Monday Morning Wake-Up Call. (If you think your commute is too long…)

If you think your commute is too long, be glad you’re not a godwit.Each year around this time, tens of thousands of bar-tailed godwits migrate from Alaska to New Zealand and Australia. The 7,000-mile journey — the longest nonstop migration of any land bird — is completed in eight to 10 days of continuous flapping without stopping to eat, drink or rest.

The godwit’s ordeal is so extreme that, as one recent paper put it, it challenges “underlying assumptions of bird physiology.” Before the bird takes off, its organs shrink, its pectoral muscles grow, and it gobbles up insects, worms and mollusks to store fat for the long journey. One scientist called the godwits “obese super athletes.”

— Matthew Cullen, Evening Briefing, NY Times. September 20, 2022. 

Monday Morning Wake Up Call!

It would be so nice, wouldn’t it? If something as simple as a notebook could change our habits overnight. Those blank pages. The physical representation of our fresh start. It’s almost religious. A sense of being born again. And this time, I won’t screw it up (cut to credits).

But I always did: screw it up, that is. It didn’t take much, particularly with diet and exercise – an unplanned slice of office birthday cake, or a missed spin class. A week could go from “new me” to “write-off” in the blink of an eye, the remaining days a sordid opportunity to revel in my failure, until Monday rolled around and I could start again (again).

Perfectionism. Fresh startism. All-or-nothing. Perfectionists aren’t great at swimming through the murky grey of slow and steady self-improvement, the kind that leads to meaningful change. Where inertia or regression isn’t failure, and it doesn’t take a Monday to get going.

So we diet then binge, buy new stationery, sign up to a gym and swing wildly between our new and old selves, wondering when our real lives will finally begin.

It was a relief, honestly, discovering that I was simply a victim of my schema, lost in a sea of all-or-nothing thinking inspired by a problematic self-improvement discourse. That the shimmering, perfect-from-now-on self I was reaching for doesn’t exist, because her story keeps going after the credits roll. While change is possible, it’s rarely linear. Any pledge for self-improvement that assumes we can sever off our less desirable personality traits is a lie.

I finally finished my book, the one I wish I’d read as a teenager, about a girl who discovers imperfections are part of being human and learns to see the world with a little more nuance. The process of slowly but surely reworking the manuscript into something that isn’t perfect, but is wholly me, helped reframe my thinking about meaningful change.

Is there such a thing as a whole new me? I wouldn’t know. Most days, I’ve stopped searching for her.

— Miranda Luby, from “Where ever you go, there you are: the myth of the whole new me” (The Guardian, August 21, 2022).  Sadie Starr’s Guide to Starting Over by Miranda Luby is out now. 

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

It also reminded me of how much I tend to retreat to work when things are uncomfortable.

Why sit with pain when you can keep yourself busy with work?

—  Katie Hawkins-Gaar, from “The Distraction of Work” (My Sweet Dumb Brain, August 23, 2022) (A newsletter about facing life’s ups and downs, all while being kind to yourself. Katie Hawkins-Gaar was 31 when her husband, Jamie, collapsed while running a half-marathon and died in 2017. A year-and-a-half after Jamie’s death, Katie launched her newsletter, My Sweet Dumb Brain, all about the ups and downs of grief.)

 

And then, there’s the Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

We compartmentalized the stress and ongoing trauma, flattening it into something survivable, but we nonetheless ate it for breakfast, and lunch, and dinner. We swam in that stress. We slept in it. We swallowed it in gulps. We lived through it, and we told ourselves stories of resilience, because what other choice did we have.

But the body is bad at pretending. It keeps the damn score.

T.G.I.F. a little sunshine…


Notes:

  • Photo: DK @ Daybreak. 5:15, 5:25 am, July 22, 2022. 73° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. A few more pictures from this morning here and here.
  • Poem Source: liriostigre

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

Instead of trying to clear the decks, reach inbox zero or check every errand off your to-do list, acknowledge that you lack time for even a fraction of the things you want or need to do. Learn to tolerate the feeling—sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes anxiety-provoking—of having a lot clamoring for your attention, he says. And then: “Do the most important things.”

What those important things actually are has grown clearer, one silver lining of the turbulence of the past two years—war, gun violence, the virus. Joe Holt, a business professor at the University of Notre Dame and former Jesuit priest who splits his time between South Bend, Ind., and the Chicago suburbs, spent parts of 2020 and 2021 volunteering in an intensive-care unit as a nurse’s aide.

“They make me relish time,” he says of his days assisting patients suffering from Covid. He delights in tiny things: the ability to get out of bed, to walk in the sunshine. Never a big planner, he’s started setting goals, like completing an Ironman triathlon.

