What Could Go Wrong?

In this case, absolutely nothing.

So I watched a video on the YouTube from Jonne at The Unlazy Way where he entered a mountain bike race without any actual mountain biking skills.

Now Jonne is crazy fit, but there is more to mountain biking than being fit.

You can watch the video here:

Hilarity ensued.

running-watermelonI thought it would be fun to see if I could do a mini triathlon. Try to do a swim, bike, walk (I don’t run) one after another.

swim = 1000m
bike = 20 km
walk = 5 km

Without ANY training. 

I attempted this to see if my regular exercise routine prepared me for this task. My regular cardio routine is a 30 minute swim in morning and a 30-60 minute bike ride after work. All of them pretty lazy. There is a reason my nickname is Slackerjo.

tri-timeLots of sweating, fluids and 2 bananas later, I completed my mini triathlon. Deduct about 2 minutes from the time as it took about 2 minutes to go from starting the stopwatch on the phone to getting into the pool. I was aiming for under 3 hours, so, hurrah.

So what was the point of this experiment? I honestly don’t know. It’s not to brag (well maybe a little). I guess my best lame answer is “because I can.” By no means was this a feat of endurance. It was definitely slow and steady wins the race kind of workout. I ride a bike with cruiser style handlebars so not breaking any records here.

I was worried that my legs would be dead by the time I got to the walk. Doubt crept into my head before I even started! I think the most valuable thing I learned was to ignore that Annoying Little Voice of Doubt. Annoying Little Voice of Doubt is an asshole. This was a completely fabricated triathlon. I didn’t even have a numbered bib. If I got really tired, I could stop, plop myself down on a bench and rest for a few minutes before continuing. Doubts, getting hung up about non existent rules and thinking that Jonne would have knocked out this triathlon in half the time, could have easily derailed this challenge, but it didn’t.

So to sum it up, try, don’t overthink it, don’t get bogged down by rules you invented, and enjoy the post challenge carbs.

Word Puzzles and Managing Anxiety

If you solve this, I will send you a pony.*

I realized the other day when I was doing one of my word puzzles codes that I am pretty relaxed when I do them, and not because I like to do them while soaking in the tub.

Solving a code doesn’t sound very anxiety free Jo?

A cryptogram is a word puzzle featuring encrypted text that the user decrypts to reveal a message. Cryptograms in newspapers and magazines are usually based on a simple substitution cipher, usually replacing each letter in the alphabet with a different one. These messages are hard enough to give your brain a workout, but not so hard you get frustrated.

What I learned is that nobody cares if I solve the code or not. The code doesn’t care, friends and family don’t care and I am certain Socrates (pronounced Soh-Crates) is not coming back from the dead to lecture me about not being able to solve one of his quotes. Most of the time people are busy solving their own metaphoric cryptograms (or possibly a real Sudoku) and don’t have much any time to ponder if I am sucking at cryptograms.

Back in the fall of 1998, I discovered cryptograms and have been doing at least one every day ever since. Even when sick, or busy and even while jetlagged, although the code take a little bit longer to solve after 24 hours without sleep, I hunker down and solve a puzzle.

Solve the puzzle, don’t solve the puzzle, it’s all good. I get a nice mental workout and learn stuff. Some of the cryptograms are pretty deep.

Everything’s in the mind. That’s where it all starts. Knowing what you want is the first step toward getting it – Mae West.

And what if I can’t solve it? I just look up the answer in the back. What I am saying is that it’s not the end of the world if I fail to solve a puzzle. I’m not going to get fired, ridiculed or arrested for not knowing who the hell is Dimitri Shostakovich let alone how to spell Shostakovich. It’s not about perfection. Imagine how unpleasant cryptos would be if I told myself I had to solve every single one without ever having to look up the answer. Yet all of us do this, place pressure on us to be perfect and know the answer each and every time.

To solve a crypto, you have to follow clues, or patterns and there is quite a bit of guess work. When I first started doing cryptograms I used to hesitate to take a leap and make a guess. What if I was wrong? What if Soh-Crates mysteriously appears in my bathroom and arrests me? Yup, I got sucked into an all or nothing mentality and I was afraid of taking a leap for the ridiculous reason of possibly being wrong and potentially pissing off a long dead Greek philosopher. Making that leap only has two outcomes; I am going to be right or I am going to be wrong. I am not going to be jailed.

