Friday 5: Self-care

A tree grows in central Honolulu. Sunset at Makiki District Park.

From here.

  1. What have you done lately for improving or maintaining your mental health? What more would you like to do?
    I’ve done a lot toward degrading my mental health for absolute sure, with crazy sleep habits and my bad knee keeping me from taking the long walks that mostly kept my sanity a year ago when we first locked down. These last few weeks, and especially this past seven days, I’ve taken myself to Makiki District Park for walks around the park just before sundown, through dusk, into the early evening. It’s 75 to 90 minutes of non-strenuous movement, and I walk pretty slowly because I’m reading my Kindle nearly the entire time, but it’s been good for me. I’ve gone two or three times a week. I feel myself integrating slowly back into society. I love the fresh air and sun on my face. And the book time is great, of course. I’ve been hitting the beach once a week but I’ve got to up that for swims at least twice a week. Before the lockdown I was going three or four times a week, swimming nearly an hour in the mornings before work. I need this back!
  2. When did you last eat something specifically because it was good for you?
    Because my potassium levels were low-normal the last time I had bloodwork, when they’ve never been a problem before, my doctor recommended some additions to my diet, so I’m downing about seven dried apricots and three clementines every day. Most days. Some days I just don’t want them or I forget, but most days I do it right after I take my daily meds. I don’t dislike the apricots but I don’t particularly like them either, so they are just for the potassium and fiber.
  3. These days, what are you learning about, and what would you like to learn about next?
    Besides the usual assortment of recipes, I’m reading a lot about the blockchain these days. I’ve got most of it, but there are some important holes I can’t seem to fill. Like, I could explain cryptocurrency to just about anyone so they’d get the gist of it, but I’d have to admit where a couple of holes are. And how NFTs work in the blockchain is still puzzling to me because the blockchain is supposed to be decentralized and I can’t seem to find an answer to where, in a commercial NFT venture such as NBA Top Shot, the ledger exists and how it’s kept. Argh. I’ve also spent time learning about car stereos because I want to work on a few DIY improvements to mine, so that’s probably my next focused effort. My car stereo already sounds good, but I want it to sound gooooooooooooood so the ladies at the bus stops can sing along with my ABBA playlist as I cruise slowly past. Sorry ladies: I’ve got somewhere to be, but I’ll be back to pick you up later!
  4. What’s positive about your physical appearance lately?
    This is a sore spot with me so why did I write this question? Maybe because I need it. I’ve put on a lot of weight this past year and it doesn’t bother me too much except I don’t like what I see and I know it’s unhealthy. I’m having hair issues, too, which stresses me out big-time. My hair, even on its best days, looks ridiculous (I’ve not cut it since 2002), like the midlife crisis everyone knows it is, but I’ve worn it this way because it pleases me. My hair is a kind of outsider identification that makes me feel good, and the one place where people compliment me on it is at metal shows — another outsider affirmation with deep meaning for me. Sooooooooo ugh. I’m not feeling good about my appearance these days. However, among my weird purchases this lockdown year has been a fairly pricey beard trimmer, to replace the small arsenal of cheaper (shorter-lived) devices I get from Ross (the discount clothing store, not my math-teacher friend) every so often, and it’s been a good buy. When I bother to clean myself up, which is usually Saturday or Sunday night, I feel good about the way it looks, and it takes a lot less time and effort with the new gear. I’m also considering a major change to my professional wardrobe which I shan’t detail yet in case I don’t do it, but I’m ready to shift gears with my look, as I did several years ago when I first left the classroom. There will still be plenty of black and dark solids, but I want to put it together differently. Send a different message in the office.
  5. What will you do this weekend to bring joy into your life and a smile to someone else?
    It begins with taking a vacation day today, Friday, to catch up on reading and a few nagging tasks I don’t want to worry about Saturday and Sunday. I’m picking up food for me and my parents for dinner with the folks on Mothers Day, and in case I see my sister, I’m picking up something really nice for a late birthday present. We don’t give each other birthday presents, but I want her to know this year I’ve been thinking of her. If I don’t see her I’ll bring it over to her house, which is something of a trek. And of course: beach time.

Lockdown: Shelf esteem

Most of the week was pretty productive by day and semi-adventurous at night. I was decently productive through most of the week, but I admit it was mostly to check things off the list without actually doing any real writing, and I have a couple of nagging writing projects I really need to get done.

Still, those checkmarks were assignments, and I got them done. People seemed pleased with my work. I also had four meetings and although I’m working on being a better contributor, I think I did okay this week. I’m a harsh critic of my meeting participation because I dislike meetings so much and I want to be better at them, since my aversion is so well-known in the company.

“That guy is so bad in meetings; it’s no wonder he hates them so famously” is a not as good as “That guy’s good in meetings; it’s too bad he hates them so famously.”

I made another Target run, this time for a friend who’s collecting packages of feminine hygiene products for a huge donation to a social agency in my neighborhood, to celebrate her birthday. I think it’s ten packages for every year she’s been alive or something. So I hit Target again and bought something like sixty bucks worth, which doesn’t seem like that much product for the price. No wonder indigent women and girls have difficulty. It makes me angry.

I also hit two neighborhood bars this week. One on Wednesday night and one this evening (it’s late Friday night as I write this). This makes three bars in a week, and I think I’ve just about gotten it out of my system. First, it’s kind of a pricey way to spend an evening. And while the food is great (I chose bars who are known for having good food), bar food is just not very good for you, at least not the stuff I had.

