I Surrender

I've structured these final months to focus on different aspects of my health like so: October for basic exercise, November for sleep, and December for diet. November has been successful in the area of sleep. Now I wake up at 5:30, sometimes earlier, sometimes later. If I sleep in, I naturally wake up at 6:15, which is a welcome change. I get so many more hours back in my day, so I'm more productive even if all I do is stay home to play games, watch TV, and listen to music. I've always tried to sleep well my whole life, but it's been a problem since I was a kid. I always wake up with the sun when I want to sleep in. I've always been able to wake up early, but sleeping early has always been a problem. I'd push myself so hard, white knuckling my way through the day, drinking coffee late and amping myself up to get work done, that it would take hours to calm down enough to sleep. Rather, I would usually collapse from exhaustion sometime only after midnight. Part of my time in counselling and recently my time away from work has been to strengthen my ability to self-regulate. I've dealt with some significant issues in the last almost-two-years. Now that those big problems have been put to bed, it's easier for me to calm down at the end of each night. Sometimes all it takes is simply shutting off the screen that's currently distracting me. I shut off notifications on my devices so I don't get agitating messages as I'm turning down for the night (not that anyone wants to talk to me anyways 😭). Sometimes it requires a big heavy talk with Carrie to process some big disruptive change that bothered me earlier that day or week. Either way, enough has changed for me that I actually get sleepy around 8:30, start getting ready for bed at 9:30, then fall asleep by 10.

One weird trend I've been noticing is that things keep knocking me on my ass and forcing me to do nothing at all. First it was the surgery. Then when I started working out, I pushed myself so hard that my muscles locked up and I had to stay horizontal at home for a week and a half, helpless and basically immobile. Now I'm sick and I have no energy. It's like Life wants me to surrender to this feeling of helplessness. I'm still fighting it a little, but I'm beginning to accept that it's okay if I don't do anything. Like, nothing at all. Even though I've been able to support Carrie a lot lately by running errands, I don't think I should be. I've identified my problem of not being able to relax, but hand in hand with that problem is pushing myself too hard in the first place. It's a problem. I push myself too hard at the gym, when I play games, when I have fun with people, in almost everything. It's not good when you can't control it. My speed is always full throttle, so I'd like to introduce some nuance to my life.

In light of that, I gotta take things slow. Diet for me is the hardest. I eat emotionally. I love eating delicious foods, and I love eating out. I have a running list of my favourite restaurants for when people come to visit. My final email at TELUS was sharing that list of restaurants in Calgary with people who either live here or might visit for work. For now, I'm just going to focus on doing what I can but also show myself some compassion and not be too hard on myself. When I started in October, I did basic exercise, so for December, I'll do really basic diet changes. Here's my list of things I'll just keep in front of mind:

  • Eating healthy should be a lifestyle, not a momentary change to lose weight. Consistency over quality. Compound interest. I'm not trying to hit a weight goal by the end of the month, but rather to set a habit in motion.
  • It took a long time of bad habits and neglect of my food intake to get here, so I should allow myself at least as much time to undo it.
  • I hate counting calories. I've done it before, and while it works if you have the energy, I don't have the stomach for it. I will roughly reduce my intake of junk food, eat smaller portions, eat better versions of things I already eat (eg. whole wheat bread instead of white bread), but I'm not going to enter everything I eat into the MyFitnessPal app again. I already have enough on my plate.
  • Mindful eating. A big part of the change is to just think about what I put inside my body. Instead of eating chips mindlessly while I watch TV, it will be a big enough change to consider what I eat.
  • If It Fits Your Macros. I know that we should break down our intake to the amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates each day, but for now, I don't want to count calories. IIFYM is a style of diet that's low stress. It's okay to eat a cheeseburger if it fits your macros. I probably won't eat as much fast food though, sadly.
  • Abs are made in the kitchen. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Gotta stock the place with good food. Grab a bunch of fruits and veggies at the farmer's market. Plan my meals for the week. Rice, veggies, and lean meat. It's a classic formula.
  • It's okay to snack and cheat some days. It's like when you're still learning to ride a bike and fall on purpose in the field with tall grass versus continuing down the big hill and falling on your face on the concrete. I have a bag of salted peanuts, but I also need to get rid of the tortilla chips.
  • Diversity. Build a strong immune system with a range of foods. Yogurt for dat probiotic bacteria and punishing flatulence. Peanut butter to get dem oils. Broccoli for terrible breath.
  • Breakfast has always been a challenging meal for me. I've tried baked goods like croissants and toast, I've tried making eggs, cereal, eating out, skipping it altogether, and nothing has really satisfied me like a protein shake. It's fast, you can put whatever you want in it, and it fills you up for a few hours. I know there are a bunch of people getting into pyramid schemes with Shakeology, but this is different. It genuinely helps me to blend a bunch of foods together so I can get started with my day. Given I wake up so early now that I have time to make a full breakfast, I do what I want.
  • Juice is all sugar. There's a reason fruits are the sizes they are. When we eat them, we feel full, limiting our sugar intake.
  • Not drinking as much alcohol. No energy.
  • Carrie is in school until April. Now it's just a game of survival. Do as little as possible. Almost there.

I'm not trying to be perfect. I'm just trying to get on the right path within the time allotted. If I get the process moving, then I will eventually be a healthy, self-regulating person. Going to the gym helped me grieve my grandma's passing. December is the month to eat out with people, so danger zone.

I struggle with wanting to be some great and important person. I can't deny that I myself have some narcissistic tendencies, as much as I've accused my family of being that way. I'm working on it, but sometimes I don't notice it when I think this way. Instead of chasing my delusions of grandeur, I think merely existing will be my legacy. Surviving and refusing to quit will be my great accomplishment in this life. Some people by this age go to Ivy League schools and get great jobs, but I don't think that's necessarily in the cards for me, and I'm okay with that. I let my mental illness fester and worsen for years, so I'm paying the price for it. My only goal is to get better, and maybe buy some nice speakers to listen to music as I live out the rest of my years. I can barely even manage to think about tomorrow right now.

I'm tired, and I don't mean sleepy. I'm sleepy most mornings, and I'm especially sleepy from being sick. I'm tired of things being so hard. I'm tired of doing the right thing all the time. I'm tired of being in a hard spot. I'm tired of Carrie being in school. I'm ready for things to start going my way. I'm tired of doing the hard work of counselling. Everything is a struggle. I'm ready for things to be easy. I don't care what my future looks like anymore. I'm surrendering. I don't want to take ultimate responsibility for my overall long term well-being anymore. I can't worry about that. I need to just focus on making the right steps every day. I don't care anymore what happens after tomorrow. Today is all I can handle.

"Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le