Facing Fogbrain, The Rematch

Facing Fogbrain, The Rematch

I’ve been thinking about fogginess for almost a month now, and I am starting to get a better handle on what its “essence” is, at least for me. This week I’m going to journal my way through it and see if I can’t get a better grip on it.

Hello, lazy Sunday morning! The window shades are up so the room is bathed in light, and my two cats bask with bellies upturned to track the sun. As for me, I’m recovering from yesterday’s curry-themed potluck dinner, for which I made Japanese-style beef curry from scratch for only the second time. Behold!

Curry! In today’s after-curry haze, I’m wondering what to do today. The major projects on my mind are fitting the new website with code that will allow it to work with the ancient WordPress 1.1 technologies that I built it with, and to write a lot of fancy Javascript object oriented code for the almost real-time graphics engine we are building for a research group. My sister’s family is also visiting, and there is talk of doing something later this afternoon. I do feel like working, at least in theory, but again I am feeling utterly foggy.

Let me quickly break this down.

My description of FogBrain

“Fogbrain” is the state when I want to DO something, but am unable to initiate action. I associate this condition with the following feelings:

  • Disinterest in processes that seem to use a lot of time in return for uncertain or small results.
  • Visualizing the steps needed to reach the goal raises more uncertainties than resolutions.
  • Discomfort with taking steps that do not have a guaranteed payoff.
  • Inability to hold attention long enough to come up with a solid plan of action.
  • Inability to remember where I left off last.
  • Distraction by related thoughts and desires; once I think of one, two more pop up.
  • A sense of tiredness, weariness.

I see two patterns here:

  • It’s an innate resistance to doing work that may not pay off either efficiently or with guaranteed results, and a tendency toward distraction when I am facing that resistance. Fogbrain is, I hypothesize, a disinterested reaction to work, when that work is not interesting enough by itself, even when I know that the long-term result is interesting. It’s just so far in the future and therefore abstract, which I find not very compelling.

  • It’s also a mental challenge to efficiently recall what I was doing and get into the working zone. I know it’s possible. I just don’t seem to be able to consistently do it whenever I want. It’s a lot easier to click on something in a web browser and see something new pop up. It’s effortless and it is fun to explore new ideas at the speed of the Internet.

Sometimes, I’m just tired from pushing myself and not feeling I’m succeeding, and need a break. And sometimes, I’m just not drinking enough water. For the first two weeks of March, I was drinking my 64oz of water every day. This past week I fell out of the habit because my water pitcher has been annoying me and I’d let dishes pile-up in the sink. I feel pretty crappy, physically. I also didn’t go to the gym this week, and I feel physically rancid, if that makes sense.

Possible solutions

If I am feeling lost and distracted, then maybe I need some anchors. Some simple rituals.
  • Water + Exercise, Daily – I’ve experienced the effects of exercising/not exercising enough to know that this does pay off. I have to accept that I need to make the time to do this as much as possible.

  • Mental Rituals – I know from last week that when I quiet my mind, calm my heart, and let any limit-scope task expand to fill the entirety of my mind, that is when I am likely to enter the flow state. I suspend judgmental thoughts and the sense of who I am. I stop thinking about me, my identity, my role, my reactions, my desires and concerns…all that has to stop so what’s left has a chance to be seen and heard.

  • Memory Rituals – There should always be one place that I look to see what I’m doing, where I’ve come, and where I’m going next. The tricky part is being able to maintain that starting place for ALL lines of work. A planning/task assignment sheet mixed with a journal, perhaps? I need to be able to see what “pieces” are on the board, and from that know what “moves” are possible given the configuration of pieces, and what “stratagems” are in-play to achieve one’s immediate and longer-term intentions.

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p>Perhaps what I have really been lacking is commitment. I have tended to think of commitment as more of a mental state of mind, but I’m realizing now that it’s probably a lot easier to maintain that commitment when there is a physical component to it. The act itself is more than just symbolic; the physical action itself is a commitment that can be noted as DONE or NOT DONE. Physicality keeps us honest. I have avoided this because it feels like a trap, but I’m starting to see that if I want to get something done, I have to accept it willingly. The sincerity of a promise is nothing, no matter how truly heartfelt it is, if the actions do not follow.

This week’s experiment

Experiments are what keep me interested in the mundane tasks, so this week’s experiment will be to embrace the commitment as well-meaning trap. I already feel my chest clenching up at the thought of being trapped, but I will work on relaxing my response to it.