In love…again

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I’ve rediscovered an old love recently…and I’ve been taking endless pleasure in the experience. My life is usually very go-go…weekends are for parties, friends, cycling, hiking, and general mayhem. And so are evenings — nights out on the town with friends, gym time, long walks…I generally resent going slow and try to have every spare moment committed.

Not this month. June has been the month of “lazy.” I’ve discovered a love of coming home to my house, social dance card completely empty. Spending the evening cooking, taking a walk, reading, and maybe even *gasp* watching Netflix. I haven’t gone out socially more than once or twice a week.

I’ve rediscovered my love of doing less, and relaxing more. I’ve read at least a book a week, and I’ve been cooking dinner and thus eating healthier.

Through this process, I’ve re-learned something I’d forgotten over the past year. Even at steady state with no frenetic activity, I have a pretty damn awesome life.

And for now, that’s enough. No promises for next month, though!

Learning to Learn

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There’s a systematic approach to learning something new that formal education teaches us. In classrooms, we’re guided by the discipline of lesson plans, textbooks, and weekly assignments. All of these structures teach us that there’s a discipline to learning – reading, research, problem solving, and repetition – that’s the most valuable skill we can internalize.

Lots of “facts” have changed since I took basic science class in primary school. Genetic engineering is a reality, and not a mere possibility. We have fewer planets (poor Pluto) but more understanding of Mars. There are new dietary concerns like gluten and GMO, but less fat-free craziness. We used to print our social security number on everything as a matter of course, and now we don’t trust our own managed passcodes and processes.

No matter what the advancement, the learning is still old school. You still have to consume information voraciously, consider your sources, and look for opposing opinions. It’s more challenging in the days of blogs, but source credibility is still paramount. And after you read, you must proactively practice your learning – in order to keep your mind sharp and your arguments cogent.

It’s struck me that I’ve been lazy about my learning recently, and not nearly systematic enough in either my ingestion or practice. It’s easy enough to do at an older age — we’re not in school anymore, and there’s so much information at our fingertips thanks to services like Wikipedia and Bing. If I’m bored, I might listen to a TED Talk, but I don’t seek out the opposing viewpoint or look askance at the speaker’s credentials.

Intellectual laziness, and I’ve been infected with it. It’s about darn time to stamp out these bad habits and get more systematic again.

Now, it’s time to select a topic.

The ‘Coaster

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This selfie is me on a rollercoaster. A literal roller coaster, located at Great America which is just next door to my office. And the truth is, I’ve also been on a metaphorical roller coaster for the past several months. Job turmoil, health troubles, and all…it’s been a wild ride.

I feel like things are finally looking up. The job is pretty good – nice people, reasonable expectations, and some really nice perqs so far. And two days does NOT make a trend, but I’m feeling a little better too. So I’m hoping that I’m actually heading up that hill on the ‘coaster and it’s going to be smooth sailing for a while.

But whether I’m whining or I’m flying high…I just want to write that I am so grateful for all the support and ideas and care I’ve received from friends and family. I feel loved, and I feel blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life.

I sure hope I’m one of the wonderful people in your life too.

What’s the Pulse?

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He asked me a couple of questions, and then took my pulse. For about 5 minutes I sat silently and studied the surrounding jars of mysterious dried substances, leaves, and powders. His lined, 70-something face looked intent. His eyes were closed. He occasionally adjusted his fingers minutely as they sat on my wrist.

And then he sat back, opened his eyes, and began speaking. He explained that my kidneys were very weak, and that I had a build up of uric and other acids in my body as a result. He also opined that my circulation was bad, which was probably the cause of some of the swelling I experience. He said that if we could lower my body’s acidity, improve my kidney function, and enhance circulation that I wouldn’t need any arthritis medications…and suggested I could see a significant benefit in a month.

I’m curious to know what an herbalist can tell from my pulse, and whether the program he outlined will truly work. However, I am giving it a try over the next month — taking supplements and making some significant diet changes — in the hopes that I will see the promised improvement. It was a fascinating experience to go to his office and and have the herbalist tell me things that agreed with conversations with my western medical physicians, as well as with the acupuncturist I saw last year.

Maybe my pulse really did speak to him. We’ll see.

When Life Gives You Furballs, Find a Brush

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It’s been a brutal few months health-wise. You know the story about the frog in the gradually heating pot of water? In some ways that’s been me. I hit a bad series of arthritis flare ups starting late last summer, which led to decreased activity. Decreased activity led to weight gain. Weight gain led to more pressure on joints, more bad arthritis days, and frustration with the situation. Frustration and feeling frumpy in my clothes led to social isolation – less time with friends and out and about. Which led to less activity, stress eating, more unhappiness, and more pain. I’m feeling pretty crappy and I’m in the worst health that I’ve been in since moving to California 10 years ago.

I’m writing this post because it took me until about a month ago to see the pattern. When I was unemployed for six weeks, I gradually had to come to terms with the fact that I didn’t have the energy or physical capacity for many of the activities that I’d planned to accomplish. It took me getting real about my current health status.

I don’t want any sympathy…I merely want to share my cautionary tale. It’s often hard to see the pattern when you’re the frog in the pot of water.

I’m working on getting back into a steady, healthy routine. I’m getting up earlier, focusing on walking more. I’m heading to the gym, experimenting with bike commutes home, trying to eat more veggies, and intentionally setting up more social events with friends. I’m also scheduling myself more down time, so that I can effectively manage all these changes and manage my stress levels. I don’t want to burn out too quickly and backslide, which is a very real concern.

