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I love chocolate, animation and modding my phone. I dislike Jim Carrey, weddings and Truck Nutz. I started as a video editor and motion graphics artist and now I find myself podcasting and writing.

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Chaotic Mindfulness

5 min read

A glitched image of text saying meditation mindfulness shame fear panic worth

 

How can mindfulness meditation practice help us with mental wellness? To answer the question we can look at how our minds function without it.

I recently listened to an interview with Dan Harris and he said something that kicked me in the ass. I had stumbled onto Harris when I started learning about healing my mental health. The news anchor found meditation at a time when he was dealing with PTSD and cocaine addiction. He made a Youtube video on the benefits of mindfulness that a few of my courses and doctors recommended. After seeing that video, I sort of forgot about him until this recent interview.

Harris tells Terry Gross that distracting thoughts during meditation are not a bad thing. "What do I have to do next?" "Am I doing this right?" "I'm frustrated," are a key part of the meditation process. He believes that by gently refocusing our attention on our breathing, or whatever you choose during meditation, we are training the brain to interrupt invasive thoughts outside of meditation as well. The hope is that later in the day, when you have a thought like, "I'm not good enough," you will be able to catch it and refocus rather than ruminate further on worthlessness.

My inner critic bristles at this idea. During meditation, I am focused on this task of, well focusing. In the middle of a busy workday or having an accomplishment being evaluated by someone close to me, I am too frantic to refocus. Fear and loathing dominate my thinking and mindfulness is some distant concept. Of course, as I pondered Harris' words further I wondered if my critical thoughts have proved his theory.

Here's a real world example. I am scared that you, the reader, think I am a moron. In fact, I know I am a moron because yesterday I measured wrong and cut a board for a flower box I was building incorrectly. Some time in the week, I was filling the humidifier and spilled water everywhere on the counter and the floor. In university, I did worked on a team project where I did most of the work and I think it was because my teammate hated my moronic idea for the video. In grade 10...I remember as a child my parents were frustrated...and so on, and so on.

My mind has trained for many years to find evidence of my worthlessness. When I feel shame, embarrassment or criticized, I focus on proving that to be true. I was worried you would think I was a moron and proceeded to dive into memories of shameful experiences from years ago. Could this be the same process of training Harris describes? If so, then it should be possible to change my thinking.

The Gotcha

I meditated daily between 2017-2018. Today, it rarely happens. It didn't work. I'm still broken. I still do not like who I am. This appears to be my inner critic at work again. In reality, I've had 40 years to train myself to loath who I am. A year of meditation is barely a dent into that pattern. Somewhere along the line, I let that old pattern back in and decided mindfulness meditation was a failure, like me. Instead of gently refocusing, I chose to continue beating myself up.

Personally, I wonder if there's some all or nothing thinking preventing me from moving forward. Perhaps, deep down I want to believe in a cure. I'm not completely rid of my depression and anxiety, therefore the meditation, the CBT, DBT, and psychiatrist sessions do not work. I've written before about the idea of accepting depression will always be a part of my life. Yet, there are those times, especially when I am wading through it, that I don't want to accept it. I want to be free of these intrusive thoughts, forever.

Even now, as I type this, I struggle. I want to end on a positive note and inspire myself and others. Yet I think, How many times have you said you would try harder and failed? Nobody is going to be inspired by what you say because you fail to follow through. It is exhausting to try and build new patterns. Am I a broken record, constantly saying the same thing over and over, but not following through? That's one way to look at it. However, it may show that I am working and trying to heal. If I have said I need to break this pattern of self-loathing before, than maybe I am training myself each time I repeat it. I suppose. Failure is how we learn. Is each time I sit here and feel bad for not following through with CBT or things I told my psychiatrist or partner a failure, or a lesson in improvement?

I am sad to say it doesn't feel like improvement. My mind is a forest fire of disbelief scorching any hope that was in the last paragraph. The only tree left unharmed is the one labeled, "maybe these thoughts will help someone else." I think this is a good time to stop writing and try a meditation to put out the flames. Be kind to yourselves. Much love.

Computer Printers: 50 Shades of No Way

9 min read

Printer Error Screen

In the last 15 years I have done my best to have a paperless work flow. It was easy for a video professional. Those times I did need something printed, I would send my files to a local copy shop. Without a home printer, I wasn't buying ink cartridges, fixing paper jams, or wondering why my computer couldn't see the printer. Recently, my partner has been working on her Masters and many of the courses provide articles as the teaching materials, rather than textbooks. Screens are not great for reading. We spend so much time in front of screens, I can understand why my spouse prefers paper. I love my e-ink reader, a very old Kindle, but it is a special kind of hell trying to read a PDF on one of those. So, we decided to get a printer. Now, I feel absolutely filthy.

