I find your lack of willpower disturbing

can do it.jpegI’m thinking a lot about the post I did last night and my decision to not take a smart phone to work anymore. I’m wondering if maybe this isn’t too drastic. I mean, shouldn’t I have the willpower to not check my phone while I’m at work, right? I shouldn’t have to resort to spending a bunch of money on a new iPod, getting a flip phone and basically being unreachable by anyone but my wife and daughter. This makes me feel really lousy, like I have no control over any of my impulses. But let’s be honest, impulse control has never been my specialty. Exhibit one is a list of concerts I’ve been to over the last three years – although I was much better this year.

This morning I’m feeling foolish, like I really should have the ability to curb the impulse to check my phone for stupid Facebook notifications and scrolling Twitter reading what awful thing has just happened in the world. But the fact of the matter is I don’t – at least not right now. Kind of like an alcoholic, I need to completely abstain. Unlike an alcoholic, I don’t know that I’ll need to abstain forever. I’ve heard willpower defined as a your willingness to change plus your power to choose. I have a lot of willingness to change, but I think that my power to choose needs work.  And I have to do something, this much is obvious.

I guess the real answer is to do what needs to be done, regardless of what feelings it dredges up in me. You have to sit with those uncomfortable feelings but not wallow in them. I think some of this is just anticipatory anxiety about not having my phone at work, forcing me to face some things that I haven’t wanted to face. It is also about having to listen to the radio if I want music while I work, which sometimes makes me stabby. But if it improves my ability to work and makes me more efficient and productive, those things are worth it.

Naturally all this talk about willpower makes me think of the Taylor Dayne song “Willpower” which sadly, isn’t on YouTube or streaming anywhere. The very idea!

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No phone at work

nophone.jpgYesterday was not really a great day for me. I confessed to Heidi that I feel like I am the worst pharmacist at work because it takes me forever to accomplish tasks and I am just generally distracted. I recognize the word “feel” in there and knowing what I know about feelings, I know it’s likely not true, but it sure feels real. So she and I talked a little bit about what distracts me. And I said, without hesitation, it’s my phone.

I am pretty sure that I have smart phone addiction. I am constantly checking it, as if I were the most popular person on the planet (I’m not) and every little notification demanded my immediate and full attention (they don’t.) I turned off a lot of lock screen notifications – I think text messages are the only thing that show up in lock screen – and that helped a lot. Over time, it just made me want to unlock my phone more often and check for that random Facebook notification or e-mail that might jolt my humdrum day into something more exciting.

I need to refocus myself at work, and I’m never going to be able to do that until I remove the distractions. So I decided that starting Wednesday, I’m not going to be bringing my iPhone to work any longer. I am getting a burner phone from Best Buy that can be used in emergencies and I’m going to carry that at work. That way, if Heidi absolutely needs me, she can call me or text me on that. For music, I will bring an iPod. Even though we really don’t have the money for it, Heidi ordered me one from Amazon because it is for mental health and mine is missing (I think it was stolen but that’s another story for never.) It will also force me to bring a book to work to read at lunch and/or I will actually interact with people. I’ll choose my activity depending on how I feel.

I actually forgot my phone one day a couple weeks ago in a rush to get out the door. While I wasn’t quite in “palms are sweaty, knees week, arms are heavy” territory, there was a little bit of withdrawal involved. But the other thing that I remember about it was finding it rather liberating, not being distracted by every little vibration that my phone made and, more importantly, not gravitating to it every time I felt anxious or unsure of myself or depressed and in need of that hit that never seemed to be there.

I’m pretty sure this is a solid plan. It seems like it to me anyway. If it seems drastic, it’s because I need to drastically shake things up. Truth be told, I’m rapidly and quietly unraveling at work. I need something to stop this. I don’t want to feel like the worst pharmacist there, mostly because I know it’s not true. It’s not a ladder and there doesn’t have to be a “worst pharmacist.” We all have our strengths and weaknesses and I want to work on making my strengths stronger and erasing some of my weaknesses. Basically, I want to be better, and I think ditching my smart phone at work will help me to achieve that goal.

This post kind of breaks my general rule about how I don’t blog about work. But there isn’t a word of this post that I wouldn’t share with any of my coworkers, and I will probably tell a lot of them about it, so I guess it doesn’t really matter. If you’re gonna blog about work, blog about how you’re trying to become better, which is exactly what I’m trying to do.

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Counting calories

So I’ve decided it’s time to start counting calories again. I’ve been struggling with my weight all year – I think a lot of that has to do with Abilify, which does have the side effect of weight gain – but I have also not been great about what I am choosing to put in my body. It may be fuel, but it’s the wrong kind of fuel. I find that I’m much better when I am at home. I can sit here and use the drug as an excuse while I develop Type II diabetes, or I can take some personal responsibility and try to stop it before it starts.