“Part of it is, my body is working right now and who knows if it will be in a year or two,” he says. “I’m more deliberate and determined when it comes to things like that.”

It can still be hard to know what to say no to and what to prioritize. Procrastination and decision fatigue kick in. Try to imagine what choice you’d approve of in a year or decade, recommends Alan Burdick, the author of a book about the biology and psychology of time.

Time is weird, amorphous and elastic, he says, with the ability to speed up or slow down depending on everything from how much we like something to how busy we are. At its core, he says, time is really about memory and what you’ll take with you after the seconds have passed…

“It was in the quiet…that I figured out how to reprioritize my time.”

—  Rachel Feintzeig, You Have Only So Much Time. Are You Using It Right ‘When you do the math, it really hits.’ After two life-changing years, decisions about how we spend our hours feel even weightier (The Wall Street Journal June 13, 2022)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

The years from late middle age onward are also marked by a steady erosion of ambition. The cause isn’t so much a loss of drive as a growing realisation that you aren’t going to change the world after all. You’re just going to die and be forgotten, like almost everyone else. The knowledge that your existence doesn’t really matter is sobering, but also sort of a relief. It’s certainly changed my approach to paperwork.

Tim Dowling, from “I’m nearly 60. Here’s what I’ve learned about growing old so far.” (The Guardian, June 8, 2022)


Notes:

  • Post Inspired by: “My thirst for life gets deeper and deeper the less of it remains.” —  Anya Krugovoy Silver, from “Benediction” in From “Nothing: Poems by Anya Krugovoy Silver”, p. 23 (LSU Press, September 12, 2016) (via Alive on All Channels)
  • Portrait of Tim Dowling via The Guardian by Sophia Spring.

Saturday Morning

Brian Wilson went to bed for three years. Jean-Michel Basquiat would spend all day in bed. Monica Ali, Charles Bukowski, Marcel Proust, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Tracey Emin, Emily Dickinson, Edith Sitwell, Frida Kahlo, William Wordsworth, René Descartes, Mark Twain, Henri Matisse, Kathy Acker, Derek Jarman and Patti Smith all worked or work from bed and they’re productive people. (Am I protesting too much?) Humans take to their beds for all sorts of reasons: because they’re overwhelmed by life, need to rest, think, recover from illness and trauma, because they’re cold, lonely, scared, depressed – sometimes I lie in bed for weeks with a puddle of depression in my sternum – to work, even to protest (Emily Dickinson, John and Yoko). Polar bears spend six months of the year sleeping, dormice too. Half their lives are spent asleep, no one calls them lazy. There’s a region in the South of France, near the Alps, where whole villages used to sleep through the seven months of winter – I might be descended from them. And in 1900, it was recorded that peasants from Pskov in northwest Russia would fall into a deep winter sleep called lotska for half the year: ‘for six whole months out of the twelve to be in the state of Nirvana longed for by Eastern sages, free from the stress of life, from the need to labour, from the multitudinous burdens, anxieties, and vexations of existence’.

— Viv Albertine, To Throw Away Unopened: A Memoir (Faber & Faber Social; May 8, 2018)


Notes: Photo via S L @ gingermias @ Unsplash. Quote via neverneverland

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

…We are trying to get off the damn treadmill so that we can remember the purpose and dignity that can come from the whole of our life.

So ask yourself this: Who would you be if work was no longer the axis of your life? How would your relationship with your close friends and family change, and what role would you serve within your community at large? Whom would you support, how would you interact with the world, and what would you fight for?

We are so overextended, so anxious, and so conditioned to approach our life as something to squeeze in around work that just asking these questions can feel indulgent. If you really try to answer them, what you’re left with will likely feel silly or far-fetched: like a Hallmark movie of your life, if you got to cast people to play you and the rest of your family who were well rested, filled with energy and intentionality and follow-through. Your mind will try to tell you it’s a fantasy. But it’s supposed to sound amazing, because you need to want it, really yearn for it, to a degree that will motivate you to shift your life in ways that will make the fantasy a reality.

Think back on a time in your life before you regularly worked for pay. Recall, if you can, an expanse of unscheduled time that was, in whatever manner, yours. What did you actually like to do? Not what your parents said you should do, not what you felt as if you should do to fit in, not what you knew would look good on your application for college or a job.

The answer might be spectacularly simple: You liked riding your bike with no destination in mind, making wild experiments in the kitchen, playing around with eyeshadow, writing fan fiction, playing cards with your grandfather, lying on your bed and listening to music, trying on all your clothes and making ridiculous outfits, thrifting, playing Sims for hours, obsessively sorting baseball cards, playing pickup basketball, taking photos of your feet with black-and-white film, going on long drives, learning to sew, catching bugs, skiing, playing in a band, making forts, harmonizing with other people, putting on mini-plays—whatever it was, you did it because you wanted to. Not because it would look interesting if you posted it on social media, or because it somehow optimized your body, or because it would give you better things to talk about at drinks, but because you took pleasure in it.

