Tag Archive | health

The Magic Words of Flossing

Do you floss?

I’ve found that there seem to be two kinds of people: those who answer that question with an incredulous look and “Of course! Who doesn’t?” and those who get a kind of wistful/guilty look on their face and say “Well…sometimes…” unwilling to admit they’ve had the same box of floss in their medicine cabinet for the last four years.

I have fallen into the latter camp for the vast majority of my life. For whatever reason, flossing wasn’t a habit really enforced by my parents, and there was always a terrified feeling that I was going to slice into my gums somehow. So I avoided flossing.

That, of course, led to the predictable results, and suffice it to say that my dental health is not the best. But this isn’t that story.

Finding the Flossing Habit

There are all kinds of techniques for establishing all kinds of habits, including flossing. One of my favorites was ZenHabits technique of flossing one tooth – just one – for a week. Then doing two. Then adding them, incrementally, so what seemed like a bother just became a matter of rote.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I tried it, and yes, I flossed for a while, and then I fell out of the habit. I changed my morning routine multiple times, I established habits and then let them go and flossing just kind of fell by the wayside.

I realize now why that was. My lack of flossing wasn’t because I felt didn’t have time. Nope, it was much deeper and darker than that.

I didn’t floss because I was apathetic about my own body. It wasn’t I can’t be bothered, it was why bother? The interior dialogue when I opened the cabinet to grab the toothpaste and saw the little box of string went something like this:

You really should floss.

Yeah, but I’m going to just brush my teeth. I don’t feel like flossing.

You KNOW that flossing is good for you.

Yeah, yeah, but so is brushing my teeth, and I’m going to do that. I’ll floss some other time.

And that would be that.

The roots of where that feeling of apathy came from…well, again, this is not that story. There’s a lot of personal and practical work that has to go into unpacking that particular realization.

No, this is the story of the last month or so, when I have flossed almost every day. In fact, one of the few days I didn’t was because I ran out of the thin string. It has not been difficult; it has not required electrical zappers or post-its all over the bathroom mirror.

Nor can I say that this magical technique is due to years of research and development and testing. Nope, I basically came across this by accident, and much to my surprise (and the delight of my gums) it just works for me.

The Magic Words

I was going through my evening ablutions, and I saw the floss in the medicine cabinet as I reached for the toothpaste, and I went through the standard guilt trip:

You really should floss.

Yeah, but I’m going to just brush my teeth. I don’t feel like flossing.

This time, though, that Better Self came up with something new:

Yeah, but I’m worth it.

That stopped me in my tracks.

I’m worth it.

Suddenly I felt like I was somehow deserving of flossing. Of doing what I can to take care of this meat sack I’ve been given.

I know, it seems like a simple and little thing. But I flossed that night. And the next night, when I saw the floss box, I said it again: I’m worth it. And it was no problem to take the time and the care of my teeth.

Every night it works. I hate to call it an “affirmation”, because those tend to ring hollow, and don’t tend to be connected to an individual action. But because this one is, it reinforces itself: I am worth it, and then I prove it by taking an action that shows that it’s true.

Maybe you already floss regularly – I hope so. I wonder, though, if this particular mantra – or battle cry – might work for others? If there might be something out there that is good for you, but that you don’t let into your life for whatever reason. Maybe changing the motivation from “Eh, it’s just not worth the effort” to “Yes, I am worth this particular effort” will help change that idea?

Or hey, maybe it’s just me.

Give it a try anyway. For science!

The Magic Words of Flossing

Do you floss?

I’ve found that there seem to be two kinds of people: those who answer that question with an incredulous look and “Of course! Who doesn’t?” and those who get a kind of wistful/guilty look on their face and say “Well…sometimes…” unwilling to admit they’ve had the same box of floss in their medicine cabinet for the last four years.

I have fallen into the latter camp for the vast majority of my life. For whatever reason, flossing wasn’t a habit really enforced by my parents, and there was always a terrified feeling that I was going to slice into my gums somehow. So I avoided flossing.

That, of course, led to the predictable results, and suffice it to say that my dental health is not the best. But this isn’t that story.

