Categories
Emotional Work

Day 278 and Overshooting

I have been feeling terrific. That means I’ve been able to do a lot more. But it’s also one of my tendencies to overshoot my capacity. Workaholism, like any addiction, is something I’ll have for the rest of my life. Being in recovery for it means recognizing I could relapse.

I feel a bit of that overextended twitchy feeling at the moment. That jittery adrenaline fueled vibe that proceeds a crash isn’t something I’ve allowed myself to feel for several years as frankly I was worried I’d go on a bender. A bender for me is perceived as societally approved. Look at that work ethic!

So this is me recognizing that I feel like I could go over the edge and I’m not going to do it. The temptation I had to find something to prolong the adrenaline of my winning work streak is heavy. I have a number of topics I’d like to write about today. I’ve got to do lists with tempting targets. But I’m not going to overshoot. I’ve written my paragraphs. I’ll tag it. I’ll send it out into social media and then I’m going to watch some trashy tv. Hold

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 274 and Amends

If you have ever had an addict in your life you may be familiar with 12 step work. You probably know that the first step is admitting you have a problem. As anyone in recovery can tell you, the steps don’t get any easier.

I have attended Al-Anon and ACA because I’ve had addicts affect my life and I come from a family that has suffered from the dysfunction. I’ve worked the program. It’s benefited me enormously and I recommend it anyone who has experienced the harms of addictions. Because of this experience working the program when I see others in recovery I try to remind myself that working the steps is for them. I don’t owe them anything. But I do believe in grace, forgiveness and redemption is possible.

I had a formerly very close friend reach out to me to work the 9th step recently. They wanted to make amends.

Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others

The 9th step is arguably the most powerful culturally to emerge from 12 step programs. While we all know admitting you have a problem and giving yourself up to a higher power is crucial to begin your recovery, making amends is about taking responsibility for yourself. It’s a step people can rush or even avoid entirely. Amends is not about saying your sorry. Amends is about taking responsibility for what you have done so you can move forward in recovery. Only by owning your past actions with those you have harmed can you begin to forgive yourself and believe that you are worthy of sobriety. It’s not really a step about other people so much as it is showing to yourself that recovery is possible.

I was overcome with sadness when this former friend reached out to me. Their alcoholism made me feel deeply abandoned as I lost what has been a close and meaningful friendship. But I didn’t feel any anger. I didn’t particularly feel wronged. Just a deep aching sadness that my friend has been taken from me and there was nothing I could do.

There are people in my life that are in recovery that have never made amends to me. Or at least they have not formally asked to make amends as part of a program. They’ve simply slowly done the work to show me I can trust them in my life. And I’ve forgiven them. But the actual step of making amends is a meaningful one. There is a reason it’s so hard to do right.

I don’t know what the future holds for my former friend and I. The fantasy I have is that they remain sober work to rebuild the trust and friendship we once shared. I missed them terribly. I mourned their loss like a death. But this is my fantasy not reality. Reality will he more complex.

I’m sad that even having been lucky enough to receive amends from them, it doesn’t mean all is well. Our actions have consequences. That’s why the 9th step is make amends and not apologize. Amends is fundamentally about owning what you have done. So while they can now begin the process of forgiving themselves, and knowing that in good faith they did make amends to me, my journey towards regaining trust in them is just beginning.

Which means I need to be responsible for my own feelings. How will my actions to accept contact, make amends, and forgive affect me, my family and my friends? There are other people that were harmed by their alcoholism. I don’t actually know yet. The sadness is still so strong. But I do know that I will attend an Al-Anon meeting, and I will pray, and I will work the steps too. And I pray willingness will come.

Categories
Biohacking Emotional Work

Day 215 and Leisure

I’ve got a bad relationship with work. Since I was a teenager I’ve been compulsive about the idea of hard work. I don’t know how I got to have a problem with the Protestant Work Ethic but it seems likely I developed it long before I read Max Weber and found it’s comforting rationalizations about work’s inherent morality.

I’m fascinated by things like commodity aesthetics, the history of consumption, and theories of leisure & status. Partially because I got a kick out of supposing I was a better person than those wretched lazy types. I wasn’t so sophisticated to sneer “rentier” class as kid but I was well on my way to veneration of hard work and productive capital. An economics degree finished the job.

