Better Living Through Chemistry

Sometime in 2004, I was incredibly depressed. Long distance girlfriend, lonely, grades slipping, and I couldn’t seem to find any energy to work or even enjoy my free time. After struggling with this for a long while, I finally gave up and decided to see a doctor about it. The student medical facilities at Dartmouth were pretty good, and within a few days, I had my first prescription for Zoloft, an SSRI that was supposed to be useful for my depression.

That’s when my on-again, off-again relationship with medication began.

For the longest time in my life, I came to the conclusion that if I were taking meds for my depression/anxiety/whatever else was wrong with me, I was being lazy. I was basically admitting that I couldn’t fix my own life, and I was taking the easy way out. I was completely convinced that the things that were percolating in my head were stupid, idiotic, and worst of all, completely fixable by myself.

I was sick, and I’d basically decided to ignore medicine for an approach that could best be described as “tough it out.”

Zoloft was awful. It made me feel completely blah all the time; nothing made me sad, but nothing made me happy. It was weird to have the upper and lower 25% of your emotional spectrum cut off. I used this one bad experience to solidify my approach of, “I should do it myself!”

Clearly, if it didn’t work once, it would never work again.

I went through the rest of college, my band directing gig, and my DC work without any sort of medication, and I was miserable. Depression would swell up like this giant wave of awful. The anxiety would make me feel like I couldn’t breathe every time I thought about my depression and my perceived failings. The ADD made sure I couldn’t do anything to get myself out of that hole. It was like being beaten up on by three people over and over again, and every time I managed to drag myself to a safe place, I’d get dragged back into it. Maybe I could have handled just one; maybe these things always come in threes, like celebrity deaths.

After feeling the same pangs on graduate school (and having awesome health insurance), I gave up on going at it alone. “Better living through chemistry” became my motto. Now, a few years later, I’m on a few different medications, and as of today, I think I’ve finally got the last one’s dosage figured out. Today, I got things done, feel pretty good, and didn’t crumble when I thought about something negative that happened 10 years ago.

I feel normal.

My least favorite part about this whole process is the endless trial and error that we go through to balance the medications out. One gave me hives and a rash. One made it so I couldn’t sleep, because every dream I had was like a 3D horror movie. Some didn’t work. Some were too weak. This kind of tango can be frustrating, especially when you have to make time to go back in to the doctor’s office if something doesn’t work. It’s not like a powerful antiobiotic – take this, and so long strep throat! It’s a delicate balance.

I’m the kind of person that feels like I should nail everything the first time – trial and error is for the weak. I do it, I do it right. The whole tap dance to make my medications level out was frustrating, but in the end, something that seems to have worked well.

Occasionally, I still feel guilty about being medicated for these things. The more I hear about my friends that are various versions of what I’m taking, though, the stronger I feel about my decisions. Some decidedly not weak people I know take the same kinds of stuff I do, and it’s because of that that they can be as strong as they are. They aren’t taking the “I can fix it myself” path.

They have a disease, much like mine; instead of burying their heads in the ground, they’re using medicine and science to fix it. Exercise helps, as does meditation and other non-chemical solutions. When you’re depressed, though, getting to exercise is hard enough. Depression is this awful, self-harming disease that makes you basically unable to treat it. It would be as if your flu were to slap you every time you tried to make an appointment to get medicine.

I’m living better through chemistry, and while I don’t know if I’ll always need it, having it right now makes me feel like a more complete, capable, normal human being.

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Radio Silence

After attending an amazing wedding of some dear college friends this weekend, I was definitely struck by the number of people who came up to me and mentioned that they had read some of this blog. While at my 5th year reunion two weeks prior, I heard the same thing. While a personal blog like this is, at its essence, a vanity project, it still makes me feel a little weird that people are reading my thoughts – even if I do push every update to Facebook. I mean, I don’t know that I would actually read what I write.

