Can you believe it’s time for the October Review already? If you’re just tuning in, I’m doing a report every month on the same days as Groundhog Day Resolutions, but am not doing my usual goal tracking. Instead, I’m seeing what happens when I instead do freeform focus on a single area of interest. I figured that going off the rails for a year might lead to unexpected insights while also testing to see what habits have been ingrained over the last 12 years.
Let’s start with a review of last month’s goals:
Improve Time Management through “Time Block and Measure” – I had realized that I tend to “predict and execute”, which is a guarantee of failure because my work is filled with unknowns. Last month I tried to just spend SOME TIME on my tasks; getting started on them was usually the problem. The result: lower stress, about double the usual amount of hours I am able to work. I don’t think that is entirely due to time blocking, but I do like this approach. Let’s keep doing it.
Reset Expectations about the world being correctly documented – I like my tools and processes to be clearly documented by people who care about communicating a system of ideas. In the fast moving world of development these days, this is the exception rather than the rule, and it drives me crazy. This actually prevents me from being a better developer, because I let it get to me. Not anymore! I’ve tried to accept that most documentation needs to be rebuilt for my purposes, and that it is no one’s fault. By adopting my crime scene theory of learning, I’ve been able to turn the frustration more into a reconstruction challenge, discerning the intent rather than expecting it to be obvious.
Maintaining Morale – It has been a challenging year, and in the isolation I found myself dwelling on negative things more and needed to make sure that I took care of myself. I restarted a regular telehealth session with my gender therapist, and have reminded myself that I don’t need to be so hard on myself. This is a pretty big topic; I go into it in more detail in the next session.
On Feeling Better
There has been significant self care activity this past month:
I’ve been taking my Bupropion trial for 7 weeks now, and now that it has become a regular drug routine I can make an initial assessment of its effect. Generally, I feel pretty good. I’ve continued to find it easier to start tasks without the headache and discontinuous thoughts. It does not help procrastination, but it is easier to get out of it because the friction to starting has been diminished great. That said, there are other factors contributing to my mood. I’ve been able to work longer hours, though my distractibility is only marginally improved if at all.
That said, there are other possible causes for my better mood. I’ve moved my office back upstairs, and my workstation area is pretty well optimized. With the extra light and space (not to mention proximity to kitchen and coffee bar), my mood has definitely improved. Another factor is the extra Vitamin D and B I’m taking to correct a severe deficiency. Finally, I’ve been enjoying the influx of new visitors to the Virtual Coworking Cafe, which helps me from feeling that isolated. It’s been energizing!
On Being Inspired
I had the pleasure of watching the final season of The Good Place on NetFlix, and the series finales was one of the most satisfying and emotional experiences I’ve had from watching television. I sobbed when it ended, but was also happy and at peace. The closest thing I can think of that reminds me of that experience are how Hayao Miyazaki’s films end with we in the audience seeing the characters we’ve grown to love move on without us. We are saying goodbye while wistfully wishing we can see them again some day, but there are NEVER any sequels to a Miyazaki film so we just hope they are ok.
And so it is with The Good Place. Although I cry every time I think about the ending episode, I am also left with a calm…happiness? I have been left with an affirmation of belief that I didn’t realize I was looking for. Before, my best strategy for coping with day-to-day frustration was to de-emotionalize my responses to them instead of seething with rage. I told myself this was just common sense: expending energy on being angry is a waste and a distraction. The ending of The Good Place, followed by my reflection on the story, has left me with a positive strategy for choosing one action over another: To help each other is simply the right thing to do. I simply wish to believe it. Seeing an entire comedic story about these themes has helped me connect to the idea more viscerally and emotionally. Maybe it is just what I needed to see this year.
I was introduced to Age Quod Agis, a booklet about Jesuit Management Techniques, by @ampersand in the coworking chat. I’m not sure where it comes from—it seems to be part of a collection of resources for Jesuits—but there were two points that really resonated.
