Life Gets in the Way: Staying on Track

Life gets in the way sometimes.

I have a trait. Sometimes, I build up momentum on a thing and I ride it like crazy with little regard to details and consequences.

It’s a strength, and a weakness.

For example, several years ago, I had an idea while driving for a webcomic, so I wrote it up and put it on the dub-dub-dub as alienses.com because it amused me. Turns out, it amused a number of other people and attained a respectable place on the webcomics charts for a while.

Alienses

Sounds like a strength, right?

But man, so many typos and mistakes. So much momentum, so little regard to details. These days I’m far better about proofreading and attention to quality, so that much has improved at least.

But it’s also a fragile thing, this momentum. A bump in life disrupts the momentum and then I have so much trouble getting back to it. For Alienses, it was my dad’s passing and the circumstances surrounding it, so that’s a bit extreme, but for other projects, it could be just simple day-to-day life.

The most recent example is Dungeons & Dave, the website I threw together once I started writing D&D products. I was posting pretty regularly and starting to get somewhere with it and then I just got busy at work and then got sick for a couple of weeks, and then… Momentum: destroyed.

After that, another death, a friend and neighbor this time, kind of completed the crash.

Life gets in the way. It always does, and always will.

These should be Seven of Wands moments, not The Tower.

The Tower, Tarot
Downfall, Endings
Seven of Wands, Tarot
Defiance, Conviction

 

 

 

 

 

It’s time to gird the loins and get back to it.

(Was anybody else ever confused by the phrase “gird your loins”?)

((I know I put the question mark outside the quotation marks. I actively disagree with the rule about putting it inside and in my personal writing I will continue to protest it.))

(((I wonder if these would be better as P.S. and P.P.S and P.P.P.S’s instead of parantheseseseses… wutevs)))

(((( This post is going under the category of “Advice” because I don’t have one for random ramblings. Here’s the advice – Don’t get crazy with parantheseseses. No good will come of it.))))))

I try not to be in a hurry

OR, why waiting in line a few extra minutes every day won’t kill you.

I was at the dentist’s office recently and as I was settling up I asked for an extra document.

“Sure!” The receptionist said brightly, and then grimaced in apology, “It’ll take a moment though; our printer is being really slow for some reason.”

She actually seemed kind of distressed and tried to rush for me.

“It’s OK.” I said, “Don’t worry about it.”

“Well, I know you’re in a hurry.”

“No. I try not to be in a hurry.”

Everyone in the office turned and looked at me strangely and then went back to what they were doing.

“Well, most people are in a hurry.” She chuckled.

“Not really. Most of that is manufactured. Most people are in a hurry because they feel like they should be, not because it helps.”

One of the other office personnel almost fell out of her chair because she spun around so fast to agree. We all laughed about it and went on with our day.

Here’s the thing; being in line for an extra few minutes or waiting on a printer isn’t going to make that much difference in your day. More importantly, you actually slow things down by getting upset or trying to rush things that can’t be rushed.

“BUT THOSE MINUTES ADD UP!” you cry out!

Sure. I’ll get to that. But let’s not rush. 🙂

The worst is driving. For a variety of reasons, I choose to go to this particular dentist who is about a 35-40 minute drive away without traffic. So far, it’s totally been worth it.

Some days I have driven like a crazy man, most days I drive at the best reasonable speed I can. On average, driving like a crazy man will complete that trip for me about 0-3 minutes quicker, and raise my blood pressure and that of the drivers around me by twice as many points.

Also, standing in line at the grocery store doesn’t go faster if you get upset. As a matter of fact, it might go slower because the people in front of you or the cashier might get flustered and make mistakes. And have you ever gotten home in a rush because you were hurrying to recycle that coffee you’d been drinking on the road and couldn’t wait to get inside? You finally get to your front door and you’re fumbling with your keys, phone, and assorted “useful things” and finally get the right key and you stab Stab STAB it at the lock until it finally goes in and then you jiggle the handle so that you can burst through the door and run for the relief you so crave?

businessman-hurryDid hurrying speed that process up, or slow it down?

 

 

Sometimes you need to slow down in order to go faster.

“BUT I’M IN A HURRY!” you cry, and reiterate, “THOSE MINUTES DO ADD UP!”

Both true statements.

Lately I’ve been busy at work and having to be at the dentist is making me busier, but it’s necessary.