Even so, thank you for the support – after a few weeks of radio silence, I’ve decided to resume communications. I won’t prattle on about what made me stop for a bit (and if you’ve seen me in the past few weeks, you’ve definitely heard me bitch about how busy I was), but here’s a triumphant return to the world of vanity blogging.

Part of what made me pause in the first place was concern that I’d basically covered all the ground that I was going to cover. The last thing I want to do is wrap up my same, general crazy in a new form every post. You know that I’m a perfectionist, prone to depression, and can’t plan or organize to save my life. I can’t keep hammering these same points home over and over again without actually doing something about them. My whole list of “100 Days Till 27” was supposed to be this kick-start into action, but it honestly just turned into an excuse to flagellate myself weekly for not achieving this “ideal” self. Seeing as my 27th birthday is now just a week away, I’m not sure that beating up on myself for the next week and trying to make grand, year-defining gestures is the best use of my time at the moment, anyways.

I had a moment on Sunday evening, after the reception, but before the first, aborted after-party, where I sat in our push-button-star Nissan rental with Lovely Wife, taking a moment to get away from the din and enjoy some A/C. It was in that moment that I realized that I felt content with life – I used the word happy at the time, but I think that that may have been a bit simplistic. It was a moment where I couldn’t think of a single thing weighing on my mind – “God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world” (strange words coming from an agnostic, but allow me that indulgence). Now, considering that at the moment, the only pressing thought may have been if I’d chilled the champagne well enough for the after-after-party, reaching self-actualization wasn’t that impressive.

What was important to me, though, is that I finally finally had a baseline.

I can’t remember the last time I had a moment like that – no self-doubt, no fear, no anxiety. Everything was ok in that moment. For all I cared at the moment, I’d hit nirvana. I understand that life isn’t free from anxiety or worry, and I know that believing that I can go through a busy time in my life without some worry is a bit naive, but on the other hand, I now have something to aim for. Instead of firing blindly at a theoretical target, I’ve now understand what that kind of contentment feels like.

Now, I just have to make sure that I don’t flagellate myself when I can’t readily achieve that every waking moment of every day.

The other take away from the past few weeks of interacting with friends old and new is that I’m not the only person with these feelings and pressures. Some of the most successful people I know (academically, socially, or professionally) have the same feelings of doubt, distraction, and distrust. Now, they’re not stupid enough to write 750 words about it publicly, but then again, I always said that I was a mid-to-below average student at college. It’s crass of me to point and go, “Hey! I’m not the only kid who’s fucked up! They’re all fucked up too!” and I don’t think that’s what I’m doing here. It’s more of a, “We’re all in this together.”

If looking at my crazy ramblings makes you feel better about yourself, or if you gain any measure of insight form my words, that’s as good as I can manage. Knowing that there are folks out there, just like me, who perhaps deal with it in different ways, not only makes me feel less adrift, but also more resolute in my drive to change some of these aspects of myself and become better.

So I’m back – radio silence is over. Resume transmission.

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What Coco Taught Me

In case you didn’t catch it, Conan O’Brien gave the commencement address at my undergrad, Dartmouth College. It was a hilarious speech, which threw a few good-natured barbs at the administration, Dartmouth life, and the Ivy League (“Brown, of course, is your lesbian sister who never leaves her room”). What was particularly remarkable, though, is that under the humor, he had a message that hit really close to home for me. While this has gotten a significant amount of coverage in various media outlets (or, at least, the ones I read), I felt the need to talk about it a little here.

Conan’s Tonight Show fallout is a story that many people know. He said, “By definition, Commencement speakers at an Ivy League college are considered successful. But a little over a year ago, I experienced a profound and very public disappointment.” What he did with that disappointment, though is something that makes him very different than a lot of people faced with tough times.

It’s easy enough for a graduation speaker to go up there and say, “Don’t be afraid to fail!” This is something we hear over and over again, but you know what? Failure is scary. Failure has consequences. Failure isn’t simply just going “oh well” and moving on. For some people, including me, failure is one of those things that can deeply define you.

