Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

We’ve transformed the world from a place of scarcity to a place of overwhelming abundance: Drugs, food, news, gambling, shopping, gaming, texting, sexting, Facebooking, Instagramming, YouTubing, tweeting … the increased numbers, variety, and potency of highly rewarding stimuli today is staggering. The smartphone is the modern-day hypodermic needle, delivering digital dopamine 24/7 for a wired generation. If you haven’t met your drug of choice yet, it’s coming soon to a website near you. Scientists rely on dopamine as a kind of universal currency for measuring the addictive potential of any experience. The more dopamine in the brain’s reward pathway, the more addictive the experience. In addition to the discovery of dopamine, one of the most remarkable neuroscientific findings in the past century is that the brain processes pleasure and pain in the same place. Further, pleasure and pain work like opposite sides of a balance. We’ve all experienced that moment of craving a second piece of chocolate, or wanting a good book, movie, or video game to last forever. That moment of wanting is the brain’s pleasure balance tipped to the side of pain.

Anna LembkeDopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence (Dutton, August 24, 2021)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I urge you to find a way to immerse yourself fully in the life that you’ve been given. To stop running from whatever you’re trying to escape, and instead to stop, and turn, and face whatever it is. Then I dare you to walk toward it. In this way, the world may reveal itself to you as something magical and awe-inspiring that does not require escape. Instead, the world may become something worth paying attention to. The rewards of finding and maintaining balance are neither immediate nor permanent. They require patience and maintenance. We must be willing to move forward despite being uncertain of what lies ahead. We must have faith that actions today that seem to have no impact in the present moment are in fact accumulating in a positive direction, which will be revealed to us only at some unknown time in the future. Healthy practices happen day by day. My patient Maria said to me, “Recovery is like that scene in Harry Potter when Dumbledore walks down a darkened alley lighting lampposts along the way. Only when he gets to the end of the alley and stops to look back does he see the whole alley illuminated, the light of his progress.”

Anna LembkeDopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence (Dutton, August 24, 2021)

Walking. Not. And Ranting.

Where does one start?

Let’s start with 327 consecutive days. Like in a row. Formerly described as the morning walk @ daybreak to Cove Island Park.

It’s time to inject some integrity into this getting-long-in-the-tooth story. This morning walk has degenerated into a morning drive to the Park. There I am this morning, sitting in the car in front of the gate at the park, heater blowing, warming my feet — I can’t, I just can’t open the door and get out. So, rather than getting out, I leave and drive to the next site on DK’s Marvelous Adventure in search of the sunrise from a location where I can roll down the window and not get my sorry a** out of the car. Wow, DK. You’re so awesome.

Or we can commiserate over the free fall in weight gain, or better stated, the pile up of 8 lbs in 30 days. Root cause? If one would take inventory of the snacking between calls and meetings, you would say: “It’s just not possible.” And I’m here to tell you, if you put your mind to it, an addict can accomplish anything.

We’ve pivoted to Welch’s Mixed Fruit Snacks. The Honeycrisp apples sit on the wicker tray on the island in the kitchen. The plump, juicy, seedless red grapes rest in the bowl in the fridge. Next to the grapes, fresh cut cantaloupe in the tupperware dish. And the horse with its blinders can’t see any of it. With the heartbeat elevated, a few feet away from The Fix, a giant Costco size box of Fruit Snacks. I grab two handfuls and run back to my office to jump on another call. My hands trembling, saliva building up in anticipation… I rip open the package and drain its contents. Pause for a second. And then bite down to let the saliva-sugar-corn syrup puree coat my tongue, throat and then slide down to the tummy. Oh, the few seconds of relief…with the sugar fix in, the momentary silence… all intoxicating. I get after another package. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. You see where this is going.

Or we can chat about yesterday’s bi-annual physical with my G.P.

[Read more…]

Saturday Morning. Walking with Lucy.

4:30 am.

I shake off the cob webs from Tylenol PM.

Read morning papers, blog posts, skim social media.

Read another chapter of Christopher Beha’s “The Index of Self-Destructive Acts.”

Think about my index, and yesterday’s destructive acts. Guzzled two (or was it three?) bottles of Diet Snapple Peach Tea. Sugar Free. No preservatives. Turn the bottle to read the label. Aspartame, sodium, citric acid, potassium citrate, malic acid. Natural, my a**.

And then Nachos. Potato Chips. Three donuts. And, a large (large) number of Hershey’s Nuggets…like on a conveyor belt, I love Lucy and the Chocolate Factory. Oh, that milk chocolate sugar high.

