Categories
Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 330 and Vitamin Not Pill

I was reading a fellow investor’s thesis page and noticed one lens they use for investing is whether a product is a “vitamin or a pill” with the insinuation that pills are inherently better investments than vitamins, as one is a nice to have for a business and the other is a must have. Now I can’t speak to this as an investment thesis, though I largely agree, but I do disagree on a wellness basis.

Preventative medicine is just as necessary as interventional medicine. In some cases more so, as getting ahead of a disease’s inflection point should be the humane way we handle our medical needs. We are just often too focused on short term impacts to see the value of solutions that build over time. Think of it as the quarterly reports of healthcare. Why build for the future when the market judges by each 10K?

The nature of panic may make us inclined to spend heavily on something that has become acute. But that does not make it inherently more effective or worthwhile. It’s just the immediately necessary. It just means we need higher minimum effective doses to see a result.

What we often ignore is compounding effects of wellness interventions are far superior to the mitigation of a pharmaceutical over time. Most of us would prefer to not require the costly (both biologically and financially) medicines that keep us together. This is not to say that I am not deeply grateful for all the drugs I take. But rather that I have seen incredible value in what we deem “lifestyle interventions” and other “nice to have” vitamin style supplements and protocols.

And while it takes much longer to see their effects, the compounding positive effects often wildly outperform anything that might be dubbed a pill. The trouble probably boils down to switching costs and time to pay off. Which is why an investor would prefer a pill to a vitamin. But just because something has a longer lifecycle doesn’t make it inherently less sticky. Or less effective. Or crucially any less profitable. The only way we ever see the deeply positive effects of habitual practice and dedication is to do the work. That work is boring, repetitive and low payoff. Until, most times years in the making, you see how putting your future self over your present self is what is giving you the future you always dreamed would be yours.

Categories
Internet Culture Politics

Day 326 and The Long Now

A culture lacking optimism is a culture without a future. Even before the pandemic, American youth had plenty of reasons to temper their optimism. Inequality, corporate dominance, rising debt particularly for school, unaffordable housing, lack of social support for family, the changing climate and the frequency of natural disasters all tend to weigh on you.

I’m a optimistic person so I always presumed I’d find a way around things. And I largely did. I got an education. I started my own company. I sold it. I found I had developed a valuable skill set. I met a man through one of my best friends and we got married. All was well in my American dream for many years.

But cracks had always been there. Little details that made me question common cultural, social and political assumptions. I discovered the limits of modern medicine with a chronic disease. I saw the disaster that financialization could wreck on families with a bankruptcy. I wasn’t naive about the systems and their their inequalities.

But the knowledge that the future could be worse than today wears on you. Once you start living in a liminal state it gets worse. The pandemic made it harder for me to believe in the future because the present became a holding pattern. Ben Hunt at Epsilon Theory calls this The Long Now.

The more we put off investing in a future the more the long now stretches on. We borrow against all the things that could build us a better tomorrow. And we fall back. We put doing things that would make our future better because it’s rational to do so. What if things get worse?

I’m tired of living in the long now. I’m investing in myself. I have been investing in my body and my health. And I’m ready to invest in a home. Not because I particularly want to own property but because I want to stop the long now and believe that my future is something I can build.

Categories
Preparedness

Day 324 and Seneca

I was once asked by someone how I can act so quickly on major life decisions when they needed to mull a change over for months. I found the question confusing as I don’t think of myself as being particularly fast or even impulsive.

Well, that’s a lie, I’m impulsive about lots of shit but never anything of consequences. When it’s a major life decision I gather information for years so if the opportunity presents itself I’m prepared to act immediately. I take the bias towards action seriously.

But I only make a move when I believe I’ve crossed a threshold of information where the benefits of action clearly outweigh the benefits of inaction. I’ll make a move when I think I’ve got a better chance of winning than losing. Or when it’s clear that if I don’t act at all I’ll have a losing hand. But I generally only needs the odds to be tilted to a plurality of probability. Especially if it’s an action I can undo later. It’s not always easy to know if you can win. Sometimes the best you can do is recognize that inaction is weakening your position.

