Have you ever had one of those mornings when the universe just seems right? Where you wake up with a sense of motivation, clarity, and optimism?
I can’t recall having many but today was one of those days. I don’t know what caused it. Maybe the reduced stress from finally closing on our house has opened up some room in my brain. Maybe the weekly group mindfulness meditation session I’ve been going to has started to have an effect. Maybe I just got a really good nights sleep.
The reason is really unimportant. What matters is that I woke up ready to be productive and had an intuitive idea of what my priorities should be and some of the changes I need to make. As is the case with most my good days I started by scheduling my day, a little journaling, and The Daily Stoic. Here is today’s passage from Epictetus’ Discourses (4.12.1; 19)
“When you let your attention slide for a bit, don’t think you will get back a grip on whatever you wish – instead, bear in mind that because of today’s mistake everything that follows will be necessarily worse… Is it possible to be free from error? Not by any means, but it is possible to be a person always stretching to avoid error. For we must be content to at least escape a few mistakes by never letting our attention slide.”
My interpretation? Small decisions matter. Our trajectory can be altered by little things. We must be ever vigilant. But how can we do so? For me, it is a multi-tiered attack. Part of the problem is neurological and biochemical, for that I have Buproprion to help. But that is not enough, I need to practice mindfulness through meditation to strengthen my attention neuro-networks. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, I need to set myself up for success by altering my environment. I must remove those things that are working against my attention, the things that may feel good in the moment but in reality waste my life.
To quote Seneca again, “You are afraid of dying. But, come now, how is this life of yours anything but death?”
While I don’t think my life is only death, there are moments when I have retreated to death. I have adopted practices that waste these very precious moments. My time is spent staring at screens, scrolling through feeds, and checking emails when my time could be spent reading books, connecting with people, and engaging in deep work. I keep pretending that I can half-ass it. That my life will somehow keep moving in the direction I want it too on hopes and dreams alone even as my habits barely change. I’ve known what I need to do for a while, but out on my run today it became crystal clear.
As Marcus Aurelius says in Meditations, “This is the mark of perfection – to spend each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, laziness, or pretending.”
Frenzy, laziness, pretending. Anxiety, comfort, fantasy. How often have I spent my hours, days, and weeks engaged in frenzy, laziness, and pretending? How many moments in my life have ticked away wasted? Will I be perfect? Fuck, no. But perfection, like all philosophical goals, is a target worth pursuing even when you have full knowledge that it can never be reached. It is to enjoy the path with no hope for the destination.
So, it is time for a radical change.
The first step is to get rid of social media and staying informed, which is, by far, the biggest drain on my time and energy. Have you noticed that it isn’t just the time wasted? When I turn off Facebook I never feel better or more enlightened than when I started. I feel worse, depressed, gross. I know some people have a much healthier and productive relationship with it… I don’t. It just doesn’t serve a purpose for me anymore.
Here are my concrete changes:
– Logging off Facebook for at least the rest of 2018. The only exception to this is to participate in the End-of-Life duola training that I need to complete before the conference next year. I have changed my password to random jibberish and given the only copy of it to my partner. She will only give it to me for acceptable use. I have tried to restrain myself but I am not yet strong enough.
– I’ve taken Instagram, email, and other social networks off my phone. The only exception is SnapChat because the temporary nature of it doesn’t lend itself to unhealthy practices. I am also keeping PokemonGo, but I’m not sure if that counts as a “social network”.
– I’ve informed my boss that I will not be answering emails after 6pm, before 9am, or on weekends unless it is an absolute emergency. He will need to call or text me to inform me of the issue.
– Whenever I’m doing things with other people, whether it is grocery shopping with my partner, watching a movie, or playing board games with friends, my phone will not be on me.
– No phone at all within one hour of bedtime (usually 10pm)
For people who wish to get a hold of me, my phone and email are still available during appropriate time periods.
Whew, I didn’t mean to open this up with such a big rant about a major change in my life. Here are the other bullet points from the last two weeks in my life.
- Finally closed on our house. For the curious, you can check it out here on Zillow. It is a little terrifying to add another ~$55,000 to my debt but at least I have something worth about $75,000 to me to make up for it.
- My meditation group has been going super well and I love having some guidance, structure, and homework.
- We went to a vegan festival here in Wilmington last weekend that was a lot of fun. Two of our closest friends came up to visit and we had a great time at the festival and playing the Harry Potter board game afterward.
- The “no added sweetener and no alcohol” goal for April is going really well. The only exception to this rule was the vegan festival and the two days of unexpected recovery (see below). My partner and I are both committed to maintaining this experiment by not keeping anything with added sweetener in the house (with maybe a single “cheat” day a month or something) and minimizing alcohol in the house. If it isn’t readily available during my moments of weakness then I won’t consume it.
- After our friend’s left Saturday night I decided to take a little MDMA. I kind of told myself that it was to test a new product, but the truth is I just wanted to do it. It is weird how I try to make an excuse for rolling in a way that I wouldn’t for alcohol. If I had a couple glasses of wine (or a six-pack of beer) because it was a stressful week most people would accept that, but tell someone you take a dose of Molly because it was a busy week and there is more judgment.
- Then, on Sunday, I rolled again. This was much more planned and coordinated. It was a lot of fun (as it always is when you dump your serotonin into your brain). It is such a beautiful experience and I really support anyone who wishes to try it (but be safe… ask me for more details if you want).
- The downside of rolling two days in a row is the hangover was a little rough. I had the “third-day blues” a bit but the day after wasn’t bad. I think the stuff we used was cleaner or something. Regardless, it is still WAY better than an alcohol hangover.
- I kind of regret getting Poncho. I have no idea how to deal with a cat and it is SO FUCKING ANNOYING when an animal is roaming the house for literally hours meowing. He wants to go outside but that isn’t a realistic option and there is no way (that I know of) to train him to shut his mouth. He also destroys stuff a lot. I don’t think we will get a second cat.
- Taxes are the worst and I hate them. I had to postpone paying my Federal taxes because I am being royally screwed and want to talk to an attorney or accountant or something. It pains me so much to see how much money I’ve paid in taxes in the last decade and know that if that money was mine I would have paid off all my loans and I would be actually stimulating the local economy instead of bombing brown children and padding the pockets of the military-industrial complex. Somehow we can bail out banks but not people. Shit like this is why I’m an anarchist.
Hmm… that ended kind of on a bummer. Sorry about that. Here is my fitness progress for Week 11. I’m definitely pleased with my progress and I feel it is time to shift away from weight loss and more into heavier weights. I’ve got a 12-mile trail race coming up in May but after today’s 8-mile run I’m not too worried about that. I’m more interested in getting my BF % into the 10% range and look a little like my fellow people, like this or this (not really, I don’t have the time for that but I’d like to head in that direction). I gotta get fit for beach season and hanging out with friends naked and nude beaches/bike rides/skinny-dipping, and group sex. Besides, I feel an ethical obligation to stay as healthy as possible for my partner and other loved ones. But mostly, I just like to feel comfortable naked.
Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?
Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions: pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”
PS: I didn’t do a Week 10 update because I wasn’t really feeling it and I’ve been super busy and stressed. It just wasn’t a good week for me to do one.