•May 5, 2020 • 1 Comment

Photo by Antonio Mora:

Somehow, I seem to be having one of those days in which my motivation is just about at Zero and yet I seem to be getting things done right and left. I got up early and went for a run, dragging my unwilling body first out of bed and then out the door fighting against what seemed to be the maximum possible inertia. Did somebody turn up the gravity on the planet? It sure felt that way.

I did pushups- a hundred of them in ten pushup intervals with plenty of whining and feeling sorry for myself in between. I finished the book I was reading: “The House of the Spirits” by Isabel Allende- a well-written book, but one that I’d been slogging through for weeks and was anxious to be done with. I made Mother’s Day cards. I wrote a birthday card for my brother. I settled in for a morning of work. I went to the grocery store and post office over lunch… I mean, all in all it has been an extraordinarily productive day; and yet for all my apparent progress I’ve had no energy and no inspiration.

I guess all this is to be expected in These Times as the quarantine drags on and the weather turns warm (it is in the nineties here again today) and the pressure builds at work due to the approach of various deadlines. Still, I’m hopeful that it is a temporary state- as much as I love all the progress I’m making, I’m keen to get back to having a sense of purpose again.


Ten, Then

•May 1, 2020 • 7 Comments

I mean, ten was enough for a god, right?

A week or so ago, I set myself the goal of limiting my daily To Do list to twenty items with the idea that if I had fewer things on my list I stood a chance of actually finishing the list, and if I finished my  list of “obligations” I could feel free to use the rest of the day to do whatever the hell I wanted without feeling guilty about not using every single minute productively.

“Remind yourself that you’re not required to produce.” Was the homework from this week’s therapy session. But easier said than done.

The idea of a twenty item To Do list sounded like a good idea at the time, but I’ve since discovered several problems with it:

  • I’m having trouble deciding what kinds of tasks should be included.
  • If I wait until the list is done, it’s too late to do anything else.
  • I still can’t finish it.

One of the reason my To Do lists got so long to begin with was that I kept adding things like “Read book” and “Make Coffee” to them just so that I could feel like my leisure was as valid as my work. By limiting the number of items I can put on my list, I’ve had to examine what I really consider a To Do task: should this be a list of one-time tasks that will disappear once they are accomplished? Should I be including my daily goals that re-set every day, like planking, flossing, writing this blog and going for a run? How do I include (or not include) big obligations like Work which sometimes has down time and sometimes takes a full nine hours of undivided attention? Do I still include leisure activities as To Do tasks?

The jury is still out on all of these questions.

The other problem with this plan is that the time at the end of my day isn’t really “free” time. After finishing work in the early evening I have maybe an hour to an hour and a half of time before dinner. I often use this time to go for a run, putter in the garden, take a shower, and then the rest of my evening goes straight into dinner, time spent with the Curmudgeonly Lion, and cleanup. So, if I wait until the end of the day to use leisure time for a solitary activity like working on arts and crafts or learning a musical instrument or sorting paperclips I would need to wait until after the Curmudgeonly Lion goes to bed, at which time I’m pretty much out of energy. I’m just not a night person.

I did try getting up to go for a run in the morning several days this week, which worked great except that my motivation to go running first thing in the morning is significantly lower than it is at the end of the day when I’m champing at the bit to get outside after spending all afternoon staring longingly out the window at the sunny outdoors. Then again, my energy and motivation was extraordinarily low this week across the board, so it might’ve just been a matter of bad timing.

And the last problem with the twenty item to do list is that I still can’t seem to finish it. Twenty items is just more than I can seem to complete in a day: or, at least, it was more items than I could accomplish during this past week during which energy and motivation were unusually low and stress, work obligations, and outdoor temperatures were unusually high. Which, fine: not all weeks are going to be high-efficiency weeks, but the whole point of this exercise is to figure out what the minimum amount of daily obligation should be so that I can feel both productive AND relaxed/fulfilled.

So maybe it’s time to try limiting my tasks further, to ten items per day, prioritizing the one-time tasks that can be finished. We’ll see if it helps.



Hot Time

•April 24, 2020 • Leave a Comment


It feels like summer here. Legitimate, beach-and-barbecue summer. The temperature is in the nineties today: when the thermostat in the house reached eighty-nine I gave in an turned on the air conditioning for the first time of the season. I keep having to remind myself it’s April: as much as I’m enjoying this business of working from home it has definitely messed with my sense of time.

