Caution, this may be habit forming

Or you hope. I’m sure out there in the wide world of the interweb there’s an article on some helpful self-improvement themed website that tells me how long I have to do something before it becomes second nature. Or wait is that a Japanese cultural thing that I read about somewhere

I think lately I’m attempting that with so many things they were getting diluted. The financial, the nutritional, the psychological (and massively personal) and the fitness.  IMPROVE ALL THE THINGS.

So the financial is rolling. There’s nothing to convince me of (for myself) or the audience (if they’re participating). We are trucking along, honing our grocery shopping skills, getting better at packing lunches, not eating out, but still every weekend feels fun and busy with cool things and we’re 16% of the way through a year and it’s not easy, but it’s no longer something I’m psychologically obsessing about at every turn. I knew that our transition to spending less money wouldn’t be that challenging since we’re surrounded by a derth of kick ass people who share our interests. It’s just keeping the momentum going.

Psychological is obviously more nuanced and multifaceted. I will say that part of the momentum for staying on top of getting the fuck out of debt is that being financially free, untethered to bills leaves so many other possibilities open. You don’t owe anyone anything, so you can theoretically *do* whatever you want. The consequences of becoming a gypsy are less dire. It’s a real driving influence sometimes. Like this weekend, when we managed to get out of town for a few days, to eat and sight-see and just be. There’s no groceries to buy or laundry to fold, and I can spend two hours walking around outside in a cemetery taking photos. It’s liberating. Not just to break out of the routine but to be reminded to force yourself to do so in every day life when the opportunity presents itself. It’s kind of an unnatural tendency for most people, to push yourself to chase after new things, but it really helps strip away the bullshit most of the time. The rest of the facets, eh… I’m not sure I’m game to expose all of those parts here. But it’s more deliberate upheaval, all with positive changes in mind, so things just to evaluate rather than to lament. Onward, upward, etc…

And finally… nutritional. After a mini vacation that included three days of unadulterated gluttony, I’m back at work and back directly on the wagon. No coffee (I can’t drink it w/o diabeeeetus level sugar), no sugar, massive vegetables, water and fats/protein. Minimal to no fruit – mainly berries. Maintaining around 50g of carbohydrates, get into ketosis and get rid of this extra bullshit fat weight that has insidiously added itself to my person. A 1000 mile journey begins with a single step, yadda yadda, so fucking grouchy.

January Reads

So I finished….

  • Tigerman – by Nick Harkaway which was ❤
  • The Wasp Factory – by Iain Banks, which was… O_o, but I enjoyed.
  • Blood Kin – by Ceridwen Dovey – also very good !

I am currently reading:

  • The Art of Asking – by Amanda Palmer
  • Fragile Things – by Neil Gaiman

& I have… Stone Mattress – by Margaret Atwood in the hopper!

Diversified Pursuits

I worked with a girl once who was in the process of losing an extraordinary amount of weight. A whole person’s worth. She was our office manager/admin/front desk person. She ended up leaving, spending more time at the gym, working on a certification here or there and is now a personal trainer. By all accounts she appears to have been made for it. She turned her personal journey and determination into a career, she found her niche and restructured her entire life around this pursuit. She looks healthy and happy and awesomely pleased in her new gig.

My mother is surround by over 25 pairs of small, grabby, sometimes-dirty hands all day. She teaches these little hordes how to read and write and negotiate the world. She’s met every spectrum of parents and taught kids, mostly your typical little kids and others who by all accounts were complete psychopaths and future serial killers. She’s been doing it for decades. She still calls each new group of little maniacs her “kids”.

I have a friend from high school who had an energy level that was unparalleled. He also seemed to have inherent talent for 99% of the things he tried. Skateboarding, drawing, and then suddenly cooking. His enthusiasm was so infectious I remember, early on when he just started the first of multiple culinary schools, we talked animatedly about mushrooms… for half an hour. He’s the “chef de cuisine” at an award winning restaurant downtown.

I could easily pen another dozen examples of family, close friends, and acquaintance who all share this sort of quality. They have a professional niche. They found their passion, their skill, their calling and they’re doing it. By pointing this out I’m not attempting to reduce the sum of their lives to their professional pursuits, or to suggest that each of these people wouldn’t excel at something else, but they’ve all found some level of satisfaction in a singular activity. In compliment I’m sure I could also compile an overlapping list of people who, perhaps not professionally, but personally, have found a variant of this passion. Maybe it’s too obscure or impractical to make a living at, but they’ve found a way to become an accomplished… gardener, baker, seamstress, wood worker, etc…Basically the common thread is that each of these people has found their “thing”. A defining skill that drives them, more so than all others.

I… do not feel like I am one of these people.

