Day Eighty-Seven: Conflict Management

So I got in an Internet Fight with somebody yesterday. A while back, I pledged that I’d stand up to ignorance more. That the Nightmare Clown is happening because weak people with heads full of bad ideas were just being left to rampage around and spread those ideas. Because it’s a pain in the ass to argue with people. But conflict management isn’t an internal strength for me.

So I’ve been arguing with these people. Yesterday was pretty typical: somebody who’s obviously been pulling all their thinking from talk radio. A childlike understanding of the world and the law. Lack of empathy bordering on comical.

Conflict management is not my forte.

This actually kept me up for a huge chunk of the night. Not just being riled up, but a couple of things in addition:

  • First, I actually feel bad for the guy. There’s no moral fiber there, but a deep weakness that leads to accepting easy, angry answers to feel safe in an uncertain world. But this is a weak person lashing out, not a strong person. I could have been more compassionate. But being condescended to by somebody who doesn’t actually have any idea what they’re talking about is literally the button to push to get me pissed.
  • Second, maybe there was an actual teaching moment there, and I blew it by being argumentative instead of explaining. Probably not. Again, when somebody is more interested in being ‘right’ than being human, there’s not much room there. But maybe there could have been some sort of way to punch through that kind of perpetual tantrum and reach a rational mind.

I’ll never know, obviously. Not being good at practicing compassion robbed me of a possible chance to do better. Conflict management, again, is not one of my strengths. Internal conflict management — not letting this stuff keep me up at night — is definitely not a strength.

So I’m glad that I’m at least not letting poison go unchecked. Annoyed with myself for not finding more ways to check the poison.

Day Eighty-Six: Stretching Myself

One of the ancillary things about the exercise is the stretching. I’ve given myself permission to hate yoga. But stretching is still (probably) a must. Especially with rowing back in the mix — it really can do a number on your back. I’m easing into it, but even so, I’m trying hard to work some back stretches into every morning post-exercise (rowing or running).

It’s one of those things. When I was younger, stretching had to be done before exercise! Every time! Or you would surely die! Now, the science says stretching before exercise is kind of meh. But you must stretch after exercise! Every time! Or you will surely die!

I don’t know. The back stretches, sure, they help my back feel less terrible. But the overall stretching… I’ve never really done it, and maybe I’m just cruising for a stretch-bruising, but it doesn’t seem to have done me lasting harm.

Stretching to prove a negative

Who knows? Maybe if I’d stretched every day my whole life I’d now be crazy flexible and still have hair. Maybe I’d be dead of deadly stretching. Maybe I’d pull my own arms off and discover I am full of deadly fluid. Who knows? I just know I’ve been doing okay with a more or less stretchless lifestyle.

Sometimes I feel bad about it; I’m totally inflexible (physically). Sometimes I give it another shot, and it’s a way to ‘exercise’ on days that I’m really, really, really not feelin’ it. But on the whole, I’m okay with not being stretchy. Stretch Armstrong was stretchy. And where’s that guy now?



Day Eighty-Five: Booze Hostage

One side effect of being sober is being a “booze hostage.”  I like hanging out with my drinking friends, and my wife, and I don’t mind when they drink and I don’t. But here’s the thing — you can’t rush a drink.

Here’s the scenario: I’m out with somebody. They order a beer. I order a soda. They drink their beer, I drink my soda.

Life is good.

They order a second beer. I don’t want another soda, so I’m on water.

Over time, the conversation is… it’s fine, but the bar’s loud, it’s not so easy to hear. I’m not buzzed in the way that makes conversation flow like it does when you’re drinking.

So there’s a kind of drink gap in conversation.

I start getting itchy feet. I could be doing something; if I’m with my wife, we could just as easily be talking while cooking, or doing laundry. Or doing something.

But what are you going to do? If the beer is high-grav, I’m not going to start demanding you chug it. I can’t ask you to walk away from a good beer. So I’m kind of stuck.

Being a booze hostage means patience. And planning.

One thing I need to do is start taking my iPad with me. And/or phone. Or a book, or… something. I feel like a massive jerk, in some ways — what, you don’t like conversation? But I also don’t like loud places (which bars are) and I’ve got about a 45-minute attention span for talk when nothing else at all is going on. It’s how I am. And the conversations you have once people are a couple beers in get more… elevated in tone and emotion, and it’s kind of taxing when you’re sober.

So I need to start planning my booze hostage moments better. It’s good that I’m not drinking, and it’s good that I don’t plan to drink. Also good that I like hanging out with my wife, and my friends.

But if I’m not going to be insufferable while other people drink, I need to find better strategies to amuse myself.

Day Eighty-Four: Sleeping In

Sundays are sleeping in days; often for me it’s a “get up, then go back to bed” sleeping in day — I get up with the cat, watch something dumb on Netflix for an hour, and go back to sleeping in.

There’s a school of thought that you should really sleep and get up at the same times every day. Which I kinda do. But the amount I sleep every day is less than the sleep I should get. Partly because of getting up in the night. So the question then becomes, is sleeping in for “sleep debt” better than keeping a steady sleep schedule?