Once you figure out what that thing is, see if you can recall its contours. Were you in charge? Were there achievable goals or no goals at all? Did you do it alone or with others? Was it something that really felt as if it was yours, not your siblings’? Did it mean regular time spent with someone you liked? Did it involve organizing, creating, practicing, following patterns, or collaborating? See if you can describe, out loud or in writing, what you did and why you loved it. Now see if there’s anything at all that resembles that experience in your life today…

— Charlie Warzel & Anne Helen Petersen, from “How to Care Less About Work” in The Atlantic (December 5, 2021). This has been excerpted from their forthcoming book, Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working From Home.

The Morning Show

The thing people don’t realize is that there is a cost to success and fame. There’s a story by Hans Christian Anderson. A young woman becomes enamored with these fabulous red shoes that are more attention-grabbing and exciting than the humble brown shoes she wears. In a moment of bad judgment, she succumbs to their charms and wears them to church. And lo and behold, her feet start moving and she is dancing, and she can’t stop. And she dances for hours and days and weeks until she is bloody and bruised from dancing like a whirling dervish through the countryside and towns unable to stop. She finally dances so much and so hard, faster and faster, that you know she’s going to bleed to death. So in a desperate attempt to stave off death, she finally implores a woodcutter to cut off her feet. And he does. Then she dies. Times were different back then. And I’m sure there’s some patriarchal message in this to women who wanted to step out of their role. However, I always took away from it as a kid — and it probably says something about me as a kid — is the idea that the world might have you running so hard that rather than running one step more, you would cut off your own feet. Never… And I never — I never forgot that image. I think success in the modern world demands a similar dance — soul sucking, grueling, never-ending. And I just wanted it to end. I wanted it to end so I could begin to live. I’ll let you know how it goes.

— Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston), The Morning Show (S2:E1). “My Least Favorite Year.”


Notes:

Photo: Hello Magazine – Jennifer Aniston Wows In First Look at Series Two of the Morning Show

Monday Morning

5/24/41…

After all that, the change … was like the sudden, unwelcome awakening from a glorious dream. An awakening on a Monday morning when, with one’s castle and clouds and the silver sea dissolved into a sordid room, one realizes that one has to get up and dress in the cold night in a few minutes and plod through a weary day.

Patricia Highsmith, “Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995.″ Anna von Planta (Editor). (Liveright, November 16, 2021)— Patricia Highsmith, Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995


Photo: DK @ Daybreak. 6:52 a.m., November 22, 2021. 48° F & Rain. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. Related Swan posts: Swan1

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

2/24/41. We must think of ourselves as a fertile land on which to draw. And if we do not, we grow rotten, like an unmilked cow. And if we leave something unexploited it dies within us wasted. But to tax one’s powers always at their maximum potentiality—this is the only way to live at all, in the proper sense of the word.

Patricia Highsmith, “Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995.″ Anna von Planta (Editor). (Liveright, November 16, 2021)


Notes:

T.G.I.F.


James Curran: Swim.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

There’s time for everything except the things worth doing. Think of something you really care about. Then add hour to hour and calculate the fraction of your life that you’ve actually spent in doing it. And then calculate the time you’ve spent on things like shaving, riding to and fro on buses, waiting in railway, junctions, swapping dirty stories, and reading the newspapers.

George Orwell, from “Coming Up For Air


Quote: Alive on All Channels. George Orwell portrait.

I like Sunday Nights

It’s Sunday. I like Sunday nights, and this particular time always puts me in a good mood…

A transition into Monday, a waiting room.

—  Brenda Lozano, “Loop.”


Photo: Sully.

Walking. With Billy Summers.

67° F. Cove Island Park.  Morning walk. 459 consecutive days. Like in a row.

Sun, all on its own, decides there’s no damn point getting up this early, is rising later, 5:55 a.m. per Dark Sky app.  And yet I’m struggling to make adjustments. So here we are. 3:38 a.m. Sciatica screaming the moment I stir with Jung’s fear of the journey to Hades having arrived. What if this Sciatica thing is with me the rest of the go? 

I ease out bed, try to shake that ugly thought from my head, and head for the scale.

Disgusting result.

Admit it, you’re looking for a full status report on the Refined Sugar Elimination Project. Not goin’ to get it. Nope.

