Galaxy Brain Hot Take Time #005

Everything in life has a cost. Whether it’s time, experience, knowledge, pain, etc. There’s a cost that’s not monetary, that life takes.

Sometimes life throws you gifts. Gifts come with costs, but they’re not always obvious. The cost of a gift is twofold:

1) Acceptance. If you’re not willing to accept a gift, you’re probably not receiving the full gift.
2) Acknowledgement. Understanding what the gift you’re being given is.

Say you’re having a hard time, and someone drops off a meal. It’s a gift. Of course the material food is a huge gift, but the gift is also the feeling of being cared for. Knowing someone has your back. The stress alleviated by not having to do the task. The nourishment that lets you keep pushing on. Acceptance and Acknowledgement allow us to better appreciate the gifts we’re given.

So much of life is out of our control. Gifts are out of our control, but how we receive them isn’t. I’ve been very fortunate lately to have a lot of gifts come my way. From big ones like finding a job I love, to smaller ones like having insufficient hand injury to warrant a cast, to internal stuff like better understanding my relationship with freedom and responsibility.

The more gifts come my way, the easier it is to recognise when I’m being given a gift. The easier it is to recognise gifts in my life, the more I understand how much they’ve improved my life. The more I understand their value, the easier it is to see opportunities to give gifts to other people.
Lately I’ve been trying to do small things for the people in my locus, and seeing them get tacit value for the proportionally small effort I’ve made is a gift returned. Knowing that I can help allows me to better understand further opportunities to give, and it’s become so much easier to do so. A lot of things these days have made me feel pretty powerless. It’s just nice knowing I can touch the world, even if its a tiny ripple.

I’d encourage anyone interested to think about gifts in their life. It’ll (excuse the pun) keep on giving.

I guess using that word was a bit of a stretch

I talk about stretching a lot, but I think “stretching” is a little bit of a misnomer. When I say stretching, what I really mean is relieving tension in the body.

I think it’s an important distinction, and here’s why:

Stretching is a method, but the overarching goal is to relieve tension. Stretching is putting muscles under strain, to loosen them up. It’s also very far from the only way to do this.

If you’ve ever experienced a massage, that’s not stretching. It probably relieved tension though. A massage is not stretching, a massage is a variety of techniques. Maybe they’re giving myofascial release, applying pinpoint pressure, using intense sonic vibrations, etc etc.

If you’ve ever used a heating pad, that’s not stretching. Once again though, relieves tension. It’s another method. I hope this doesn’t sound needlessly patronising, because I’m heading somewhere.

I’m gonna stop talking in the abstract now, but please keep in mind I’m not educated on this stuff. It’s mostly what I’ve figured out by doing. Here are some methods/techniques I’ve found that work for me with a “What”, “How” and “Why”:

What: Dynamic stretching – Instead of staying static and holding a position, I’ll move in and out of the position.
How: Instead of holding my foot behind my bum to stretch my knee, I’ll kick my heel back, then return it to the ground, and repeat this a bunch of times.
Why: Sometimes joints and muscles are stiff, and by moving into the stretch instead of just holding it, it allows the tension to be broken up gently and gradually, rather than by forcing it. This one is great to use in conjunction with static stretching, because it often opens up pathways that then can be further explored by static stretching.

What: Heat – warming up an area to reduce tension in that area.
How: Hot baths, showers, heating pads. If those things aren’t accessible, I’ve honestly taken to just rubbing the area really vigorously.
Why: Heat works. It’s often far more gradual than other methods, but it feels relaxing and probably takes the least effort out of anything I’ve mentioned so far.

What: Pinpoint pressure – Instead of stretching an area, figuring out where the central point of pain is, and applying increasing pressure until it dissipates.
How: Using an object with a small, firm tip (a thumb would probably be most common, but elbows and balls (tennis, lacrosse, rubber/bouncy) are great too. I’ll use literally anything I can find. The corner of a table, a block of wood or brick), press that tip into the affected spot. Apply pressure to your tastes/pain tolerance. You can start small and gradually apply more pressure, or if you get off on pain, you can just push really hard.
Why: It’s probably one of the most effective and quick techniques, but it generally takes more knowledge and experience than others here. You need to understand how to track down the point of pain, and withstand the constant sensation that comes with it. I do a ton of this, but it’s not for the faint-hearted.

