Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Jungle Trek

The strike is over.  The postal strike anyway.  Calgary city workers on the other hand... I'm not sure what they're doing but it sure as hell isn't mowing grass.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

If At First You Don't Succeed

I’ve been struggling a lot with my happiness project lately.
Sigh… I feel like I’m always saying that. 

I had a bad weekend.  I don’t know what it was but I was in the worst mood.  The please do not speak or look at me type of mood.  I was on the verge of ripping someone’s head off all weekend.  I don’t know what it was about, but I only today feel more like myself.  During my lunch break I Googled bi-polar.  Not sure if I really qualify for one of the milder forms but I have mood swings like a crazy person.

I have a hard time staying optimistic and staying motivated.  I think too much, I get into negative trains of thought that are hard to shake.  I’m hard on myself.  I always thought I was going to do some cool shit with my life, and the fact that I’m not bothers me.  I also find it frustrating that I never do fantastic with my resolutions.  On some level I know that if I can stick to my resolutions like a machine for a month I could make big changes, good changes.  A month isn’t very long.  A bad week can throw everything off.  If I have a good week, and then a mediocre week, and then fall off the wagon on week three, week four is usually a write off.

So what's not working?  Why aren't I being as successful as I want to be? 
Do I have unrealistic expectations?  Maybe.
I'm my own worst enemy.  I let my moods sap my energy and motivation.  

I'm so tired of being disappointed in my results every month.  Perhaps some of the problem lies in the way I've structured my project.  So I started thinking, what isn't working about the way I've got my goals set up.

1. Most of my goals are small, everyday things.  For some people, small, attainable daily goals might be the perfect fit.  I find for me, month after month little daily goals add up and start to feel overwhelming.  I also find the sense of accomplishment that comes from these small goals only becomes tangible if you consistently do your goal everyday.  Making lunches, for example, would be fantastic if I did it everyday, but I don't.  Instead I just end up thinking about it a lot, buying lunch stuff, and then not doing it very often.  Once in a while is about as effective as never.

2. I'm lacking a system of measuring success.  Usually just after mid month I'll realize my shortcomings on several goals.  I started the project using charts, but after a few months the charts got a bit nuts.  I had so many daily goals that it wasn't long before I was falling behind and the chart highlighted my failures more than my successes.

3. I don't have 12 different aspects of my life that I'm passionate about improving on; and if I don't have 12 then maybe the one month per topic doesn't make sense for what I want to accomplish.  I really only have three or four areas I'd like to make big changes in.

4. Accountability.  I thought at first I'd be doing this project with Melissa, but we had different topics and we did them in different orders.  We also approached the project in completely different ways.  The blog has helped keep me on track, but it feels one sided.

Okay so how can I start to do this differently?

1. Think bigger.  If I only have three or four areas I'd really like to work on, then that's what I should be doing.  I'll divide up my year between three topics, so 4 months per topic.  I'll set bigger goals.  Something with tangible results.  I have to accept that I'm going to have bad days and work around that instead of creating goals that can't work if I have a bad week.

2. Be more organized!  Surround yourself with your goals.  Create a system of deadlines.  Set aside a regular time to do research, prepare for and evaluate deadlines.  I've struggled with a developing a system for this from day one.  Bigger, more clearly defined milestone or event goals will be easier to work towards then small ones like floss every day.

3. Enlist the help of others.  Involve others in my goals to add accountability.

4. Figure out how to best blog about your goals.  The blog is a source of accountability, make it more fun for yourself to blog.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Winter is Coming

There’s something romantic about changing seasons.  Change is good, usually; the changing of leaves in the falls, the bursts of fresh green and flowers in the spring.  Except that colorful leaves and spring flowers are probably the shortest seasonal periods there are, maybe a couple weeks each.  The summers are hot and short and the winters are very cold and very long.
This short burst of summer is a tricky thing.  You have the warm weather that brings grass and flowers and trees and unfrozen waters.  Longer days so you wake up to sunlight instead of darkness.  The abundance of light leaves you feeling awake, fills you up with vitamin D.  It brings local produce; fresh fruit and vegetables are more affordable and taste better.  You can go outside without a jacket, skirts and short and dresses and cute shoes are suddenly viable options in your wardrobe.  Spending time outside almost always involves some form of exercise, walking, running, swimming and hiking.  So, during our brief summer we eat better, exercise more, look better and have more energy.
Then our 7 months of winter come and the days get shorter, colder and darker.  Everyone spends their time bundled up scurrying from one indoor environment to the other.  There are moments in winter that are beautiful, but for the most part it’s pretty miserable.  This type of seasonal pattern is the perfect storm for depression.   Everyone cooped up, cold and tired.
Summer is like a sugar high; a short intense rush of feeling fantastic followed by long low.  I’m watching Game of Thrones on HBO, and one of the families is from the North, and their motto is: Winter is coming.  The rain has stopped (fingers crossed, knock on wood) and it’s time to take advantage of this short burst because it won’t last long.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It's a Bright, Bright, Bright, Sunshiney Day

