Galaxy Brain Hot Take Time #003

Most of the things we consider to be character attributes are just habits and/or behaviours.

If they’re not serving us, we can change these things.

“I’m not punctual.” “I’m not good with directions.” “I have a bad temper.”

Most of these things can be changed with acknowledgement, practice and time. None of us are immutable, and we’re doing ourselves and the people in our lives a disservice by pretending that we are.

None of this is a “fuck you, change” mentality. It’s not always easy, but it’s not impossible, and those two adjectives are way further apart than you’d expect.

Does that make me the Best Practicer?

I’ve been thinking a lot about Best Practices lately.

So I’ve been going to gym classes for years. Again and again there’s this refrain of “tighten your core”. Recently I realised two things:

  1. I’d never really known how to tighten my core.
  2. Tightening your core literally helps with EVERY exercise.

The reason why tightening your core is so great, is that it stops strain from going into other areas of your body when you’re trying to work/stretch a specific area. So Best Practices tell me that tightening my core will make everything better. Ergo, core tight at all times. Easy, right?

Turns out I forget about my core and loosen up ALL THE TIME. Maybe every 20 seconds to minute I realise my core isn’t as tight as it could be, and that would help. So I tighten my core again. It used to take me a while to properly tighten my core. Now it takes about a second. I remember that I’m gonna get more out of my exercise if I tighten my core, so I make the adjustment and things get better.

I’ve started noticing this as a trend in most things I do. There’s a matter of Best Practices whereby one little adjustment will make the whole process easier. Say I’m typing at work and I notice I’m slumping, or my posture is weird. I straighten up, or put my feet flat, and things work better. It used to take longer to figure out, but the more often I do it, the quicker it becomes. Now the adjustment takes a second or so. Holistically it means I’m spending far more time in an ideal position than I was before, and I notice I’m starting to do things more effectively than I was.

I think about Best Practices when I’m chopping veggies, when I’m riding my bike, when I’m sweeping, when I’m going ham on a spot with a melamine sponge. Simple tasks are getting easier and faster. I’m getting better results. Aligning in the best possible way is improving everything, and making those adjustments just takes a thought.

You show a guy Hamilton ONE TIME

Many people have tried to push me towards leadership. It’s one of those common threads. Y’know, like when you’re watching a movie and there’s this little wink they do? And you’re like THAT’S coming back in the third act? Those threads. I’ve spent my life running away from it. Teachers would always put me in those roles, try to redirect something I probably let out in less productive ways. It never made sense to me. Why were they asking me? There were smarter people out there. Why not get someone who’s always right? I imagine the possibility of failure meant I never wanted to try. I was a chubby nerd. I was uncool enough without risking my reputation on my ability to not fuck up. The world was hard enough as a teen, why would I take on that mantle? Every now and again I’d pitch in, and it’d be fine. I still didn’t want that pressure. Leaders knew what was going on. They were confident, calm, and took charge. I was not decisive, and too afraid of being taken seriously.

And now I just don’t really care. I’m not cool, and that’s fine. I see leadership as something different now. I’m finally realising that leadership is a service position. You’re not trying to prove how good you are, you’re understanding the potential of everyone around you. You don’t need to have all the answers, you find the people with them and empower them to create change. You’re looking for the best outcome you’re able to facilitate. Being a leader doesn’t mean you always lead. It’s knowing when to step back and let others shine. Maybe there are specific areas in which you’re able to lead, and not others. It’s all part of it.

As is walking the walk. A leader who is not willing to lead by example is not a leader, they’re a narcissist. Be accountable. It doesn’t matter how you look, it’s how you act. Don’t place unfair expectations on others. Help them be their best. Treat people kindly as a first resort. Everyone has invisible baggage and potential. Normalise understanding when you’re wrong, admitting it, and looking for a better solution. Work towards progress, not profit.

I’m not committing to anything here. I might look out for times I can help, and see how that goes. I mostly don’t want to admit I’m in my third act.

Galaxy Brain Hot Take Time #002

We talk about the mantra of The Straw that Breaks the Camel’s Back, but we rarely mention the inverse, and I think it’s important.

