Day Twenty-Six: Taking Care of Business

Let’s start the day with some Canadian Content, shall we? We’re taking care of business.

About a month into this (26 days — the format for this thing does make it easy to keep track of the passing of time), I’m finally getting around to some Level Two nerdery with site security, locking down a backup scheme, checking the RSS feeds, and all that stuff. Which means I’m a little late getting the podcast up, because I’ve been up to my elbows in the back end of the blog.

I think that amazing trio of performers Bachman, Turner and Overdrive were onto something when they highlighted the importance of taking care of business. This has been a problem for me in the past.

Taking care of business means taking care of old business as well as new business.

I’m a very “new business” person. And restlessness and an appetite for new challenges can be a huge advantage in life. I think I’ve found ways to make it work for me. But tending the garden is not a strength of mine.

So while I’m enjoying this podcast and blog, the ongoing challenge is going to be to find ways to keep it fresh and recommitting myself to it. Keep it from getting YAGO.

And also to remaining committed to old business… existing volunteer commitments. The brutal boring business of life — housecleaning, finances, paperwork. Cooking food. Doing the dishes. And my actual day job, which is a pretty big thing in my life.

I’m glad I took the time this morning to go through the security settings on the site, enable two-factor authentication, all that stuff. It’s not a one and done deal, it’s part of the package if you’re running a website in today’s hackertastic world. I need to not get so caught up in new business that I stop taking care of old business.

 

Day Twenty-Five: Hooray 25, ugh everything else

Well, that went by quickly. My initial idea for this was a kind of 100-day “burn-in” period, to see if I could sustain this daily commitment for at least a medium term, and then to look at whether I should try to actively seek an audience.

It feels like a very short 25 days.

Aptly, this is going to be a shortish entry; for various reasons (work stress, busy on the home front, a cat that is soon going to be on the street with a bindle and a sign that says “PISSED OFF LAST OWNER, PLEASE FEED”) I’m running on about four hours of sleep. Got the exercise in — kind of unwillingly, in a “fuck it, I’m not going to get any sleep anyway” burst of pissy energy; had breakfast, and now I’m onto the pod and a shower and off to work.

Other than being generally exhausted, and as a result super irritable, things are actually going quite well. I’ve been swatting away food cravings here and there, but booze hasn’t been tugging my sleeve like I was afraid it might. Pretty consistent with exercise when sleep isn’t a crippling issue.

I’m looking forward to the next 75 of these, assuming I don’t succumb to some sort of insomnia-induced stroke.

 

Day Twenty-Four: The Best Time to Plant a Tree

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

I know that’s Hallmark-card wisdom, but I ran across it a while back, and it actually hit me at the right time in my life to make a difference. Out of the mouths of babes and fake woodburned signs at one of those weird home decor stores, I guess.

Have you ever gone into those stores? Have you ever bought anything in one? I’ve seen them my whole life, but I’ve never seen a human being in one of them shopping. I’ve certainly never seen anyone leave them with a purchase.

The best time to plant a tree is probably not late January.

There seems to be some confusion about where the saying comes from, but odds are good it’s not Canada, or at least not Canada for about five months of the year. This is a terrible time to plant a tree. If a Canadian had written that proverb, it would read

“The best time to plant a tree  was 20 to 20.5 years ago, depending on the current season. The second best time is now, plus or minus up to six months, again depending on season and current weather conditions.”

There’s a reason there aren’t a lot of Canadian proverbs.

But we get the spirit of the thing, right? It’s a “today is the first day of the rest of your life,” kind of deal, but built on a foundation that leans a little more towards “well, you kind of fucked this up, but better to start unfucking thing now than never, I guess” in spirit.

Okay, now that I’m thinking about it, it’s kind of a bummer saying. It’s really predicated on the fact that there have been a ton of missed opportunities.

What’s wrong with “It’s never too late to plant a tree” or just “the best time to plant a tree is now”?

Welp, you really shoulda done this two decades ago, but I guess you can get on it now, sucker.

Thanks for nothing, saying.

