Day Fifty: Shh! I’m in a hotel.

Another quiet polite episode; even quieter than yesterday. We have to go catch the bus home in a bit, so we’re up early in a hotel.

I was listening to the inestimable Paul F Tompkins the other day and he mentioned that one of his great inescapable fears in life is being yelled at. I’m similar, but I don’t even need the yelling-at. Just the thought that somebody is thinking poorly of me is enough to give me the hives. I have prolonged friendships far past their exploitative and horrible past-due dates because of this. I have put myself through all sorts of weird discomfort over this. I’m sure 90% of it was unnecessary.

And yet I persist. I’m still reasonably convinced that the world would be a better place if we were all overconsiderate rather than underconsiderate.

So it’s a quiet podcast today.

We spent to much on our weekend away, thanks to a couple of cool things we ran into (my wife is now the proud owner of a pillow that is made specifically to have a hot water bottle inside of it, which we think will get a lot of use over the rest of the winter). But the food plan was adhered to, drinking on her end was measured and on my end was entirely absent. It was a good weekend.

We’re considerate with each other, which helps — honestly considerate, not over or under. Again, it’s a better way to live than not being considerate at all. I know there’s a certain vogue right now on the right wing toward negating and hating people who have feelings, but it’s a losing game, down the line.

Being considerate is ultimately about maximizing other people’s ability to feel comfortable. And that maximizes their ability to contribute. And a society where everyone can contribute to the best of their ability, because they’re not distracted or preoccupied by, well, assholes, is a good and productive society.

I’m not sure why that’s so difficult for people to figure out.

Anyway, I’m talking quietly. Because it’s early, and I’m in a hotel.

Day Forty-Nine: Road Posting

Well, the fact that I’m typing this means that the blog end of things is working out well; the actual podcast part of it is next. Road posting! Posting from the road.

I’m at a hotel in Montreal with my wife (Anne Ma Soeur Anne; charming as hell and right on the Plateau), typing this on the desk that appears when you fold up the Murphy bed (!). Celebrating a good, sober, sensible day that’s still full o’ fun yesterday.

Road posting is easy when you’re clear-headed and happy

Having a plan, and a supportive spouse, is key. Yesterday’s planning involved splitting up so she could interview somebody for her women-in-brewing podcast. She headed uptown, I went to the hotel to check in, do some window shopping, have a wander and generally avoid a bar.

It worked out well! I got a good walk in, checked out some new board games at the board game store, studiously avoided going into places that sold bande dessinée (Franco-Belgian hardcover comics; beautiful, but expensive), read, and puttered around. I’m a classic introvert, so the time alone was kind of nice, and being able to sit around and read without a vague feeling of “I should be doing the dishes/laundry/cleaning something/checking on the cat” is very liberating.

Once she got back to the hotel, we went down to Chinatown, feasted on dumplings, and ticked off one of my great Montreal priorities: hitting up the Chinese supermarket for amazing faux meats — both in the refrigerated “make hot” varieties and the “plant-based jerky” types. The overall plan is to bring it all back to Kingston, keep the packaging, and convince the local Asian markets to carry this stuff.

Road posting! The audio portion of this is going to be a little different, as I’m doing it through a microphoned gaming headset. And speaking quietly because I don’t know how sound carries in here and I don’t want to disturb anyone. Protestant reserve, general good manners or a crippling inability to deal with attention? Let’s say all three.

Day Forty-Eight: Sick and Sober

The headache continues, somewhat abated. I’m pretty sure at this point that it’s sinus-related, because I still feel snoofly and like my sinuses are a bit plugged up, and those symptoms and the headache seem to diminish through the day kind of concurrently. But I’m sick and sober. At least.

I’m grateful to be sober right now. I suspect this is a thing where — especially since last night was a Friday night — I would have ‘helped myself feel better’ with a few drinks last night, and felt much worse this morning.

Sick and Sober is better than Sick and Sick

Which is pretty obvious on its surface, but it’s interesting, the further I get from my last drink, how it’s easier to stop that internal dialogue. “I feel lousy.” “You know what’ll help you feel better?” “Two nighttime Ibuprofen and a good night’s sleep.” Boom, done. Nice chat, brain. Good to have you along.

So the headache is still rumbling around a little, I suspect because the sinuses are still clogged a little. I have the radio show with my wife this morning, and then it’s off to a (well-planned!) weekend out of town. Exciting! I’m not going to drink this weekend. I’ve also got a rough food map to keep me from making dumb decisions on that end as well.

I’ve even got a plan for podcasting from the road — untested, but theoretically totally workable. So I’ll see you tomorrow, hopefully…

 

 

Day Forty-Seven: I Have A Headache

I have a headache. I don’t get them often, but when I do, they’re doozies. Started yesterday afternoon, pounded all through the day. It woke me up in the middle of the night to take acetaminophen at 2 a.m. and lie in bed listening to Bill Evans, jazz pianist (a recording; I do not know Bill Evans, jazz pianist, and also he has been dead for 30+ years).

On the bright side, I’ve just discovered I know how to spell acetaminophen. That’s talent.

Headache strategies

I wish I had clever headache strategies. To be honest, the strategies are take painkillers, try to stay in dark rooms, avoid loud noise. Drink lots of water, but that’s more just general good advice.

I’d love nothing more than to go back to bed, pull the covers over my head, and listen to the smooth jazz piano of Bill Evans, but there’s work to be done at work, and it won’t do itself. I wish I worked as a jazz pianist, but I do other stuff, and it’s already piling up due to some other things that went on this week.

I guess the one strategy was abdicating hard exercise in favour of stretching, which is something I hate doing and I am very, very bad at (I can’t touch my knees, let alone my feet) despite being in okay shape. But one of the headache theories is that this is a stress headache, so I thought stretching might help my exercise for the day.

It didn’t.

New working theory is that this is a sinus thing; I’ve had a cold all week, and I certainly feel this pressure in my sinuses. Not much to be done about that except fluids and patience.

For now, I have a headache. This doesn’t affect my three-legged stool; the trifecta remains solid and I’m maintaining that hard focus on food. But it’s a lousy day. Bah.

 

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?

Maybe?

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.