Tag Archives: mental health

You can take the boy out of Cali but you can’t take the Cali out of the boy

I travel all over the country for a living.  I have literally seen every corner of the country in the last 4 weeks and am always grateful to get back to Texas.  Sleep in my own bed, kiss my boys and my wife goodnight and wrestle with the dogs.  However, back to back trips to California and New York have definitively proved for me that Texas is not home and it probably never will be.

You can take the boy out of Cali but you can never take the Cali out of the boy

I am currently on a plane from New York City back to DFW.  Over the last 10 days I have spent time in San Diego for a convention, Orange County for nearly a week with my family visiting my in-laws and the last few days in New York City.  I may own a house in Texas but it is clear that home is on the Pacific.  How can I tell?  Simple:

Your heart literally aches when you get off the plane:

When I first landed in San Diego, one of the first things I saw was the apartment community where I was first a leasing manager at some 20 years ago.  I immediately had memories of late night dinners with my wife, surfing the California coast on Dog Beach before I even thought about owning a dog and commuting back and forth past Sea World every day for next to nothing in pay…and desperately longing to go back to those days.  Even though I have lived in Seattle, San Francisco, Denver and now Dallas, nowhere else makes me feel like this.

You are willing to drive an hour for 90 minutes on the beach:

On my family’s last day in Orange County, we had an afternoon flight.  After breakfast with GiGi (Great-grandma) it was a unanimous decision to drive an hour to spend the last 90 minutes of our vacation on Laguna Beach.  Truth be told, it was not even a decision with my crazy family.  If we can get sand between our toes, sun on our back and the taste of salt on our lips, we are in.  To do this on the beach where my wife and I were maried, no brainer.

You are not willing to do the same anywhere else:

I routinely find myself in Florida on the beautiful East Coast and I even routinely take late even flights after morning meetings to spend time running on either Fort Lauderdale or South Beach.  However if I only have 90 minutes, I am probably heading to the Admiral’s Club.  90 minutes is not enough time for it to be worth it for me to deal with the sand and the salt if I am on the East Coast.  Same 90 minutes in SoCal?  I am researching where I can rent a surfboard by the hour before I arrive.

The final proverbial nail in the coffin for this self-realization that California will always be home was the last two days in New York City.  I found myself in the heart of Manhattan, the City that never sleeps.  A place where people from all around the world mingle in a beautiful melting pot.  I spent time visiting Rockefeller Center, running through Times Square and Central Park enjoying the city but all I really wanted to do was head back to Texas.  When we were getting ready to leave California, all I could do was think of ways to stay.

So while you can live anywhere, I think we all really do have a home.  Mine will always be Southern California.

Starting over….but not from the same spot.

These last couple of months have been really rough travel months for me.  I have spent more days on the road than I can count, been to all four corners of the country and in looking towards the end of the month, there is no letup in sight.  I’m not going to lie; it has been difficult to keep my physical, emotional and especially my mental health in a good place through this season.

I find when I go on streaks like this, it is my mental health that seems to suffer the most, especially due to the central role my martial arts training contributes to keeping me centered.  You see when you are on a mat with someone who is either trying to kick you in the head or stop you from breathing, you tend hyper focus on the moment and not worry about anything else.  I no longer think about that project that is due, the deal I am trying to get closed or even the next blog post.  I am completely in the moment.  It really is cathartic for me.

The problem is, you have to be on the mat to really train and you can’t be on the mat if you are constantly on the road!!

I remember when I first started training in American Karate I started with a clear goal in mind, I wanted to earn my black belt before I turned 40.  I knew the minimum time requirement spent at each belt level per the curriculum and knew that as long as I did not miss training sessions and always passed my belt tests, I could do it but just barely.  Fast forward 5 years and I received my black belt 3 months before my 40th birthday in dramatic fashion (read about that experience here).  If I had had a section of travel like the season has been, it would have been devastating to me and put me way off on my goals, my training and my attitude.  Training was about rank advancement not necessarily personal improvement at that point.

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A forced break like this would have destroyed me.

In addition to training in karate, I also recently started training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.  This forced break has made me realize that I have taken a completely different approach to training and my mindset.  The different approach was not an intentional one but one that is a probably healthier.  Maybe it is because I have lower expectations due to my schedule or maybe it is because I have matured as a martial artist but I have no expectations around rank advancement in BJJ.   No goals around when I will advance, tournaments to win or techniques to master.  I just roll and learn…..and get lost in my own head.

I am a no-stripe white belt and I am OK with that.

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During my forced hiatus, I have continued to see my training partners and friends tweet, post, Instagram and Periscope their ongoing training sessions.  I can literally see them progress past my skill level, and I am ok with that.  This new journey has become much more than a color on a belt for me and their journey is not mine.  I have also found that there is so much I can do off the mat to be ready to be on the mat and in seasons like this, it is where my training has focused.

So why share all of this?  Because as RoadWarriors, it is easy to lose track of getting centered.  We are trying to be productive, to utilize our time to the greatest of our ability and to simply survive the gauntlet that is living life on the road but even with all of that, you have to make time for the activities that center you.  So what do you do to keep yourself centered and how do you make it a part of your daily routine?  For me it is train, pray and read.  I am not sure what it is for you but you have to make sure you do it.

Let me know and I will see you on the road.

Bad travel hobbies and Harper Lee

What you should be asking yourself right now is “What does the beloved author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and travel hobbies have anything to do with each other?” – I am so glad you asked.

