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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
Biohacking Chronic Disease

Day 287 and Routines

I haven’t figured out how to incorporate my routines into my busier workdays. I feel like I’ve written this blogpost at least 3-4 times but somehow I never seem to find balance easily when I make big changes to how I spend my time.

All the self care efforts that has become comfortable rhythms go by the wayside as soon as I add in new obligations. And then my body gets pissed that I’m not taking care of it and I get into the same pattern of two steps forward and one step back.

You’d think after experiencing this issue multiple times I’d be better at ramping change slowly but I remain the sort of person that loves to dive into shit head first.

After much enthusiasm and progress I’m writing todays post from a physically mediocre places. My stomach is upset. I am fighting off a migraine. My muscles are tense. I’m anxious about all of these symptoms turning into a messy cascade. So I’m turning to my pharmaceuticals, taking a mess of prescriptions, and going to bed. Maybe tomorrow is another chance to find a better balance.

Categories
Chronic Disease Preparedness

Day 286 and Appointments

I’ve been going to a bunch of appointments in the past week or so. And I’ve got a bunch more lined up in the coming weeks. My calendar is a mess of obligations; optometrist, dentist, gynecologist, and the hair salon for starters. I feel like I’m drowning in appointments.

I made the mistake of not capitalizing on the last dip in case numbers in the late spring and early summer and missed the pandemic window before delta. I didn’t want to make that mistake again so I’ve been hustling to have the appointments that I’ve been putting off for the last 19 months. Check my eyes, check my teeth, check my fiddly bits. And yes cut my hair. God is my hair long.

There is so much maintenance work that has been piling up that I wonder how I’ve made it through the entire pandemic putting all of these life chores off. Has everyone been putting off their appointments? Was it just me? Or is it just people who are still trying to limit their exposure to infection?

I grant I’ve got a very different risk profile than the average American but I feel like it’s probably not unusual to put off stuff you are supposed to do but can probably live life without. But should you? So far no one has found anything wrong but maybe it’s just luck that I could go for two years without someone checking my tits or my teeth.

I didn’t put off any of my truly crucial health appointments over the pandemic but I am sure other people did. The eye doctor is something I tell myself I can put off for two years but maybe that’s a rationalization. Did others do that with annual physicals? With breast exams? What else have we been putting off in our appointments. It feels like I put off my entire life. And now I’m scrambling to fit it all in before something else has happens.

Categories
Preparedness

Day 279 and Takeout

I’m not entirely sure when or even how it happened, but I’ve been eating nothing but takeout. I think it’s some “emotional exhalation” around food. When the pandemic first hit I was in Manhattan. As wasn’t yet clear how Covid spread, we locked down in our apartment and cooked every single meal for three straight months. Probably a record in my life for going without ready made meals. But boy did I miss takeout by the end of it.

I’m sure both facts say something about the privilege I have. I can afford to have someone prepare all of my food in restaurants. And when disaster struck I had the time and ability to stay home and cook. Most folks chose their food based on budgets, literal and time.

As I’ve been concerned about the looming supply chain crunch I now think it might be time to flex the cooking at home muscles again. Letting fresh food linger in the fridge without a plan is wasteful. Whether or not I can afford the waste isn’t the point. It’s offensive to the energy and work of the many people who put their livelihood into feeding others.

I feel this especially acutely as my milk and produce come directly from local farmers. I feel like I’m letting down Daphne if our milk isn’t turned into yogurt or ricotta (or at very least put into my morning coffee). Although I will say I have no good plans for the sheer volume of peppers and chilis my farm share produced. In Colorado it is the chili that’s the crop that goes overboard in your CSA box not zucchini or some other squash. I genuinely have no clue what to do with some of more exotic peppers so send me recipes!

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
Reading

Day 273 and The Newsstand

I used to travel a lot. It seems like another life, but before the pandemic airports were my most important liminal space. Even as a child this was true as my father loved taking us on trips. That emotional weight meant the airport have always had significance to me. This persistent exposure to airports lead to me to developing certain affinities and aversions in my routines around travel. But the one that I liked the most was buying something at the newsstand.

There was a period as a teenager where I thought carrying both the The Economist and Rolling Stone (neither of which I read anymore) was just the height of intellectual signaling. And no place was more crucial to signal than inside an airport. I could meet someone in passing that would change my life and they needed to see immediately that I was both smart and cultured. Yes it’s embarrassing now.

But this signaling was part of a wider ritual I felt was important to ground myself. Even if I felt the unsteadiness of traveling, I could bring routine and ritual into it. I knew no matter how much I anxiety or uncertainty I felt around a given trip I could always treat myself to buying something to read from the airport newsstand.

Generally I would pick up some kind of periodical. I’d leave myself time to browse the newsstands for at least ten minutes so I could adequately cover all the weird genres. Because I grew up in a small town and not a proper city, the only newsstand I ever encountered was at the airport. There was simply no place that held as many magazines covering as many topics.