Talking this last week with someone, they pointed out to me that the way I talk about myself seems to have two stories: success is fleeting, failure is eternal. If I succeed, it’s due to some outside chance, and in the end, it doesn’t matter. But failure lasts forever. I can still remember specific failures – wrong notes I played, tests I failed, stupid things I’ve said, and social obligations I’ve fucked up. I remember each one of those, and I relive a whole ton of those over and over depending on the circumstances. Listening to the wrong bit of music can remind me of the time I got a bad grade in German in college and how I should have studied harder and how my GPA wasn’t good and blah blah blah.

Seriously, that’s a little bit of insight into my mental spirals. It’s like a crazy straw of self-loathing.

I wrap myself in these failures, and when I sum them up, I see myself as a failure. Conan said something, though, that really made me look at all of it in somewhat of a new light.

“There are few things more liberating in this life than having your worst fear realized.”

At the end of my senior year, I had one of my biggest and most profound failures – I didn’t get honors on my senior thesis. For a variety of reasons, this one really messed up for in the long term; I defined myself by that failure for years, and to this day, it’s still an incredible part of me. At the time, it was my world crashing down on me – everything was a mess, and this was the end to any possible career that I could ever want or have. I was done.

“But the point is this: It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. It’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can be a catalyst for profound re-invention.”

I didn’t achieve my ideal. I could never achieve my ideal, because my ideal self is so far away that I even if I had the drive, the will, the time, and everything going for me, I couldn’t ever quite make it. But there’s this – that’s what makes me unique. That’s me. I do fail – everyone does. But it’s those failures that lead us to better things.

I didn’t get honors on my senior thesis, but it was then I realized that I wanted to go into music education. I don’t know that I ever would have gotten to that point if I hadn’t had that failure. I changed myself from that moment, and things are better now than they ever could have been under my old path. This is more than just saying “don’t be afraid to fail” – it’s saying that with failure can come profound, important change.

But today I tell you that whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.

I wrap myself in these failures without using them to gain that clarity. I wallow, hate myself, sit around, and complain that the world has screwed me over, or that I didn’t deserve it in the first place. Now, though through this prism, I can see that there are benefits to these disappointments – the gained clarity and conviction can make you stronger, but only if you can see the failures for what they are and leverage them to your advantage. It isn’t about wrapping myself up in these failures and holding on to them forever; it’s about using them as learning experiences to new successes, or to different successes that I’d never considered.

It shouldn’t take a enormous red-headed man to make me realize these things, but the clarity of his words, mixed in with his humor, gave me a new insight into what I’m doing. My successes should last longer; but my failures should give me the clarity and conviction to move forward and do what I love. They aren’t show stoppers, career enders, or anything else. They’re part of life, and with them, I can shape my reality to something more of my liking, instead of just being the sum of everything I’ve ever screwed up.

At the end of my final program with NBC, just before signing off, I said “Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen. “ Today, receiving this honor and speaking to the Dartmouth Class of 2011 from behind a tree-trunk, I have never believed that more.

Thanks, Coco.

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Bodies at Rest

Let’s be honest with ourselves (and by ourselves, I mean me) – I haven’t done a whole lot in the past few weeks. Sure, I’ve played with a few attempts at productivity, but those were mostly dalliances in an otherwise flat landscape of nothingness. I’m coming to terms with that, and I’m feeling ok with this. I mean, I needed some time off (he says, trying to justify things), so I don’t feel bad that I took a little for myself. This is how it’s supposed to be; work hard, play hard.

Unfortunately, work is going to come upon me again very soon. This past Monday, I began my 5 week online statistics course. Sure, it’s pretty easy, but any class which has the midterm at the end of week two is a bit of a rush. I’m marginally ahead on the homework (and looking to get even further ahead in the coming days). If this were the only thing that was going on in my life, I’d slam dunk it, make a rude gesture at the opposing team, and move on.

If only life were so easy.

Starting this coming Monday, I have what amounts to a 5 hour playing gig every day with concerts every three days. If think were all I were doing, it would be a slam dunk as well. I’m also going out of town next weekend (college reunions whoo!), and if that were all I were doing, no biggie. Unfortunately, it’s all coming down at once, and I’m still at rest.

