Day Forty-Six: Road Accountability

Continuing on from yesterday, more or less: food is going to be a big focus for me. Especially since I have weekend plans out of town. Road accountability is rough.

I am, to be honest, a little nervous about this. I’m bad with food accountability on weekends in the first place. Vacations, even short ones, have traditionally been disasters for this. And I’m already feeling like my stool is wobbly on the food leg.

(I also need to figure out how to do this on the road! Interesting.)

We’re on a pretty strict budget, and already kind of breaking it with this weekend trip. I think micromanaging this time away is going to be a requirement, not an option. Road accountability for the win.

Mapping for Success

There’s no reason we can’t map out the weekend ahead of time. Sit down and plan our meals — out and in — with a budget and an eye on time. Will it diminish enjoyment? Will we feel less spontaneous and less “fun” doing this?


This is where it gets back to having a great partner and collaborating to keep eyes on the prize. I have to ask for help on this one, because obviously I’m not travelling alone. Road accountability for one! Road accountability for all!

Getting back there, synergy is what makes this work, and there are clear dangers in this weekend trip that I can anticipate. And plan for. If action is eloquence (Deeds not Words), I should act and get on top of the problem before it even gets a chance to become a problem.


Day Forty-Five: Repetition (it’s food, stupid)

Here’s what I’m worried about: monotony. Not in terms of this blog and podcast; I’ve got tricks I can try. But in this endeavour. I feel like, a month and a half in, I’m already starting to get into the semi-improvement cycle where I keep falling into the same trap. And whining about it. Which gets boring.

One of the things I seem to forget is that change isn’t hard. It’s tiring. I’ve been kind of exhausted for the last few days, partly due to a cold, but party due to feeling like I’m in a rut.

And the damning thing about a rut is that it saps your energy to climb out of it.

So I’m trying to keep myself on track; keep three solid legs on the stool. But I’m feeling drained, and when you’re feeling drained, you tend to fall back on the bad habits. So keeping on is tough.

Repetition is a bad food loop.

Repetition, for me, is bad food based. It’s about losing the force of will to keep food on track. And once that goes, I start feeling bloated and logey, and then exercise goes because I phone it in when I’m bloated and logey.

So as I write this (I knew doing this would be good for something; I’m basically conducting talk therapy with myself!), I realize that I need to focus on food for the next few days. I’ve been happy with the strong stool leg, but I need to shift attention to the weak one.

Again, it’s been a lifetime to date of taking runs at this with varying success. I should be smart enough to recognize my failure modes and deal with them. And I’m seeing a failure mode right now.

It’s food, stupid

I mean, not “food to the exclusion of exercise and sobriety,” but I really do need to think hard and push my mental energy toward it.  I am the master of my fate. Food can’t beat me, for Pete’s sake. It’s just food.


Day Forty-Four: Stool Legs

If I were a stool, I’d be pretty freakin’ wobbly right now. One of my stool legs — sobriety — is rock solid. Exercise is wobbly. Diet… is definitely the shortest of the three.

Food logging’s been way off, snacking’s been way up, and I’ve been using the ol’ “one leg of the stool” excuse — hey, I’m being good about booze, so I can let these things go.

But I’m a smart guy. I’m a smart guy that’s been down this road before. I’m not entirely sure why I’m smart enough to see this, and know that it’s not a path that works, and still find myself on it.

You need three stool legs for stability.

I’m not sure why I’m fixated on my life being a stool, but that’s where I’m at — I’ve tried sober without exercise and diet control. That’s failed. I’ve tried exercise without diet and sobriety. That’s failed. You’ll never guess what else I’ve tried — yes, diet, but without exercise and sobriety. And that didn’t work out either.

I’m not gonna go through all the two-out-of-three combinations. Just trust me when I say that I’ve tried every two-leg permutation there is. I am not a man. I’m a stool.

I need three legs.

I think all the stools I have in the house are four-legged, actually. But I am a three-legged stool.

Well, maybe the fourth leg is sleep. Or a good relationship. Maybe I’m a five-legged stool. Possibly, I’m a centaur with a prosthesis.

Maybe I’m an octopus that gnawed off a couple of tentacles because I was caught in a trap. 

I think it’s time to stop before I Spanish Inquisition myself into oblivion. Three legs is a good stool. I need three legs. Maybe three legs are where my towel is.

Day Forty-Three: Buddy System

For those of us lucky enough to have a supportive partner, the buddy system is a good thing to remember. For those of us without one, there’s technology and friendships to help make these things happen as well.

I’ve mentioned the stopdrinking subReddit before. I sometimes feel like a bit of a poseur checking in there. Most of the folks on the board have serious problems with alcohol, while my sobriety is more of a dimmer switch issue than a recovery from a shattered life. But it’s a great example of the Internet opening up buddy systems that didn’t exist in the same way 20 years ago.

