alive:living

When you have

your pulse and blood pressure checked. A blood draw. An EKG. Eyedrops and eye pressure checked. Bright lights shined into your eyes…

You know you are alive.

When you have

a dog lick your hands out of nowhere and rest his head on your leg. A conversation over coffee. Poutine, no matter how bad it might be for you. 11,359 steps on the Fitbit and counting. Excited hugs and high fives from kids. Coloured your hands pink with food dye and laughed, then fingerpainted with coloured pudding at work with three boys. A run in on the bus with a friend you haven’t seen in forever and you both jump off a stop later to go for Subway, a trip to Bulk Barn, and continue on to Toys R Us and Dollarama and CATCH UP. A silicone Lego ice cube mold arrive in the mail as a late birthday present. A million messages flying around about the plans for tomorrow and next week…

You know you are living.
I know I am alive, even if a little scarred.

And I know I am living. Fully.

copeland and airplanes

What? Two posts in a week? [And I won’t make this a goals update ‘cause that is boringpants. Although I haven’t ridden the bike this week—confession.] Since it’s becoming evident I will probably never actually complete VEDA or #hawmc or NaNoWriMo or NaBloPoMo [the last two, I cannot actually stand the names. NaNoWriMo has grown on me a teensy bit but not enough to say I actually don’t hate it] (and, though I will probably try them all again at some point) {bracket},

Untitled

I have to start somewhere, right? Here’s some stuff I wrote on the plane back from Ottawa, fleshed out a bit.
So, let’s talk about Copeland and airplanes.

Imbalance. Unbalance.
Imbalanced. Unbalanced.

Stillness… [while] moving.
Waves. 

I tend to feel most settled in a place where I am unsettled. The preparation for the next adventure is not enough: right now, I’m four weeks back from Montreal and Ottawa, and less than a week back from Toronto.
And despite that, the desire to be in flight again is strong. As much as I want to feel home, I feel unbalanced. Unpredictability, the non-routine of being away, being on the road, feels like home to me. Maybe I can thank ADHD for that, maybe it’s just how I’m wired, maybe it’s the bit of Romani Gypsy in my genes (seriously)–chances are it’s all three.

and it feels like we can’t get out
and it feels like hell

i think i’m safer in an airplane
i think i’m safer [with my lungs full of smoke / if i run through the streets]
i think i’m safer on the jetway
than a world without [hope / peace]

oh, and arms will stretch out when they’ve had enough
oh, when they are tired of holding up us…

–safer in an airplane, copeland 

This imbalance, this unsettled-ness, is a different type of unrest. The only cure is to travel with hundreds of kikometers between your starting porint and your end point, wherever those may be, without touching ground. The flight map that shows you’ve travelled thousands of miles hundreds of feet in the air, all without leaving your seat. The number ticks up. It is in the air that I am settled, a place where many find unrest.

“wandering flushes a glory that fades with arrival.”

–j. a. baker

I put my earphones in and stare out the window. My In the Air playlist and the sky—exactly where I want to be. Sorry to my friends who are my plane neighbours, I am not an in-fight talker. To the strangers who are my plane neighbours, I will engage until those wheels start rolling. After that point, my attention belongs in my head and to the sky.

UntitledThe seatbelt sign is on,
And I am most alive here.
Turbulence,
Matching the imbalance
I feel the other thousands of hours a year when I’m not in the air.
Colours streaking the sky that I can never dream to recreate on paper or even with a camera.
I am alive, free,
myself.

I am these things in a place that so many attribute to chaos. While I’ve engaged in a few discussions about becoming grounded, I think maybe I am most grounded when I am airborne. Embracing chaos. The sky is place that so many worry about the things that can go wrong. That is out of my control, so I might as well remain unfazed.

Cell phone with transmitting modes off. Nothing but me and the moment I’m in and the music (maybe some words flowing from my fingertips, and the cabin service cart). And I need more of these moments, replicated outside of a plane seat. Intentionally.

“cause my mind just can’t stop moving
i think i know why.”

–i’m a sucker for a kind word, copeland

quantify this: march.

I started back on the quantified self track later in February. A few times a year (or more) I get data hungry, so I started using Optimized again as a starting point. It’s a great little app, and between that and my Life Priority List (hardest. task. ever.), I set a handful (more than a handful) of pretty straightforward goals. Pinpointing where I spent my time helped with both the goals and the priority list.

http://i1.wp.com/farm2.staticflickr.com/1456/25311823342_f1fd15e664.jpg?resize=500%2C281&ssl=1

Graph from Optimized on where I spend my time. Note that this is skewed because the app kept deleting my data. [Health 60.3%, creativity 2.3%, pleasure 10.8% (which includes things like Skype and reading), and routine 26.6%] From here, I get a brief overview that I’d like to spend more time on creativity.

http://i0.wp.com/farm2.staticflickr.com/1603/25134558020_d6ea471cb3.jpg?resize=500%2C281&ssl=1

Optimized then offers correlations and shows how accurate they may or may not be.