I turn to the morning papers. Headline catches my attention. “Escaping the Efficiency Trap—and Finding Some Peace of MindThe more productive we are, the more pressure we feel. It’s time to break the busyness cycle.” “...the problem with trying to make time for everything that feels important is that you definitely never will. The reason isn’t that you haven’t yet discovered the right time management tricks or applied sufficient effort, or that you need to start getting up earlier, or that you’re generally useless. It’s that the underlying assumption is unwarranted: There’s no reason to believe you’ll ever feel “on top of things,” or make time for everything that matters, simply by getting more done. That’s because if you succeed in fitting more in, you’ll find the goal posts start to shift: More things will begin to seem important, meaningful or obligatory. Acquire a reputation for doing your work at amazing speed, and you’ll be given more of it. … The general principle in operation here is what we might call the “efficiency trap.” Rendering yourself more efficient—either by implementing various productivity techniques or by driving yourself harder—won’t generally result in the feeling of having “enough time,” because, all else being equal, the demands will increase to offset any benefits. Far from getting things done, you’ll be creating new things to do. For most of us, most of the time, it isn’t feasible to avoid the efficiency trap altogether. But the choice you can make is to stop believing you’ll ever solve the challenge of busyness by cramming more in, because that just makes matters worse. And once you stop investing in the idea that you might one day achieve peace of mind that way, it becomes easier to find peace of mind in the present, in the midst of overwhelming demands, because you’re no longer making your peace of mind dependent on dealing with all the demands. Once you stop believing that it might somehow be possible to avoid hard choices about time, it gets easier to make better ones….And so, like the dutiful and efficient worker I was, I’d put my energy into clearing the decks, cranking through the smaller stuff to get it out of the way—only to discover that doing so took the whole day, that the decks filled up again overnight anyway and that the moment for responding to the New Delhi email never arrived. One can waste years this way, systematically postponing precisely the things one cares about the most. What’s needed instead in such situations, I gradually came to understand, is a kind of anti-skill: not the counterproductive strategy of trying to make yourself more efficient but rather a willingness to resist such urges—to learn to stay with the anxiety of feeling overwhelmed, of not being on top of everything, without automatically responding by trying to fit more in..”

Burkeman goes on, and on. My eyes scan the words, one line, the next and the next. Heaviness sets in… a sinkin’ feeling. He’s in my head. You DK. This is You. [Read more…]

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?

Caleb’s stage name is Jamal.  From: Jamal / A Camel(1981) dir. Ibrahim Shaddad


Notes:

Driving I-95 S. Through another sh*tstorm…

Monday. 5:55 a.m. I-95 S in morning drive to work. I was moving too fast to snap a shot so you’re stuck with that photo of I-95, but it’s North-bound, mid-afternoon, in bumper to bumper traffic several weeks earlier.

Back to Monday morning, and this commuter’s meditation. The hum of tire rotation on pavement. A/C chilling the cabin. Instrumental music from Iceland’s greatest export, Ólafur Arnalds.

12 minutes from the office.

Pre-rush hour traffic flowing smoothly.  75 mph, and ~4 car lengths behind the car in front.  I shift in seat, unable to find sweet spot to ease the lower back pain. It could be worse.  Tune ends, playlist skips to next Arnalds’ track. Rob Roberge: “Words can intrude when the body wants to take over. Lyrics make you think—music helps you just feel.

Then…tail lights from car in front flicker once. Then twice. Then solid red.  Slowing in speed lane on I-95? Amygdala on high alert.  I tap the brakes, eyes scan the roadway. And there she comes: Bambi.  No. No. No.  She’s looking to cross 6 lanes of highway, 3 lanes separated by 5-foot concrete divider.

I lift my right hand the from gear stick, ready to shield myself as she comes through the windshield. My left clenches the steering wheel. And then super-slo-mo.

She dodges the car in front.

There’s a soft thump on my passenger side rear fender.

I see her clear the divider with a foot to spare…and can’t bear to watch any longer to see if she cleared oncoming traffic heading North.

Yanko Flores (The Morning Show): “There is nothing you can do to stop the wind from blowing. So what can you do…? You just keep on moving. And you brace yourself for the shitstorm.”

I turn my attention back to I-95. I find both hands clutching the steering wheel, and can’t seem to release.

I keep on moving…

Monday Morning Wake Up Call

There is nothing more liberating than to realize you don’t have to live up to anything anymore.

— Betty Broderick, Dirty John (Netflix, S2:E6, The Twelfth of Never)


Photo: Esquire

T.G.I.F.

I know enough to realize that any reprieve my body is granted is only ever temporary. The body has an expiration date, and for those of us who care enough to forge on, to race the clock, much of our life’s work has to do with keeping that date at bay with maintenance, with spit and Band-Aids and all the laughter and intimacy and love we can cram into any twenty-four-hour day.

— Gina Frangello, Blow Your House Down: A Story of Family, Feminism, and Treason (Counterpoint, April 6, 2021)


Photo: Rodney Smith (via seemoreandmore)

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