Finding the Flossing Habit

There are all kinds of techniques for establishing all kinds of habits, including flossing. One of my favorites was ZenHabits technique of flossing one tooth – just one – for a week. Then doing two. Then adding them, incrementally, so what seemed like a bother just became a matter of rote.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I tried it, and yes, I flossed for a while, and then I fell out of the habit. I changed my morning routine multiple times, I established habits and then let them go and flossing just kind of fell by the wayside.

I realize now why that was. My lack of flossing wasn’t because I felt didn’t have time. Nope, it was much deeper and darker than that.

I didn’t floss because I was apathetic about my own body. It wasn’t I can’t be bothered, it was why bother? The interior dialogue when I opened the cabinet to grab the toothpaste and saw the little box of string went something like this:

You really should floss.

Yeah, but I’m going to just brush my teeth. I don’t feel like flossing.

You KNOW that flossing is good for you.

Yeah, yeah, but so is brushing my teeth, and I’m going to do that. I’ll floss some other time.

And that would be that.

The roots of where that feeling of apathy came from…well, again, this is not that story. There’s a lot of personal and practical work that has to go into unpacking that particular realization.

No, this is the story of the last month or so, when I have flossed almost every day. In fact, one of the few days I didn’t was because I ran out of the thin string. It has not been difficult; it has not required electrical zappers or post-its all over the bathroom mirror.

Nor can I say that this magical technique is due to years of research and development and testing. Nope, I basically came across this by accident, and much to my surprise (and the delight of my gums) it just works for me.

The Magic Words

I was going through my evening ablutions, and I saw the floss in the medicine cabinet as I reached for the toothpaste, and I went through the standard guilt trip:

You really should floss.

Yeah, but I’m going to just brush my teeth. I don’t feel like flossing.

This time, though, that Better Self came up with something new:

Yeah, but I’m worth it.

That stopped me in my tracks.

I’m worth it.

Suddenly I felt like I was somehow deserving of flossing. Of doing what I can to take care of this meat sack I’ve been given.

I know, it seems like a simple and little thing. But I flossed that night. And the next night, when I saw the floss box, I said it again: I’m worth it. And it was no problem to take the time and the care of my teeth.

Every night it works. I hate to call it an “affirmation”, because those tend to ring hollow, and don’t tend to be connected to an individual action. But because this one is, it reinforces itself: I am worth it, and then I prove it by taking an action that shows that it’s true.

Maybe you already floss regularly – I hope so. I wonder, though, if this particular mantra – or battle cry – might work for others? If there might be something out there that is good for you, but that you don’t let into your life for whatever reason. Maybe changing the motivation from “Eh, it’s just not worth the effort” to “Yes, I am worth this particular effort” will help change that idea?

Or hey, maybe it’s just me.

Give it a try anyway. For science!

A Message from a Veteran of the Truth & Health Culture Wars

This post is a couple of days late, and it comes after an astonishing “science march” in which thousands of researchers and teachers in the STEM fields protested what they saw as government interference in fact-based research as opposed to the influence of faith-based institutions controlling resources devoted to education and further studies.

It also comes after an astonishing vote by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to repeal large portions of the Affordable Care Act, especially the parts where insurance companies couldn’t charge you more for pre-existing conditions. They also broadened the definition of that term (pre-existing condition) to include things like pregancy. Sexual assault. Depression. Acne.

Understandably, people are upset. There are cries of how this will make huge segments of the population of the U.S. uninsurable, and this will lead to more untreated chronic diseases and even deaths because people simply won’t be able to risk bankruptcy in order to be treated.

I understand the concerns about both incidents. At the same time I also have a somewhat bitter reply:

This is Not New.

I’ve worked in the field of sex education really since high school, when I became a Peer Counselor and was given “real facts” about sexually transmitted infections so that my fellow students could come to me if they had concerns they weren’t comfortable asking an adult. If you include educating my children, I’ve been in it nonstop since 1989, at least.

I can tell you that sex education has always been targeted. Whether it is the see-no-evil type of “education” known as abstinence or the fire-and-brimstone fear-mongering of “you’ll catch a disease, get pregnant, and die!” there has never been a publicly funded sex education course created for the age of the people who need it that actually talks about sex for the real reason people engage in it: because it feels good.