I know it’s very easy for us all to look at our massive stack of problems and get overwhelmed. We worry about when we’ll get a job we like, how we want our body to look, our five to ten year plan, etc. But also we have everyday stuff: Dealing with that pile of laundry, dental hygiene, getting enough sleep. Society fills us with a myriad of stresses, and tells us to wear them with a badge of honour. If you’re working too hard, you’re doing it right. Burnout culture. But burnout culture doesn’t really give us much time to sort out all the stuff that’s holding us down. We hear that Straw that Breaks the Camel’s Back concept, and we’re like “yeah, I’m doing a careful balancing act, and I’m so close to crashing, but if can just hold on I might pull through.”

But maybe if a straw is going to break a camel’s back, you’d do well to take better care of your camel. How is stuff stacked on your camel? By the sounds of your packing style it’s a little haphazard. Why not slowly work into finding a better method? If you’re running on such tight margins that a straw is a gamebreaker, that’s a problem with a solution: Take less, do more trips. Is there anything smaller that you can take care of, so you have a camel that’s fighting fit for multiple journeys? Start with the tiny things on top. You can even put things aside and save them for later trips. It’s a longer journey overall, but an easier journey each time. I suck at metaphors, but that’s a bigger problem. I’m setting that aside for a later trip.

Maybe it’s worth taking inventory of what stuff is worth holding onto, and what you can let go of. Are you stressing about something that’s not as big a deal as you think it is? Question what you’d have to do in order to solve that thing. If it’s too much, you can put it aside. If you think you can take care of it, try taking care of it. If you try and you’re not quite there, that’s fine, come back to it another day. There are a ton of problems we don’t realise are quite as easy to take care of as they are.

I love two minute problems. If I think I can do something in two minutes, I usually do it then and there. Then it’s no longer a problem I need to solve. Also the more I do the simple stuff, the easier things get in general. If I’ve cleared up all the two minute problems I can think of, it gives me room to breathe. It gives me more perspective on what there is left to do. If I stack the dishes, they’re easier to do. If I do the dishes, I can wipe down the sink. If the sink is wiped down, it’s way easier to maintain. Eventually you’ve got a decently clean kitchen on the regular, and you don’t have to unnecessarily shit on yourself for being bad at taking care of your kitchen. Sometimes I learn things doing two minute problems that come in handy down the road for bigger problems. If my brain isn’t occupied with all the tiny things, I can start to think about the bigger stuff without getting distracted all the time.

No, it’s not an easy or quick process, but I sure as hell don’t want to break a camel’s back. Why be shitty to a camel?

Galaxy Brain Hot Take Time #001

I don’t think anyone can teach anyone else anything.

I think you can facilitate someone else’s learning, but nobody will truly understand something until they realise it for themselves. You can provide facts, opinion, and justification, but until the other person sees how that all aligns for themselves, they haven’t learned it.

Like in therapy, you may have knowledge that will help someone, but until they’re ready to process, shape and create their own understanding of that knowledge, they won’t have learned it. It’s why therapists don’t just tell you what’s wrong with you, even if a lot of the time they already kind of know. Instead, they prompt you to tackle surrounding thoughts and create a path towards that true understanding.

If you really want someone to learn, can you shape their understanding of the surrounding issues first? Help them build up those blocks to lead them to see what you see?

Sometimes we’re not ready to learn, and that’s okay. Maybe we haven’t reached a point where we can draw our learned experiences together to confirm the validity of information, or see how the pieces fit. There will always be more time.

I think we could all save ourselves a lot of energy if we took this into account. Sometimes it’s worth recognising that someone isn’t ready to really hear something, and maybe it’s not their time yet. Put it aside and come back to it when you think they might be. Once someone understands, it’s no longer important how long it took them. They know now, and that’s what matters.

My presence is a present kiss my ass (once lockdown is over, if you’re into it)

The other day I got high and rammed my body with an inadvisable amount of caffeine. Then I found presence.