I’m a body at rest. I’ve had no force applied to me in the past few weeks, and the little divot I’ve created on my leather couch is rather comfy. My schedule is light, my thoughts are fleeting, and no one really expected a whole lot of me until last week. I was getting used to that, and my brain was beginning to enjoy being at rest.

Bodies in motion. Sweet, sweet motion.

Looking at my calendar (which I hate doing) reminds me about all of the things coming up – funnily enough, after the end of June, I’m clear again for another month. It’s literally a 3 weeks flurry of events. If this kind of thing had happened during the year, when I was already in motion, I’d be swinging from vine to vine like Tarzan, only occasionally launching head first into a tree. From my present, immobile state, things seem complicated, cluttered, and overwhelming. For the last week, I’ve tried to grab a toe hold and push myself up the mountain of productivity. Unfortunately, all I’ve managed to do is make a little lateral motion.

Luckily (I think), I’m about to have a force applied to me that’ll require me to be in motion. It’s not like I can ignore hours of rehearsal in the coming weeks – it’s going to happen whether I’m ready for it or not. The wonderful part about these kinds of commitments is that I have to be there. They happen to me, not because of me. I’m like Harry Potter and the Suicidal Rehearsal Schedule; I’m not the catalyst, I’m just a participant. What I’m worried about is that I’m not going to have any movement going into it. Instead of being like a gentle push from behind to keep moving a little faster, it’ll be like a large wrecking ball slamming into my self. Sure, I’ll be moving again, but the initial impact may be a bit unpleasant.

This’ll be my third year doing this gig, and I always look forward to it; despite my howlings of protestation, I do enjoy playing music when I’m not hyperventilating about it.

My train is just a little slow off the block, and come Monday, I’m going to be going at full speed whether I’d like to or not.

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100 Days till 27: 35 Days Left

Oh man – so I skipped an entire week. That should be enough to get me an F straight away. I feel like that’s a failure in an of itself. I feel like I should come up with some grand, justifiable reasons – yet, I don’t really have any. I’m OK with that, though; as far as accountability goes, just showing up and admitting that I have a problem (of some sorts) should give me a little credit.

I realize that I’m getting close to the 30 days mark; the last month before I take whatever step it is turning 27. To say I’m looking forward to my birthday is a bit of a lie; in the back of my mind, it just represents another milestone that seems to wash over me without any change. I always imagine that one X day, I’ll be a different person – better, smarter, stronger, faster. Again, it’s the “future” me fallacy. That dude, for better or for worse, is the same as me, and if I want him to be different, I guess I have to change myself.

Goals from the last time I checked in:

  1. Academic – Follow my work schedule, getting at least 1 hour of real research work done every day this week.
  2. Musical – Follow my practice schedule, getting bassoon time in at least two more times this week.
  3. Social – Go out to a new place this week.
  4. Physical – Follow my work out schedule, doing at least 30 minutes every day this week (except for Wednesday).
  5. Mental – Meditate for at least 10 minutes 3 days this week and go to yoga once.

Academic? Ugh. For some reason, getting my ass into gear and doing research work just hasn’t been happening. I have the time partitioned off, but I’m just not doing anything at the moment. On the plus side, I’ve started a writing accountability group with a few other grad students in my area, so we meet once a week to publicly shame each other when we don’t meet our weekly goals.

Musical? Bah. What’s a bassoon?

Social? Win. Doing new things seems to be the one thing I’ve been able to do in the past few weeks.

Physical? Ugh. I was sick last week. So I’m going to claim a mulligan on that one.

Mental? Meh. Skipped yoga due to being sick, but I did meditate.

Grade? Discounting the physical, I’m at 1.5/4, which is a solid F. So much for my pie in the sky visions of a passing grade. You know what? That makes me sad. Let’s change the color – F. See, now I fell better about it!