301_5-calorie-counting-myths_flash.jpgI’ve been doing some reading and have kind of figured out that not all calories are equal. 100 calories of fresh fruit is different from 100 calories of candy. Basically, sugar is the enemy and that sucks for me because I do love sugar. It’s probably the reason that I’m out of shape and likely the reason that my ALT is still a little bit elevated even though I barely drink anymore. I’m trying to modify my eating habits so that they include more of the right kinds of fuel vs. the quick and easy bursts of sugar that I have become accustomed to. The hardest part of trying to limit your calories is always feeling a little bit hungry. I try to mitigate that a little bit by drinking water. This usually results mostly in me peeing every 30 minutes, but I guess you take the good with the bad.

I’m doing this partially because I want to look better – I feel doughy and overweight and my clothes don’t fit right (my pants do though.) I have watched a co-worker lost 60+ pounds over the last year and am very jealous of their results. I remember how in 2016 I lost 20 pounds and felt great, felt like I looked great, and was wearing T-shirts I hadn’t worn in a long time just because I had lost weight.  But really, it’s more than just wanting to look better. I want to be healthier – I’m 45 and I’m not getting any younger. I don’t want to be so sick in my 50s that I die in my 60s. I see plenty of that in my day-to-day and it’s hard to shake the feeling that someday, it’ll be me in the hospital at age 65 with a litany of health problems. The thing I try to remember is that I do have control over at least a portion of that.

My goal now is to get to 240 pounds by the end of October. Based on my weight this morning, that’s only 6.5 pounds. I think I can do that. It’s a reasonable goal. My true goal is 233 pounds because that’s where my BMI becomes 29.9. Yay for no longer being obese according to the guidelines if I can get to that point.

(P.S., thanks to everyone on Facebook for a great discussion on my last post about going to church. I still really have no idea what I am going to do.)

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Rechurching?

church-clipart-church-clip-art_14041370421.jpgI haven’t been to church, with the exception of funerals and weddings, in as long as I can remember. Sometime shortly after we moved to Ames, we just stopped going to church. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that a lot of the mainstream Christian churches were having identity crises regarding LGBT issues, and it was just something that we couldn’t compromise on. The church had to be pro-LGBT to have us in it. It was in the middle of the George W. Bush years (times that seem positively quaint right now), and we felt very isolated, like no one shared our opinion, even though we lived in one of the most liberal districts in our city.

We were Unitarians for a while and never really felt like we fit in. I missed the ritual of Lutheranism to be honest, and Unitarianism didn’t really have that. I liked the concept of Milestones – the act of lighting a candle in honor of some big moment in your life or the life of someone you loved – and I also loved the fact that you didn’t have to subscribe to a certain creed or belief in order to be there. But in a way, that was also the hardest part of being Unitarian. What the hell did we believe? Everything? Nothing? It was also the first place I’d ever been where I didn’t feel liberal enough. I tried getting involved with different groups and activities, even stepping outside my comfort zone and trying to get something new going. It didn’t work. I couldn’t connect. Although it wasn’t all for naught because I did meet one of my closest guy friends there so hey, that’s a win.

I was working overnights at the beginning of August and for some reason, I got it in my head that I wanted to listen to Michael W. Smith. I’m pretty fond of his brand of contemporary Christian music, even if I disagree with his politics. I was listening to the song “Missing Person” and this lyric smacked me in the face.

There was a boy who had the faith to move a mountain
And like a child he would believe without a reason
Without a trace he disappeared into the void and
I’ve been searching for that missing person

What a lot of people who know me don’t know about me is there was a time that I took a lot of comfort in religion. I remember being very comforted by prayer, by the aforementioned ritual that organized religion brought to my life. I was always fond of saying that no one but no one does Good Friday guilt like Lutherans. I remember in college, even with my faith at a low point, asking for help from whatever good force might be at work in the universe. Somewhere along the way, I lost my faith. I became that missing person.

It was during the middle of the night while working that I decided that I wanted to seek out a liberal Christian church to try on for size. I posted in a rather infamous local Facebook group to get suggestions and got a lot (and watched an argument about whether or not the word “liberal” could or should be applied to religion – I tuned that shit right out.) I haven’t had a chance to go to any yet and frankly, I’m terrified to follow through. I’m afraid of the forced socialization that church is, even though a search for community is my primary reason for seeking out a church. Even though I have friends, I really don’t feel like I’m part of anything and that really has started to bother me. It’s not like I’m being pressured to do it or am pressuring myself. I just kind of wish there was more to my life than get up, go to work, come home, go to bed.

