Day 844: Making Changes

As mentioned yesterday, I’ve dropped games from my computer and phone, and am hoping to use that time for things that feel a bit more substantial — instrument practice, reading books, writing.

Podcasts, too. Again, I feel like I miss listening to music a bit, and I’d like to get back to it more.

And I’m already feeling that rub: almost an itch to distract myself with games and podcasts. I’m 100% aware that this is kind of snobbish. There’s nothing inherently worse about video games and podcasts than any other form of media. It’s strictly a personal take where I tend to feel “junk foody” about it, like I enjoy it at the time but don’t get any kind of long-term satisfaction from the exercise.

I’ve looked into therapy, and the provider for my company has kind of a self-directed CBT program on offer, which I’m happy to try — I’ve found in-person therapy to be kind of weak sauce in the past. A colleague’s recommended phone, but the CBT option looks interesting and paces well with my life, so I’m going to give that a month and see how it works for me.

It’s a beautiful day, too, which should help. The weather’s been pretty relentlessly bleak for the past few weeks, which I’m sure hasn’t helped much.

Day 843: Burnout! Time for changes.

After suffering through Monday and yesterday, I’ve grudgingly accepted my wife’s diagnosis that the stomach cramps and overwhelming sense of bleak, pervading dread isn’t a bug, but rather the first signs that I’m seriously flaming out.

I’ve been living in “a structure of obligation and dread,” as I just said on the podcast and liked so much I’m looping back around to type it here.

Which isn’t a surprise, really — looking back at the arc of this project it’s been peaks and valleys of taking things on and letting things go, but the overall trendline has been toward a need to simplify, step back, take stock.

I’m also aware that this is pretty classic midlife crisis territory, which for a dude in his mid-40s is riiiiiiiiight on schedule, I’d say, but at least this seems like a healthy kind of midlife crisis as opposed to the “buy a corvette and have an affair” variety.

Again, the track of this thing is a constant running up to “I need to simplify and get back to things that are valuable to me,” then backing away from that and, frankly, distracting myself with garbage. I’m not saying that life has to be all grim all the time, but having a couple of days of being flat on my back, burnt out and more or less staring at the ceiling, does lead your brain places.

Where I’m at today:

  1. Get a therapist! This is good and all but I’m making a lot of assumptions and decisions about my mental health that I probably should get somebody, like, good to check in with about.
  2. Deleting video games off the computer and phone. They’re the soda pop of brain activity: I like them when they’re happening, but afterwards I never feel good about having done it.
  3. Ditto podcasts. Not goodbye forever here, but I need to reconnect to quality music instead of meandering conversations for a while.
  4. Quitting the radio show, maybe? It’s not bringing me joy, as the new old saying goes.

Anyway — I’ve been promising myself change for a while, and I think I really hit a wall earlier this week, so it’s fish or cut bait time about making some changes.

Day 832: Tummy Troubles?

I woke up this morning with a legit belly ache; I’m not sure what that was all about, but after water, exercise and some coffee I seem to be back on track. Pushing through the day has powered me into feeling better, so hopefully that’s it for weird stomach stuff.

“Simplify” seems to be falling gradually into the pile of ideas that’s good in theory but doesn’t really work for me in practice; I think I’m just a magpie at heart, and it’s hard to cleanly separate some of what I do as a hobby from housework — cooking is key among those things.

Book focus is becoming key, though, and I’m getting excited about writing, which is a nice feeling. After this I’ll probably grab a bit of coffee, put 30 minutes into the book, and then it’s off for radio.

Day 827: Routines Work

Picking up a thread from last week — multiple threads, actually. The routine is the only way for this to work for me. There are people who can live tremendously flexible lives and still get exercise in, eat right, etc. I’ve met them! Conferences and work trips and such from the old job. They’ve got this innate dedication that helps them prioritize the Right Things regardless of time-and-place curveballs.

I do not have that.

The pattern for me is “get on the routine, everything works great, then stop, and when you get back on the routine, it has all gone to hell,which is… it is what it is, I guess. I have lots of gifts, so I’m not going to get hung up on the lack of that one.

I think the reason I get so intellectually attracted to the ‘simplicity’ narratives that you see in Drug Nightmare documentaries, monks, samurai, etc., is that routine is pretty baked into those things. Oddly enough the military has no pull for me, probably because I like the idea of routine but I really don’t like being told what to do or think.

Back on the routine, obviously, and yo’ing back down the bad side of the yo…

Day 822: Simplifyin’ is hard

I love life! That’s what it comes down to. But I love too much of it! Art, books, music, video games, comics, movies, creating things, helping other people create things, researching, writing, exercise, outdoor activities, learning, teaching, coaching, playing, puzzles, board games, cartoons… that’s a list of things I can legitimately say I’ve done, either consuming or creating, in the last month.

I keep feeling the urge toward simplicity, but the countering urge, which is that there’s a ton of amazing stuff out there and I want to experience it or contribute to it, is super powerful too.

I kind of envy people who have one thing. One really strong pull toward a single medium, or cause, or interest. I don’t really have one single draw, because I’m drawn to so many things.

An interesting thing to think about when I think about simplifying.

Day 820: Simple Jealousy

It’s not, like, an original fantasy — see the Kevin Spacey (I know, I know) role in American Beauty about 20 years ago — but I’ve been watching some documentaries lately, including the harrowing-slash-uplifting Heroin(e), about women fighting escalating overdoses in West Virginia.

Any narrative about people fighting drug addiction inevitably has people in it who have survived drug addiction and are coming back from nothing to a semblance of a life; as I was saying to my wife yesterday, it’s something I almost feel envious of — not the horrors that led there, obviously, but the simplicity of a life where everything has pretty much been burned away except for the barest living.

Again, it’s hardly an original thought; not exactly a brainwave in American Beauty either, that was just the first time I saw it expressed. I mean, Walden. Which has its own sets of criticisms and defenses, but still.

And as my wife points out, it’s hardly like I need to suffer the harrowing nightmares of drug addiction to actually simplify my life.

It’s interesting to notice that voice in my own head and chase it down a little, though. I choose complexity when I could choose simplicity, and it’s its own addiction, just like booze, or at one point cigarettes.

The idea of kicking complexity, though — get down to exercise, books, studies, and work — it’s scary in a way that getting rid of, say, booze isn’t.

We talk a lot about self-medication as an alcohol thing or a cannabis thing or even a food thing, but distraction as self-medication is an interesting thought.