Everything Old is New Again…

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…and I feel old!

You probably know that I’ve recently had to admit that I’m a PC and it was with reluctance and excitement that I did so.

Purchase of the Surface Pro 3 behind me, now I’m learning how to use it.  I’ve still got my iPad next to me, helping me figure how to do certain things.

And right now, I’m multi-tasking (multi-screening), and admittedly very bad habit I am looking forward to (hopefully) breaking when I go back to work Monday.

I’m figuring out my Surface, with an iPad assist… watching the 2-hour season finale of Empire… because when it’s over, I need to take some notes on what programs I record and then go to the local Comcast office to upgrade all my old boxes to Xfinity X1 boxes.  So then when I get home I can use both my Surface AND iPad (and probably even my iPhone) to figure out how to watch TV.

And I’m doing this wearing gym clothes… because I went to a class at the gym this morning and haven’t made it into the shower quite yet.  I joined a new gym last month and for the first time in my life I started taking classes named Sweat.  Body Blast. Pound.  In the process I learned that I am even more uncoordinated than I ever imagined.  So in those classes I’m trying to use mirrors and my neighbors and verbal cues to help me get it right.  But I’m still pretty backwards.

To summarize: a lot of unfamiliar stuff is around me.  I start a new job Monday.  Yet somehow I find myself exhilarated.  I wonder whether I’ve got my raging case of FOUL syndrome in the rearview.

Without my even being conscious of it, I’ve been plowing forward, trying new things, stretching myself… and look where I landed.  Who cares that I’m completely off rhythm in Body Blast?  Who cares if I have no idea how to use my laptop replacement or my TV?  Details.

Life changes, and it’s all good.  Because I’m letting it be.  Think about doing the same.  Just maybe you’ll put one of your maladies behind you.

Hope feels good.  Happy feels better.

P.S. Drew this pic on my Surface with a new program, Fresh Paint.  😉

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The Controversy, The Conversation

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So, I recently got offered a job that I’ll be starting in a few weeks. For the last 16 months I’ve kind of been living a manic existence of personal and professional lows mixed with some personal and professional highs. An interesting mix of uncertainty and fear and hope and self-confidence that retreated at least double for every surge. Keeping myself optimistic became my full-time job in many ways. My consulting was fun, I loved the flexibility and ability to be present—both emotionally and physically—with people I cherish.

But the bottom line, as I was unable to make real inroads into a full-time job (despite the fact that I didn’t really want one and wasn’t trying my absolute hardest), I wasn’t attuned to how erosive it was to my psyche.

Long story short, when I stepped up my game and started trying my hardest, things began to change. Obvious lesson right there. There’s a tipping point somewhere in this emotional limbo. I’ve definitely got my professional mojo back, my professional confidence…my self-confidence is following on q bit of a lag, but it is indeed following. It’s reflected lately in the keen and aggressive interest I’ve taken in so back issues of The Atlantic. As a new subscriber last May, I was excited (awesome birthday gift!)…but tentative. I read the issues as they came, yet somehow not investing fully into my reading, as if somehow I wasn’t smart enough to read them. What? Not smart enough? But I am smart (although my mid-1980s SAT scores had me shy of automatic MENSA membership). But even so, I felt somehow intellectually unworthy and was unwilling to read the magazines with anything less than the attention they deserved, and as a result I’ve been ashamedly piling them up for maybe six months.

I just went away for a long weekend—I’m flying home as I type, in fact—and I just took a break from the third issue I’ve been engrossed in since I left home. I brought the magazines with me on the off chance that landing a job positively impacted my synapses. And what do you know? I’m reading with enthusiasm and interest. I’m looking things up, writing things down, adding books to buy to my Amazon wish list as well as my local library list. After this inadvertent but unavoidable intellectual hibernation, I can feel the rust coming off. I’m back. I’m considering what I read and am forming opinions. I’m assimilating what I read and processing it relative to the context of my life. I’m breaking down what I read as I attempt to understand new things in new ways. I actually feel my mind working, my horizons broadening, and good Jesus does it feel good.

