Tag Archives: lifestyle

In Their Natural Habitat

After a day of open-mall shopping, my girlfriend and I returned to our vehicle in the parking lot, behind which was a gaggle of seagulls embroiled in a noisy grand melee over a paper bag full of discarded food.

“Seagulls in their natural habitat,” she noted.

Seagulls in their natural habitat.  on Twitpic

In further conversation, we agreed that they probably couldn’t catch a fish if their life depended on it, seeing as–thanks to human influence–the diet of an average seagull now consists of equal parts french fries and cheesy puffs.

The manner in which I spent the day made me think deeper on what I was seeing.  Despite the ability of humans to change our habits and our lifestyles, we’ve done ourselves no favors: are we so different from seagulls, given our fluttering about, loud complaining about anything and everything, and our focus on getting our share of the fries?

Cold Weather

It’s seventy degrees outside now, up from where it dropped last night, possibly the last chilly hurrah before summer latches on to us for good. I had the windows open last night despite the chill–or perhaps because of it.  It’s like free air conditioning, after all.

I love cold weather.  Love it for the way it makes me feel and the things of which it reminds me.  I’ve never been much for the heat.  In fact, I wilt in humidity.  Cue an image of salad greens and ovens or some such.

Cold weather means cozy sweatshirts and pajama pants.  It means blankets, curled up on the couch with movies and hot chocolate, holding coffee mugs with both hands in order to warm them up, soups and stews, sitting outside on the porch in a beam of sunlight to warm up.

Cold weather means fall, when the temperature drops and the leaves begin to turn orange and yellow, and it means cold, wet, rainy, and overcast days, where the leaves and water and dirt mix into a gritty grime that covers sidewalks, crunches under my shoes, and reminds me just how nice it is to stay inside.  On the tail of the first fall weather means October isn’t far away, and that Halloween–my favorite holiday–will be here soon, so it’s time to get a costume ready.

The cold also reminds me of books and stories. Maybe it’s because I write stories, and so many things remind me so, but maybe it’s also because the cold weather keeps us inside, glued to a book or Harry Potter DVDs, and encourages us to retreat deeper into our imaginations to defeat or escape the grey outside.

I’m doing my best to enjoy the cool while it lasts.  Summer will be long and warm, a relentless mix of humidity and misery that won’t let up for months.  But for now, the windows are open, there’s a chill on the breeze, goosebumps on my skin; and it is amazing.

Be Ruthless In Pursuing Your Goals

When it comes to accomplishments, life seems to work against us.  Obstacles will always pop up in our way. Even more so when there are no deadlines and the desire is solely internal, like often happens with creative work.  It’s easy to let it slip another day, another day, and another day.

You must be ruthless in pursuing your goals.  This means two things.

  1. You will have to push past the laziness, the “meh,” the “I already worked 8 hours today and made dinner, what more do you want?”, the “I’ll start tomorrow,” and all the other excuses that will come up when it comes time to get to work.  This is pretty common stuff here.  Stuff that most “x help,” where x is whatever activity you’re trying to do, will talk about and help you beat.
  2. You will have to make sacrifices–and only you can deem what is an acceptable sacrifice and what isn’t.  This could mean cutting your TV time.  Or it could mean not going out with friends.  Or not taking on another commitment during the week.  It’s easy for us to get too involved in too many things and then find that we have no time for ourselves.  To yoink a phrase from Stephen King (with apologies), commitments are like dandelions: if you don’t keep them under control, you’ll soon find your lawn covered in them.  Note that the sacrifices could also be your other projects (see my post, “Murder Your Darlings“).

The hardest part of number 2 is the ability to say “no.”  I don’t enjoy telling friends that I can’t make it on a particular night or have to drop my commitment. But I have to be ruthless in ensuring I have the time necessary to get my work done.

“Isn’t that pretty self-centric?” some might ask.  To which I say: “Absolutely.”  You have to be.  The world will take whatever you give it and ask for more unless you put the brakes on.  Just like we don’t give away all our money so that we can pay rent/mortgage and so forth, don’t give away all your time.  Keep some for yourself and don’t feel guilty about it.

Life will encroach and the excuses will let it.  Stomp out the distractions without pity.  This is even more important at the beginning of any habit/process.  Later on, it’s easier to ease up a bit, but always be on the lookout for those stray commitments that pop up.  Don’t automatically say “yes” to them.

Be ruthless, and you’ll find that your goals are closer than you think.