Point 9: Total Attention Shift describes the ability to “turn your focus totally from one activity to the next”, even if you are leaving the activity in the middle of finishing something. On first read that sounded AWFUL, but I realized that given the nature of our day busy day, it is more likely to happen than not. Uninterrupted time is a blessing. However, to hold resentment toward a change in focus doesn’t help. To have Total Attention Shift is another way for me to control my attention where it needs to be, in the moment as I am doing it. Sounds badass to me!
Point 10: Focus and Commitment tells a story about some acolytes assigned a particularly gross boat cleanup that involves slime coating everything. The mentor leading the task tells them this (emphasis mine): “You’ll be asked to do many things the next ten days that you may not like doing or feel like doing. I ask you to set your mind now that whatever is asked you do it to do it, not to get through it.” That hit me hard, because I recognized myself as the “do it to get through it” person. This implies a lack of caring on my part, and also is the source of resistance. By comparison, “doing it to do it” implies to me a care in really taking care of a mandatory task rather than resenting it. If you have to do it anyway, why not do it with complete commitment to do it right and do it well? I think this could work in conjunction with another personal demon I’m trying to slay: not taking things personally. Perhaps it means that if I have reason to take affront at being dealt a yucky task, I could bear no ill will toward the task itself? I don’t have the answer, but the IDEA behind this has me thinking how to be more chill about everything.
On Accomplishments of September
On Being Stuck
For all the good things of the past month, I have found myself dwelling on a few main issues:
I am finding it very difficult to commit to exercise. This is a pattern not only with exercise, but many other life goals that have never come to fruition. I used to think that was a weakness of character, but increasingly I am thinking that admitting that I am not good at this by myself is not shameful, but a sign that I should just get some help. I don’t need the 100% Best Expert Advice Ever, because that’s an excuse to not start. I just need to get over myself and hitch myself up to an external teacher even if I’m worried they will suck. Maybe the tiny bit of chill I’ve gotten from doing software development with so-so documentation has shown me the way to do this.
I am at the next step transition and I am kinda freaked out. I’ve mentioned in passing that I’m transgender and am figuring out what to do about it. Essentially, I have the choice of staying as I am now in this male shell of a body, or trying to move away from it. While in my heart I know what I want and how I feel, the challenges of social transition are filled with choices that trigger fears of rejection, of being ridiculed, of being thought insane, of being quietly disavowed by friends and family or assaulted by strangers, and so on. And for what? Perhaps I could learn to live with in my existing shell, feeling like I’m renting a beige apartment of a body that is convenient to crash in when I’m not awake. It’s metaphorically close to my office in a safe neighborhood, an easy commute with lots of convenient parking at the 24-hour supermarket where I know exactly where everything is. But this beige apartment is not an actual home, and while I can live there it will never feel like it’s my own.
I am recalling many moments of shame and regret. I have found myself remembering past actions that were inconsiderate or hurtful. This is something new to me. It might be getting triggered by the stress of thinking about transition, exacerbated by the bupropion as it increases my ability to hold NEGATIVE thoughts longer as well as the positive ones. As a way to deal with it, I’ve cataloged what patterns of shame I’m noticing as a kind of experiment to make it more interesting than depressing. So far I have not living up to others expectations, looking like I am really trying and failing, and being an unwanted outsider weirdo as recurring shame monsters. There are also a couple of big regrets: not recognizing gender transition as something to look into much earlier and not being kinder or more patient with people I realize now were hurting or lost. There’s not much I can do but try to live my life better moving forward, and to make things right with people when I can.
I’ll be OK. I’m reminded that life is really a lot of overlapping processes that never really finish, as much as I wish they would. Learning to cope with that is perhaps my overall theme of 2020 personal development. For most of my life I’ve tried to mold myself into a particular kind of competent and efficient highly-skilled creator of good things. I continually fall short of my expectations, and I keep thinking there is a way to reframe my trials positively while not losing my objective pragmatism.
The hints to what that is are swirling around in my head…
That’s this month’s October 10 review! I’ll see you all again on November 11.