Which is a lot of background, more than I typically provide to set up a blog post, but in my opinion I needed to give it, lest this post appear to come out of nowhere.

Anyway, I read an awesomely interesting and thought-provoking article on my flight out to MI last Thursday. It’s from the November 2014 issue, was written by Ezekiel J. Emanuel, and is titled “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” While I knew what I was reading was sure to be controversial to The Atlantic’s readership at large, it wasn’t controversial with me. Some topics, I don’t see them as absolutes. That’s not to say that I choose gray or am wishy-washy in any way, but rather I can see black and white, and sometimes the two look nice next to each other. They aren’t clashing colors, so why do we often treat black and white as opposites and not complements? I was interested to learn in the “bio” at the end of the article that the author is an oncologist, a fact which further influenced my interpretation of what I had just read.

I found myself referring to the article over the weekend, in conversation with my sister relative to the recent (seven months ago) and premature (in my opinion, one that I know is shared by many others) death of my father. And that was really all I thought about it over the weekend, as my time was consumed with my nieces and visiting and eating out and trying to track down a limited release beer I was dying to try, one that was available only in March and in Michigan. (I found it, blanched at the price ($14.99 for a bomber), remembered I would soon have income, bought two bottles, and proceeded to enjoy them immensely with my brother-in-law).

Then I sat down to breakfast at The National Coney Island in the Delta terminal at DTW this morning, picked the December issue out of my backpack, and saw an over-populated Conversation section, with wildly varying reader responses to the piece. I read these with at least as much interest as I had read the instigating article; I was both amazed and enthralled by how well the letters were written, respected the conviction and passion with which people expressed and defended their positions, and felt rewarded when I was able to read a rebuttal by the article’s author.

As I considered all the angles and opinions and scenarios, it boils down kind of simply for me: each of us is unique. We each possess a seemingly infinite combination of uniques traits and circumstances and experiences and opinions, all of which inform our unique viewpoint and goals and approaches and define our personal platform. We are all allowed to have our opinions and views. We should remain open to the opinions and views of others. We should reserve the right to change our minds. We should not judge those with whom we disagree. I love the lively dialog that comes from healthy opposition, manifested in an intellectual kind of competition. Opposing views don’t change anything for me, unless I allow myself to be enlightened by them.

But here I am now, still thinking about this particular issue, and I consider the circumstances of my life, my own experiences. My unsolicited advice is that different people want different things, and people we love might not want for themselves what we want for them. This highlights the importance of taking time to have The Conversation. The appropriate time to have it often masquerades as an inappropriate time. Beyond that, it’s uncomfortable, so people sometimes back away from it. But one regret in life you don’t want to have is not having The Conversation with people you love.

There are plenty of resources out there. A noteworthy website is The Conversation Project, and an equally noteworthy book is The Conversation: A Revolutionary Plan For End-of-Life Care.

It may seem maudlin or awkward or whatever. But taking time to think about this, articulate and document your wishes, and encourage those you love to articulate and document theirs is a real gift of love you can give each other.

If this is the kind of dialogue that results from Dr. Emanuel’s piece, then his work is a resounding success, regardless of the hearty debate that happens along the way.

So go. Have The Conversation. Or at least think about it. Do something.  You’ll be glad you did.

5,000,000,001 Ways To A Whole New You?

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Here’s the thing.  Well, here’s a thing: I’m an awful sleeper.  I got the bad sleeping gene, and I have tried to manage around it.  Counting sheep forward.  Counting sheep backwards.  Just plain counting, in any direction.  Counting backwards by threes.  Starting at 3498.  Tylenol PM, Advil PM. ZzzQuil.  Melatonin.  Quitting caffeine.  Exercising at the right time.  Eating the right food at the right time.  No TV.  No electronic devices.  Meditation.

Bottom line, no matter what, in the aggregate, I get little decent sleep.

