November 23, 2015

Vitamin D and Light: Take The SAD Out Of Winter And Get Your Life Back!

Please note that I am NOT a doctor and all the information here is based on my own experience and research. Always check with your own doctor before making any changes to your overall health routine!

Every year, I dread the winter because I have a love/hate relationship with it.

I love the endless cozy days where all you want to do is curl up next to a fire while reading a good book…

…but I hate the sluggishness, fatigue, inability to concentrate, and melancholy that come with the darker, shorter winter days!
Turn that frown upside down!

Scientists call this condition “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (SAD). I think people generally think of SAD as a disorder or a defect. We think of it as something that is wrong with us that we must fix.

However - I believe the real root of SAD is the conflict between the requirements of our society versus our innate biological programming.

Our society requires us to work 40 hours a week and maintain a relatively high level of activity all year long. This is at odds with our biological programming which causes us to slow down as the days get shorter in winter. Traditionally in winter, people on the farm would stay indoors more, and their activity levels and working hours would reduce after the harvest in parallel with the reduced daylight hours.

Today though, we are required to maintain our full-time work hours all year long along with staying fit and keeping an active social life! It’s a lot, and we can often end up depressed and feeling like failures because we’re told that we should be able to be just as productive in the winter as we are in the summer - but the reality is that we aren’t naturally wired to live this way in winter.

Since you’re likely not independently wealthy and have to work full-time for the whole year, you need some adaptations to get through the winter months while keeping your activity levels and productivity the same. I’ve tried many, many different things over the past 15 years to combat my own SAD. And I believe I’ve finally been successful in finding what works for me. So I want to share my method with you in the hopes that you can start enjoying life again, too!

November 17, 2015

Stop Shaming People In Their Sorrow.

With the tragedy in Paris and the outpouring of grief from the West has unfolded this standard pattern of discourse:
  1. Westerners are shocked at what has happened in a sister Western country.
  2. Westerners express their grief and sadness at what has happened.
  3. Other people shame them for expressing their grief because there are so many other tragedies for which there have not been  equal outpourings of grief and sadness.
There are three main reasons why Westerners react with visceral sorrow for Paris, but less so for the other recent tragedies:
  1. Violence in many parts of the world, such as Beirut, is normal. We hear about acts of terrorism and violence every day in places like Beirut and Israel, and have been for decades now. Our brain circuitry is hard-wired to be shocked by new stimuli and information, but then to develop a tolerance to it so that repeated exposure doesn’t elicit the same intense reaction. This is a basic survival mechanism. If for every stimulus we experienced, we experienced the same intense reaction at every exposure that we did at our first, we would not survive because the simple act of daily living would overwhelm us.

    The type of shooting in Paris is shocking precisely because it is new. 



    From my own perspective, I’m not at all content with violence being the norm in places like Beirut. But I’ve sadly become numb to it now. It seems like it will never end. So years ago, I stopped getting emotionally invested in the violence there because it was too much. I am only human, after all.



November 14, 2015

How To Beat The Terrorists.

Important note: When I use the term "terrorist", I mean ANYONE who commits acts of mass murder or violence to instil fear in people. To me, the college shooter at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, USA is just as much a terrorist as the ISIS men who went on a shooting spree in Paris, France.

As I read about the horrific Paris terrorist shootings last night, I felt a small part of me that has lived  in willful and blissful ignorance die. I now no longer believe that by living in a Western country, I am somehow immune to terrorism. I know it seems obvious that none of us are immune to terrorism. But a small part of me has, since 9/11, fought against the idea that it could happen to me - to us.

The Paris shootings have forced me to accept that terrorists are among us always - and they can spring into action at any time. 

My knee-jerk reaction is to react in fear, to think, "What can I do to protect myself and those whom I love?" To want to buy a gun. To let the fear fill me and take over my life. 

But I won't do this. I refuse to do this.

Instead, for every bullet the terrorists fire, I will dive into my life harder. I will love harder. I will feel my feelings harder. I will enjoy my time with my fiancé more. I will value my friendships more. I will enjoy books and drinking chocolate on rainy Saturday mornings. I will call my parents more often. I will savour every moment I get to drive in my Mustang with the top down more. I will take more risks in my life to spend my creative energy and to be happy.

And I will do this so that even if my life ends with a terrorist's bullet piercing my heart, I will know that I have beaten the terrorist.

Because while he will have lived his life in fear, anger, paranoia, and hatred, I will have lived my life from a place of love, freedom, and creation. They can't take that away from me, not if I live these things with my last dying breath.

It is horrific what has happened in France. So take some time to go to a café, to have a croissant, and to say a prayer for Paris. They need this from us right now.

