My 2016 New Year's Resolutions

Here are my resolutions for 2016. Below that I report on my progress toward last year’s resolutions.

Physical Health

  • I will continue my exercise regimen of daily Yoga stretches, isometrics and hiking in nearby parks
  • I will do the physical therapy exercises and traction procedures required to strengthen my neck and back so that I can enjoy a more normal life
  • I will return to my healthy diet and adjust it as needed to fit my health needs
  • I will eventually get my weight down to between 165 and 170 and keep it there; this year’s goal is 175 (current weight: 185 lbs.)
  • I will, if I secure my doctor’s blessing, experiment with going off my blood pressure medicine in the first half of 2016

Mental Health

  • I will fight off depression and anxiety as best I can and use prescription valium only when I really need it
  • I will return to my habit of rising early each morning
  • I will exercise my brain through reading and writing to regain more intellectual strength
  • I will limit my TV watching to night time and spend my days productively

Personal Growth

  • I will continue my private study of economics and the political philosophies of conservatism and objectivism
  • I will continue my study of writing by reading and listening to books on the subject
  • I will vigorously pursue photography and my old creative pastimes of writing songs, poems, short stories and tweets
  • I will write more articles for my blog with a goal of posting something at least once a month
  • I will write political articles for my blog early in this election year
  • I will work on character development backstories for my first novel as I prepare myself to tackle my largest writing project so far
  • I will improve my photography skills, take good photos and display my best work in a portfolio at myamericanmorning.com

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Progress Report - 2015

This is my fifth New Year's Resolutions list since the launch of my first blog (at taomanna.com) and the second list to be posted to my new updated blog at myamericanmorning.com. Each year I will issue a new set of resolutions, probably much like the previous set, and discuss my progress against last year's list.

I lost a lot of ground in my struggle to reach last year’s goal of weighing between 165 and 170 pounds. As of this week I weight 185. I dealt with unexplained pain in my left leg for most of the year. A few months ago a problem in my neck caused major pain in my left upper back and my left shoulder and arm; it caused weakness in that arm, and numbness in my left thumb and forefinger. That pain and the prescription narcotics I consumed to ease it was all it took to shake my will and push me toward comfort foods. Instead of losing a few more pounds, I gained 12. The pain and medications and poor diet choices caused my blood pressure to go up again. After successfully going off it early in 2015, I’m back on blood pressure medicine.

The pain medicine caused me a lot of anxiety. My doctor prescribed Valium. I'm off the pain medicine but will keep the Valium handy for those days when I can't defeat my occasional PTSD-related anxiety with methods I learned in PTSD therapy.

At approximately six feet tall, I don’t really need to lose the weight for health reasons. It may help my blood pressure but is mostly an esthetic or “feel good” thing. My clothes seem more attractive and pants fit me better when the waist is 32 inches, which I cannot fit into after this year’s weight gain. I had given my old pants to charity so I bought some bigger jeans to wear until I can get my weight back under control. After months off my diet I’m finding it difficult to stay on it now. But I’m certain I have the will to do it.

I’m currently on physical therapy for my neck. The pain associated with my neck problem has subsided; it’s almost gone. The arm weakness and some finger and thumb numbness still exists. I still have frequent headaches associated with my neck. My physical therapist says I may need a home cervical traction device for long-term use to keep my neck pain-free. If Medicare or the VA doesn’t provide it, I’ll buy it myself; it’s $370 on Amazon, a lot of money for a man on a fixed income but my health must be a top priority. My leg pain is better and no longer requires medication. For leg pain, I do muscle-stretching exercises and I now sleep with a pillow between my legs. I think both things have helped.

My exercise regimen for 2015 was thwarted by pain much of the year. I took a walk most days but stopped doing isometrics during my walk; just got out of the habit. After several weeks of pain associated with my neck problems, my left arm became very weak and I noticed an alarming loss of muscle size. If I tried to flex my bicep muscle, nothing happened. It was like the muscle had almost disappeared.

I started back with the isometrics.  Along with physical therapy exercises, isometrics began to rebuild my strength and muscle size. I still have a long way to go to return to normal but at least I know it’s possible and I’m not losing the use of my left arm.

I made no progress with YouTube online videos and have no immediate plans. I still want to put videos online but it is too complicated and time-consuming for me to deal with right now.

My writing suffered severely in 2015. After realizing I could not adequately mask the participation of family and other people I knew during my first 21 years, I chose to cancel my “When I Was Donnie” project to protect their privacy. I had put an enormous effort into that project and had such high hopes it would help me find readers for my work. For a number of weeks after that I had little energy for writing … and then the pain started.

I cannot write when I’m hurting. Still not fully recovered from my dark years under PTSD, my brain does not function at a high level anyway. After believing I should be able to write 300,000 rough draft words and edit those words into stories and articles for my blog, I wrote less than 100,000 words and much of that has not been edited. I had a writing plan for 2015 but never came close to meeting its goals.

I still want to write a novel, after writing a series of backstories to flesh out the characters. A facebook friend gave me a good idea for a backstory and I began work on that idea a month or so before I began to have pain. I could not finish it. The story was developing slowly but I still think I can make it work. After the first of the year I will return to it and try to finish it and then post it to my blog. Later, I will work on more backstories.

2016 is an election year and I have several ideas for political articles. If I can get productive again I will work on those early in the year and then return to my backstories.

I will review last year’s writing plan to see if it still makes sense. Then, I will either adjust the plan or try to get back on it. In 2015 I thought I would be working on my novel during 2016. If that happens it will be late in the year and after all my political articles and backstories are completed; not very likely.

Tomorrow I will celebrate the New Year with a meal of hog jowl, collard greens and black-eyed peas. I have followed that tradition for most of my life. It is supposed to bring good luck and prosperity into the lives of those who share in the tradition. Potential good luck and prosperity aside, 2016 can be a good year for me if I choose to make it one. I have at least another month of physical therapy, followed by a lifetime of home maintenance to minimize the chances of more debilitating pain. But I accept this as my reality and I will make it work. Life took another poke at me in 2015; in 2016 I will poke back.

Bring on the New Year!!!