The more time you log, the more accurate they become. My overall mood correlates positively with the time i spend on health. I can later further break this down and see how, for example, including more cycling in my routine affects my mood. Sometimes, however, it might be more useful for me to log cycling as both “cycling” and “exercise” to get a bigger picture of how exercise in general maps out onto mood, for example, so I could do the same for skating, walking, or dance.
http://i0.wp.com/farm2.staticflickr.com/1519/24799584454_fda338cca6.jpg?resize=500%2C281&ssl=1

Both pictures also offer a disclaimer about correlation—that correlation ≠ causation. But, it’s a helpful starting point. In the above, the app has determined that time spent on routine activities correlate positively with time spent on health activities by 25.6%, but notes that this correlation is only based on 19 data points… so it’s likely not too accurate. Yet.

I did pretty okay getting rolling on the goals and the logging in the last week and a bit of February, and I’ll continue that process in March. I’ve got a badass spreadsheet even, very loosely based on the life goals spreadsheet tutorial from Ryan Dube.

sleep graph

Note that even though I have my goals defined, certain ones—like sleep—probably do better with context. For now, I’m just interested in the raw numbers and can map it out against other factors later. Cycling, however, based on my not-too-intensive 40 minute/week goal, isn’t too lofty of a goal to achieve (which means I should at least have 20 minutes this week considering it is Wednesday, no? :]) 

Here’s where I’m at in terms of goals for March. While I set goals within Optimized (which Ari, the happy little robot, will tell me about), the nice thing about this system via Excel is that I can map things out in terms of progress. With the chart above, you’ll see each bar shows how close I was to my goal of 7 hours 35 minutes (7.56 hours) of sleep, or the progress towards my weekly goal for cycling. Certain goals also are monthly, which means I have a weekly progress-towards-monthly-goal bar, and then a final bar. 

Because nerd things, duh.

These are the goals I’ve got all mapped out in spreadsheet form for March, broken into the categories from from Optimized over there. Health, Routine, Pleasure and Creativity. Below, I’ve vaguely split the lists into physical, spiritual/emotional (/creative), social, occupational, and intellectual wellness.

  • Sleep, about 7.5 hours a night
  • Exercise [total: 21 minutes, 4 days per week—not a lot but more than I am doing]
    • Cycling – 40 minutes per week
    • Dance – 1 hour per month
    • Yoga – 30 minutes per week (I should get on that.
  • Meds, 5 minutes a day (this is approximate but should be enough to mean I am taking everything I should be taking… including the often-forgotten midday doses.)
  • Brush teeth, 4 minutes a day (2 minutes, twice a day)
  • Meditation, 20 minutes per week
  • Journaling, 5 minutes per day
  • Personal blog, 1 hour/week (so you’ll be seeing more of me)
  • Creating, 1 hour/week (this is called visual arts in Optimized)
  • Movie making – 1 hour/month
  • Spend more time with more people (I quantified this as “4 hours per month with people from the “friends” category in Optimized.
  • Look for [more] work, 1 hour per week
  • Work – blogging, 3 hours per week
  • Creative writing – 20 minutes/day (may overlap with personal blogging, etc.)
  • Log finances – 5 minutes/day (I’m using an app called DayCost for this. All manual because I am not into a 3rd party app connecting to my banks.)
  • Reading for fun – 30 minutes per week
  • Web surfing – maximum 6 hours per day (let’s be honest… this can suck a lot of time but also my work kind of overlaps with web surfing sometimes.)
It’s a pretty ambitious list so the rationale for the Excel spreadsheet is to see how close I get, and how to adjust these things later on.

I also have a to-do list of things I never accomplish. So, here’s what I’ve got on there because maybe that will make me accountable.

  • Smart Girls with ADHD Guest Post (184 days ago)
  • Another item for SGwADHD (66 days ago)
  • Buy new bed skirt (Why are these things so hard to find? 56 days ago)
  • Read and review book (I am the worst person to give an ARC to, clearly – 45 days ago)
  • Final eCare Smart blog post (21 days ago – waiting on an e-mail)
  • Buy spray paint for pegboard (12 days ago)
  • Buy hooks for pegboard (12 days ago)
  • E-mail organ donor/transplant interview (10 days ago)

So. March.
Here goes.

goals for 2016: simplicity.

I’m not a resolutionist for the simple reason is that I don’t think resolutions help to build habits. People get off to a great start or a bad start and often that sets the tone for the year—at some point, I read on Forbes.com that only 8% of people accomplish their new years resolutions. And I’d probably definitely be in the 92% that doesn’t. (Look, I’m not being a defeatist here, just honest.)

Simplicity.