And then... Go out into the world and eat, drink, be merry, and make love - because all these things are the only way as individuals to fight terrorists without becoming them.

Vive la France!



September 18, 2015

Giving The Finger To Getting Jacked: It's YOUR Body, Not Theirs.

A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook about the “Spornification” of male beauty standards:

Spornosexual:
A man who works to have the body of “modern porn-stars, sports heroes and of course, movie stars… the lean-yet-jacked look has become the [ultimate display] of masculinity”.


A stock photo of the Spornosexual.
This is the male body type our culture is now pressuring men to conform to. It’s an entirely artificial, completely unnatural “designer” body type. To maintain the spornosexual body, a man has to work out obsessively and stick to a diet that borders on religious doctrine.

Now, before I continue, one important clarification…

If you actually enjoy the military-style life that getting jacked requires, if to you building such a body is a passion, an interest, something that makes you happy in your heart of hearts… If body-building for you is a fun, enjoyable pastime… You can stop reading now. Good day, sir, and happy [kettlebell] snatch to you!

But if you are stuck on the gym treadmill, if when you look at yourself in the mirror, you feel nothing but contempt and disappointment at your apparent failure to get “fit” or “jacked”, keep on reading. If you’ve ever let out a wan sigh, and bemoaned your “gaining 10 pounds” and “feeling hideous and fat” as a result, keep on reading.

I see guys who work hard to maintain this jacked-spornosexual body type. From what I can tell, it’s a full-time job. Hours at the gym. Endless plates of greens and boneless-skinless chicken breasts. Self-flagellation publicly shared if they eat a piece of cheese cake. I see updates on their lowered body-fat percentages, their trimmer waists, their bench press gains, and so on. Photos of 6-packs, legs, arms, and more. It seems to me they’ve commoditized themselves into a collection of body parts that they, and others, rate in value.

I wonder, “Has this man placed the foundation of his self-esteem onto his physical body? What is going to happen to him as he ages, or if he has an injury? Will he feel unworthy as a man, and undeserving of love if this happens?"

"Will the people who profess to love him, but only began to love him when he became ‘jacked’… Will these people abandon him?”

September 4, 2015

So A Gay Guy Walks Into A Redneck Bar…

I’d been in Minnesota for the past week for work, and I decided to stay through the weekend to hike and hang out at a lake. Friday rolled around, and after a dip in the quarry near the office, I was sitting in my car deciding how to spend my evening.

My client had told me about a country/western bar out on the east end of town. She said it was very “authentic”. I popped onto the bar’s website, and it turned out that there was a country band playing that night. I decided to go because I like a good bit of country music now and again.

I got in my car and headed east of town, where the bar was.

When I first saw the bar as I pulled up to it, I thought for just a moment, “Maybe I should turn around and go back into town…”

I was about to go full-on redneck.

You see, my client was NOT kidding when she said it was authentic. So authentic in fact, that the bar had the word “Redneck” in its sign out front. And a GIGANTIC “Budweiser” sign on the side. And a “Harley-Davidson” sign in bright neon lights. The parking lot was filling up with massive, loud pickup trucks. 

I parked and steeled myself in my car for a minute. Perhaps my fear was a irrational. But perhaps not. I've read about, heard about, and experienced the obstinate, irrational hate in redneck communities and so walking into a place like this wasn’t necessarily an easy thing to do.

I took in a deep breath and got out of the car. As I walked towards the bar, an older guy smiled at me.

“Nice car!” he said as he gestured towards my Camaro.

“Thanks! They’re pretty great cars,” I said. The short exchange calmed me down a bit.

I walked through a set of double doors, into the bar. And then saw a sign right there, proudly displayed for everyone to see as they walked in. I wish I’d taken a photo of the sign - but it said things like:
“Warning! This is an All-American bar.”
“There are going to be guns in here.”

There were Confederate flags peppered throughout the space. Good ol’ General Lee was on the wall.

I felt really, really out of place. I did not belong here, and boy, did I feel it! I didn’t feel out of place because people were throwing weird glances my way or anything like that, though. It was because as I looked around…

...I realized this was the straightest space I’d been in in a long, long time.


August 27, 2015

"AM I BACKWARDS FOR THINKING GAY MARRIAGE SHOULD NOT BE LEGALIZED?"

A couple of months ago, before SCOTUS made its ruling I posted a response on Quora.com to the question, "Am I backwards for thinking gay marriage should not be legalized?" The post, as far as I could tell, was taken down by Quora's admins because it violated their "nice" policy.


Gay marriage YAAASSS!!
Funny coincidence, but I had already decided on posting this on my blog yesterday, when a slip in Facebook privacy settings made an announcement that I am, indeed, engaged to be gay-married. So I suppose it's fitting to re-post this here today!