On the other hand, I got a lot of good reading done, which is my main reason for going to bars. With cafes not open late, I just want somewhere quiet to read, somewhere out of the house, in the company of strangers. I’m about 40% of the way through Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library, which I am rather enjoying.

There must be a decent, happy medium. I crammed far too much food into my gaping maw this evening, and that’s on me. I also had two beers when all I really wanted was one. Or one and a half. Maybe if I become a regular at some of these neighborhood spots, I won’t feel as pressured to spend more money at once, because that’s part of it. Nobody wants to be the guy everyone recognizes as the One Who Drinks Water and Just Orders Fries While Reading a Book.

If freaking Zippy’s had a more pleasant bathroom, I would just go there a few nights a week, as I did when I was a bus rider and didn’t have a lot of options, and when I was working on my master’s thesis and just needed somewhere I could work and not be pressured to give up my table.

I need the cafes to get back to normal. My favorite neighborhood boba cafe is usually open until 10:30, but these days it closes at five. Ugh.

I didn’t make anything new in my kitchen this week, or anything really worth sharing. Lazy quesadillas more than once. Lazy burritos a few times. Kimchi and tofu. I realized a few days ago it had been more than a month since I’d had spaghetti, so I made that twice, and too much of it each time. But geeeeeez it made me happy.

I played around with a cream sauce the second time. So it made me even happier but was of course even worse for me. Dang it!

I had cream in my fridge because I’d been jonesing for white Russians. I’ve been trying to use up the liquor in my house before I buy any more alcohol, so I’ve lately had black Russians. Did you know a black Russian made with tequila instead of vodka is called a brave bull? I had no idea until I looked it up to see if I’d somehow invented this. What a silly thought.

There are a few names for a white Russian made with tequila.

Anyway, in case you didn’t catch that, I used up my vodka and now I’m focusing on finishing the tequila and gin.

I didn’t listen to much music, preferring to fill the background with the sounds of baseball. I listened to a lot of ballgames, keeping up with my podcasts the rest of the time. I did spin some playlists when I drove anywhere, but I stayed close to home (except for the trek to Target), so the song count was low.

However, Gojira’s new album Fortitude dropped Friday and I’m loving it on repeat. Mostly it’s slow, plodding, dense, and heavy. I find it blissfully soothing.

I didn’t do a lot of texting this week. JB and I chatted about our parents for a little while the other night. Short exchanges here and there with Cindy, Julie, Crush Girl, Sylvia, Sharon, the writing partner, Penny, and Desi. A few work-related texts.

Neither did I watch anything new, except Nomadland Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s fantastic. I’ll post a short review sometime this weekend. When I had my eyes on a screen, if it wasn’t the news it was going back through highlights from Ted Lasso and Mythic Quest.

My free year of Apple TV+ expires July 6. Ted Lasso season 2 drops July 23. I could pay $5 for an additional month to watch it (tooooooootally worth it!) or $50 for another year. That saves ten bucks off the monthly price, but I need to figure out what kind of usage I’d need to make $50 worth it. Maybe if Apple added one more series for me to love, that would be three good series with limitless replays for $17 bucks each. That might do it.

I’m going to give The Morning Show another try, and I think I’ll finish up Central Park before my trial ends, but I can’t see myself getting very amped for either.

This week, I’ll re-watch Mythic Quest in anticipation of season 2’s drop Friday. Yes. Yes yes yes.

Okay, one last thing. I’ve been a little depressed — not like the waves of darkness that rush in and cover me for a week or more, but like little wavelets of it for a couple of hours here and there, and leave just the burden of their memory until the come in for another round.

It’s all related (I think) to that thing I mentioned some weeks ago, that this lockdown is just about over and while I made decent use of my time in these four walls, I didn’t make good enough use of my time. I have little to show for it, at least to the casual observer, and this matters to me.

My life is still a mess. It is far, far less of a mess (I’m kind of talking literally here) than it was fourteen months ago for sure, and I’m proud of it, but I’m still in a hole. I haven’t caught up enough to be on lvel ground, and that’s what I wanted.

So this week I identified one thing that was stressing me out: my vinyl. I’ve spent quite a bit of money these past few years of vinyl reissues of beloved albums, and I can’t keep the records where I used to keep all my records, for reasons I can’t go into.

So they’re stashed temporarily here and there where I hope they won’t be damaged accidentally by some stupid act of my own idiotic negligence. Yes, I know I just began two consecutive paragraphs with “so” but I usually begin ten consecutive paragraphs with “I,” so it’s an improvement.

In that first run to Target I bought a small two-compartment shelf. Those modular cube-like things, only it’s two of them in one unit. A good size for LPs.

Tuesday night I put the thing together, and THEN (this is huge) I tidied up the area where I wanted to put it. It took some time, and I did slightly more than the least I needed to clean up, and dang it felt good. When I put my stack of books-to-be-read on the bottom shelf and the LPs on the top shelf, and my autographed Ken Stabler football helmet (a gift from my sister) on the top of the unit, it looked great, and the area around the stupid shelf also looks great.

Looking at it even now, five nights later, makes me happy. The way taming the monster last year made me happy. This weekend I’m going to identify the my next small project and then I’m going to do it next week. I think I already have it in mind.

I’ll do the Friday 5 tomorrow. This weekend is about catching up on some personal writing and possibly some sleep. And hopefully some ocean.