Seriously, though, I’m about 3 weeks out of the spring semester, and I don’t think I’m any better off than I was right when I ended. All of my adventurous, awesome, lofty goals have sort of crashed down around me, and I’m not sure why. The schedule which I held up as a way to easily take care of my stuff has been off every day, and I’ve yet to get a full day of quality work in.

I’m trying not to beat up on myself, but I’m seeing  a lot of the same patterns I’ve been in for a while. Once again, though, I’m not sure what I can do to throw a wrench into it and get out of the rut I seem to be wedged into.

No goals this week. I’m going to try something a little different – next week, I’m going to post a list of things I’ve actually accomplished this week, and see how that feels. Maybe if I can get myself to take a little credit for accomplishing some things, I won’t feel so crappy about all of the things I didn’t accomplish.

 

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Brand Spankin’ New

As I lamented the other day, my laptop was on its last legs. It was making noises, being depressed, and asking for a priest. That kind of thing doesn’t pass muster with me, especially in that I’m sort of, kind of, maybe, ok absolutely addicted to my tech. If my laptop went down, and I didn’t have a back up, I’d probably either be: a) the most productive man alive, or b) a murderous, homicidal man. Either way, I think we can all agree that neither of those options are good for me. I wouldn’t want to upset the natural balance of things.

I went about ordering a new laptop, asking questions, and seeing what people generally thought about such things. I realized (sadly) that I’m no longer the PC gamer that I once was, and that the cash I’d have to put into a machine to get decent gaming capabilities were no longer worth it. Sigh. That meant, though, that I had plenty more options when it came to getting something new.

I know that no one gives a damn about the actual specs of the machine, but let’s just say that I got a new Lenovo ThinkPad (thanks to a generous employee discount provided to me by an awesome friend). Seeing as the last new piece of laptop technology I’ve dealt with was cutting edge in the year 2006 (early 2006, even), I’ve missed several things in the meantime. Not to sound like a crabby old man, but what is this Windows 7 crap? Where’s all of my stuff? Why’d the cost of onions go up? Who’s president now?

It’s enough to make me want to downgrade back to XP so I can figure out what the hell is going on. Sure, it looks pretty, but so do candied apples – and those bastards crack teeth left and right.

Every laptop is set up slightly different. Spacing between keys, location of certain keys, touch pad sensitivity, etc. Unfortunately, now I feel like I need to go back to “Reader Rabbit Teaches Typing” because I can’t seem to go more than a few words without some grievous misspelling because my fingers don’t quite hit the correct keys. I’m about 3 seconds away from going back to one-fingered typing in an attempt to increase my accuracy.

With all of my bitching (and let’s be honest, if you read my archives, you know how much I love to bitch about various things), I do love my new little piece of technology – and I do mean little. The screen is a little under 15 inches – my last behemoth was over 17. This thing also feels as light as a feather; my old monster weighed enough to serious screw with my shoulders and back when I tried to actually carry it anywhere. This new puppy feels like it wants to be taken places and moved around. My old laptop feels sort of like me – happy where it is, and really unhappy to be moved anywhere else.

I’m slowly but surely getting everything back to the way it “should” be. Whenever you acquire a new piece of technology, there’s always that delightful “getting to know you” period wherein you change settings, get angry that you can’t make things the way they used to be, and then get lazy and adapt to whatever the current situation is. Right now, it feels like I just want to fuss with every setting until it’s all just like I want it – mouse sensitivity, backgrounds, icon locations, etc. Chances are, though, that in a few weeks, I won’t care. It’ll all just be as it is, and all of that other stuff won’t even matter.

It’ll be my new baby, and the older one will be just as foreign as this was today.

My aged, monstrous, super-sized laptop is still running, and while not as spry as it used to be, it’s hanging on. I’ll use it for a few more things, and probably end up keeping it around as long as it wants to go on.

But for now, I’m going to make it as happy as I can by retiring its traveling days; it gets to live out the rest of its life in my apartment, not needing to move very far again.

