Swiping left & right vs. meditation, sleep & laps: The fight to recreate myself

May 31, 2017

There have been a few crucial periods in my life when I have been forced to tackle new and existing challenges. It’s been these times, for good and for bad, that have made me the man that I am. Right now is one of those times, and it will will determine my path forward as a father, a partner, and a man.

At 42 years old, I am confronting a new, more complicated series of personal tests. Last summer my wife of 9 years, and the mother of our two children, decided that she no longer wanted to be married, and thus we are separating. Meanwhile, 13 years after I was hired as the first employee, the company where I work and I came to the decision that I should move on.

I’ve been doing a lot of talking, thinking, crying, and laughing about what the heck I should do with my life. But this time it’s not just about me. It’s about my six-year-old daughter and four-year-old son. I need to work on and improve myself so I can properly be there for them.

Nurture Vs. Indulgence

I’ve gotten to where I am today, which is still kind of shaky, through my own efforts as well as the support of my family and friends. It’s taken several months to get here and I can distill the battle I’ve fought in to two categories: Nurture Vs. Indulgence. I’ve talked about this in previous posts, but I think a lot of life comes down to balance. You try to eat healthy, but it’s ok to have a double bacon cheeseburger sometimes. The key is enjoying the indulgent moments while countering them with nurturing behavior that enables you to be more productive, increases your ability to be present, and all kinds of other good stuff.

It took a while for me to process that my marriage was over. Some days I’d do the right thing, not drink very much, eat a low-carb diet, hit the heavy bag in my basement for 20 minutes each morning, and actively play with my kids. Other days I would fall off the deep end, losing myself on Tinder (that is a whole other story), hardly sleeping, and skipping therapy appointments. It was just general knucklehead behavior. This went on for about 6 months and then something in me just clicked. What I was doing wasn’t helping me or my family. The indulgent behaviors were not balanced with nurturing habits. They were not making my personal or professional situations better, and I needed to devote myself to a new routine that supported that goal.

Embracing the Habits of Successful, Productive People

I started to do research online about the habits of successful, productive people. What I took away was that in many of the routines of these people were three consistencies: exercise, sleep, and mindfulness. I committed myself to doing a set of processes that would help me incorporate those elements into my daily life. Here’s how.

Meditation – There are several cool mobile apps that make it easy to start meditating. I tried three and settled on Headspace. Led by the voice of Andy Puddicombe, I came to enjoy the guided exercises, which only take 10 minutes. I do a session in the morning before I start working and it’s been helpful. I’ve found myself calmer, more focused, and more involved in my work and with my kids.

Swimming – I’m 6’3” and 280 pounds. Running isn’t fun at my size, and I’ve got the usual sore knees and joints of someone over the age of 40. I needed an athletic activity that was low-impact and swimming was the best fit. Over the last 3 months I’ve committed to swimming at least three times per week. I usually go first thing in the morning, waking up at 5:45 am, before my kids are awake. I make it back to the house by 7 am. I like to do it first thing so I can get the serotonin boost throughout the day, which makes me much more productive at work and the pressure of “going to the gym” is gone.

Sleep – This is the hardest one. My kids wake up and it’s all encompassing. The same goes for after school. That often pushes work and other must-do things to after 8:30 or 9:00 at night. But I’ve been more conscious of needing to go to sleep. I’ll ask myself if I need to watch the end of the Sox game on the West Coast, or to binge watch three Game of Thrones episodes. More and more I say no and I turn in early. Getting more sleep has really helped me execute on the plan to swim and meditate.

For each of these elements in my routine I sometimes make the indulgent choice, because I can and it’s healthy. We can’t be perfect all the time. The key is whether I submit and give up, or do I do the hard work that this situation will demand of me. I think I’ve identified a new set of coping mechanisms that work for me, now can I commit to my new routine long-term?