So during this pandemic, on my days off, I’ve been getting high for midday workouts on my balcony. I’ve stopped doing anything weight based, just low impact joint friendly stuff. I do my own guided stretching that can take anywhere from twenty to ninety minutes, then I’ll do a 30 minute Youtube workout video (quick plug for The Body Project, by the way. Fun and easy to follow for a whole range of fitness levels). It’s also a good time for me to let my thoughts wander ad infinitum. I’ve never been great at concentrating. My thoughts seem to be always in many places at once. I’m sure the weed wasn’t helping there.

After turning my blood to coffee, I wasn’t bucking this trend. I walked out onto the balcony and couldn’t stop my thoughts from racing. Not doom and gloom stuff, justĀ what would a dog look like in a turtleneck?/when do I get to play Magic again?/what am I gonna eat for dinner tonight?/how much of Gremlins 2 do I remember? Altogether it wasn’t conducive to my goal of stretching and working out.

So I gave myself a Time Out. I sat down on the chilly bin and stopped. I closed my eyes, made myself take deep breaths and asked myself a few questions. Is any of this important enough to focus on over what I’m doing? If not, will I need to address it in the short term? If not, is it more of a long term thing? If so, why not put it aside until it’s necessary? Why waste my time and energy on these things that don’t matter right now? Why shortchange something I enjoy for no reason? Why not put my effort towards getting more out of my stretch, enjoying the music, and just being where I was?

And things stopped. I calmed down. I started stretching, really taking into account what I was stretching. I found where to push, what was helping and what wasn’t. Whenever an intrusive thought came up, I asked myself it was important at that time, or if I could think about it later. If it was important, I addressed the thought, then got back to what I was doing. If it wasn’t, I shelved it for later. I had a fantastic workout, and whenever a new thought came up, I continued with this process. Very quickly, I found it quite straightforward to just be where I was.

I came in and talked excitedly to my girlfriend about giving myself a time out. She looked back excitedly and said “babe, that’s mindfulness meditation”. And I stopped. And I thought. And I realised she was right.

In the past few days, it’s made EVERYTHING better. I assess every thought/task and ask myself if it’s urgent. If it’s not, I’ll put it away for later. I focus on what I’m doing. I put full effort and intention into one thing, then I move onto the next. I’m still doing things at the same pace (or more efficiently sometimes), I’m just doing them better. If I’m spending time with my girlfriend, I’m there with her. Kissing is better. Touch is better. I’m listening more. If I’m playing Magic, I’m consciously thinking of the best play, taking into account all the information at hand. If I’m watching TV, I’m paying attention rather than thinking about other things I could be doing. I know that this sounds complicated or exhausting, but it isn’t. It’s the opposite. I trust and love myself to know that I have my best intentions at heart, so I can gauge what’s best for me. If at any point that changes, I’ll figure out how to adapt and move forward. If I’m wrong, I accept it and look for a better option.

Forgive the stoner philosophy, but I’ve realised that life is an infinite series of moments. At any single one of those moments, we can decide to change. We’re not stuck with thoughts or opinions because we had them. We can change with new information. Sunken cost fallacy is bullshit, and being wrong isn’t a curse. Ego is. There are lessons in error. If we realise we’re wrong or misguided, we can stop, take stock, and figure out the best course of action from then on. With ANYTHING. There’s absolutely no purpose to holding onto resentment, regret, or self-doubt. If it’s not helping us, it’s worth taking apart and asking what it’s doing for us. Is there a reason I’m fixated on this? What is it really trying to say? Is there a more constructive way to look at it? Is there an alternative line of thinking? Is there a way to turn this around? If it’s not a quick fix, are there steps I could take? Will that take moments? Days? Months? Years?

Cool. No better time to start than now.

It’s what you call a proper-sition

Today I want to talk about propriety.

Propriety was important in my upbringing. Not because my parents were particularly strict, but because I was a loudmouth chatterbox with no filter. I remember how much I loved video games as a kid. Enough that I’d rank it above the company of others. Without hesitation, I can say that some friends I hung out with simply because they had video game consoles. When we left a play date, my parents would often tell me to say thank you. Before being nudged in a different direction, my farewell was often something along the lines of “thanks for the video games”. My parents taught me the phrase “thanks for having me” and it turned into a nifty catch all. I’m better now. Mostly, I have propriety to thank. My parents were big on manners, and being well-behaved. As the youngest kid, I was often thrust into adult situations and/or events. I can’t imagine how much saving face my parents would’ve had to do if not for teaching me those manners. And those manners? They’ve taken me far in life. Being polite has opened many doors, and encouraged me to hold many doors open. I still think manners are great, and I try to use them whenever the situation calls for it.

