go. But I’ll try to keep as current as I can, and see where that gets me.

Gratitude Challenge, Days 7 & 8

I continue my trend of posting more than one day at a time, mostly because the last couple days have been very hectic; as I’ve noted before, a good friend of mine is about to leave Houston and move back to California, and I’ve been both trying to help her keep things under control and had her leaving weighing on my mind. Which, of course, makes this a perfect time to be working through this particular activity, because it can hopefully help me to see the brighter side of things. So, without further ado…

Two days means six things. First, let’s go with the ability to cook. I don’t cook a huge amount, and most of what I do cook isn’t all that fancy, but it is a good activity to distract me, and it lets me have more choice about what I eat than just eating pre-packaged food all the time. Second, energy drinks. I like caffeine, and I don’t like coffee, and so they are my best source for caffeine on a daily basis. Plus, I like how they taste, oddly. Third, good friends. The last few days have really hammered home how much I care about the people around me who are a part of my life, and while I’ll miss my friend when she leaves, I’ll also be happy knowing that she’ll be getting back to what she really wants to be doing. Fourth, Dragon Age; the new expansion for Dragon Age: Inquisition came out yesterday, and while I’ve had almost no time to play with it, it’s nice to know it is there. Fifth, my back brace, because without it, I think I would have done some serious harm to my back yesterday; as it is it kinda aches, more than normal, but whatever caused it was likely lessened by the brace. Finally, socially progressive geeks; hearing about how Gen Con, the biggest RPG convention (possibly in the world) sent the governor of Indiana a letter saying they’d leave if he signed an offensively intolerant bill into law (which, of course, he did) just made me feel good about being a geek,

On the exercise front, yesterday at work I was doing my usual box-tossing gig, and today, with a sore back, all I really managed was walking, but I did manage to get my meditation in; it helps to relax my back on days like this, so that’s pretty nice.

As for a positive experience in the last 24 hours, well, how about this? My friend who is Cali-bound stopped by my place last night to hang out, but her tire blew out on the way, and so she crashed on my couch rather than have to deal with late-night towing services, and we watched Netflix, talked, and caffeinated. There was discussion of how things are going as regards to her leaving, but overall it seems like her anxiety is lessening, and I think she’ll be ready to go. Even basically having a tire shred itself, while taxing for her, didn’t dampen her spirits; she just asked me to follow her to the tire place today so she didn’t get stuck on the side of the road, and then we stopped afterwards for Starbuck’s, something we haven’t done in quite a while – not since she moved to an apartment closer to downtown Houston, really. While it was kind of an exhausting experience physically, it was refreshing mentally and emotionally, because there were no meltdowns, no freakouts, just a decision that needed to be made – which it was, and things went off pretty well. It might have been different had she snored out her on the couch, but nope, things went pretty smoothly. It wasn’t a huge, life-changing moment, and it wasn’t exactly going to an amusement park, but I think it was just a positive experience for both of us moving forward.

As to sending out messages of gratitude, I’ve been giving out a number of these in person, when I can manage it, because this week is really making me feel the need to tell the people closest to me (in Houston) how much I appreciate them and their part in my life. We’ll see how that goes.

And now, it’s late and I have work tomorrow, so I think I’ll bow out for now, but until next time!

Gratitude Challenge, Days 4-6

Man, I didn’t mean to delay things this long, but time seems to have a way of getting away from me. I did say it was going to be a busy weekend, what with going to the rodeo and all, but hopefully this will be my longest delay. I foresee some trouble coming up with things to be grateful for in the coming few days, since a close friend will be leaving and that will probably knock me around emotionally, so suggestions are always welcome. But without further ado, Here are the last three days.

So, nine things to be grateful for. Well, I’ve recently reconnected with a friend who I thought I wouldn’t talk to for a while, so that’s high on my list. Second, the comedian Gabriel Iglesias, whose humor always cracks me up and he doesn’t even have to be foul-mouthed to do it. Third, Star Wars: Rebels, which I just got a chance to watch; it is awesome and only makes me more interested in Star Wars right now. Fourth, comfortably fluffy pillows. It’s getting a pillow that is just soft enough to let you conk out almost as soon as you lie down that is really nice. Fifth, the ability to instantly text, e-mail, or call virtually anyone; it’s so easy these days that I almost forget how painful it was keeping in touch with someone who wasn’t in the same area code as you back when I was in high school. Sixth, I am grateful preemptively for people not thinking about how old that makes me, I can do the math on my own. :) Seven, my George Foreman grill; It may not be restaurant-quality, but it let me cook a damn tasty steak last week in all of about 12 minutes. Eight, hanging out with my friends, who just showed up and will delay my finishing this entry for a bit. And nine, the ability to be able to express myself like this, because otherwise I think I might go totally off my rocker.

