Sunday, January 19, 2020

3 Ps that are Making My Life Pleasanter

I've been feeling pretty content lately. Not that I don't still have the occasional mood swing, but overall I've been more relaxed--in my job, in my home life, in my writing...in everything. So I was sort of sitting here, thinking about the things that have improved the quality of my life lately. I wish I could say they're big, meaningful changes, like spending more quality time with my family, or finding a home church I love. But what it comes down to is three Ps--all of them pretty shallow:
Plotting, Paddlingand Podcasts.


Plotting

I've always been a pantser when it comes to writing. At the most I jot down a few notes about what I want to happen in my book(s), then pretty much wing it from chapter to chapter. But Spring of Crows is the final book in the series, which requires more intricate planning. I have to figure out how to tie every loose end in a way that lines up logically with the past two books. All of this has forced me to switch from pantsing to plotting. So before starting this installment, I created detailed summaries of what was going to happen for the first 13 chapters. It took me the better part of a day to do it, but holy cow, I'm so glad I did. Now every time I sit down to write, there's virtually no writer's block. It feels like the story is already there; my job is simply to transcribe it. Don't get me wrong, I'm still a painfully slow writer. But overall writing has been a more effortless experience, and it makes me feel so...happy.*

*(Note: I'm officially screwed once I finish chapter 13, because at that point I'm out of summaries and it's back to the drawing board, but I'm trying not to think about that too much.)

Paddling

Clint and I have tried so many different exercise regimes to stay in shape. Every time we find one we're excited about, it loses its appeal after a few weeks. It's even more tricky because Clint has knee problems, which leaves him with the conundrum of: 1. Working toward a healthier body but putting more strain and potential damage on an already-injured knee, or 2. Keeping his knee safe but throwing his body to the wolves. 

Upon the recommendation of our brother in-law, Clint started researching water rowing machines. He was pretty happy to learn that rowing offers a full-body workout, but is considered a zero impact exercise...perfect for someone with a bad knee. We ended up purchasing this:
It's a used one, but barely.

The first time we used it, it was like some medieval torture machine.

Okay...it totally wasn't bad at all. But it turns out that rowing is a lot of work. For his first workout, Clint lasted only five minutes. On the plus side, it put no strain on his knee while simultaneously kicking his ass (and mine too, by the time it was my turn). But neither one of us are disillusioned into thinking we'll have enough motivation to stick with something that's essentially work. Enter THIS:








We already own a VR system, so we purchased a subscription to Holodia's Holofit, which is a fully immersive VR cardio workout. Those pictures above aren't simply pretty screen images. We actually paddle through these beautiful environments. I can turn my head in any direction; I can look behind me, and this is what I see (and hear, as there are sounds as well--water sloshing, birds chirping, a train going by...etc.). It's amazing. The first time Clint and I tried it out, our workout times immediately doubled with no extra effort on our part. You don't feel like you're "working" when you're rowing through canyons, snowy mountains, or a tropical paradise. Each environment also includes trophies you can collect along the way, and your subscription includes a phone app that tracks all of your progress--all things that motivate you to come back. Long story short: This is the most pleasant workout regime I've ever experienced. Not only is it adding to the quality of my life right now, but it's enjoyable enough that I just might end up sticking with it long-term. I guess only time will tell.

Podcasts

The commute home from work has been a growing thorn in my side. I'm totally cool with the morning commute--it's a new day, and I like that feeling of slowly energizing in the car while sipping my coffee, chatting with Clint, listening to music, all while
taking in the pretty scenery (Silverwood Lake is gorgeous in the mornings). But the afternoon drives are grueling. I'm burnt out from answering to 108 middle-schoolers all day, and because Clint is the one driving, it puts me into passive passenger mode for 45 minutes. I get drowsy, bored, and restless. Drowsy would be okay if I could nap in the car, but I can't (that's a whole other topic), and feeling tired when you can't nap is kind of torture. So after hearing how much Shannon enjoys listening to podcasts during her commute, I decided to give them a try.

I didn't want to listen to anything informational, motivational, or political (again, long work day); I wanted something intriguing with an actual storyline. I knew immediately that true crime was the way to go (kind of funny because I don't read murder mysteries, or watch them on TV). Since real life drama isn't Clint's thing, I plugged into earbuds and listened to my first podcast alone as he drove us home from work. I loved it beyond words. The drive flew by, and I wasn't bored or drowsy at all. In fact, I was so addicted to the episode that during 7th period the next day, I couldn't wait for our commute home so I could continue the saga where I had left off.

On day 2, Clint suggested I play the podcast aloud. Even though murder mysteries aren't his first choice, I think he was feeling a little isolated with me listening to it on my own. It probably sucks having your wife sitting right next to you but no ability to talk to--or hang out with--her. I was worried that us listening to it together would result in a bunch of commentary on his part when I wanted to 'lose myself' in the podcast (and not have to pause it over and over), but he was a great listener through the episode and never interrupted the story. Now Clint and I are enjoying the podcast series, Cold, on our drives home. I'll be sad once it's over (this series has 18 episodes), but I already have Bear Brook lined up for my next series, followed by Dr. Death, and so on. I know all this sounds a little weird given that podcasts aren't some new thing, but I never realized how entertaining they can be. Now I understand why people at the turn of the 20th century loved listening to radio shows so much. There's something about it that's so appealing. Not only do I no longer dread the drive home from work, I'm actually excited for it. So if you're like me and stuck with a boring commute, I highly recommend trying out some podcasts. Choose a topic you love and see what's out there. You won't regret it!

So there you have it. Maybe next month, three Qs will show up and make life even better. (Or derail things completely) (Yeah, it'll probably be that).