#577 – Lazy Day and Long Streaks

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Woke up this morning at around 9:00 – unsurprising since I was still awake at 2:00 am – and headed to a friend’s house to visit with her for a while, and to play with her new foster kittens. I spent a couple hours at her place, then headed back home. The kittens are adorable and it was good to spend time with my friend.

My wife has been dealing with a headache all day, so there were some naps interspersed with working on the playlist for tonight’s show. Eventually I headed to the pharmacy to pick up a couple prescriptions and to the store to grab something for dinner tonight, came home, made dinner, and did the show. Tonight was Cards Against Humanity night but because of server errors we were only able to get one game in during our three hour long show.

Tomorrow is going to be hectic. I have a quiz to finish up for algebra by Monday morning, so I’ll be working on that, in addition to doing laundry and the weekly grocery shopping.

Eventually my wife lost her headache but I found it, so I apologize today’s post isn’t any longer than it is.

Oh, one last thing. Know those checklists that I try to accomplish every day? Yesterday I hit 180 days straight of completing my checklist. Kinda proud of that, considering how different things are now that I’m in school. So that happened.

Consistency of Habit

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The above picture is a screenshot from my phone of Duolingo, the language app that I have used to learn Spanish and now Italian. I have another app, Elevate that I use for grammar, math, and short-term memory exercises. I do both of them every day. And according to this snapshot, I have been doing them both every day for a year straight.

When I started this streak, I didn’t honestly think it would last this long. I was just happy to be learning something and not just sitting at home twiddling my thumbs when not watching movies or playing computer games or reading or doing the occasional household chore. Being on disability seems like it might be all fun and games, but let me assure you, having no schedule and little to keep you busy gets very old, very fast.

I think that’s one of the reasons that I’m so happy to be going to college after all this time. It gives me some structure and some short- and long-term goals to work towards. The short-term goal is this semester, and the long-term, of course, is the degree.

Speaking of college, I got word today that I’d gained a spot in both classes that I had waitlisted for, and I accepted a spot in one of them. The other begins ten minutes after the first one ends on another campus, leaving me no possible way to get from one to the other in time.

The part that makes me happiest about this is that it means that I’m only going to miss one day of classes when I go to California next month on vacation. One day is going to be fairly easy to catch up from, especially with the syllabuses in hand. It also gives me five days a week that will be class-free, time that I can spend studying or keeping up with my chores or taking time for myself.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m glad that it worked out that I could only take two classes this semester. I would have hated to get back into the habit of going to class and studying with a full class load. I can save that pleasure for later semesters, when I’ll need to keep up with the program.

I’m worried that my checklist items will fall by the wayside given the more pressing use of my time, but I feel confident that I can keep at least most of my checklist going even while in school.

Seven more days to wait.

Streaks V: Not This Again

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Regular readers of this blog know about me and my streaks, so I thought I would give an update, since it’s been a while. This whole thing probably only interests me, but it helps motivate me to see all this data in one place every now and again. Anyway, here we go.

Every night before I go to bed, I have a mood tracker called Daylio that I use to give a quick rundown of the day’s activities and swings in my mood over time. Not counting tonight’s entry, which of course hasn’t happened yet, I’m up to 424 straight days of tracking my mood.

I also track my daily caloric intake as best as I can through an app called MyFitnessPal. It has an extensive database of items and allows you to input recipes so that even the most complicated foods can be accurately tracked, along with their nutritional information. As of today, I’ve logged 464 straight days’ worth of food.

To help keep my mind limber, I’ve been using two apps, one called Elevate which gives quick exercises in reading, listening, math, and more, and the other called Duolingo, through which I’ve learned the rudimentary basics of Spanish and am now doing the same with Italian. Each of them has an identical streak in place – 344 days now.