I straight up don’t know; obviously sleeping the “right” amount every night would solve the problem. But that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. So I’m not sure if I’m setting myself up for success or failure by letting myself sleep in on Sundays.

So I turn my mind to ‘hidden costs’ — am I robbing myself of anything else by sleeping in on Sundays?

What does sleeping in cost?

Opportunity cost, I guess — but if it’s payback for getting up early on weekday mornings, there’s no lost opportunity. I’m pretty efficient and productive on weekday mornings. So losing “free” Sunday time for effective workday time is a good trade.

What else could I be doing with my early Sunday mornings?

  • Exercise, but recovery really is a thing, so taking mega-walks on Saturdays and having Sundays wholly off is something I’m down with.
  • Goofing off time, but that’s basically a different version of sleeping, and not as restful
  • Projects, but I don’t know if I’d be at my best to tinker with stuff when I’m sleepy on a Sunday morning

On the whole, I think the system works. It seems a bit silly in retrospect to run through all of this to arrive at “the current path is the best one,” but it’s important to head-check these things once in a while.

Day Eighty-Three: Space to Exercise

I’m lucky. In many areas, really, but I was just thinking today that I’m lucky to have a large enough space that there’s space to exercise.

There have been a lot of times in my life when I’ve lived in cramped quarters. Not submarines, but small enough that I couldn’t stretch, let alone get a rowing machine in or jump rope. And in Canada, not having a home space for exercise means months of incurring gym fees or not exercising. Or potentially breaking your butt slipping on ice.

“You can exercise anywhere!” say chipper people making DVDs or websites from their massive exurban homes. It’s really not true. It’s hard as hell to work out in tiny spaces. So while we are definitively house-poor (I looked it up), I kind of don’t mind scrimping in other areas to pay the mortgage, because I really love our house and what it affords us in terms of space.

The podcast is quiet today because we have a visitor in the next room. We have a guest room! That’s great!

But back on topic: we have space to exercise.

Space to exercise is mental space

When your natural tendency is don’t-exercise, your brain is always looking for excuses. “I have to move three chairs and roll up the rug” is an excuse.

I’m also fortunate to have a partner that is also invested in having some space in which to exercise. So it’s not like a dedicated room, but there’s part of the family room that is mentally earmarked as The Space Other Stuff Doesn’t Go In. It doesn’t look like a home gym or anything, but we both know, and that’s enough.

So getting up and going into that space is itself kind of motivating. It’s a good space to have.

I’m lucky.

Day Eighty-Two: Ramping Up

I was at a point by the end of last fall where I was running multiple 10ks a week. Not 10k races, just 10k routes, usually twice a week, sometimes three. Now that the weather’s getting less stupid, I’m ramping up again.

Today was kind of an accidental 8k — it started as six, but the geography of my city is really weird. So I thought I’d turned down a street that ran parallel to another one, but they diverged considerably more than I thought. I wound up running in the wrong direction for seven or eight minutes.

It was good, though — I’d been doing sixes, and never really felt like eight when I set out in the morning. So being trapped in an eight this morning reminded me that eight isn’t much worse than six… and ten isn’t much worse than eight.

Ramping up without overdoing it

My big problem is I tend to get enthusiastic. Then I do too much. Then I hurt myself. I have to stop. I feel bad. And I wind up back where I started. And recovery takes longer now that I’m older.

So the constant mental battle in my head is “are you ramping up too fast? Are you overdoing it?” versus “are you using ‘don’t overdo it’ as an excuse to be lazy?”. This is the actual mental conversation I have pretty much daily.

I don’t know how to reconcile the two sides of that equation. Because sometimes, I’m pretty sure that I am being lazy. Other times, I definitely feel that I’ve strained it and I’m teetering on injury. But it’s super difficult in the moment to know which I’m doing.

One way out is to get a trainer, but that’s not financially in the cards right now. And the whole justification for the rower was it’s saving money over time on gym memberships and other fitness spending.

So it’s a tough one. Ramping up without overdoing. Not overdoing but not making excuses. The ouroboros of my fitness brain.

Day Eighty-One: Slow Starts

Some mornings are obviously better than others. With an extended cold snap and what feels like some sort of slow-burn cold, it’s all slow starts; it’s hard to get up.

Today was the worst in a while — bed until 5:30, then kind of just languishing until 6:00 when my wife got up. Kind of the mental excuse that she wanted instruction on the rower. But we both knew what was up: a slow start.

To her, and my, credit, I did wind up exercising, and trying a circuit training thing she’s been doing for a while. Not exactly a full workout, but something.

Slow starts and coffee

I know it was a slow morning — and that I’m probably a bit sick — because I didn’t want coffee. Usually, I’m keen to get to caffeine. Hey, a rhyme! Today, though, I was just drag-assing and didn’t even want to get to coffee. That’s abnormal.

Anyway — I didn’t want to exercise, at all, but once I forced myself into some activity, I felt better. I guess slow starts are better than no starts. “Better than a kick in the teeth,” as my grandfather would say.

I guess the lesson here is “exercise”, and a call-back to “run anyway” from a little while back. The problem with motivation, is it’s easy to motivate yourself when you’re motivated. Those mornings when you’re stuck in slow starts and just can’t moving is a giant motivation hurdle.