Here’s another thing: for Christmas, I got a fitness tracker.  The Microsoft Band.  It’s pretty awesome.  “Especially” at telling me how crappy I am at sleeping.  This month, I’ve slept 20 times.  I track the few naps I do take because I suspected (correctly) that I get my best sleep in these roughly one-hour periods.  Anyway, over that time period, I note a few things:

  • I really suck at sleeping.
  • I’m usually awake for one hour during the course of the night.
  • The one hour of awake time is spread over seven separate wake ups.
  • I average 6 hours and 51 minutes of sleep a night but have to work really hard to get it.
  • Of the 6:51 I’m asleep, only 2 hours and two minutes are restful (29%).

So the Band is great for tracking steps and workouts, and for other things like alerting me to text messages or incoming calls.  But what about this sleep nonsense?

I read a lot.  I’ve mentioned before that its important to me to kind of inundate myself with information and ideas to keep me motivated, to inspire me to think.  But I’ve also mentioned the importance of picking and choosing what resonates with you so that you’re able to respond to what you read and really give it legs.

That said, too much helpful information recalls to mind a line from an old Shel Silverstein poem, that “some kind of help is the kind of help we all can do without.”

Consider some of what I’ve been reading as I consider my sleep woes:

  • 6 Relaxing Yoga Poses to Fall Asleep
  • 8-Minute Guided Yoga Nidra Meditation to Help You Fall Asleep
  • 10 Tips for Great Sleep Tonight
  • How to Fall Asleep When Your Mind Won’t Shut Off

And as I ponder all of this helpful information, I start to worry that it will take me half the night to go through these activities and checklists…it loads me up with a thick layer of anxiety, and that’s before I even realized I haven’t even considered what behavior changes I might have to undertake leading up to bedtime.

Now, consider some more of my reading list:

  • 5 Things Happy People Do Before Getting Out of Bed in the Morning (Overachievers, those pesky happy people.)
  • A 4-Step Morning Routine to Guarantee a Great Day (Guaranteed? There’s a sucker born every minute.)
  • 11 Life-Changing Rituals for an Excellent Start of the Day (Doing 11 things in the morning better give me more than an excellent start; the piece above lead (tricked?) me to think four things would give me a whole day of great!)
  • 5 Things Healthy People Do Before Starting Their Day (So I guess if I want to be healthy and happy I have to do 10 things?  Or 21 things if I want to ensure I get off to a good start?)
  • 7 Things Healthy People Do Every Morning (Wait.  Seven things?  I thought it was only five.  So am I up to 23 things I need to do before I get out of bed or is it 28?  And how can I possibly do all these things before I get up?  I’ll have to set my alarm for the middle of the night.  Oh my god.  I probably won’t have even fallen asleep by then.)

But what about the rest of myth motivational reading, reminding me how to stay present, be successful, eat right, stay fit, lose weight, manage life as an introvert, avoid regret, what friends to keep, how to pray, what to wear… and all in fewer than 10 steps or less than five minutes a day?

Or maybe I just need to focus on “How to Get The Benefits of Meditation Without Actually Meditating.”  But after doing my morning checklist and my bedtime routine and taking care of myself in the middle, how can I find the time not to meditate?

Bottom line, take bits and pieces to motivate yourself, and keep moving.  Don’t get bogged down by what other people tell you or what you think you should do.  If everything great could be done in only a few steps or a few minutes, the world would be very different.  But would it be better?  I’m not so sure.  Do what feels good and right for you.  Do what makes you happy.  Do what helps you sleep well at night.

I’m done for now.  I’m going to the gym.  I’m not sure it will give me a six-pack of steel abs or help me sleep or get me better friends or a better job.  But I’ll feel good and I’ll feel happy and maybe I’ll sleep better tonight.  And what does it matter what anyone else does?  It doesn’t.  So go.  Do.  Start.  Happy.

True Confessions: I’m A PC

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I’m not the urban hipster beret-wearing latte drinking Starbucks stereotype despite the fact that in warm weather nothing beats their Liquid Defibrillator (aka Iced Americano, light water).  Nor am I a creative genius, despite the fact that I am the one in the family that people call on when they need an invitation or tshirt designed.  And I have designed my fair share of things that people have offered to buy.