1980s Hacker Mom

The dream of the future was alive in my youth thanks to my Commodore 64 computer. Buying joysticks, a tape drive, a floppy drive, and a printer for the home was the start of something exciting. We got an Okidata Okimate color printer that was surprisingly inexpensive! That is, compared to the typical black & white printers at the time, which were more focused on small businesses, not hobbyists. Like the printers of today, the Okimate had cyan, magenta, and yellow to print in color. However, all three colors were stitched together on one ribbon in a single cartridge. Perhaps 5 inches of cyan, followed by 5 of magenta, 5 of yellow and repeat. If the Okimate was sitting on magenta, but needed to make green, it would fast forward to yellow and then print cyan over that. Need more green? Skip magenta again. It was wasteful, there's whole parts of the ribbon that had never been used. Get to the end of the cartridge? Sorry, buy a new one.

Okidata Okimate 20 Printer

Not so fast! As you can imagine printing took a long time back then, so what else are you going to do, but watch? Mom noticed the color skipping behavior of the printer. When a cartridge reached its end, my mother grabbed a number two pencil and rewound the ribbon, much like us old people had to do if a cassette tape malfunctioned. She placed it back in the printer and we tried to print something new. It worked! Occasionally, the printer would attempt to use a color that was previously used the first time around and that would make some colorful glitches.(Maybe this is my first introduction to something I now enjoy, glitch art) Yet, this hack was worth it to a teenager who's most important prints were silly posters for the student council election. This is before the days of spell-check. I remember that poster on which I misspelled intelligent. Ugh.

Offset and Get the Fix

That brief trip down memory lane illustrates how printer manufacturers make money. In the early 2000s printers were dirt cheap. Buy an HP printer for $50! Better yet, buy an Apple computer and we'll throw in a printer for free. The companies do not make money on the hardware. They make money by selling you their proprietary ink cartridges. I remember those $50 printers having replacement ink starting at $30 apiece. Buy 12 of those in a year and you've just purchased 7 printers. Have a color printer? Now you're buying 4 different ink refills.

As consumers took notice of this pusher/drug user model, we started to fight back. Making a mess with syringes people began filling the previously used cartridge with ink. Whole businesses sprung from this and created a 3rd party market. We could get aftermarket ink on the cheap! As technology progressed those disruptive companies manufactured cartridges that looked exactly like the original equipment.

Of course, tech progressed at the printer manufacturers as well. Inexpensive chips could be added to print cartridges in much the same way car keys were chipped. Not an OEM cartridge? Sorry, you cannot print today. To further increase profit printers came with more bells and whistles. All-in-one printer scanners and 'wireless' printers were made to justify a higher price upfront. Ever have success with a wireless printer? Finding them on your network is harder than finding a giant squid in the ocean. No problem touch screens to the rescue. Easily configure your printer on the network, for an added cost of a touch screen.

Tanks for Nothing

In recent years, a few companies like Epson and Canon have taken a note from consumers and created eco or mega tank printers. They do not take cartridges, but have reservoirs for the ink. I was impressed by this innovation because I want to be less wasteful. This looked pretty interesting and excited me. However, I am very cynical. What's the catch? Well, the main benefit for the companies is getting your money upfront. Rather than giving you the typical smaller than normal ink cartridge in the box when you buy the printer, they give the tank printers a 2 year supply. Instead of paying $120 for that all-in-one printer, you pay $400 because you're getting 2 years of ink.

Okay, the working poor at Epson have to pay for their mandatory Disney+ subscription to forget about life. Plus, regular yacht maintenance is not cheap for the CEOs of the printer giants. Either pay for the ink with the purchase of the tank printer, or buy cartridges over the lifetime of another printer? The super tank printer seems slightly better for the environment, so how about I purchase...ERROR 5b00

The next best thing to selling you ink on a regular basis is planned obsolescence. While researching Epson EcoTank and Canon Megatank printers, I found lots of complaints about similar errors. Canons spit out the error above which means that the waste ink absorber pad is full. Inkjet printers can clog easily, so this pad is there to soak up things after a print or during a cleaning. So by maintaining the printer, you are killing it. You cannot replace the pad. You cannot print with the error. Epson has a similar design and gives you a less cryptic message, 'end of life.' Consumers who have called in for service have been told that the repair plus shipping is likely going to cost more than buying a new one. Epson's own site says the following.

Most consumers who are out of warranty elect to replace the printer because replacement of ink pads may not be a good investment for lower-cost printers. In most cases, when this message occurs, the printer's other components also may be near the end of usable life."

What about just making a serviceable ink pad? Again Epson, "Implementing this type of a design would result in more expensive printers. Most users would not benefit from such higher costs because their printers will never reach the Parts End of Life message.

Paper Jam

Today, after researching what printer to purchase, I feel exploited and weary. Epson is completely correct in its assumption people will buy new printers if they receive the planned obsolescence error. Bringing this issue to our governments would likely result in zero interest from politicians. We, the people, do not have the time and energy to fight lobbyists and lawyers. A lawmaker is more likely to send you a new $120 printer, then take your concerns and investigate.