Part of my comfort in my process for taking action is I am a researcher by nature. If I’m interested in a topic I’ll begin with exposure right away. I’ll do the light skimming research the internet has enabled through articles and videos. I’ll dive deeper and purchase books. I’ll find experts in the field and begin following them. If I have questions I’ve got a habit of emailing the source. And then I’ll start doing what I can to implement my research with small scale experiments.

Chances are if you see me making a major move it’s because I’ve been considering the possibility of action for years. I like to be prepared to act immediately if an opportunity presents itself. If a situation presents itself I want to be ready. That way I’m positioned for luck. Seneca had it right. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. But you can only have luck if you are willing to do the work of preparing and be ready to take action if opportunities present themselves.

Categories
Preparedness

Day 323 and Fantasyland

I’m very open about being a prepper. I think it is a moral imperative to be resilient if you have the means to do so. When disaster strikes, which it inevitably does, being able to support yourself and your neighbors frees up first responders to care for the genuinely needy.

Because of this belief I’ve been investigating homesteading seriously for the past two years now. I’ve got concerns about the typical issues someone with exposure to finance has; worries about inflation, the social impact of labor being a poor store of value with currency debasement, & widening inequality. I am also deeply concerned about the rise in populism and the predatory graft of the far right. Add in supply chain worries and the effect of the pandemic on living standards and you can see how I’d prefer to have more control over my own basic needs.

But my plans to go off grid has always had a bit of a fantasyland element to them. While I would love to move to northern Montana and invest in a large property I didn’t expect I’d be able to do that immediately. I needed to get to know the towns, watch an illiquid market over months if not years, and also remain proximate to civilization as I still plan to maintain a career in startups and finance.

But yesterday my husband and I came across a property outside of Boulder Colorado that met many of our criteria for more prepared living. An unobtrusive property on an acre just outside of town that I jokingly called greyman as you’d never guess it was built out for resilience. It has 100% solar with insulation & a wood burning stove for backup, there is a working well that irrigates the garden & orchard, its got a hothouse & a chicken coop, it’s on a reservoir, it has a workshop & an artist studio, and well I could go on. Now I’ve got no idea if it will pass muster on an inspection but as you can see I’m already dreaming of the possibility. It’s not something I’ve absolutely got to do so we can very much walk away from a deal but I’m interested. Enough that I’m looking at mortgages and bringing in a contractor to take a look.

Now I don’t need all of those things right now. The reality of maintaining a vegetable garden and making it through a canning and preservation season isn’t lost on me. Actually building the muscles for true resilience is something that happens over years. But that’s also why I want to start now before it becomes a must have. Learning how to feed yourself when you’ve got no choice isn’t a situation I’d recommend.

We underestimate the work that goes into maintain a healthy, comfortable, warm and well fed life. Mostly because capitalism breeds specialized labor. Which is good in my book. We’ve achieved so much with it. But any complex system is less resilient. So you’ve got to acknowledge that the tail risks are there and real. So if I’ve got a chance to begin on 70% of my ideal preparation while still keeping within my budget and also staying within civilization for the time being then I’m going to consider it. It’s time to move out of fantasyland.

Categories
Biohacking Chronic Disease

Day 322 and 10x

One of my favorite hobbies used to be powerlifting. When I had to take time off to control my ankylosing spondylitis (it’s an inflammatory spinal condition) I was simply in too much pain to walk around the block let alone squat 250lbs. But as we’ve controlled my symptoms so efficiently I’ve been able to pick back up weightlifting this fall. I’m overjoyed as this represents full recovery to me.

I’ve been slowing introducing weight using the core barbel lifts using the Starting Strength method. It’s been a blast as I get to have beginner gains all over again after being sedentary. The biggest change in how I train compared to my time before managing a rheumatoid condition is timing my training around my recovery. I used Whoop and Welltory who both measure my HRV or or heart rate variability. It’s basically a measure of how well your autonomic nervous system is coping with stress and turns out to the best predictor of how well I will feel on any given day.

A recovery chart of my HRV with red marking the days I lifted.