My wife is great, and has been tremendously supportive through all of this. The trick in my head, though, is to accept her support and not push back against it. I’ve mentioned my anti-authoritarian streak, and it extends to even people that mean well. So “have you logged your food today?” doesn’t register as a friendly reminder sometimes. Sometimes it lands like a “someone is checking up on me, eh?” thing. Not her fault — it’s my head-problem — but it just kind of pops up.

Buddy system is best system when you accept that you have a buddy.

It’s a weird psychic defense mechanism that I have. It’s often miscalibrated. It’s hard for me to accept praise, and it’s hard for me to accept help.

So among the many things I have to work on, working on being open to accepting help is one of them. I’m not good about taking it, and I’m very bad about asking for it, but I’m working on both things.

And again, it’s important to have a partner who actually supports you in this stuff. I can’t imagine what it would be like trying this if she didn’t have my back. I imagine it’d be very difficult. But there are other communities, both local and on the Internet. So if you don’t have a buddy, look for one. They’re out there.

Day Forty-Two: Inspiration Stuff 7; Don’t Panic

When I think of the formative things in my life, there are obviously a bunch of ’em. In terms of the shaping of my sense of humour, though, the standouts are the Canadian sketch comedy troupe The Frantics, and Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy.

So, with the culmination of Inspiration Week falling on Day Forty-Two of this podcast, I’d say the stars are definitely aligned.

Don’t Panic.

There are, in fact, two key things that you can take from The Hitchhiker’s Guide that will be useful in daily life. The first is, as stated, the words in large, friendly letters on the cover. “Don’t Panic.”

That is helpful. As Arthur Dent says, “it’s the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody has said to me all day.”

I don’t know if there’s much to add here. Don’t Panic. It’s good advice. There is almost no time in life in which it is not useful. Don’t panic.

Always Know Where Your Towel Is.

Being the nascent nerd I was in high school, when my slightly older friend and fellow Hitchhiker’s fan Iain left for university, I bought a towel and some fabric paint and gave him a towel that said “always know where your towel is.” I was surprised and gratified to see last year that he still has it, a quarter-century on.

Here’s the radio bit explaining why this is important:

…this one is a little harder to parse than “Don’t Panic,” but basically boils down to “have your baseline shit together.” At least, that’s my takeaway. Projects, extracurriculars, hobbies, all of those peripherals can be in some sort of state of disarray. You gotta know where your towel is. Shelter, food, sleep. Those are the towel, in my mind. If you know where your towel is, then you’re free to start worrying about the secondaries.

But — thanks to Iain — whenever I think of “always know where your towel is,” the other thought is doing nice shit for people is nice. I spent maybe a half-hour  making this towel because I thought it would be cool and my friend has had it hanging around his house for 25 years. That’s a hell of a return on investment.

So there y’go! Inspiration Week is over. I had fun doing this. I’m definitely going to be doing more theme weeks in the future; I think it will be regular chaos for at least the next seven days, though.



Day Forty-One: Inspiration Stuff 6; Until Death…

Don Quixote! Don Quixote! I claim this is my favourite book, but I’ve only read it through twice, and I can look over and see it on my bookshelf with a forlorn bookmark about two-thirds through it. But hope springs eternal, or, as Sancho says, “until death, all is life.”

Don Quixote
This is where I left off. Also, that “Night Watch” book was totally legit purchased from a library sell-off.

Until death, all is life

Granted, Sancho is talking about this in the context of self-flagellating himself half to death for the benefit of an imaginary person. And if that’s not a metaphor for a lot of our lives, I don’t know what is.

But… hope springs eternal, you know? It really does.

“Hasta la muerte, todo es vida.”

One way to take “until death, all is life” is the paraphrase “everything can be celebrated, because it shows you’re alive,” which parses into “celebrate pain,” which is totally metal and makes me want to put spikes on my bicycle helmet and braid my beard.

It’s good when things in life turn out to be totally metal, and also true. No matter what grim circumstance you’re in, until death, all is life. There’s always the chance for a comeback, a turnaround, an upset.

It’s also pretty Zen — if you’re having a hard time dealing, reduce your life to two states: life and not-life, and just focus on the fact that you’re in the “life” category. That’s not bad either.

I really should finish Don Quixote. I also started Moby Dick last summer, and never finished it either. That one was because I wanted to read it while I was in Newfoundland, but couldn’t find a copy to buy, so I put it on my iPad. iPad reading turned out to be not my bag.

You know what I’m going to do today? I’m’a pick up Don Quixote again. Let’s go, Man of La Mancha. Moby Dick, you’re on notice.

“Hasta la muerte, todo es vida.” Metal.

Day Forty: Inspiration Stuff 5; Action is Eloquence

True confessions: until this morning, I had never heard of Coriolanus, apparently one of Shakespeare’s last tragedies and not one of his better-known plays. But I was looking for inspiration from the Bard — yes, I’m a nerd — and “Action is Eloquence” leapt out at me.

Coriolanus is about a guy named Coriolanus, he’s a great Roman warrior, it goes to his head, things end badly. Ba-dump.