We live in a disposable society. There are no vacuum or television repair businesses. Washers, dryers, and even bicycles make their way to landfills because the cost of repair is far more than replacement. Warranties are lip service more than anything else. When you complete the phone maze to finally get a human, they explain to you that buried in the fine print is a clause that says, "Not today, Sunshine." Instead of manufacturers backing a product with pride, retailers and other companies fill the warranty gap with "extended warranties." Much like the manufacturers, they have their own fine print. Thus, we are left with making another purchase to avoid the headache. The path of least resistance always wins.

There Is No Margin

One last note to add to my research. If we go back to the beginning, printer manufactures create these devices to make a profit. One of the ways companies have found to sustain profits is through subscription. So, HP has created a program where the printer tells HP it is running low and they automatically send you new ink in the mail. They have several monthly payment plans and you can quit to let the useless device collect dust at any time. Sound familiar? This is how Xerox works. The price of their copy machines is beyond affordable for even large businesses. Instead, most lease the machines and pay for the toner and maintenance. As an aside, movie theaters are now stuck in this model thanks to the rise of digital projectors. We live in the age of Subscribe or Die, I guess.

So what could I buy to solve the issue of printing many documents at home in an economical and environmentally friendly way? As I said above, I was weary from the research. I gave up on finding something that would be a useful and worthwhile investment for our future endeavors. Instead, I opted for something that could handle infrequent printing. No clogs in a laser printer. I will bow to my new master, Brother, and be thankful every time I am able to easily find the required toner cartridge. Perhaps I should take bets on how many prints it will be able to make before it reaches the manufactured "end of life" count coded into the machine?

 

A Planet in Pain and You

5 min read

a pensive person sitting on the darkside of a small dried out planet in watercolor

Tears cloud my vision as I type. The realization that my anguish is self-inflicted is difficult to accept. The external world has brought me to this place, but it is up to me to find solace. So, here I am writing to myself and those of you that may find yourself here.

The COVID-19 pandemic brings bad news and self-isolation every day. There are those of us out there who are Highly Sensitive People, now called Sensory processing sensitivity, that have a heightened emotional response to what is happening in the world. Seeing the death tolls rise and the matter of fact attitude of reporters and politicians can be extremely difficult. Personally, I see the people losing work and feel ashamed that I wasn't working enough before the pandemic. Fellow humans living paycheck to paycheck that are panicked about rent and mortgage payments also fuel that shame. My privilege of having a partner who has taken care of me as I try to deal with my mental wellness is a tremendous source of shame. I feel like a burden. Once again, I am using the external world as an excuse to abuse myself mentally.

If I wasn't around during this crisis, my spouse could support someone worth it. Things are not entirely secure for us. I should have had a regular salary well before the pandemic. What if I get my spouse sick when I leave to get the groceries? I will be a source of more pain, if that's even possible. I deserve to get the virus more than those hardworking people that have been deemed essential workers.

Shame is a powerful depressant. It is ultimately demotivating. Shame is also familiar to me. I know how to lay down in shame. To hide and make myself invisible and avoid fears and expectations. Facing the shame, anger, sadness, and fear is mostly foreign to me. It will be uncomfortable and hurt me in ways that I am unfamiliar with. It is bubbling up as I write this. I shudder with a desire to push it back down. I am not strong enough to handle this. Again, I engage shame, but this time about not being able to handle the shame? Things begin to stack up here. I pile on more reasons to be sad and upset.

I am not working much, so I should be super fit, right? No. I am a fat ass who has woken up everyday for the last 2 months saying 'I am going to workout.' My spouse said I should contact my psychiatrist, but I didn't yet. So she must be disappointed in me. Look at myself right now, in this state, pathetic. My sister asked me to call today and I haven't. I am a terrible brother. Who is going to read this? They will likely wonder what a loser I am. Why do I make a mess of everything?

I have heard various theories on the time we spend with emotions. Some addictions experts think cravings last about 7-10 seconds. Recently, I read that an emotion like sadness or happiness passes through the body in a minute and a half. Either way, we bring ourselves back after the time has passed with thoughts like those above. I specifically found other reasons to remain in pain. At this point, I can use this information to continue to feed my shame, why do I keep hurting myself? Or, I can attempt to break the loop.

Finding ways to stop this pattern is very difficult. I have a perceived notion that I have bottled emotions up in the past. Reading on mental wellness and therapy has illustrated to me that acceptance is a better strategy. So, if I break the loop am I bottling it up or accepting where I am and moving forward? The only person who has that answer is me. That can feel like a lot of pressure to someone who would rather be invisible and run from expectations. Right now, there is a desire to explain that I was better at accepting my emotions a few months ago, but I have failed. I think that could be my shame at work again, demotivating me and bringing me to familiar territory.

Examining my past with the help of psychiatry has allowed me to see some of the origins of my shame. I then perceived another idea that if I just worked through some of this ancient pain in meditation, writing, and therapy I would be better. Suddenly, writing was a daunting task. Meditation became a punishment. I deserved to relive these things because I am an awful person. In therapy, I started to avoid the past. That brings me to today. When the news of the pandemic breaks the dam that I have been holding back.