I’ve noticed that lifting hits my HRV hard. And it takes time to get it back to a normal place. Sometimes several days. I absolutely cannot not push my recovery frame without making my HRV dip even worse. It’s fascinating to see how well correlated the two appear to be.

On days when my HRV dips my resting heart rate is noticeably worse and using an app like Welltory I can see much more stress I’m under and how damn active my sympathetic nervous system is at work. The stress of recovery is significant. And my symptoms will tend to flare. Pain and fatigue are noticeably worse.

Despite the evidence I have found it mentally challenging for me to trust this stress and recovery process. On bad days when my HRV dips I forget how well I felt on the good days which leads me to some emotional flailing. Instead of trusting the routine I’ll panic at how shitty I feel. I’ve got amnesia about how terrific & productive I can be.

I’ve got to learn to trust the numbers. Otherwise I’ll do stupid shit like push to get something done on a bad day. That activity will take hours of hemming and hawing and willpower and brute force. If I had just waited for a good day to get my shit done chances are the task will take me 5 minutes.

Forcing myself to abide by the recommendations of Whoop and Welltory gets me out of the cycle of flailing. Listening to the data can override my amnesia. If a bad HRV day happens I just don’t try to do ANYTHING. Because I know on a good HRV day I’ll be 1000x more productive. It’s a discipline I need.

Everyone has different capacity. Forcing yourself into the “industrially necessary” routine of a 9-5pm weekday only makes sense if you are in a bigger corporate system and must be reliable even if you are not performing at your best.

Freeing myself from the mentality of being available on a bourgeois schedule is challenging. I hate feeling like I disappoint people by not always being “on” and productive. I feel like availability & reliability matter more than outcome (which is occasionally true but not generally true). The reality is you can have 10x Julie or you can have consistent Julie. I’d pick 10x personally.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 312 and Future Perfect

After a disastrous year in San Francisco, in which I broke up with a cheating boyfriend and discovered I was almost completely incapable of integrating into the culture of the startup which has purchased mine, I fled to Williamsburg Brooklyn.

I had rented, sight unseen, a bedroom in a large converted industrial loft on North 6th and Berry off of Craigslist. The lease holder was bald Turkish hipster with a corporate job working IT at Bank of America. He loved partying and dance music. We rarely saw each other. It was an ideal home for a 24 year old.

The loft was above a furniture store called The Future Perfect. They had extremely expensive, extremely tasteful shit. The owner David was very nice but he probably knew that his neighbors would never be able to afford the designs he stocked and curated. Well, at the time.

The building shared a courtyard backyard so I got to fantasize a little about having great taste through exposure. My proximity to Future Perfect’s design slowly shaped my taste, even though I slept on a $300 futon whose defining feature was pebbled black pleather.

I never really believed I’d live a life where I had the stability that investing in furniture required. I mostly had sublets and moved by trash bag and taxi. My godfather introduced me to his “guy” for moving which let me acquire some Ikea but otherwise I didn’t invest. I was used to instability having moved a lot as a child.

Maybe that’s why the furniture store spoke to me. Future Perfect. A future that is perfect is one you will never live in. So it’s safe to indulge in the fantasy, knowing you will never take any real steps towards making it reality.

An older male friend of mine, who I had wanted to fuck but who never reciprocated, bought a couch from Future Perfect. I was impressed by his good taste and capacity to invest in real furniture. He had taken on a lease in a building in SoHo with plans for spending part of his time in New York. He let me stay there when he wasn’t. I luxuriated on the couch. I remember reading Watchmen for the first time on it.

At some point he decided New York just wasn’t for him. Or at least having a lease there wasn’t worth it. He asked me if I had a moving guy. I gave him the name of the guy my godfather has introduced me too. I got a phone call a week or two later.

“I’ve got a couch for you. Can I bring it up?” My mind was blown. My friend had just given me the couch. He didn’t even make a big deal about it. He just paid my moving guy to pick it up and deliver it to me. I cried. I loved that couch. It was the first truly nice piece of furniture I could ever call my own.