Yes, you are backwards.

August 21, 2015

What Portland Taught Me About My Race.

A couple of months ago, my boyfriend and I were watching a TV show on Netflix. I was really enjoying it, until a specific scene played.

It showed two white male characters in a seedy massage parlour, the kind of place that offers "happy endings". Then the female masseuse came out. She was of course, Asian, and spoke with a heavy Asian accent. She was the kind of stereotypical character you'd expect to say, "Me love you long time!"

A year ago, I would have felt mild irritation at such a played-out, one-dimensional trope of a character, but then continued watching the series anyway, swallowing the lump of irritation.

But something had changed for me.

I was angry. Furious, actually.

My anger had, at its root, disgust. I was disgusted by how non-white people are portrayed in such an insulting, limited way all the time. I couldn't watch the rest of it the episode, and I in fact stopped watching the entire series all together.

August 13, 2015

A Non-Depressed Person's Experience With Depression

Over the years, I've seen more than a few friends and family members suffer from depression. I’ve seen and experienced the devastation that depression leaves in its wake.

Intellectually, I understand depression. And, like any human being, I've had my share of the blues because of the natural downs that happen in life. So I thought I understood what depression was like. I figured that "depression" was like the blues I'd experienced from time to time - but just longer, and maybe a bit more severe.

And - loathe I am to admit this out loud - but I've always carried around a bit of negative judgement on people who claim to suffer from depression. Although I understood that it is a serious illness, a small part of me still believed it was a character weakness of some sort - that perhaps the person suffering from it wasn't trying hard enough in life.

But then, a few weeks ago...

...I got a 10-day taste of what clinical depression is really like.


And I would never, ever wish it on anyone - not even my worst enemy.

Antibiotics: The Unexpected Depression Trigger

I’d had a persistent low-grade sinus infection for some time, and I tried everything I could to cure it to avoid using antibiotics, but eventually it became necessary to take them.

Amoxicillin. Yikes.
A couple of days into the treatment, I felt extremely sluggish and tired, and also inexplicably sad. I thought I was just having a "down" day.

Whenever I’ve felt sad, it’s meant that there was something in my life I needed to pay attention to that was bringing me down - things like relationship issues, dissatisfaction with work, financial troubles, or family troubles.

I couldn’t think of anything wrong that was making me feel sad and empty. 


Historically, when I’ve felt sad, and haven’t been able to find an immediate root cause, it’s meant that there were deeply-buried unresolved emotional traumas/issues from the past that were bubbling up. But over the past few years, I’d honestly faced all these and resolved them, so it couldn’t be this.

Then I began to get sad, because I was sad. Why was I sad? I began to get anxious because I couldn’t figure out why. What was wrong? I just wanted to feel content and happy again!

The next day, I went online and began reading up on Amoxicillin. And I was surprised at what I found.

Depression, anxiety, and other emotional/mental health issues can arise temporarily during treatment with Amoxicillin.


August 5, 2015

Killing Your Procrasturbation Habit With Your Calendar: It Works!

Millions of North Americans are stuck in endless cycles of procrasturbation. Symptoms of procrasturbation are fatigue, an overwhelming to-do list, and a tired hands resulting from managing to-do lists. Can using your calendar kill the destruction caused by procrasturbation? I think so - here is my story. 

(Note: You may want to have some tissues on-hand to wipe the tears of joy away as you realize that you too can be free of your guilt-ridden procrasturbation habit.)

A few months ago, I felt stuck in a rut of getting absolutely nothing done, while feeling stressed about everything I needed to get done. My job was beginning its ramp-up. My boyfriend and I moved in together. The summer was filled with personal and business travel. I had a fair amount of work to do on my cars. These were all good things, but I felt stressed because I wanted to do so much - and it seemed impossible to complete everything I wanted to!

So to I started organizing, innocently enough, with a to-do list...

...but then I got trapped in a guilt-ridden, shameful cycle of seemingly endless procrasturbation.

Procrasturbation, OH THE HORROR!


So what is procrasturbation?

I define procrasturbation as:
"Spending a large amount of your time and energy planning and organizing all the tasks you need to complete, but then feeling that you’ll never really ever finish everything because your task list is so insurmountably large. So instead of diving in and beginning to work on your tasks, you reorganize your task list over and over in the hopes of finding a more optimal path to completion - and end up stuck in a cycle of reorganizing without ever getting anything done."

Put another way:

Procrasturbation is repeatedly stroking your massive to-do list over and over again in the hope that doing so will finally allow you to polish off your task list to completion. 


But therein lies the rub - stroking your to-do list over and over again feels satisfying in the moment, but ultimately, it leaves you feeling empty, and your task list forever incomplete.

