Day 112: Do Easy

I’ve been thinking about Burroughs’ “Do Easy” philosophy for a little while now. It’s basically a very Zen-ish idea. Figure out which tasks are routine in your life. Then practice them with mindfulness until you can do them perfectly and unconsciously.

Which you’d think comes naturally, but it doesn’t. I flirted with DE back in my post-student days, but haven’t thought about it in years. It’s actually a recent album by Canadian artists Tasseomancy that have brought it back to mind.

(Incidentally, volunteering in community radio is great in some ways — a constant influx of new stuff.)

This isn’t a commitment.

Do easy is hard.

I’m not committing to Do Easy because my life is already pretty full. Taking an hour to zip and unzip a windbreaker doesn’t seem like a benefit. But the idea of that kind of simplicity is seductive.

Our life kind of resembles a weightlifting regimen. Weightlifters bulk and trim. They put on mass: eat a lot, lift a lot. Then they cut, losing weight to get rid of fat and define muscle.

This is kind of what my wife and I do. We “bulk up” with new ideas, trying new things, taking on new hobbies. And then we trim. It turns out that fixing small appliances is not in my skillset. Okay. Dabbling in photography hasn’t been super productive. All right. Home fermentation? Not our bag. But we’ve really gotten passionate about radio. Vegan cheesemaking is now my wife’s thing. I’m slowly improving on the banjo.

Do Easy is a great philosophy; I’m hoping to apply a little more mindfulness to some routine tasks this week. But our actual landscape shifts pretty often in terms of interests. So above and beyond baseline tasks, “do easy” may not be a good investment.

It’s a fun idea to explore periodically, though.

And now I have stray cats to feed and my class at the Leprosarium. I hope I find my way; the address in empty streets.

 

Day 111: Checklist, day 2

I gotta say I am loving the checklist.

Honestly, I thought I wouldn’t. I thought I’d think it was dumb. I’m not normally a checklist guy. I mean, I can make a good checklist, but filling them out? Nah. I just bristle at that level of stricture in my life.

But I really like it! I think it’s partly because it’s actually helpful. And doesn’t take too much time.

Here are a few of the things that are working for me:

  • It’s interspersed with “gimmes” — flossing, brushing my teeth, turning the lights off. Little easy ones. Keeps me feeling good.
  • And “challenges” — ukulele practice (just 10 minutes), planking. Things that feel “meaty” when I tick them.
  • Finally, checking out as the very last thing. So much better than doing it at some interim point when I’m distracted by the next thing.

A checklist a day keeps the doctor… I don’t know, busy dealing with carpal tunnel syndromes or something

So my natural instinct is of course CHECKLIST ALL THE THINGS. Because that’s how I roll. Find a good idea, hammer it flat.

But I’m resisting. I think I’m going to stick to just a before-bed checklist for now. More might kill the fun, and I’m having a hard time seeing how a checklist that includes “exercise” which can take up to an hour and a quarter, would be fun. Or at least as fun as one with a lot of little hits on it.

 

Day 110: Check-Out Checklist

So I did it! A check-out checklist. Took less than 10 minutes to do.

It is very “me” that I started at “well, I need to design this, and then I’ll have to look into how to get them printed as a tear-off pad that I can…”

And I was getting into logistics, and printing, and cost, and then jerked back to reality with

“…just print a bunch on regular letter-sized paper, dummy.”

So that’s what I’m doing.

Check-Out Checklist
My nightly checklist! Subject to change over time.

Check-OutChecklist — the PDF, if you want it.

These are the Things What Must Be Done before I get into bed each night. Some are kind of gimmes (brush teeth, turn off lights), some are a bit more ambitious (plank, practice ukulele for 10 minutes). But at least it’s a sequence. And nothing says I have to check every item every night. It’s also about seeing what I’m good at and not so good at over time.

My Check-Out Checklist Puts Checking Out Last

So “check out” is the last thing on the checklist. Previously, it would have been somewhere up around “brush teeth.” But that’s when I was trying to rock it checklist-free — attach it to another habit (like brushing my teeth).

Now, with the checklist actually happening, it seems to make the most sense to just have it be the last thing I do before going to bed.

STILL not a great food day yesterday. But #1 on the list is “logging,” which is going to be scrupulous and unrelenting. I was appalled at how much I wound up eating yesterday. It was mostly to joining colleagues for “second lunch”, and kind of snacking through the evening due to a lack of attention. But at least logging it lets me be aware and appalled. Hopefully that will trigger better behaviour.

 

Day 109: Keepin’ On

It’s a feel-good day. A keepin’ on day. A sore leg after yesterday’s run seems to have resolved itself, my back is definitely adjusting to the rower. My volunteer responsibilities are still high, but manageable. Final exam for the course I’m taking tomorrow, and I’m not confident, but I don’t know if I could be much more prepared than I am.

So it’s a maintenance day.

A good day to really dig into the check-in and the check-out. Eating is still the big challenge. The mega-runs are great, but they are also giving Evening Me a license to snack. And food logging is going well, but really being ardent with the logging is showing me the consequences of the snacking.

Which is the point of the logging. So, good.