The truth is putting effort into “being in a hurry” isn’t helping, and those minutes that add up aren’t really that important.

If we take all of those minutes we “lost”- when we had to wait on people in line who can’t find their wallet at the grocery store, on slow credit card machines and printers, or getting stuck behind a truck for a few minutes on the road- if we take all those minutes and add them up, we might have lost 20-30 minutes out of our day.

It’s not that important. You know how I know? How long did you spend on Facebook today? Or watching TV you weren’t really interested in? Or even just sitting with your head in your hands wishing that headache would go away?

“Well yeah, but that’s my relaxation time! I’ve had a stressful day and I need that time to relax!”

Sure. Taking time in your day to relax is great. But think about that stressful day you had. Is there any possibility it could have been less stressful if you would have relaxed while it was happening, instead of getting upset and then needing recovery time later?

Un-tense your brain in day-to-day situations and it works more efficiently, leaving more mental energy for the free parts of your day so that you can really enjoy them.

Monks in line
The guys are in a long line but they aren’t letting it get them down!
Photo credit: Wonderlane on Flickr

Relax Your Back

Relax your back.

I was cold recently and I remembered this random moment several years ago outside a club. It was cold out and I was talking to someone who I tend to avoid when I’m out because they get drunk and just aren’t that interesting drunk.

At some point, in an odd moment of lucidity, this person noticed my discomfort and asked what was wrong.

“It’s cold. I need to go inside.” Partially, I thought I had an excuse to get away from this person because they were obviously not ready to go back inside yet, but as much so, I really was cold.

This person was raised in a very cold climate though and responded with “Oh. Cold. Just relax your back.”

I was shocked. It’s true, when cold, relax your back and you don’t feel nearly as cold and the cycle of uncontrollable shivering stops. It won’t stop you from suffering the effects of extreme cold, frostbite will still occur for example, but, really, most cold is just uncomfortable, not dangerous.

A few weeks ago I walking to the bus station after work and only had a few minutes to get there. I was charging ahead like an angry bull. Rawr. Charging and getting nowhere and making my legs sore. Then a voice from the past came to mind.

“Relax your back”

And then a voice from a bad novel series I’ve read came to mind.

“Cat crosses the courtyard” This describes a type of walking that is kind of arrogant looking, but involves relaxing the legs and hips and allowing them to move in a fluid almost falling motion.

I stopped. I was in a dead hurry, but I took a moment to stop. Then I consciously relaxed and began walking again. I felt like I was walking with half the speed and yet I was catching up with people who had passed me earlier. I felt light, like I was falling down hill and laughing the whole way.

Today I was forced to realize that I’ve been doing the same with my thought processes. I was working so damn hard to get things done, that I wasn’t getting anything done. I took time this morning to relax my mind and then went to a meet up tonight with a guided meditation and it was amazing the change that happened.

Relax your back.

Relax your hips and legs.

Relax your mind.

You can’t move if you are all bound up fighting yourself.

I Laugh.

I have often had this practice of laughing on the way to work. It works best in the car because if someone sees me they’ll just think I’m listening to something funny on the radio. I did it while I was walking to work too. In this case, it helps to have headphones on, right? ☺

Some days it was “Fake it till you make it”. There were mornings when I was so tired I barely felt like I was going to make it to work, let alone find anything to “laugh” about.

But you know, laughter is a muscle; the more you exercise it, the easier it works.

Fake it till you make it

I love faking it. See, just saying that made me grin just now because of the way it sounds!

On the difficult days I would start out with the most fake laugh ever. Maybe because it was all I could manage, maybe because I wasn’t in the mood, maybe I just didn’t care that day.

“Ha Ha. Ho Ho. Hee Hee.”

There I did it. At least that’s over. This is stupid.

Actually what I would think is “How ridiculous that sounds!” and I would smile. And then, I would do it again. Then, I would find myself laughing for real.

Some days were so hard I couldn’t do it

Nope. Actually, on the worst days of my life I made sure to do more than once. I remember one of those days, I laughed, then I cried, then I laughed again. What would my day have been like otherwise? That sentence would read “I cried.” Period.

There’s nothing wrong with crying; it’s a wonderful activity. Every emotion we feel is worth feeling and helps to make us healthy people. Sometimes those emotions need to be expressed totally and completely and perfectly, and crying is a great way to do that.