As for the exercise/meditation portion of my days, I have to say that I’ve been kinda light on the exercise; I’ve done a bunch of walking around, but nothing more intensive than that, unless you count walking around in the rain on Saturday. As far as meditation goes, that’s starting to become my routine both right when I wake up in the morning and right as I go to bed;it seems to really help me wake up and get to sleep more restfully, so that’s a plus.

It’s not within 24 hours of now, but the rodeo on Saturday was certainly something I won’t forget for a while. I’d never been to one, and so I really had no idea what to expect; I assumed there would be horses and riders and lassos and such, but it was really just a vague thing. I wasn’t really prepared for the steer wrestling – I mean, who thinks that up? What kind of mind thinks “Hey, let’s jump off a horse onto a steer and wrestle it to the ground, fastest tackle wins!”? It sounds like some kind of crazy cowboy dare, but it’s cool to watch. And while I’d seen bareback bronco riding on TV before, it’s just much wilder in real life – as well as finding out why the broncos buck, which, as a guy, it makes me uncomfortable to even think about. I’d never even heard of barrel racing before, and yet I was rooting for the women riding their horses ’round those barrels as much as anyone. Well, maybe not my friend, but then it is her favorite event. It’s a little like hockey for me – I like to watch hockey in person, it’s great to watch if you can see the players in front of you, hear the hits – sometimes even feel them. But hockey on TV just feels like it’s not even real. I’d seen a rodeo event or two on TV before, but it just held no interest – but in person, I just couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I’m glad my friend invited me, and gave me the chance to experience that, and helped me to understand what was going on; I know it’s important to her, and it wasn’t something I had any experience with, and it gave me some insight. I wonder if there’s a way I can do the same, but then the only really super-nerdy big gathering I can think of in the area is Comicpalooza, and that’s not for a couple months. And then we got a show from Brad Paisley, whose song ‘Alcohol’ I find pretty fun to listen to, and man can that guy work a crowd. My friend was singing along, and just totally engrossed, and it was cool to see her that into it. It was a pretty great time, and I’m glad I got the chance to do it. Plus, hey, now I can actually say “This ain’t my first rodeo” and mean it literally.

As for handing out messages of gratitude, I’m a little behind there, but I am working to catch up on those, and I should be able to keep up with everything. Sometimes its just hard to find the words to tell someone why you are grateful for and appreciative of them as a part of your life, even when you have the way with words that I do.

Gratitude Challenge, Days 2 and 3

Man, one day in and I’m already behind. To be fair, though, I was pretty exhausted from work last night, and the tasty, tasty food a friend made for dinner contributed to my post-work laziness. But I figure I can catch up right now, so let’s do that!

First up, 6 things (3 for each day) I’m grateful for. First, the Houston Rodeo, which I’m going to visit tomorrow for the first time. Second, grilled cheese and tomato soup, which is what I had for dinner last night (made by a friend who is an awesome cook), and it was great. Third, my co-workers, without whom my days at work would be pretty dull; they’re a pretty good crew. Four, burritos. They are so much better in a place that borders Mexico. Five, dogs; I may not have one, but getting to meet one and spend some time with one always brightens my day. And six, the Star Wars RPG I am looking through (and considering – very early in the consideration phase – running a game for), because it’s very pretty, and looks like it would be fun to play.

Second and third – exercise and meditation. These have been the same for both days; I spend my days at work moving heavy boxes of books, which is plenty of exercise for me, and that leads me to meditation, which I do on my breaks to try to loosen up my muscles, because otherwise they really feel sore the next day. So far, both seem to be working out alright.