Keepin’ on means looking at the spiral

I’d like to try something graphical at some point for progress. I don’t know how I’d “score” this, when there are binary goals (like sobriety) and very granular goals (like exercise). Maybe I’m already achieving this with the weight spreadsheet and I just need to expand that concept at little. But on keepin’ on days like this, I like to think about how I can improve positive reinforcements.

The check-outs are still tough, largely because… hm. I guess I can sequence my morning in a different way than I can sequence my evening. I have to be out the door at eight(ish). I get up at five(ish). There are no other demands on my time. So mornings are easy to plug this into. Evenings are… weird. Social events, meeting friends, doing homework, playing games. Whether it’s fun stuff or volunteer stuff or work stuff, evenings happen instead of being planned, a lot of the time. Which makes the check-outs into intrusions as opposed to scheduled events.

Maybe I really do need a nightly checklist. It’ll make me feel like I’m senile,  but it might be really helpful.

Day 108: Exercise Time

A quick follow-up on checking out — last night was kind of an anomaly, where a thing I was only supposed to stay for an hour at turned into a full evening, so it really was hard to peel away. So check-out was deferred until I got home, but I did sit down and work through the checklist. Good on all counts except I did snack. But I logged the snacks, so that’s a midway success. Today’s thing, though, is exercise time.

Another 12k this morning, which is great, and I’m glad that this seems to be developing into my new standard distance. It takes time, though. I’m not that fast — I’m taking about an hour and a quarter to run 12k (I slow down REMARKABLY in the last 2k), so even if I get out at a good start time of 5:30 AM, I’m not back and out of my shoes, in the shower, etc. until 7. Which means it’s a bit of a race to do this, pack a lunch, get myself together, and get out the door by 8.

So the options are (a) get up earlier, which is not on the menu, (b) exercise less, which I don’t want to do, or… (c) just be rushed on running mornings, I guess?

Exercise time: leisure time or… something?

This runs back into my recurring problem of I don’t know what relaxing is. I guess “going for a run” definitely counts as a leisure time activity. I’m not making money doing it, that’s for sure. But moving until I want to barf doesn’t seem like “leisure” by most standards. Exercise time is not time I enjoy. I don’t get off on the exertion the same way that ‘real’ runners seem to.

So I’m not sure how to slot exercise, mentally. Is this something I should be considering “leisure”? Is it “relaxing,” even though it’s physically the exact opposite? Maybe I should pay more attention to how I feel after a run.

 

Day 107: Checking Out is Rough

Going all the way back to Day Three — checking out is rough. It’s still a very difficult thing to be mindful about. I’ve got the alarm set, and it goes off at 8:10, but it’s becoming rote.

Rote is the anti-mindful. More often than not, I’ll just turn the alarm off and think, “yes, I need to do that before bed.” I’m not taking the signal seriously. So it’s probably worth reviewing my initial intention for checking out:

Reminders for when checking out is rough:

  • Setting a specific time every night.
  • Tying checking out to a particular regular part of my routine: brushing teeth or getting changed for bed.
  • Having a timer or other way of knowing this is a finite task with a (short) end point.
  • Having a ‘cheat sheet’ of questions I can ask myself and answer while checking out:
    • What was the easiest part of keeping promises to myself today?
    • What was the hardest?
    • Can I foresee anything that will cause problems tomorrow — things like office lunches, after-work meetings, social engagements?
    • Do I have a strategy to manage those potential hazards?
  • Take it easy on myself: it’s not about having a perfect day, but knowing what went well and what went badly.

Thanks, Past Me! Those seem like pretty good ideas for a check-out.

Part of the issue is that when checking out is rough, it’s because checking out has become rote. See above. It also feels like self-policing in a “naggy” way rather than a positive way.

There’s some framing work to do there — to make checking out more of a mindfulness thing, even a celebratory thing. Avoiding the YAGO trap of it being a mental slog through the day.

Maybe I need to take the checklist thing to another level…

_ Didn’t drink
_ Exercised
_ Logged food
_ Didn’t snack
_ Planned tomorrow

…and actually turn it into a real checklist instead of a mental inventory. I’ll pick this up tomorrow.

Day 106: Sobriety Mechanisms for Eating

All right, so I haven’t made much time to look into stress eating tactics. Instead, I’ve gone a bit back in time to see if I need to revisit anything I was thinking about earlier in this process. And to see if I can adapt any sobriety mechanisms for the eating thing.

“Morning me and evening me” seems like something I picked up, then put down. The idea at the time was to have a post-work, pre-home check-in… basically, a second daily check-in. That was going to recalibrate my “evening me” to remind that guy of what morning me started out wanting.

This is something I’ve completely failed to do.

Sobriety mechanisms for other problems

The sobriety mechanism for me has been largely a very simple “well, that’s enough of that.” Being in the fortunate category of people that can go cold turkey with no physical effects. So I don’t know why I can’t “snap quit” snacking. I guess it’s partly because food is much more available to me than booze. If I worked in an airline booze bottle factory or an ad agency circa 1963, I might be in trouble. The sobriety mechanisms have been pretty easy because my regular life is not that “boozy”.