I’m not sure how well this will work because I’m not sure that I believe in God. Or at least not like I was brought up to believe. I have not brought my daughter up in the Christian faith, despite promising to do so at her baptism so when she found out that I was looking for a church she said “I didn’t think that was your thing.” Yeah, I didn’t think so either. The kind of belief I have is probably a best-fit for Unitarian Universalism, but having tried that on and having it not quite fit, I’m not sure I want to try again. And despite not identifying as Christian, I kind of want to go to a Christian church, just so that I can stop thinking, even subconsciously, that all Christians are bad and support Trump and want gays to burn in hell.

So we’ll see how this experiment goes. I promised my therapist that I would try at least one this fall – weekends are kind of full for the next month or so – so there’s no immediate pressure to go out and try one. I think I have picked the one I want to try. We’ll see how it goes. It’s been so long that I’m not even sure how to do it and make sure I’m doing it right.

 

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2017 short list

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The stack of CDs I’ll probably have to burn this year.

The other night, I made a “short list” of sorts for my year-end CD, just to see how many songs we were at for the year. I had this feeling that there were already at least enough to fill most of the slots on the CD, and I was right. So far, I have 16 songs for a 20 song CD and the year is only about 75% over. Plus there are several high profile releases yet to come.

It may seem old school to still burn CDs and distribute them, when a Spotify playlist would suffice for most people. But if I did that, you wouldn’t get to see my Photoshopped covers, which are almost as good as the music on the CD.

I wouldn’t dream of revealing even one song here – you’re just going to have to wait until December to find out what my favorite songs of the year are. I have a feeling some heartbreaking cuts are in my future. I could just have it fill the entire 80 minutes of the CD, but there is something to be said for limiting it to 20 songs.  I didn’t always do it that way, but I have kept it to 20 songs for the last 5 years and I like it. It keeps me honest and keeps from including crap that really doesn’t belong on there. Now, in hindsight, there are songs I have left off of the CD over the past 5 years that I have kicked myself over. For example, how I left “Shot At The Night” by The Killers off of 2013’s CD is beyond my comprehension, especially when I added Little Boots’ “Motorway” at the 11th hour and I am, 4 years later, a little bit meh on that song.

So much better than the Little Boots track. But I refuse to change the playlist because it was what it was and you don’t mess with stuff like that.

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OK, maybe I’ll give you a little hint of what MIGHT be on there because tonight I preordered the vinyl of Katy Perry’s Witness. I felt bad because someone gave me a digital copy of it so I technically didn’t really pay for it (although I have listened to it primarily on Spotify so Katy has been making 10 cents every time I listen to the album.) Previously it had been available as an import for something like $40 and while I like the album, I don’t like it that much.  It was $20 which is pretty standard these days and assuages my guilty conscience about not buying it, especially after it’s been a bona fide flop of an album. Plus if any album cover demanded to be seen in 12 glorious inches, it’s Witness.

There’s a high likelihood that “Swish Swish” will end up on the year-end CD. Not a guarantee by any means, but I have a hard time seeing it not making the list.

One final note: the jury is still out on the Taylor Swift song making the CD. Chances are, at this point, there will be something better that causes me to jettison it, even though I do kind of like it.

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Ben Rector recap

So last night was my third and final concert of the year – Ben Rector, who I discovered last year and whose 2016 concert I passed on. It was at the Iowa State Memorial Union and put on by the Student Union Board.  As you might expect, it was full of college students. I wasn’t the oldest guy there, but I was definitely more than two standard deviations off the mean age.

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Not too shabby for showing up late.

I got there at 6:40 PM and I clearly underestimated Ben Rector’s draw because the line was snaking around the spiral staircase of the Union, through the cafeteria and down past the bookstore when I got there. It did nothing but get longer and longer – honestly, I have no idea where the end of the line was by the time they opened the doors at 7:15 PM. Even with my late arrival, I ended up getting a pretty good “seat” – quotation marks because it was another standing general admission show, the type I continually say I’m getting too old for but keep buying tickets for anyway.

The opening act was predictably lackluster – a band that was trying to combine Wilson Phillips with Dixie Chicks with only limited success- but the crowd really went crazy for Ben Rector when he came out.  He performed for about an hour, an acoustic set of just him and another guy. It wasn’t quite the show I was expecting – to be honest, I was hoping for a full band show but should have known better considering the tickets were so cheap. He played a 9 song set and, let me say this much, he has stage banter down to a science. I have no idea how much of it is scripted and how much is spontaneous, but it sure seems to lean toward spontaneity. It was a nice mix of old stuff plus a handful of songs from his latest record, Brand New.

