Four Keys to MY Daily Happiness

You’d think I’d know better than to try and tackle a big-ass abstraction such as happiness, but what I’m trying to write about here is the stuff I need to do most days to continue to feel pretty good about the prospect of another day. I was careful to include MY in the title as a nod to you all that my way of finding a degree of happiness could be real different from yours.

Let me say this, first: there’s a lot of big-picture happiness that is derived from my family. That I’ve got my sister Anne, my mom and dad here in Asheville, my wife Megan, and our two girls, have helped me to build a strong foundation from which to live a life. If work isn’t going great, rejection slips for my writing seem to be piling up, or people are otherwise giving me a hard time, it’s pretty easy to shake all of that negative weight.

Georgia Review, rejection, writing

The Georgia Review says, “No Thanks.”

 

When little girls are calling you daddy, the world isn’t as likely to land a good punch.

Journey, Torg Stories, Charlotte, 80s, music

Family at Journey Concert

1. Write / Make Stuff

When I need a short answer for why I spend so much time writing, podcasting, making films, posting on the website, shooting video with my kids, and participating in projects such as the 48 Hour Film Project, I say, “It’s fun to make stuff.”

My answer is an oversimplification in that it ignores the mental health portion of why I need to write. I have A LOT of mental energy that can take the form of what can feel like tornadoes of too many thoughts slamming around inside of my head. Writing regularly–preferably first thing each morning–seems to dissipate the strength of the mental storms that seemed inclined to form in my thinking. I understand writing might not lead to improved mental health for all.

2. Exercise 

In addition to having a lot of excess mental energy that I need to burn off each day, the same is true for the physical part of me. I really stumbled onto this key ingredient for my well-being back in the late 90s when I was in the midst of becoming divorced. As that process began, I started to train for a marathon. There’s nothing like twenty miles on a Saturday to help calm the soul put you down on a bed fast asleep. These days–with a family I want to spend time with, teaching to do, writing I want to accomplish–I don’t want to allot the time needed to do long-distance running, but I do run at least six days a week. I like running way more than I like lifting weights, and my latest plan to get the lifts in has been to do half of them each day. So on a typical day, I run three miles and do half of my weight-lifting workout. This usually takes about an hour and fifteen minutes, and is a big part of what helps me feel good about myself and the rest of what each day has to bring.

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My Running Partner Indy

3. Moderation with Alcohol

I can have a beer–probably two–in the evening and be at my best the next day. Anything more than that or something along the lines of two margaritas, and I’ll find myself waking up after a few hours of sleep unable to get any more rest. It could very well be that I have talked myself into such a cycle being true, but it does seem to me that alcohol is the primary fuel for those tornadoes of thought I was describing earlier.

4. Good Sleep 

This post could have been shorter if I’d just have written I need a good night’s sleep to call myself a happy person. I have found that if I get in a bad rut of sleeping…

writing + exercise + abstinence from alcohol usually equals a good night’s sleep

The other part of getting a good night’s rest is that when my wife is teaching, she gets up no later than 5:30 am and that means I at least wake up, if not actually get out of the bed for another thirty minutes. I am the kind of person prone to staying up late to watch sports or play sports video games. When that happens, I wake up tired and am less likely to get in good writing and running sessions. And then I’m feeling bummed and ticked off. Most days, I know I hate not writing and not running enough that I can make myself go to bed early. When I fail to execute the above four-step process, I try to give myself a break and do better the next day.

Give Me Some Space Dad

I usually carry the girls’ backpacks on the days I walk them to school. Today, for the first time, as we got to the spot where we’d round the corner to the building, my oldest asked for her backpack.

golf, William Torgerson, Bill, Dad, Asheville

Me and the Girls

“Is it embarrassing to be seen with your dad carrying your backpack?” I asked. I already knew the answer.

“Kind of,” my oldest replied.

Once she had her backpack in place, the oldest walked quickly away from her little sister and me. She was fifteen yards ahead of us by the time we got to the building. She didn’t look back at us as she went inside.

I put the other back pack on my youngest, and told her I loved her and to have a good day.

“See you dad,” she said, hustling to catch up with her big sister. I watched them walk into the school together.

There was something about this morning that encouraged me in the face of feeling a little bummed about being left behind. Yesterday, my wife and the oldest saw a capuchin monkey at the grocery store, and the oldest had been reading about the monkeys ever since. Before she hustled up ahead of me when we got to school, she’d taken the time to inform me that male capuchin monkeys sometimes cover themselves in urine to try and attract females. I am glad to be thought of as the kind of dad who would appreciate such information. I certainly do.

monkey

for real, a monkey at the grocery store

Home Till January: Plans for Research Leave

When I’m looking to give my friends who work 9-5 jobs a hard time, I send them texts like this one:

WorkText

Before texting my buddy, the plan for this post was to go on to explain that even though I technically don’t have to be back on campus for another 238 days, there’s actually a lot of work to be done. That thought was inspired by those who say to my wife, “Since Bill’s not working…”

There is an online course to teach this summer that involves a lot of preparation before it begins, and once it starts a lot of reading and responding to online texts and emails. I always say I like to read student writing, but sometimes there is just too much of it. However, nothing like a glimpse into my friend’s Office Space work life to spur me on to try and make the most of this opportunity I have to be away from campus.

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one of my fav scenes from 1999 film Office Space

At St. John’s University where I teach, we faculty are fortunate enough that we still have the opportunity to be granted research leave. I was granted leave for the fall semester, and I’m feeling pressure to get myself organized to make sure I don’t misuse my opportunity. I know that I can be productive, but I want to be the right kind of productive. Below are some of the lists I’ve been working on so far.

Three Big Points of Emphasis:

  1. Family time including coaching lots of girls basketball
  2. Build Asheville creative connections: writing, film, comedy, performance
  3. Write or edit film first thing each morning
  4. Professional development
  5. Experiments in building online conversations around this website and the Torg Stories podcast

Projects to Work On:

  1. Short documentary film about students who come to the United States to study
  2. Article based on interviews done with students who are studying abroad in the United States
  3. Essays for a collection perhaps titled A Yankee in the South: Tales of a Native Hoosier… I don’t know what the end of that title is. When I first started dating my wife Megan, her mother used to tell people her daughter was “dating a Yankee.”  I’ve since learned that if you’re from places like Alabama, then the folks in Tennessee might be thought of as Northerners.
  4. Pitching films to friends that might involve juice cleanses and lawn mower races.

Items for the Daily Schedule:

  1. Write new stuff or edit film
  2. Work the girls out
  3. Teaching prep and reading student work (for summer)
  4. work out
  5. Read
  6. Write reflections on reading
  7. Podcast/blog work
  8. Professional development (Final Cut Pro X, sound mixing to start)
  9. look for publishing opportunities for written not published work
  10. Go out and about and meet people in Asheville
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the master plan for research leave is still evolving