Finally a day without rain!  What a difference a little sunshine makes.
I haven’t been doing very well with my long walks with Slone.  My little dog does not enjoy being cold and wet.  I did try to take her to a dog park as it was not raining for a couple hours in the afternoon.  The lack of rain was short lived. I’ve been monitoring her food intake a lot more closely.  I’ve also been monitoring Flash’s food intake as I have become the person in charge of food.

Flash has some heart issues and has been trying to work out and eat better for several a few months now.  His exercising is sporadic; he rarely hits his goal and at best usually makes it to the gym once or twice.  My frustration with the whole situation was mounting and finally after pointing out that no progress was being made we decided that he would continue to work on exercising and I would be in charge of the diet.  On the one hand I feel like I have some control over the situation, which is nice.  It sucks to feel like you’re just sitting around waiting for someone else to make changes.  I tried to encourage him, remind him, force him to go to the gym but at the end of the day my encouragement is just nagging if Flash refuses to do it.
We agreed that if I was going to go to the effort of planning almost every meal, buying healthy groceries, cooking and controlling portions that there were going to be some rules.  

Rule one: I control food and therefore my word is final 

Rule two: Any cheating on the diet will result in me losing my mind

Rule three: No pre-dinners.  Flash has a habit of eating very little throughout the day and then coming home and heating up leftovers or making a meal before we cook supper.

Rule four: Must eat throughout day.  Healthy lunch, and take some snacks to avoid pre-dinner and binge snacking.

Rule five: Maximum of one can of diet coke a day (our compromise)

We’ve just started but Flash seems to be embracing the changes.  I think he is glad to not have the responsibility and accepts that he doesn’t have the self-control to limit himself.  It will be a bit of a challenge for me as well since cooking was one of Flash’s few chores.  I’ll still have him bbq, or help in some way, but planning meals and groceries is what I find to be the hard part and that's my job. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Productivity Is My Bitch

My alone time is coming to an end.  My productivity was epic these past few days so I’m writing this post to give myself a little pat on the back.  Melissa left for her weekend away on Thursday, and Flash left Friday evening.  Thursday I went to home depot and picked up some painting supplies and a can of paint.  I know perfectly well the one does not go to Home Depot on a Friday night or Saturday during a weekend in the early summer.  The paint department is always understaffed and therefore a zoo and you will easily spend a couple hours standing around waiting for paint.  On Friday after work I suckered Flash into doing a trip to Ikea with me as he has an SUV so the boxes fit better, and I needed someone to help me carry things.  Unlike Home Depot in which people are stocking up on what they need to have a productive Saturday working on their house and yard, nobody wants to spend their Friday night at Ikea shopping for unassembled furniture.  As you can see I have a slight dislike of crowds.  So, Flash leaves and my productive weekend begins:

Friday Night
assembled Ikea TV stand
removed old cupboard knobs, sanded and painted over where they’d been
replaced knobs on cupboard doors with new Ikea ones
washed the walls
prepped small wall (previously chocolate brown) to be painted (taped, removed outlet covers)
painted first coat of grey on small wall
assembled Ikea dvd shelving unit and attached it to the wall next to the existing identical one
re-alphabetized the dvds and distributed them along the two units
cornered random guy in elevator to help me move the flatscreen from old TV stand to new one
dis-assembled old TV stand
took three loads of garbage to parkade dumpsters
painted second coat of grey
did 5 loads of laundry
washed the windows
cleaned the entire house
walked the dog

touched up paint spots on roof and trim
washed cupboard doors

went to puppy play group
Home alone + huge to do list + unplugging your TV and not being able to move it back by yourself = getting shit done.

Monday, June 13, 2011

It Takes a Village

Why is it that you feel the most inclined to put the effort into things that are going to make you feel good when you already feel good?  When in an emotional low, all I feel like doing is curling up in bed and not talking to anyone or dealing with anything.  It's so difficult to break the cycle of negative, depressive behavior because lows lead to more lows.