I needed this outlet. It was, and is, necessary for me to feel heard. I hope nothing I said triggered you. Of course, I'm deflecting outward again. I am worried about you legitimately, but it also serves me because I am avoiding myself. The only way we can make real change is by first observing what is happening. We learn by making mistakes. The pandemic has taught many of us what is necessary versus what we may want. One of the things that I still have trouble remembering is that I am not alone. That is one way to see our world crisis. Each of us is suffering despite our nationality, race, or gender. We are all humans. Each of us wants to be heard and loved. We cannot avoid the way the COVID-19 is harming our lives. Just as we cannot avoid our individual pain and emotions.

Stay safe. Wash your hands. Call a friend.

Much love.

What is 'The Economy?'

5 min read

A digital collage of graphs money and a worker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fear of what will happen to the economy during the pandemic permeates our daily lives. Politicians, entertainer-journalists, and your friends and neighbors are frightened about the financial future. "What will happen to the economy?"

The Fantastical Beast Economy

I am fascinated that we refer to the economy like the weather. As if we do not have any control over it, the economy roams the planet devouring currency and disrupting markets. We lose jobs, our homes and possessions because of 'the economy.' The value of our labor and the products and services we offer changes because of 'the economy.' Leaders suspend protective laws, start wars, and base taxes on 'the economy.' If the economy isn't a creature like the Loch Ness monster or a force of nature like a hurricane, what exactly is it?

The definition of the word revolves around the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. We are the producers, the distributors, and the consumers. So do we fear ourselves? If the economy collapses we are out of work and cannot afford to consume. It's an ouroborus, the serpent eating its own tail. Or is it? We are the force behind the economy. Perhaps the problem we will face after the pandemic isn't 'the economy,' but what we choose to value.

Worth

As individuals we have different interests and passions. A Michael Jordan autographed photo has little value for myself and others. However, there are those who would pay top dollar for his authentic autograph. Of course, there is some complexity there. Were I to have stumbled onto a Jordan autograph, I may be tempted to find someone who would pay a pretty penny for it. This is how our society operates, trading valuables for promissory notes.

Prior to the 1930s many countries used the gold standard to back currency. A dollar represented a number of ounces of gold. Like the example above, I don't really have a need for gold. I don't create electric circuits or desire gold jewelry. Yet, gold was a commodity that one could trade for necessary items like food and clothing. Whether currency is backed by gold or not, I cannot deny that it is nice to have a standard accepted by everyone.

Once again, we are talking about representation. Money and the system obscure what is happening and the real value being traded. The economy represents production, distribution and consumption of goods and service. Currency now represents monetary policy, instead of gold. We've agreed I should be paid currency for my production. I will use the currency to pay others for their goods and services. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there is less production as we get ill and stay home. Though, we all still need to consume necessities. Thus, 'the economy' is failing?

An image of text

'The economy' is about our work and consumption, right? Money is a stand-in for the things we need and desire. The currency is used to bridge the gap in what each of us value. I make a wooden chair, you trade me some promissory notes that I can exchange for some shoes from someone else. With my very basic and general understanding of 'the economy' it is hard to understand how it can fail. Of course, I am not getting into the speculation market and stock exchange. Perhaps that is what we fear will fall apart, not the economy.

Value

One definition for 'value' is worth. Another is meaning. The fact that nurses and doctors are working incredible hours in dangerous conditions during the pandemic is not about monetary worth. What they are doing has meaning far beyond currency. After being in a car accident, the value of my partner holding and consoling me is worth more than a suitcase full of currency to pay for a new car. No one wants the money for cancer treatment, they need the treatment.

Without promissory notes people barter. Prisoners find value in barter since cash is hard to come by and perhaps not worth as much as tobacco or real cheese. When Greece went through the recent financial crisis a barter economy emerged. In fact, the website created for this barter market in Greece exchanges credits similar to bank notes. So what is the difference? I would argue connection. A small community of people bartering is building a network of human connection. The value bleeds into meaning. We often take pride in helping others. We trust the people in our networks and those closest to us. Emotional connection creates a healthier society. Perhaps one where N95 masks are given freely to those in need and not hoarded for profit.

The 1913 Liberty Head Nickel

The economy represents how we interact with each other and currency seems more like a placeholder. That Michael Jordan autograph may be worth a new TV to you, but I would likely only value the paper it was written on. I want the paper, you want the autograph, neither one of us needs the bank notes in reality. We only use them to represent value we create. There are only 5 Liberty Head Nickels. To a collector this single coin could be worth $2-4 million dollars. To the bank, the coin is still only worth $.05. Value is in the eye of the beholder, so how will our economy fail? The stock market, or gambling on the how people may value future goods, may indeed fail.

One of the disadvantages of the gold standard was the distribution gold deposits. This means some countries would have more than others and that could limit trade and growth.'The economy' is a system born from us. It is not as important as what we value. Perhaps the pandemic is an opportunity to examine what worth truly is?

The iLung 4

3 min read

a backpack that looks like an iMac

Digging into my unpublished blogs and stories, I found this. I painted an image today and decided to publish this bit of satire. Enjoy.

