Day Twenty Two: Communication

Another one of my goals for improvement in 2017 is to work on my parenting skills. During the school year, I only see my kids on weekends. Often, the mandatory overtime demands made by my employer only allow me to see them on Friday night and Saturday. Due to the distance they live from my home, I am not able to keep them during the week. The “joint custody” agreement filed with the court no longer worked after their mother moved to town located an hour drive from me. During the summer, I see them more often.

todolistOne of the problems I’ve had is that I work all week, and then add after work activities such as hiking and meditation groups. I get really behind on my laundry and housework. So guess what. The house is a mess and I have my kids, aged 5 & 7. I attempt to clean the house as they are messing up the house even more. To resolve this dilemma, I went through and cleaned thoroughly, decluttering, and putting the home into the cleanest possible state. On Friday night, the kids get a To-Do List. No tablet time or playing until they are all checked off the list. I added two fun things to the list: kids yoga and baking cookies. It worked pretty well, though my daughter was more cooperative than my son. We did what should have taken about an hour and a half in about 3-4 hours.

Deng Ming-Dao on Communication:

Movement, objects, speech, and words
We communicate through gross symbols.
We call them “objective,”
But we cannot escape our point of view.

Deng Ming-Dao asserts that we cannot know reality through communication. We can only experience subjectivity because miscommunication is always a problem with motions, signs, talking, and writing. We do not know any absolute truth about this world. As I quoted in an early post, Harry Crews once remarked, “The only world I know is the one I see”. He was speaking about how he is so often fooled by appearances, citing an example of seeing a married couple he knew kissing and hugging, assuming their love life was going well,  only to learn they filed for divorce a few days later. We should know that words and communication are imperfect and so we must give them limited importance.

As the old saying goes, “Believe half of what you see and nothing you hear.”

The Day in Review

Today, in The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday, he references a letter from Seneca about an exercise in reviewing each day in the evening, asking the following questions:

  • What bad habit did I curb today?
  • How am I better?
  • Were my actions just?
  • How can I improve?

Looking back at today, there was some backsliding. I woke up running late, which is because I stayed up late last night cleaning my apartment. I wish I had woken up on time, but I think the extra 45 minutes of sleep was worth it, just for today, considering the benefits of cleaning up last night. The downside is I didn’t have enough time to prepare lunch, so I purchased and ate junk food, and resorted to caffeine to compensate for lack of sleep. Not a habit I wish to keep, but for just one day, I’m happy to have a clean home for the small price of one slightly rough morning. I managed to stay on task all day at work, did not waste much time after getting home, caught up on my blog, and I’m satisfied with the day. I can improve by working on becoming more efficient with my blog writing. Without sacrificing quality, I could free up time to accomplish other things as well.

See you tomorrow.
B.G.

Day Twelve: Shaping

First, the bad news. I went home early from work today due to illness. At first, I thought I was just going through what every smoker probably goes through in the winter time: sinusitis. Then my energy level dropped yesterday and I went to bed just after 7PM and slept all night until 5:00AM. Within a few hours I was feeling feverish, took sick time to go home, and slept a few more hours. I’m also skipping group meditation tonight so I don’t get anyone else sick. 

Today’s screenshot of my HabitBull app.

The topic of today is habit tracking

I downloaded the HabitBull app on my Droid Turbo smartphone. I’m now on a consecutive 12 day streak of daily blogging. I give myself a little leeway with turning things in late and backdating blog posts, because life gets busy on days with kids and other activities. I’m on 5 days (not consecutive, broken up by vacation travel) of getting up at 5:00AM. 

On Wednesday, January 18th, I will start my day with a ten minute walk. Once I complete a consecutive 7 days of ten minute morning walks, I will add 10 minute meditation, and have the following morning routine:

  1. Wake up at 5:00AM. 
  2. 10 minute walk. 
  3. 10 minute meditation. 

I will also go through some serious housecleaning soon and establish a daily routine for that as well. Spare time in the morning should help with my usual problem of not having time to clean up after myself in bathroom because I’m in a mad rush.

