Mada at For the First Time is leading this month’s Absolute Write Blog Chain, and our theme is new beginnings. Auria Cortes posted about the beginning stages of writing a new novel, and Polenth at Polenth’s Quill described how she learned to build 3D rendered pictures the hard way in order to get it right.
Doing things the hard way doesn’t necessarily mean getting them right the first time, or even the tenth. It means getting back up off the floor when you fall down and taking another shot. For my link on the chain, I thought I’d post about rebooting.
We all know what it means to reboot, right? When your computer at work acts up and you call tech support, what’s the first thing they ask you?
Okay, the first thing after you confirm it’s plugged in.
Right! Mr. or Ms. Helpful Support Person asks you if you have rebooted your computer. And if you haven’t, the Helpful Support Person will suggest you reboot right away, and then call back if you’re still having a problem.
Now, my understanding of the purpose of rebooting is to clear what Stephen King calls “the bad-gunky” out of your computer’s system and recent memory and shut down unhelpful applications and processes, to allow the computer to restart clean and run smoothly again. At least, until the next time the bad-gunky clogs everything up.
Sometimes you need to clear out life’s bad-gunky, too (although preferably not the way Stephen King’s characters do it). Not so many years ago, after several years with stressful jobs and a new baby, Mrs. Unfocused and I looked at the increasingly high numbers showing up on the bathroom scale and our alarming reflections in the mirror and decided to do something about it. Largely (but not entirely) through adjusting our eating habits, we each lost a significant amount of weight. It took a while, though, and there was much plateauing and backsliding along the way. Even now, we both go through periods where we eat junk, drink too much or too often, stay up too late, and so on.
Often the backsliding is a reaction to outside stressors, such as my work and travel, but sometimes we just get lazy. For me, as an example, I get into bad cycles when I don’t have time or energy to exercise regularly; if I can’t run or lift, my energy levels drop, and I eat more sugar to bring them up.
Eventually, we notice it when we have fallen off the wagon. It might only be a couple of days, or it might be a couple of months, but when the realization comes, we gather up whatever shreds of willpower and mental discipline we have left, press CTRL-ALT-DEL, and reboot. One of the things we learned when we were trying to lose all that weight is that if you fall off the wagon and have too much pizza, or chocolate, or beer, you can just start over, and you’re still better off. A couple of bad days, even a couple of bad weeks, won’t set you back that much or that long if you scramble back onto the wagon. It’s the long-term trend that matters, not the daily returns.
I don’t always notice it for myself. Last October, Mrs. Unfocused had to tell me point blank that I was off the wagon and needed to reboot. My job had been particularly intense for several months, and I had just gotten home on a Sunday morning after a particularly grueling business trip. After giving me surreptitious worried looks for an hour or so, the Mrs. said, “Honey, you can’t go on like this. You need to reboot.” I didn’t argue, and my feelings weren’t hurt; she wasn’t criticizing, she was concerned and was letting me know it was time to start over. I made it to the gym the next day, got my eating back under control after too many days of conference room food and hotel room service, and handled the next grueling business trip three weeks later much, much better.
For us, at least, that’s how we kept the worst of the excess weight off: knowing when to reboot.
That, and slow-cooker oatmeal for breakfast every morning. But that’s another post.
Up next on the Blog Chain: Spittin’ (out words) Like a Llama.
Also, there was an error in the original Blog Chain line-up, so I’m reposting the entire line up, corrected, below.