If I'm feeling good I'm more likely to put more effort into my appearance, attend a social event, engage is physical activity such as working out or walking my dog.  If I'm feeling bummed out I'm not going to get ready or put makeup on, I won't want to talk to anyone so going out isn't an option, working out involves leaving my bed so obviously not happening. 

Why is that?  Why is it so hard to take care of ourselves when we feel terrible?  Sometimes it would be nice to have someone take care of me.  Flash isn't very good in these kinds of situations.  If I'm feeling low he'll avoid me because he doesn't know what to do and if he can't fix it then best not to be around me.  I'm not the easiest most agreeable person to be around during bad days, I know.  Sometimes you just need your mom.  Sometimes taking care of yourself sucks and you really want someone to brush your hair and make you soup and sit with you.

There's a fantastic line in the mediocre movie Shall We Dance in which Susan Sarandon's character describes why people get married.  She says, "We need a witness to our lives. There are a billion people on the planet... I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things... all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'."

I think this quote applies to all human relationships.  We need friends and partners to share in the good, but we need them the most when we're down.  Someone to pick you up, make you soup and sit with you.  But you can't just have your boyfriend or one good friend because partners sometimes don't stick, and even the best of friends are going to disappoint you sometimes.  So you need to build up a little village for yourself; a village of people who give a shit about witnessing your life.  

This can be particularly challenging when you come from a small town in which you live close to your family, grew up seeing your grandparents all the time, have had the same best friend for over 20 years and still consider your girl friends from high school to be some of your truest friends.  Cultivating a new village, putting your time and energy into people who may end up being a total waste of time is a challenge. 

Hermit or villager?  The introvert’s constant struggle.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Give it a Shot

I had an eventful trip to the vet with Slone this week.  I have been putting off the annual vet trip because the vet sucks.  They play on your guilt and hurt your wallet.  They should just put dollar signs on the door because that's what it is.  Anyway, we went and got up to date on our vaccinations.  I dropped Slone off at home with Flash with explicit instructions to watch her, particularly her face.  I then went and did a Wal-mart trip that took about an hour and came home to find Flash asleep on the couch.  Slone was in hiding under my bed and when she finally came out I inspected her face to find that it was swelling up.  Frustrated and tired I took Slone back to the vet at 10:30pm for shots to counteract the swelling.  It's an allergic reaction to the vaccinations.  She had something similar happen during one of her original puppy shots but I thought that was a one time thing and since she'd had shots before I wouldn't have to worry about it.  Well turns out I did and after another lovely vet trip got home at midnight.  Awesome.

Our walks have been sporadic.  The weather has been rainy with a nice day peaking through here and there.  We went on a big walk the day after her vet trip in which Slone didn't not feel like walking.  Normally she is so excited to go for a walk that she pulls on her lease for the first third before settling in and walking normal.  This time I was practically pulling her along.  Finally as my frustration started to boil over I told myself she was still groggy from the vet, picked her up and carried her home.  Long walks are now necessary as the vet said she is at the uppermost part of the normal weight category.  Which is a nice way of saying that your dog is pretty much fat.  So we're cutting down on food and walking more because I will not have a fat dog.  He also told me she was developing tarter shit on her back teeth.  I have a toothbrush for her, but I rarely use it.  My vet brushes his dogs teeth every day.  Well aren't you the best fucking dog owner ever.  Who the fuck brushes their dogs teeth every day.  Pretty sure animals in the wild don't brush their god damn teeth.

We went to puppy play group today.  This was the first time we went to the new location and I liked it.  Big windows, mellow, calm place.  There's also a nice park just outside it that I didn't know existed.  We got a $5 nail trim and played with some puppies.  Usually Slone is a snob, but she played better this time.  More sniffed than played, but at least she was interacting.

I haven't even started trying tricks yet.  That's my goal for this upcoming week.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Day at the Pet Store

Today bones and I spent our evening at the pet store.  I took my time, let bones look around, sniff some puppies.  We picked up a couple toys and after a frustrating search for harnesses (Slone is a weird in-between size) I finally let the sales guy help us pick.  He got one stuck on Slone's head, but Slone was so well behaved during the ordeal.  She didn't freak out, or whine.  We tried on one more harness that seemed to fit okay so I bought her some treats.

