Or…something like that.
[Note: This is gonna seem pretty maudlin at the beginning. Stick with it.]
My moment by moment “eat when tired, sleep when hungry” day would look something like this:
Wake up and put on my bathrobe, trudging over the dirty clothes on my floor, into the kitchen where I grab two slices of pizza from the counter, having ordered one the night before and eating about 3/4 of it, along with a coke. Dick around on twitter and reddit in my bathrobe while going through my list of video games on Steam/Epic/etc before picking one and spending a few hours grabbing cheap dopamine hits on easy mode, playing games I’ve played hundreds of hours of.
I imagine at some point, maybe 3 or 4 in the afternoon, I’d condescend to put on actual clothes and head to a bar (IF I was feeling particularly motivated/social) where I’d get ripping drunk, smoke a couple cigars, be the life of the party, eat bar food (probably a pizza) then drive home, where I’d spend the evening, erm… “sacrificing the contents of my gut to Johann the White” before taking a couple electrolyte tablets and drinking a gatorade to mitigate the aforementioned self-destruction then passing the fuck out.
That’s not a life.
Fast forward that about 6-9 months: I’m 260 pounds, maybe 280. Maybe I’ve downgraded to size 42 stretchy walmart jeans. I’d have a couple dozen new self-help books still in boxes sitting around my computer. I’d rarely get up before noon because I don’t go to bed before 4-5 in the morning. I’d blame that on “being a night owl” which, when coupled with considering the day over at 6-7 in the evening would be a not-terribly complicated justification for dodging the awareness that I wouldn’t be accomplishing anything “during the day” except sleep.
Now, it would be far FAR worse even than that. But there are only so many details of that life envisioned that I’m going to put down here. Sprinkle that with listening to depressing music, porn, drinking alone, and damn near any vice you can come up with.
Fast forward that a couple/few years and that ends exactly one way: A bullet to the brain. Maybe there are a couple years in the middle where I “progress” to really hard drugs first. But that’s absolutely how it ends.
I could say that’s “unthinkable” but it’s really not. Not at all. (I mean, obviously, duh.)
None of that is an option.
And all this talk about purpose and drive, these projects and pursuits are, in no small part, attempts primarily to stave that shit off.
All this gives the wrong impression, I’m sure. There’s no real danger of this happening. But it does serve as a nominally complete answer to the “Dude, why do you torture yourself?” question. The answer is “I don’t.” What I’m doing is exactly NOT torturing myself.
I’m trying to make the switch to positive pressure pulling me towards the life I WANT to lead, rather than avoiding the life I don’t want to lead.
So what about the other side of the equation? What does a day from my optimal life vision look like? Fascinatingly I’m FAR more hesitant to post about that.
What a fascinating realization. I’m going to write it out, but not…in its complete form.
But what does that say? It suggests quite starkly that the courage required to dream of an optimal life is far greater than that required to admit how badly things can go if I merely take my hands off the wheel.
IS it so simple that dreaming/fantasizing of an ideal life is hard because it sets a standard that I might not reach, indeed almost certainly won’t? Is it just a matter of feeling like I’d be setting myself up for disappointment? It seems a little pat, but that doesn’t mean it’s not dead on.
So to stake out the ideal, to plant that flag in the distance and say “yes, let’s get as close as I possibly can to that and…even though I’ll necessarily fall short the pursuit of that goal itself makes for a life well lived” is… fuck it’s REQUIRED.
There are two other things I feel I need to cover for this to be complete, even as an outline.
1) Enumeration of my ideal self and my ideal day. They’re as inseparable as they are separate. One really presumes the other, so they collapse into one readily.
2) How do I live today, as a distance from both of those points, near as I can figure.
It’s hard not to feel that this all comes down to this. I’m wary of grand pronouncements since a head of steam produces its own righteousness and righteousness, positive or negative, just feels good. Then I look back on them in more sober moments and roll my eyes a bit. There’s very little in this life that’s quite as intoxicating as Righteous Rage after all.
The alarm on my phone rings at 7:30. I pad around the bed for my phone and, through pretty much closed eyes I shut it off. But it does begin the process of waking me up. I spend an hour in a hypnogogic haze before actually waking up.
Without much of an agenda I pad to the bathroom, retrieve my bathrobe and go turn on the computer, then back to the bathroom where I stare at the scale, sometimes walk away for a couple minutes, not REAL excited about the coming accusation on how I’ve spent the previous day. But before too long I make my way back in and get on the scale. (Today it’s 203, marking a couple days of consistent improvement after the whipsaw incurred by last week’s 4 day fast.)
There are never any big surprises. Sometimes it feels good. Sometimes it feels bad, affirming how I spent the previous day.
I head back to my office and write down my weight on the whiteboard. Red if it’s higher, black if it’s the same, green if it’s lighter, blue if it’s a new low.
Shower and get dressed regardless of what the day holds. I walk to the kitchen and get a water or a diet soda, grab a dizzying handful of morning supplements and swallow those.
Usually without an agenda I go get caught up on email, twitter, and reddit. That lasts a bit longer than I’d like. But it’s not usually out of control.
If it’s not a Tuesday or Thursday I pick a project (contingent upon the weather) I either head downstairs or open youtube to kick off my programming playlist and work with…admittedly limited intensity on whatever it is that I’ve decided deserves my attention that day. Usually until the hunger drives me absolutely bananas, at which point I head to the fridge.