This was compounded by growing up in a family that worshipped the culture of Silicon Valley. The innovation of computers and the people that worked all hours to bring their creativity to the world were the most important people on the planet. They hadn’t quite crossed the cultural rubicon of power that the tech industry has now, but the power of making the future was hard work and heady stuff even before it captured the mainstream. I wanted to change the world like the people my father admired

There was a time when computing and automation raised questions of a new era of leisure. If we could move all of the work we’d previously done manually to automated systems perhaps humans could ascend to The Culture of Ian M Bank’s novels. In a distant future of abundance, sentient AIs run industry and production, so humanity can do, well, whatever it likes.

But we haven’t achieved a post scarcity world. If anything accumulating resources and showing you’ve done it by the rules of the meritocracy makes hard work even more crucial. You’ve got to play and win two games. You’ve got to make the money and show you’ve demonstrated the proper status while doing it. It seems like leisure is losing the battle quite soundly.

I’ve been pushing all year to get back to hard work. I’ve worked hard at my health. I’ve committed myself to biohacking. But really what if the obsession with working myself to the bone is killing me? I’ve been completely relaxed as I prepared for a medical procedure this week. I’ve never felt better. Which forced me to ask myself if maybe I better come to live leisure like the way I have loved work. It might be a much better life for me. The future sentient AIs might approve as well.

Categories
Aesthetics Emotional Work

Day 197 and Status Anxiety

I’m becoming quite bored of feeling like shit as I go on maybe day 8 or 9 of a poor reaction to an anti-viral. It’s not fun when the cure is worse than the disease. I noticed something fascinating as more and more “days off” piled up. I’ve still got a lot of emotional shit when it comes to being sick.

My anxiety over being seen as weak, lazy or lacking in willpower started to compound the more days I’ve needed to recover. What will people think of me that just as I’m making a comeback to full time work that I let myself get waylaid by a virus? Every project and meeting that needed canceling felt like I should accompany it with an apology tour. I felt like I owed everyone my time and energy. I felt ashamed.

The social striving and status chasing that have gripped the aspirational class seems to have its claws firmly in my psyche. At least when it comes to work, I’m convinced I must always be working to be “better.” Where the fuck did this self limiting belief come from?

Who cares if I needed a week off to cope with health care needs when I’ve been on medical leave for nearly two years? What is another week. Why am I so anxious to show that I’m capable of going back to work? Who the fuck cares! It’s not as if I’m dependent on a salary to survive. I’m not chasing a resume or CV polish on LinkedIn. I can just not work.

Technically I’ve already made it out of the status social climbing games. I’ve got money. I’ve got traditional credentials. I have a well compensated skill set that is easily hired out for income without sacrificing much of my time. I should not be experiencing any class anxiety at all. I should happily go into the leisure class and not concern myself that my workaholism isn’t possible for health reasons. And yet I’m absolutely panicked that I’ll be see as lazy and unreliable every time I have a minor setback.

It’s abundantly clear that aspirational class signals, especially around meritocracy and knowledge work, are as bogus as Edwardian England’s aristocracy. Class division can be upended if you just stop giving a fuck. But I’m experiencing exactly this anxiety noted in The Hedgehog Review.

The aspirationals’ endless pursuit of better can produce psychic restlessness and doubts beneath the façade of confidence and accomplishment.

I’ve always thought of my habits as being high status. I read science fiction, make a hobby of macroeconomics, and pursue healthy biohacking experiments. Of course, that I think of these things as having status is precisely what makes me signaling it low status. The perception of me caring so fucking much is proof that I don’t think my status in life is secure. I’m no better than the middle class strivers in Downtown Abbey who miss manner cues. How embarrassing!

But if I can admit that I’m anxious about my place in the world maybe it’s a sign I’m not so beholden to class systems after all. I’ve just now admitted that I’m afraid of how I will be perceived if my climb back to health isn’t perfectly stage managed. I hope that is the first step in letting it go. Fixating on fear and anxiety isn’t great for physical health. So I’m putting it out there that I’m afraid of how I’ll be seen by others. And I’m letting it go.