Do It Every Day

One of the simplest secrets of what I’ve been able to accomplish so far–which, while not overwhelming, is at least something more than nothing–can be attributed to this paragraph I encountered years ago.

Do it every day.
Want to become a concert pianist? Do it every day.
Want to become a writer? Do it every day.
Want to become depressed? Think of depressing thoughts every day.
Want to become an optimist? Think of cheerful thoughts every day.
Do it every day.
–Robert Anton Wilson

It’s one of those things that’s simple but not necessarily easy.  I’ve kept a copy of that text in various places over the years.  It used to be my home location in my browser, so that I’d see it first thing when I sat down.  For a number of years, it hung on the wall by my work computer, so that I could see it every day and remind myself that my true work never happened at that desk.

Within it is the idea that we make ourselves.  That the outside only forms us up to a point–and the rest is up to us.  Also hidden in there is the idea that small effort, applied consistently over time, will get you where you want to go.

There are days when it’s hard.  And days when I missed it completely.  The important thing is to move on from there and make sure you do whatever-it-is the next day.  Don’t double up to make up for lost time.  Don’t let the guilt keep you from getting back to business the next day.  Just be there, do it.

Even if it was 500 words a day, I eventually ended up with stories.  Then there’s the whole “pyramids and bricks” thing.  Yadda-yadda.  You know the routine.

The only thing I would add to the above quoted text is this: every day, ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing.  What makes it worthwhile?  Is it what you want to be doing?  This goes back to the mental aspects that Wilson included and can help you adjust your thinking.

The answer, along with the daily reminder to “do it every day,” will give you a good push in the direction you want to go.

On Shaving (LIKE A MAN)

There’s some deep part of my psyche/DNA/gooey insides that tells me nothing is more manly than scraping my face with bare, sharpened steel.  Perhaps unfortunately, the rest of me agreed–or was too wussy to fight that other part for fear of getting clobbered.

At any rate, that led to me researching straight razors about a year ago, which then got put off, and has culminated so far in my buying a Dovo shavette, which is basically a plastic handle that houses disposable straight blades.

So far, no portions of my face have gone missing.  But shaving with a straight razor is difficult at first.

It requires learning a new skill.  And using said razor in my left hand. I have to remember that I have roughly 15 years of shaving experience with a normal razor.  Combined with a normal safety razor requiring nothing in the way of skill, it’s no surprise that shaving with a straight razor has required some adjustments.  Much like when I started shaving my head, it’ll take time to become proficient and not feel like I’m liable to lop something off at any given moment.  By now, shaving my head is routine, and so I hope that, with practice, a straight razor will be, too.

Part of the appeal was to try to reduce the amount of waste I’m producing.  I feel guilty every time I toss away a used cartridge and pop in a new one.  Granted, my current razor uses disposable blades, as well (no plastic), but I bought it as sort of a trial run before I spend $200 or more on a more permanent razor.

Another part is to hopefully get a better shave.  Often it looks like I haven’t shaved even when I just finished shaving, and my skin gets too irritated if I try to make multiple passes. So hopefully once my skills are up to speed, the quality of the shave I get will go up as well.

A big reason to switch, too, is purely for the sense of doing something “the old way” and trying something new.  We didn’t always have these cartridges-on-a-stick.  Used to be, men (MANLY MEN?) would strop and hone a metal blade and then rub it on their face.  Or else have a barber do it for them.  Only in recent times have companies tried to sell us better and better solutions for doing the things we’ve always done.

Are safety razors easy?  For sure.  After shaving with a straight razor, I have a whole new appreciation for how easy they make the process.

But easy can be bad.  Easy means I don’t have to pay attention.  I’ve come to resent the act of shaving, which seems a crime.  It’s one of the few ritual acts men have that, to me, carries some sense of history and propriety.  Shaving with a straight razor also requires that I pay attention to what I’m doing. I can’t space out and think about other things, or I’ll cut myself.  And those things are sharp.

There’s another part of me, one that’s zen-like, I suppose, that finds the idea of being present and paying attention to the current moment rather fulfilling.  And I’d rather not hate something I need to do every day.  The manly thing is mostly in jest.  It’s possible that I’ll go back to a safety razor.  We’ll see.  At least I’ll have tried.  If I can turn around how I feel about  shaving by changing the tools I use, so much the better.

In the meantime, my pride leaks out in tiny red rivulets accompanied by stinging and swear words, but perhaps I’ll appreciate the process even more once I get the hang of it.