I would be considered a “messy person” by the standards of most people, although maybe not so much by the standards of, say, punk rockers and their “band house”, and certainly not judged against the people on those “hoarders” TV shows. 
There are many causes of this personal issue: a combination of depression, poor time management, not picking up after myself, getting distracted by other activities, and avoiding housework in general. Rushing the morning bathroom routine due to sleeping too late causes bathroom mess. 

Next week, I will start the KonMari decluttering method, as written about in the book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo.

A Day Off in the Life

Yesterday:

5:00-5:10AM: Woke up. Put out food and water for the cat. 

5:10AM-5:30AM: Showered and dressed. 

5:30AM-6:00AM. Recorded a voice memo. Coffee & cigarette. Left a comment on Facebook with a book recommendation for a friend. 

6:00-6:20AM. Started blog. 

6:20-6:45AM: Got the kids ready for school. 

6:45-9:45AM: Took the kids to school. Not part of my ordinary Wednesday routine. Its a whopping 2 hour round trip! 

9:30-10:00AM: Listened to podcast interview of a Louisville band. 

10:00-10:30AM: Talking to my mother. 

10:30-12:40AM: Blogging and proofreading older blog posts. 

At that point, my energy level dropped and I didn’t log any other activities the rest of the day. Sidetracked by Facebook. Ugh. Did manage to clean my bedroom, wash dishes, and do laundry. Called my girlfriend. Lots of couch time with exhaustion. Went to bed at 7:30PM. 

Shaping the Situations in Our Lives

This is how we shape all the situations in our lives. We must give them rough shape and then throw them down into the center of our lives. We must stretch and compress, testing the nature of things. As we shape the situation, we must be aware of what form we want things to take. The closer something comes to completion, the harder and more definite it becomes. Our options become fewer, until the full impact of our creation is all that there is. Beauty or ugliness, utility or failure, comes from the process of shaping.
-Deng Ming-Dao

Deng Ming-Dao begins Chapter 12 with a metaphor of how a potter starts making a pot with a potter’s wheel, and compares it to how we shape the situations in our lives. 

I do not wish to destroy the old pot (metaphor), but rather create a new pot, with some of the same good qualities the old pot had.

The rough shape of this new pot is:

  • Health. Kick tobacco. Make better food choices. Regular exercise. Healing. 
  • Discipline. Well established daily rituals, with some room for spontaneity, but always falling back on good habits. 
  • Creativity. Choosing not to stagnate in a comfortable situation or let my job or circumstances leech all energy for creative pursuits, such as writing and music. 
  • Mindfulness. Not involved in drama, or becoming consumed by it. Able to enjoy every present moment as it is. 
  • Productivity. Goals and accomplishments. 

The Path to Serenity: 

Today’s entry in The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday really shows the influence of Stoic thought on 12 step programs. 

“Keep this thought at the ready at daybreak, and through the day and night—there is only one path to happiness, and that is in giving up all outside of your sphere of choice, regarding nothing else as your possession, surrendering all else to God and Fortune.” —EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.4.39

Step 3 of Alcoholics Anonymous:

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

I thought today was a particularly good entry in The Daily Stoic. 

Key points:

  1. Morning: Remind yourself what is in your control and what isn’t. 
  2. Before lunch: Remember all you really have is the ability to make choices. 
  3. Afternoon: Remember that fate is not entirely up to you. 
  4. Evening: Remind yourself again how much is outside of your control and where your choices begin and end.
  5. Night: As you lie in bed, remember that sleep is a form of surrender and trust and how easily it comes. And prepare to start the whole cycle over again tomorrow.

I went to the Calendar app and set these as daily Reminders with notifications. I’ll soon find out whether these reminders are helpful or annoying. 

Fate

Just as a side note, it must be noted that, in general, Americans no longer believe in fate. It is considered antiquated and backwards. We believe that we are in control of our destiny. Many other parts of the world still believe in fate. For the year 2017, I will choose to believe in fate. I believe that I can make choices and use self discipline to help deal with whatever fate brings to me, but I am not entirely in control. 

Tomorrow, I will look at making better food choices and decide on a smoking quit date. 

Cheers. 

B.G.