And while I had the Internet very early in my life, the actual transition away from physical publishing wasn’t as far along. It’s not that I loved magazines so much as it was the only place I could find writing that wasn’t a novel was in newsstand. Now of course I read blogs, email newsletters, forums, Subreddits and my beloved Twitter. But the memories I have of finding new worlds came from newsstands. And while I may have literally been going someplace new, it was never quite as horizon broadening as picking out what I was going to read.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 272 and Small Steps

I talk a lot about pacing and routines and rhythms but it’s mostly because I struggle with it so much. As soon as I notice something is going in a direction I dislike, rather than course correct a little bit, I love to run in the opposite direction as fast as I can. Why be steady when chaos begets creativity?

Silicon Valley success myths are tied heavily to people that go their own way. We’ve coined terms like contrarian and narrative violation to add a high gloss to the basic truth that we just don’t like having our hands forced. Not even by ourselves. We like being able to pick and chose our direction.

This isn’t just truth of institutions or common knowledge. I get pissed when I’m forced into something by my own body. Heck, I especially dislike having my hand forced by my own biology. There is no authority more unforgiving than my own flesh.

Which has sometimes meant if I can overcome a biological reality my ego finds painful I’m inclined to do it. I love imposing brute force on myself. Naturally this habit isn’t the sort of thing that makes for a comfortable or pleasant life. But it’s a huge comfort to know that if you simply apply a little willpower you can undo the sins you’ve spent too much time accumulating.

Just look at some of the habits that have gained popularity in startup culture from intermittent fasting to overnight work sprints. Those techniques work. Some are arguably even sustainable for people. But it’s important to remember no matter how much we like to make things happen quickly, decisively or in new directions that sometimes the reality of being human cannot be ignored. On those days remember it’s ok to take small steps.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 269 and Pacing

I’m very defensive of my time. While I work at curtailing reactivity in my emotional growth, it’s still easy for me to feel invaded by obligations to others. Taking video or meeting in person was among my least favorite activities even before the pandemic. That’s one reason I’ve written extensively on how to communicate with me asynchronously. But another deeper reason is my fear of misusing my time. And tempting as it may be to project it onto others, I know that this fear is entirely about me.

I am very fearful of anyone needing things from me. I don’t mean things like money, favors or advice; though it is harder to say no than you’d think. My fear is deeper. I’m afraid friends and family will start to count on me for their emotional needs when I’m still figuring out how to be present for my own. I’ll deliberately put distance between myself and others to avoid feeling needed.

So what does this have to do with pacing? I’m not very good at giving myself enough space to be challenged and recovery. And when every encounter with another person is an emotional challenge, I need to be careful about pacing myself.

Maybe there is some latent autistic spectrum issues or maybe I have more trauma than I can consciously dig up but it’s a rare human that doesn’t make me anxious about the energy required for maintaining my own boundaries. It’s not about other people to be clear. It’s about me and my fears of being emotionally invaded.

As I build up more systems and accommodations to allow me to work effectively I need to figure out better pacing. How do I connect with others without emotional fear while still respecting my needs for down time and rest? Giving myself enough recovery has been an ongoing challenge that I write about extensively. But putting it into writing also serves as a valuable reminder to course correct before a crisis emerges.

Categories
Chronicle

Day 266 and Out Like A Light

I nearly missed my daily commitment to write (or as it autocorrected “weird) everyday. Yesterday I was overcome by an intense need to sleep. I could barely manage to get a sentence on paper, tag it, and put it out before I passed out completely. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to missing my daily writing exercise in over two hundred days.

A narcoleptic spell would be pretty cool but I think it was a much simpler form of fatigue. I’d been so focused on a number of exciting projects (including a startup with a founder that is the best I’ve seen all year) that I just needed a rest. I couldn’t push it anymore and needed to sleep.

I didn’t feel any of the poisonous desperation from workaholic exhaustion that I’ve felt in the past. This felt like a simple tiredness that was so complete I couldn’t overcome. I fought off closing eyes as I tagged and hit publish.

And I was out. In the past fatigue has been a draining but far too lucid an experience. The kind of tiredness where you wish you could sleep but the combination of worry, focus, and anxiety would keep you awake is more familiar. I much prefer the clean tiredness of being unable to fight off sleep. Though if I need 12 hours of sleep if I work too many hours that might get a little annoying.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 259 and Easing into Habits

Considering I’ve been writing every single day for two hundred and fifty nine straight days you’d think I’d have encountered more writer’s block. But I generally find myself capable of putting the proverbial pen to paper. Well in this case it is thumbs to mobile application layer but that doesn’t sound as evocative.

Even today when I had no discernible topic at the ready I am finding that words will spill out so long as I make the effort to form a thought and codify it to written form. While I had the notion that I had little to say today I am still able to say something. I am saying something about having nothing to say but it’s the act that counts.

It’s not that it’s necessarily a worthy entry, but rather a reminder to myself that the act of doing forces it’s own discipline. It’s practice. I am learning that doing something can be easy as long as I let myself relax into the momentum of doing it without expectations or pressure. This must be what all those sports speeches about practice are on about.

Seeing writing as a habit rather than an inspiration or performance likely helps. I’ve come to view the activity as similar to exercise, taking vitamins or brushing my teeth. Perhaps it’s more cognitively demanding but it’s no less part of the daily rhythm.

I’d like that to be true of more of the activities in my life. Being able to view professional necessities as habits is a sure way to see them not as exhausting “to do” lists but rather enjoyable easy daily practices. Sure it will start out harder but eventually it will become easier.