Found were these notes from the Apple Keynote of the year 2100-

Breathing is intuitive. When we set out to make the iLung 1, we knew it also needed to be intuitive. More importantly, it had to be hassle-free. This is literally a life or death situation. Other oxygen supplies on the market were safe and functional, but clunky, confusing, and austere.

We engineered the iLung for comfort, ease, and of course, air. Today, we bring you the iLung 4. While our patented nose-pods still remain the most comfortable on the market, we are happy to introduce the new Breez connector!

The last thing you want to do is fumble around with the tube connection that supplies your oxygen. At the same time it must be secure when it is connected. Apple brings you the Breez connector. The Gust connector is no more. The Breez has been completely redesigned.

The iLung 4 is still made of a single piece of aluminum to make sure there are no leaks, but we've managed to increase the volume of oxygen it can carry by 35% while still making the unit smaller!

Of course, any sort of new designs are tested to ensure the highest level of safety. When you're carrying around flamible gas out in the tremendous temperatures that ravish the planet now, you want to feel secure. We wanted to do something special for you. We hoped to send the iLung 4 to the planet Mercury. If it could survive at those temperatures, the iLung 4 would survive here for at least another two decades. Ah, but that was the issue. In the amount of time that it would take for our product to get to Mercury, well we will have likely released 4 more updates to the live-saving device. It's no use showing you the iLung 4's durability if we're already giving you the iLung 8. (Pause for laughter) Instead, we put the iLung 4 on a robot and sent it to the super volcano that was once Wyoming. What you're about to see is the video of that super heated trip.

What you're looking at is 2 camera angles, on the left is infared to show us any combustion, since the traditional video camera is so distorted from the heat at the site. Those flashes are some of the robot's hydrallic hoses melting, but as you can see the iLung 4 is doing great! (Pause for applause) Now here the cameras give in to the heat, but sensors showed that the iLung 4 was still intact when we left! Of course, we don't recommend anyone take a vacation to the former Yellowstone park with your new iLung!

Edmontonians Who Own Trucks Will Really Suffer Thanks to COVID-19

4 min read

A parking sign

Our city runs on oil. It fuels our economy, the government, and the people of Edmonton. We love petroleum so much that we've named our hockey team the Oilers. COVID-19 has put an end to the NHL and most public events in our city. Next to our Oilers bumper sticker is another shaped like our province that states, "Alberta Strong." It's short for "Alberta is strongly opinionated."

Yes, without our hometown hockey team to throw under the bus, our citizens will be miserable. If there are no NHL games we will be unable to demand the team be more like the Gretzky team. With a lack of games and theater downtown, Edmontonians will not be able to gripe about parking. The sanctity of parking is held above all else in our city. We all know the gods gave Albertans asses to sit in the bucket seats of 3/4 ton trucks and shout racist slurs at cyclists. Trucks and SUVs powered by oil are the lifeblood of the city. If COVID-19 forces us to work from home, who will complain about the red light cameras? The Edmontonian identity is deeply steeped in vehicle culture. If we're not thundering down side streets in our lifted rigs, who are we? If I cannot go to a party, or social networks to complain about pot holes, I am lost. How can I just sit at home and isolate when there are unused bike lanes taunting me?

A vehicle in a garage deeply saddens us Edmontonians. When I think of the motorcycles, luxury sports cars, and jacked-up trucks that are no longer able to compete for the title of most deafening vehicle on Jasper or Whyte this Spring and Summer, I want to cry. Of course, I won't. I'm Albertan. The rumbling exhaust is Edmontonian music. We love it more than anything else, except for our Nickelback. I will miss my daily 20 minute practice of obscene profanity while I sit at the intersections where the LRT crosses. The COVID-19 pandemic will crush the UCP goal of a 1 to 1 ratio of vehicles to people. Jason Kenney will no longer be able to give speeches from the back of pickup trucks, but he will be sequestered in his mother's basement, talking to us via TicToc.

While our generous & loyal billionaire, Katz will help struggling employees through this pandemic, who will look out for our CEOs and corporations? There are stories about the charitable giants like Uber giving a whole 14 days of paid leave to those involved in the gig economy. Canadians are also calling for people to purchase gift cards to support their favorite local businesses and the arts. If money trickles down as our corporate masters tell us, certainly our traumas will trickle up. There has been zero talk of saving our national icon, Tim Hortons. What happens when we're not in the lineup daily to get our traditional brown sludge and microwaved meals? We must bail out Tim's!

Perhaps the best way to save Edmonton is the automobile! I propose we put together a government fund to remodel offices to drive-ins. Pull up in your SUV, roll down the window and hook up your laptop. Work from the comfort of the bench seats in your Hummer. Business overhead costs will go down-- no office furniture, heat, lighting, janitors or elevator maintenance needed. The pickup truck becomes the board room. Simply line up trucks, tailgate to tailgate, and get our 2 meters of distance and no threat of infection. And, with every office now mobile the demand for gas will go up. The Edmonton economy will be saved.

