Like you, I suspect, my New Year’s resolutions for 2020 did not include, “Survive pandemic and quarantine”.
My resolutions were more focused on the traditional A. Lose weight, B. Read more, C. Learn conversational German, and D. Step back from work. Let’s see how each of these fared in the first 100 days of 2020.
Lose Weight. In 2019 my weight had ballooned up to 235 pounds. It was time to get serious about this. In my mind I wanted to return to my August 2000 “Outward Bound” weight of 210. At the end of January I recalibrated my goal to 200-205 lbs range by my 61st birthday (3/31/2020). In mid March I hit a low of 202.4 lbs.
The key has been a combination of daily walks, yoga, and strength training. I had also started logging the meals I had eaten. I received a message from Noom this morning that this is the 100th day. Also this morning I weighed in at 205.0 lbs and feel pretty damn good about that. As of dinner this evening, I have logged 243 consecutive meals. The keys to my successful Noom story are the consistency of my walks and my meal logging.
Books. In 2019 I read 17 books, and want to hit 24 in 2020. This year started off strong (8 through March 10th), but, quite frankly, reading has been difficult to do during the Covid-19 quarantine. I would have thought that all the time at home I’d get more reading, but I think the anxiety inducing pandemic has other ideas. I still believe my goal of 24 is attainable.
- US Constitution – some old white guys
- Changing your Mind – Michael Pollan
- You Have Arrived at Your Destination – Amor Towles
- The Handmaid’s Tale- Margaret Atwood
- On Acting – Sanford Meissner
- Walking Each Other Home – Ram Dass
- Radical Acceptance – Tara Brach
- The Flame – Leonard Cohen
Conversational German. In anticipation of a Danube River cruise with friends Dan and Michelle I wanted to improve my German. Two years ago Dan and I were in a shop near Luzerne, Switzerland, when I suddenly burst into a conversation, in German, with a shopkeeper. Having lived in Stuttgart, Germany (1968-1970) and taken a couple years of German in High School, I apparently retained enough to get by. Dan was not aware of this and was somewhat alarmed (a business partner once described my sudden break into German as “I thought you were having a stroke”). At any rate, I wanted to reprise my role but COVID-19 caused our river cruise to be cancelled, so I can delay the Deutsch-sprechen for another time.
Step Back from Work. There are so many levels and layers and shades of mental well-being involved in this conversation. In Kurt Cobain’s final letter he opined, “It’s better to burn out than to fadeaway.”, and that is definitely the simple and raw decision anybody needs to make at the end of one’s business career.
I spent the last 30 years in this business and the last 9 years with my current firm. As I personally struggled to manage my anxiety and maintain a productive role for myself to help the team, I’ve also struggled to understand where the lines between old age, mental health, and business burnout exist. Two years ago, I had an anxiety attack in 2:30 AM while working on my father’s taxes. I had already been in counseling for “old white guy problems”. The severity of this incident along with the range of issues I was facing drove my doc and therapist to put me on daily Zoloft to manage anxiety.
I want to be very clear, Zoloft was a life saver for me. With no hesitation. It blunted the sharp edges and provided the kiddie bumpers at the bowling alley I needed to prevent me throwing errant gutter balls in my personal and professional life. It is absolutely the best thing, perhaps the only thing, that could have helped me in early 2018 and served me well for the past two years. In early December, I applied for and was accepted into a 5 Day inpatient program called Breakthrough at Caron. I call it “Anxiety Rehab” that I would attend in early January.
Along with getting sober and getting cancer, attending Breakthrough is one of the top 3 transformative experiences of my life. The slowing down and social/workplace distancing Breakthrough provided (NO TECHNOLOGY FOR 5 DAYS!), I gained a clearer picture of just how far out over my “mental-health skis” I actually was. I needed a break, and in fact the answer was clear that I needed to roll back considerably more than I had already planned.
Gratefully I have found I am quite capable of “not working”, a dynamic a wide number of friends and associates have indicated can be a real challenge. COVID-19 quarantine/social distancing has slowed down business tremendously. I am certain the economy will bounce back and the young, hard charging, fiery professionals will rise to the challenge to make it happen.
When my father was relieved as Commanding Officer of the USS Sargo (SSN-583) in the mid 70’s, he said something in his farewell speech I have never forgotten, “There comes a time when the old duds must step aside for the young studs”. My time has come.
So for the first 100 (+/-) days of the new year, some of my goals are on track, some have been overcome by other events, and some, like not working, have taken on a whole new meaning. Most importantly, I feel infinitely better about my self and my mental health even though we have not yet survived the pandemic and quarantine period.