On the plus side, I’m currently hydrating LIKE IT’S MY JOB. Drinking enough water always feels like a chore for me: I’m not sure why. Sparkling water helps a bit, even if it’s unflavored. It’s like regular water: only fun. Party water.

The other habit that I need to get back to is the habit of taking my iron supplements. Mostly, I feel fine, but I get lightheaded *pretty* often whenever I stand up. For a while I was taking them with my lunch at work, so I packed up all the tablets I had in a pill case and put them in my snack drawer at work. Then the quarantine happened. I’m not going to lie: I didn’t expect it to go on this long, so I didn’t bother to grab anything but my laptop and assorted cables before bugging out back in March… all my poor lonely snacks… left behind… wondering why the Rapture passed them over.

And the supplements, of course.

Normally, I wouldn’t give it much thought: I’d get back to taking them when I got back to taking them- the quality of my life is not noticeably changed in either direction based on my iron intake, but I recently learned that in spite of the fact I got a tattoo last month, I’m still able to donate blood. I thought I was going to have to wait a full year. I guess the Red Cross must be pretty hard up to be loosening the guidelines.

I’m actually pretty excited to learn this. I like donating blood: I’m not sure why. It’s easy. It doesn’t cost me anything. I’m not too squeamish about the mechanics of it and I like to think it does some good for someone in need.

And there are snacks. Because, priorities.

Really, the only obstacle holding me back is the issue of low-blood iron. So, I guess now is the time to get back in the supplement habit again. Couldn’t hurt, might help.


The Twenty

•April 23, 2020 • Leave a Comment


So, I’ve been thinking about Zest, and how to gain more of it in my life. After a fair amount of circular logic, I came to the conclusion that what I really need to be working on is confidence. I mean, if you’d have asked me straight out I would have said that I was, in fact, a pretty confident person: I stand up for myself when I need to, I know when I’m good at something, and generally I feel pretty… well, confident, about taking on projects or jobs or challenges.

But I’m also suuuuuuuuper sensitive to rejection. And criticism. And to being Left Out. Because a pretty big part of me looks to other people as a way of getting to know myself and when other people respond poorly to me I struggle not to feel poorly about myself.



When I think about it, it turns out that in a lot of cases I tend to substitute Expertise and Accomplishment for confidence. If I feel measurably skilled in something I don’t struggle as much with confidence. I don’t worry too much about getting rejections on my writing or my artwork because I know I’ve done a good job on these things: it’s not personal. I don’t worry about, say, getting a bad grade in a class (I’m looking at you Ms-Junior-High-Art-Teacher-Who-Gave-Me-a-D) if I know it’s something I’m accomplished in because I know the grade is not a measure of my actual skill.

To some extent, Expertise and Accomplishment are a bit more objectively measurable than Confidence- which strikes me as being more of a ‘feeling’. I can give concrete, yes/no answers about my skill level and about things I’ve accomplished. I can’t always give an answer about my sense of belonging. Or about my placement in the social strata. Or about my relative success. Or about my physical attractiveness.  So, for these areas I tend to turn to the opinions of other people. For better or worse. Mostly for worse.

It occurs to me that I am so preoccupied with To Do lists because they are an easy way for me to (over) fill my days with Accomplishments rather than running the risk of having empty/unstructured/’wasted’ time in which I might have to confront myself. I might have to be bored. I might have to be moody. I might have to be indolent or distracted. And then how will I know if I’m any ‘good’? If I spend an afternoon pleasantly sitting on the patio staring into space have I ‘wasted’ time any more than if I miss out on a beautiful day because I spent it all grinding away at household chores? At least in the second scenario I would feel justified: I would be able to point to all the tasks I finished as ‘proof’ that my time was well spent, even if I’d been miserable the whole time.

At any rate, I’m going to try to instigate a new goal for myself for, say, the next month. I’m only allowed to put Twenty tasks on my To Do list for the day. And when they are done, the rest of my time is specifically for Leisure. Not more work. Not more goals. Not more tasks. Just for being indolent or bored or moody or distracted. I’d like to get to know myself. I feel like that’s the first step.