Down with public transportation, too many people in small spaces. Down with sidewalks, crosswalks, and pedestrians. We will have larger roads and all the parking we could want. Finally, we can return to hockey as it was meant to be played, outdoors. We will modify the uniforms to be a bit more like hazmat suits and watch the game from our trucks, parked around the rink. The only downside to this plan is giving the credit to COVID-19. We cannot start rebuilding if Kenney's war room sees coronavirus as a foreign contribution.

 

A Break in a Pattern is Not Always a Break in Habit

5 min read

hand drawn pattern in ink

Habit is comfort. It is predictable and saves us from unfamilair emotions. These patterns can be complex and often work at a subconscious level. A break in the pattern doesn't always guarantee freedom from the habit. It is not a failure, this is an opportunity to be kind and compassionate to ourselves.

I've started knitting as a mindfulness practice and similar to painting, it is nice to work with my hands. When I drop a stitch and don't notice, it creates a hole in the work. Yet, the work goes on. When you catch your finished sweater or blanket on something sharp there is a danger of unraveling. The pattern breaks down because the yarn has been cut. In the case of a missed stitch the yarn continues along the pattern, but is unbroken. This is often the case when we're trying to change personal behaviors.

If I cannot sleep at night, exhaustion finally takes me in the early hours of the morning and I may not get up until after noon. Half the day is gone, which frustrates me and I begin to feel like a failure before I've started. I have less energy and I'm groggy. I reach for junk food for a quick pick me up, but it just makes me feel worse. By the end of the day, I have the urge to stay up late and get something accomplished because I've spent the day unproductively. If I get a good night's sleep, I break the pattern, right? Not necessarily. The yarn can continue to tighten around me even if I sleep well. It's called habit for a reason. I only have to jump into the pattern anywere. A good night's sleep and a productive morning would be great. Yet, I can get in my head and think it is not enough. Now, I lose energy, reach for junk food, and I'm back into the self-loathing loop.

Self help books and programs like C.B.T. don't really talk about this enough, in my opinion. These resources are focused on encouragement, but the reality is that change takes time. The advice offered is still useful, but I have found that I am quick to dismiss those things that "don't work as advertised." These programs and books are often presented in "how to" steps and when step one is making a goal to break your current pattern, I am done before I begin because the pattern remains. This is evidence to my critical mind that the program doesn't work.

The motivation to change, the personal will that sought out the the book or resource is not always enough. Sometimes I wonder if authors of self-help books believe it is. The irony that I'm using the phrase "not enough" has not been lost on me. I am not seeking to blame the authors and creators of the resources I've found. Instead, I want to caution those of you reading my blog. Change is possible, but instant and perfect change is not.

To me, it feels like I've written over and over about getting caught up in a self-critical loop. I am not enough. I don't make enough money. I don't work hard enough. I'm not a good enough son, sibling, friend, or husband. So, I read a book and enter some programs to get better. Things improve and then I relapse. The program and book are probably great, but I am not enough. The pattern of self-doubt is difficult to unravel. 

Furthermore, this default method of thinking doesn't allow me to see when things improved. Biologically, we remember the "bad" things to protect ourselves. This scar is a reminder not to get near that predator animal. However, I did write "things improve" above. I cannot take that back. I mean I could go up there and erase it, but the point is that there is some sign that I am able to do this. A key to breaking from the habit, or pattern, is likely self-compassion.

When I look back, I think one of my most successful streaks was one where I was working toward compassion. I was listening to mindful driving guided recordings that encouraged me to let other cars into the traffic and remember that there are people like me in those vehicles. Maybe that person is having a family emergency and that's why they are driving aggressive. Did they lose their job? Are they distracted on their phone, or with the radio because they're trying to avoid pain, like me? These things that can usually make me feel uncomfortable or angry are actually opportunities for gratitude. The homeless man on the street who is aggressively asking for money and scaring people is suffering. If I am not ready to see that and help, I can be grateful that I have a home.

Trying to be compassionate to others, complete strangers, was my way of finding some compassion for myself. I am also a human who is suffering. I'm not sure when I stopped working on this goal. I suppose that's in the past now. Today, I can try to move forward compassionately. I may not free myself from the pattern today, but what I need when I realize I am still in the loop is love. Something I have been keeping inside me this past week is a phrase I heard. It's not elequent, but every act is an act of love, or a cry for love. If I feel like a failure today, I'm looking for love. If I cannot get that from myself, I can always ask those around me. Hold onto your supports and hold yourselves.

The Dangers of Self Sabotage

8 min read

oil pastel sketch of me crying in gray with red eyes and blue tears

The expected results are always easier to deal with than the unexpected. Consciously or not, I have had a tendency to throw myself under the bus. I know how to deal with failure and defeat. Success, in my mind, is just postponing the next failure. I am even more anxious after a success because I am waiting for the next shoe to drop. In fact, give me a hot minute and I'll convince myself I was not successful at all.