Fourth, well, as I noted above, a couple friends and I got together for dinner last night for homemade grilled cheese and tomato soup – one of my friends went to culinary school, and so he’s a great cook, but doesn’t choose to show off his talents often. After all, it is the greatest samurai who lets his sword rust in its scabbard, or something. It wasn’t fancy, but it was damn tasty, and we got to hang around and talk, which was nice, though bittersweet, as one of the people there will be leaving Houston for good in about a week. I’ll miss her, but I really value getting to spend time with her, and a homemade meal was a nice gesture by our chef friend to show that he cares about us. I’ve cooked for friends in the past, and I’ve found it very rewarding, so hopefully he found it much the same. My friend who is leaving brought her dog, too, so I got to play around with him, including wrapping him up in a blanket like a canine burrito. I would have taken pictures, but he’s not fond of being swaddled, so he escapes pretty quickly, but it looks very cute.

As for messages of gratitude, I did get a chance to send one out last night, and I’m working on the one for tonight in my head as I write this, so those should both be on time for the challenge – whether or not they are read quickly, I cannot say, but at least I feel better for having sent them.

Tomorrow might be pretty busy for me, with going to the rodeo and all, so if I don’t get a chance to post, look for another two-parter on Sunday. That’s all for now – hope my readers have a great weekend!

Gratitude Challenge, Part 3: Return of the Gratitude

So it goes that many, many moons ago, a (slightly) younger man than I set out on a quest to make himself feel more grateful for the good things in his life. This intrepid soul took to heart the words and challenge of the speaker Shawn of the Achor, and determined to set himself a goal that would be hard – considering his cynical nature – but worthwhile. And so the first round of the gratitude challenge came about. And it was a success, and there was much feasting and rejoicing. Then some months later, he tried again, with somewhat more mixed results, but still, the feasting and rejoicing occurred. And now, that time has come again.

Yes, it’s time for another round of the Gratitude Challenge.

As I’ve noted before, it is an idea I got at the step-down program I attended… man, was it almost two years ago? It’s an idea from a guy who made a TED Talk I enjoyed (and wrote a book I keep meaning to get around to) named Shawn Achor, and basically it is 21 days of trying to make note of the things in life you are grateful for so that you can try to see things in a more optimistic light. It worked the first time (here’s the link to the start of my first try), though I think the second round was a bit too close to the first to do much good; I’m hooping to get some good out of this try, especially considering things that have been going on – and will be going on – soon. The rules are as follows:

1.Write down three new things you are grateful for each day, in a journal or somewhere else easily accessed. Be specific.

2. Write for two minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours.

3. Exercise for 10 minutes a day.

4. Meditate for two minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out.

5. Write one, quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising a friend, family member, or other person you are grateful to.

I was thinking about postponing the start of this for a day or two, but now that I’m sitting here writing this, I figure there’s no time like the present, so here goes.

I am grateful for my gaming group; even if we meet sporadically, that activity really helps me to be social and exercise a part of myself that I feel is pretty important, plus they’re a great bunch of people. I don’t know if any of you read this, but if so, take a bow. I am grateful for Captain America 2: Winter Soldier, which I just rewatched a few days ago while feeling sick; it’s my favorite Marvel movie, and I think it really captures why Captain America is a great character. And I am grateful for the ability to cook my own meals;it can be hard at times, and potentially stomach-endangering, but it’s an activity that I enjoy and can relax while doing.

Last night, after work, a couple of friends came over to hang out for a few hours, to just hang around and talk. One of them brought her dog, a cool little Shih-Tzu named Simba. Most nights after work I just feel too tired to spend much time around people, even friends, but last night was nice because yesterday was the first time I’d really gotten out of my apartment since getting a stomach bug last Thursday, and because it was a chance to see a good friend who is going to be leaving Texas in about ten days, probably for good; any chance I get to spend time with her before then is going to be something I’ll value. We didn’t do anything momentous – we talked, watched some funny YouTube videos, had some snacks, played with the dog, and just spent a few relaxing hours just chilling out, with nothing important going on or needing to be done. It wasn’t earth-shattering, but it was a good time, and it’s times like that that I really treasure.

As for exercise, I spent about 20 minutes just walking around the apartment complex earlier, just to stretch out my sore muscles from yesterday – 5 days without work makes going back to lifting boxes tough on the back, especially coming off an illness. So it wasn’t strenuous exercise, but it helped my back to loosen up and to get a little sun. As for meditation, I did that in bed this morning just after waking up, because my neck was stiff and the meditation helps with that, as well as to clear my head.