Categories
Chronic Disease Chronicle Startups

Day 114 and Resistance to Change

Crash landing my life into a medical sabbatical really fucked up my headspace. Around two years ago I was beginning to realize I didn’t have a choice in accepting that I was sick. My identity as an always on, gets things done, reliable, entrepreneur got replaced by an entirely new self conception as “ill person” in a matter of six months. In August of 2019 I disclosed that I was officially sick. I sold my company and was going on leave.

It wasn’t a pretty adjustment. And I’m probably lying to myself when I say it took months to accept. I hated the new me. I felt weak and out of control. Willpower and muscling through did very little to help an autoimmune disease. If anything that mentality of “working on the problem” made it worse as I needed to rest and let my doctors do the work. I was resistant to change.

I think I’m going through a similar transition now as I did in 2019. I began seeing a new doctor in Colorado in October of 2020 and I made more progress in six months than I did in the previous two years. I’m beginning to face a new identity change as it becomes clear that I won’t be “sick” forever. While autoimmune diseases aren’t like an infection, there is no “cured,” it is beginning to look like I will be healthy enough to live normally. You won’t be able to tell I’ve got anything wrong with me soon.

And I have to admit to myself it’s a mindfuck. The emotional and psychological work I had to do to accept losing my entire identity is happening all over again. Who the hell am I if I’m not sick?

You see for the past two years I got used to explaining to people I was a sick person. I was disabled. I needed accommodations. I couldn’t work in ways I felt I would be reliable. I came accept my identity as someone with physical limits. And I slowly figured out ways to communicate that new reality others who has previously seen me as this abled person.

I guess you could say I was at peace with my situation. The pandemic helped. I know it probably sucked for you but I really enjoyed having a year of my recovery coincide with others having to live the way I did. I know it’s selfish but it helped! I felt less alone.

And yet just as I’m finally feeling like I really got a handle on my new identity it’s not my reality anymore. I’m not going to be a sick person. And while I thought I’d be overjoyed it turns out it’s a little more complex emotionally.

Let’s try a comparison. Imagine you broke your arm. You keep it in a brace and you can’t use it while it’s healing. And then the cast comes off and you are unsure if you can go back to using your arm like you did. You used to move your arm without thinking. You don’t worry about applying pressuring or picking things up before the break. But after it’s scary. You don’t want to set yourself back. You are scared to lift things and scared to apply pressure. I am in that place with myself. I know that the break is healing. The cast is off. But the muscles are atrophied and I’m not sure I trust that everything is knit back together. But the reality is that soon I’ll have the all clear.

But who I am now? I’m not the entrepreneur I once was. That workaholic Julie won’t be coming back. But the disabled sick Julie won’t be with me forever either. And I’m a little scared about it what’s coming. Who am I going to be next?

Categories
Chronic Disease Chronicle Startups

Day 64 and Addiction

I’ve been working through unconscious mindset issues and self limiting belief systems as an active exercise the past few months.

I’ve been really hung up on the value of pain and discomfort. Somewhere along the line I became convinced that working hard is morally good. And over time that developed into an addiction to work. I got off on being seen as someone who never quits.

This workaholism eventually had the consequences of forcing me into quitting everything in order to survive my addiction. I didn’t have a choice at a certain point as it was stop being a workaholic or quite literally die. My health failed me so I could have a second chance. I’m still grateful that I chose life but not a day goes by where I don’t wonder if it was the wrong choice. What is living if I’m not killing myself?

Realizing that rock bottom was a choice was a bit of a shock to me. I always thought it was an external forcing mechanism that finally freed you from your addiction. I had a very Augustinian “make me good but oh not just yet” understanding of my addiction.

And because my addiction is considered virtuous I’ve had a lot harder time seeing the value of letting it go. We look down on drinking, drugs and other sins. Work isn’t on the list of seven deadly sins. Sure I get pleasure from working but I can’t separate it entirely from the external validation I got from being “good” especially from people I perceived as my betters. And because I had a challenging relationship with my father as a child (he is also a workaholic) this put me in a precarious position when dealing with older white men. In other words, anyone who will ever finance me or mentor me, as technology and finance has an extreme demographic skew. I was constantly in a place where I wanted validation from these elders to soothe my inner child. I would do anything to show them I was good and worthy. I’m sure there is a Biblical or Greek tragedy angle to a child so deeply committed to being sacrificed for their father.

