No, not a Downbound Train or Waitin on a Train, but trains do make good metaphors.

Meditation is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself, yet I still suck at it. You can be awful at it and still derive benefits. The “practice” of focusing on the breath and bringing one’s focus back to the breath whenever random thoughts occur trains the mind to quell anxiety on demand (just breathe) and it’s a natural anti-depressant. Meditation advocate Dan Harris calls meditation “bicep curls for the mind.” Yessir. When I unknowingly board a negative train of thought I’m now able to more quickly jump off and wave it goodbye. Several years ago, I did pursue a more conventional route with a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). I recall the SSRI created a mental “floor” that prevented burrowing into a self-destructive black hole of thought. That was mildly helpful, but I didn’t like the feeling and the side effects were significant. Being a Sixty Minute Man isn’t very cool after all.

One acceptable downside of practicing meditation for me is that trains of thought that used to explosively crash and create ideas for writing now run on gleaming parallel tracks. I still muster creativity on-demand at work, but these random thought collisions and creative clean-ups are rare now. Or it could be the absence of angst. That used to drive this bus, but it’s just fumes now.

I try to log interesting trains of thought in a “Blog Ideas” document for later cultivation and harvesting here. One is “Work, Sleep, Family, Fitness, or Friends: Pick 3,” a post on LinkedIn. I reject the premise, and here’s why:

Work – This may be the key to it all. Sure, I’d be a Theoretical Physicist if I could, but the salary sucks and well, math. I’m still loving work and I appreciate the work-life balance to get my work done and have a life. Every Saturday and Sunday morning usually includes some work time, but if a family commitment occurs during a 9-5 “work-week,” I can make it, uh, work. Oh, one note on this. If you’re working say, at 10pm for whatever reason, don’t send emails or post on your companies chat area. You just look like a showboating jerk.

Sleep – I usually get a solid 8 every night, typically from 10pm-6am, although at my age, there are the occasional 3am contemplations of life and the universe. If you have any trouble sleeping, try CBD oil. The best I’ve found is Straight Hemp Full Spectrum Hemp Oil. Oh, and another benefit, I think, of the CBD oil is pain mitigation – more on that later.

Family – My priority since I’ve had children, and now with grand-children even more so. Every night, Beth and I have dinner with Kyle, and I make sure to be part of most family “stuff,” including school open houses, softball games, family gatherings, and Friday pizza night.

Fitness – Speaking of “pizza night,” I could slice that back a bit. At this point in life, tonnage maintenance is more about health than vanity, though the latter still carries weight. I mean one day, the crepey sag you used to see on older guys at the gym is hanging from your arm. Just a few years ago, I would scoff at the lament of men senior to me about the “aches and pains” of their existence. I was so impressed that the maladies had never crept into my flesh and bones. Until they did. While the New Year’s Eve triple toe loop splat of 2016 seared me with pain, I’m referring to more of a “creeping malaise” (thanks, Roger Waters) that’s crept into my hips these past couple years. Despite the pain and stiffness of arthritis, I stretch/yoga, lift a couple of dumbbells, and get cardio on my elliptical usually 2 times a week. A third session is warranted, so maybe I can get Beth and Kyle to participate one night during the week… Oh, and the meditation. Just do it.

Friends – With my focus on the areas above, this category suffers. I’m not great at keeping in touch with friends, but I have two I’m in contact with every day via group text. I’ve read how important it is for middle-aged (the middle is big) men to have social contact, so I’m lucky to have friends like Jeff and Dave.

I’m sorry that’s the best I could muster after a 10-month blogging hiatus. This is the last day of a 13-day vacation completely unplugged from work. I haven’t looked at a work email since around 5:30 on July 31st, and I have no idea how I’ll feel when I walk back into that office tomorrow. Different, I suppose, but I’m not going to spend any time on that train. There’s still batting cages with the grand-daughters, ice creams, and shark cages with a theater showing of “Jaws” before this 13th day ends.

Oh, one last thing. For any of you wanna-be Theoretical Physicists or purveyors of natural beauty, check out the Milky Way from Sand Beach in Maine’s Acadia National Park. That was a vacation highlight along with “New Jersey Lady Rest Stop in Maine,” and the beauty of Cape Cod, including the art of Mindy & Ronni Reasonover.