As for the gratitude e-mail or message, I’m not sure who I’ll be sending one to today, but I’ll try to have it out by the end of the day; I have plenty of people to feel grateful for.

Now, this is a 21-day challenge, so this is only day 1 of 21; I’m hoping I’ll be able to post every day, but if not, I’ll try to double up and get all the pertinent information in other posts. The challenge is on!

Impatience

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and it’s becoming very clear to me that I’m just not a patient person.

Big shock, right? I imagine a lot of people aren’t very patient, and some of you, my readers, might even consider yourselves among them. Some of you, though, probably consider yourselves to be very patient people, and that’s where I would have pegged myself before I started really thinking about it. But there are a lot of things I’ve noticed lately that have all kind of added up. While I am not always impatient, there are areas of my life where I am – and some of them are very damaging, and even though I know about it, I don’t know that I can stop.

One of the things that first kind of tipped me off was recently in a game. I play a lot of video games, and some of them – MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games), tend to have something of a black market. Nothing illegal, but technically a violation of the End-User License Agreement you implicitly agree to when you start playing. You can, with some services, pay actual money in order for in-game money or items. This essentially skips having to gather the in-game money or items yourself, which is often a significant time-sink – and often something that frustrates me to no end. I play games to be a part of a story, to do cool things, to be generally awesome – not to waste my time doing endlessly repetitive tasks that serve only to make me spend longer in the game. So that gold-buying service is awfully tempting, and in the past I’ve given in to that. I won’t say when, because there’s a possibility I’ll go back to that game, but it’s definitely an instance of impatience, especially because I have friends who would be willing to do the work in a game to earn their in-game money and items legitimately.

Another area where my impatience manifests itself which has come up more recently is involving the area of my health and weight loss. Now, I have always disliked exercise; it’s almost never enjoyable for me, and the few instances where it was, I was exercising in the company of a friend, and it was that company which both made the activity something resembling enjoyable and gave me the motivation to do it in the first place. I’m overweight, so you can see how this might be a problem – when exercising isn’t painful, it’s just boring, and I can’t distract myself from the total boredom. But Diet is also an important part of weight loss, and that’s something I keep trying to work on, with varying degrees of success. I tried doing the diet routine at a local place called MyFit Foods, and while I could handle doing it, it was almost like withdrawal not being able to eat the kinds of food I enjoy eating. I last through their 21-day challenge, and lost some weight, but I just couldn’t keep at it; I didn’t have the patience or the discipline. I went back to eating the way I used to, and the weight came back. Then a little while ago I tried out the Nutrisystem diet, and it was brutal – I’ve written about it before, and while again, I lost some weight, it was just too uncomfortable to keep with it. Now I’m thinking of trying something different, which largely involves a less strict diet, but mostly just cutting out carbs and sugars, and the diet definitely allows me access to more of the foods I enjoy – but I worry that I won’t have the patience for this, too.

It is a stumbling block in my personal life, too. I don’t make friends easily; as I’ve noted in the past; I have a lot of defenses, and my introversion doesn’t help out there. But once I let people past the defenses, I tend to just give them an all-access pass – I don’t have the patience or the inclination to do a more gradual reveal. For the most part, this policy hasn’t done too much bad for me, but it did severely contribute to messing up a possible relationship; while I didn’t push things physically, I think I pushed too hard emotionally, and when I start to care for someone in a more-than-friendship way, I can get impatient. I ask a lot of questions – some of them hard or intrusive – and I want answers fast, because I want to get to know the other person better as quickly as I can. My patience with general communication can get really impatient, too; where with other friends I might wait hours or days for a response to a call, e-mail, or text, that time can get condensed down to minutes with someone I care about, because (at least iin my mind) they must want to communicate just as quickly, right? And if they don’t what does it mean? I want answers, and I want them now – and that inability to wait, to give the other person time to think about what they are thinking and feeling, can put a lot of really uncomfortable pressure on. It’s both a feature of my attachment style and of my impatient nature.