To clarify, from a professional standpoint, I am good at my job. Like most motivated empathetic souls I like being good at what I do, helping people, and being seen as both competent and valuable. I’ve never been fired. The vast majority of my colleagues have always remarked that my presence and contributions were both positive and useful.

But I have no specific niche. Or there is none so strong that I maintain that space indefinitely. Like human plinko, bouncing from one peg to the other until I find the end of the board. I don’t do “bored”. Save for the times where I’m trapped in an office with nothing to do, I’m a restless soul restricted only be resources and time. (Read that: money and time not spent at work).

I have made soap and attempted to learn to sew and partially mastered half of knitting and hope to return to that. I’ve taken photographs since junior high, it’s one of the only reasons I have a smart phone. I’ve lifted kettlebells and played dozens of seasons of soccer. I’ve helped apply zombie makeup to a group of 50 people for a music video. I know a lot more than your average citizen about insulin production in the human body and the latest on dietary science. I make jewelry and more recently started pottery again for the third time in my life. I blogged through my entire bankruptcy filing nearly 10 years ago, through my step-father’s alcoholism, through a really broken relationship with a decent person but I still can’t figure out how to write fiction.

People have told me I’d make a great: lawyer, advice columnist, nutritionist, personal trainer, professor, paleo-chef, and that I would pen a great work of literature.

The truth is I don’t like any of those things enough to want to make them the sole focus of my life.

If I won the lottery I imagine I’d live a bit like Anthony Bordain. Travel, food, family, recreation, writing. And until then I try not to beat myself up because I can’t ever seem to simmer down enough to focus on a singular thing.

I take care of myself, my people, and my mind in whatever ways seem plausible, or necessary, or keeps me sane. Sometimes the fact that I don’t have one shining characteristic or pursuit that I am awesome at makes me feel somehow as if I am missing a particular accomplishment, but mainly, I realize that’s insane. And I will go about my life with the dial cranked to 11 and fit in as much as I can.

The State of Things…

  • So I moved officially, to here.  Neither of the two most prevalent LJ export tools have worked for me. I don’t really want to move all of that noise here but a non-dubious archive would be nice.  I tried out Medium, and I guess if I were a writer/writer, other kind of writer that might work but the lack of fluidity to read the content of others and the lack of comment driven interface were… not exactly what I was looking for.  So here we are.
  • I also re-skinned my writing portfolio since it lives on this platform, but the content is in desperate need of an update. Though… I need to generate more original creative content because I’m not really seeing that as a place to pimp my wares as someone with a talent for style guides, user guides and other techie instructional materials.
  • Floodgate 2014 is still puttering along. At this point I am merely grateful that the damage wasn’t in a more problematic area. As I started writing this I stopped to call the insurance company because we’re still waiting on our estimate to be finalized and apparently the *awesome* owner of the unit (and the HOA Prez) has yet to respond to four phone calls requesting information about the cause of the leak, meaning our claim is stuck with the insurance company until he decides to cooperate and provide the details they need to complete the claim with the information about the source of the leak. I’m worried that this will drag on endlessly because of his horribly uncooperative demeanor, once he figured out that I was not going to allow him to estimate and repair the damages outside of the purview of insurance. Keeping in mind that he was never apologetic and has been evasive and passive aggressive as soon as I mentioned our insurance, trying to bully me into doing things his way. He also looked me in the eye after I told him that water ran *through*  my HVAC and I was concerned about damages and said that the unit was “designed to handle moisture and it shouldn’t be an issue”. The HVAC tech knew immediately that there was water, the motor had water spots and one of the electrical panels was friend. He told us it wouldn’t have lasted through the winter and the repairs put us out over $2K. I can’t imagine that the owner of the other unit would have been eager to write me a check come winter when our unit stopped working and we were stuck replacing it. Ugh.
  • Prior to Floodgate 2014 was parking brake debacle 2014, which luckily resulted only in the destruction of one portion of a minivan bumper and either our safe driving records are blanketing us, or it hasn’t caught up, but we just got our annual car insurance renewal and it hasn’t gone up. So YEAH, I’ll take that very small victory.
  • I renewed for pottery class, I’ve been out of the studio for over a month so hopefully I still have some basic idea of what I’m doing and I can renew my quest to make awesome mugs for people (and then move on to other specific vessels- see also, berry bowls, kittie bowls, anything larger than a medium sized bowl :P)
  • I did not, as of yesterday morning, want to drag myself around the city solo to see Amanda Palmer. It’s weird because I have *no* problem doing things alone – if that was my plan. I guess I am just like a fucking tortoise sometimes when dealing with changing circumstances and situations where I had a certain idea of how things would transpire. My inability to roll quickly with the punches can be really frustrating. But I rallied and went. I was able to walk, get myself delicious ramen in a typically crowded restaurant and get in line early enough to get a ridiculously awesome seat and a free cookie while I waited outside. I enjoyed the show and walked out feeling a lot better than when I’d gone in. I have a lot of abstract observations about the crowd, but in reality I was not there for them and I think I’d rather sit on those thoughts some to let them marinate. I will say thought, that when dealing with a truly indie artist you get a lot of interesting people…