The first delivery person in history carried a package from one person to another. Eventually, they started doing more deliveries and got a cart. Soon they upgraded to a horse-drawn wagon, a flatbed truck and finally a semi-trailer truck. Now imagine the packages are personal traumas. Often we carry these around with us. I've got a fleet of semis following me. Rather than letting go of the traumas, working through the issues, and forgive myself, I add more trucks to the fleet. When I make a mistake, which is a great opportunity to learn, I look back at the thousands of trucks. Those semis contain evidence of past mistakes and failures. My mind believes a clear pattern and a self-fulfilling prophecy is at work.

If I have my arms out, carrying all these packages for decades, I would have no idea what to do without them. What do I do with my arms if I don't have all these gift-wrapped traumas? So, I ensure my arms still have work by creating my own problems. I know I shouldn't have too much sugar because of my diabetes, so I'll just eat all the ice cream. I get the satisfaction of delicious sugar and then the amazing shame in knowing I should not have done that. Procrastination serves up some daily pain. I make a to-do list that is so long that five people couldn't finish it and then I get overwhelmed and do none of it. The next day, I add more to that same list and my week becomes full of fail. I keep myself in this abysmal state because I am familiar with it.

Depression, Anxiety, and Addiction

It's well known that depression and anxiety are like conjoined twins. They feed off each other in many of us. Occasionally, they are joined by their sibling, addiction. The cycle often goes trauma, depression and/or anxiety, and then addiction to dull the pain. The word addiction typically makes us think of substance abuse, from psychedelics to alcohol and caffeine. There are also behavioral addictions like gambling, video games, porn, and social networks like Instagram.

Dulling the pain with addiction is also feeding it. *Add a new truck to the fleet because I know I shouldn't be doing this. Anxiety flairs to hide the shame of it all. Depression builds until you can take no more and need to get another hit. The dopamine kicks in and you feel alright. Lather, rinse, repeat.

More than once I have heard people propose the question of being addicted to the depression or anxiety. These are behaviors of sorts, right? Could it be possible? If porn lights up the same parts of a brain in a scan as heroin, could the feeling of anxiety? One of Norman Doidge's books talks about people's brains that have been rewired to feel pleasure from pain. He specifically referred to a study of people who enjoy BDSM. The pain center of the brain has been linked to the pleasure center in many of these individuals. Could my brain be wired in a similar way? I want to be in pain?

Sabotage

Is my pain all I know and I wouldn't function without it? Maybe the familiarity and predictability simply a comfortable place for me? Is my brain specifically wired to give me shame and worthlessness? Regardless of the reason, self-sabotage isn't always so easy to notice.

New things are scary because of my fear of failure. So is it sabotage if I say, "no" to an opportunity because I will miss out? Or is it sabotage if I say, "yes" to the project since, deep down, I feel that I will completely screw up? On one hand, I feed depression by denying the opportunity. I can look back at the past and wonder what would have happened. If I accept the opportunity, I get a dose of anxiety about my possible failure.

"Get busy living, or get busy dying." This quote from The Shawshank Redemption is some toxic, tough love I give myself. I know being stagnant, frozen in overwhelm is not helping me. It's a long game sabotage. I can look back on my life yearsfrom now and think, "If only I realized my worth sooner. How much more could I have done?" Telling myself to get busy pushes me further into depression.

In Ian McEwan's latest fiction Machines Like Me new, artificially intelligent androids die by suicide. While half of them choose this option, there is one who seems to have deleted most of his software, essentially giving himself a lobotomy. The theory in the book is that this android attempted suicide and couldn't go through with it, leaving him in this state of minimal functions. I started to wonder when reading this is suicide the ultimate self-sabotage?

In my own struggles with thoughts of suicide, I have found myself thinking of lesser punishments or personal sabotage. Frequently, I've thought that I am such a burden to my loved ones that I should run away and be homeless. This fantasy is about removing myself from life as I know it. When I have those days or weeks when I don't want to get out of bed, it's in this same vein. Paralyzed in bed is hiding from my pain, fear, and shame. Or, I imagine being locked away in a psych ward where I cannot harm myself or others. These are all examples of me giving up. The twisted dreams of a sabotage one step away from ending it all.

The real danger of self-sabotage is when I cannot carry any more packages. When I look back and I can no longer see the horizon because of all the semi-trailer trucks full of the things I refuse to let go of. The fact that I can sit here and talk about self-sabotage is a testament to my resolve (at this moment). If I can notice it, I can do something about it.

Introspection

Philip K. Dick said, "The problem with introspection is that it has no end." Somewhere in this blog I have spoke about being present. Surely, I warned myself, and others, about getting caught up in the sadness of the past and the anxiety of the future. I think I have said that now is the only time that I really need to focus on. I recall offering the advice that each new moment, every 7-10 seconds, is a chance to change. The idea being many of our emotional states last this long. The catch is that we can use that time to trigger an additional 7-10 seconds of the same feeling. This is where I am lost. I am dwelling in the sadness and shame of my perceived worthlessness. Each time I start a sentence in this blog with "I," there is a desire to type "hate myself."

