Day Fifteen: Time

What an appropriate topic for today!

I was just thinking about time and time management. In fact, I was stressing out about being behind on my blog posts. I just finished up yesterday’s blog post a few minutes ago, because I had the kids over yesterday and sitting around blogging while the kids run wild in my apartment wasn’t an option. I’m already behind on getting some evening exercise, I have some small household tasks to accomplish, I haven’t eaten dinner yet, and I still need to call my girlfriend tonight.now-clock-1_grande

I’ve been tracking how I use my time for the past couple of days, and how to tweak my time to accomplish the things I want to accomplish this year like:

  • Blogging every day for 365 days.
  • Daily meditation.
  • Exercising at least three times a week, with various 30 day challenges.
  • Reading goals.
  • Writing an ebook.
  • Getting my finances in order, and getting out of debt.
  • Traveling.
  • Learning to be a better cook, and get off fast food and junk food.

What I’m finding is that a huge chunk of my time- surprise!- is eaten up by my job, and getting to and from my job. I work 10 hour days four days a week (in theory), with Wednesdays and Saturdays off. I get Sundays off if I don’t get called in for mandatory overtime. This is interesting because I actually cannot survive on $12 an hour with a 40 hour work week. This week, I will work 60 hours, just for the extra cabbage to pay off my medical bills from early 2016. That’s before I start working on paying off all other debts and getting my credit rating back to the 600s, average credit, where it used to be before baby mama suddenly ran off with her married coworker just over two years ago, right before I lost my job, had a serious injury, and my credit was destroyed and put in the 400s (which was worse than before I repaired my credit last time!)

I would describe my job as a dead end situation.

There are worse jobs, such as the sweat shop in Louisville where I assembled attic ladders for $2 less an hour, with an added 30 minutes of car commute, and only ten minute breaks instead of the usual 15 minute breaks, with a really mean Type A boss whipping us to boost the production numbers, very little time off allowed, and grumpy co-workers.

And then there were the horrible call center jobs I had for 10 years, chained to a phone that rang nonstop  in a cubicle with a computer, while eating bagels and cakes that were brought in almost daily.

I don’t hate my job. In fact, it’s easy work, provides physical exercise with the added boon of  allowing headphones so I can listen to audiobooks, podcasts, and recorded lectures to learn from.

But when it’s over for the week, I lose 40-60 hours of my life, and I hopefully have almost enough to cover my expenses until the next payday. I usually phone in excuses and promises to pay every week to somebody.

If you can believe this, I also played in bands for the last 20 years, tying up my weekends too. Sometimes I got paid. Sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I worked 10 hours on Friday, played a gig on Friday night, stayed up all night, and went in for another 10 hours of work on Saturday, using a mixture of coffee during every break supplemented with 5 Hour Energy supplements, which were quite effective.

Somehow, I still used to find the time to get drunk several times a week, stay up late listening to music, engage in arguments and feuds with other people, waste hours on Facebook and text messages, and watch several hours of bad television programming too.

LIFE is really lived in the moments when I don’t have to be at work.

Sometimes when I am ready to experience life during those brief windows of opportunity, I am thwarted by the weather, such as the rain we’ve been getting all week in Kentucky.

Enter a pretty old, tried and true concept in my life for the first time ever.

TIME MANAGEMENT.

I’m experimenting with another old principle, a staple of the Protestant work ethic in America.

Early to bed, early to rise… 

This may seem strange to many people, who keep day timers and have their shit together as much an average adult is expected to, but I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants since high school, with a few false starts and failed attempts at improving my time management. Here I am again.

I’ve been getting up at 5AM since 2017 began (which is only 15 days in, as I type this) and this week, I will bump it to 4:30AM. This allows time for shower, breakfast, morning meditation, starting my blog post for the day, planning and creating my To Do list (which I’ve never used with any regularity until now).

Up until a couple years ago, I would stay awake until after midnight drinking Miller High Life beers while listening to music or internet surfing, until I woke up hungover and running late to my soul crushing call center job the next day. Repeat daily for a decade. Take a vacation or go on tour with my band once in a while, which were the highlights of my life back then.

Tonight, I planned to go through a basic Qigong tutorial video, finish my blogs, and spend an hour on the treadmill while talking to my girlfriend. However, 2 hours have passed while working on blog posts, and I turn in for bed in about an hour. Qigong and treadmill exercise will be migrated to tomorrow’s To Do list now.

Deng Ming-Dao on Time:

Key points:

  • Each day, we face a problem. We must validate our past, face our present, plan for the future.
  • Those who are nostalgic about how great the “good old days” were miss the reality of the present.
  • Those who live only for the present (guilty as charged) “have little regard for precedent or consequence”.
  • Those who who live for some reward in the future strain themselves with too much denial.
  • Understand how the past effects us.
  • Keep the present full of rich, rewarding experiences.
  • Devote some energy each day to building for the future.