No matter how productive you are on the road, there is still significant downtime you have to fill somehow.  You are always going to run into the situation where you can’t make a call, not enough time to make powering up the laptop worthwhile or quite frankly, you are just done with it and need to do something else.  This is the time that most folks fall back on their hobbies.  Those time fillers that also help to sooth the soul and restore the mind.  For my son it is streaming game play on Twitch, for my wife – streaming TED talks and fitness advice, for my Mother-in-Law it is knitting.  I on the other hand have some bad travel hobbies.

When I really analyze it, I have four hobbies – and none of them are conducive to the travel lifestyle:

Bad Travel Hobby #1 – Martial Arts: 

I actively practice American Karate and have just started my study of Brazilian Jui Jitsu.   Now I will actively admit that there are times when I can get out and roll as I travel but for the most part, it is a hobby (lifestyle) that I  practice only when I am at home.  I watch videos and study the arts while I am on the road but the reality is the only way for me to get better is to get out and participate.  As I am writing this, it has been nearly 3 weeks since I stepped on a mat and I am Jonesing for my return.

Bad Travel Hobby #2 – Aquariums:

Way back in the day I wanted to be a Marine Biologist, so much so that I actually have degree in Aquatic Biology.  Well life happened along the way and I took an alternative direction but I have never lost my love for the water and aquariums. I have a reef tank in my house that about once a month looks great.  The reason it is only once a month?  You have to be present to take care of a tank the right way.  It takes time, attention, detailed monitoring and basically good old TLC to have a salt water reef tank really thrive.  That is really hard to do from 1000 miles away…even if you are staring at the ocean (osmosis is not that strong).

Bad Travel Hobby #3 – Gardening:

See everything above except think above the water line.  Every year I plant a garden on the side of the house.  Every year it starts off strong (before the TX heat really kicks in) and every year about this time, I watch it begin to wither away in 5 day increments when I get home.  I love getting my hands dirty and cooking with fruits of my labor but it really is a bad travel hobby.

Bad Travel Hobby #4 – Home Improvement:

I really do love working around the house and am pretty good with my hands but again, you actually have to be home to be able to work on the house. Watching DIY videos of the closet organization system you want to put in will not ever really get you any closer to actually putting in that closet organization system.

So how does Harper Lee fit in to your self-realization Mr. RoadWarriorFit?

Again – so glad you asked.  I recently saw that a publisher is releasing her little known manuscript that preceded To Kill A Mockingbird and it made me realize that I used to read.  A lot.

Before we had iPads that had every movie I have ever owned available and/or a Wikipedia page on anything I could ever want to know, I traveled with a book….or three.  I devoured Presidential biographies.  Read extensively on the Revolutionary War era and would consume business books like they were a part of the breakfast buffet at the hotel restaurant.

Somewhere a long the way my time filler shifted.

I am not even sure how or when it happened other than the introduction of the iPad.

I could now carry ALL of my books with me at once!!!

It was a wonderful theory but the application sucked.  I was distracted by games, email, movies and YouTube.  I lost my way and now time fillers are no longer productive they are actually destructive.

So here is my commitment, I am going to rekindle at least one good RoadWarrior habit – Reading.  The first book to put back on the list, the High School required reading list favorite, Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.  I remember liking it well enough back then (unlike Catcher in the Rye) and maybe, just maybe, the southern tale of Atticus and Scout Finch will rekindle my friendship with my long lost friend, the book.

So what are your good RoadWarrior hobbies?  How do you fill time productively?

Can’t wait to hear and look forward to seeing you on the road.  I will be the one with the iPad actually reading.  If I’m not, you have full permission to call me out on it.

Pressing the Reset Button

Do you ever get to the point where you feel you just need to press the reset button on life?  I do and I am there right now.

One of the dangers we all face as RoadWarriors is the anonymity we have.  If your travels are like mine, you end up in a different city every night, seeing different people along the way.  For me this means being alone in a sea of people.  Constantly making acquaintances but never really developing relationships is one potential pitfall of the RoadWarrior life.  We were designed for connection not seclusion.

It is amazing how social you can be without making any real connection with anyone. 

This is not a good place for me mentally and it reflects in my choices.  It becomes easy to stop being disciplined about diet (“Sure, I’ll have the fries with that”).  It becomes easy to skip a work out (“One missed workout is not going to kill me”).  It becomes easy to have that extra glass of wine (“I’m not driving anywhere”).  It becomes easy to sink away.

Put that cycle on repeat and then ‘suddenly’ you have a set of choices that have become habits that are hard to break.  That’s when it is time to hit the reset button.  No one ever said you had to wait for either New Year’s Day or the start of Lent to evaluate and change some things in your life after all.

Here is what my reset button looks like.  It is spending the next 30-days being hyper focused on ensuring that my daily actions reflect the lifestyle I am preaching and desire.  So for the month of April (no this is not an April Fools’ joke) I am going to be eating clean, working out daily, increasing my average sleep time, abstaining from alcohol and sharing the journey with all of you.  I know myself well enough to realize that I need to fill my time alone with healthy activities otherwise it is all too easy to fill it with those that degrade my health.  Scarily enough, I consider blogging on the healthy list and I also know I need the accountability that making something public creates.

So I am choosing to bring you along for the journey by blogging daily on how the journey is progressing.  I’ll be tweeting meal choices and the work out of the day.  I will share with you where the wins were, where the stumbling blocks arose, the pitfalls you should avoid if you choose to follow along and (hopefully) the results in mental and physical health.

Will I feel better?  I can’t imagine any other outcome.

Will I reinforce good habits?  I better, that is the whole point of this exercise.

Will I end up over sharing?  You can almost certainly bet on it.

So let’s get this trip started and I am looking forward to seeing you on the road.