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.


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.”


Day Sixteen: Maintaining Good Habits

Two weeks in, maintaining is becoming a focus. Checking out is slipping — as mentioned early on, I think it’s important, but it’s a hard thing for me to make stick. I’ve tried associating it with brushing my teeth, and using a timer to time it out, but brushing my teeth often winds up with me wandering around the house while I’m doing it, and then I get distracted, think about checking out later, and pop goes the weasel.

Maintaining is success.

It’s my exercise trap: I get into a good rhythm, I’m exercising five or six days a week, and then I get ambitious. Can I push myself harder? Can I do more? The answer is probably yes. There’s always a lurking dread that I’m not doing enough, and that I’ll regret not doing more. But the other end of the cycle is minor injury, having to take time off, then being worse off than I was when I started. Or at least significantly set back.

I have to get into the mindset that a few core things are all I need to stick to: logging food, exercising a reasonable amount regularly, not drinking, checking in and out. That’s already a lot. I don’t need to dial that up.

It’s hard for me not to pile more on. I have a lethal combination of ambition and shabby planning skills, which moves me into a regular cycle of taking on too much, then having to drop things. Remembering that it’s okay to not be doing everything at 100% is tough.

Oh! The irritability thing? Seems to have passed. I might be nursing a cold, and as always my brain is a conflicted jumble of stuff. But at least I’m not on edge all the time. That’s good news. Still not sure what was behind that, but I’m going to keep keeping an eye on it.

Day Fifteen: Adjusting for Illness

Well, I’ve had better mornings. Partly because I’ve had better nights. Illness is an ever-present threat here in these chilly Canadian climes.

There’s definitely something coming down in the Jerk household; I woke up in the wee hours with a stuffy nose and a sore throat, my wife was similarly up and down with sneezing and nose-blowing. That, compounded with a cat that gets fed at 5:15 but decides that 4:15 is an appropriate time to press her luck, makes for a kind of grody night all ’round.

Illness means adjusting expectations.

But it doesn’t mean giving up. I used to ascribe to “feed a cold, starve a fever,” so I’d use a cold as an excuse to lean into feeling lousy and “treat” myself in ways that would make me feel more lousy down the line. Somehow, when I got a fever, I would recall the line as “feed a fever, starve a cold.”

I’d stop exercising, usually stop drinking, actually, but generally speaking would sink into an illness-induced fug.

What I need to try now, though, is a stronger approach to feeling a cold coming on:

  • Dial back the exercise but maintain it. I slept in to the princely hour of 6 a.m. this morning, leaving less time for exercise, but I still got some in.
  • Drink water. I hate drinking water! It’s boring. I find water excruciatingly dull. But I need to challenge myself to drink at least two litres a day, keep my system flushed, and keep chugging the stuff.
  • While taking care of myself because I’m sick, also kind of forget I’m sick. Like, don’t do things that will make it worse, but don’t just sink into it and let “sick” be my go-to reason to indulge in bad habits.

With illness, I think there’s a fine line between “powering through it” and not letting it rule you, and being a massive dick and making things worse by trying to macho it into submission.

So I’m going to try my best to both take care of myself and not let this throw me off track. Wish me luck!



Day Fourteen: Sunday, Sober Sunday

Man, it’s nice not to have a hangover on a Sunday morning. Not that I routinely did prior to this, but my wife and I would enjoy a few more drinks than strictly necessary on Saturday nights.  Once every four or five weeks, we’d feel crappy about wasting 25% of our weekend feeling rotten the next day.

Sunday is a good relaxing day, when you feel good enough to relax.

I doubt I’m alone in finding it kind of hard to figure out what “relaxing” is. I take on a lot of stuff in life outside my job. Things like the radio show, some community organizations, and other hobbies are fun. But they also take routine work, and I’m not always sure if doing that work is supposed to be leisure. Because it’s work!

Still, it’s good to have all my options open; it’s not yet 10 a.m. and we’ve had breakfast, I’ve had good coffee, read a book, and now I’m doing this. I’ve been bad about food for the last couple of days — Friday was definitely my “cheat day,” and I haven’t logged yesterday yet — but I’m feeling pretty good about the coming week.

Kind of a short one today! I need to catching up on yesterday in terms of food logging, and some project work I’ve been hanging onto. Both my wife and I love cooking: Sunday is a food project day for us. I’ve also got some studying to catch up on. Is it really relaxing, is it YAGO, or is it just another form of distraction? Hard to tell sometimes, but it’s good to have a clear head doing it.



Day Thirteen: What One Man Can Do… (Don’t Kill Bears)

This is kind of a spinoff of yesterday’s podcast, and the notion that I’m hitting the wall for the first time since this project got started.

There’s a pretty middling movie called The Edge from back whenever, with Anthony Hopkins and Thin Alec Baldwin, written by David Mamet, who is kind of inherently problematic but what can y’do.

