Friendly Canadians / Rude Americans

I was in line for passport check at the pre-screening for the US border and someone from the back of line asked people individually if he could go in front of them because he had a connections. Everyone said yes and one lady chimed in, with a pretty self inflated tone that of course we will because it’s Canadians here and Americans wouldn’t even acknowledge him or let him pass. I kinda rolled my eyes because I feel that’s just an inflated stereotype and being full of yourself for the tribe you belong to is pretty silly. So needless to say I was feeling pretty high and mighty with my self awareness.<

But just the next day, I pulled a chair away from the rest to sit off to the edge of the room to be away from the noise to take a phone call and this guy comes straight for me. Pretends to not notice me and bump into me and then goes “Hey dummy you’re in the way, move your chair back to where it was”. Now to give you context, the whole room is empty except for a few tables and chairs. This guy had to purposefully go out of his way to fake run into me.

I know 2 data points don’t make a sample size, but for a second I was like… ugh… why did I even try to defend this…..

You Don’t Know What You Have Until It’s Gone

There’s a silly cliché / quotes that says

“You don’t know what you have t’ill it’s gone”.

Probably a repo guy

And as cliché as it is. I think it’s true.
It’s probably linked to hedonic adaptation, where things that used to make us happy don’t after a while. Winning the lottery wears off, getting a raise wears off, that new “thing” you bought that made you so happy, wears off. etc etc.

I suspect that might be why things like retreats or lent are so effective to get people to be grateful. If you go without something or someone for a while, you appreciate it more… At least until you re-adapt again 😉

How Am I Not Myself?

My second favourite movie is I heart Huckabees (First is Memento). It bills itself as an existential comedy, which you know, fits my genre. It explores some of the absurdities with life, meaning and nihilism. One great line in it is when Lily Thomas’s character asks

“What do you think would happen if you didn’t tell the stories? Are you being yourself?”

I heart Huckabees

And the answer Judd Law’s character gives helped me with a big struggle I had with my mental health.

For many years I worried greatly about how my behaviour changed when taking my meds. I wasn’t as pessimistic, I didn’t ruminate as much, I didn’t spend as much time thinking about how the world is fucked. I struggled with it because there’s an easy trope to fall into and it’s of the tortured genius. It’s easy to point to great thinkers in the past who were tormented.

There’s also a bunch of folks online who think taking meds and “fighting” their mental health struggles makes them sheep. It’s easy to think this. Just think of Brave New World, 1984, and most dystopian books. The thinking is that if you move your focus away from everything that’s broken, if you don’t stay focused on the wrongs on the world, on the flaws of humanity, you can’t solve the problem.

It’s a very appealing theory. It means that all that suffering you’re doing, is not in vain. You’re not wrong to feel this way. It justifies the pain, both the past pain and the present pain. It means all that time I suffered wasn’t my fault for not changing myself, it’s everyone else who is too weak to sit with the darkness.

I’m not even sure who, but I think it was an aunt who, when I was 17-18, gave me a quote from George Bernard Shaw.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself”.

George Bernard Shaw

When Judd law is asked “What do you think would happen if you didn’t tell the stories? Are you being yourself?” he answers

“How am I not myself?”

I Heart Huckabees

Both existential detectives then keep repeating and pondering “How am I not myself?”

And once it sinks in, once you realize the absurdity of saying or even asking if you’re not yourself you in a sense free yourself from all expectations.
You cannot be anything but yourself. That doesn’t mean you’ll always be pleased with yourself. That you can’t improve yourself. Just that there is no need to worry if you’re yourself. Because you can’t be anyone but yourself.

(And yes, this means that, even given the good intentions, I’m not a huge fan of the “not myself” mental health campaign which implies that you can or should be someone different.)

Sometimes a Kettle isn’t just a Kettle

I’ve started drinking tea to replace my decaf coffee and we had given away our kettle in one of our “we don’t use this, so let’s give it away” cleanse, so we needed a kettle. Now, I tell myself I’m not a fan of consumerism and I don’t think the world needs more stuff in it, we already have enough stuff. So I went to value village to get a kettle.

We go there and we look at the kettles and they are all dirty white and are about $15. We had been using a friend’s kettle and it didn’t seem to have auto shut off, and well given my memory, it’s something we need. But kettles don’t really have model numbers that you can look up to see if it’ll auto shut off.

I don’t know to what extent it’s the auto shut-off, the fact that they looked dirty white or what, but I was just like… I can just get a kettle I know will work from Amazon for $15.

So when I get home I start looking and then looking way too much into kettles and reviews of different kettles and end up buying a new $35 kettle. And guess what, it boils water just as well as the other ones did I’m sure.

The realization that this is now me. That I am the kind of person who will buy a new kettle instead of getting a used one bothered me a bit. Is that who I want to be? I guess I’m not really sure… But it seems to be who I am…

Meta Blogging Thoughts, Memory and Song Lyrics

One thing I struggle with these blog posts is that I have a tendency to ramble on. The post on memory really could of gone in multiple direction. What got me thinking on the topic is actually that I couldn’t find the song with the lyrics I had in my head which were “And I wonder if you think of me too”

I’m figured out that the beat I had in my mind was from:

I think the part I was humming was “I don’t know if you feel the same as I do”. Really there are many parts in the song that are very close and it would easily fit in with the rest of the song.