 

 

 

Day Twenty-Three: Sleep on Drugs

Speaking of sleep, drugs, and the number twenty-three, remember this movie?

It was terrible.

Anyway — after the Sunday not-greatness, yesterday was a kind of a slog, including a low-grade headache that chased me all day. I finally decided to take some nighttime ibuprofen before bed.

I slept like a log.

But does it count?

Is sleep on drugs real sleep? Does it count?

I feel like it’s cheating, somehow — I’ve never been a pills person; I resist even Aspirin for minor headaches. I’ve gotten the notion at some point that it’s better to power through and not take anything than to take stuff.

Which is weird, when you think of how much I’d been using alcohol as a stress reliever.

Sleep on drugs is probably okay. I’m sure, even though it’s not something I qualify as ‘real’ sleep, it’s better for me than a restless night, especially if it’s a very occasional thing.

Sleep on drugs vs. life on booze

Again, it’s weird to me that I’m resistant to medication, and I think that sleep with sleep aids ‘doesn’t count’. I’ve spent decades willing to think that alcohol is a perfectly acceptable way to relieve stress.

Before today, I’ve never really thought about that dichotomy.

Now that I’m thinking about it, it weirds me out.

Why have I been making a major life exception for one specific drug for so long? Especially one that’s proven itself to not be great for your health (physical, mental and financial)?

I’m not down on people who drink, by the way — I’m making personal changes for me because my “off” switch works a lot better than my dimmer switch when it comes to alcohol. It’s personally easier for me not to have a drink at all than to have that internal “can I have another drink?” debate.

But sleep on drugs is something that’s always bothered me, and I’ve always tried to avoid. Why is sleep on drugs bad, and relax on alcohol okay?

One to ponder. Huh.

 

Day Twenty-Two: Bad Sleep II — No Exercise Boogaloo

Arrgh. Another bad night for sleep — this time not the cat’s fault, just me and my busy brain. Today, I opted not to kill the bear, and slept in. No exercise.

The bad sleep may have been due, at least in part, to some really bad food choices yesterday as well. My wife was out all day co-hosting an event. I didn’t plan my day, foodwise, and wound up just kind of grazing and eating poorly. Not intent, just a kind of laziness combined with a natural gravity toward bad food choices.

So I’m coming out of a real bad weekend in terms of my goals, and starting the week on the worst foot.

How do I right this ship?

First, by being kind to myself. Beating myself up over this won’t change anything and won’t help anything.

Second, by trying to learn from this. One lesson: I need to really plan my food, especially if I don’t have a partner around to work with.

Third, by getting right back on the horse. I can’t dick around for a day or two in a fug, I need to finish this, and then plan my food day. Then figure out a way to sneak in a little exercise at least (a good walk at lunch, maybe).

Fourth, I need a ‘planned cheat day,’ which sounds ridiculous. I think accruing a bunch of good days with no plan for a cheat day was ruinous, though.

Anyway. I’m disappointed with myself, but nothing’s changed — I need to learn from this, and recognize that being good to myself is more of a treat than ‘treating myself’ with old standbys when I don’t have anything better on the go.

I know I can do this, I just need to get out of my own way and let myself do it.

Back on that horse. Onward and upward.

Day Twenty-One: Screw Minimalism

I started watching a documentary on minimalism on Netflix last night.

Then I stopped.

I guess I decided to minimize my time with the documentary.

It’s been a big thing lately; my wife has read books on it and been impassioned to argue for clearing stuff out of the house.

Which is a good thing — having a bunch of crap around that you don’t like, don’t need, and don’t use is not a productive way to live life.

But I like stuff.

Minimalism removes immediate potential from my life.

This morning, I was pressing tofu in the time-honoured tradition of our household. This means wrapping it in a towel, then stacking frying pans on it.  Lots of frying pans. A towering death pile of frying pans. Then the frying pans slipped and fell off the counter. Narrowly missing the cat.

So I said to myself, “time to make a tofu press.”

And I can do this — I have wood, I have lots of tools, I have everything I need to wake up in the morning and say “today, I will make a tofu press” and go about that work.