But anyway…

So I recently spoke of the thought of wishing one had lived a different life and today finds me with a different angle on it… and not so much do you wish to truly be someone else, but more a matter of perceiving oneself a certain way…a certain inaccurate way.

I actually know some people who buy stuff, certain stuff, just to say they have the stuff.  That’s not me.  I’m no poser.  I may be a bite generous in giving myself points for self awareness, but I know I’m no poser…I do, however, sometime covet stuff because I want to be able to use the stuff, and with flair…a guitar…a nice camera… an iMac with a huge display…a companion MacBook…I want to play the guitar and sing a catchy song about what a great photographer I am and record it on my iMac while I edit in on my MacBook while sitting in Starbucks drinking something off the secret menu… except I don’t really want that.

Maybe I want it conceptually but practically I known such a scenario is as ridiculous and as ludicrous as thinking I might win Powerball.  And when I say I wish I lived a different life, I don’t really mean it.  I wonder, a lot, about choice and how small decisions have big impacts and vice versa.  Sometimes big decisions have no impacts.  Sometimes decisions of any size have unanticipated consequences big and small.  It’s more an awareness of the power of choice and the path you’re on and what matters most and avoid real regret.  Because for me if I lived a different life I wouldn’t be where I am now, which is right where I’m meant to be.

The real bottom line for me in the particular line of reflection is that one of the most important things you can do is stay true to who you are, while pushing yourself to go to the places you want to.  Learn a few chords.  Snap some pics.  Indulge your inner longings. But stay true.

Today, for me, being true is in the form of this post’s titled.  I am a PC.  I’m a PC and proud.

This post if the first of many brought to you by a Windows Surface Pro 3, which I went out and bought on Saturday after finalizing a new full-time job on Friday.

You know something?  Admitting that feels good.  Liberating.  So I guess I’ll end this bit by tacking on the fact that the Surface commercial that aired around the holidays, the one to the tune of Winter Wonderland has been stuck in my head for four months now.  And the kickstand?  It is pretty slick man.

Be who you are, be who you want to be, no apologies.  Unless you act like a jerk.  Then apologize and stop it already.  Life’s too short to be an a-hole.

X Marks The Spot.  But Of What?

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The other night, I was happily cuddled up in front of a fire watching the season a finale of Downton Abbey when I unwrapped a Dove mint chocolate swirl square candy.  The inside of the wrapper announced, “You are exactly where you are supposed to be.”

And by God, in that moment, you couldn’t have paid me any sum of money to get me to for a single second to believe that I was better off anywhere else.

So I started thinking about X as marking the spot for precisely where I was supposed to be, and if that were the case, it would always be easy to smile and enjoy and accept whatever it was, just because…some higher power or some bigger plan conspired to have us in that spot for whatever reason, so just be glad and be happen to be chosen to be in that place.  Or whatever.

Sometimes it’s so easy to be present and happy and embracing of and cheerleading for life in any given moment.  But when X marks the spot for exactly where you’re supposed to be and it feels like your X is in the high-speed lane of the road to nowhere, well then what?  And how can Saturday night be precisely right and Monday afternoon be so ridiculously wrong?  What changed?

And that’s where I am right now, sitting here and figuring that out.  And right now isn’t ridiculously wrong.  I’m just sitting here waiting for something that I have no control over.  But I’m no less in the “right” spot now that’s I was Saturday night.  There’s different context for and circumstances around every moment.  But we are in the center of the moment, and we can control what we do sitting there in the eye of the hurricane.  Me?  Now?  Well, I am right where I am supposed to be…and I wish it were blissful.  But it isn’t.  So I can only do as much as I can.  So I cracked a can of Honest Fizz Root Beer, drank it down, wrote this blog post, and went from feeling like I was being tossed helplessly in a tornado of a moment to enjoying the calm that I’ve allowed myself to find in the eye of the storm.

And that’s what it’s all about.

That and 50 degrees, sun, and a glimpse of my front lawn today.  About a two inch long bit of brown fringe along the edge of the the driveway.

Happy Spring.

But don’t wear your white pants or shoes just yet.