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The End of the Internet

For those of you who haven’t been watching me complain loudly on Facebook, I’m under the weather. While this is an opportune time for this to happen (since I’m not really doing anything at the moment), this does mean that I have a lot of time to sit in front of my computer and click on random things all day. Unfortunately, today, I feel like I hit a wall.

Today, I hit the end of the internet.

I know what you’re thinking – “The internet doesn’t have an end! It’s like that snake eating its own tail or less self-canibalistic similes!” But today, I felt like I’d stepped right up to the great oblivion and looked over the edge. Maybe I’m writing this post so that the next two feet of space is created, and I’ll be a little further from the edge.

When I really, really get into my Internet dazes, I have a long series of sites I check for updates – my Google Reader, Metafilter, Reddit, Fark, and a few others. Today, though, I hit the point where I was flipping back and forth between them, and there was no new content. Anything that was posted was something I’d already seen at some point today, via somewhere else. Yes, I saw that review of a new restaurant this morning. Yeah, I know that Apple is releasing their iCloud stuff soon. Of course, I know that pedestrians are hunted in Florida like wild game.

I’m not sure if this speaks more to the information echo chamber I seem to live in, or that not much was happening today. Nothing seemed to be able to grab my interest and keep me going for a while. It was all more of the same, with no new information being created. The same posts were up, the same comments were there – it was as if everything had just shut down for the end of the day.

Someone said that a bored mind is the sign of a stupid mind. I should be able to come up with something to entertain myself or everyone else on the internet. Submit something to Reddit. Comment on Metafilter. Write a blog post. Film myself lighting my hair on fire and post it to YouTube. It’s when I realized that I’ve really gotten to the point where I don’t create much content on the internet. Besides these blog posts, which I write ever-so-sparingly, I’m not really a content creator, I’m a content consumer. I’m not adding my voice to the fray, I’m simply just taking in what other people are doing. I rarely even comment on sites, because I don’t really feel like I have anything to say besides what everyone else has said.

I’m going to paraphrase a few stats that I can’t remember, so bare with me. On a given site, only 10% of those that read will ever register an account, only 10% of those will ever comment, and only 10% of those will create content. Now, I’m making those numbers up because I can’t be assed to actually find the cite (bodes will for my academic future), but if that’s true, then I’m in the majority. In fact, it would unpatriotic to actually create anything for the internet.

This seems to fall squarely into the category of “if you don’t like it, do something about it.” If you don’t like it, vote. If you don’t like it, run for office. If you don’t like it, get something changed. While I may have reached the end of the Internet today, I know that while I type this, while I sleep, and when I get up tomorrow morning, there will be more there. That edge I looked over will have been filled in, and it’ll go on for another hundred miles.

The question is, am I going to add anything to it? Am I going to fill in some of those gaps with things that I’ve made, or am I simply going to walk the path that others have created for me?

When I reach the end of the Internet again, will I continue it?

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General Cleaning

Being home most of the day can lead to two very different ideas about what the general state of the apartment should be. Sometimes, you get tunnel vision, focusing on just what’s in front of you, unable to see the general clutter and din around you. Sometimes, you look up and see nothing but a mess of objects, trash, and clutter. Today, after I decided that my nausea meant to that I didn’t need to run at the gym today, I saw objects, trash, and clutter.

If you knew me in college, you remember my room that was humbly known as “The Closet.” It was just big enough to get a futon into with a little bit of space to walk. Lucky for me, being so small, I wasn’t really able to spread out my stuff. I mean, how much crap can you spread out in a room that was probably less that 100 sq ft? That did, unfortunately, mean that I was walking on my clothes most of the time.

Seriously – you could dig down and figure out what I wore at the beginning of the semester. It’s like looking through the layers of limestone.

I always remember, though, how clear my head felt once I cleaned that room. Just having a clear pathway made me feel like a new man, even if the room was basically a closet. Unfortunately, the concept of cleaning is often far down on the list of things of import. Usually, it goes like this:

  • Important Thing 1
  • Important Thing 2
  • Important Thing 3
  • Cleaning

Because my brain seems to be stuck to a track like the Buzz Lightyear ride of Disneyland, if I don’t get past Thing 1 for whatever reason (usually, dragging my feet and watching Netflix), cleaning never gets done. I mean, maybe I’ll push a pile on the table from one corner to the other (it balances the room better on the left side), but real cleaning rarely gets done. It’s just piles next to new piles.