What: Vibration – Vigorously vibrating or shaking the tense area.
How: Instead of bending at the waist with a straight leg to stretch the back of my leg, I’ll shake the leg out vigorously. Or if you had something like a car buffer (don’t laugh, it works), Hitachi Magic Wand- or honestly any powerful sex toy- that would be quite effective. I just don’t have those things.
Why: This is great for breaking up residual lactic acid and associated etc. Stuff that’s lingering around and getting in the way of being able to stretch deeper. TBH I tend to use this one as a way to further static stretching rather than a solo technique, but it’s also great for post deep stretch, moving blood back into areas before you put weight on them. This is incredibly helpful for injury prevention.

What: Tapotement. This is less of a technique to fix things, but more to figure out where problem areas are.
How: You just kinda… slap or hit the area? I’m not talking about hurting myself, but short quick slaps or taps that ripple through an area. If you feel tiny twinges in certain areas as the slap ripples through, they’re good spots to look to take care of with another method.
Why: Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. I sorta liken this one to radar or echolocation. Putting out stimulation that triggers a response, which tells you where to look.

So when I say that I stretch all the time, I’m actually talking about using a ton of methods and techniques with the overall goal of relieving tension and stress throughout my body. None of these is better than another, they just have different applications. Sometimes a one method will be great, and at other times that same method will be an ineffective tool. You can swap between methods and apply different techniques on the fly, and it’s a fantastic way of pushing past blocks to get at dense, underlying issues. When I’m “stretching”, I’m combining the above stuff constantly:

I might use one technique for five minutes, switch to another for 30 seconds, then onto another one for the next ten minutes.
I might oscillate between static and dynamic stretching.
I might be in a static stretch, rub the affected area vigorously to use heat, then notice just how much further I can stretch after ten seconds of said heat.
I might spend 5 minutes doing pinpoint pressure, shake the area out to get rid of anything that’s lingering, then go back to the pinpoint stuff. If I feel like I’ve worked a spot totally out with pinpoint work, I might try tapotement to see if there are any other spots where pinpoint would be beneficial, then apply it. Maybe I’ll realise that I’m experiencing tension in that area because there’s tension further along the chain. Say, my knee is sore because my adductor (stretches from the knee to the groin) is tight, and I’ll do a static stretch on that out to lessen the tension. Once I’ve done this, I’ll sway through my hips with dynamic stretching. Then tapotement to figure out where pinpoint would be effective, and alleviate a spot that was too tense to get into before.

The point is to relieve tension. Whatever gets you there, gets you there. The only way to figure out what’s gonna help is to try it. If it works, great. If it’s not helping, try something else. Worst case scenario you’re back to whatever you already know works.

And this is how I lose two hours working on a single hand. Whatever, we’re in a pandemic. Time no longer exists.

Have fun, and let me know how you get on.

Galaxy Brain Hot Take Time #004

An incredibly useful and difficult paradigm shift is to consider yourself no longer done. Ever.

Times and information change regularly. No matter how long you’ve been doing something or how experienced you are, it’s never a bad thing to ask yourself “with everything I know now, is this still the best way to do this?” If the answer is yes, keep doing it that way. If there’s a way to do it better, you can slow down, learn and adjust, then go forward with the new best method. It doesn’t mean you’ll get there instantly, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never get there.

It’s difficult, because we’re used to associating work with stress and effort. It’s work to change your view, because it means admitting you’re not doing your best, which sounds a lot like failure in our brains. But it’s not, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. It doesn’t mean you have to do this every single time. It means that any time you do this, you’re creating the potential to do better going forward.

Being content is the enemy of progress. It’s pretty arrogant to think that you can’t improve. This also doesn’t mean that you’re failing by not looking for opportunities to improve, but more of a value added proposition. If you’re doing fine without changing things, great. If you could do better by changing things, great. You always have the option to consider it.

Is Defund a river in Egypt?

I got stuck ranting on Twitter about gun violence and defunding police, and I think it’s worth sharing my rant in case people were confused about what defunding actually means. Because I don’t think it’s as clear as POLICE BAD. PUNISH POLICE. FUND ORGIES IN THE STREETS.

I don’t think that people act violently just because they want to. I think it’s a response to desperation or feelings of powerlessness. I think a lot of people are desperate because of a myriad of issues: Not being able to find jobs, pay rent, stress or mental illness. If police budgets have risen with time, and shootings are not decreasing, maybe increasing budgets is not the answer. If that’s the case, it could be more effective to look into the root causes of why this stuff happens and address those issues.

If people had access to resources to shift that stress away (help with rent, income support, mental illness services), would they be as likely to act out? Who knows? But if our current options aren’t working, it’s probably worth looking into a better solution.