I did manage to score the vinyl of Brand New, which is sold out on his web store and was exclusive to the Brand New Tour (the show I skipped last year.) At only $20, it was a steal.  The only thing that sucked was I had to hold on to it all night, and in a packed GA show, that proved to be less than fun. I asked the people selling the merchandise if he came out and signed stuff, hoping that maybe he would sign my record, but they assured me he didn’t. After seeing the crowd that came to the show, I can see why. He’d have been there till the wee hours of the morning.

It’s no secret that I recall my college days with equal parts fondness and aching regret. Being surrounded by all those college students last night reminded me of the college student that I was 25 years ago, except now everyone’s on their phones all the time and documenting ever last minute of their college experience. As I’ve said before, I have virtually no record of my college years because of the simple fact that we didn’t have cameras with us 24/7. Anyway, under normal circumstances, surrounded by college students with their whole lives in front of them, I would find myself willing to give a body part to go back in time and do it again, but this time do it right. What was weird though was I felt a sense of calm acceptance of being 45 and doing something that I would have wanted to do as an 18 year-old college freshman but wouldn’t have done because I was either depressed or didn’t have anyone to go with or just figured it wasn’t important. It’s part of the reason I do things like go to concerts and buy vinyl – it’s honoring that college kid that didn’t do that stuff when he wanted to but was struggling too much with mental health issues (mostly undiagnosed) to be able to believe he was worth it.

It *was* fun to watch college students. So many of them got all dolled up for the concert. I just wore a T-shirt and jeans, made sure my hair was reasonably combed and then was a hot and sweaty mess by the time I got there because I chose to walk 1.5 miles to campus from where I live. But it was even more fun to hear the life lessons in Rector’s music from the vantage point of my mid-40s because I think we really never stop learning and if we do, we’re dead.

On the way out of the venue, I remembered how, when I was at the Tuxedo concert in June, one of the guys I met was going to take the poster down off the wall at the end of the show.  Even though I was in a huge crowd of people and I was likely seen, I took the Ben Rector poster down off the wall outside of the Great Hall of the Memorial Union and stuck it next to my vinyl as I got ready to walk home. Walking out, someone stopped me and asked if they were handing out free posters. I replied, “No, I just took it off the wall.”  Their response was “Way to be!” I really have no idea what I’m going to do with it as I don’t have much wall space, but maybe it’s time for some of my Madonna posters to go into retirement.

So it was a good show, that reminded me of a good lesson. And I got the vinyl I really wanted and the poster I had no idea I wanted but got anyway.

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I can’t read

reading.jpgFor the last several weeks, I haven’t been able to read much at all. I have something like 4 books going at once, which is probably part of the problem, but every time I sit down to read, it immediately loses its appeal and I end up watching The Golden Girls on my phone instead.

The only reason I’ve been able to make any progress on any book lately is because I’ve been listening to audio books. Currently, I’m listening to The People’s History of the United States – the unabridged version – and at 34 hours long, I have been listening to it since January 23rd. I’m in the homestretch now – only 14% left to go (around 3 hours) and I’ve been listening to it while I do dishes and on those rare days that I actually get my act together enough to walk to work. I always knew that listening to it was the only way I’d ever read that book, and I’m glad that I’ve done it the way that I have.  I’ve also read bits of it in the Kindle version of the book, but by and large, it’s been mostly listening. After I am done listening to this book, I’m going to listen to the book Nixonland, which is almost 37 hours long. Should be done about this time next year.

Another audiobook of sorts that I’m listening to is Mort by Terry Pratchett. It all started a couple weeks ago when Heidi decided that we should read a book together out loud. Back in the early days of our marriage, we used to do this a lot, especially with the first five Harry Potter books. We haven’t done it in years, and it’s kind of fun. Anna is even listening. We’ve had such a good time doing it that we will probably do another after we are done with Mort.

The novel I have going is called No One Can Pronounce My Name which is quite good but for some reason I stalled out around 50% of the way through the book. Fortunately, I picked it up last night and read 60 pages, making a good dent in it and renewing my faith in the fact that I can still read books if I put my mind to it. No One Can Pronounce My Name is the story of an unlikely friendship between two Indian-Americans, Harit and Ranjana. It is so much more than that but, much like I always used to say about John Irving novels, the book really kind of defies synopsis.

Sometimes when I find myself uninterested in reading it’s because I have been finding my story from other sources, be it through movies or TV or podcasts. But I haven’t been doing much of that either (save the aforementioned Golden Girls binge and I’ve seen every episode of that show a thousand times.) Listening to audiobooks really makes my podcasts pile up, but I’ve just come to terms with the fact that I can’t really do both. I have a love/hate relationship with podcasts anyway, usually preferring to listen to music anyway, but I do have a few favorites that try to stay caught up on.

My goal is to read 30 books this year and so far I have read 14. I am so close on the three that I mentioned that once I finish them, I will only be two books behind for the year. So there is still hope! Unless I get distracted by The Golden Girls.

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