I found these turkeys to be highly disturbing.  Look at the gobbley ball sack under their beaks, and then the bikini... They are this weird native headdress wearing transvestite porn rooster.  AND it's $11.77!  Who on earth pays twelve dollars for this?
When old people wear diapers you think, oh they start in diapers they end in diapers, full circle.  But this?
Finally we looked at some fish, because everybody likes fish.  

Dog toys - $24.00
Harness - $12.00
Treats - $8.00
Dog Food - $18.00
Date night with man's best friend - Priceless

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Background Noise

I find other people so distracting.  Even though everything I read tells me that relationships with others are once of the most powerful contributors to happiness, I find other people to be huge distractions.  A social life takes up a lot of time.  On weekends where I make the effort to go out with people I find my to do list falls on the back burner.

The drama that comes along with the people in my current social circle is also very distracting.  I care about my friends and find myself feeling affected by their problems.  I have found myself thinking a great deal about their issues, their fights, breakups, etc.  I'm am not an all knowing wise worldly person, but I have learned some lessons the hard way.  I find it frustrating to watch people handling themselves poorly and have trouble separating myself from their drama.

Another thing I was thinking about was how my life gets tangled up with Flash's sometimes.  We live together for starters.  He also has a lot of friends, and I've been finding myself being brought along to his friend's events, parties, etc. more and more.  At times I've found myself going to things I really don't want to because I feel obligated, or that it will look bad if I don't.  I like many of Flash's friends, but at the end of the day we're not that close of friends.  Of all the guys there's only one that I could see myself doing something with without Flash.  Once in a while it's fun to go out with the group of them, but for the most part it takes a lot out of me.  I don't really find much benefit to it on a regular basis.  So that got me thinking, am I just a classic introvert uninterested in an active social life or are the people that I find myself in social settings with just not adding anything to my life?  I find I have great conversations with people I consider to be my true friends.  Where I live now I have a limited number of those friends around me.  Should I try to cultivate more of my own friends, apart from Flash?  Or should I embrace time alone?

I have the apartment to myself this upcoming weekend and I must admit I'm excited about it.  It's rare the be in the apartment by myself for more than an hour, so three days is a big deal.  No feeling guilty about not being excited to get drunk, not having to worry about being boring because I don't have any plans. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June - Dog

I'm dedicating this month to my dog, Slone, also known as Bones.  She's a big source of happiness in my life.  If I had kids I'd spend a month on being a better parent, but thankfully I don't got no monster children so I'll spend it on my monster dog.  All in all Slone is a great dog, she sleeps curled up against my stomach in the nook, rides in her kennel in the car like a pro, she's cuddly, loves love, likes people, likes most dogs is adorable and easy to take car of. 

Slone is a fairly low maintenance dog and because of that I can be neglectful towards her sometimes.  She's 8 pounds, so about the size of a newborn baby.  She's partially house trained.  She pees on these pads in the storage room which are basically what a diaper would look like if if was a flat square.  This is necessary as we live on the 12th floor of our apartment building and we all work 8-5 and can't come home during the day.  Slone goes out once a day when I get home from work. 

During the winter Slone doesn't get walked much.  She's small and has sensitive feet so she likes winter about as much as I do.  It's a quick zip out to do her business.  Even now that the weather is better I often feel drained when I get back from work and it's a quick trip around the block.  My goal is to take her for a big walk 5 times a week.  There are some days where I won't have an hour right after work so I'm being realistic.  I'd also like to go to some sort of fenced area/dog park once every weekend this month.

There are a lot of videos on YouTube about dog training.  I particularly like ones by kikopup because she uses clicker training and explains how to do most tricks in pretty good detail.  I plan on doing a marathon session of watching these videos and picking a select few to try and teach my dog.  I like to work on one trick a week.  It might just end up being one trick only if she doesn't pick them up quickly.

Slone is not a yappy dog, but she does bark when she hears things in the hallway outside our apartment.  Our apartment is right by the elevators so people often stand right by our door while waiting for the elevator.  Groups of people chatting, or moving furniture, or coming home drunk and making a ruckus all set the dog off.  She'll run to the door and bark.  I thought she'd get used to it and stop but she hasn't.  I need to figure out a way to stop this.  A girl moved in next door and she has this mid sized dog who is perfectly behaved.  Doesn't bark, doesn't react to other dogs, very calm and obedient.  She refers to my dog as the 'noisy one'.  I feel like the parent with the bad child who 'misbehaves' and no one likes.  So... yeah got to fix that, no one talks shit about my kid.