I don’t tend to see manners and propriety as synonymous. They can be closely interlinked. I’m also not entirely sure if people treat propriety as I do.

I get the feeling that propriety, in its essence, is basically meant to be read the room. It’s acting in a manner that’s contextual. The right way to act in a given situation. I have zero issue with the concept of reading the room, and I think it’s a great way to live your life. Propriety on the other hand, tends to translate to stiff and inflexible guidelines. I think of etiquette and propriety in the same general area. They’re nice in concept, but in practice they don’t always make sense. There’s an air of aristocracy that follows propriety around like a foul stench. Being polite is great, treating others with respect is great, adhering to strict social guidelines regardless of the context feels like a fast track to a headache.

These days, I think about propriety a bunch. I don’t always follow it, but I do think about it. I think about what role propriety plays in my life, and whether it’s doing anything for me. I’m generally a kind, polite individual, but I throw propriety out the window. My girlfriend and I are ostensibly adults, but we’re choosing what that means. We have onesies at home that get used almost daily. We put up Christmas lights inside just because they look nice. We hang up pictures our friends have drawn. They cover a wall of our kitchen/lounge. We’ll buy toys or goofy costume pieces if they fit what we want our lives to be. We also pay taxes, have regular jobs, keep the lawns mowed, cook and clean. I don’t know what we’re supposed to be doing to justify adulthood, but I don’t think some of our more childish proclivities recuse us from it.

I think about this when I’m out and about. If I’m dressed in weird colours or an odd costume, I check myself. Are my actions hurting anyone? Am I infringing on others’ comfort in a meaningful or unfair way? Does others’ sense of what’s normal impact my ability to navigate the world? At work we had this water filter that would sometimes take upwards of three minutes to fill a bottle. During those times I’d often use the break to stretch. This was a public kitchen. A lot more than once I’d notice someone giving me a weird look, but be resolute in my stretching. Sure, it was unconventional of me to stretch in public, but were my actions really affecting others? ‘Cause loosening tight muscles was doing a ton for me. A quick math equation in my head helped me stay the course.

Many people have a sense of right and wrong, but it’s rare for their moral poles to be universal absolutes. I feel like it’s a worthwhile thought experiment for all of us to think of things we’d prefer to do on the daily, but refrain because we’re afraid of looking a little weird. Chances are, you’d probably be fine, and unclenching those tight social constraints would probably feel all too freeing. Is propriety always good? Are the people who preach propriety always good people?

Proper-bly not.

Am I Billy Corgan? ‘Cause I’m practicing my future embrace

I think I over-coffee’d. Let’s go.

I’ve been wondering lately about the state of this here writing project. It often feels like something I’m compelled to do through obligation, rather than desire. I don’t sit down to the keyboard with a brain full of ideas that scream out for a canvas, I sit down with the hopes that something will be on this page once 30 minutes are up. It was one thing when I was working my old job, desperate for a scrap of creativity in my life. I’d get to the end of the day, and process my feelings on the page. My frustration, anger, stress, angst, and angostura bitterness. Also bizarre observations. For some time I’ve been possessed by this reckless need for an outlet to all the murk that’s been clogging up my brain. These days, there’s a lot less of it.

I don’t know if it’s just that happiness doesn’t sell, but it’s like I don’t know what happened to all my complaints. In general, I’m quite okay these days. My work now encourages the kind of creativity I craved, and at the end of a workday I find myself having spent most of it on the job. I feel dried up and satisfied, instead of having kept it all crammed in. I’ve found it harder to access the font of imagination I accessed out of necessity, because I’m now able to channel that into something I care about. What am I saying?

