Health & Wellness

Working hard at Procrastination

Procrastination. It sounds such a positive activity. We all love Crastination! Crastination for all!

Verb; To crastinate:  to dither about doing anything other than what is required at that time.

Presumably someone who does everything smartly to time, besides being anally retentive and a colossal bore, should be guilty of anticrastination. As I am a definite Pro on the subject of crastination,  I should be a Grand Master Crastinator.

I don’t see anything wrong with procrastination. Lots of useful stuff gets done as a result. I just wish it didn’t take up so much time to put off doing the things that really should get done. There is a time and place for everything, as they say. However finding precisely when that time and place is for certain tasks is profoundly challenging for the Grand Master.

There are a few things I really want to spend time on. These are my noble and cerebral exploits. And given that these are exploits of my own choosing, one would think they would be easy to slot into my working day (now free of any real ‘work’). But no. Grand Master Crastinator that I am, I find attending to the small and mundane tasks to be infinitely more satisfying than the noble deeds to which I wish to assign my time.

I have three personal goals at this point in my life. That’s it. These are the only things I should be focused on right now. So how do I lose days, weeks and months to ‘other stuff’? How do my Time Bandits (© Terry Gilliam) manage to rob me of whole days and weeks?

We all have our Time Bandits. Laundry is so much more vital than revision; alphabetising the book shelf really must be done before the assignment which is due tomorrow. And so is true with my own goals. Even though these are challenges I set myself, things I truly want to accomplish, they are challenging. They are arduous and hard. And so I find myself whiling away the hours on useful, necessary, but not essential activities instead of applying myself to what I really should be doing.

Take writing. I want to write, I truly do. I want to create, and gain wider recognition for my work at some point. But finding the time – there’s the rub. Even with no work to hinder me, the hours and days run away and still no words appear. My latest diversion was to create a calendar so that I could plan out when to write. Yes, I spent time planning when I could have been writing!

Procrastination is the bane of life for so many of us. Why do today what could just as easily be done tomorrow? To quote despair.com:

Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.

Not quite the same – I’m busy, just not doing the right things.

So how do we arrest these pesky Time Bandits? With a Plan, of course (just not as an excuse to actually working), but moreover with a rethinking of Priorities.  I like the tale of the rocks, gravel and sand. You may have read a similar tale:

Rocks, Pebbles, Sand – The Important Things in Life

A teacher took a large jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, about 2 inches in diameter. When the rocks reached the top he asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The teacher then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The teacher took a bag of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “Yes.”

He then emptied out the jar and refilled it in reverse order: Sand, pebbles, then rocks. This time, he could not fit all the rocks into the jar.

“What changed between these exercises?” he asked the students. He saw a sea of blank faces.

“The jar represents your life,” said the teacher. “These rocks? They are the most important things – your family, your friends, your health, your interests. The things most central to your being.”

He picked up a handful of sand and a handful of pebbles. “These,” he said, “represent the little things, the necessary but not important, the routine tasks. As we saw, if you fill the jar with sand and pebbles first, there is no room for the rocks.”

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, mow the lawn.

Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand and gravel.

With this parable in mind, my focus is now more firmly on my goals. So if you drive by my house and see the lawn overgrown, paint peeling and a gate swinging on its hinges you will know. I’ve finally got a handle on my rocks. Either that or the Cialis finally kicked in.

Change is Tough!

1280px-Neon_sign,_-CHANGE-

Change is positive, change is good. Change is what allows us to grow, to expand our horizons, to seek out new opportunities, to boldly go where he have not gone before (for all you Trekkies).  All true. Without change we would turn inwards, wither on the vine. And yet, every time we change we leave a little something behind. We turn our backs on a part of what made us who we are. You see, every change, no matter how desired, requires sacrifice.

Equally, every change, no matter how well planned and thought through, will never be implemented with the ease or simplicity it should. No matter how much we might crave the change we bring upon ourselves, it never seems to work out quite as effortlessly or as smoothly as we’d imagined. Did you ever notice that? Fitting new into old always seems to require more adjust than it ought, whatever the change we are bringing about.

Let’s start with the simple material changes. Try redecorating. Start that process and you are painting the Forth Bridge (Canadian readers – google here). Do the walls and the ceilings need doing; start with (more…)

The Boiled Frog

I’m sure we’ve all heard the story of the boiling frog – place a frog on cold water and then heat the water gently. The frog will adjust its body temperature to the warming water until the water gets too hot for him to control, and then he will die. Utter fallacy scientifically but it serves as a very effective metaphor for life. Just replace the boiling pan for a nice cozy hot tub, containing all the material things we value. Look inwards and life is good – we have our soft comfort of life, few tough challenges and a soft, safe existence. Over the shoulder is the cold, harsh reality of life and opportunity. Sure, there might be fantastic experiences and golden opportunities – but they are out of sight from where we lie – and they might not actually exist. Far easier to stay in the safe, warm comfort isn’t it? But the water is slowly heating up. One day the safety and security we crave might actually cause our demise if we don’t take the opportunity to step out of the pool from time to time, check the temperature and readjust as necessary.