Police budgets are MASSIVE, and the bulk of those costs are salary related. Here’s a snapshot of the 2020 budget. As a reminder, the police budget is paid for by taxpayers:

Regardless of your political affiliation, a lot of citizens are being very vocal about how the police are not sufficiently doing their job right now. Why are taxpayers paying so much for a bad service? If this were any other service, you’d demand more for your money. Something that many people have expressed is that the police are being given too many responsibilities that they’re not equipped to deal with. There are so many tasks that would be better driven to other departments/organisations. Mental health stuff, etc. And if the police were no longer to provide these services, then the budgets should be under review. Taxpayers should not be paying the police for services they’re inadequately providing just because they have strong unions with a lot of political support.

And while this sounds very far from the idea of gun crime, I don’t believe it’s as far as you’d think. These are not short term solutions, and would require updating over time. It’s not something that would be fixed in a year, but these issues have been ongoing for decades. If you have a deep wound, you don’t just put a band aid over it. You take care of the underlying symptoms and let it heal slowly. Gun crime, violence, unrest, they’re all symptoms of a system that makes people feel like acting out is their only option.

Militarised police, for instance, is Cart Before the Horse kind of stuff. Why are our forces equipped with military grade equipment? Because we assume a level of violence that necessitates this equipment. That equipment is EXPENSIVE. If we treated the symptoms that caused people to behave in a way that we assume necessitates this kind of equipment, there’s a good chance we would not need this equipment. We would be saving money AND helping people, which seems doubly good, no?

All of this stuff is REALLY complicated, and a lot of us citizens have been convinced that we don’t deserve access to quality support through years of eroding services. But we do. You do, I do. The current system is not providing enough value for what we’re paying. The concept of “defunding” gets a lot of knee-jerk reactions, because people are afraid it will make them less safe. But what it really means is looking at what our issues are, and recalibrating the budgets so that everyone is paying for quality services that work.

Refusing to try and/or consider new options because we’ve always done it one way is the epitome of “we’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas.” These are good options that could provide value for all taxpayers, and they’re not being seriously considered because of politics.

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.

Return back time

Hi y’all. I think I’m ready to write again.

I’m not going to write daily. It’s not my jam anymore, and I think I learned what I needed to. Instead I’m gonna write here whenever I feel like it. Maybe it’s stuff that doesn’t really fit on other social media. Maybe it’s stuff I’ve written on my own social media, and want to share with any strangers who are interested. Maybe some days I’ll feel creative and post a bunch. Maybe it’ll be weeks or months between posts. Hopefully though it’ll be better writing, because I’ll want to write it.

Here’s a little song I wrote…

So it’s come to this, has it?

I don’t know why I phrased that so ominously. I’m elated. Look, I may be a sincere person, but I’m rarely if ever sentimental. Today is my last day of daily writing. So it goes. This writing project was been a necessary part of my life for many years. Having a creative outlet during the tough times helped immeasurably. I’m not gonna begin to pretend I always wanted to write. Maybe I actually wanted to write five times per year. The other 360 times were under my own duress. Then multiply that by seven. I decided that I would write every single day irrespective of what I had going on. If I was tired, it was 3am, and my organs were seeping out of my skin from fatigue? Too bad. Writing still needed to happen. This also meant that most days, I really didn’t feel like it, but forced myself. I might not be sentimental, but I can be quite disciplined if I tell myself I have no other option. I’m not kind when it comes to diligence, I just decide that I don’t have a choice and suffer through it.

The best part, is that I essentially did my summation entry yesterday, so today I can be back on my usual brand o’ bullshit. I dunno. My brain is a little loopy at the moment, which feels fitting. We’re moving house. I’m surrounded by detritus, which is an unkind way to refer to our belongings. To be fair, on a long enough timeline we’re all detritus. I’ve been throwing things away all day, which is one of my favourite things to do. There’s little I love more than shedding the past and moving on. I don’t really like owning stuff. I hate that I gradually accumulate more things. Fortunately, my trash can be another man’s trash. Or woman. Or anyone along the gender spectrum. Gender is a construct, and wholly irrelevant when we’re talking about things I may have cared about at some stage. Then again, at some stage gender was a thing I cared about. Plus ça change, eh?

Mostly, it’ll be weird for my parents. Seeing an entry posted every day is the only way they know I’m still living. I think my girlfriend reads too? I never really accrued much of an audience, but that also wasn’t the point. The point was to have somewhere to jot down thoughts, work on improving as a writer, and finally figure out some kind of stance on the Oxford Comma. Obviously, I’m pro. I didn’t even write the sentence that way on purpose, it just happened.