I can also say “I feel like reading a book,” and have dozens of books. “I feel like listening to a record,” and have dozens of LPs. My wife and I have tons of kitchen tools — none are unused, but many go without use for several months. But if I feel like making ground seitan for a lasagna, I have the meat grinder in the basement. If I want to make a huge batch of rice, I have the 10-cup Tiger. I’ve got a 40-year-old crockpot I specifically like to use for steel cut oatmeal, because those oval teflon ones just don’t do it right.

Minimalism blows; having kitchen gadgets rules
Minimalism be damned; I only use it 3-4 times a year, but you can pry my juicer from my cold dead hands, you proto-hippie yoga weirdos.

So pushing myself into guilt over having stuff isn’t a space I want to go to right now.

But I think minimalism is an important concept for sobriety and diet, and I’m going to try to apply some of that thinking to how I’m looking at life in general.

Alcohol, bad snacking, not taking care of myself — that’s the stuff I don’t really need. Paring down to doing things in life that reinforce my better self and keep me from feeling bad down the line. That’s a form of minimalism I can get behind.

Also, being able to distract yourself with productive things to do is handy when your default mode gravitates toward “drink and snack.” So: stuff. I like it. I’ve got it. I’m keepin’ it. Screw you, minimalism.

 

Day Twenty: Keep on keepin’ on today

Nothing profound going on today; in fact, I’m just generally pleased with how it’s going. Keepin’ on is a fine thing when you’re still in your first month of some pretty big stuff.

Some people like to make life a little tougher than it is.

That’s a line from a Cake song — Pressure Chief came out in 2004, well after the major college rock success of “The Distance,” but I loved them before and love them still. Cake is a good band. At the moment, they seem to have converted their Facebook page to actively protesting the Trump presidency, and I suspect somebody has DDOSed their website as a result. This just makes them cooler.

Anyway.

I’m trying not to make life tougher than it is right now — if I accept not drinking, eating better and exercise as the new normal. But as discussed previously, actively resisting the impulse to heap more on because of a Protestant work ethic, or just general idiocy.

My dad has this hanging in his office for my entire life; it now hangs in mine:

Keepin' on by avoiding the unnecessary
Pretty much all the advice I need on a daily basis.

Sometimes people notice it and laugh; I notice it about once a week. I will on occasion lean back in my chair and seek it out.

It’s good… well, it’s not advice, really, but a good admonishment. It’s worth frequent consideration.

I take on too much; I’m not even sure if I’m ‘relaxing’ or not a lot of the time.

It’s good to have keepin’ on days.

I’m going to go do a radio show with my wife with a clear head and hangover-free, looking forward to a long walk, getting some things done for the local canoe club, and having a generally kind of chill yet productive day.

Keep on keepin’ on.

Day Nineteen: That Darn Cat; Managing Sleeplessness

Friends, why do we own cats? Why do I own this cat?

I mean, I know why we own cats, but it’s a question that begs asking. Especially at 3:15 a.m. Especially when the cat is barreling across the bed like some short of hellish monkey-mosquito hybrid.

First, I like it when the trailer guy laughs when he says the word “hilarious,” because clearly the word “hilarious” does not sell the sheer level of hilarity of this giddy gale of gumshoe a-gogo.

Second, I had no idea there was a remake, and I now disavow any knowledge of the remake and we will never speak of it again.

Bad-sleep nights are bad. Thanks, cat!

I don’t have great sleep strategies. I wish I had sleep strategies. I suffer from what my wife calls “busy brain,” which is that I just start… thinking. It’s not bad thinking, not necessarily stress or worry stuff. Just planning my day, going over things, sometimes just, like, thinking about comic books I read once. Whatever.

So the big decision on bad-sleep days is whether to sleep in, if I feel like I can sleep but it’ll take me past my normal get-up time, or whether to just power through.

Today, I’m powering through.

I’m not sure this is a wise choice. The trade-off is this:

On one hand, I get to feel like I haven’t compromised anything, and I get my full day of stuff out of my day. I don’t feel rushed or anything due to having slept late.