In fact, many anatomy charts don’t even include the clitoris in the diagram of the female sexual organs. And the fact that you, an adult, just possibly looked over your shoulder to check and see if anyone around noticed that you just read the word clitoris on your screen gives more credence to this argument: we live in a society where guilt and misperceptions about sexuality are built into the fabric of our culture, whether that’s from direct influence of a religious group or simply the leftover “morals” of a less tolerant time.

Before I get too ranty, here, I’ll come back to the point: this government and religious interference in fact-based education is nothing new, at least in the sexuality education area. Apparently it’s just that now that it’s spread to other disciplines (at least, more than it was already present) people are upset and marching in the streets.

To which I say, Great! Welcome to the fight. So glad you could join us.

What I try not to say (except perhaps here, softly, on my blog) is What took you so long?

Brutish and Short

Likewise, I can completely empathize with people who are stressed about their health insurance becoming so expensive that they won’t be able to afford care for themselves or their children if they get sick. I empathize because, for most of the time that I was raising my children, I was uninsured. It’s the joy of being a freelancer; basically, my options were “don’t get sick enough to keep from being able to work. And the one or two times I did get a job where there was insurance possible, my then-pre-existing-condition of an umbilical hernia forced me into signing waivers that said the “healthcare” wouldn’t cover it.

We’ll give you coverage for anything you don’t have, but not for anything you actually need.

And I remember hanging out with people my age who had “real jobs” who would laugh at the idea of “universal health care” (never quite able to answer why we are the only first-world nation not to have it). Currently I see people my age pretty worried, because we’re getting to the point where we need more medications, more preventive care.

Me, I’m not worried. I discovered (years too late) that the whole time I’d been uninsurable through commercial means I could have had insurance, thanks to my military service, through the VA. If that sounds scary to some of you who have heard horror stories about how vets are treated at facilities, well, I can’t really say, because I have little to compare it to.

But I can tell you that “some level of care” is better than “no care at all”.

And again, I’m glad that people are looking at the current system of health insurance in the U.S. and saying “This isn’t right! We need to do better!

Great! Welcome to the fight. So glad you could join us.

(An softly, here on my blog) What took you so long?

Practicing Micro-Changes

This morning, in the midst of grumping about a lot of things that really didn’t need grumping about, my phone was brightened by a photo from a reader of this blog. The title of the photo was “Gray-induced Micro-Changes” and it looked like this:

Gray-Induced Micro-Changes

Confused? I was. She quickly explained: “First visible parking spot. Even if it’s a walk. Cause walks are good for you.

Which is, in fact, something that I’ve espoused for a long while (with more than a little tip of the hat to that Icon of Personal Development, Leo Babauta). It’s something I practice, too, helped along by things like The Walk and a partner who works a convenient mile from our apartment.

I really enjoyed seeing this one tiny change that she made. It falls in well with the first of Leo’s “best practices” for sticking with habits:

  1. Start small. Keep the habit very small. As small as possible, until it becomes your new “normal”. Just floss one tooth. Just run for a few minutes, or get your shoes on and get out the door. Just meditate for 2 minutes.

Micro-Change for Macro Effect

Another reason I was immensely grateful for this kind of feedback is because of an ongoing frustration I have as I teach one of my classes, The Performative Body. In it I talk to older performers and recent movement-arts enthusiasts – many of whom lead otherwise sedentary lives and then suddenly jump into a hobby of stage-combat or aerial acrobatics.

As you might expect, this can lead to injuries. Worse, for males especially it can increase the risk of heart-related incidents up to 270% or more. I lay it out for the participants of the class, putting up statistics and flashy Keynote presentations and they nod as I present the case. They smile as I say “So, now I’d like to see you write down one thing – just one change – that you’re going to make right now to better your health.”

They smile. They wait for me to continue. Generally, about one in eight actually writes something down.

 

It’s frustrating. I have met people who have suffered from precisely the situation I am warning the classes about. And yet…there is very little action taken.

 

Or is there? I got another email this morning, not from someone who attended my class this weekend but from their wife. She wanted to thank me because he was doing all kinds of searches now for yoga and stretching, motivated by hearing it from me. Of course, she also rather dryly commented that she’d been telling him that for years…but that’s an entirely different issue.