I always work on my cryptograms in pencil because I make a lot of mistakes. I erase and redo sometimes many times. Cryptograms have taught me patience and to be comfortable with mistakes. Erase, rethink, start again.

It would be naïve to think that doing a few word puzzles will cure anxiety, it won’t, anxiety is a tough and relentless affliction that affects millions. In my books, anyone who can manage anxiety is ahead of the game. The skills I learned by doing a cryptogram every day for over 20 years has taught me to transfer those skills to the bigger more important aspects of my life.

Not a bad philosophy if I say so myself.

*By I will send you a pony, I mean I will not send you a pony.

Quiet

This is a pic I took in Feb 2017 and it was just dumb luck it that turned out so good.

Lately, I have been getting up around 5am. Actually I get up at 5am a lot, mostly to pee but instead of going back to bed only to doze, I stay up. Having 3+ hours before work to just be idle, think, read and absorb material and ease into my day has been…

Friggin’ awesome.

I will try (and fail) not to sound like some crazy early morning zealot but it’s been a great experience. I know many of you are stretched thin these days, kids, spouses, work, understanding how teachers teach fractions now, so I bet many of you are downright exhausted and the last thing you want to do is get up even earlier. If it’s not doable for you, save this idea for a different time.

I’v learned that stealing a bit of time at the begining of the day is not just nice, but energizing. I like the quiet. I’ve cut down on watching videos on the YouTube and definately cut the news from my quiet time.

The reason I relish this tranquil morning time is because I am not rushed. Now I can watch the sunrise, eat my breakfast slowly, stretch, exercise, read a few chapters of a book, be in the moment. For someone who really struggles to be in, SQUIRREL, ooh shinny thing, the moment, not being rushed is like opening a wonderful surprise Christmas gift every single day.

Splish Splash

WordPress changed their interface and I am finding it super frustrating!

I really really really love to soak in the tub at the end of the day. It relaxes me and just makes me just so fucking happy. All the mental and physical stresses of the day fade away during a soak. 


A little back story.

After months of work at home in an understaffed, angry-and-overwhelmed-by-COVID-stuck-at-home-customers as well as zero resources to help said customers department, I was guzzling way too much Diet Coke and all that caffeine was not helping. I was restless, anxious and stressed by the daily onslaught of work. 


I am extremely grateful to be able to work and work from home (saving me 2-3 hours a day in commuting) but still, trying to cram 50+ hours worth of work into a 37.5 hour work week without losing my mind, and my shit, was mentally demanding.  So like many, I took solace in caffeine.  I was not sleeping well and it was time to cut down. 

After a somewhat painful and slightly grumpy 5 days of detoxing, I felt better and the cravings for caffeine subsided. I still love my Diet Coke but only have a can a day.  With my new found calmness, my end of the day/post workout baths were absolute bliss. 


With less caffeine in my system I was falling asleep earlier and waking up around 5am ish.  This gave me plenty of time to do stuff before work, important life work like watching funny animal videos and catching up on the latest COVID jokes, so I decided why not soak in the tub before work. Surely this will put me in a mellow mood to start my work day!


It was an absolute success!


It was an absolute failure!

I really enjoyed my morning soaks. Read a few chapters of a non fiction book in the quiet solitude. Just me, the water and the book. Nirvana. Started the work day relaxed.


But A little too relaxed.


I was sleepy and sluggish and not very productive for the first hour or so of my day. This does not bode well for someone who works in an industry (support/customer service) that is designed to micromanage every aspect of an employee’s day (yes I have to change my phone status to washroom when I got for a pee in my own apartment). I am expected to churn out responses at a certain rate per hour and if I am not feeling 100%, well fuck you robot worker, you suck. So back to nightly soaks and efficient cool morning showers. 