The one I came to talk about, however, is my checklist streak. I have a checklist of 21 items that I have to do every day, things that include taking my meds four times a day and checking my blood pressure three times a day as prescribed, eating at proper times (I’m diabetic, so regular food is important, and I’ve been known to skip meals without the checklist), exercise, but also things like leisure time and socialization, and even my daily entry into this blog. Before the middle of January of this year, I’d only every gotten full marks for a day just a handful of times – less than 20 since I started my checklist back in October 2014. But something happened in January that made everything click, and now I’m completing that checklist almost every day. I had a streak of 84 straight days that was ended when I forgot my evening blood pressure one night. There were a few days that I took off shortly after that – I had a trip out of town that I didn’t want the pressure of trying to hit everything on that list every day for, but once I got back in town, I started back up again, and I haven’t stopped since. The new streak hits 85 days tonight, which makes it now the longest uninterrupted streak I’ve ever recorded of achieving full marks.

I’m really proud of that mark, but there’s a part of me that would really, really like another day or two off. I might do that once I hit 90 days; I might decide to keep going until I actually forget to do something – I haven’t decided yet. But for now, I’m going to take a moment to recognize this achievement, and remind myself that the changes that I’m making are good and significant. Sometimes I don’t think it’s any big deal. The more days that I have where my mood stays good and stable throughout the day, the harder it is for me to put my accomplishments in perspective. “Well, this is something that’s expected of you now, isn’t it? So it’s no big deal,” I find myself telling myself. I write these blog posts to remind myself that it is a lot of work and that it’s nothing to minimize, but I find myself doing it from time to time. I write in my blog as much for those following my journey back to “normalcy” as I do for myself, but these posts are mostly for me.

The next big achievement is going to be in five days, when I extend this full marks streak out to three straight months. After that, I’m closing in on a solid year that I’ve been challenging my brain every day. That will be a big deal when it happens.

I haven’t really given much though to how my checklist will change once I’m back in school. Certainly there will be some things that will fall by the wayside, and some new things added. I haven’t changed the items on that checklist in over a year now, because I’ve found a list that works for me. But that list also isn’t taking twelve credit hours a semester into account. Whatever changes happen, I expect the streak to end soon after, because it’ll be a change from what I’ve been doing. But hopefully I can keep it up.

Right now, though, I’m content to wrap things up for the night.

This Is Interesting

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Regular readers of this blog know about my daily checklist, the 21 items that I try to complete every day to both ensure that I take care of myself medically (medications, recording blood glucose and blood pressure, eating meals, etc.) and that I try to achieve a few items each day. A daily entry in this blog is one of those achievement items, another is my learning.

I define my learning as completing daily exercises in two smartphone apps, Elevate (a math- and language-based “brain training” app) and Duolingo (an app that teaches foreign language basics). To complete Elevate, I complete three games daily. A day’s worth of Duolingo now consists of at least two Italian lessons (if a module needs refreshing, I complete it, plus at least one new lesson each day) and all the Spanish modules that need strengthening, regardless of number. That number can wildly vary. At minimum, that’s only two Italian lessons, if Spanish is all maxed out. Yesterday, it was five Italian lessons and five Spanish.

I was mentioning to my wife how long my current streak is, and I realized something pretty cool.

My current streak is 292 days long. The streak I had before that was 119 days. That means that I’ve only missed one day since April 24, 2016. I’m strangely proud of that.

In the broad scheme of things, it’s not really that big a deal, I know. But it’s a measure of consistency for me, and I do value consistency.

I’ll keep you guys posted as I close in on the one year anniversary of this streak.

I Made It Through

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Since October 24, 2014, I’ve been using a couple of Moleskine notebooks to track my daily activities, my vitals, and my master to-do list. I noticed that in 2015 and 2016 I just stopped recording my daily activities from early February to sometime in April. I’ve been chalking that up to a seasonal downswing that I go through each year at that time.

This year, however, I didn’t have that gap in my recording. In fact, it was during this period this year that I recorded my longest ever streak of days where I recorded full marks on my checklist.

I think my ability to stick to the checklist this year was partly fueled by the desire to see how long that streak would last. There have been some days since I broke that long streak that I’ve not completed my checklist, but they’ve been few. For the most part, I’m back in the saddle and currently on a new streak (albeit not a long one yet).

I’m kinda proud of my ability to fight off the seasonal dip in my mood and activity. That shows I am capable of at least doing the bare minimum of what I should be doing on a daily basis, and it’s time to stretch for some new goals. I don’t know what they’ll be just yet, but I hope to be able to tell you what they are soon. As for now, I’m just going to keep on keeping on.

Home For Good

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We flew home to Austin from Phoenix this afternoon.