C.S. Lewis said “Life (or Sugar), is as habit forming as cocaine. What then?” What then? What now?

I pause before weigh-in. Regret the Self-Destructive Acts. Inhale. Hope. I ease onto the scale, like tip-toeing is going to pare back a pound or two. A**holes believe that it will move down after yesterday’s performance. Disgusting. Disgusted.

I check the weather app. Think about how many layers I need. Should be one less with the extra layer of glazed donuts. Whale blubber is said to taste like arrowroot biscuits or Stop & Shop Cake donuts.

57° F, but breezy. No jacket. Tee-shirt. Long sleeved sweater. Camera gear. I walk by the island in the kitchen. 3 donuts left. Don’t you dare. Don’t even think about it. My mouth waters. My God, I have issues.

5:30 am.

I’m out the door.

152 consecutive days.

5 mile loop to Cove Island Park and back.

~10,000 steps…

600 calories…

Or approx 3 glazed donuts.

Ah, yes. The underpinnings for sugar addiction. I’m O.K. Breathe easier.

Think of the actual physical elements that compose our bodies: we are 98 percent hydrogen and oxygen and carbon. That’s table sugar. You are made of the same stuff as table sugar.

Just a couple of tiny differences here and there and look what happened to the sugar: it can stand upright and send tweets.

~ Augusten Burroughs, This Is How: Surviving What You Think You Can’t


Notes: Sugar Photo credit. Quote via quotespile

Just another Friday night…

  • 8:05 pm. I arrive at home, 15 hour day. ooooooo, how do you spell, e-n-o-u-g-h…
  • 8:10 pm. Sitting at kitchen table. Thai takeout. Cold. Sticky rice, stucky rice.
  • 8:15 pm. Susan fussing with remote and TV. “Bloody cable box must be broken.”
  • 8:16 pm. DK: “No, must be the TV.  It’s time for one of those new 8K T.V.s.”
  • 8:17 pm. SK: “Are you out of your mind?”
  • 8:17 pm. She continues fussing with remote.
  • 8:18 pm. I’m picking at the cold rice which is slathered with Duck sauce.
  • 8:19 pm. I google Cablevision to see if there are outages. Widespread outages since 7:49 pm.
  • 8:20 pm. DK: “Why don’t you google it?”
  • 8:21 pm. SK: “I’m not googling anything. You google it.”
  • 8:22 pm. 36 years of marriage last week. I sit in silence and pick at the cold Garlic Chicken.
  • 8:23 pm. She reboots the cable box by powering it on and off. She waits for system to reset.
  • 8:26 pm. System resets.  She curses. Still no fix. She’s now irritated, advancing to angry.
  • 8:26 pm. She scurries over to the other room to test that TV.
  • 8:27 pm. She’s back. She’s isolated root cause to a cable problem.
  • 8:28 pm. She resets the entire T.V. to default settings. And waits and waits and waits.
  • 8:39 pm. It’s back up. No fix.
  • 8:40 pm. She runs downstairs to reset cable modem to reset the entire system.
  • 8:45 pm. Alarms beep. Entire system reboots.
  • 8:45 pm. I’m watching her with the remote, clutching a crucifix, whispering to herself.
  • 8:50 pm. Entire system reset. No fix.
  • 8:51 pm. DK: “Why don’t you google it?”
  • 8:52 pm: SK: “I’m not googling anything.”
  • 8:52 pm. She texts neighbor. To learn that neighbor has texted entire neighborhood.
  • 8:53 pm. Neighbor: “Cable out in three states CT, NY, NJ.”
  • 8:53 pm. Three states of cable addicts blitzing Cablevision 800 # and website.
  • 8:54 pm. I’ve moved onto dessert, continue watching this show. Who needs Broadway?
  • 8:55 pm. She googles Cablevision with her back to me. She finds number and dials. She’s on hold.
  • 8:58 pm. After being on hold for several minutes, she learns that it’s the wrong number.
  • 8:59 pm. She collapses onto couch, still clutching the remote.
  • 9:00 pm. I walk upstairs, looking over my shoulder. There she is, eyes closed, slumped on the couch. And I’m the one with problems?