 

I talk to hundreds of people, thousands if you include this blog and my podcast. Perhaps I need to apply some of that micro-thinking to this as well. If only one or two from every post or class actually makes that micro-change that can lead to better health – well, that needs to just be enough.

 

And here’s the question you knew was coming: what’s the micro-change you’re going to commit to, before you close this browser window, that will help improve your life?

If you want an idea, how about supporting this blog?

Either by patronage or one-time-donation,

every little bit helps!


 

Practice in Practice

This entry is being written from a hospital bed, so I’m not going to make it very long. It’s a minor procedure, just a little hernia repair, but it is a different situation. I don’t usually spend a lot of time in hospitals, at least not as a patient.

It means I’m outside my comfort zone, and in about as hazardous a situation as I get into these days.

All I have to say is that the benefits of all of my practices- meditation, journaling, diet, exercise, connection, communication, presence- come into play when I’m faced with a different situation such as going in for surgery. This is where it all gets tested, and this is where it all bears fruit.

So if you’re ever wondering what’s the point, this is the point.

See you on the other side!

the power of the next “no”

A Simple Plan

I started a relatively basic but drastic life hack last week. I call it “no obvious sugars”, and basically the idea is to cut out the blatant sweets in my diet. Things like donuts, candy, cookies, cereal, I’m even going so far as to eliminate things like ketchup or soda with high-fructose corn syrup. I am not eliminating all sugars; aside from how hard that would be (I’m old, my eyes can’t read those ingredient labels like they used to) I also have a hard time believing that fruit and a bit of honey in rolled oats is causing the kind of blood-sugar spike that doctors warn of.

That’s the motivation behind it, you see. If you want specifics, take a gander at this video:

Now, I’m not actually all that concerned with occasional spikes. What I’m concerned about is the idea of being dependent on the sugar. Of needing it, rather than simply enjoying it. Honestly, it’s less about health and more about some issues of control, but hey, if we can channel the latter into the former, it’s all good.

Curbed Custard

I should add, I live in Wisconsin. Land of frozen custard, the best donuts in the Northern Hemisphere, truffles and chocolates and more. I was raised within a reward system where the Ultimate Reward (and symbol of adulthood) was a Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae. My devotion to the art of the pancake is literally internationally known. My partners, my kids, even my co-workers know that I have a sweet tooth.

So cutting out sweets, even only five days a week, represented a pretty major lifehack. It’s not as easy as just dumping all the sweets in the house – after all, on the weekends, I plan to indulge. I’m not forcing my partner Natasha to do it along with me, so the temptations still abound – especially in a home office environment, where for hours there is nobody here but me and that bag of Twix bars…

Micro-Effort

A little wear, but runs great!

A little wear, but runs great!

Yet it’s really not been that difficult to do. I’ve been astonished, in fact, at just how easy it has been. At the risk of jinxing myself I will tell you my strategy.

I deliberately did not focus on the long-term benefits. I have a sneaky suspicion I’m losing weight, but that’s a side effect. I know that my mood has been very down lately, which would suck if it wasn’t an indication that this was a good idea in the first place. I’d rather have my mood not altered by my sugar intake; not that other things like body chemistry wouldn’t affect it, but somehow it feels more authentic.

I just focus on one thing: the next “No.” That is, in a few minutes when I go in to refresh my coffee, that cookie will be sitting there on the counter saying “C’mon. Eat me! I taste gooooooood…” And I reach into my metaphorical mental pocket and pull out the “No” that I’ve kept there, and I move on.

The great thing about the Metaphorical Mental Pocket is that it spontaneously generates the next “No” for me, without even being asked. So when lunch comes around and I have something savory and delicious and the server asks “Would you like some dessert?” I can reach in and pull out the slightly ornamented “No, thank you.

See, I don’t have to worry about going without sweets for the next week, or month, or whatever. I just have to be ready for the next time that sweet comes around, and already have my decision ready.

No.

It’s a way to get past the dangers of ego-depletion (great podcast about that on the latest You Are Not So Smart, by the way). So I invite you to try it out this week, for something that you might want to change. You don’t have to make all the right decisions. You just have to make the next one.

Now: what do you want to change?

review of Misfit Shine Activity Tracker

I aim to misbehave…

I confess, I’m a sucker for marketing. I’ve taken the plunge into the world of the quantifiable self and purchased a wearable activity tracker.