Conflicting Advice

So I read a Buzzfeed/Jezebel/Lifehacker article. It told me that repeating the positive things I wanted to accomplish would help me feel more positive and happy. No wait, it told me that if I focused too often on those things I would end up feeling worse. It told me to not compare myself to other people, to keep things in perspective, to write lists, to not write lists because it would give me anxiety to stare at a heaped up pile of incomplete tasks. Fuck… now I can’t remember what it told me.

Is there such a thing as being over-informed? In the burgeoning days of the internet I developed a reputation with my mother’s colleagues as an oracle. I would know. I could find you the best deal on a printer, the best website for cheap airlines, articles about health. And if I didn’t know I could find it.

Maybe that tenacity for information had backfired.

I consume consume consume information all the time. Technically I’m paid to write it. Sometimes because I work in a smaller business I end up performing the glorious task of back end data entry into other entities online presences. A repetitive cut and paste of information that after four hours makes me wonder how long it will be before I have arthritis in my wrists. They can add their whining voices to the chorus of my knees.

I took a month long vacation from Facebook earlier this year. I’m still struggling to figure out why I can’t bring myself to delete it. And why knowing that I want to delete it I can’t force myself to regulate my interaction with the site. I hate Facebook. I’m sure most of the people who ever spend more than five minutes talking to me have heard me complain about it. Maybe it’s the lingering pain of disappointment that it never shifted into anything cooler than the LiveJournal posse I had a decade ago. At first it seemed better than Myspace, initially I missed the information about music but then suddenly everyone had abandoned Myspace and everyone you’d ever met was on Facebook.

Sometime last week I realized… like a shitty light bulb exploding on a badly wired lamp. Facebook was like a great dive bar, you go there with your friends, sometimes you invite a colleague and you all talk to each other frankly, unedited. It is dark and funny and the drinks are strong and you have interesting meaningful conversations. And then suddenly you look around five years later and you hate the bar and realize it’s devolved into something like a soulless chain restaurant and your whole goddamn family is in the bar and every coworker from the last 8 years and a bunch of people from high school that practically ran to get away from you want to line up to paw over every detail of your mundane life. And you wonder what the fuck you’re doing there at all. That sounds like some sort of deviation from the plot of the World’s End, but you know what I mean.

And it becomes just another distraction. Because it’s not giving you anything meaningful. You’re not connecting or sharing with real people. It’s a cacophony of Buzzfeed links and memes and “What Drink Are You?”, punctuated by people with some pathological desire to thump captive audiences over the head with deliberately inflammatory topics. Some newly evolved form of the drunk guy picking a fight in a bar. A conga line of irate under-informed assholes shouting at each other without any real facts. It’s contagious. I’m sure I’ve been one of those assholes myself at some point.

So I’m fleeing. I posted an entry of a shitty meandering train of thought “thing” I wrote weeks ago when I was still grappling with the mechanics of death. It’s two weeks later and I feel like I’ve been shoved through a threshing machine. I cleaned out a dead man’s apartment, my car’s parking brake failed and it rolled away in a parking lot and hit another car. Then my ceiling exploded with water from another tenants apartment, a situation brought to my attention at 3 a.m. So I made 400 phone calls and then spent most of a Saturday standing around with friends so I could ride roller coasters. And then Halloween came and went and here I am trying to make peace with the infinity of mundane routines that are required for me to live my life in pursuit of eking out every minute of good, positive, happy, interesting, enriching things that I can cram into the non working hours.

Probably the busiest month of my life in years is over. And I have a lot to say about nothing. I’ve learned about the nuances of water mitigation. And that my floor is actually wood. And that creepy old men will say they love your Halloween costume even if they have no fucking idea what it is… no wait… I knew that bit of wisdom already. And that going through a dead relative’s stuff makes you feel like you’re on tv, but only because half the carpet has been cut out and it looks like a post ax murder Law & Order set. And that some of your black humor is actually from your unfailingly upbeat mother.

I’m just writing because I’m restless. It seems like the thing to do, even if no one is listening.

R.I.P Pep

The thing about having an alcoholic in your life is it’s like living through a war. I can’t speak to what it’s like to forgive someone entirely as they come out of the other side of recovery because the alcoholic in my life never got well. So instead you just ride it out and make your decisions as the landscape changes.

