The Art of Letting Life Be Good

“How’s everything going with you?”

Without hesitation I began,

Life is good, but still…”

“I mean, I really do like my life right now but…”

I paused, searching for something to gripe about…because that’s what I always do. How unnecessary, though? Truly, life was good. My rent was paid, my health was great…I had the privilege of making up problems on a Thursday afternoon over an iced coffee. So why did I feel the need to temper my good vibes with a soggy “but”?

I was reminded of three things:

  1. Similar to my sense of self-deprecating humor and sarcasm, I use light-hearted negativity to cut myself down before someone else or something else does.

  2. Many times I feel guilty for enjoying parts of my life to the fullest because I haven’t worked or don’t feel like I’m working “hard enough.”

  3. I’m simply accustomed to feeling a way about certain things. The stories I tell myself about always being behind or always making mistakes are stories that I know like the back of my hand. As twisted as it sounds, they make me feel assured, correct, and comfortable. Plus, I’ve invested so much time and energy into these stories that they’ve become a part of my self-image. It makes sense that I’d want to inject them into any conversation that makes a departure from that familiar “life sucks” narrative.

But in the long run, none of this stuff is useful.

So now I’ve made it a point to recognize that I can enjoy my life when I’m feeling it and express gratitude without any other negative statements to balance the scales. After all, the better I feel about right now, the more open I am to receiving good things in the future.

“Life is good. Period.”

That’s not the way I usually end a sentence, but I’m getting used to it.

How I'm Cracking The Code On Healthy Habits

I was catching up with a friend yesterday, reflecting on the first three months of 2019 and how drastically different they’ve become from the months prior. In many ways, I’m a completely different person.

In the fall I used a lot of alcohol, fleeting relationships, food delivery apps, Amazon Prime and Netflix to cover up my anxiety about the future. I spent money to surround myself with nice things, because subconsciously, nice things made me feel like a nicer person.

Now at the turn of spring, I’m the guy who’s more interested in staying home, cooking meals for friends, finding affordable ways to exercise, and dealing with uncomfortable thoughts head-on instead of running away from them.

Maybe it’s just me getting older, but I keep asking the question - how have I been able to keep up this new mindset for so long? In my head there are endless instant replays of my previous attempts piled up like VHS tapes, and from the archives I’ve noticed three things that have made this go-around truly different:

  1. I’m focusing on one change at a time, one day at a time, one thought at a time. Any other lofty ideals I’ve been trying to live up to are out the window. For example, after two months of working out 4-5 times per week, the backseat and trunk of my car have been nightmarish. Between multiple sets of clothes and towels and yoga mats and boxing gloves, I just haven’t kept it organized. It’s out of character for a pseudo clean freak like me.

    Instead of beating myself up about the dirty car, I realized that it’s just the tradeoff for making health my real priority now. It’s natural once you start shifting your routine for things to get knocked out of place. Being okay with that allows me just enough self-respect to keep it going.

  2. I’m making it about the practice, not the result. If I was working out solely to get ready for the beach or to get into “artist shape” as I’ve coined it in the past, I’d easily become frustrated if I didn’t see results in the mirror fast enough. Then I’d give up out of that frustration, prematurely forfeiting all the other benefits.

    This time around, there’s only one criteria for success - consistently doing a thing (i.e. exercise) day in and day out. We tend to overestimate how much we can accomplish in a day and underestimate how much we can accomplish in a year. I’ve found it much more enjoyable and sustainable for me to wipe out my expectation for quick results and external validations. I celebrate the practice of being and doing instead.

  3. I am my own and my best accountability partner. When I’m not in the mood to do a thing like go to the gym I’ve been an expert at talking myself out of it - negotiating the pros and cons, convincing myself that it’s too late, too expensive, or that I’m too tired. I’ll literally debate myself for so long until time has really run out and I’ve succeeded in putting off another healthy habit.

    But finally I’ve learned how to outsmart that voice in my head. As soon as I get a sense of that naysaying voice, I stop listening and start moving as quickly as possible. “We can have this conversation in my head on the way there in the car instead of on the couch, yeah?” It’s not the easiest thing to put that voice on mute while I’m lacing up my shoes - but when I do, the job gets done every time.

Life feels a little more aligned now, even if on the outside my surroundings haven’t changed. These little mind hacks have been the key - and I can’t wait to see how they hold up over the next 90 days.

Sober Thoughts 2: How Three Months Alcohol-Free Is Changing Me

A few months back I shared some reflections on my Sober January journey. I wasn’t sure whether I’d continue my streak of not drinking but somewhere between “time flies” and “why not?” I ended up here in April, still sober.

And with that, here are 30 more thoughts after 90 days without a drink:

  1. I realized at the 2-month mark that it has become almost easier for me to pass on a drink now than to take one.

  2. Mindset has been the key - seeing my sober-life as one of privilege and not deprivation.

  3. I have the privilege of not giving in to what was once a slippery slope of escapism and avoidance.

  4. I have the privilege of self-control without self-judgment or guilt.

  5. I also have the privilege of knowing that I can choose to have a drink whenever I want - I just choose not to for now.

  6. I’m not deprived. I’m empowered. I’m lucky.

  7. Fitness has happened. It’s not necessarily any easier to get to the gym - there’s just one less roadblock I have to deal with.

  8. I get restless. And without alcohol to numb me, I’ve found that working out and fumbling around in the kitchen are the healthiest ways to keep busy.

  9. I’ve replaced empty beverage calories with nutrient-dense vegetables and almond butter toast and protein shakes.

  10. I’ve figured out how to prepare these whole foods in a way that makes me crave them more than the half-empty bottle of mezcal that’s still sitting in the back of my freezer.

  11. My body thanks me.

  12. I thank my body.

  13. We both do well when we listen to each other.

  14. My sleep is deeper and more satisfying.

  15. I’m feeling more present in my relationships.

  16. There are still a few times and places where I really crave an ice cold beer, and with that I’ve discovered something else that’s entertaining:

  17. O’doul’s non-alcoholic beer is still a thing. I found out last weekend at Pappy & Harriet’s in Joshua Tree, CA when the high desert sun and dive bar vibes were calling for a beer but not the brain fog.

  18. Cheers’ing with an O’doul’s - the same brand my dad used to order out at dinner and I never understood why - is now one of my fondest ironic memories.

  19. Bitters and soda, however, is still the best free drink I can get at a bar.

  20. I still find myself unknowingly making apologies for not taking a drink - like last week when a new colleague offered me a beer at the studio and I came through on the defense.

  21. “I used to be really into beer, I usually drink it, I’m just not drinking it right now,” I said.

  22. “Bro, it’s cool I get it,” he said with a laugh, sensing my nerves.

  23. An interaction like this is a friendly reminder that I still have insecurities left over from high school.

  24. There are a lot of people happy to see the changes I’ve made and who encourage me no matter what.

  25. I make it a point to focus on those people and forget the rest.

  26. Life is not perfect and this is just one of many processes I’m going through.

  27. I try not to attach my ego or identity to alcohol or my choices around it.

  28. I’m not a better or worse human for being alcohol-free. I just like the way this feels.

  29. It took some major life challenges to get me to this point and I don’t plan on going back too soon.

  30. Instead of bringing wine to the party, I’m now the guy who brings flowers.

And isn’t that nice?