Sometimes I think about how my friend had more faith in the future than I did. That he was willing to invest in making his current moment perfect in a way I never could. I still have the couch. I moved it cross country with me to Colorado. It’s no longer the nicest piece of furniture I own. But only just. I invested in a working desk a few months ago. But nothing will ever rival the Future Perfect couch in my heart.

Categories
Preparedness

Day 309 and Buying Land

Now that the pandemic has fully driven startup land to a remote first culture, I have no excuse to put off buying property. But it’s hard to figure out where to settle and when. Alex and I signed another year lease on the townhouse we have in Boulder last month which means the countdown clock is on.

I’ve been in Colorado a full year and I’ve got another one ahead of me as we ride out whatever the pandemic has left. So while I don’t think I’m headed back to New York City for full time living ever again, I don’t feel ready to buy a home yet either. It’s a big decision with consequences! And I’ve got no idea what to do. We want to invest in a home we can invest in for preparedness.

May the crypto and startup gods bless me with pied-a-terre money on the next exit so I can have access to New York City and live off the grid at the same time! But no seriously I don’t think I can settle in Colorado either. The last summer was unlivable between the extreme heat waves and the ozone pollution that comes from high heat combining with high altitude sun. It’s better in the high country but then you are in fire country. And we’ve had terrible fires in the last year. Apocalyptic shit frankly.

The Colorado of my childhood isn’t surviving climate change. And the prepper in me just isn’t willing to invest in putting down roots in a place with water shortages, drought, fires and the potential for civil unrest. Which frankly pisses me off. I’m sad I can’t just buy a homestead in the Colorado Rockies. I have a whole rant about Boomers and ruining my home but I’ll try not to piss off my elders. I just really wanted to be able to live here.

But that begs the question of where is a decent place to buy a home. Leaving behind civilization for Montana doesn’t feel feasible now either. Alex is too social for that kind of nonsense full time. Being in a small town in the middle of nowhere seems romantic until you want takeout. And frankly I like takeout.

But I also want to invest in more serious preparedness efforts. I want to be fully off grid. I want to invest in our water. I want to do the kind of regenerative agriculture and restorative land work that could lead to a self sufficient life if it came to that. I want a homestead. Heck right now I don’t even have a generator or a fire pit. Because I’m in a townhouse. Which is a lot better than being an urban prepper but I’ve got a taste for more.

But I’m also not ready to leave behind civilization. So I’ve got no idea what to do. Because I’m at the end of what kind preparedness even makes sense in a more urban location. And we don’t own it. So I’m feeling itchy. Should we buy something in Boulder that we can do some prepping on and also a piece of land in Montana? I’m not sure that’s feasible financially. I feel stuck on this one if anyone has got opinions.

Categories
Biohacking

Day 303 and App Pressure

I refused to give in to peer pressure as a kid. I was way too much of a handful to ever let anyone else tell me what to do. Sadly this led to being constantly on the shit end of the girls in my classes because I didn’t like to play their games. I was terrible at respecting authority, and this included any kind of peer power structure.

Thankfully we moved every two years so I never had the suffer the consequences of being headstrong. Probably why I was so eager to thumb my nose at power. I didn’t think it was going to last for very long. So I never had to solve for it.

It turns out I should have learned to cope with peer pressure when I was younger. Instead of reflexively being against all kinds of authority, I should have learned when to accept (and when not) the input of people and systems who have power over me.

Why? Because now I don’t know when to say no. As an adult I am extremely susceptible to pressure from my applications. I opted into letting them have power over me and I have no idea how to say no to them. I’ve got a problem with application pressure because I didn’t learn how to deal with it as a kid. Ooops!

As part of my quest to regain my health I have become an avid biohacker. I track tons of metrics. I wear both an Apple Watch and a Whoop. I’ve use half a dozen different applications daily. But what I didn’t appreciate until recently is that the nudging state of my wellness apps is functionally just peer pressure.

My “Health” folder on my iPhone

And I give in to it every damn time. Welltory says I need to be active 10 hours today? I better go walk around the house. Apple Watch trends say I have fewer active minutes? Fuck I must be lazy. Gyroscope is reminding me I didn’t meditate? Oh no I am not zen enough! My applications are bullies and because I opted into it I feel like I’m a failure if I don’t say yes to everything. I guess it turns out you cannot escape life lessons.