I sent a text a week or so ago because I hadn’t heard much. Which, when you’ve spent the better part of a decade waiting for a phone call is always somewhat ominous. You “expect” that phone call but you’re not prepared when it comes. Particularly when you spend that decade learning that the concept of “rock bottom” can be continuously redefined in ways you didn’t expect.

The alcoholic in my life died this weekend (that’s now two weeks ago). At 57. The funny thing about death is that it’s easiest for the person whose died. Death is mostly about the living.

I’ve visited at least 5 hospitals within a 45 minute drive. I’ve been to multiple psych wards. Helped deliver socks, and clothes and toiletries. Fielded angry phone calls. Mostly just tried to keep my distance from a troubled soul who could be a really toxic negative disaster of a person. But who had moments of kindness, when they stumbled briefly out of the fog of booze and mental illness.

Dealing with someone who was clinically depressed and emotionally unstable, who turned to alcohol for solace was one of the most negative experiences of my life. And the amazing part is that my exposure to this person was vastly more limited than other members of my family. It’s something that I reflect on in amazement.

It was my Mom who fielded the phone calls and the unannounced visits and the threats and the endless hostility-laden guilt trips and banged on the doors of various apartments to call all the ambulances, until she FINALLY had enough and stepped away. YEARS after most people would have barred that door.

So… in the last 5 years the instances were dramatically reduced as our entire family backed away to a safer distance. Ultimately in the last year or so, at my urging, even cutting off and blocking phone calls when the vitriol got intolerable, again.

It’s hard to constantly reopen the door to someone who you KNOW, will, at the drop of hat, and without the slightest provocation, attack you. Spew hate and blame and guilt and all other sorts of bullshit at you. Ironically because you’re part of the only good things left in their life. And they can’t stop the patterns of broken behavior, so they’re alone and looking for someone to blame.

So the feelings are a really mixed bag. They’re composed of sadness, regret, and a sort of resignation. When someone’s life never really seems to improve for any lasting duration you come to recognize death as the lasting peace that person couldn’t achieve in life. You get to stop worrying about their misery or the impending tragedy or what other sort of decisions you’ll have to make about how and if you choose to interact with the person and to what end. All of those variables go away.

Your concern shifts. Mainly to the people that the end of this person’s life affects most. My primary concern is my family and knowing this whole thing is a vastly different experience for each individual based on their complicated relationship with the person. The whole mess leaves me feeling sort of inadequate about how to best support everyone.

I have an unsent letter at home, written months ago. Oddly that would have been a final bolt on that door, for what I perceived was a temporary period just to get some relief and send a message that I wouldn’t tacitly approve some of the harassment that was still going on. Because I was the only one responding anymore. And I wasn’t going to be quietly complicit as an “informer” into the family that had stopped speaking to him.

But I decided to sit on it. And it turns out it didn’t matter. Because the last text I got was around my birthday. Three months ago.

And now, after some as of yet undetermined incident, he’s dead. The thing is, it doesn’t matter if it was alcohol related. Because it’s still the cause.

And I guess it’s disappointing that I was sitting around waiting for a response to my most recent text about 10 days ago before I sent a picture from my wedding. And I guess it’s good that I didn’t send the letter

But really neither of those things matter. Or, they only matter to me and I’m ok with it.

It’s sad to think that someone who was once, not a bad person, who was only kind of a mess, spiraled into this massive destructive force. When that person is supposed to be your parent, and not only do they not care for you (at least in the way that they were supposed to) but they rain destruction and pain onto the people you love most, it’s hard to separate them from the illnesses that ruined them. Because that monster wears the same face.

You can make the logical steps to identify alcoholism and depression and anger and the inability to process or communicate emotions as part of disease. But when that diagnosis wreaks havoc on your life for decades in the form of verbal abuse and violence and emotional terror and you end up witness to interaction that is so hateful it changes the way you view the entire world. It leaves a mark.

A person can love you and still do all of those things. Particularly if they’re broken.

So coming up with a fitting conclusion to that lifetime of crap is a little … complicated.

I guess in the last 24 hours I’ve decided I get it. I can separate the bullshit from the gesture of doing something to show respect for the end of a person’s life, but that’s not my decision. That’s up to my brothers. And just knowing how I feel, and how my experiences are skewed and may have a bit more of the good thrown in, I can see how, after all of that it’s hard to want to do something to show respect for someone who, yes, they loved you, but it’s a relief that they’re not here to poison your environment with negativity any more. And at the same time feel angry and disappointed that they didn’t stick around long enough to try to right any of that.

And making a decision about “honoring” the end of their life is yet ANOTHER unwanted decision heaped on you by a person who largely filled your life with grief.

So if I have any advice it’s to do what makes *you* feel better, because you, are who is left. And it’s you who gets to deal with this in whatever way feels easiest and most fitting.