I’m saying nothing new, effectively. As ever, I wonder how long this project will go for. I’ve long just assumed it’s indefinite. For many years, I needed it to function better. It helped as a form of self-therapy, and let me work through a bunch of stuff. Of course it was mostly nonsense, as it is now. It’s not like becoming happy helped me transition from a goofy rascal to an upstanding citizen. I’m still on my bullshit big time, it just smells different. Not better, different. The idea of putting an end to I Have My Doubts is old as time, if we’re talking the past six years that is. I don’t know if I’ll ever pull that trigger, but I think it’s okay to constantly check in with behaviours and whether or not they contribute meaning to your life.

As it stands, I think I’ve written straight up garbage for the past few months. Really. The idea of a struggling artist is tired and worn out, but I certainly think my content was more interesting when I had more conflict in my life. I’m not being self-deprecating, and I’ll freely acknowledge when I’ve put something to paper I’m proud of. I know that the best stuff I tend to put together comes when I’m feeling sincere, heartfelt and vulnerable. Nostalgia, pain and romance seem to be my M.O. I don’t know how much of that I’ve been going through lately. I’ve been having a genuinely nice time, and my work/life balance has allowed me to feel less hectic. I’ve slowed my roll, and it’s siphoned off some of the steam that pushed me. Look, I’m not complaining that I’m happy and more even keeled, it just hasn’t translated into great writing.

This post is another in a long line of check-ins that effectively say the same thing. I don’t know whether or not this is forever. It’s important to think about what this project is for. Am I writing content for others? Or sifting through my brain, and getting thoughts in order? The answer can be both, but I don’t know that it always is. I think that’s okay, and that I don’t need to have a concrete answer. For the time being, this page is the best way to work out if I’m still alive, and I think that’s as good a reason as any to keep going. It keeps me accountable. I’m sure that every now and again I’ll be able to look back and see where I was. That seems like a gift to future me, and I’m here for it now.

That’s enough for me.

Ooh baby is this some kind of salve? I guess my heaven was created by Valve

What would you want to happen when you die?

Honestly, I’d be happy with a full stop. Nothing. No life after death, Heaven, Hell, ghostly hangouts or endless void. Just zero, with no thought, agency or eternity. A complete end. I don’t know that I’d truly want to look into infinity if I could just cease. I know it’s boring and unromantic, but honestly I’ll probably be tired by the time it’s all over. I mean, I’m tired already. Give me nothingness and give me death, y’know?

But in the instance that there was some kind of afterlife, I’m not 100% sure what I’d want that to resemble. I’m not going to assume I’d get into Heaven, but for fun let’s assume that anyway. I think it would be really strange for there to be some formalised society after we’re all dead. How would that even be sorted? It’s not like we’d have tangible bodies. It’s more likely we’d be disembodied consciousnesses. Or at least I’d hope that were the case. My goal would be to get to interact with all the people I loved during my life, but also meet new entities. The ability to manifest infinite scenarios/simulations would be awesome. Does that have a limit? I’m not sure. Like, if you could be or do anything ad infinitum, that’d be kind of awesome. Live infinite procedurally generated lifetimes? Maybe I’d want to jump straight into the life of a seven year old tiger in the heart of the jungle. Or go back to my 20s, but in 1940s New York. If I could fast forward, rewind, pause and bookmark, that would be amazing. I could try all sorts of life experiences I never had. I could learn what it’s like to be a different gender or of a whole new cultural background. There’d have to be some kind of untamperable safety valve whereby I could always pull out of any scenario and back to a neutral state. Maybe I’d be able to link up with old contacts and engage in these scenarios together.

I think the conclusion that I’m coming to is that I want Steam, but as a dead person.

I just don’t see how else this would work in my brain. The concept of communities feels a little odd, because it’s hard to fathom being in Heaven, but also having to pretend to be polite to people you didn’t like on Earth. Or enacting social niceties. The idea of simply being around all of my loved ones doesn’t work for me, because in turn I’d imagine they’d be around all their loved ones, etc etc. I have so many friends who have friends who really aren’t my friends. If I get to be in Heaven, I want to be as exclusionary as my heart desires. Look, this is probably why I’m not getting into Heaven, but there are no stakes to imagining.