The afternoon tends to go pretty slow as I plug away on whatever it is I’m working on. If a project is close to fruition (or if I’ve figured out how to partition my workload such that I have well-defined stopping points) then I can grind away pretty well.
I usually end up working on a couple things and satisfy my One Rule for a successful day: A day isn’t a success unless I’ve created something. It can be software, hardware, a reasonably complex foodstuff of some kind. Something. The metric by which I measure short term success is by acts of creation. (The trick is stringing those together. But that’s a different issue.)
As I go back and forth around the house I stop with relative frequence and do half a dozen chin-ups or maybe a couple pull-ups at the bar in my office door. Not a lot. Not enough. But more than I could do a couple months ago, which was…a half.
Sometimes I snack overmuch, generally in inverse proportion to how motivated I am by whatever project I’ve got kicking around.
Things come up and get in the way. I let myself get distracted quite a lot more than I’d like.
By 5 and 6 o’clock I’m frequently staring at the clock, again, that’s if I’m not hyper-engaged in whatever I’d decided to work on.
Eventually I’ll tap out and kick off Steam and pick a game to play for a couple hours leading up to 10:00.
If it IS a Tuesday or Thursday I spend some time cleaning up my laptop and making sure I have everything I’m going to need for a day at the cigar lounge before heading out at about 10:45-11:15, depending. A stop at a store if necessary first then I come in here, set all my toys up and open a Q10 window or start working on a software project, depending on where my motivation takes me. Empty stomach and a few cigars with water and/or diet soda makes for a great clarity of mind, so I get a metric shitton done before Bible Study begins (6:30 on Tuesdays, 4:00 on Thursdays.) During that time I usually end up putting a couple posts up on the blog, even if I do write a bunch of code I’ll almost always end up penning some words as well.
Afterwards I’ll either head over to Johnathan’s for a salad or just head home to grab something to eat quickly before I catch Cigargoyle’s night cap (Sunday through Thursday.) That’ll go from 10 to 11 at night and I’ll pick back up and play something again for an hour.
I grab my big notebook and write down some bullet-list items about the day including what I’ve eaten (broad brush) and what I did during the day. Sometimes I’ll cap it off with a note about how I feel about the day. That’s usually if I have an extremely good or extremely bad day. Otherwise the kind of day I’ve had is self-evident from what I’ve written.
Then I’ll head to bed and… well… I’ll pull out my iPad and play the dailies in Raid: Shadow Legends (a fun little game) while working on a sudoku or two on my phone. Yeah, screens in bed is a bad idea. But meh.
Then I pass the hell out.
That’s what I’ll call my median day. They’re good. There’s a lack of long-term goals there, to be sure. But they’re productive. Sometimes they’re just “busy” and sometimes I just fuck off online for hours and hours, having nothing pushing at me hard enough to stay focused on. Some days I’ll jam so much caffeine in my head that I can’t focus on shit. Other days I’ll jam so little caffeine in my head that I can’t focus on shit. Then there are the others ;).
The sanitized version of my ideal day doesn’t differ as much from my normal day as I’d expected.
I actually get up at 7:30 and get a quick workout in before hitting the scale (because why not optimize?)
Check to see if there’s anything that’s happened overnight that requires immediate attention and schedule/plan those additions to my day.
That aside, the day’s projects planned, perhaps in to pomodoros or some similar time-blocking scheme I hit the ground running, maybe spending a few minutes getting caught up on social media, maybe just not.
Work until a late-ish lunch (of something reasonable), after which I do an hour or two of reading.
Then I do some more project work that may even be product work.
A quick shower, get dressed (up) and head out for a nice dinner date or drinks, cigars, something social.
I come home (or…since I’m talking about ideals…WE come home) and, well…you do the math.
Somewhere in there is a session where I plan the goals of the next day. But I’m not sure where that slots.
I want my projects to be aiming towards larger goals, my day to be a bit more tightly structured. I want deadlines on my projects. I want to be able to assess and abandon ideas that don’t make any damned sense. I want to explore things I’d never considered and spend my days stretching my boundries, physical, mental, and spiritual.
When I reread this a couple times I’m struck by my lack of imagination in “my ideal day.” I’m pretty okay with that really. It’s my considered opinion that much the way I need to get the crap out of my head before I can get down to real writing (I deleted a thousand plus words of rambling at the front end of this) I need to do the same thing with my day to day life before I can really see what it is that I can imagine, what I’m really driving towards. I’ll flesh it out, I’m sure. It’s a good baseline.
That’s fine and I suspect to be expected. Other kinds of wild speculations would just be silly without the clarity afforded by taking the first several steps on that path.
So, a couple things:
- I currently don’t institute the level of discipline I need to accomplish that kind of day.
- My projects are all over the place and I notice that I’ve avoided any real description of WHERE I want those things to lead. They break down into a few categories really. But that’s neither here nor there.
Local focus necessarily occults long-term planning. Time dilation is an amazing tool. But it can be used to distract. You’ve got to have the long-term goals set before you can safely zoom in to a tractable time horizon. I’ve thought that keeping my focus on the immediate would help clear the deck for longer term progress. But I think I’ve been thinking about that just exactly backwards.
- Married (kids? I’m about to turn 52. I may have missed that boat.)
- Fucking Rich
- Published. But frankly I’m not so married to that as people wish I was.
Let’s see where I can take that, shall we?