Now that I have an apartment several times the size of The Closet, it’s just more of the same. We have one room – “The Office” – that right now has no floor visible. For some reason, that closed door, even though I can’t see the mess, drives me up the wall. Unfortunately, since we’re basically out of space in this apartment, moving anything out of there would just create new clutter elsewhere.

Moving piles to new piles.

At some point, we’ll do another purge, but for today, I’ve decided to tackle just some of the random things I have left around. The dish towel I managed to track into the bedroom. The socks that ended up in the kitchen. The cereal bowl that ended up in the bathroom.

Of course, most of the wandering stuff is my stuff. Lovely Wife tends to keep things in their proper places.

While cleaning in and of itself isn’t really interesting enough for a blog post (and let’s be honest, most of the stuff in my life isn’t interesting enough for a blog post), the idea of the “filth threshold” is one that always interests me.

When is the point where cleaning moves up to the top of the list?

Every person seems to have a different level. I knew plenty of people in college that had immaculate rooms, no matter what. Even after a crazy night of whatever, they’d wake up in a neat, tidy room. If that’s one of the scale, then watching the folks on Hoarders is the other end of the spectrum. Seriously, do you need that much food? Or shoes? Or cats?

Seeing as both ends of those spectrum have their own issues, most people fall somewhere in the middle. I tend to be closer to the Hoarders side; Lovely Wife, closer to the OCD clean side. Yet, I’m the one that gets twitchy and crazy once things pass a certain threshold. Like today.

Theoretically, having more time at home should allow me to clean more, but unlike today, most days involve a crazy tunnel vision where I can’t see the filth. Of course, the minute Lovely Wife gets home, I blink my eyes, stumble out of my darkened chamber like Bambi walking on ice of the first time, and realize just what the mess is around me.

Maybe a semi-clean apartment most of the time is better than an immaculate apartment all of the time.

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Adventures in Self Regulation

Making myself keep to a schedule during the school year, when I have external forces to keep me in line, is difficult enough. I have to teach class at 9:30am, I have to teach that lesson at 3:30, I have to be in class at 2:30. This kind of framework keeps me from completely spinning out – I think a general sense of shame of guilt keeps me from skipping externally scheduled events. Between these scheduled times, though, I’m a bit wonky. So, I have 30 minutes between class? I could either practice, read some research, or play video games. My answer?

Even though some things blow up, I manage to squeak by, even with choosing the easy path whenever I have a little free time. This summer, though, is going to be a new attempt to self-regulate myself and create stability and not just wander off at random times.

Part of my self-regulation involves getting some actual sleep. My favorite hobby when I have nothing scheduled during the week is to stay up until 4am and sleep until noon, like I used to do on break from undergrad. Unfortunately, life has decided that I’m some sort of adult, and this really isn’t allowed anymore. At least, not every day of the week. I’ve been trying to keep myself on the basic idea of getting to sleep before midnight and waking up at noon. This plan works about 75% of the time – sometimes, time just slips through my hands and I’m up late.

Between Wikipedia, TVTropes, and Metafilter, I can read until I pass out, drooling on my laptop. Self-regulation (aka, being a adult) requires that I at least try to stop that. I figure that a 75% success rate at this moment is a win.

It also requires that I try to keep some sort of schedule during the day. I’ve announced my proposed schedule at the beginning of the summer, and I won’t lie, it feels like I’ve been a smidge ambitious. While that schedule looks leisurely and airtight, it didn’t account for one thing – I don’t do well without top down pressure. I also don’t do well when my schedule gets interrupted. Got something to do in the morning? FLAMES FLAMES FLAMES. The rest of the schedule goes to hell.

How does one practice being adaptive?