It’s good to finally be home, for the foreseeable future this time.

I enjoyed the trip to Phoenix and socialized in ways I didn’t expect, experienced things that I hadn’t counted on, and had a really good time overall.

Tonight, though, I think I’m going to be looking forward to sleeping in my own bed.

A lot of my streaks are a little wonky because of the changes in time zones that I’ve been experiencing over the past two weeks. They’re thankfully intact, but I think that’s something that I should bring up to the development teams on both my learning apps, and also here on WordPress (there was a post that I did after 10:00 pm on Saturday evening and WordPress is counting it as no post that day because of the two hour time difference between Texas and Arizona).

Tonight’s going to be one last short post because I’m knackered, and tomorrow it’s back to business as usual.

All Good Things …

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… must come to an end. I forgot to take my blood pressure last night. My streak of achieving full marks on my checklist has been broken. I made it 84 straight days, almost three whole months. During that streak I kept it alive during days when I was particularly busy, and even did so during an emergency trip to North Carolina to be with my mother in intensive care. I’m very proud of that streak, and I’m sad that it’s ended.

However, this means that the pressure to maintain a long streak during the Phoenix trip is over, although I’m still going to make every effort to keep it going. If I don’t get to something due to family obligations, I don’t get to it. But when I come home from Phoenix, I can begin working in earnest on a new streak.

There was a point in time when it seemed that achieving full marks was nearly an impossibility. My mind told me that it was hard, and so I treated it like it was hard. It’s a challenge, to be sure. It’s not always easy to come up with something to write as a blog post, for instance. But this streak of 84 days has taught me that it isn’t necessarily hard – just challenging. And I can use a little challenge in my life.

Sixty Days and Counting

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It’s been a long while since I’ve written a post explaining who I am and my situation, so I’m going to do that before getting into the meat of my post today which, admittedly, is not going to be that long.

My name is Steven and I’m a happily married 47-year-old. Currently I’m on disability due to PTSD and bipolar disorder, but also suffer from borderline personality disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, as well as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. These ailments pop up frequently in this blog as I describe my life in sometimes intimate detail.

A very regularly mentioned aspect of my life is my checklist. I keep this in two Moleskine notebooks, one squared and one lined. In the squared one, I track my daily accomplishments on 21 separate line items. These include taking my medications and my vitals throughout the day, my meals, hygiene, exercise, a daily to-do item (my daily to-do list is comprised of things that aren’t daily occurrences like calling to make doctor’s appointments, cleaning house, etc., and that list is kept in the lined notebook), as well as a few other habitual items that I feel round out my day pretty well. Writing in this blog is one of those items. I also keep track of my vitals – my blood glucose and pressure throughout the day – in the second half of the squared notebook.

This checklist is meant to challenge me, and for the first 27 months of me doing this checklist I was only able to complete full marks on a day’s checklist some 30-odd times. There were long periods that I didn’t feel up to doing everything, and just let some things habitually slide for months at a time. (It is important to note that I take my medication almost religiously, only missing two doses in the past year. The important stuff I’ve been doing.) It’s also showed me that starting in early February, I tend to take time off from the checklist completely, sometimes going into May before picking it back up again. This was a situation that I wanted to avoid this year if I could.

Back on January 17th I completed full marks on my checklist for the first time in four months. I completed full marks again on the 18th and 19th and started wondering just how long I could keep that up, knowing that my longest ever streak of full marks days in a row was twelve.

Yesterday I also completed full marks on my checklist. That represented a milestone for me – sixty straight days of full marks. Two months.

I’m very proud of being able to say that I’ve kept that streak going for that long, and I credit my desire to keep the streak alive with keeping me engaged in my checklist during what’s traditionally a time of a very hard downswing in my mood and energy level. But I also realize that there’s not much challenge left in completing full marks anymore, so as of today I’ve altered the conditions that two of my checklist items are considered complete. The goal is to get me more prepared to get back into the job market, and that checklist is a tool that’s helping me do just that.

I’m not at the point of adding anything to the checklist just yet. I know that historically new items added to the checklist tend to fall by the wayside within days of being added, and the list of items that I include in my checklist hasn’t changed for close to a year now. But making the changes that define completion, to make things more challenging for me, is a step in the right direction.