The one thing wouldn’t want, would be to get stuck in my own simulation where everything was totally fabricated. If every entity I encountered was a manifestation of my consciousness. There are limits to my imagination (as we’re clearly finding in this entry). I’d want to keep learning, growing and understanding things outside of my miniscule personal views. Otherwise what would be the point. I’m tired enough of complacency in my living years, let alone my eternal ones.

If that was the case, just give me a nice set of curtains and close out the show.

DARE to resist pun and meme posting

On my birthday this year, I turned off posting to my Facebook wall.

Please be aware, that this will be one of the pettier posts I’ve made. Y’all have been warned.

I was deep into a solid depression, and birthdays are usually kind of messy, fucked up times for me. I hated the idea of people wishing me a happy birthday, when all I wanted was to not be living anymore. Strange juxtaposition, y’know? So by turning off posting, I wasn’t faced with a ton of well-meaning jovial messages that would only make me hate myself more for not being well or jovial. It worked, and took a lot of strain off. Then I just kept commenting off. I didn’t forget, I kind of liked how peaceful things got.

Here are some things. I make puns. I love puns. I’m known for my puns. People know that I love puns, and whenever friends would hear puns they’d reach out and post them on my wall. This all sounds fine so far, right? Here are some more things. I have very specific tastes in puns. I’m into weird, niche puns that need hyper-specific contexts to work. I’ve heard a lot of puns in my life. I’ve made a lot of puns in my life. There’s a certain threshold where puns just don’t impress me much, or rather, rarely the Twain shall meet. Not everyone has the same needs in a pun that I do. Am I a snob? Probably. I don’t begrudge others enjoying puns. Rather, I encourage it. At the same time, I get all kinds of NIMBY when it comes to people making puns that they just assume I’ll like. I’m on the internet a lot. I’m in a few pun related groups. I see a critical mass of internet content, because I’m a goddamn addict.

So, back to my wall. People love posting puns they’ve heard on it, and I entirely get where that sentiment comes from. They’re excited about a pun and want to share it with me. That’s a sincerely lovely gesture. On some level though, I believe there’s something else to it. Yes, they think it will bring me joy, and since I’m a pun guy they probably think that friends of mine will be pun people who will enjoy it too. At the same time, because I’m known as a pun guy, they can post the pun and get my approval in a public space. I’m not saying that I’m such a wizard of wordsmithery that my approval is tantamount to glory. I am saying that there’s part of the equation where they’re getting public acclaim for it. In my head, if that’s what they were looking for, why not just post it on their wall? Why would I need to be included? If it was a good pun, I’d see it in my newsfeed and I could give it a like. Most people probably aren’t thinking about that. I am because I’m a petty sombitch, but I wouldn’t entirely discount the idea on a latent level. If people just wanted me to see their pun, why not message me directly? It’s very personal, and shows a thoughtful touch. It’s private, with entirely pure motives. By turning off posting to my Facebook wall, I took the choice out of their hands. They could message me directly, or just post on their own wall. It’s been working.

The gross and mercenary side to this, is that there are elements of personal branding tied up in it. Like it or not, we’ve all started curating our own online spaces. We shape how we appear online, and package that for others. I want to try and make my Facebook wall the purest distillation of who I am. I post dumb puns, strange personal observations, weird internet articles I find to be interesting, and specific nostalgic stuff I experienced. It’s kind of like this page, but on Facebook. I’m pretty honest on there, because that’s important to me.

When other people posted, assuming my sense of humour, I’d end up with a bunch of things that didn’t personally resonate. It felt weird. Why were ideas that didn’t jive with me taking up my personal online real estate. To be clear, I have no issue whatsoever with people commenting on my stuff, having discussions, etc. That’s all part of it, because I can curate that and learn new things. There’s no reason why I can’t repost things people have sent me on messenger, giving them full credit. At the same time, I find it to be weirdly presumptuous for others to decide what they think should represent me. On some level, that’s peculiar, right? It was peculiar enough for me that I nipped it in the bud. I’m so glad I did.

Was this a bizarre and pedantic thing to do? Of course it was. Do you think I’m totally off-base? Well I haven’t turned commenting off on this site. Let me know below, if you… dare?