Simplicity is the intention here. Akin to the final notes of 2015’s soundtrack, here’s what I’m aiming to accomplish in 2016—even if that takes me the next 362 days to sort-of get right.

1) Write with my hands more. 
I picked up a couple unlined Moleskines on sale at Home Outfitters on Boxing Day. Since January 1, I’ve been trying to write daily, even if just a few lines (or, not lines. I’m hoping to be freed by the totally blank pages. 

Not that I consistently write on lines or anything. Overrated.

2) Read 40 books.
It’s a little more realistic than 75. In progress—new for 2016—Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick and an advance review copy of a book called Millersville by Brendan Detzner.

3) That self-care/mindfulness/exercise/wellness thing.

4) Create.
Even if that’s just colouring, or writing more (even typing). In some fashion, I want to aim to write (non-work-things) for 20 minutes a day—at least. Goes back to the “just start” thing.

5) Engage more on Twitter.
Sometimes it seems like it’s counter productive to have a goal to engage more with people on social media, but you know what? I think I engaged a lot less that year, and realized repeatedly how much I missed it. So, the Twitter part of my heart is getting some focus. 🙂

That’s it.

Keeping it simple—God knows I’ll complicate stuff in other ways. Let’s go.

soundtracking 2015 – august through december.

Happy New Year! I finished off 2015 sick (thus the delay in publishing) so here’s hoping to a better end to 2016 in 365 days!

This post is a continuation of Tuesday’s post summarizing the 2015 soundtrack from March through July. Here’s how my year concluded, in song form…

Time to Be Well – Jenny Simmons.

In August, I started on a journey towards better self-care. In September, I tried to spark myself a “Self-Care September” challenge. Self-care, actually, is hard shit. In part, I wrote that I wanted to “try to pay more attention to what’s around me—and how that affects what’s going inside me, and how I respond to it”, and I think I’ve done okay with that, even beyond September. It’s a challenge sometimes, but Imyself, am a work in progress—and I had to learn that.

i wasn’t looking,
i wasn’t ready
kicking and screaming 
tired of believing by myself
i never would have done it on my own

oh but You, You were never gonna let me go
You took me, You took me, You took me…

straight to the Healer,
You were my believer
when i couldn’t even see it for myself
and now i’m whole, i can feel it
now i can see it,
when i couldn’t even say it for myself
You said “it’s time to be well”.

The thing is, even though I’ve been ignoring Him so much, I do feel like God was pulling me in this direction: I may not feel like I’m ready, or be ready, but He knows if I am or if I need to learn. This song, when I first got Jenny’s EP, tugged at my heart right away with the truth packed inside this 4 minute and 8 second track. Now in December, I can put into words the realization I had in August: that I am a work in progress, and I always will be. But that does not mean I am on my own.

no man’s an island
we need each other

no use in hiding
no pain in lying to myself
‘cause i don’t have to do this on my own

oh, with You, i don’t have to walk this world alone […]

Not only do I not have to do this on my own because I have Jesus, I also have other people in my world to help me. And, as I’m currently exploring a bit in writing a guest post for Smart Girls With ADHD, in this season I learned better how to ask for help. It’s a task I struggle with more often than I care to admit, but it’s so important to BEING well and feeling whole—feeling supported.
These things—songs, stories—they cross our paths for a reason: for me, I think Jenny’s words in Time To Be Well were a way that I heard a message I needed to hear: that I had to choose this for myself: I had to choose to not be an island in the midst of people, I had to choose to invest in self-care, I had to choose to make an effort to be more well. (“More well” is probably a grammatical nightmare. You get it, though.)

Repeatedly—back in September 2005, and today, this is true of my journey with God:

You tore a hole in the roof, and You laid me down
just to make me well, just to make me well,
and He made me well, and He made me well.

Transformation is conscious, and it is continual. And that is okay. More than okay.

Therapy – Relient K.

There’s a lot of this song that tugs at me, and other parts that don’t really fit my world (“I never thought I’d be driving through the country just to drive“, for example, doesn’t, but “with only music and the clothes that I woke up in” does…) but, there’s more truth than not here.

One night at the cabin, at 2 AM, in the Time to Be Well phase (with my spotty 3G-sometimes-LTE-data in the wilderness…), struggling with aspects of my life, I found a very sliding-scale payment counselling clinic—it works well with my lack of insurance. After my assessment, I was offered therapy, which I passed on since I’d have to go through the queue again—also, I wasn’t ready. Yet, as I kept going, kept reading, everything says therapy is one of those things that should be part of my ADHD treatment. It wasn’t, so I took initiative to make that happen—at 2 AM, like all worthwhile things. Legit—it’s that reflecting-in-the-darkness thing:

[…] I never thought I’d need
all this time alone, it goes to show
i had so much, yet i had need for nothing…
[…] this is just therapy,
let’s call it what it is
with a death-grip on this life, always transitioning.