My present project is to change the past a bit, or at least, my story about the past, which is a lot of pain, and pleasures pursued to escape from the pain. I used to live in the moment all the time, with some thoughts of future going about six months out, and a far off, far-fetched goal of being a writer/rock star in the future.

Somewhere around 2007 or 2008, I started living in the past with a tragic victim story of all the malicious things people did to screw up my life, and I wasted a lot of mental energy on maintaining grudges and entertaining revenge fantasies. My enemies called what I was doing “hate”, having a different perspective and an alternative story where I was the villain. Sometimes, years later, after some self-introspection, the offenders will apologize for what they did, and empathize and say things like “I don’t blame you for being so pissed off at me after what I did to you.” But until that day comes, you are the asshole in their version of the story, and your anger is the problem, and what they did was justified. It feels good when that day finally comes, but it doesn’t change the fact that you may have wasted years holding a grudge about whatever it was.

My Vipassana instructor referred to my grudge hangup as “righteous indignation.”

I feel pretty sure the thieves who sawed the catalytic converter off my car a few months ago, if caught, would also find a way to blame me for the theft. My fault for parking the car in a dark place without a car alarm, perhaps? Seems to be human nature. My exes blamed their affairs and running off with other men on the idea that I neglected to affair-proof the relationships.

I find you never really learn the actual reasons. You only hear the excuses.

To be fair, I probably provided a lot of excuses for own moral failings, and usually didn’t even know what the real reasons were, due to a complete lack of self awareness. Maybe most people are this way.

So, I need to:

  1. Get out of the past and change my perspective of the past as something to learn from, instead of something to suffer from.
  2. Fill the present with rewarding experiences, which I’ve been doing well at for at least a year, given my circumstances and limitations.
  3. Every day, devote some effort to building the future.
  4. Balance all three as a whole.

The Daily Stoic: Peace is in Staying the Course

Ryan Holiday says:

“In Seneca’s essay on tranquility, he uses the Greek word euthymia, which he defines as believing in yourself and trusting that you are on the right path, and not being in doubt by following the myriad footpaths of those wandering in every direction.’ It is this state of mind, he says that produces tranquility.”

Today’s post reminded me of the 2004 George W. Bush vs. John Kerry U.S. presidential election. You may remember how “stay the course” became a Dubya catch phrase, while John Kerry was accused of “flip flopping”. Here’s a funny attack ad, to refresh your memory.

To paraphrase Ryan Holiday, we should be assured that we are going in right direction (maybe not 100% sure) and we don’t need to compare ourselves to others or “change our mind every three seconds based on new information.”

  1. Identify our path.
  2. Stick to it.
  3. Make adjustments as needed.
  4. Ignore “the distracting sirens who beckon us to turn toward the rocks”.

The greatest temptation I’ve fallen for is taking advice and opinions, of both the asked for and unsolicited kind. Sometimes, you may be hearing sagely advice from the voice of a mentor. Other times:

  • You have any plan, and they will try to shoot it down for you, or explain why it’s a bad idea. Devil’s advocates. Crazymakers.
  • Their advice and opinions serve them very well, but don’t serve you.
  • They have a different goal, and are manipulating you to bend to their will, or serve their own needs instead of yours.

There have been many other “distracting sirens”.

  • My own fear.
  • Partying.
  • Facebook.
  • Television.
  • Depression.
  • Just giving up.

Tomorrow, I will discuss financial goals.

B.G.

Day Eight: Work

On Thursday, Jessica was informed that she lost her job at a company that manufactures and sells dog toys to pet stores, retailers, and distributors all over the country. Over the last seven years of her employment there, the business has changed quite a bit and the owner made a decision to let all in-house sales reps go, and outsource some outside salespeople instead. Her boss was generous, giving each employee a $4,000 severance package, and offering to provide letters of recommendation to them.

wp-image-155068534jpg.jpg

Photo from today’s hike at North Mountain Preserve in Phoenix

On Saturday, we watched “Choice Point: Align Your Purpose” on the Gaia channel, which was all about the cycles of changes in a person’s life after a crisis, which they call a “choice point”, an opportunity for personal growth and a chance to transform yourself into something in alignment with your Higher Self, or authentic self.

We are both roughly 40 years old, have chased our rock n roll dreams in bands, touring around in old vans and putting out DIY and indie label albums, while holding down day jobs.

What now?
She’s presently unemployed. I joined the ranks of Kentucky’s working poor a few years ago after leaving the land of opportunity in Phoenix 7 years ago to be closer to family after 15 years of being disconnected from them.