I’m also going to ramp up my experimentation with some alternative therapies for my arthritis. I have an appointment with a holistic medicine professional (attached to Sutter Health) next week. I’m working on finding a herbalist.

Life has been giving both Mr. Handsome and me some furballs over the past several months. The solution for him is simple – I need to brush his fur every couple of days. I’m hoping the solution for me is as simple — a few basic changes will lead to some positive momentum and hopefully, eventually, less pain and fewer flare ups.

And in the interim? I’ve stopped waiting for things to get magically better. And I’ve started carrying around my furball-preventing brush everywhere I go. I’m getting better at wielding it.

Raymond Lee McCall

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My father doesn’t exist on any social media platform, and if you Google his name you’ll find no relevant results. He died in 1987, when the world was on the cusp of an internet revolution. Ray never had an email address, and he was living in an age when you put your Social Security number, your age, and your marital status on your resume. It was a time of internet-less privacy and anonymity, but also an age of segregation of information where often the rich or the well-educated had access to disproportionate resources.

My father built computers and sold them, in the age of the Commodore 64. He was also a radio DJ, a bartender, and a forklift operator…anything to pay the bills. Ray was an aspiring poet and writer, but never succeeded in making these passions a steady career. Fundamentally, he loved technology and saw computer programming as just another magical but fundamentally literary pastime. He taught me the basics of BASIC programming when I was 5.

He didn’t get to celebrate enough Father’s Days with me before he died, and I often miss him. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was master of the pun…he loved using language’s inconsistencies to make others laugh. He was a loyal friend, and a gentle soul, and was never really very comfortable with the harsh realities of the world he inhabited. He died of complications with Type I Diabetes, at the young age of 36.

Happy Father’s Day, Raymond Lee McCall. Now you have an identity on Google.

It’s about damn time.

Footprints in the Sand

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It’s been a week of mortality. One of my fellow AIDS LifeCycle riders died of a massive heart attack during the ride. A high school friend and fellow band member passed away after several weeks in a coma — the victim of a botched murder/suicide domestic violence incident. Another friend’s father passed away. And it’s Father’s Day on Sunday — all the ads are making me miss my own father and wish that I’d had more years with him.

All this untimely death has me thinking dark thoughts about the meaning of life and how fleeting we are in the final analysis. All the contemplation has lead to two trains of thought.

Play now, work later. If Edna suffered a massive heart attack in her early 40’s, after cycling like a maniac for years…that means I could have as little as three years left. My own father died at the tender age of 36, which genetically means my clock has already run out. Logic tells me that it’s time to party like it’s 1999. Coincidentally, several of my friends seem to be taking amazing vacations in places like Maui, Sydney, and Brasil. I’m in the mood to be somewhere other than a musty office building in Silicon Valley.

Focus on legacy. What have I done over the past 30+ years that’s actually memorable? Would I be remembered by anything other than my Facebook posts? It might be time to build a lasting legacy. And if that’s not kids/family (which seems to be most people’s answer)…what is it? Should I become a closet novelist? Raise millions for charity? Build a monument to myself out of mashed potatoes? The possibilities are endless, but the final solution needs to have meaning and permanence.

After all, daily life is the exercise of leaving our impermanent footprints in the sand.

Drinking Life to the Lees

It’s been a contemplative week. I’ve recently started a new job and I’ve been experimenting with setting boundaries on work hours and expectations. I’ve been commuting more, sitting more, and generally not loving being back in a corporate office setting. I’ve been watching the progress of the AIDS LifeCycle while my friends traveled down the coast, and envying them the freedom and fun of riding. And I’ve been observing my ALC community mourn the passing of a long term rider – Edna – after she suffered a massive heart attack while completing the LifeCycle.

I’ve spent the past several days thinking deeply about both the direction and content of my life. While I cannot ultimately control the outcomes of my life, I can certainly set the direction and velocity of my aim…and I’ve been engineering a recent shift in both facets.

The central questions are regarding what I want to contribute to the world, and what would make me happy. More often than not, I’m recently struck by the conclusion that the output from my job isn’t my worldly contribution of note. Work can make me happy, and provide income, but isn’t a current source of meaning.

I’m much more clear about “happiness” as a goal as I reach my late 30’s. I’m comfortable with what makes me tick, what I find fun and interesting, and what I’m seeking in my life companions. Not only do I know how to achieve happiness, but I have the means and tools to do it.

The bigger question is achievement of impact. I’ve currently optimized my life for happiness and not necessarily for impact. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about whether this approach is the best long term view, or if I need to modify it a bit.

In the interim, I’m focused on drinking life to the lees…just in case that’s all there is.

Here we go again

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Now that I’m back to the wonderful world of employment, I’m going to focus on posting more regularly again. I had the biggest and most fun whirlwind of a time when unemployed, and accomplished so many things that I doubt I have the space to write about them.

I’ve been contemplating whether I was ready to go back to work — and the final answer has been yes, and no. I accomplished all the immediate stuff I set out to do, and an extra week or so would have just been gravy. An extra 3-4 months, though, would have been bliss…time to travel, base build for getting back into shape, and maybe even the opportunity to participate in ALC.

That’s probably the biggest item of mention right now…I was particularly sad that I didn’t do ALC this year. It’s a bit of an unexpected emotion, because I didn’t feel left out last year…but I think the time off from work and the strong connections I made while riding this year made me feel more regretful that I didn’t ride.

Well…ready or not, I am back at work. It’s time to chart a career path at Avaya and start to plan my next several months of onboarding and account development. Here we go!