I was assigned a therapist and started with him at the end of October. I spend an hour every week or two learning how to navigate my world better. I didn’t really know what I wanted out of therapy, except to control my reactions better, mostly—he was cool and worked with my vague-ness, though, for me, I continued the internal debate of whether I even wanted to be there.

letting it all sink in,
it’s good to feel a sting now and again 

Guess what? Therapy is fucking hard sometimes, but that’s why I’ve learned to like it. It makes me think and think about shit differently and criticize myself a bit—I’m cool with that. My therapist doesn’t have much experience with ADHD, and I’m okay with that, because he does seem to totally get the fact that I’m working with a “death grip on this life, always transitioning,” probably at a pace quicker than most people.

forgetting it all, begin
fresh paper and a nice expensive pen
the past cannot subtract a thing from
what i might do for you, unless that’s what i let it do 

This part is huge in that other stuff: the past is only what I let it be. End of story.

[…] loneliness and solitude are two things not to get confused
‘cause i spend my solitude with You
gather all the questions of the things i just can’t get straight
and i answer them the way i guess You do
‘cause this my therapy…
‘cause You’re the only one that’s listening to me.

this is my therapy, let’s call it what it is
not what we were, with this death grip on
this life that’s in transition, this is my therapy

Yeah, therapy for me happens in a room now, not only in a notebook or on a keyboard. But what I’ve learned in that room repeatedly runs through my racing thoughts throughout the day: I reflect, extremely often, without really realizing it. And this is how I know that it’s, at least somewhat, worthwhile for me to go through that “sting now and again”…

I needed to have some solid thoughts on therapy before I threw them all out here. And maybe I’m starting to have those. I’m lucky that I found a clinic I can afford, and a therapist who’s working his ass off to get me and my world, and how to help me to make things work better—yeah, maybe there’s somebody with more experience in ADHD (who I could pay $150 an hour rather than a subsidized $10 an hour), but I’d rather work with someone who tries to get me instead of someone who tries to compare me to a textbook. I actually like coming in to see what he’s printed or pulled up from journals via/or the web, to see that not only am I learning from him, he’s learning because of me, too.

So, I’m learning to navigate this life that’s in transition. And I’ve bought some new black Moleskines and tracked down some Sharpie pens to help me on that journey into next year… With five-plus therapy sessions left and all.

Armistice – MUTEMATH.

It’s sometimes a challenge to find a song to end the year on, especially since I am ending this year hugely in transition: a few blogging gigs started, a couple to begin, being employed but very under employed, in the midst of the process that is therapy. Armistice is a song I identified with a certain line of after my ADHD diagnosis, and I feel the song is pretty fitting to my current world.

out of time, and out of inclinations that we’re in
how’s it feel to watch a man relenting?
let’s just say that i might be a sucker for progress
it’s all in how you cope in spite of knowing…

The actual lyric here may be “cope in spite of no end,” but the internet people and myself are conflicted. This is the lyric, as it is above, that was a key player in sorting through the whole assessment/ADHD/learning issues diagnosis thing,

you don’t have to say it, i know, it’s all my fault
you don’t have to worry, i know, it’s how we are
you don’t have to say it, i know, it’s all my fault
the give and take is taking its toll

it’s an honest work if i can stand up on it
maybe we’re not as far apart as it appears
swallowing the blame is second nature,
i’ve got to keep on handling my business my way

2015 marked a year that I got into more contract-type work as well—right now, I’m working on four blogs, not including my own, and two are yet to begin, and I’m really stoked about that. I began writing with Understood.org and for the first time am working with an editor (!!!), Andrew, who has been amaaaazing.
Fortunately, I’ve found great people to work with who allow me a huge amount of freedom, and understand I won’t compromise who I am and what I stand for to land a writing gig—not everybody does

[…] i will take the fall if it takes us somewhere
the give and take, the give and take
the give and take is taking its toll

you don’t have to say it, i know, it’s all my fault
you don’t have to worry, i won’t
it falls apart.
you don’t have to say it, i know
it’s all my fault
the give and take is taking its toll…
you don’t have to say it. 

I’ve felt that give-and-take first-hand, so I don’t need reminders of what may have not unfolded as I expected. What goals I have yet to achieve. 365 days never unfold as I’ll anticipate they will, 2015 included. And that’s okay, that’s how growth happens. I’m working on it.

My first soundtrack project, in 2013, ended with “avalanche, in the blink of a year”. While 2013 was more of an avalanche than most, it worked to prepare me to be here. Prepared me for the waiting, the working, the being a work in progress. 

And, here I am, in the first days of 2016—I’m working on things here, still. As I should be. ‘Cause I weren’t a work in progress, wasn’t constantly in transition, I probably wouldn’t be learning anything, and wouldn’t be where I am meant to be.