On the other hand, I’m giving myself a daylong burden of managing my irritability and tiredness. I know I’m going to be cranky and not operating at 100% because I haven’t slept right.

In the “kill the bear!”* department, I know all of this is mangeable.  I know tons of people with kids. They handle this crap all the time. So that’s what tips me in favour of the less-sleep, manage-my mood decision — it can be done, so I know I can do it.

On the other hand, sleep would have been nice.

Cats are dumb.

*don’t kill bears

Day Eighteen: Tiny Upgrades

I’m trying to be a bit more “see a problem, solve a problem” this year.

A quick f’rinstance: USB cables make me nuts. I have to rearrange stuff from time to time. Figuring out which end goes to which thing is a tugging, follow-the-wire, jerk-ass exercise in frustration. So last weekend, I did this:

Tiny upgrades - USB plug tagging
Now I know which USB plug belongs to my external hard drive. Small improvements!

Tiny upgrades are easy, and pay off in the long term.

The stickers had been in a drawer for about five years. It took less than five minutes to do all my external devices. Four colours of sticker, and single/double stickering, means I can do up to 20 devices. And the dividends are going to be paying out to me for the rest of my computer-using life.

I’d even done this at work, months ago, when I was dealing with microphone cables and got hacked off. I numbered the ends of each cable. I don’t know why it took me so long to bring this idea home.

At any rate, I’m trying to be more attentive to tiny frustrations. I’m the sort of person who will be careful to step over the lifting edge of the carpet for years. I should be the sort of person that gets a hammer and a carpet tack and tacks it town.

“I don’t have time to do X” is my go-to excuse for not dealing with things like this. Often, it’s true. I have to get to work. I gotta shower. I gotta eat. Sometimes I really don’t have time.

So the challenge is really twofold:

  1. Actually engage with an annoyance rather than just instinctively getting around it;
  2. Ask myself if I do have time, really;
  3. Frame it as an investment rather than dealing with a hassle.

I guess that’s threefold. I could go up and change the “twofold” above to “threefold,” but I don’t have time right now. Ha!

Day Seventeen: Get Right To It, No Delays

“No delays” needs to be the mantra for my morning.

Here’s the thing — I’m a nerd. I’m a big ol’ Web 2.whatever, online, connected, social, email, dork. My natural instinct during any lull in my life is to check my phone. I am one of those people.

This is the worst possible thing to be when your exercise strategy hinges on starting to exercise before you’re fully awake.

No delays between waking and exercising.

I’ve tried gyms and memberships and various types of out-of-the-house schemes. The simple truth is that I’ve never done better than when I exercise at home. First thing in the morning. No delays.

I need to roll out of bed, get some exercise clothes on, and hit it: running, a DVD-based workout, or pushups/situps/planking before I do literally anythign else.

If I pick up my phone, if I look at my iPad, especially if I turn on my computer, it’s game over. I’m looking at emails and checking Facebook statuses and seeing what’s new on MetaFilter. OH HEY CATS WEARING HATS SIGN ME UP and then I come out of a Buzzfeed-induced haze 30 minutes later.

No delays -- stay off cool websites!
A good friend during the day and evening. First thing in the morning: MY BITTEREST FOE.

 

So the linear path really has to be:

  1. wake up
  2. push cat off me
  3. get up
  4. get some exercise clothes on
  5. go downstairs
  6. exercise

Any divergence between 1-6 leads to disaster, because my brain suddenly kicks into gear with all kinds of things I’d rather do than exercise.

The greatest trick my brain ever pulled was convincing the world it didn’t exist. No, wait, that’s wrong. The greatest trick my brain pulls is finding things  I don’t want to do but still want to do more than exercise.

So my brain is telling me that cleaning the gunk out of the oven needs doing, and I’m still virtuous for doing it. It’s like a virtue short-circuit. I don’t want to go through all of my folders of random iPhone photo dumps and sort them, but I should, and that’s virtuous.

My brain is the worst.

So: no delays. I need to get to exercise before my nefarious brain has a chance to turn on me once again.

Everybody’s different, and everybody has their own deal with exercise. Mine is “start before you’re awake.”