That being said, I learned that a relaxing morning soak in the tub was extremely valuable. I was much more relaxed and happier to start my day and this robot will continue to opt for morning soaks on her Robot Worker Days Off and change my phone status to fuck you I’m in the tub.


Monkey Mind

confusedStarted a few posts over the last six weeks or so, but most have remained as rough drafts. Not exactly writer’s block, but alas, things aren’t flowing like usual.

Ideas germinating in my monkey mind!

Now Everyone Loves Customer Service!

Well, well, well, perhaps Frank at the store or Lorraine on the phone are not a complete idiots.

People are slowly, very slowly, figuring out the level of crazy that the service industry deals with on a daily basis. This is the last industry where bullying is acceptable under the guise of the customer is always right. The bullying is so unconscious that people don’t even realize they are doing it. Management and corporate policies make it impossible for there to be consequences for the actions of bullying customers but there is always consequences for the employee trying to enforce a policy that a weak management team undermines at every step.

Minimalism and Death

You can’t take it with you. Are the things you leave the legacy you want? Ah future children, here is your great great great aunt’s cell phone she dropped in the tub back in 2006.

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

About 80% of my day is spent lying to customers. I hate lying all the time, it’s not good for your spirit. I do it for my own selfish self protection. Sometimes the myth of the lie is more comforting that the truth. There is a good chance I might have just quoted Lisa Simpson.

The Cult of Busy

I hate telling people how busy I am because it’s such a cliche. I hate being busy cause I have zero time to think, problem solve or innovate. All I do is react. If your job is just putting out fires all day (ignore this thought if you are an actual fire fighter) there is a very good chance the fires are being started for all the wrong reasons. Okay that makes no sense, but like I said, this why these posts are sitting in a draft folder.

Minimalism During a Pandemic

Things have certainly been easier for sure. Fewer bills and less stuff to keep track of and maintain. And it’s all paid for! That’s good when an economy based on buying stuff crashes and burns.

Once the monkey mind settles, I will expand on these thoughts.
Continue reading “Monkey Mind”

Uncharted Territory

we-got-shitWhat can I say that is any different than exactly what millions of people have already said?

I guess the comforting thing is that we are all in uncharted territory together. Nobody’s really had to deal with this on a global scale in over 100 years so while there are protocols and technologies to use, a lot of us are just winging it. Some of us more so than others.  

Yup, in the world of winging it, the queue is long, the relief cheque is delayed, grandma is old and vulnerable, and the “easy” bread recipe produced a loaf shaped like a penis.  It’s a lot to take in.

As someone who is very self-sufficient when it comes to getting shit done, I can tell you it’s okay to wing it. I cannot tell you how many disaster DIY, cooking and writing projects that ended up right in the trash. It happens and the results range from rage, mild frustration and fits of giggles.  In my modest level of success all I can say is that it gets easier.

Easier doesn’t mean you won’t ride out the roller coaster of emotions ranging from rage, fear, OMG has he always breathed that loudly and finally am I the only one who does not give a shit about Tiger King?

People are resilient even if we don’t know it.   

Isolation

soap2As we hunker down to ride out COVID-19 I started thinking about isolation.

I’d been wanting to write a post about Bubble People for a while but things changed in the last two weeks.

Bubble People are those distracted people who wander around with absolutely no awareness of the world around them. I loathe them mainly cause they almost always have their eyes glued to a phone, blasting music on headphones and weaving all over the sidewalk, road or bike path. I routinely end up slamming on my brakes so that I do not run into them because they step into the path of on coming traffic without looking.

Bubble People piss me off because they do stupid shit and then seek forgiveness by saying sorry. I would rather they not do stupid stuff in the first place and then there is no reason to seek forgiveness. But bubble people live in a bubble and more often than not, they fail to see the consequences of their actions. A Non Bubble Person reacts and everyone is safe and the Damn Bubble People continue to live in blissful ignorance, stepping into traffic, blocking entrances and exits and bellowing into their cell phones on speaker phone in a public place.

And then two weeks ago I became A Bubble Person.

There are a lot of excuses I could list here, but the gist of it is that I knew something was wrong, but because I’d been struggling to get to work in under 100 minutes every day, I ignored my gut. Everything turned out okay but the situation still bothers me, over two weeks later.