Misfit-Shine-mainAfter doing a lot of research, I ended up going with the Misfit Shine. The reasons for my choice, in no particular order:

  • Doesn’t need regular charging – just a battery every few months.
  • Elegant look.
  • Multiple wearing options (wristband, necklace, or magnetic clip, or just in my pocket).
  • Functions as a space-agey analog dial watch (more on that later)
  • Tracks sleep as well as activity
  • Tracks multiple activities

Here were the things I thought might bother me about it:

  • Doesn’t play nice with other software such as Runkeeper or MyFitnessPal.
  • Looked like it needed to be placed on the phone to sync (this turned out not to be the case).
  • The software that it does use is a little opaque – uses a “point system” instead of actually counting steps or calories, although you can find out those metrics at the touch of a finger.
  • Many reviewers complained about having trouble with the “tapping” mechanism to show time and/or switch activity tracking.
  • The marketing is hipster to the point of ridiculousness.

Early Results are In!

I have not yet turned into a hot surfer dude. But I'm pretty sure that firmware update is in the works.

I have not yet turned into a hot surfer dude. But I’m pretty sure that firmware update is in the works.

I struggled a bit at first. Telling the time is a little different – it shows you the hour first with a bright light, and then blinks the minute past whatever the last multiple of five was (that is a lot less complex in practice than it was writing it). It also doesn’t show up too well in bright sunlight.

The way the software works is also a bit opaque – I have myself on the “pretty active” goal of 1000 points, and on days like today when I only did a Pilates workout, it says I’ve only gotten a third of the way. On the other hand, last week when I ran three miles in the morning it gave me the happy “Yay-You-Got-Your-Goal” lightshow right after…which motivated me towards being a couch potato the rest of the day. I’ve been active enough, see, the Shine tells me so!

And don’t get me started on it not being cross-compatible with other apps. You’d think in this day and age new software/hardware companies would figure out that thing about a rising tide. S’ok, I figure either they’ll figure it out or else there’ll be a hack at some point.

I did have some trouble at first with the tapping. Not to switch activities (it automatically tracks running, and none of the other available options are things I do. Misfit, add yoga, pilates, and Grandpa-ing to the list, ok?). But to just make it show the time, I had problems.

Triumph Through Perseverance

Thing is, it was user error – I was using the pad of my finger, not the tip, to do a double-tap. Now that I’ve got it figured out, it works fine. And I really, really like the fact that it’s basically an analog dial watch – no bells, whistles, or any other distractions.

I also found that it was very nicely unobtrusive – it works well on my wrist, and when I used the magnetic clip instead on my shoe that also was both functional and unnoticeable. It looks stylish (yes, I may even cave and buy the leather band for it) and it’s unusual enough to make me feel like a trendsetter (and yes, I’m quite aware that is a totally subjective feeling).

photo 1 (1)The sleep monitoring function is a real winner for me. I can wear it to bed with no problem, and it’s showing me all the fun data about my sleep cycles that I’ve been curious about. In fact, it’s showing me that I’m doing much better in terms of deep sleep. There is also an alarm function that will supposedly wake me when I’m in “light sleep”, but I tend to either wake up when my partner does or else sleep in til whenever. In short, haven’t had much use for the alarm – but it’s there.

Yeah, But Does It Do the Job?

That’s what it all comes down to, right? Does it actually motivate me to be more active?

The answer is a definite yes. Proof of concept: the last two days I’ve been taking it very easy on my knee, which has not liked the running I’ve been doing. At the same time, I need excuses to be more active just so I can make more lights come on my wrist. So I created excuses to walk to the store, and then took the long way home just so that I’d get more activity.

That, to me, is what makes this a winner. It both satisfies the stylish geek in me and also does the job of making me want to be more active. Yeah, I may complain that it doesn’t seem to count Pilates as active, yet, but really the end game is not some data point – it’s the question of “does it make me want to move.

It does. The Misfit changes my behavior in exactly the way I want it to.

Got one? Or considering buying one? Got other questions about the quantified self? Leave a comment!

 

why cheat when you can win

“If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’!”