Lots of metaphor there – so to bring this back to reality – who here has seen the pounds slowly creep upwards on the scale with the passing years? Who has seen their physical activity slowly decrease year on year? Who here regularly spends their income on the essentials of life – toys, vacations and ‘stuff’, secure in the knowledge that there will always be another paycheque to top up the coffers? Who has allowed their relationship to drift into the ‘comfortable shoes’ stage? We all know that every one of these examples is not sustainable for the long term. Those extra pounds keep on piling on until we get into health problems – same with the lack of exercise. The spending can carry on, sure, but actually how secure is that job? What would happen if it suddenly disappeared due to a takeover or a life event that stops us working? What happens when one in the relationship doesn’t like the comfortable shoes anymore and wants to live life more fully? None of us wants any of these things – not going to happen to us is it? We are all charging into an action filled retirement adventure full of travel, exotica, fitness and good health, and with a passionate relationship to boot. But unless we step out of that steaming hot tub to reassess what is really important to us now and in our future, then we are not controlling our destiny – it is controlling us.

It’s not easy – most folk will usually only step out of the pool when forced, be it through a job loss, relationship failure, medical emergency or something equally as drastic. And even then, most of us do not or cannot make the life changes these life events require. Lost your job? First thing to do is jump right back into another pool. Sure, the unexpected heat in the fresh pond might make us squeal, but we quickly adjust to the new reality of more responsibility / less pay / different people etc. Relationship on the rocks? All too easy today to set up an account for one of a dozen Ashley Madison copycats. Medical emergency? Ah, well we all know we could make those life changes if we had to, we just don’t need to yet, right? But well over half of all people given a critical diagnosis can’t make even one of the necessary life changes – and less than 5% can make them all (typically lose weight/change diet, exercise and give up smoking are the top three).

Given the choice, pretty much everyone will just slip back into the warm waters, even knowing that’s what is slowly killing them. And that’s normal because change is tough. Change involves letting go of what we know, the apparent safety and security of the present. It involves taking action and beating a new path with all the inherent risk. It might lead to failure, embarrassment or worse. Yes. Yes it might. But it might also lead to personal, financial or spiritual freedom and success. That new path might lead to incredible new experiences and new friendships. It might start you on a journey of health and vitality that will certainly add life to your years, if not years to your life.  So I believe it behooves us all to step out of the pool once in a while and do a life balance check. Make sure that the path we are on is the one we want to be on, for all the right reasons. Because in the words of the great Mark Twain:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Remember to say Thanks!

happy-thanksgivingHere we again at another Thanksgiving. And no, I didn’t bang my head. I’m talking about the original Thanksgiving. The Canadian Thanksgiving originated about 50 years prior to the American version, thanks to the fated voyages of a Mr. Martin Frobisher. Martin and his merry men were adrift, no doubt enjoying the male bonding whilst seeking the elusive back door to Oriental treasures, when they lost their way. Having bounced around the ice floes they eventually found land, and immediately fell to their knees to give thanks to God for their deliverance. And so began the ritual. Americans jumped on board 50 years later, and as is their way, blew the whole thing out of all proportion.

In keeping with the traditional Canadian understatement, the northern affair is low-key. It’s a family holiday, geared largely around the feasting opportunities. I’m not sure how much thanks is given in homes these days, but being a traditional sort, I felt it right and proper to give thanks for the good things in my life.

Now, by way of a disclaimer, just because something doesn’t make the list, doesn’t mean I’m not grateful. I have to say this because my blog is occasionally read by family members who might take offence. My other three readers might also take offence I suppose, but I don’t know you, and you’re not going to phone me to bend my ear. Yes, alright, I admit it. In the world of blogging I am a minnow. I’m definitely not yet the Pied Piper of bloggers, that’s for sure, and I am truly in awe of those who have been able to accelerate their follower base into 4, 5 and even 6 digits. I’m happy to have broken the 100 barrier myself, even if the vast majority of these good folks don’t actually look at my pages with any sort of frequency.

Anyway, without further ado, you’ve had your pumpkin soup. Now for the turkey feast:

