"The way you live your days is the way you live your life." -Annie Dillard
"The perfect is the enemy of the good." -Voltaire
A reader asked me this week if I would do "a day in the life" post. My immediate reaction was affirmative, but the longer I thought about it, the more complicated the topic became. I realized that each day could include a range of possibilities. Some days seem to stand out above others in both positive and negative directions while other days seem "normal." If you think about it, there is really no typical day for anyone. They are all unique, as we are all unique. Our days are also colored by the season of life we are in, but that's a whole other topic I've already written about. What stays consistent, though, are practices, philosophies, and relationships that we maintain each day. In this post, I will outline the best and the worst examples of a typical day in my life, knowing that the average lies somewhere in between.
I wake up to my alarm at 7:30 am and hit the snooze button. I spend five minutes with my eyes closed before I get out of bed to accumulate gratitude. I think of all of the blessings that I have been given, due to no effort of my own - a healthy body, a loving family, dependable friends, meaningful work, and an indomitable spirit. I walk to the bathroom and have an effortless bowel movement on my squatty-potty. Then, I drink a quart of spring water. I'm somewhere below 150 and adjust accordingly. Next, I go outside and moxa my Stomach 36 (a Chinese longevity practice I started in my 30s) and do three minutes of Qi Gong stretching in the grass. After getting my five minutes of the morning sun I come inside and eat a hearty breakfast of sauteed red cabbage, kale, onions, liver, and eggs, along with sliced cucumbers, and tomatoes. I finish with a half-cup of kefir, walnuts, and coconut flour slurry, three squares of 100% chocolate, and a collagen, whey, and creatine shake. I take fish oil, vitamin d, trace minerals, magnesium, and iodine as well as astragalus and polygonum root daily. For simplicity, I like to eat the same thing every morning, substituting seasonally fresh veggies from the garden.
The next part of my day is professional, public-facing work. From 8:30 am to 1-1:30 pm I am 100% focused on performing my duties at our clinic. I don't take a lunch break and will actively do things the entire time. This may look like seeing new and returning clients, meeting with staff, planning workshops and events, organizing bookwork, charting, cleaning, fixing things, etc. Each day is a little different, but what stays the same is the mission of our clinic (to help people on their journey of health) and my undivided attention while doing so. By noon I am somewhere under 150, and I adjust accordingly. In the afternoon I practice kung fu at Dojo Chattanooga, and after I head to the gym where I coach clients in barbell strength exercises. It is incredibly rewarding to see people get stronger and, in the process, get themselves out of pain and other health issues. At 4 pm I go train with an Olympic weightlifting coach where I work on my own speed and strength. I look at training as a way to stay motivated and process-oriented, while also accomplishing some prettying amazing goals.
In the evening I am dedicated to family time and recovery. After the gym, I am somewhere below 180, and I adjust accordingly. I cook a big meal of vegetables, lean meat, and either white potatoes, sweet potatoes, or white rice. I always have a few pieces of fruit and a protein shake. I spend as much time each evening with my 15-month-old daughter as I possibly can. She is the most precious thing in the world to me. After an evening walk, she will usually go to bed, and I can spend the rest of the evening reading, practicing archery, getting in the infrared sauna, studying Spanish, calling my family, being intimate with my partner, and planning for the next day. About an hour before bed I dim or turn off all of the houselights and use a red light headlamp to see. I try to be in bed no later than midnight I am somewhere below 150, and I adjust accordingly. Right before bed, I do some relaxing reading or journalling to calm my brain. I put a piece of tape over my mouth to promote nasal breathing, I turn on the AC to keep my room cool, and pull the black-out curtains. On more stressful days my mind will take about half an hour to shut down and/or I will wake up around 6 am with thoughts
This may seem difficult to believe but the above situation describes a less-than-ideal day in my life. I have days that are way worse due to sickness, injury, tragedy, and bad luck, but that isn't what I'm describing here. The worst thing that happens to me on a lackluster day is unmet expectations. I choose to have structure during my day so that I can have more of an effect on what happens to me. Invariably, all structures will eventually fail given enough time and pressure, and when they do, my mind ruminates on how to make them better. This causes anxiety, which can be productive in small amounts, and destructive if too great. Bad days are when I focus too much on my expectations and not enough on realistic solutions. It is an ongoing dance.
Now how about an ideal day? If we are talking about a work day like above, then everything is pretty much the same, except my numbers are always under 100, I have clients in every open time slot, I am on time everywhere I go, and I don't make any errors while coaching or while being coached. My daughter and partner are both in great moods. I find my evening to be relaxing with very few worries, and I am asleep as soon as I hit the pillow at 11 pm. Notice that there is very little difference between what I actually have control over during the best and worst days. Much of my luck can be ascribed to showing up in a consistent matter over a long period of time. This applies to health, fitness, work, finance, relationships, etc. Consistent focus on excellence is far preferable to perfection. The origin of the word perfection comes from "to complete." We shouldn't want to reach completion until the day that we die. A far more meaningful goal is to focus on more good days.
Now you may be curious about the random numbers in this post. I have been dependent on insulin since the age of 21 due to Type 1 Diabetes. They refer to my blood glucose numbers, which for me is a good proxy of how much stress I am under. Ideally, I
will stay between 60 and 100, but stress can cause them to stay in the 150-180 range between meals. When I see this happening, I simply take more insulin and double down on the practices that promote stress reduction - exercise, sleep, and a healthy diet. Life, like blood sugar, is in constant motion. If you get fixated on where you currently are (and how much you don't like it) then you hamstring your ability to move forward. My current blood glucose is always a reflection of the last 24 hours, so the next 24 hours are the most relevant to affecting what it will be tomorrow. It has taken a decade to fully realize this.
What is the range that describes your own typical day? How much of your happiness are you outsourcing to chance? What practices do you lean on to help guide your ship? Which ones are most prone to breaking and which only get stronger under stress? We are all human with definite limits. No one is perfect, nor would you want to be. When you are having a bad day, rest in the knowledge that tomorrow you will have a chance to begin anew. The sooner and more completely that you can move forward, the better.