All this was compounded by the feeling I got when people who were my peers put me on a pedestal. They wanted me to be a martyr as much as I wanted it. And some of them will likely never forgive me for not being their own personal Jesus.

This all leaves me with very mixed feelings as I know I hit my rock bottom and it’s time to leave behind my addiction. And it’s very much time to rid myself of enablers who pleasured and profited off my disease. But it’s so much a work in progress. I feel the desire to jump back in to work and say yes to everyone who wants my work. I love it and they want it. But I need to find a way to only ever commit to those who want me to be well and thriving.

Too many people profit off of the deep desire workaholics have to always be producing. Capital and eager teammates can easily see a workaholic as a better bet for making money. I’m sure most don’t realize it is predatory because they assume we can stop. The sad truth is I’m not sure I would have stopped. I just got lucky I became too sick to carry on. So this is me committing to only working with those who want me on their team if I’m healthy and “sober” because I’m not going back on the “bottle” ever again. I just hope it means my work will be better for it. I think it will but it’s one day at a time.

Categories
Chronic Disease Chronicle

Day 60 and Never Saving Anything For The Swim Back

I’m feeling scrambled today as I’m not quite in a place where I can push myself without consequences but I’m also not so sick that I can’t work at all. It’s an awful liminal state where I’m working what is probably the actual productive output of an average person but still need to buffer in time for medical shit.

I honestly contemplate just lying about being sick some days. I could hide the disability of chronic illness and no one would be any wiser. Well minus the public posts about being sick but you get my meaning. I’d probably have to get a little bit better at scheduling work during consistent productive hours, push through when I feel like shit, and then crash when I wasn’t on the clock. I’d be seen as a little unreliable but definitely enough that I could manage as a director at some company.

I’m not sure if this says something bad about me or about the expectations of the American workplace. Probably a little of both. I’m clearly a bit of an outlier and we don’t actually expect that much output from the average worker. When I’m operating at my full capacity I blow away workloads. I sometimes doubt if I’ve ever been at full capacity and I’ve been faking it my entire life. I’ve never been completely hale and hearty. I’ve always had a tendency to put on a show when I’m in public and then retreat into recovery when in private. I’ve been a very boom and bust person.

I don’t really want to live this way though. I’d rather run a marathon than be a sprinter that is collapsing after each race. I recognize that in some way this pattern of intense work and recovery isn’t sustainable. It’s also clearly an addictive pattern. But I’m too scared to admit that I don’t really know what a consistent healthy working life looks like. I’ve been an addictive compulsive worker my whole life because I never trust that I can rely on my good hours to be consistent. I gulp at each hour of feeling well like I’ll never get them again. The fear that this is my last shot at feeling well is palpable.

One of the most formative pieces of art in my narrative self is the movie Gattaca. In a dystopian future, children have their genes edited before they are born. The protagonist of the film “Vincent” played Ethan Hawke is an “old fashioned” human conceived without any edits. He has a heart condition and other frailties. His brother Anton was given edits. Despite being an “in-valid” Ethan Hawke is able to find his way in to a space program using contraband genetics. His brother is furious and cannot figure out how his disabled brother is able to beat him. This fraternal tension plays out in two swimming competitions. The invalid brother Vincent bests his genetically superior brother Anton. Twice. How did he do any of this!?!

“You wanna know how I did it? This is how I did it, Anton; I never saved anything for the swim back!”

I really internalized this logic as a teenager. There is no gene for the human soul. Winning is not about being superior it’s about giving it your all. I bought this. So I never saved anything for the swim back. Except that maybe this is a shitty strategy for anything but races. That if you need more than to win a swimming match you can’t go all out every single day. That this is actually a strategy that will kill you.

Of course, I am petrified that this isn’t true and I should be swimming like Vincent every day. That he was right that greatness is forged in extreme effort. That I should give my all till I collapse. But then what?

I’m stuck in a behavioral pattern of self limiting fear that I must always be striving or I will literally be dead. It’s live at the edge till I win. But win what? Sometimes you fail. That’s how you learn. Failure is a crucial part of success. But if I am always swimming to failure I’ll never recover enough to learn from my failures. I’ll literally be dead in the water. So I’m stuck in this place of fear where I know I can’t always give my all but I don’t really yet believe that there is any other way to succeed.