That sentiment, from one of my favorite close-combat instructors, is an incredibly useful mantra when in a struggle. It’s a reminder that in some situations, the only rules that matter are the ones that matter to you – and that playing by your opponent’s rules is giving them a pretty hefty advantage.

What about when your opponent is yourself, though? What if the battle you are fighting is the battle against binge eating, for example, or simply the struggle to eat more healthy in a world full of bad influences and temptations? In that situation, where you’re your own enemy, does cheating work?

lunch

At least it’s not broccoli (shudder!)

Many diets think so. Several years ago I went on the Abs Diet, pretty strictly for several months. Aside from a particular weight/situp regimen, it also has very specific low-carb diet suggestions – some of which have stuck with me (still love snacking on almonds and cranberries!). It also had a “cheat” meal – a meal once a week where you could eat anything you want. I remember planning that meal around my social schedule: “We’re going to have barbecue with Karl thursday night, that’ll be my cheat meal.” I remember looking forward to blissing out on ice cream sundaes on those meals, before grimly resuming my exercise and diet the next day. Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Body has a similar timed “cheat” day, and so do many others.

Which is why articles such as this one by Dick Talens (via Maneesh Sethi) exist: The Ultimate Guide to Cheating: Planning to Fail. Don’t worry, you don’t have to read it if you don’t want to, I’ll get to the point.

WORDS. They Have Meaning.

The gist of the article is the idea, backed up by scientific evidence, that two people who “break” their diets in exactly the same way will have entirely different results based on their mindset.

 If you “plan to fail” then you lose anywhere from 1-3 days of progress; however, you eliminate the risk of failing epically.

Failing epically.” Is it just me, or is the hyperbole rising in here? Here’s my question: if these diets are so difficult to maintain that you have to break them on occasion in order not lose them entirely…then is the problem actually with the people on the diet or with the diet itself?

Or, to put it another way: if, in order for the diet to succeed, you have to ignore it every once in a while…why is that cheating? How is that failing?

Or, to actually get to my point: why do we use words like “cheating” and “failing” to describe it? Words are powerful things; if the system is set up so that the only way to “win” is cheating, then there is something wrong with the system. I suppose there could be an argument that there is a mischievous joy in “getting away with it” when you break the rules of the diet – but if we’re trying to play with our brains in that kind of way, why stop at some negative feeling?

“…And therefore those skilled in war bring the enemy to the field of battle and are not brought there by him.” – Sun Tzu

If you choose a route that requires you to cheat, to break, to “plan to fail”, I suppose that can work. Personally, I’d rather look at it as winning. I’m not breaking my diet – I’m planning on celebrating my hard work and discipline in the time-honored human fashion of a feast! Having rewarded my body all week long with healthy eating, I am now going to reward my tongue and every delicious bite of ice-cream-hot-fudge-skittle-truffle-banana-lava-cake will be a reinforcement of just how awesome I am at my diet!

Of course, a truly Enlightened soul wouldn’t be “fighting” the battle at all – which is most of what Sun Tzu actually talked about in The Art of War. But for those of us who still need the illusion of struggle to trick ourselves into right action, I think it’s time to stop playing other people’s games.

Who needs to cheat, when you can just win?

Image used courtesy We Love Costa Rica

living the life you wish

Freelancer’s Fantasy

Paging through Fast Company Magazine, years ago, trying to answer the gnawing question: “Gray, why aren’t your living the life you wish?” There is an ad for a resort in Northern England. Not the tropical kind of getaway, obviously, but playing on the beautiful scenery of the region. It shows a man in a white shirt and dark slacks sitting at a small table in the middle of a pastoral green field. His cordless laptop is open in front of him, along with the incredible vista of sunny fields and mountains. The ad copy reads something like “What if this was your office?” and I find myself asking “Yes…what if?”

•   •   •

An idle fantasy comes to mind one afternoon as I’m contemplating my “ideal house.” What I come up with is a Roman-style villa, with four buildings surrounding an open-air courtyard, perhaps with a nice fountain in it. I can picture my grandkids playing there, and I indulge in the fantasy of being able to provide a comfortable home for my children and their families as they grow. It’s all balderdash, of course – we don’t live in that kind of culture – but it’s funny how my Fierce Warrior fantasies have been replaced by the Pater Familias.

