Figuring Out Priorities

I first drafted this post two weeks ago after a hectic couple of weeks where I hadn’t gotten much done.  That’s continued, but since the head cold, it’s mostly been fun stuff with the family and work.  There was a weird schedule for the last week of June and first two of July, a grade 8 graduation (which made me feel proud and old at the same time), a christening, the mentioned head cold, and a handful of other things.  Haven’t had a lot of extra time and energy lately.  I’d planned for this to have audio to go with it, but haven’t managed to record (although I’ve learned a bit more about recording and my next audio blog should sound better when it happens).

All of the stuff I’ve had going on lately, added in my head to the events of the past couple of years, has had me thinking about priorities again.  For some of my commute (aka: quiet time), I’ve been trying to think about how I spend my waking time, things I do every day or only when necessary, things I seek out and things I avoid.  While life is less finite than it used to be, there’s no way to know how long your own personal stretch in the world is going to be.  There may always be fewer days ahead than there are behind.

So on some level, it’s important to prioritize the time you have, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

In uncontested first place: family. This seems obvious, but it’s something that you need to remind yourself of frequently.  Just about every little shiny thing that comes along has the ability to take time from your family.  Yes, there are things that need to be done, but only seen in the light of contributing to the well being of your family or one of its members.  (Example, the, um, spirited discussion I had with my oldest about going to the beach a week or so ago.  Not fun, but needed to happen.  He needed some daylight.)

Second comes career.  Not in and of itself, but as a consequence of Priority #1.  While arguments about being happy in your job or productive in society certainly apply, the main reason this comes second is that it provides for my family. I actually like my job most of the time, but I don’t like how much it takes me away from home.  The equation is pretty simple, though: no paycheque = no food, power, internet, etc.

There’s a huge gap between second and the two items sharing third: Writing and Karate.

Writing. I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, but I only really started to take it seriously a few years ago.  I realized a while back that I was getting a bit obsessive about it.  In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing; I think if you want to get good at something, you probably need to be a bit obsessive, but if you get to the point where you’re stealing time from more important things, it’s probably time to reign it in a bit.  I’ve managed to massage my writing schedule to the point I’m mostly writing every day (motivation has been hard the last couple of weeks) but I get very little done on days off.  The second part of that seems counterintuitive until you remember point number one.

Karate. I took up martial arts about two years ago with my son as a shared activity.  He’s taking an extended break from it, but in the meantime my wife and oldest daughter started coming too.  I don’t go by myself very often, but I spend a little time training every day.  Karate satisfies several deep needs in my psyche.

Why are these two things tied?  Well, I spend time on each every day and roughly equally.  I’ve discovered that I’m happy when I’m learning something new or when I’m creating something new, but I’m happiest when some part of my time is spent doing both.  The learning thing is also partly why I’m taking audio Japanese lessons in the car several days each week.

Which brings us to the item in fifth place: dreams.  Dreams are important.  You need things to strive for.  It’s part of what makes the difference between existing and living.  The dream in question here is studying Karate in Japan for a year.  A big dream when you’re taking four people along for the experience.  I’ve got lots of little dreams, too, and a pretty extensive bucket list.  More on those another time.

Priorities.  The final decision is that everything in my life needs to apply to one of those five things, and it’s nice when something can serve multiple causes.

And, if the universe will humour me for a moment, as much of it as possible should be fun.

Be well.

My Atkins Failure

A couple of weeks ago, I allowed myself to be convinced to try out the Atkins diet.

I’m forty-one years old and carrying twenty or so more pounds than I’d like to be, which would still put me above the supposed ideal weight for my height.  I don’t know what the real ideal weight might be as I do have some decent muscle mass under the extra flab and I’m a little broader across the shoulders than the mythical “average”, but I digress.  I’ve been thinking about dropping some weight for a long time, and thought maybe it would start me in the right direction.

The basic principle, and I’m seriously simplifying, is convincing your body to burn its own reserves of fat by cutting out carbohydrates.  You’ll add them back in later, but they’ll be whole grains at that point and only natural sugars.  Fewer of both.

Doesn’t sound too difficult, does it?

Yeah, well.  I spent five days hungry.  Too much protein is hard on your body, or at least it was on mine, and I couldn’t take in enough food to quell my stomach.  Now, that’s not supposed to happen, or at least not for very long, but it never got better for me.  Five days doesn’t seem like a long time, but it sure felt like it.  I probably would have adjusted eventually, but there was another factor: toast.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had toast for breakfast every morning I could find a bread-like substance in the house.  Not giving up toast for a diet, sorry.  If that seems silly, you try not eating one of your favourite foods ever again.  Not so silly now.

But I’d still like to drop a few pounds.  The secret to weight control, doctors will apparently tell you, is to burn more calories than you consume.  Makes sense.  So you can consume less or burn more.  A better idea is to do a little of both.

I’m fairly active.  My job has me up and moving around for most of my workday.  Trying to learn how to run again has resulted in a couple of injuries from pushing myself harder than I should, so easing back on that might be a good idea, but I’m not ready to quite yet.  I also practice karate and do plenty of things with the kids.  Overall, my activity level is pretty good for the most part, and upping it a little will certainly help.

Next, no more junk food.  Not that I eat much, but I have a weakness for cookies, chocolate, and chocolate chip cookies.  Wean myself off of that for the most part and maybe cut back the portion size a little bit on regular food, and we can come up with a calorie deficit.  I don’t want to lose the weight really quickly; that’s not all that good for your system and my body probably isn’t as elastic as it was in my 20s.

A stupid amount of tracking and analysis later, I’m after a 2000-calorie day, net, i.e. food – exercise = 2000 calories.  I can still eat whatever I want, just a little less of it, and I have to make a ritual of logging what I’m eating and doing.  There’s an app for that.  Actually, there are a whole lot of apps for that.  Pick the one you like best.

The result so far?  Not two weeks and a day in and I’m three pounds under the low end of what I consider my normal weight range for the last year or so.  It’s a start, and I’m pretty pleased with the early results.  I’ll let you know if I hit my target.

Be well.