After procrasturbating for far longer than I care to admit, with Netflix streaming endless “Family Guy” episodes in the background, I decided to go back to basics.

The To-Do  List to the Rescue...?

I got an old-school paper notebook and a pen, and I began using a daily hand-written to-do list.

The procrasturbation cycle, in to-do list format.


This was partially successful because:
  • Sitting down every morning to write my list made me think about how much I could realistically accomplish every day. It was a small, but very effective mindfulness exercise.
  • I felt satisfaction every time I checked an item off on my list.
  • I offloaded the work of juggling what I needed to do off of my brain and onto paper.
The end benefits were:
  • I felt less stressed, more rooted in the present, and more able to use my mental energy on necessary or fun tasks rather than expending my mental energy in a cycle of managing/worrying about tasks.
  • I began to have more blocks of free time to do whatever I wanted to because I knew that everything I needed to get done would eventually get done.
I was doing well, but I still sometimes felt that life would get out of control sometimes, and stress would creep back in as a result.

The Calendar Solution

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled on Kevin Kruse's post titled, "To-Do Lists Don't Work".

His idea is simple: ditch the to-do list, and put everything - EVERYTHING - in your calendar.

Apparently, millionaires and the über-successful who walk among us do this. I thought I'd give it a try. I mean, who DOESN'T want to be a millionaire, right?

I want to be this guy. See how happy million$ make a guy?!

I’ve been using this system for only a short time, but WOW! I love it so, so much! The past few weeks have been a miracle of worry-free working and worry-free personal time in evenings and on the weekend! And I’ve been feeling great satisfaction at completing so many things.

So why is using a calendar so much more effective than a to-do list? Kevin goes into great detail on why it works, which you'll want to check out.

My experience of his idea comes down to this:

Using your calendar forces you to plan all your tasks like a to-do list does - BUT - it forces you to take each task’s honest completion time and urgency/priority into consideration.


To-do lists failed me in these two areas:
  1. Task completion time. With a to-do list, there was no consideration taken for how much time each task was going to take. So what kept happening for me was that the tasks that took more time to complete never got done, because I kept automatically completing the easy/fast tasks first. The longer/larger tasks just keep getting pushed over to the next day.
  2. Task priority and urgency. To-do lists didn't factor in priority and urgency of tasks effectively. There are techniques to do this with to-do lists out there, but personally I’ve not found one that works to my satisfaction.
Using the calendar, however, gave me two powerful levers to manage my time effectively and efficiently:
  1. Length of calendar entry. A calendar entry forces me to be mindful and honest with myself by requiring me to estimate how much time it will take to complete a particular task. As a result, I am able to much more accurately plan how each day unfolds and what is realistically achievable.
  2. Start time of calendar entry. This is an indirect way of managing priority and urgency. An urgent task with a strict deadline can be scheduled in the near future. A low-urgency task can be scheduled for further out in the future. I could then manage my high-priority tasks by balancing them effectively in between my high-urgency tasks.
(You can read more about the difference between priority and urgency here.)

I have a lot of interests and passions in life. I love working on and driving my cars. I enjoy spending time with friends, family, and my partner. My work keeps me busy. I want to write more and make more videos.

But one of the most important things to me is to have time to simply sit and smell the roses. It’s very important to me to have unstructured time where I don’t have to do or think about anything in particular. I think that a secret to being generally happy in life is to have lots of contrasts on a day-to-day basis. The contrasts are what allow you to enjoy all that life has to offer:
  • Work is a joy for a time after a period of rest. But without rest, work becomes a burden.
  • Rest is a joy for a time after a period of work. But without work, rest becomes a burden.

For me, sitting and smelling the roses is only enjoyable when I come out of a period of work or busyness - and using the calendar as Kevin Kruse has described allows me to have alternating periods of work and play with regularity.


Without ever changing between work and play, life becomes monotonous and tedious. The calendar allows me to, strangely, schedule unstructured time for myself. And when I'm in my unstructured time, I don't have to think about all the tasks that I still need to do. I'm free!

Ever since I started using the calendar approach, I have been able to give myself more unstructured time without sacrificing all the other things in life that I need to do and love to do. My working hours during the day are packed to the gills with tasks and work… But then after working hours are over, I get to do absolutely nothing!

The best part of using my calendar, though?

I think it just might be the silver bullet that finally kills my procrasturbation habit once and for all!

The proof that it works will be when, in approximately 3 months, I write a short followup to see if the calendar method is successful for me over the long term. (I've put it in my calendar just now!)

What about you? Do you have any time management tips that work for you? Or perhaps a horrid, shameful procrasturbation story of your own to share? I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments!