Day 172: Comedy is Important

Almost six months into sobriety. I’m a bit surprised that I haven’t talked about comedy yet — it’s been important.

Getting up a bit late today for Staycation reasons, but I’m actually looking forward to a day of building and yardwork. Why? Because I’ve got a good backlog of comedy podcasts to listen to.

Paraphrasing the late, great Harris Wittels: “mothereffers wanna laugh.” And it’s true. When you get your sobriety ears on, you start hearing a lot about distraction — and often comedy — in people’s stories.

So I decided to splash out on a Stitcher Premium account yesterday (and I’ve still got a while in the free trial), as one of those things where I realized that having a ready supply of things I think are funny is helpful. And it costs less per month than a pint of good beer. So I think it’s a good spend.

I’m happy so far. Job One was to start catching up on Questions For Lennon, a podcast in which a comedian pretends to be John Lennon, back from the dead to answer your questions. I think it’s inherently funny. Like, I can just listen to Mike Hanford do Lennon reading the phone book and crack up.

Mike Hanford as John Lennon
Just looking at this, I want to bust up. I don’t know. I’m an idiot.

My wife thinks I’m nuts. We similar tastes in humour to a point, then we diverge — I definitely have more of an appetite for things that are just silly than she does.

Comedy is important, because sobriety can’t be grim.

I guess my thing is if you treat not drinking as a relentless, white-knuckled hellish battle against alcohol, you’re dooming yourself to an extent. You have to keep it light. Find things that make you laugh and keep laughing.

If you spend your days in a dark room reflecting grimly on your struggles, your struggles get bigger. If you spend your days in sunshine laughing at things that tickle you, your problems recede.

Anyway. Comedy. It’s important to me.

 

Day 171: Staycation Construction II

Staycation, part two! This is the one I forgot about. I wound up working Monday and Tuesday this week, just to keep a few projects on track.

But it’s staycation tiiiiiiiiiiiime! It’s a pretty simple breakdown. Today and probably tomorrow, I’m building an island for our kitchen. Tomorrow, yard work. Friday, a day trip out to Prince Edward County so my wife can do some interviews for her podcast and writing projects.

Sleep continues to be a goal, so I got a good sleep in today before going for a light run.

So I’m gonna mix it up a bit! This morning will be construction, this afternoon goofing off a bit plus construction. I think if I plan the construction well, I can bang out all the rough cuts, and this time I’ll be sanding and staining pre-assembly because I wasn’t entirely happy with the results of staining the day bed in the house — largely a smell thing.

It’s just three days off, but I’m pretty excited about these three days off. It’s going to be a good balance of fun and projects.

I’m treating myself to a free trial of Stitcher Premium, so I can comedy podcast my face off while doing all these projects, too.

Also — thanks to Adam for recommending a meditation app that he says worked for him, an avowed non-meditator. I promise I’ll give it a shot.

 

Day 170: Putting Sleep First

A late night last night — my wife is taking a course that took her out of town for the full day. And back late. I waited up, obviously, and so got to bed quite late, and am just now getting up. I decided to try putting sleep first.

There’s tension between less sleep and exercise, and more sleep. I’ve usually come down on in favour of exercise. Today, I prioritized sleep.

So of course the mental refrain is endless. Am I being lazy? Is this lazy? Am I looking for excuses to not exercise? Is this putting sleep first? Or putting exercise last?

Putting sleep first for a while to see what happens.

I’m not sure, to be honest. But I’ve certainly tried putting sleep last, many times, and I’m curious to see what happens if I start trying to make seven hours of sleep a night a must, as opposed to an option.

Generally speaking, seven hours a night should be fine. It’s really only exceptional circumstances that drive getting up late.

Being well rested is good; being OVER rested makes me muzzy and cranky. So this really is a “seven to eight hours a night” thing. Not a “sleep as much as possible” thing.

Oh! And I’ve got a few days’ vacation starting tomorrow, so that’ll be good too.

 

Day 169: Meditation for non-meditators

One thing that I keep meaning to try is meditation. My wife just finished a book called “making the mind your ally” or something. Her takeaway was “Meditation sounds like an amazing tool. And I wish people who do it all the best.”

Which is kind of my take on it too. I’ve tried it at various points in my life. It doesn’t take.

This, however, seems like it might actually have some traction. 

It’s cute, anyway.

I’m not sure if there’s a kind of person who is predisposed to meditation, or if it’s a skill one learns, but it is absolutely not in my DNA. It takes a certain amount of space in one’s life, first of all. Time, etc.

And… I don’t know. The meditation people I know are invariably the people I’d expect to be meditation people. I’ve never been surprised by a meditator. I mean, surprised by the fact that they meditate. Well, both senses. Nobody has ever startled me through meditation, either. Which means something.

Either meditation people were always meditation people, or meditation turns people into meditation people.

Neither of these things are super palatable to me. I’ve never been a meditation person, so the former is right out. The latter… I like meditation people just fine, but I have no desire to have that whole… deal… going on with my personality.

So I’m back on track, gingerly, after a half-week of self-care. But I’m not taking on anything new. Certainly not tackling meditation just yet. Maybe I’ll read up on it again. Maybe reading about meditation is how I meditate. Whoa.

 

Day 168: Mourning and friendship

A university friend of mine passed away a few days ago, and it’s taken me a few days to process it. Cancer; it had been known for quite a while, and he had been in hospice for a bit. So not sudden, and not astonishing.

But it took me two or three days to really let it sink in. Not a close friend, but a lost opportunity, I think, for a close friendship. Driven by geography and a natural inclination to be a bit of a hermit.

So I’m trying to figure out how to come out of this with something better. I know that I wish I’d been a better friend. I know that I should be… friending more gooder.  But I’m not sure what that means. And at the end of the day, I’m not sure if I’m good at friendship.

Sometimes I’m not sure I know what friendship is.

I have a wide circle of good acquaintances, and some people I really get along with, but I don’t know that I have, like, that cinematic idea of a friend in terms of somebody I hang out with a lot. Share intimate secrets with. All that stuff. I go running with a friend. I stay in touch with people I used to play role-playing games with. I know people from university. I get along well with people I work with and volunteer with.

So I’m trying to wrap my head around this idea that I need to make a very sad thing less sad by making it worth something. That something is being a better friend to people. But actually enacting that is something I don’t really have an intuitive grasp on.

Mourning means building, for me, in some important ways.

I guess I just want to know that I’m making a terrible thing mean something. Figuring out what that meaning is, and how I can actually do it, is going to take a while.

Day 167: A Sigh of Relief, After It’s Over

Mega-conference is OVER. We did it. We made it. Yesterday at 1 p.m. was one of the first times in my life I’ve literally let out a sigh of relief. Like, I made the noise.

gala dinner CANHEIT
Gala dinner at CANHEIT 2017. Photo: Michael Barr

I’ve learned a LOT about information technology in the last 18 months. My main takeaway is the breadth of the field. Everything from thermodynamics (this box is going to get super hot and we need to cool it) to social engineering (get people to stop clicking the bad thing).

And, equally fascinating, I have noticed that almost every key issue in IT today is either a communication problem, or has significant communication outpoints. It’s a genuinely fascinating and underexplored field.

But. Yes. Conference over.

It was a sigh of relief, and not of expectation.

My medium-term goal is going to be not filling that hole with something. It’s been a roller coaster, with a lot of the adrenaline-spiking deadlines and disasters. So it’s going to feel a bit flat to have it out of my life. And that’s… okay? Obviously, my pace was far outstripped the past few weeks, and I can now push more “life” into my work-life balance.

But it’s going to be hard not to want that synergy again.

One definite takeaway was that I like reporting things. Giving and getting feedback on a monthly, then weekly basis was something I got a lot of value out of. Even when it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

So that’s one thing I can work on immediately. Manage up, and down, to get better feedback loops going. If I do well in a feedback-rich environment, I should be looking for ways to increase and enhance that. In a way that adds value to the people I’m asking time from.

There’s a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. I suspect among my fellow steering committee members there’s also going to be some post-partum depression. Two years of work, the last three months super intense. Then four days. Then… it’s over. It’s going to be a new experience for me to manage.

Day 166: Recovery Mode

My second day of recovery mode. I have to say: yesterday was pretty great, and I’m looking forward to another day today of taking it easy on myself before jumping back into the goals and drive of the usual.

Just so’s we’re clear: this is not a sobriety break. Nor a break from broad good sense. Still vegetarian. It’s an exercise and strict diet break. And this isn’t a great thing, but it’s a coping thing, and I’m okay with a coping thing right now.

Normally I’d be fretting more about surrounding circumstances, but there’s a lot of one-offs that led up to this. And I think I have learned lessons about overcommitment and capacity. And listening to that inner voice that says “too much, dumbass.”

So today’s my second/final “break day” for exercise and food. Oh, and sleep! Ducking in and out of the podcast today because it’s been late nights, so late mornings. Commitment to this project overall is unwavering, but commitment to not flaming out screaming is even higher.

 

Day 165: Noping into Self-Care

I’m calling it. I’m officially on a Not Being Great About Things break.

Here’s the illustration of where I’m at, headwise, at work right now:

I forgot I’m on vacation next week. Like, somebody tried to book a meeting with me, and couldn’t, and asked “what gives?”. I looked at my calendar and, oh snap, I’m on vacation next week.

I forgot. About a week of vacation.

So for the rest of this week — today and tomorrow, really — I’m backing off the diligence a bit. I’m co-running this conference, keeping on top of a few major projects, putting out fires.

So I’m not going to go ape, but I am going to be a little less self-critical for the next two days. Dial back the “everything must improve” jazz and get through the next 72 hours without going crazy.

Is this optimal behaviour? Nope. Will I feel bad about it next week? Maybe. But I’m rescheduling a chunk of my vacation because I have commitments that I can’t possibly get done by Friday, and I’m on high alert for the conference. So I’m treating myself to a few days of being lax.

And I know I need to reach a state where I don’t think of indulgence as my ‘default’ state. But I’m not there yet, and saying ‘suck it’ to Better Me is a small gesture of empowerment that I could really use right now.

I recognize that this is a 360-degree pivot from yesterday, when I was “arrgh! I’m slipping! Need to get back on it!” That’s what you get with this project. I am a land of contrasts. And this contrast needs to just take it easy where it can for now.

 

Day 164: Food Slippage

Okay! It’s been a week and a bit since the new food determination, and I’m already slipping. Food slippage is happening. Get it together, Me.

It’s a simple plan. Its genius is its simplicity. Plan all my food in the morning, pre-log all my food in the morning, and stick to that plan. What can go wrong?

Lots can go wrong. It’s a combination of weak will and chaos that seeps in around the edges. That, and doing well.

That’s a bit of a paradox, but I’m ahead of my goals, which means I start feeling confident. And then I’m, like, “ehh, I can have one donut, I’m doing great”. And then it’s all bargle bargle bargle and it all goes off the rails.

The plan is brilliant in its simplicity. Stick to the plan. 

Maybe that’s what I need tattooed on my forehead. That, or “food slippage is gonna getcha.”

Avoiding food slippage is a morning check-in problem.

The good(ish) news is that I can draw a direct line from pre-logging food to good and bad days. Even on days that I haven’t stuck to the pre-log 100%, it’s still better days than the no-pre-log days. It’s just a matter of keeping that up and… did I mention the plan? Brilliance? Simplicity? I thought I had.

It’s also working. I can see the effects. This isn’t a crash diet, it isn’t some weird trendy crap, it’s a good, solid, nutritionally sound, intelligent approach. It’s a sound idea. I just need to stick to it.

So this is the rhythm that worked for a while:

  • Write the podcast blog
  • Record the podcast
  • Log food
  • Post the podcast

The interruption is helpful, because it forces me to log before I can post, and since posting is something that has to happen, it makes logging something that has to happen.

I just need to be firmer about the logging. Log it all. If I don’t know what’s going to happen — like tonight, I’m going to a conference dinner but I’m not sure what the entree is going to be — I’m going to invent an entree and try to approximate it in terms of quantity/calorie count when I roll up.

It’s a good plan. I just need to stick to it.

Day 163: Why Volunteer?

A late night last night, thanks to a board meeting that went on far too long, discussing things that didn’t need to be discussed. “Why volunteer?” is something that crosses my mind from time to time.

Generally speaking, I’m a believer in enlightened self-interest. I volunteer because I get something out of it. I believe in the cause I’m volunteering for. The volunteer opportunity is a chance for me to do something, or get to know people. And so on.

In some weird ways, I think it’s also a function of not having kids. I have more time than my parent friends, and I think there’s a kind of diverted need to make a mark when you’re childless. This is completely me talking out of my arse, though.

Why volunteer? Because somebody needs to do it.

I guess my volunteer motivation at the end of the day is opportunities where I say “If I don’t do this, nobody will, and it needs doing.” And what needs doing has to be something of value. The action, and the cause.

Sometimes, the causes feel a bit frivolous, compared to the Big Issues in the world today, but I feel like most of the stuff I’m involved with — radio, outdoors clubs, etc. — has some sort of knock-on value to the things I believe in.

It’s just a good reset button to hit from time to time. Especially when the volunteer work crests at the same time as other work and personal swells.

I need to sign off from this now to catch up on some of that. It’s not the best timing for a lot of coinciding things, but sometimes you just need to knuckle through the busy bits to get to clear water again. So… time to fire up the ol’ volunteer energy. Tally ho!