•April 22, 2020 • 2 Comments


Welp, it finally happened: in spite of my best efforts to avoid it, my therapeutic process has finally marched around the whole circle and landed me on Mindfulness with both feet. Mindfulness, like Meditation, is one of those concepts that seems like it should be simple, yet always somehow seems to elude me. How does one do Mindfulness? Is the point to concentrate or not to concentrate? Is the point to focus very hard on one thing or to not focus on anything at all? Should I be trying to ‘tune in’ my feelings or ‘tune out’ my feelings? Should I be still or active? Eyes open or closed?

Inquiring minds want to know.

In an effort to help me with this, my therapist assigned me the “homework” of trying to be mindful five times a day. To help with this, he directed me to a site that recommended five different mindfulness themes:

  • Thinking about your strengths.
  • Thinking abou one strength in particular.
  • Thinking about your role in a given situation and how to be the best you can be at that role.
  • Thinking about goodness and how you can inject it into whatever it is you’re doing.
  • Just being.

Just Being turned out to be the easiest: this one I enjoyed in between video conferences: staring vaguely out the window and listening to the sound of weed-whackers: the serenade of Quarantine.”

Strengths turned out to be harder: whenever I tried to think of something I was particularly good at, my mental voice kicked in with all the possible exceptions to the rule: I’m good at artwork, except what I don’t finish or don’t enjoy or when I’m out of practice, I’m persistent except for not always finishing things and sometimes getting frustrated when it gets too difficult and giving up if I’m too sensitive to criticism…

I wasn’t even sure I was thinking of the right kinds of strengths: was I supposed to be thinking of “I can do thirty pushups” kind of strength or a “I am an inherently honorable person” kind of strength.

In an effort to help me with THIS dilemma, my therapist directed me to a survey of Character Strengths which helped me to break down the categories. I took the survey and was given a list in which my 24 character strengths were ranked in some kind of order. It was unclear whether this was a hierarchy or a constellation: was #1 (Fairness) my most salient quality? Was #24 (Love) my greatest weakness? I’m unclear about the results.

The biggest surprise to me came in the form of #23: Zest. Feeling vital and energetic: approaching life feeling activated and excited. Why so low? I mean, I know I’m coming out of a depressive phase, but my energy level has been good lately. I feel enthusiastic about things, even if I tend to be kinda low key about how I express it. Life is pretty good and I get up in the morning feeling good and (currently) without dread- even if I don’t exactly bound out of bed shouting “NEW DAY!!! HELL YEAH!!!!”

Anyway, if there is anything that I’m especially interested in developing more of in my life, it turns out that it is Zest. I suppose part of it might come from the fact that I push myself so hard that a lot of times my energy is all wrapped up in just getting along, which leaves me with a fairly low tolerance for chaos- because problem solving saps my energy. It’s hard to be vital and energetic when you know you’ve got thirty-six hours worth of “To Do” tasks and only twenty-hour hours in which to do them.

So I guess this is my new goal: cultivate more Zest in my life. Leave myself enough energy in a day to just enjoy it. Find things that activate and and enthuse me.

Challenge accepted.


•April 20, 2020 • 1 Comment

Ok, my keto amigos, explain something to me: I tried baking a couple types of keto bread over the weekend and experienced mixed success. On Saturday, I baked a loaf of rosemary olive oil bread that was tasty, but DENSE. And dry. And heavy. Good with soup, but not exactly a light nibble. On Sunday, I baked some cheddar biscuits that *almost* resembled the cheddar bay biscuits from Red Lobster. I thought I was onto something, but it turned out that they were SO salty we could barely eat them.

I’ve been noticing this trend with all the bread substitutes I’ve been making: they always seem disproportionately salty. I’m not adding a ton of salt, and the recipes aren’t calling for much- typically less than a teaspoon. So where is it coming from?! I can understand how the cheese-based breads that I’ve made might be saltier because of the cheese itself, but I’ve been noticing it on all the breads I’ve made. Does anyone know why this is? Does the high protein content enhance salty flavors? Are we just noticing it more because there’s no sweetness to balance it out? The Curmudgeonly Lion has a significantly higher salt tolerance than I do, but even he is finding it off-putting.

Tis a dilemma.

Roses of the Neighborhood

•April 17, 2020 • 1 Comment

Not much of a post tonight: just some photos I took of roses in the neighborhood.

Classic and classy.
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