But I’m pretty much in a food environment a lot of the time. Not enough to get sick of it, like chocolate factory employees who can’t touch the stuff. But lots of events, social occasions, and both my wife and I love to cook.

So laddering “just don’t” sobriety mechanisms into food seems like it’s easy at first flush. But it’s surprisingly hard.

Before I get off onto another tangent, I think I need to take another look at the “morning me/evening me” situation. If I can get my evening self aligned with my day self, it’s just a matter of making it through two half days instead of one full day. Not much different than running 5k to run 10k, if that makes sense.

Day 105: Weight Gain

When I set up the daily weight thing, I told myself that only the weekly average was important. Day to day weight gain was not important. That was to not freak myself out on the daily.

Well, the weekly average is now going up.

So I’m freaking out.

I mean, it’s not horrific increases, but the fact that I’m gaining weight means I really do need to follow my own advice and get serious about food logging and tracking. I’m still slacking on it, or I’d probably be making more progress.

So the big question is whether I’m using sobriety as an excuse. 

Weight gain is not great

Don’t get me wrong: sober and chubby is better than drunk and chubby. And drunk and skinny, frankly. Drinking was also a factor behind weight gain, or at least keeping me from losing weight.

So let’s review: perfect on sobriety. Good on exercise. Okay on sleep. Lousy on food and weight.

CLEARLY the food logging thing is the winning formula. But I’m still not doing it. So the question, again, is why?

  • Not knowing what I’m going to be eating
  • Not logging  food after the fact because I’m too distracted/lazy
  • Not logging snacks because I’m ashamed
  • Not being motivated to do it

…and as I type this out, that last one is the key.

My motivation to lose weight is clearly less than my motivation to eat.

Which is weird, but then again, I’m a stress eater. My first reaction on seeing my weekly average today was “this weight gain is terrible. I want a cookie.” A totally unbidden thought. There is a literal short circuit in my brain that has “I feel bad” sparking a direct “eat something” response.

So I need to figure out how to decouple that wire. And how to make motivation to lose weight trump motivation to eat. Maybe I need to theme this out: have a week on emotional eating. See where that takes me.

 

Day 104: Weekends Are For Something

I’m never quite sure how to approach weekends. On the one hand, it’s the weekend. Relax! Do fun stuff. Enjoy yourself. Recharge for the next work-week.

On the other hand, I am going to die someday and if I don’t get things done I will be a failure. 

Those are… not compatible worldviews. And I know the sane response is “compromise!”, and that makes sense, but it also requires the kind of planning that hives weekends off into “this is your allocated pleasure time, hu-man”. Which doesn’t really feel like fun sometimes.

Weekends are for stuff

My current approach is to write some big-ticket to-dos on a chalkboard in the kitchen and try to tick those off throughout. The idea there is to just have a few big “must dos” and the flexibility to do them when I want.

As systems go, it’s all right. It’s functional. But I still find myself doing things that are “fun” while stressing. Stressing about whether I should be having fun, or, you know, building a doghouse for a dog I don’t own. Yet.

And when I’m working on things, I keep flashing into “but I should be relaxing! Weekends are for fun times!”

I think this is one of the down sides of sobriety. It’s hard to know what to do with yourself when you’re not given a handy “fun crutch.” Granted you have regrets later, but it’s much easier to move into the zone.

I was never a souse, but 104 days into sobriety, it’s funny how I keep discovering new things about my brain. Neuroses that I was definitely tamping down a little bit when I had free time.

And I suppose it’s healthy to be dealing with them. It’s certainly a horrific reason to drink, so grappling with this won’t push me back to the sauce. So that’s something, at least.

Day 103: Get Out on the Water

I feel great! Get out on the water, people. It’s worth it.

I guess there’s a broader thing at work here: it’s a holiday today, and so I skipped regular exercise to head down to the boathouse. I store my canoe with the Cataraqui Canoe Club in Kingston, which is for my money absolutely the best entertainment dollar in town. The first paddle of the season, on a morning so insanely misty my visibility was about 15 feet. Plus the rowing club was out, so the peaceful bliss of the morning was slightly marred by the fear that a bunch of teenagers would scream out of the fog at any moment and T-bone me.

But they didn’t! It was a gorgeous morning. I literally feel better than I have in weeks.

Cataraqui River Paddle April 14 2017

Get out on the water
Morning paddle — solo outing and the first of the season. What’s your “get out on the water” activity?

Get out on the water if you can. If not, find your water.

Now, not everyone has ready access to watercraft. And not everyone likes canoeing, kayaking, and so on. But what’s your deal? Where do you go to completely switch off and do something different?

It’s easy for me to forget — somehow — how much I enjoy canoeing. I think it’s because I’m a convenience junkie. I’d rather do what’s right in front of me than divert into a new path for something I’d rather do.

From time to time, I really need to shake myself out of habit and re-evaluate what I’m doing. Re-focus on what I really like instead of what I’m currently doing.

Now, this was a holiday, which makes it easy to find the time to get out on the water. But it only took me 20 minutes pillar to post from leaving the house to being on the water.  I know what my “get out on the water is,” and maybe you have something like that too that we can all make a little more time for.