One of the things that I’m supposed to be dealing with is how I handle embarrassing situations. Generally situations like that automatically trigger a fight/flight/freeze response rather than a more socially acceptable “whoops, guess I’ll know better next time.” So I’m going to stick my neck out and tell you what those two changes are, knowing that doing so will be extremely embarrassing for me.

The first isn’t embarrassing at all. I tend to keep my to-do list in my head, just keeping that to things that I see that need doing around the house and doing them, rather than recording them in my lined notebook. As of today, for it to count as a to-do item, everything has to be written down in my second, lined book. This serves two purposes. One, I can better remember to look in the book for things I have to do if I’m writing in it every day. Two, I can see a list of just what I have accomplished around the house in a given day and can feel good about that rather than minimizing what I do here, something I almost always do.

The second isn’t so easy to talk about. I’ve had a lifelong issue with remembering to brush my teeth and shower. If I’m heading out to do something social, I do both, but during the long stretches of days that I sit here in the apartment alone for most of the day, without ever walking out my front door, those things tend to get forgotten about. My new hygiene requirements are that I brush twice a day (I’ve been gargling with mouthwash twice daily during this streak, but even that’s better than I usually do) and regularly shower and shave, regardless of whether I’m leaving the house or not. The shaving will be the hardest part for me to do, since standing in the shower for too long tends to hurt my back, and it takes me a while to shave. (I shave my head, for those that don’t know.) 

I’m still formulating what I want my new challenges to be after the next sixty days of full marks. Perhaps I might even bump that down to thirty days instead of sixty and only redefine one item at that time, who knows.

The end result is that I’m making strides in the right direction, and I’m very pleased with the results of the past sixty days. Here’s hoping that the next sixty days will be more of the same.

Streaks IV: A New Hope

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It seems I measure my life in streaks these days, so I thought I’d give regular readers an update on how I’m doing.

Back on January 24, I gave a progress report on my streaks and explained the logic behind why these streaks are so important to me. So in lieu of a better, more thought out blog post, given that it’s 10:30 pm and I have an hour and a half to hit publish or break the streak that I’m proudest of, here are the updated stats, current as of today except where noted.

Consecutive days recording at least my morning vitals: 536.

Consecutive days recording my caloric intake to the best of my ability: 320.

Consecutive days tracking my mood and activities in my mood tracking app: 280, current as of yesterday. (As I explained back on January 24, this is one of the last things I do before turning out the lights at night, so I haven’t recorded today’s entry yet.)

Consecutive days completing my exercises in my Elevate and Duolingo learning apps: 200.

Consecutive days achieving full marks on my daily checklist: 51, current as of yesterday.

I’m especially proud of these streaks because they’re all continuing a month into my usual annual downswing, where I stop everything except the bare minimum that I need to survive – recording vitals and taking medications. I think keeping these streaks alive is part of how I’m combating that this year, so I’m clinging to the streaks. I’ve still got a month and a half to go before I’m out of that period in my annual mood cycle, so I’m almost halfway there at this point.

Another Big Milestone (And Another!)

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Yesterday I wrote about hitting thirty days of full marks on my daily checklist. Today I have another, even bigger milestone to write about.

Today – just now, in fact – I completed my 180th straight day on my learning apps, Elevate and Duolingo. That’s six months straight!

When you combine this streak with the one that I broke six months ago, that means that over the past ten months I’ve only missed one day of doing my learning. That’s really kind of cool.

The learning is helping me to certain degrees. The things that I’m learning in the Elevate app are helping me to become a better listener and writer, and I’m able to do more complicated math problems in my head these days. The Duolingo is where I’m noticing more progress, since there’s more and more Spanish that I see out in the wild that I can read at least part of and understand. More often than not, I can see something written in Spanish and go “I can read some of that!” and that’s a good feeling.

I’m looking forward to seeing how long I can stretch this streak. I know that by the time I finish another six months I’ll have completed my Spanish lessons on Duolingo and will either need to move to a new language or continue brushing up on my Spanish as my memory naturally forgets things over time (or both).

EDIT: I just logged breakfast in my calorie counter and was informed that I’d logged in for 300 days in a row. So double bonus!