Categories
Biohacking Emotional Work

290 and Self Care

I’ve feel like I should have an entire category on the blog dedicated to “maintenance” as I’ve got loads of posts on my struggles to balance the activities of staying alive with well, the rest of my life.

All of the activities that go into keeping a human alive and functional are so damn time consuming. How does anyone ever get anything done when so much of life is dedicated to keeping our meat sacks from spiraling out? I’m pretty sure these are the things that actually make up life and I’m supposed to treasure this time in my body. But until I become as enlightened as the Buddha, I feel like this whole embodiment thing is just getting in the way of what I should be doing. My therapist likes to call this “human doing” instead of “human being” and I don’t love the joke.

I had a terrific day of doing things this Sunday. I woke up at 7am and didn’t finish all of the various routines and self care activities till 1pm. I went for an hour long walk (which is pleasurable since sunshine and mountain air but also low impact cardiovascular activity) I lifted weights (alright fine, I love squats). I meditated (mindfulness doesn’t count when you quantify it). I showered, shaved & washed my hair. I did the grocery shopping and meal planning for the week. I did three loads of laundry. I made lunch. I cleaned up. I juggled supplements (I’ve got a spreadsheet to track them all with 8am, 10am & 11am slots) which are completely separate from my medications (I have 7am and noon spots for those). And only then at 1pm did I finally get a chance to settle into work. There was so much work just to get to work.

And while I know all of those things that keep me balanced and healthy are the stuff of life, I also resent their necessity. I have elaborate fantasies about what other people get done with their time. Other people don’t need to exercise, meditate, take vitamins, or watch their nutrition right? Well alright I said it was a fantasy. If you also spent your Sunday doing chores and self care it would make me feel better to know that.

Categories
Internet Culture Politics Preparedness

289 and Apocalyptic Aging

Millennials are aging, but that doesn’t seem to have kicked off the midlife crisis handwringing of popular culture yesteryears. The first millennial are edging towards 40 but it feels like no one is a day over thirty on social media. Maybe because it’s hard to feel like you’ve hit midlife when the traditional markers of stability like children and mortgages feel more like luxury status symbols.

Maybe no one is craving red sports cars and the open road because no one has the security of a home life from which to break free. A midlife crisis seems like an almost comically indulgent thing that our boomer parents did. Imagine having kids and a home and thinking that you wanted to go back to the insecurity of your twenties? And boomers have the balls to call millennials spoiled. You had to have have stability to throw it away first.

I’m an elder millennial and a reasonably comfortable even wealthy one at that. But I don’t have kids or own a house. I frozen my eggs when it seemed like having kids wasn’t financially feasible. My husband and I lived in Manhattan at the time and we both had early stage startups. It seemed like a wise idea to put off the decision at the time. And we never even considered buying an apartment. Tying up all that wealth into a one bedroom apartment was for trust funders not the professional class.

Now it’s clear we can afford children and a mortgage on a house, but it seems crazy to commit to either. No one has a clue what life is going to be like in ten years so why would you anchor yourself and innocent progeny? It almost feels immoral to consider.

I don’t really understand how one can age gracefully when so much of life feels casually apocalyptic. Maybe millennials aren’t acknowledging aging because we live in the stasis of the long now. If there is no future then we aren’t moving into it. Each passing year is just a lucky bonus when nothing builds towards stability.

Not being able to afford children and houses is a blessing if you don’t believe in the future will be better. We’ve rationalized that the basics of the American are luxuries only for the wealthy. The wealthy can afford to live with rising tides and six figure college tuitions. Everyone else is thrilled to have enough cash to buy prepper supplies and pay their health insurance deductible.

And in some horrifying sense it is rational. I don’t trust the political system in America. Which means I don’t trust we can solve pressing issues like climate change or rising debt. So when new and exciting issues like the pandemic destabilize life even further it makes committing to a future even less appealing. There is absolutely a part of me that stopped believing in the future sometime in 2016. Everything went Hobbesian. Millennials are aging but we aren’t growing into a future.