I have an older neighbour, I’ll call him Sergei, he’s a little odd, mostly because he’s older and a bit of a hoarder. He grew up in a communist country in a time when shortages were the norm so hoarding is a habit. Unfortunately, hoarders are not well liked in apartment buildings because their excess stuff causes problems for staff and tenants so people resent them and aren’t friendly. I’ve spoken to him several times and made perfectly normal small talk while waiting for the elevator.

I knew something was up when I was rushing out to work early one morning and there was a smell by his apartment door. Frustrated by cancelled buses and having to stand in sub zero weather waiting,  praying for a bus to arrive, I kept going but I knew something was off.

Sure enough he’d fallen or passed out by his door. His employer grew worried when he missed work for three days in a row and they called the police who did a wellness check and sure enough he was in need of assistance. He was pretty confused at first but once the paramedics got some fluids and oxygen into him he perked up and was lucid enough to argue about going to the hospital. Even though we are in the middle of a world pandemic, the hospital is the best place for him right now.

I knew something was wrong and I should have stopped, knocked on his door, called 911 and the building staff but I kept going because I didn’t want to be late for work. My work is not that important and Sergei’s life was in danger. Work would have not cared one bit if I was late or absent. I was in my bubble because it was easier.

I can’t undo what I did, or in this case, didn’t do, but I can recognize that I need to trust my gut and recognize that when I am being pushed into a bubble to pop that sucker.

Electric Jo!

toothbrush-battle2This week my electric toothbrush stopped working. I  think I bought it in 2005 or 2006, all I remember is that it was very cold outside.

I had more than a decade of use with it so for $90 I can’t really complain. It probably cost me at least 2 to 3 times the cost in replacement brushes over the last 14-15 years, but the thing was pretty indestructible as I dropped it, banged it, accidentally knocked it into a sink full of water and on one occasion, almost knocked it into the toilet. After that I moved it to a not-anywhere-near-the-toilet-but-not-as-convenient-to-the-plug location on the bathroom counter. 

 
I decided this week that it really wasn’t worth it to replace it. It was a good gadget, always reliable and it cleaned my teeth really well. I had some problems with my back molars that required a small brush to get in there but those problems have been fixed so there is really no reason to spend another $100 on a new brush when I have several perfectly good old school toothbrushes in my cupboard. I always used a regular toothbrush when traveling and while I can afford to replace the toothbrush, it just isn’t as important as it used to be. 

 
I think at one point I was swayed by the allure of the idea of owning an electric toothbrush, my tiny step toward announcing  I have made it, I have an electric tooth brush.  It may seem silly for many of you, but to me it was a very big deal. The goal of living debt free, putting money in the bank and now owning an electric toothbrush. Having my cake and eating it too and then brushing my teeth after with the Electric Toothbrush of Affluence.

 
green-brushThe thing is, I don’t think anyone cared or noticed that I owned an electric toothbrush. In the world of fancy gadgets to own, it’s laughable. A lot of people have electric toothbrushes and think nothing of the cost or even considerate one a luxury item. 

 
 Then I thought about how much work this brush sort of was, I had to buy special brushes, I was constantly fiddling the cord because I never lived in a place where the bathroom plug is located near a spacious area of counter top. And there was that nagging thought always in the back of my mind that I might break it or knock it into the toilet or break it as I knock it away to prevent it from falling into the toilet.

 

So back to old school brushing which is easier now cause I can brush my teeth in the shower and I can make a huge droolie mess and not arrive at work with the dreaded toothpaste residue stains all over my shirt which to me is my greatest I have made it moment.

Mental Minimalism

punch1It’s complicated.

No It’s Not.

I thought about this while swimming laps last week. While I am a minimalist in the sense of possessions,  I realized that I am more of a mental minimalist.

Does that mean I am intentionally dumbing myself down?

No!

Wait, yes!

Years ago someone told me that their interpretation of KISS wasn’t:

keep it simple stupid

but

keep it stupid, simple

The idea stuck.