And then I laughed. And I found reasons to smile. And I found good in the difficult time I was having. And it was easier to accept the support of others around me, and easier to be supporting to them as well.

The Real Speedbump

The thing that stops me most often is just not doing it. Wait, was that self-referencing? Is that a logical fallacy? I don’t know, I didn’t really pay attention in that class, which fine because the logic doesn’t matter as long it’s true.

Two things seem to be the big hang-ups; I’ll do it later and thinking it’s a chore.

I’ll do it later most often comes up because I’m afraid I’ll look crazy. Or, at least that’s my excuse. I so often have done crazy-seeming things that I’m pretty sure that isn’t really a barrier for me. So that means it’s an excuse.

If it makes me feel silly, I can wear headphones as mentioned early. I can pretend to be listening to something funny. It really doesn’t matter, what matters is starting off my day with the energy of laughing.

One key though, it to make sure I realize it’s not a chore. It’s not something on my daily check-list. “I’ve got my keys, my phone, my wallet, my tooth and I’ve laughed. OK, I’m ready to go to work.”

It’s best for me to realize that I am doing it because it’s fun. It’s just frosting that it has some benefit as well, because the best reason to laugh is because it’s fun.

And It Does Have Benefits

You know what becomes addictive? Having a crappy day. It’s true. It’s great for conversation.

“Hey hey, how’re you doing?”

“Ugh. I missed the stupid bus, so I was on the second train that’s really crowded and had to stand the whole way and what do I see when I come up the escalator? Rain. All I need now is an earthquake and my day is complete”

Woo-Hoo! What great conversation material misery gives us! Even better, the other person can feed the same stuff right back to you and you can COMMISERATE! We seem to have forgotten that word’s meaning. We take it to mean “to sympathize”.

Bullshit. Yay, I said a naughty word!

What it means to commiserate is to share in misery. One person says how miserable they are and then the other person expounds upon their own misery and often they even get to have a misery pissing contest!

See? Being miserable is great fun!

Say this out loud slowly and it becomes really obvious, CO-Misery.

Being miserable is a muscle too, and it seems to be much easier to exercise than laughing.

However, laughing makes it easier to avoid the misery trap.

Imagine talking to this guy;

“I’ve had the most ridiculous morning; missed busses, crowded trains, got soaked in the rain… *laugh* What can you do but laugh, right?”

Who would you rather talk to? Who would you rather be?

Honestly, everything is easier on the days that I laugh. It’s a good habit, and I want to be the Lou Feriggno of laughing.

The Seven Not-So-Deadly Sins

If you really think about the seven deadly sins, it’s isn’t just the trait that is a sin, but excessiveness of that trait.

Lust isn’t a bad thing in itself, but excessive lust is.

Anger or wrath generally only becomes a problem when expressed inappropriately or excessively.

Gluttony already implies excessive, so it’s good to go.

The trait of Envy is kind of obnoxious, but until it’s strong enough for someone to act on it, is it really a Sin with a capital ‘S’?

My personal issues have to do with Greed and Pride.

Once again, Greed implies excessive behavior. Let’s back off from that a bit and look at just the desire to increase one’s wealth. That isn’t really a bad thing inherently.

However, as someone who grew up more familiar with poverty, I have never had a very good view of wealth. I remember the times I was around extremely wealthy people when traveling with my father as a child and I really considered them to be sociopathic about their desire to accumulate more wealth. (It was later in life when I learned the word ‘sociopathic’, but when I heard the definition these people were exactly what I thought of.)

My experience with those considered just ‘well off’ in my own home town also wasn’t all that great. I can remember getting picked on a bit by such people’s children, and my experience with the adults was less than stellar.

This led me to a belief that wealth is bad. Only bad people got ahead in life. For a long time my relationship with money was pretty unhealthy. Sure, everyone wants to be rich, right? Not me. Not as a young man anyway. The idea of having access to all the benefits wealth brings sounded great, but I had this idea that I would practically have to sell my soul to attain that.

In the last decade I’ve been throwing this belief off. I guess I have, to some extent, been embracing greed. That’s greed with a lower-case ‘g’ though. ☺

Pride?

Who thinks a little bit of pride is a bad thing?

Me. Absolutely I do. I hate the idea of making someone else feel bad because they may not be doing as well as I am. I downplay my successes, I give other people a chance to get ahead by limiting myself and I constantly throw up barriers to my own success.