At any rate, I’m up and going now… a little behind schedule, but moving.

Day Eighty: Eight Years of Marriage

Last night was my wedding anniversary! It was a good time. Vegan burgers and fries at a downtown pub that my wife and I used to play trivia at. Oddly enough, a midscale bar here with not a lot of veggie options has the best vegan burgers in town. Go figure. Anyway, eight years of marriage deserves a good huge veggie burger.

It’s been a good eight years; as I was saying to my wife last night, it’s good to have a partner that ‘gets’ you. We both married pretty late in life, as these things go… it’s been eight years, and you can do the math from my birthday post last week.  I think one of the advantages of that was we were both pretty settled into our personalities by the time we met. So while we’re both still growing, there haven’t been any radical redirections.

Eight Years of Marriage; Eight Years of Compromise

Jesus, that sounds shitty. “EIGHT YEARS OF NEVER QUITE GETTING WHAT I GODDAMN WANT.” That’s not what I mean. It’s more that I think one of the helpful things is we both bend. When either of us is rigid on something, it means we’re pretty goddamn serious about it. Generally speaking, we can both flex to accommodate the other. Obviously it’s not always peanut butter and (dairy-free) chocolate, but generally speaking we don’t take life so seriously that everything is win-or-lose.

I think staying pretty fluid in a relationship is important; I’ve known couples where every single thing is a deadly serious game of chess and it seems exhausting.

Lucky to be together, and happy, and healthy

All of this happiness is happening in the sad context of an old friend of mine going into hospice today. He and his wife are my age, and we’ve all known each other since university. Not close friends, but meet-for-dinner-when-I’m-in-town friends. It’s profoundly sad. They’ve been together for a quarter-century, one of those young couples that made it work long-term. So it’s a sad and haunting thing to see this happen to somebody you know.

Kind of a bum note to end this on. The upshot is I’m lucky, and grateful.

Day Seventy-Nine: Update the Weight

“Update the Weight” is the best I could do at like six a.m. Apologies.

Daily weighing is still going all right; my biggest problem is forgetting on weekend mornings, and when I do that I just carry back the next weigh to the day before. It’s not perfect, but it works okay.

It’s been interesting, especially the weekly summaries. I think I’ve hit on a good plan; to recap:

  • Weigh daily and note exercise;
  • Don’t stress about the daily weigh totals;
  • Have a weekly average which is what should be paid attention to.

Update the weight: about a pound a week

And since I started, I’ve been dropping about a pound every week. Or, like, 600 grams? Or something? I don’t really do conversions.

(As a sidebar, is it just a Canadian thing that weight, height and carpentry are feet/inches/pounds and everything else is grams? In the kitchen, I’m all about grams, kilograms, litres — 100% metric. Distance, like running and driving, I’m metric. But I’m five foot ten, weigh about 200 pounds, and am in a ten-foot by nine-foot room. I will measure a twelve-foot board to cut it down to seven and five-eights. It’s weird.)

Two pounds in three weeks, to be accurate, and that’s the kind of input that I can accept and stay sane about. That, and daily food tracking (which I’m still bad at) are the two things that need to happen on the “logging” end. The food tracking is still a challenge for me. It’s just not something I think to do naturally, and it’s tedious and looking foods up is a pain in the ass.

On the whole, though, the daily-weigh thing is working for me. I don’t get stressed (much) about the daily weights any more. Unless there’s a radical shift up for some reason, but that’s quickly settled the next day. I think it also helps with the diet.


Day Seventy-Eight: Spring is Sprung

Spring is sprung! The grass is riz. I wonder when dem boidies is? Dey’s on da wing? Why that’s absoid? Of course, da wings are on da boids!

The first day of spring in Ontario is frequently not that different than the winter; this morning’s run was exactly at the freezing mark. Sidewalks clear, except for one patch of ice that nearly did me in at the end. Fancy dancing saved my butt.

I have never been this excited about running before — the rowing machine should be arriving today, so I’m looking forward to getting back to the rowing/running alternations that marked the fittest period of my life. Which was admittedly about 15 years ago. So I’m not setting myself up for 30 pounds of weight loss and being absolutely back at peak fighting trim in weeks. It’s going to take work, and I may never get back there. But I’m looking forward to trying.

Spring is sprung, and UPS is insane

The only hitch in my day is having to engage in tense negotiations with my wife. I have a new person starting at work today on a placement, so I absolutely have to be there in the morning. But UPS has a delivery window of, get this, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Twelve hours of uninterrupted possibility. We don’t own a car, and the box is 70 pounds, so it’s really, really inconvenient to try to pick it up.

Twelve hours. Seriously. In 2017. Uber can have a car at my door in five minutes and I can track it in real time. UPS can’t narrow down a delivery window to less than 12 hours.

Anyway. Lots of negotiation about her being home this morning, me maybe having to come home this afternoon — it’s a pain. But by tomorrow, I’ll have a rowing machine, and spring is sprung with my absolute favourite form of exercise in the world. Life is good. UPS is dumb. But life is good.