We (by we I also include myself) seem to be hell bent on adding to our own mental overload which leads to decision fatigue and irritability cause we never stop having to think about trivial and stupid things and then there is no mental energy for learning or growth thinkin’.

It’s chaos.

I have a theory that people purposely create chaos so that when they fail, which happens a lot, it’s fucking chaos, so they can justify that the chaos was just too difficult a challenge to overcome and that’s why they failed. If one eliminates the chaos, then one might have to soul search why one failed and that might bring up, you know, feelings. And accountability.

That I know cause I have failed a lot. I rocked the fail. I say this through gritted teeth but I almost always learn from these failures. And the whole feelings part really really sucks.

One of the reasons I do not fit in the corporate world is that I am all about clean lines and efficiency and the corporate world is not all about clean lines and efficiency. CEOs and other richer than me people with letters after their job titles say/want efficiency but it does happen because they don’t want it to happen.

The thinking appears to be crisis mode is easier to manage than avoiding the crisis in the first place. That takes a bit of effort and planning. Plus office politics and gross incompetency derails that idea pretty quickly.

I have tried over and over again in the last 15+ years to get managers to understand the importance of writing stuff down and cross referencing the info so it’s super duper accessible but time after time I just get resistance and the tired old “well it’s your job to do answer questions” or “you have to learn to roll with the punches.”

Or we could answer the questions before the questions have to be asked! Or we could create a punch free environment in the first place.

So now I’ve outlined in a very long winded way all your faults. Hurrah for me!

Now what?

Dumb it down! It really is that simple.

Get rid of the minor, yet mentally draining things in your day. You can’t control the boss’ 17 point plan for paperclip inventory and distribution, but you can put your bills on auto-pay and check the weather forecast the night before to figure out what to wear the next day. Pick up that book on the bookshelf that you want to read and just start reading. And if it’s no good, give it away. To a library or a thrift store. Don’t obsess which friend would like the book or not. That’s your friend’s mental clutter, not yours.

Create a system and if it fails, tweak it. It’s going to be messy and inelegant. There’s probably typos in this post and after my swim I will read it again and fix the mistakes. No big deal and not worth obsessing over.

Work steadily, one thing at a time for full mental sharpness.

It’s really that stupid!

I Am More Than Tacos

victorian-cubicle-jJust over a year ago I decided to write my thoughts down in a journal. I kept reading all kinds of stuff about bullet journals and productivity and efficiency and just gettin’ shit done. I am all about gettin’ shit done, but then I realized my life is pretty boring and I really don’t need to organize my day with a bullet journal. But I liked the ideas of bullet points so I just started writing down ideas in point form.

I am getting to the taco part. Eventually.

I reviewed the two small journals that I have filled over the last 15 months and all in all this has been a good thing. I liked that I can completely vent to the journal and sometimes I actually feel better after. Writing shit down has helped me think about goals (realistic and unrealistic) and even on occasion, allowed me to think of a strategy to figure out a problem.

So most of what I wrote down fell into these categories:

Work

To work at Chipmunk Inc, you need a lot of patience. Super human amounts of patience. It’s exhausting. Not just with the customers, but the Overlords who seem hell bent on making Things As Difficult As Possible. So I wrote down a lot of my frustrations with a department that only operates in crisis mode. If there is no crisis, one has to be created. Efficiency and ease are not part of the plan. You can see how frustrating and confusing this environment can be if you love efficiency and ease.

Early on I actually wrote out some notes for an idea at work to make things easier and more efficient but that pitch went nowhere. Then slowly (I am not the brightest bulb when it comes to office politics) learned that the crisis mode is never going to go away. People will go out of their way to sabotage ideas (especially when they promote efficiency and ease) because by doing so, their job may be eliminated cause they will not needed. So crisis mode has to ever present. Like when I made an innocent joke about someone defrauding the company in an email and someone had to jump in and give me a talking to, because the person making money selling our product illegally might get triggered and complain. Some might call this supervisin’, I call it busy work. Or micromanaging. Take your pick.

So venting to the journal about unmanageable work work load, incompetent leadership and a complete absence of resources to do the job, actually worked. I was slightly less stressed and depressed. I was still depressed and stressed but I was able to work through it.

