So How Are Those Goals Going, Anyway?

Despite the radio silence here on my website, my progress toward my goals this year has actually been quite steady. I told myself that this was my year to really buckle down and do the work – and that’s what I’ve been doing. Keeping my nose to the grindstone, filling my spare time, and trying to also maintain a social life.

I’d be lying if I said it was easy. In many ways, I feel busier than I’ve ever been. I have that feeling I had in college. Whenever I have free time, I feel as if I should be doing something else. Writing. Art. Reading. Working out.

I know that sounds stressful and depressing – but honestly, I actually prefer that kind of feeling as opposed to

Writing

writing

I’ve really been trying to buckle down and write as close to every day as I can. There are some screenshots below of my progress so far. I’m using a tracker called Write Track, which is completely free.

As you can see from my screenshots – I definitely don’t manage to actually sit down and write every day. Since I work on the same laptopeeeeee that I write on, sometimes after I do a full day of work, I just don’t want to sit down at my desk again and write.

Those days, I give myself a bit of a pass. One of the things I’ve been working on teaching myself this year is the art of self-love and self-forgiveness. I miss a day of writing? That’s okay, I can make up some words another day. Miss a day at the gym? It’s all right, it doesn’t mean I’ve given up on fitness. Eat unhealthily? That’s okay, tomorrow you’ll do better. I find that if I give myself some grace and kindness, I’m less likely to quit. Whereas if I’m hard on myself for missing a day, I want to stop almost immediately. Not to mention, it’s just better for my mental health to have a loving edge toward myself, rather than a hard one.

But, anyway! Let’s check on my goal progress.

My overall word count is going well. Though I don’t write every day, I do tend to write more than my daily count when I sit down to write. I usually average around 1,000 words or more a day when I actually write, as you can see from my February word count.

2019-03-24 (1)

Clearly, I had problems writing every day. Well, I should say – I had issues recording my writing every day. Sometimes I just forget to mark where I started writing, or I just forget to update my count. I don’t think that was the case here – I honestly think that the 17th – 24th I just didn’t write. It happens. I don’t lose sleep over it. The point is that I’m still working on developing the habit. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

But let’s take a look at the days that I did write. Almost every day I wrote in February I wrote 2,000+ words in the day. There was one day I wrote over 7,000 words. Those days really help make up for the ones that I don’t get to my laptop. The point of setting my goal of 200,000 words in a year was to learn to do the work. If that means I don’t write every single day, but I still reach the goal in my timeframe, so be it.

So now let’s take a look at my overall word count so far this year:

2019-03-24 (2)

NOTE: This doesn’t include today’s writing since I haven’t updated my count for today yet. Okay, let’s take a look.

As you can see, I’m pretty far ahead of my goal progress. This was my plan. I know I can write a lot in a short period of time, so I buckled down in January and cranked out as many words as I possibly could to get ahead of the game. In the month of January, I wrote 30,949 words (which, fun fact, is my average for each NaNoWriMo except for the time I wrote 90,000 words – that was an outlier and should not be counted).

If you can do math (and you can) you’re probably saying, “But wait a minute there Miss Writes-A-Lot, that means you’ve only written another 30,000 words since January!” You’re right, That’s why I worked so hard in January, because I knew I would start to slow down. (Full disclosure – I wrote this article before the end of April as I was trying to get ahead on my blogging. So who knows how many words I will have actually written by April 1st? Just kidding, I know, its 69,278).

I’m still pretty far ahead of the Expected Progress Bar. For those curious, as of today, March 24th, 2019, in order to reach my goal by December 31st, my expected progress is 43,333 words. I’m trying to still stay ahead of the bar in case I run into any more dry spells.

All in All: Am I Satisfied?

I absolutely am satisfied with my progress. It’s nice to have a measure of just how many words I’ve written this year. I find it motivating to be so far ahead of my goal. I want to see how quickly I can reach my goal, and how much I can surpass it by the end of the year.

I’m still working on building the habits, but I’m doing the work. That’s all I can really ask for.

Health

I feel good about the stride s I’ve made toward prioritizing my health. I got a gym membership at Xperience Fitness which is a cheap-but-good gym near me. I go three times a week in the morning and work out for 30 minutes to an hour those days.

I’ve made some discoveries. I’d made a lot of excuses as to why I couldn’t join a gym before. A lot of them revolved around my asthma – I was embarrassed to work out when I knew I would have an asthma attack. I thought people would judge me for being out of shape when in reality I just couldn’t breathe.

But the more I’ve gone to the gym, the less I’ve had problems with my asthma. I thought it was going to take a lot of doing to get to the point where I could do a set of weights, or run for 30 minutes without having an asthma attack. Turns out I was wrong.

Disclaimer: I’m not saying that people who have asthma are whiners, or that asthma can’t be a legitimate worry when working out. This is purely my experience.

After one week at the gym, I stopped having problems with my asthma. I have no idea what sparked that change, but I’m glad it happened. Now, I can push myself as hard as I need to in the gym without feeling like I’m drowning.