I have been here before. How did I get out? I don't remember, but maybe the important thing is that I did get out. In fact, my urge is to run away. All those lesser suicide options above are clues. I have been trying so very damn hard to be productive and pour myself into tasks. Another sign that I am avoiding the pain in hopes it will pass in the next moment. Self care of meditation, mindfulness, and art are no longer practiced. My mind thinks that those strategies obviously didn't work. So, why bother?

After sitting down to write this, I think my mind is somewhat right about those self-care strategies. While perfectly useful, at this point they are less effective. As I said, those fantasies of running away are the clue. It is time to stop running and do the opposite. What if I step into the pain and suffering? Allowing myself to feel those emotions and go deeper into Chris and find the version of me that wrote about being present. He's here, but he's buried under the fear, shame, embarrassment, insecurity, and guilt. I need to forgive myself for all the self-sabotage. I need to thank my inner critic for carrying all those packages of trauma. Even though my critic has mentally beaten me severely, he did it to protect me. Misplaced anxiety and fear sabotaged me in hopes to keep me from collecting more trauma. I have to learn to trust myself and that mistakes are how I learn to be better. Now, in this moment, I'm going to have a good cry.

Be kind to yourselves. Much <3 to you all.

Our local transit options rely on Google's system for routing. Uber, taxis, food delivery, and even Tinder use these location tools from Google. One company has this much power. And, it can be hacked with a wagon and old phones.
http://simonweckert.com/googlemapshacks.html

Punish Thyself

5 min read

A watercolor painting of a belt hanging on a pillar in a dark basement

"You know better." This is a phrase used by parents and teachers that describes the challenges of adulthood. We perceive societal norms and often judge ourselves to those rules instead of our own moral compass. For me, it's more than just ethical behavior and the word of law. I am also looking at the society around me and judging my every decision. "Would someone else post this very blog? Probably not, it looks weak. They wouldn't want to appear broken." Every time this inner critic engages me, right or wrong, I feel that I deserve to be punished.

There is no better person to punish me, than myself. Denial of the things I need and want is very easy because shame tells me I don't deserve happiness. This has had a profound affect on my therapy because if I find something that helps me, like writing, I take it away from myself. Unworthy and shameful are consistent emotional states that I am 'comfortable' feeling. They are familiar. Success and happiness are fleeting and will leave, so why bother experiencing them in the first place?

Yesterday, I learned that I also engage in physical punishment. When I was a boy, I was spanked. Now, I bite my nails. I eat junk food. Both of these feed the shame. They may seem like minor offenses, but the destructive nature of these acts encourage the continued shame cycle. After feeling shame for so long, it doesn't seem foreign to my mind to think about suicide. It's merely a continuation of punishment. The act of suicide, and thinking of it, is another thing to feel shameful for because some people think it is weak and "giving up."

Patterns of Discipline

The overwhelming internal theme for me is that I am not enough. So, the simplest of errors, like sleeping in, can result in me punishing myself by removing something that I have recently learned is beneficial.

Meditation has given me a lot of introspection and helped me. "What a waste of time. You should be working like everyone else, you loser."

Journaling and writing has been a way to explore my emotions and get things out of my head. "Yet, you still make the same mistakes that you've observed in your writing. Maybe your time would be better spent not whining."

Art is actually rewarding. Painting and creating is something I have found that I enjoy for myself, not for any outside validation from others. "Kid stuff. It's play. Of course you like it. Again, get a job."

I haven't read much on "love languages," but I would wager my father's was providing a roof over our heads. Perhaps my shame around never having a good enough job or career stems from growing up in my father's shadow. Of course, that's my perception of my father. I also see both of my grandfathers in that same light. My mother too, is in this category. I wonder if I am stuck trying to live a life following this example I have set for myself? In actuality, my "love language" might not be acts of service at all.

Regardless of my "love language," I certainly know how to inflict punishment on myself. It is something that I now see laced through my recovery. It's not that I don't apply myself after learning CBT or reading a self-help book. I take the gifts I received from those things and deny myself access to them. I don't deserve to be better. I don't deserve the help of my psychiatrist and friends. This is a familiar feeling that I have been managing for years.

Success and Failure

My doctor asked me if I fear failure or success more. To me, success is luck or chance. It doesn't seem sustainable. I don't fear it. I am afraid that it will set an expectation of success and that I will fail again. Logically, I understand that failure is how we learn, but emotionally I am living a very old pattern. If I don't try, I don't fail or succeed. Instead, I sit in the familiar comfort of shame. I even feel mortified in this realization. The loop continues. "You write all this and you still won't do anything different."

Change is as hard as we make it. I suppose the upside is that getting over this tremendous mountain will be that much more rewarding. I feel as if I need to remind myself that recovery isn't a binary of success or failure, but simply moving ahead. Celebrating the victories, the times when I am able to get past the criticism and punishment, is still very foreign to me. Being in my practiced loop of shame, it is easy to write off things as luck, or focus on the all the times I was unable to succeed. I hope you can take a look at your own behavior and question the motivation behind it. For me, finding the space between observing and critiquing myself is very difficult. I know you can do it, I just need to believe that about myself.