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For the Days When You’d Rather Be Drinking a Margarita Than Riding a Horse

Do I talk about drinking too much? Maybe I have a problem. But maybe I don’t.

Click here to read this story on Medium.com
A man contemplating getting on a horse called "adulting"

I’m not ready yet buddy, but I’ll get back on soon — Midjourney 

After a week of drinking too much, no physical activity, and enjoying the hell out of life, I came crashing back to reality a few days ago. 

Returning to regular workouts, in my first session I managed to get through 1/3rd of my routine before collapsing on the floor feeling overheated and unable to breathe. No, not another heart attack. Just a great vacation and a dozen too many margaritas.

But what if it was a heart attack? All that stuff on my todo list, all those unopened envelopes and unreplied emails, would they be important? No, of course not. I’ve got the important things taken care of. I have a will in place. My loved ones know I love them. I learned how to make a great margarita.

I do wish my kids would spend less time on their phones and focus more on their schoolwork and friendships. But I also know that twenty years from now, when the children all have their own lives, hopefully in their own households, I’m not going to be thinking “I wish I’d been more diligent in disciplining them” but rather, “I wish I’d spent more time with them,” or maybe “I hope they don’t unplug the life support.”

That’s the thing about adulting. It’s a constant battle to remember what’s really important. 

During a yoga session, I complained to the instructor that I didn’t feel motivated to do anything after coming back from vacation, and my body was failing me. She asked me how my regular coping tools were working, like journaling and meditation. And I realized that during the intervening vacation, I had completely stopped journaling and meditating. 

Sometimes adulting is just a battle to remember things you’ve already figured out. Remembering how to get on the horse and stay in the saddle. 

We all have off days. Sometimes it turns into an off week. You don’t do things because you think you should, you only ever do things because you feel like it. But that doesn’t mean you can just lie in bed until you feel like getting up, and continue that way day after day. 

Your rational processes are meant to inform your emotions, and thinking about your emotions is how you change them, little by little, gradually over time. 

This is where the power of mindfulness techniques like journaling and meditation come from. In their ability to get you to focus, for a few minutes at a time, on how you feel and what you’re thinking about. Getting down to what is really in your heart and on your mind. 

The essence of adulting is in taking responsibility for how you feel in the long term. On any given day, at any given moment, you are completely subject to your emotions. But over time, the books you read, the people you spend your time with, how you treat your body, these are choices you make that determine how you will feel in the future, and the only person responsible for these choices is you.

This morning at 8am my alarm went off and I thought, “uh oh, I haven’t written a newsletter for today.” I can lie to myself and pretend I haven’t had time, but there has been plenty of time to play Polytopia and watch Griselda on Netflix.

Fortunately, I’ve chosen to make mindfulness a part of my life and I’m going to write down what I did and how I felt this week. I’m going to think about the decisions I’ve made in the past and what decisions I’d like to make in the future. And I’m going to change my regular routines to alter my emotions and what I feel like doing in the future. 

The essence of adulting isn’t in gathering the willpower to do the right thing right now. It’s in having the discipline to reflect on your life and evolving the thousand little things that make up your daily systems. 

Part of my routine is that if I don’t feel like doing something, I do the smallest part of that thing that I can (thank you Atomic Habits). So I did drive to the gym and do a few pushups. And today, I did open up Medium, hit the ‘Write’ icon and type out a title. Then my feelings took over.

I listen to podcasts from people like Prof G Scott Galloway who reminds me to invest in indexes and Tim Ferriss who reminds me that there’s always some new tool or technique to try out. 

I read articles by Sophie Lucido Johnson that tell me I’m good enough and David Todd McCarty that get me thinking philosophically and Annie Trevaskis that make me take life less seriously. 

I have date nights with my wife, I talk to my kids when we’re driving to practices, and I hang out with friends who have qualities I admire. 

I talk to my yoga instructor about what’s on my mind. 

Don’t beat yourself up over how you feel. We’re all just actors putting on a play for other actors, creating meaning for ourselves in the moment. If you forget your lines or arrive late, people will adjust. They’re focused on their own lines and deadlines, and they’re just happy you’re on the stage with them. 

The important thing is that you’re part of the troupe, and that you want to do a good job. Today may not be your moment to shine, but you’ve had plenty of moments of glory in the past, and there are plenty more to come in the future. 

Surround yourself with good information and good people. Be mindful. Your saddle and your horse aren’t going anywhere. Today you can rest and contemplate the terrain.

Tomorrow, you’ll ride like the wind. 

  1. What happened when I actually had a heart attack.

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