Of course, this doesn’t mean working out is easy for me now. It’s not by any means. But it’s less terrible than it was before.

As far as goals – I don’t actually own a scale. So I don’t know how much weight I’ve lost so far on my health journey. But I also know that I have lost weight. The reason I know? I had to replace all of my pants because they were suddenly too loose. That’s right, I’ve dropped a pants size so far this year.

In the interest of being transparent – which is what I’m trying to do here – I’ll give you a rundown of what I’ve done to achieve my health goal. My roommate and I attempted Whole30 and stopped after 17 days, when she realized that a health condition of hers was being aggravated by the restrictive diet. I could have continued on my own, but quite honestly – I didn’t want to. I am very much a foodie, and while I did find some recipes that were tasty, most I found to be bland and boring. Because they were bland, I didn’t want to eat, and then I got grouchy and tired because I wasn’t eating enough.

That’s all to say, I’ve figured out how to adjust my diet to be more healthy. Have I been doing it well since I stopped Whole30? No, but I’m going to start again. I’m cutting back on sugary foods – soda, coffee, sweets – and eating out less. This is partially for my health and partially for my wallet.

All in All: Am I Satisfied?

Absolutely. I’m proud of myself for the progress I’ve made. It may not be perfect, but I’m still working hard and I think I can give myself credit for it. I’m still developing all the habits – there are occasionally still mornings where I choose to sleep instead of work out. But those will come with time an dedication.

I also intend to buy a scale soon so I can actually find out how much I’ve lost.

Books

All right, admission:

I haven’t finished a book yet this year. It’s now April, I should be starting my fourth book in-keeping with my goal. And I haven’t. Finished. One.

I also figured out why I didn’t finish any books last year, either. I read a LOT of my own writing.

Does that sound vain? Probably. But I’ve been writing for 13 years. I have quite a library built up. I read my own work for inspiration, reflection, and editorial purposes. I also read because… well, no one knows my tastes like I do.

So I’ve read thousands of words this year. It’s just that I haven’t read much that I haven’t written myself (and articles online, of course).

All and All: Am I Satisfied?

No, not really… I don’t really know what to change when it comes to my reading habits. I always intend to sit down and read but in reality, I have so many other things to do, I just forget. And then suddenly it’s April and I should have read 3 whole books and I haven’t read any.

I don’t really have a plan for what to do to achieve my goal… I’ll keep you guys updated if I come up with a plan. I’m just going to try to read some short books to catch up whenever I have the time (which is never).

Coming Soon!

Good news for those of you who actually enjoy reading my blog. There’s more coming!

Newsletter

That’s right, I’m hoping to roll out a newsletter in the next several months! You can look to find updates on my story, personal anecdotes, pictures, hints, and hacks. This will still be a little while coming as I want to get into the habit of regularly publishing articles before I roll it out. Still, I’m excited to share more of my life with you all!

New Series!

I’ve brainstormed enough blog topics to publish one article a week for the rest of this year. Actually, well into next year as well.

I took away my best excuse. “I don’t have any ideas for blog posts!” Not anymore. I have over 50 blog ideas, with titles and details, written in a spreadsheet. I have publishing dates assigned, and several series planned. Here’s a sneak peek!

Adulting is Hard: a crash course on how to be a real adult from one who learned the hard way. I’ll be talking about budgeting when you have no money, how to grocery shop on a tight budget, what to do when your car breaks down for the first time, keeping your place clean, how to find your first apartment, tips on living with roommates, a simple checklist of essential furniture and household supplies for your first home, the best way to do laundry, and learning how to be healthy when you’re broke.

Creating a Story: I figured if you’re always told to “write what you know,” then I’d better start writing about what I know best: writing! This series will touch on the basics of developing a good story. How to design a compelling character, creating character development, finding a good antagonist and conflict for your story, designing a full plot arc, then, finally, actually sitting down to write the story. And, of course, the all-important editing.

Writing Fantasy: There’s a lot that goes into creating a compelling fantasy world that people don’t really think about. In this series I’m going to touch on building a believable fantasy world, creating new fantasy races and their rules, dealing with creatures and magic, as well as the basics of language and spells.

Misc. Lifestyle and Religion: The rest of my planned posts for this year are mostly miscellaneous, and branch across several topics, but I still think they’re going to be fun to write, and hopefully fun to read. Here are SOME of the posts I have planned:

  • What Queer Eye has Taught me About Self Care and Confidence
  • I Walked Away From Christianity for Two Years. Here’s Why I Came Back
  • Brainstorming Tips and Tricks From Your Local Creative Mind
  • Why Christian Lonely-Shame, and Why We Should Stop
  • What Happened When I Konmari’d All My Belongings

Those are the first series I have planned! I’m excited to get started. I feel like I finally know what I want to say and how to say it, so now I just have to sit down and do the work. And that’s what this year is all about, anyway!