Plus, It’s Good Ground for the Zombie Apocalypse

I am writing this in the middle of the courtyard of the apartment complex where I live. There is green grass and the whistling of birds mingling with the whistling of groundskeepers. The buildings are laid out in a rectangle surrounding the courtyard, with a pool, business center (free wifi) and well-equipped gym within easy walking distance. While my partner and I were walking to workout the other day I commented that it was an easily defensible compound, especially if you felled the trees between the buildings to hold back the ravenous zombies.

She commented that my brain is kind of strange.

Regardless, I’m looking forward to getting Harvey and Victor our on this field for some touch football, or to ride their bikes around the walkway that rings the courtyard. It’s conveniently on the way to my daughter’s work, so she can drop him off occasionally on her way to work. There are other kids his age in the complex, and it’s shaping up to be a nice sociable summer.

In other words, while it’s not precisely what I fantasized about – either in pastoral setting or family compound – it’s remarkably close, especially considering that I wasn’t actually trying for either one.

Freelancing is often the path to living the life you wished for

Click to Enlarge. Some stats may surprise you.

Living the Life You Wish with Bonus Features

The interesting thing to me is not that my life resembles these fantasies I’ve had. It’s not even that I seem to have gotten here more unconsciously than through any planned event. No, what I find fascinating is the “undocumented features” and “unintended consequences” that come about when we stumble into what we thought we wanted all along.

An easy example relates to the “What if this was your office?” idea. I am fully aware of the luxury of having a flexible schedule, of being almost entirely location-independent in my work. My friends in cubicles read about me working out in the sunlight and practically glow green with envy.

What you don’t hear about is what happened after I wrote that last heading: my iPad screen suddenly blanked and a “Temperature Too Hot” alert came on the screen. Apparently the sun that I’d been enjoying on my back had been too much for the machine. Moving to the shade fixed the problem after a few minutes, but they didn’t mention that in the “What if this was your office?” ad. If my iPad breaks down, I don’t get to just requisition a new one; likewise, there’s no IT department for me to call if I have problems with my computer.

There is a bit of a Marxist revenge here. Workers now own their own means of production.
Daniel Pink, Author, Free Agent Nation

I’m not complaining; truth is, Google and the wisdom of crowds is a far better tech support team than any in-house team or consultant I’ve ever worked with. But there are other costs to this kind of work and life that are rarely considered. For example, “Free Agent Nation“, a manifesto published in  blithely talks about “alternative healthcare plans for individuals” without admitting that these are usually far more expensive and far less comprehensive than employer-subsidized insurance. As a result, I live under the Great American “Don’t Get Sick & If You Do, Die Quickly” health care system, and take care of my body as best I can.

In general, most of the “knowledge worker” success stories seem to run along the lines of “If you want to be a successful independent knowledge worker, write a book about how to be a successful independent knowledge worker.” That kind of Ouroborousian system doesn’t appeal to me, and so you get posts like this rather than “Five Steps to Financial Bliss.”

Instead, the best I can do is say “Yes, wish for what you want! It will probably end up in your lap.”  But it might be worthwhile to also follow Jay Easton’s example from his comment on my last post:

Love what is. Find where and how I am profoundly grateful for whatever is arising in my life – now, and now, and now, and now. Become obsessive in my love affair with truth and reality. And when I can’t manage that in the moment, then I diligently look for how I can at least accept and live in harmony and integration with reality-as-it-is-right-now until I find the clarity to be loving it again.

Quantify Hard

I don’t want you to think, from my last post, that I’m some anti-number Luddite. I’d love to have a Fuelband, I love the sensor on my nephew’s car that shows how many miles I can still travel on the gas in the tank, and I can spend hours playing with Google Analytics and feeling strange wonder at the number of readers I have in Beijing (and the way my guest post on Tiny Buddha tripled my site traffic overnight. Hello, new readers!).

I even have one of the more popular self-quantifying websites, MyFitnessPal, bookmarked on my browser and on my phone and my iPad. It’s a fun little exercise, inputting the foods I eat (selecting from drop downs) and seeing how my caloric intake weighs against my exercise for the day, and at the end of a day’s log learning that If you had this kind of day every day, you’d lose X pounds in Y weeks! Read More…