What’s it going to be now? Which path do you take from here? Which factory or warehouse will you make $12 an hour at? Can you escape somehow?

wp-image-1408920631jpg.jpg

Jessica and her blue heeler, Spike, on the trail at North Mountain Preserve in Phoenix.

 

 

I suggested to her that she should take a silent retreat at the Santa Rita Abbey, The Monastic Community of the Trappistine Branch of Cistercian Nuns, in southeastern Arizona. At least 5 days.

I have been wanting to take a 10 day Vipassana or Trappist retreat (or hell, even a cross country hike or bicycle trip!) for a while, but you really have to be at that place in life, between jobs with time off and no short term desperate need for income, and no one dependent on you, such as children.

 

Why a Catholic retreat???

The reasons for this:

  • They cost significantly less than other places that offer retreats, sometimes even for free. Santa Rita Abbey charges $40 per day. Private rooms, food and amenities included.
  • The Trappists are interfaith, mostly quiet, and do not proselytize.
  • Their communities are refuge from media, frenetic activities and stresses of urban life, advertising, electronic gadgets, and the temptation to distract yourself.
  • The Trappists will inspire you to appreciate solitude, as The Trappists at The Abbey of Gethsemani have taught me to be okay with being alone.
  • You get lots of quiet time to reflect, journal, and think about your life’s purpose, and so on.
  • Their singing and rituals are quite pleasant to experience.

 

A Daily Meditation on Work

Key points from today’s chapter of 365 Tao: Daily Meditations by Deng Ming Dao:

  • You must work to survive.
  • You labor in harmony with the seasons. (In his example, a woodcutter must work hard prior to the first cold to have the luxury of working less during the snowy winter.
  • You must work smarter not harder. (Let the blade of the ax do the work. You don’t have to swing hard if you strike the wood with the grain, not against the grain.)
  • “True labor is half initiative  and half knowing how to let things proceed on their own.”

I grew up in a workaholic culture. I had a conversation with my father where he remarked that in conversations, there really isn’t much to talk about except what you do for a living or talk about your family or kids.

“What????”

There is philosophy. Art. Music. Books. Ideas. Travel stories. Trivia.

I later learned from a conversation this week with my grandmother (his mother) that work is a family value, her father (my great grandfather) also put an emphasis on work and lamented that being unable to work as much as an elderly person bothered him much later in his life. This is true of most of my aunts, uncles, and cousins on his side of the family.

I was involved in a lot of lazy activities growing up. Reading books. Writing. Playing guitar in bands. Listening to records. This created some conflict in my family when I was younger. I was a lazy person.

Even now, as I type this, I’m writing a blog on a vacation day off from work. Is writing “work”? Is this a good use of my time or is this lazy? Should I be loading trucks or remodeling a house instead?
I did notice in the last few years, my playing in bands was somewhat more respectable to my father when I was playing in a busy cover band, as it hadn’t been when I was playing punk bands that didn’t make so much money. The cover band wa loading and unloading trailers, which he could relate to. Putting in the hours and making money by providing a service that had a real market demand.

Today, I earn less money from working at an order fulfillment warehouse in Kentucky than I did 17 years ago in a call center in Tempe.

I actually enjoy the physical labor of loading trucks and shipping orders of shoes and apparel. Some of the work is repetitive and I can become bored during a 1o hour work day, but I am also blessed to be able to listen to headphones while I work, and I utilize my work day to learn from listening to audio books, lectures, and good podcasts while I am working.

I have a Thomas Merton quote handwritten in my pocket notebook that I refer to often:

“And so, for a contemplative, there is supreme value in the ordinary routine of work and poverty and hardship and monotony that characterize the lives of all the poor and uninteresting and forgotten people in the world.” 

-from New Seeds of Contemplation.

My lesson from Deng Ming-Dao today is that I should utilize the winter months to work overtime to pay off my debts and save money so that I may work less during the summer months so I can spend time in nature, enjoying the better weather with my children.

Day 8 of Daily Stoic: SEEING OUR ADDICTIONS

My addictions that I need to work on this year:

  1. Cigarettes.
  2. Caffeine, particularly expensive
    energy drinks” such as Rock Star, Red Bull, etc.
  3. Facebook addictiction.
  4. Complaining.
  5. Arguing.
  6. Shopping.

All I can think of, for now.

See you tomorrow.
B.G.

Aint’ got no cards, don’t pay no tax
For a score in me hand I’ll be breaking me back
I been working
And I been working all day for me mate
Call me a crook, call me bent
But I need more than food and rent
I been working
And I been working all day for me mate

Cocksparrer, “Working”, from the Shock Troops album