Wrestling might be the best example in a way. When I was in the 4th or 5th grade I was a kick-ass wrestler. In practice I was having a great time and I was well-nigh unstoppable. In actual competitions I lost nearly every match. The coach was Pissed (with a capital ‘P’, probably bordered on Wrath). With each opponent I could tell that the win was more important to them than it was for me. Winning wasn’t important to me, wrestling for fun was. This was kind of joke in my family for a while, just a funny trait I had that we would sometimes laugh about. Now, I don’t think it’s all that funny.

Obviously, this affects my ability to succeed. I can tell I hold myself back at times because I don’t want others to feel bad. The ‘Sin’ is one part Pride and one part succeeding when others aren’t. The problem is, there are always those who are less fortunate, and limiting myself doesn’t help them. As a matter of fact, it limits my ability to be a part of the solution.

This leads to Sloth. Laziness isn’t all we’re talking about here. I’ve been lazy before, as most people have. But Sloth is more than that. Sloth is the sin of failing to live up to one’s potential. If I had a talent for making art that truly made other people happy and I refused, that would be a Sin; Sin with a capital ‘S’.

So these three are related, my fear of Greed and Pride, leading to my sin of Sloth.

I embrace the idea that I have been Slothful. I have been sinning against myself, those around me and against the force that created me. Damn it, if I gave someone chocolate cake I made myself and they hid it under their bed because they felt bad for starving people in Africa, I would be really irritated. If I have been given the abilities to improve my life and the lives of other around me, and I don’t make use of them, it is Sin.

I now embrace Greed, I now embrace Pride, each to an appropriate degree, and I embrace that I have committed the sin of Sloth. I embrace my belief that my own success does not bring others pain. I embrace the idea that I can be wealthy and loving and humanitarian.

And now I will re-create a wealthier, happier, Me who is proud of who I am and what I am accomplishing.

*Note: My ideas here are based on young Dave’s view of the Seven Deadly Sins as first presented to me, oh, I don’t know, probably in comic books. I know there are volumes of rhetoric on this subject and I am aware of the more sophisticated definitions and the history. That’s not really relevant for the purpose of this brain-dump.

(PS. This was written quite a while ago, I’ve just re-added it to this website today for the refresh.)

Dealing with ADD, ADHD or… whatever

My Advice For A Teenage Me, And Maybe a Teenage You As Well

This morning I woke up from a dream where I was watching an interaction between a mother and teenager escalate into an argument and I decided to hug the teenager and pass on the advice below. This is what I remember saying in the dream, or at least pretty close. I wish someone would have said this to me.

When I was in grade school, even all the way through high school, we didn’t know about ADD or ADHD, I was just weird. Depression just meant you were sad. Anger issues just meant you were crazy. Basically anything that made you different just meant you were defective.

Now we have more awareness and that’s good, mostly. However, it also means that we get labeled in a different way; maybe not crazy or defective, but ADD or “suffering from depression”. Like I said, it’s good to have awareness, but sometimes… sometimes people get trapped in boxes by labels, start living up to labels and even sometimes use them as a crutch. Not always, maybe not you, but it happens and it’s something to be aware of.

Here are some things I think it’s worth remembering:

You have limited reserves – Every thing you do every day takes up some of you time, presence and mental energy. Some things take more than others and what those things are will depend on who you are. For me, as an introvert with ADD, the highest cost activities are those where I have to focus hard on something I have little interest in while being surrounded by people, especially if I’m the center of attention.

After an event like that I will feel totally jazzed up and energized, for about thirty minutes. After that, I will totally crash and need some time apart to recover. This leads to the next item.

Recognize when you are low on reserves – This is important. I have a few markers I watch for: difficulty focusing or finding words, blurting out statements instead of conversing and, when it’s bad, I actually feel a tingly heat on the top and back of my head.

For me another key indicator is that I move slowly, stare kind of vacantly, and my voice is nearly inaudible, and you’re not communicating clearly, and sometimes I speak in nonsense words, which I think might be my brain trying to keep awake but not able to form coherent phrases.

If I’m stuck at an event it’s a good idea to head to the restroom and do some quiet time, maybe even meditation. Another good option is to go for a short walk, or even pick up a cell phone and step to the side of the room and pretend to be in a conversation.