I’m also thrilled that the summation of this project lined up with me getting my shit together. I’m in a great place. My girlfriend and I are about to move into an all new apartment together. I’m leaving the only Toronto home I’ve ever had. I have an expansive circle of friends I adore. I’m stoked to be working in Described Video. It’s challenging, creative, and ever evolving. I’ve done a lot of work on my mental and physical health over the years, and they’re both paying dividends. Moreover, I’ve learned how better to process, accept, and move forwards. I’ll struggle again, and again, and life will be riding those waves. It’s what we do, no?

I remember going out for dinner with my mum once. We used to do that kind of thing. Go out to the movies, get dinner. We were homies. We went for a fancy dégustation, because we both share a love of food. It was a fantastic meal, and a lovely evening. At one point I levelled with her. “Mum, you need to understand that I’m never going to be truly happy. I know that there’ll always be something holding me back, and that’s okay. I’ve made my peace with it, and I think it would be healthy for you to stop having that expectation.” It was a horrible thing to say. I don’t think she took it well, but I meant every word of it.

Sorry mum. I lied.

Penultimate Showdown of Penultimate Destiny

PENULTIMATE.

Do you know how rarely I get to use that word? You can bet your sweet cheeks I’ll shoehorn it in at any possible juncture. Other words I’ll rabidly attempt to “make happen” include:

  • Zenith/nadir
  • Fortnight
  • Penumbra (partial shadow)
  • Incidence
  • Myriad

But why Penultimate? Because I’ve only got one more daily entry after this, baybee! Seven years of [questionably -Ed] hard work, and discipline. Spending at least 30 minutes every single day putting finger to keyboard. I’ve written on trains, planes, and in automobiles (which, given my low level motion sickness, was undoubtedly a terrible idea). I’ve written in restaurants, cafes, watering holes. I’ve written in the city, the country, and in tents. I’ve written through sunshine, sleet, snow, hail and the Toronto wild winter storm of 2013. I’ve written across cities, countries and continents. I feel like this is a Dr. Seuss book in the making. Have you written in a car? Have you written in a bar? I’ve written sober, drunk (rarely) and high (still rarely, but surprisingly somewhat less). Did you know that this entry was written after my friend and I made weed caramel chocolate slices for her birthday and took them to the zoo? It should be far more obvious in retrospect.

Between the time I started, way back in March 2013, and now, I’ve grown up [debatable -Ed]. What started out as a way of hopefully loosening up my creative juices so I could write stand-up, became a weird, sometimes starkly honest, catalogue of my life. I moved across the world from New Zealand to Canada. I left family and friends behind in the hopes of finding myself [yeah yeah, lay it on thick Elizabeth Gilbert -Ed]. I started in the wake of a long term relationship coming to an end, and discovered a whole new world of dating, sex, and longer term commitment. I started polyamory, and while it’s come in waves (and basically doesn’t exist in the midst of a pandemic), it’s something that I’ve slowly come to appreciate within my life. My attitudes and approaches to different aspects of life have morphed over the years. I’d like to think I’ve generally become more tolerant, accepting and empathetic as time has passed.

I’ve struggled, but who hasn’t? I moved away from a cushy job into vast periods of uncertainty. Finding work that fulfils me took almost the entire seven years. I took on menial part time jobs when I first arrived in Canada, got helplessly stuck in a comfortable but draining position for the better (or worse?) part of five years. I went to therapy. I’ve (mostly) overcome the body image issues that borderline controlled my entire life. I came to terms with my depression, rather than assuming/ignoring it as I had for the past few decades. I take anti-depressants now, and they’ve totally changed my outlook. My income has fluctuated, and it’s caused me to hold a greater appreciation for how fleeting money is. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter, but I care a lot less about money’s worth than I used to. “Value” is a nebulous term that’s entirely individual. For me it’s having love in my life, a base level of stability to have my needs met, and being surrounded by people I care about deeply.

Also I co-hosted a dumb podcast about the Air Bud Cinematic Universe. If you’re looking for extra-curricular content, there you go.

I know it’s not perfect, but I’m hoping this penultimate (YUS, ONE MORE TIME!) entry serves as a nice little ribbon on this project. If there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that when shit hits the fan I shit the bed, and tomorrow’s entry will probably be a shitshow.

P E N U L T I M A T E

Bless this stress

What’s a stupid thing that stresses you out? I’ll start.

I hate ordering takeout. As someone who’s 500% a maximiser, not a satisficer, I feel like I need to be gaming the system. I strive to get meals that make everyone as happy as possible, and anything less is a failure. I worry about finding a place that does free delivery and hitting those targets. I try to get the best coverage of meals that gives enough variety, but it takes me so long to choose that sometimes without exaggeration it’s 90 minutes before I’m ready to submit my order. I never know if I’m ordering enough, too much, and whether I’ve gotten sufficient side dishes (rice for curries) etc. After six years in Canada, I’m still shocked every time tax isn’t included in the initial price, and feel tense seeing the cost increase so dramatically. I also still don’t understand the intricacies of tipping, and this is at its worst when someone shows up at my door and I’m not sure how much I’m supposed to give them. Then after all that, if I’m ordering in a big group, I worry that people won’t pay me back and I hate asking people after the fact, even though I’m 100% sure that it wasn’t intentional.