Image & Story: Optimum customers report widespread outages (CtPost, September 6, 2019, 9:42 PM)

About right…


The New Yorker Magazine

I carry my phone around with me as if it were an oxygen tank

I carry my phone around with me as if it were an oxygen tank. I stare at it while I make breakfast and take out the recycling, ruining what I prize most about working from home—the sense of control, the relative peace. I have tried all sorts of things to look at screens less often: I don’t get push notifications or use Facebook or watch Instagram stories; on my home computer, I have installed a browser plug-in called StayFocusd, which turns off Twitter after forty-five minutes of daily use. On my phone, I use an app called Freedom to block social media for much of the workday. If any of my digital chastity belts malfunction, I start scrolling like a junkie, pulling myself away just long enough to send frantic e-mails to the apps’ customer service with subject lines like “Freedom not working!” …

Nearly three-quarters of Americans have taken steps to distance themselves from Facebook. Entire families try to observe a “digital Sabbath.” Parents seek screen-time alternatives to the Jungian horrorscape that is children’s YouTubeAnd yet a mood of fidgety powerlessness continues to accumulate, like an acid snowfall on our collective mind…

One afternoon, I draped myself on my couch and felt an influx of mental silence that was both disturbing and hallucinatorily pleasurable. I didn’t want to learn how to fix or build anything, or start a book club. I wanted to experience myself as soft and loose and purposeless, three qualities that, in my adulthood, have always seemed economically risky. Nothing is harder to do than nothing,” Jenny Odell writes, in her new book,How to Do Nothing.” …Odell details, with earnest wonder, moments in her life when she was reoriented toward these values. After the 2016 election, she began feeding peanuts to two crows on her balcony, and found comfort in the fact that “these essentially wild animals recognized me, that I had some place in their universe.” …

On the first day of April, I took stock of my digital experiment. I had not become a different, better person. I had not acquired any high-value leisure activities. But I had felt a sort of persistent ache and wonder that pulled me back to a year that I spent in the Peace Corps, wandering in the dust at the foot of sky-high birch trees, terrified and thrilled at the sensation of being unknowable, mysterious to myself, unseen. I watered my plants, and I loosened my StayFocusd settings, back to forty-five daily minutes. I considered my Freedom parameters, which I had already learned to break, and let them be…

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” the philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote, in 1654…

Sitting quietly in a room alone is for experts.

~ Jia Tolentino, excerpts from What It Takes to Put Your Phone Away The New Yorker, April 22, 2019


Notes: Essay – Thank you Sawsan for sharing! And publicly highlighting another addiction. Image: Nico Milk

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

For the rest of the week, I became acutely aware of the bizarre phone habits I’d developed. I noticed that I reach for my phone every time I brush my teeth or step outside the front door of my apartment building, and that, for some pathological reason, I always check my email during the three-second window between when I insert my credit card into a chip reader at a store and when the card is accepted.

Mostly, I became aware of how profoundly uncomfortable I am with stillness. For years, I’ve used my phone every time I’ve had a spare moment in an elevator or a boring meeting. I listen to podcasts and write emails on the subway. I watch YouTube videos while folding laundry. I even use an app to pretend to meditate.

If I was going to repair my brain, I needed to practice doing nothing…

It’s an unnerving sensation, being alone with your thoughts.

~ Kevin Roose, from “Do Not Disturb: How I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain” in The New York Times, February 23, 2019


Photo: Smartphone by Fernando Assumpcao

Flying North N.E. AA1263. Add, yet another addiction.

 

 

It’s that time again. An updated inventory of Addictions.

  1. iPhone. Like Jenny Erpenbeck’s “Bone to bone, blood to blood, as if (we’re) bonded together.”
  2. Talenti Mint Chocolate Chip Gelato. Heaven in a cup. Sweet Jesus. 3-4 pints a week, minimum.
  3. iPad Pro. Speedy wifi in-flight. Enable online work in both directions.
  4. Sugar. Stonewall Kitchen Sour Cherry Jam. 2.5 heaping tablespoons stirred in with Chobani Fruit on the Bottom Greek Yogurt with Pineapple on the Bottom.
  5. Seat #24 E, Exit Row, AA Airbus A321.  To/fro LGA to DFW. Same seat (or take different flight)
  6. Socks: Ultra thin, over-the-calf knee high. Can’t have hot feet or exposed skin.
  7. Advil PM. Ingest 1/2 pill one hour before bed time.  Insomniacs sleep aid.
  8. Knee pillow. To sleep. Avoid bone to bone contact.

And so here we are.

Dallas, TX. Hotel. Wednesday evening.

I open the Jabra Elite Active 65t Wireless Earbuds charging case to find the right earbud missing. Major problem. [Read more…]

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