Know what to do when you are low on reserves – If you aren’t trapped at an event, here are some other ideas.

Good things to do while low on reserves

Nap. (don’t get addicted to napping when you feel low, it can lead to being dependent just like anything else.)

Exercise. Yoga, tai chi and martial arts are amazing for this, but if you don’t feel like you can do that, trying running or even just stretching or dancing and “shake it off”.

Meditation. You would not believe how many cool points you can get later in life by saying “I used to have issues with blah blah, but I totally used meditation to over come it.” Really, it can sound like you’re got this superpower that they can learn too. Don’t overplay it, but it is awesome.

Believe it or not, something like knitting can be really helpful. I was never able to “get” knitting, but I have seen it work well for a lot of people. Apparently once you learn the actions it’s a lot like going into a trance state. Basically anything that can let your mind rest but keep your body active can be great.

NOTE: There is often a transition time. You might need a few minutes to go from your cool-down/rest activity to going back to interacting with the rest of the world.

Bad things to do on reserves:

Facebook, video games, most TV – These things actually drain your reserves as much as they help you recover from them and can end up causing low-reserve hangover. It’s like plugging in your cell phone when it’s down to 2% battery and using it for making calls at the same time, you don’t actually gain much that way.

Things that might seem good but can lead to bad

Hanging out with friends “being crazy” might seem like it’s helping, but you might just feeding off a temporary energy that will cause a crash and can also involve bad-decision making. Sometimes, being low on reserves make you extra-suggestible, and sometimes it even can be similar to being drunk, which might feel good but is a bad place to be in the wrong situation. Be cautious and self-aware!

Reading. I hesitate to say this because I love reading, reading saved my life when I was an adolescent and I still love it today. The key is, you can over do reading as recovery and it can lead to a different kind of hangover, or simply missing out on other things. Read, read tons, all the time! But be aware of what you aren’t doing when you’re reading (like, in my case, sleeping. I can’t even say how much sleep I missed in high school due to all-nighter sci-fi reading.)

And that’s the biggest key, for any kind of recovery activity, be aware, know what helps you and what just feels good because those aren’t always the same thing.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Good, regular sleep is essential. Did you know you can die from lack of sleep faster than lack of food? Every aspect of your mental, physical and psychic health depend on good sleep.

Recognize you have resources, like family – When I was in college and complaining I remember once saying “What I need is a executive assistant that pays attention to schedule and reminds me of what I need to do each day.” And a friend helpfully said “It sounds like what you want is a mommy. It’s time you got a date book and started doing it yourself.”

Recognize your resources might feel like they are driving you crazy or nagging – So yeah, your mom or dad might seem like they are just being a jerk or nagging all the time. However, if you think about the service they’re providing in that nagging, just look into how much executive personal assistants get paid, and your parents are doing for free!

Recognize that every time you and that resource (i.e. your parents) argue, you are doing it out a place of love.

Underneath 90% of arguments are these statements:

They’re saying “I love you and I worry about you because I love you. I want you to be happy and great.”

And you are saying “I love you and I feel like your judgments of me indicate that you love me less, or don’t trust me.”

Regarding being trusted, see the above about reserves. Sometimes, compare yourself to being drunk or delirious or even just “hangry”. If someone says “Hey, you shouldn’t be driving right now”, it isn’t because they’re putting down your driving, it’s because they love you and don’t want you to get hurt. If I’m delirious from being over-stimulated and I have no spoons left, I might not be trustworthy for certain things.

Recognize you have an issue that some other people don’t have to deal with but that you still have responsibility for yourself and your actions or inactions.

You’re allowed to be your own judge of how well you’re doing, but it’s a responsibility. Get good at it; get good at knowing how well you’re doing so you can honestly answer people who judge you. You’ll find the more times you say “you’re right, I’m not doing well right now” the more times you’ll be trusted when you say you are doing well.

Lastly, remember when you are doing well, you are amazing and when you think you aren’t, it just means you building up to those times when you are.

Because you are always amazing, it’s just that sometimes you need a bit of rest before you can express how amazing you are.

One last thing: These are all based on my experiences and conversations with a ton a of people. Even inside that sample there were exceptions to everything I’ve said, so don’t let any of this discount your personal experience, just… give it a chance before blowing it off. It’s all stuff I wish I knew at fourteen.