To change, we first have to recognize that there is a problem.
I knew that at some point I would need help in making change, but some of the issues were so obvious, I felt that I could address them straightaway. I had a number of issues to address, and in no particular order, I’ve outlined these below.
First, I had already been seeing a counselor to assist me with dealing with depression in my life. I knew that - while I couldn’t be more aggressive in attacking this issue all the time, I needed to be more aggressive in dealing with the depression over all.
Second, I was out of shape - my weight was high and I had no real endurance or ability to carry out physical activity. Additionally, I didn't feel I had free time to address these changes.
I knew this would be a significant challenge. I also recognized that we can’t change all things simultaneously. There are limits to emotional and physical resources, and some other aspects of my life would make it a significant challenge to make a change in this part of my life right away.
Third, I was spending too much time on work, and frankly, without enough result. I needed to get caught up at work and change my approach overall.
Fourth, our home was too large and taking up too much time for both myself and my wife. Deb was always working in the yard, or cleaning, or shoveling snow, or….and this constant drain on time made it challenging to get time for other areas.
Fifth, both my wife and I had aging parents who needed additional assistance. So any changes would have to anticipate the time they needed.
Sixth, my chess materials had become disorganized - it lacked clear organization and cohesion. Shrinking the time needed to prepare chess lessons or to study myself would always be a challenge because of the lack of organization.
Seventh, all of this along with the financial stress from 2007-2008 and the stress of working in another state for 18 months with regular commuting back, created stress on our relationship.
So, in summary:
Re-organize & digitize chess materials
Work on relationship with Deb
It was difficult to decide on a set of priorities for attacking these issues. I finally decided that a key was to start doing things to free up time - allowing us time to attack other issues.
So one of the first decisions for us was to downsize our home, and we moved to a town home in uptown Park Ridge. This allowed us to save a lot of time on home maintenance, while also affording the possibility of walking to work, walking to stores, etc., thereby saving additional effort. It also helped provide opportunities for Deb and I to easily do some things together and thereby easily strengthen our relationship.
With the additional time save from home maintenance and the home move, it was important to get rid of “stuff”. I got rid of some chess material I just didn’t need any more because I had increasingly focused on having things electronically. Because I had less room for chess books, I had about 50% of my library (nearly all the paperbacks) destructively digitized. (I found a firm that was inexpensive and provided a quality job - check out http://bookscan.us/index.html .)
I also had many paper files of games, newspaper articles, pictures etc. I purchased a good scanner and digitized these materials, getting rid of about four “bankers boxes” of files.
In the end, I was much more organized, and that also saved time. But the entire process of finding a new home, selling the old, and then digitizing many of my files took about 18 months. On the plus side, by being more organized, various “chess work” for coaching became more efficient. For the digitized books and magazines, I stored the material in Calibre, an e-book database. I also organized that with tags so that the digitized books and either be easily searched or browsed by tags. Below is an example of what I get if I search on “Paul Morphy”. It’s not perfect, but this process saved about 5 bookshelves of space.
I also started working on what I was eating and exercising, but this soon uncovered a new issue. I had arthritis in both feet, to a degree where it was difficult to work out. So I made the decision to undergo surgery on each foot. The first surgery was in August 2016 the second in December:
I did continue to work out during my feet healing, but it temporarily slowed down the process significantly. It took over a year for both feet to fully heal. For the second foot, I also needed a joint replacement, and that has taken much longer to heal and lose some of the pain and regain strength.
It’s really just been this summer that I’ve been able to work out more normally, but that’s been fine because I’ve been slowly realizing more gains in time as things come together. Another item is that both of my parents passed away, and I was executor of their estate - that process took over a year.
So it is really just the past few months - after over three years worth of work, that I feel like my life has been reorganized. I have finally started to be more serious and focused with respect to exercise and eating.
In other words, it has taken over three years of reorganizing my life to get to a position where I can work on my health and physical aspects, and also on chess - they way that I wanted when I started this process.
There are other chess projects I have going on - we are focused on running the U.S. Junior and U.S. Senior next summer in conjunction with our Naperville chess camp, and there are some key things that we are still doing with respect to that. But serious chess study is just starting as well. More about that in my next post.