There’s a key moment in the movie that — oh hell, let’s just watch it:

Admittedly, this clip is missing some glorious profanity from Sir Hopkins at the end, and I am super not down with people killing bears, but “what one man can do, another can do!” is something that’s stuck with me.

(I repeat: do not kill bears. That’s a different podcast entirely.)

What one man can do, another can do!

Sexist, yeah. I did mention that Mamet was problematic, no? But the core idea is one that does help me out from time to time, when I’m hitting a roadblock: if other people have walked this path, it is evidently doable, and if they can do it, so can I.


That’s one of the reasons I’m fond of the Stop Drinking subReddit; it’s just a cavalcade of reg’lar folks who have, well, stopped drinking. Some in more dramatic circumstances than me, plenty who have just decided, like me, to knock it off because they’re not comfortable with it.

And I’m not a stand-in-line-to-take-a-picture kind of guy, but if I ever met somebody who champions sobriety in the public eye — Craig Ferguson is a bit of a hero of mine — I’d express gratitude.

What one person* can do, another can do!

Don’t kill a bear.


Day Twelve: Irritable!

Wow, am I irritable. Cranky. Grouchy. You name it.

It’s hard to pin down what this is about; since I’m aiming for the no-drink daily-exercise better-diet trifecta, it might be any of those three things.

I’m also taking a class online, which is surprisingly demanding in terms of the amount of reading I need to do, and that’s freaking me out a little as well.

This, combined with yesterday’s burst of general can’t-get-out-of-bed malaise, leads me to think I’m hitting the wall, as runners say; this is probably the first big obstacle on the road to a better-constructed me.

Is it okay to be irritable?

I became acutely aware of my own irritability last night; one of those things where you’re on the Irritable Train and you know it, but you can’t just hop off and have to ride it all the way to the station, or in my case bed.

This morning, I went for a run and started asking myself what being irritable meant, and if it was okay to let myself have emotions while taking on difficult stuff. Old-school me would be not showing any cracks and working double-time to be outwardly unflappable. But old-school me is also somebody with bad relationships with stress-eating and overindulging in booze.

So maybe that guy isn’t the best source of advice on what to do when I’m irritable.

I’m going to try something different: I’m going to be irritable.

I’m going to lean into it.

But I’m also going to try to communicate clearly that I am irritable, in ways that make sense given my context (home, work, friends, volunteers), and work to manage it so that I’m not dumping my garbage on other people.

In other words, I want to shut down the “feeling irritable is wrong and bad” self-recrimination, and give myself permission to be irritated, at least for a while, as long as that doesn’t translate into treating other people poorly.

I’m also going to add  “irritability” to my daily check-out… see what got me cranky during the day, and if it affected me. If I’m still this on edge in a week, I’ll have to start thinking of something different.


Day Eleven: This Is Hard (Part 1)

Welcome to the first of what may well turn out to be one billion “This Is Hard” entries over time.

I cruised through my first weekend more or less without incident, but today. Oy, today. Today was the first time in eleven days that I was just not having it at 5 a.m. with the get-up-and-exercise thing.

Here’s the routine, as it stands:

5 a.m. up, exercise

5:45-6:15 exercise done, kitchen time (make lunch, have breakfast, tidy up)

6:15-7:00 this blog/podcast/some other email crap

7:00-8:00 shower, dressed, other minor project stuff until it’s time for work

The thing about me and exercise, is I really only do it if I do it as soon as I get up, because I’ve discovered the trick is to get started before I am awake enough to invent reasons not to. If I wander around the house for half an hour before getting started, I’ll find something to occupy me. Afternoon/evening workouts? Fuggedaboutit. There’ll always be something that’s “more pressing” than exercise.

This Is Hard: One Day At A Time vs. Just Today

“One Day At A Time” is a great way to power through sticky points — it’s helpful with not drinking, among other things — but it’s got a dark and evil cousin, which is “just today”.

I’ll just take today off, and get back on it tomorrow. 

That was the crescendo in my head this morning, timpani and 1812 Overture cannons and all that. I can just skip today, because I’m exhausted and I haven’t slept well and the cat’s been stomping on me since 3 a.m. and it’s pouring rain outside and this is hard.

And this is hard. It is a giant pain in the tuchus.

So what got me out of bed was partly knowing I had to do this, and having to talk into a microphone and say “well, I didn’t bother with the exercise bit today, because I didn’t feel like it” is just weak sauce.

Another bigger part was that some other voice in my head said “if this is hard, that’s because it’s working.” Go team That Voice, because it managed to drag my lethargic ass downstairs and get me doing pushups before I really knew what was going on. And afterwards, there was coffee.

Answering "This Is Hard", but only after a morning workout.
The sweet post-exercise reward, and another reason to get up and get at it.

If it’s hard, it’s because it’s working. That’s not a bad one to keep in my pocket to use for This Is Hard (Part 2), which is inevitable. But hopefully not soon.