Regardless, while writing the post on memory I was like… no one gives a shit about me humming the wrong lyrics. I should write something (put on monocle) erudite (a word for smart you’d in academia).

So then I was like, I can link it to the hypocrisy post. Or wait! I can link it about how we create our past selves and we fabricate a past that will justify our actions and somehow slide in that everyone needs to watch Memento. Seriously though, if you haven’t seen it, it’s my favourite movie of all time.

I think part of the problem causing this is that I somehow feel an obligation to have good content here. But I’m not exactly sure why…. For my 30 followers? For the 12 people who read the posts? It’s not like I’m trying to become an influencer or build my mailing list or something. It’s just legit random thoughts…. And yet…

On Memory

Memory is a tricky thing. What we “remember” is often shaped and malleable. And most people recognize or understand this in the abstract. They’ve seen a TED talk about it or something.

But in the moment, in each specific moment, people I talk to are almost always certain that this current memory is accurate, beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Maybe it’s an adaptation. I mean, questioning everything you think and believe all the time is a quick path to stress and mental health issues. I should know since that’s a bit how my generalized anxiety manifests itself. But should we not try to be less certain? Should we not always keep the possibility of being wrong (in terms of memory and in general)?

Hypocrisy is the worst sin

Hypocrisy has been on my mind recently. Both in how it impacts my perception of others and how I try to recognize it more in myself.

When I think of fall from graces (mostly in politics) it’s not actually the action that person did. It’s how that action clashes with how they’ve presented themselves. The “locker room” talk from Donald Trump is a good example. It would of sunk many candidates, but it didn’t clash with what he said. In that respect, he wasn’t a hypocrite.

I think about this often. I worry that I’m a hypocrite in many respects. For example, I worry that I’m a hypocrite on climate change. I don’t do as much as many folks. I’m not saying I’m just going out there burning oil or anything. Oh wait, yes, I literally am. We use home heating oil to heat our house. Out where we live it’s almost the only option. We have plans to change to an electric heat pump, but that’s likely to be in 2021. So until then, we’re burning oil.

I also fly to the south every year. Yes, it’s for my health, and taking the train, or bus, down to Mexico isn’t really feasible, but still, the carbon cost is high. All that to say, there are many things that would make me a green hypocrite.

Another instance I’ve been noticing is in terms of others who either share some of my flaws or share some of my past flaws (in action or in thought).

I seem to have a very hard time having compassion for people who act or think just like my 25 year old self acted or thought. Not to mention people who, like my current self, are disorganized, not always on time, get distracted by shiny things, take on too much, are too hard on themselves etc etc.

I think that last one is particularly painful because of how much it exposes my current hypocrisy. I don’t have a fix for this. Yes, I’m trying to be more aware of it, catch it sooner and faster and “redress” as quickly as possible, but I think I’m far from where I could be.

All I can do is to try to make the feedback look of action to realization to change in behaviour faster every time.

What I need to improve at (Please give me feedback)

I did an AMA and it was interesting because since I’m remote and we don’t use zoom, it was hard to see people’s facial reactions. I’m “candid” and at times contrarian and I’m not sure how things are received. It’s interesting because I have this balance where I really want to be open, candid and vulnerable and know that’s what helps organizations thrive. Even if it involves disagreements. Maybe it’s the anxiety (although I think this is probably a “normal” amount of anxiety given the circumstances), but I always really wonder what people really think.

Anyway, during the AMA there was a question asking what I would improve on. I mentioned a few things but I think I missed an opportunity to ask what I can improve on. So I’m asking you, what can I improve on?

For the record I think I mentioned:
1) Improve how I give feedback and how I share my thoughts. It sometimes comes across as rude or like I’m putting others down.
2) Better at time management (I’m terrible at forgetting I have a meeting, getting lost in time)
3) Better at focusing on the next actionable thing. Sometimes I get paralyzed by all the work in front of me and have a hard time starting somewhere.

But I feel like it’s really hard to know what you need to improve on. At Automattic there was a really strong culture of feedback and folks would regularly give each-other feedback (anonymous and direct). That’s something I feel like the Canadian Digital Service doesn’t have (yet!).

So, if you’re reading this, no matter if you’re a friend, acquaintance, former colleague, random person following me on twitter, please help me improve by filling out this form:

Rhianna is helping me re-pot plants

I have a bunch of hanging baskets that I brought in from outside. They, like me, don’t get enough sun in the winter so I’m trimming them, adding a few other plants that need less sun, and installing some grow lights on a timer.

I’m making a mess of the house and somehow I don’t have enough potting soil. But regardless, Rhianna is helping so it’s all good.

Ghosts of Relationships Past – Never Really Over

A fun fact some people don’t know is that me and Nicole dated twice and broke up before getting married. We just weren’t in a good place, either of us. Things just didn’t line up.

It makes me think a bit about how serendipity plays into our whole life. Chance is what predicts wealth, not intellect, that’s not to say there aren’t things that impact it. I’m a lot more likely to marry a francophone than someone who only speaks Mandarin.

That being said, with Facebook, it’s easy to stay up to date (willingly or by chance) with exes lives. Having a glimpse into the different paths that could of been.

While they were all great people, and I don’t know if it’s a psychological immune system response, but I’m happy it wasn’t really over with Nicole.