My schedule also doesn’t account for, “Eh, I don’t feel like it.” Got to get working on my research in the morning? “Eh, don’t feel like it.” Go to the gym. “Eh, don’t feel like it.” I wonder if I can hire someone to be disappointed in me if I don’t follow my own schedule; Lovely Wife might even do it for free.

Either I fix the schedule, or fix the attitude. Funnily, I’m not sure which would be easier to fix. The schedule makes sense, I think – it’s not overly ambitious, and it leaves time for all of the major things I need to do. I’m actually organized for once in my life; it’s not like there a giant, jumbo mess of things I need to get out of my head. Therefore, it’s probably an attitude adjustment that needs to be done.

Part of being an “adult” is doing stuff when you don’t feel like it. It’s a lesson that I’ve often heard and circled around, even attempted occasionally, but I’m not sure I’ve ever taken it to heart. This isn’t even a factor of “take your medicine, it’s good for you!” I enjoy all of my work – even practicing, when I get down to it. Stepping up to the plate, when I’m supposed to, instead of just doing some other low energy, easy activity is a tough thing.

But I guess it’s time to practice being an adult.

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100 Days till 27: 49 Days Left

This has been a crazy, fun, sad, desperate, weird, bizarre week. Truly, a fitting beginning to summer. While my original plans from last week didn’t quite work out like I’d hoped they would, I have made some progress. At this point, I count waking up at the same time every day as a win. Sad that it’s gotten to that point, eh? Meh, I’m giving myself a pass for last week if only because it was my first week off. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Ramble ramble.

Last week’s goals:

  1. Academic – Follow my work schedule, getting at least 1 hour of real research work done for the next 4 days (Tues-Fri).
  2. Musical – Follow my practice schedule, getting bassoon time in at least two more times this week.
  3. Social – Go out to a new place this week.
  4. Physical – Follow my work out schedule, doing at least 30 minutes every day this week (except for Wednesday).
  5. Mental – Meditate for at least 10 minutes 3 days this week and go to yoga once.

Academic? Meh. Of those days, I think I got real, meaningful work done on Wednesday on Thursday. Tuesday, I’m not sure what happened, but it definitely wasn’t work. And Friday was Friday. I give myself 1/2 a point for those two days.

Musical? Complete and utter failure. I think I just played a few notes when I taught lessons on Tuesday, but other than that? Not at all. Definitely going to need to practice some before my gig starts on June 13.

Social? Winning.

Physical? Uhhhhhh. I definitely fell off the band wagon. I went today, though, so go me. I did try just a little bit of P90X, and I quickly realized that I’m not of a minimal strength level to even begin to attempt that. If I can’t do 3 push ups, I’m not going to be able to do 30 minutes of them.

Mental? Meh. I missed yoga last week due to some scheduling craziness that I didn’t expect, but I did meditate. So points for that?

2/5. Oh, sweet God, it’s like the midterms from hell. That’s a big, fat F. I’m not going to dwell on this, but I’m not going to make excuses either – I had goals, and I did other things. Were they better or worse than what I was supposed to do? Probably worse. Pretty sure watching shit tons of Stargate on Netflix wasn’t on my todo list.

Nope, not on there.

This week, more of the same.

This week:

  1. Academic – Follow my work schedule, getting at least 1 hour of real research work done every day this week.
  2. Musical – Follow my practice schedule, getting bassoon time in at least two more times this week.
  3. Social – Go out to a new place this week.
  4. Physical – Follow my work out schedule, doing at least 30 minutes every day this week (except for Wednesday).
  5. Mental – Meditate for at least 10 minutes 3 days this week and go to yoga once.

I know it’s not very interesting, but until I can get my stuff together, I’m going to keep it simple. I’m aiming for an A this week – that’s a big jump from an F, but I’m pretty sure I can manage it.

If you want to know the kind of schedule I’m keeping, you can find it here.  I’m not nearly as good at keeping an airtight schedule as I’d like to believe I am, but hey, it’s worth trying, right?

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