But.

But my temper did get the best of me. I asked politely over and over and over again, nine times in total for a very reasonable concession concerning our work flow and it was rejected over and over and over again. By three different supervisors. It was extremely frustrating because the ones rejecting the request over and over and over again had never actually done the job of their subordinates so they were unfamiliar (oh why am I being polite, I mean clueless) why this request was so important and why I kept pushing for a change.

Sooooo if you only respond to crisis mode, then I will create a crisis. I probably pushed the envelope a little too far (apparently my co-workers were highly entertained by my shenanigans) but the it worked. I had a good idea what was going to happen next, a meeting with a couple of supervisors, so I took the time to write down in my journal how I was going to approach things in this meeting. I was able to organized and write out my strategy. Sure this strategy involved out and out manipulation of emotions which I don’t like to do, but it had to be done. In the end I had a plan and was prepared for the meeting AND I won. AND I got a high five from a co-worker.

Worth the cost of a $3 notebook.

Okay I am getting to the taco part.

Waiting for Public Transit

And waiting. And waiting, and waiting. Last February I actually spent 15 hours in one week waiting for the bus. There are many entries about the incompetency of the transit higher ups (I always thank the drivers, the problems are not their fault). There were a lot of notes about the bus not showing up, the bus being late, having to walk the last 1-2 km to my destination because getting two buses to connect was Not Going To Happen. Then I realized, it’s okay to be pissed off.

There is a lot of talk about learning to not sweat stuff or go with the flow and not to be irritated. Nope, I want to be pissed off. There is really no reason to internalize my annoyance. No sane person should be okay with standing in -38C weather for an hour waiting for a bus. This endless waiting took any gumption out of me when I finally arrived at work, but bills have to be paid.

I lost my hat and I was a little bummed but it will eventually go to charity and I can buy another hat.

Random Insights

taco-j1The main goal of journaling was to gain insight and possibly think of things to write for this blog. So here are a few examples of my deep thoughts.

Finally the part about the damn tacos!

I really like to make lists. I come from a long ling of list makers so it’s not unexpected. To do lists, bills to be paid lists, budgets which are lists but with numbers, grocery lists. Lists of DIY tasks and the materials I required. I made tacos quite often last year. I’m gonna brag here, but my veggie tacos are fucking delicious. But after recording a lot of lists involving taco ingredients and very little insight, I declared I am more than tacos!

I had schadenfreude one day and then felt bad later. Now I only wish schadenfreude on dictators.

I am always in denial when I get a cold. People get colds in winter, get over it you idiot.

Recognition that it’s okay to spend a little money on yourself. I don’t know if anyone noticed because people live in their own bubble.

I hate being dishonest day in and day out. Lies of omissions, little white lies, big whoppers. I had an honest conversation one day and when the person received a polite but honest answer, he looked like I’d punched him in the face. I felt relaxed after being honest but also a little disappointed that I have to avoid the truth in order to avoid getting screamed at all day long.

I bought a couch, twice. Nearly went mad. I am sitting on it, it’s quite comfy.

If I was rich, I’d be all about stealth wealth.

I should be better about giving to charity. I have been.

No matter how hard you plan and execute sometimes things just end up falling apart. So the lesson learned is try not to have too many things that can break and then you don’t have to deal with the constant upkeep. More often than not, I don’t need what I think I desperately need. You can just turn your back on things and everything will be okay. The mental health crisis in the US has turned my job into that of a life coach/therapist to help people manage their stuff. No, of course that is not my actual job.

I was sad when Bill’s sister died young. Life is unfair. We all know this, even little kids know this, but it’s never fun to be reminded.

Watching people who are competent in their lives is comforting. Some times I am jealous of their accomplishments but then I think about it and realize it’s cause they learned how to do the work and followed through. I still think a lot of success comes down to luck but also good planning and execution. Don’t get distracted by your jealousy but focus on what they did to be successful.

I miss quiet places.

If you haven’t quite figured it out, I plan to continue writing in my journal and eating veggie tacos. You might want to give both a try.