Honestly, I have no idea what this means, or if it is something I can work on – or if, annoyingly, my impatience will mean I am too impatient to actual do any meaningful work on it. It took me a lot of thought and consideration to get this far, and even recognizing it, I don’t have the first idea of what to do – is this something I can work on? Is this something I should work on, or am I looking too hard? If I can work on it, where do I start? I’d say the faster I know what to do, the faster I can start doing it, but that is, itself, being impatient. So right now, I think the place to start is just to sit and think about this, and if anybody has any thoughts on the matter, let me know.

Time Flies

Wow. I didn’t think it had been that long since my last entry, but time seems to really fly by when things are pretty busy. If I understood much about physics, Einstein’s theory of relativity would probably be a good reference to make here. But I majored in English, so I don’t think that’s going to work for me. So instead I’ll just work on giving an update on how things are going here.

I’m still waiting to hear back from the University of Houston on my application; I don’t know if they only start looking at applications after the deadline is up, or if they just take several weeks, but the waiting is really nerve-wracking. I think I have a pretty good chance of getting in, but the waiting is still really hard. I haven’t heard back from any of the peer specialist jobs I’ve applied to, either, which is also frustrating, but at least I haven’t gotten any outright rejections, so that’s something.

Work has been a little weird lately; we just finished up our yearly inventory, and this is a slow part of the year for our store, so hours have been a little more sporadic than normal. Sometimes this is nice, especially on days when my back is already sore, and the extra time gives me a chance to get through more reading, but it also cuts my funds a little short. Of course, if I get into UH, I’ll probably be hoping for shorter hours, so we’ll see how things work out there.

I haven’t had a chance to get together again with my Dungeon World group – since they work for the same company, just a different store, they’ve also been caught up in inventory, so scheduling has been rough. I’m hopeful for this coming week, though. And a D&D group composed mostly of employees from my store has gotten together, and we’ll be meeting for our second time on Monday. I haven’t given up on the idea of running another game at a game store – I have some ideas for a Monster of the Week game or FATE Atomic Robo running through my head – but right now I’m getting a pretty good level of social interaction, and both groups are made up of pretty awesome people. I get a few hours every now and then to pop into Final Fantasy XIV, too, to play with another friend, so things on that front are going well.

I had started Gretchen Rubin’s book last time I wrote, but I found myself just not able to really get into it; I’m not sure why, but I think maybe her experiences were just not fitting with me. I did, however, start The Science of Happiness, by Stefan Klein; I’m only a couple chapters in, but it’s more interesting to me already. He spends a whole chapter talking about smiles, and how all people – even people who had never interacted with the greater world – smiled the same ways, and how there are many ways to smile – but only one shows genuine happiness. I think his being an academic, but with a relatively conversational writing style, is helping to get through the book. I also picked up the Codependency Guide for Dummies, though I haven’t cracked it open yet, and when not reading the Klein book I’ve been going through Atomic Robo comics – a great, weird, upbeat comic – along with a book called Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, the first in a series about a kind of steampunk Civil War-era US; it was good, but a little slow, and I hope the next picks up speed. I’ve also been browsing through cookbooks I got for Christmas, and while I keep finding some great-looking recipes, I am put off by the fact that most seem to be designed for 2 or more people, and I don’t want to have a ton of leftovers sitting around.

Mental health-wise, I think I’ve been doing pretty well, aside from maybe yesterday – the loss of Leonard Nimoy was kind of a hit, because I grew up with Star Trek. While I’m still mostly a Next Generation kid, Nimoy and Spock were a big inspiration to me; I identified a lot with his (and Data’s on TNG) struggles with emotion, because those are issues I still have problems with. It was a joy seeing him in the new Star Trek movies, as well as the recent TV show Fringe, and I’ll miss knowing he’s around – but I imagine he’s off somewhere with James Doohan and DeForest Kelley having some pretty cool afterlife adventures. There’s some other big stuff going on – a good friend of mine is just a few weeks away from leaving Texas for good, as one big example – but I’m taking things as they come, trying to be optimistic and hopeful. I have been thinking, though, about another round of the Gratitude Challenge that I did much earlier in my blog’s lifespan; I think it may be about time to do that, if only to remind myself of all the things I have to be grateful for.

So, that’s what’s going on. My lack of posting hasn’t been a result of too little going on, but rather quite a lot, without a lot of time to try and articulate it here. So, what’s going on with you?