Being late. Like, at all. I hate it. If I’m gonna be five minutes late, I instinctively feel like this is behaviour that requires a warning message. Something in the vein of “hey, I’m en route but I’m gonna be 5-10 minutes late”. In these scenarios I’m usually two or three minutes late, but I still feel guilty as sin. It’s irrational, but there’s something about giving someone my word that I would be somewhere at a specific time, then failing, that corrodes my insides. It’s like I’ve reneged on a social contract and betrayed them. If *they’re* late? Less than zero worries. If they turn up 25 minutes past the time they said? Hey, it’s 2020, I have a computer in my pocket and more ways to entertain myself than God intended. Why in the everloving fuck would I care that they’re not exactly where I expected when I expected? Who am I? Punctual Pilate? But if I’m seven minutes late, don’t worry about me turning up. I’ll just perform ritual seppuku on the TTC. Or at least, I would if I wasn’t worried about creating work for the already under-appreciated cleaning staff.

Group video chats. I would rather send individual messages in bottles to my family back in NZ than do one group chat. Conversational rules don’t exist, group chats are lawless, godless voids. Nobody knows when to speak. It’s too hard to take turns, because lag is as much of a constant as disappointment. There will always be video or sound issues from one family member that take most of the chat time to resolve. It’s so much harder to take visual or audio cues, which means trampling over one another like crabs in a bucket. There’s no making glib comments, because they’ll require excessive explanation that a) they did not deserve and b) ruins the point of the glibness in the first place. If I had the choice between never hearing from family again or only doing group chats, I’d immediately adjust to life as an orphan.

Wow, I sure feel better getting all that off my chest.

Stress > relief

Oh hey, I’m stressed. Isn’t that novel?

Once again coming to you from Toronto’s Own TTC. Picked up paint, rollers, a drop cloth and roller trays from a friend. I crammed it all into the milk crate on the back of my bike. Had to go extra slow to ensure nothing fell off, since each bump in the road was a potential hazard. My girlfriend and I washed some walls, and did the tiniest bit of painter’s tape edging. She’s still there. I’m off to work to do some live DV. After which I’ll probably come home, sleep and wake to do more tomorrow. Partially the fact that we’re scrambling so much to get things primed and painted before Friday’s move is our fault. We had time and could’ve worked on this in the preceding weeks. Also we’d figured that it would be entirely fine to ask friends to help with this stuff. In any other circumstance we’d be fine. We didn’t bank on getting shafted by a global pandemic that made gatherings of more than two people highly questionable at best, and quite irresponsible in the least. Let me tell you, we did not see physical isolation as a likely outcome when we planned to move. Not even remotely on our radar. I’m working each evening until Tuesday, when we’re hoping to have finished all the painting. Then two days to pack up an entire house, and the move on Friday. I must not fear, fear is the mind-killer, fear is the little death that brings total oblivion.

So what’s good right now? Oh I know, I got a bandana. I won’t say how many times I had to try re-typing that into my swype keyboard predictive text, but it was a ducking pain in the arse. It’s not even an amazing banana (fuck it, if it comes out that way, you know I’m not talking about the fruit), but it was cheap, and fulfills a need I have. I got it from Dollarama. I saw ages back that they had “buffs” – bandana kind of things just cover your mouth, but enable you to breathe – and I didn’t buy one. They’re incredibly useful for winter or cold weather jogging. Instead of inhaling ice cold air that feels like knives going down your throat, you can put a barrier on that really helps. I’ve searched at a ton of locations, but I’d come up with zero, zilch, nada and naught. Then the other day while we were looking for painting equipment I came across these fantastic bandanas, same kind of thing as the buffs, but under a different name. They’re stretchy, comfortable, and thankfully not garish. I also have several bananas (actually the fruit) that will be good for the next couple of days. Come to think of it, we probably need more bananas. Great, something else that needs doing.

I’m looking forward to having the move out of the way. To getting off these work shifts and spending some time zoning out, decorating the new apartment with my girlfriend. Despite the frustrations of the world inverting and collapsing, there are fun times ahead. In a week’s time, I won’t even be doing this daily writing, and imagine what a relief that’s gonna be after seven whole years without missing a day.

A silver lining right now would be totally golden.