Leave a comment down below with what series or post you’re most excited to read! I’d love to hear from you!

What I Wish Other Christians Understood About My Depression

Writing this piece makes me tense. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fairly private person, and I particularly don’t like talking about my faith online. This is a combination of the fact that – to me – faith is very personal, and because in the past, no matter what I’ve said about my faith, I’ve been “wrong.”

This isn’t meant as a call-out to anyone. If you recognize some behaviors you’ve done in the past – even to me – don’t worry. I don’t hold it against you, nor do I think you’re a bad person for it. I don’t. There are a lot of misconceptions out there about mental illness – and Christians can be accepting, but they can also be condemning and judging. So I’ve created a list of misconceptions I’ve heard around depression.

If you find yourself agreeing with some of the things I’m arguing against, I encourage you to take a moment and open your mind to the possibility that you don’t have all the facts.

Depression is a Medical Condition

There’s debate around this – what a shock – but a lot of scientists have tested and believe that Major Depression and Clinical Depression are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. It’s not a “disease” in the normal sense of the word. But it is still a condition that is commonly treated by medication. And a lot of people – myself included – can’t function properly without the medication. It not only gives me energy and helps me care about my emotions, family, friends, and work – it also keeps me balanced and cuts my depressive episodes – and suicidal thoughts – down by a considerable margin.

Is depression always a chemical imbalance? I don’t know, I’m not a scientist. But I do know that even if it is triggered by something – lifestyle changes, problems, death, illness, etc – that doesn’t mean that it is a person who is just feeling down. Depression is serious, debilitating, and needs to be taken seriously.

I know there are some religious fundamentalists out there who disagree with seeking treatment for any medical condition or disease – but most are not like that. If you have the flu? Seek treatment. Cold? Take some cough syrup. Cancer? Do radiation. But mental illness? “Pray and it’ll go away, you’ll see.”

Just because it’s “in my head” – literally – doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

Depression Doesn’t Mean My Faith is Weak

I’ve heard many Christians shame each other – and me – for being on antidepressants. Because they view depression as a weakness in one’s faith, or a struggle with sin, or a refusal to deal with personal problems. And – forgive my language – that’s absolute bullshit.

Some Christians I respect beyond others struggle thoroughly with mental illness. They have faith. They’re strong in their walk, unwavering. And yet they still struggle with thoughts of worthlessness, pain, helplessness, and that they’d be better off dead.

These Christians have more faith than many others I know. Because they struggle, every day, with thoughts that they’d be better off dead, or people would be better off without them. But they choose to move forward anyway, because they have hope in a better tomorrow. They know God has a plan for them, and their faith leads them to believe their stories aren’t over yet. How many normal Christians here in the US can claim that kind of daily struggle?

Depression is a Trial, not a Failing

My depression is my cross. It’s my struggle, my trial, my whatever-Biblical-terminology-you-want. My depression is not caused by a lack of faith. It’s my burden. I have to struggle with it every day, not because my faith is weak – but because it’s making me a better person.

Yeah, you heard that right. In some ways, I’m thankful for my depression. I try to live as James says in chapter one.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

I try to mold myself in the footsteps of this verse. Depression is my trial – and it has already taught me perseverance. I wanted to die, friends. Is that blunt? Yeah. That’s the point. I wanted to end my own life, and I didn’t. I took another step forward in faith – when I really didn’t want to – praying that life would get better. And it did.

You can Still have the Fruits of the Spirit if You have Depression

I can see myself becoming a better person through this trial. I know that the fruits of the spirit are growing through my life.

Love? I love deeply and unconditionally, because I know what it is like to feel totally alone and unloved. And I never, ever, want anyone around me to feel like no one loves them.

Joy? When I’m at my high points, they’re higher than ever before. I feel joy in every minute that I have when I don’t feel depressed. Moments of happiness feel like blessings. A lot of people can take happiness for granted – but I don’t think I ever will. I think that my experiences have taught me what true, unconditional joy is – the joy of knowing that you’re alive.

Peace? Yes. I feel peaceful. When I’m not depressed, I feel at peace, because I know what true inner turmoil feels like. I can feel at peace with my life and my surroundings because I’ve experienced those low points.

Those are the strongest ones I’ve noticed. I definitely know that I’m growing in the rest of the fruits of the spirit. I can feel it and see it in my life every day.

I know I said at the beginning of this post that this isn’t a call out post. And it’s really not. But, Christians, we need to do better. We need to stop judging mentally ill people for something that’s out of their control. We need to stop shaming each other. There’s no shame in seeking treatment for mental illness, and we shouldn’t be treated that way.

Psalms 34:11 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” That’s exactly how I feel when I’m in the midst of depression. I feel broken. I feel crushed. I feel heavy. And I know that God is near me in those times, even if I don’t always feel like it. I have faith. But my faith doesn’t eliminate my struggle. Just as faith doesn’t eliminate temptation, or grief, pain, anger, fear, or anything else. It simply gives us something to cling onto, and the hope that the future holds better.