And, as all great wisdom should, the wisdom in Coriolanus comes from his mom:

Audio courtesy LibriVox. 

Action is eloquence: show humility, stupid

Given that I have never heard of Coriolanus before this morning, I’m playing a bit of catch-up here. What I gather from this whole scene is that Cory, who has been a great warrior and springboarded that into a bad move into politics, has pissed people off with his arrogance. His mom is telling him to get out there and show some humility.

Not say something humble, but show some humility. I assume the knee bussing the stones means actually kneeling. I’ve been a busboy, and it’s not a job you can do with your knees.

So my initial takeaway from “Action is Eloquence” is the same as my takeaway from Barry Bostwick’s finest hour: MEGAFORCE.

Are YOU man enough for MegaForce? DEEDS NOT WORDS, BARRY.

DEEDS NOT WORDS. Damn skippy, Barry Bostwick.

But thanks to Coriolanus’ mom, I’m now looking at “Action is Eloquence” in a different and more specific shade of “show humility, don’t say it.”

Humility is important.

So I guess I’ve learned a bunch of stuff this morning: action is eloquence, Coriolanus is a play, listen to your mom, Barry Bostwick is just the best.



Day Thirty-Nine: Inspiration Stuff 4; 10 Seconds

Females are strong as hell. That’s not the only takeaway I have from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt — there’s the titular 10 seconds thing — but it’s also a good thing to bear in mind.

For Inspiration Week, though, the bit I am carrying with me from the show is definitely this: a person can stand just about anything for 10 seconds. And then, you start on another 10 seconds.

Exercise is where the 10 seconds thing shines.

I mean, I guess you could use this to get through meetings, but it might be a little conspicuous after a while. But it concretizes a kind of “mini-milestones” approach I’ve had to exercise for a while, in a really compact way. Can I make another lap? Can I just get to the end of the block? Two more pushups, just two?

Compartmentalizing things into achievable goals isn’t a new concept when it comes to getting things done — even “make a dent,” earlier this week, is kind of the lead-in to this idea.

But it’s a nice easy way to give myself a half-second pep talk when I’m struggling with something, especially something physical. 10 seconds is easy to conceive and easy to count. And I can stand most things for 10 seconds.

There is, inevitably, the time when you say “I can do this for another 10 seconds” and your body responds with a hearty and absolute “nope.”

But you can get a lot of micro-goals into those 10 seconds before you reach that point. Maybe more than you think.

Also, it’s nice to revisit Kimmy Schmidt every once in a while. I like that show.  It’s a bit like Bojack Horseman — it looks like a comedy, feels like a comedy, is a comedy — but it’s about trauma and recovery, like Bojack is about depression. It’s a helpful and interesting lens to give people who don’t experience these things a window into them.


Day Thirty-Eight: Inspiration Stuff 3; Invictus


by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.
One last trip to the MetaFilter well, as user kimberussell suggests the last two lines of Invictus. No context, but none is needed — what more do you need?
Nothing like classic poetry to get you going. “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” DAMN STRAIGHT, WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY.

Invictus: bloody, but unbowed

This is pretty super macho stuff for a guy who was nearly felled by tuberculosis as a child and spent his whole life a writer, editor and poet, but who cares? “Invictus” is Latin for “unconquered”, and it’s up to you to define the context of your… unconqueredness.
Let us all go forth and be masters of our fates! Huzzah!

Day Thirty-Seven: Inspiration Stuff 3; Make a Dent

Wow, that’s a lot of numbers for a single post title. Sorry! But Inspiration Week continues here at Jerk in Progress. For a second day, I’m going back  to that rich and abundant MetaFilter well for short motivational thoughts. Today: “Make a Dent,” as contributed by user fussbudget. 

They say “This was always my mom’s advice when I was having trouble starting homework, and I still use it when I’m feeling balky or unsure about a project and just need to get started.”

That’s some solid get-started wording right there.

Make a dent.

Make a dent: advice for anyone (except limousine drivers)

I kind of wish I’d had that one back on January 1 of this year, and especially for the first couple of weeks, when there were a lot of early pains associated with stopping drinking and eating more sensibly. Make a dent… set a target and start working toward it.

My initial goal for the year, and for this podcast is 100 days. My not so secret goal is to have that be inspiration to keep going for the medium term. And for that to energize me for the long term.

So what does “make a dent” mean when the dent’s been made?

I love it as “get started” advice, and I’m going to probably wind up using this at work. I do a lot of project-based things, and often they seem insurmountable.

Make a dent.

Maybe it’s a matter of saying “make the dent bigger.” If you’ve made a dent, there’s no reason not to keep making it.

Or maybe it’s something to hang onto for those tough days, or tough moments, when you have to reframe your worldview from the next few months down to the next few hours. We’ve all been in the grip of immediate temptation, so having “make a dent” in the back pocket as a guide to the next hour of our lives isn’t a bad idea.

Either way, it’s a good one. Nice and short, too. Make a dent. Let’s do that.