  1. I am thankful that all my woes are ‘first world troubles’. The petty frustrations of life, and there are many: DVRs that fail to record; football teams that fail to score; gas prices rising by 5c; the wrong person winning X-Factor; the Kardashians; iOS 8; call centres – I could go on, but the point is, these are petty issues in the scheme of things, when half the world is either at war, in poverty or both. So I’m thankful to live in the West where the things that ruin our lives are so trivial.
  2. And speaking of living in the West, I’m thankful to have found a tiny corner of North America that is largely unknown to the rest of the world, in a country that is largely forgotten on the global stage. There’s a lot to be said for being the quiet, unassuming one in the room. Bullies don’t tend to pick on you; no-one picks a fight to see if they can beat you. You have ‘nice’ friends. The sort of friends you want your kids to have. Sure, there are always obnoxious neighbours, but you don’t have to speak to them if you don’t want to.
  3. I am thankful for the technological wizards who brought us the Interwebs and the Social Media channels, Blogging channels and so forth. Without the army of nerds who slave away, unwashed, unseen and unloved, I would not be able to share my pearls of wisdom with you all. Even if only 5 people actually visit my page – out of 125+ followers – and including at least 20 people who I would call ‘friends’ in the real world – nevertheless my literary wit is visible to the world. Even if I’m screaming into the teeth of a hurricane, I do have the channels with which to reach the masses (along with several million other wanna be writers).
  4. Bringing things closer to home, despite everything he does, I’m thankful for our street mutt, Bruno. Not because he destroys anything left lying around, not because he steals apples, or because he bullies our older dog. No, the main reason I’m thankful for Bruno is because his presence means there are no cats coming into the house. And I can take any amount of Bruno brattiness if that’s the outcome.
  5. And speaking of brats, I’m so very thankful that my kids are not , that they’ve both reached teenage years without most of the histrionics and tantrums of your typical teenagers. Sure they have their moments – don’t we all, but for the most part, I’m thankful for having two relatively well adjusted, pleasant girls to share the house.
  6. And I’m even more thankful that there are ONLY the two girls to share the house with, and not a never-ending stream of boyfriends to stress over. I know it will come. After all, I was a teenage boy once myself, but the longer it is delayed, the happier I am.
  7. One more for the home front. I am so, so thankful for Mrs. Drew. Without her, I would have to face the dating game all over again, teach some new lady my foibles, and find someone new who will accept my peccadilloes and whose peccadilloes I can accept. No thank you, I have no desire to see if there’s any other woman foolish enough to take on this beast. Can you imagine the challenges? Learning a whole new set of dating rules, sexting, emoticons, a world of abbreviations to tie up the naïve (incidentally, if that’s your kink, then BDSM, heavy on the B).
  8. I guess I really should be thankful for having a job where they see more in me than I see in myself. My inner-self is a good 20 years younger than his outer shell, and full of insecurity and self-doubt. Whenever I’m asked to lead a project, design a solution or write a paper, I’m left wondering, why me? Surely they know I’m not worthy? I’ve often felt, if I can do it, it must be easy. Of course that’s not true. Over 3 decades of experience counts for something and I’ve got all the letters after my name I could want. The evil imp on the shoulder still whispers in the quiet times though.
  9. My final one, not wanting to end the list on a predictable Top 10: I am thankful I am not a turkey. Seriously. What did that bird do to piss everyone off? I mean, did you ever see a more ugly bird? And then there’s not a feast goes by without another of his brethren plucked, stuffed and roasted, then laid bare for all to feast upon (we are dangerously close to the peccadillo topic again). Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas – they don’t stand a chance. Still, at least he has a noble place in our festive celebrations. Poor old chicken ends his days in a fast food bucket more often than not.

Gout and about!

I’m just about getting over a sharp bout of gout. This has to be one of the most painful afflictions. Within a day of the symptoms beginning my left big toe was incredibly painful, my foot was swollen and the shards of pain flashed down my leg. Unfortunately we were away on vacation as the attack struck, meaning the best drug available was double-dosed ibuprofen. The effectiveness of this drug is akin to peeing on a house fire. Unfortunately the affliction is largely invisible to folk, so they have no idea of the indescribable pain emanating from your big toe. If you’ve got a broken foot, people can see the cast. Slice your hand open and there’s a huge bandage. Even a cold is visible through your drippy, snotty nose, watery eyes and gravelly voice. But gout? None of that. Just a hobbling gait and winces every step.

Worse too, is the name. Gout. What kind of name is that for a debilitating affliction? Might as well call it ‘kitten foot’. Also, it’s caused by urea crystals gathering in the toe joint. Why the big toe? One of the most neglected yet most critical of all our digits – second only to the thumb, yet a poor relation in the world of digital dexterity. But back to the urea. My high school biology taught me that urea is basically urine, or a key component thereof. So this mighty affliction, this disabler of kings and noblemen is caused by crystallised wee-wee collecting in your big toe joint. Really?

Gout carries such a stigma also for the historic diagnosis. The rich-man’s disease. Caused by too much red wine and red meat. Gout is the condition the withered old General has, sitting in his bath chair with one foot raised and bandaged like a big balloon. Truth is, gout is caused by everything you have previously been told to eat for a healthy diet, and a few of the not-so-good items too, to be fair. So whilst organ meats and offal are key contributors, so too is shellfish, many of the oily fish which give Omega 3 fatty acids so vaunted for lowering cholesterol. Whole wheat bread is a no-no, so too are many vegetables. Beer apparently is a particularly bad contributor, yet wine is not such a problem. So much for the Port and Stilton hypotheses of old!

It seems also to be a condition that resolves itself, once the pain meds have eliminated the agony. My prescription is for anti-inflammatory drugs (not sure if they work on outspoken individuals too – maybe useful in quelling outbursts if they did). Nothing there to reduce urea levels – apparently the bodily caretakers just do that themselves. Presumably they use the toe joint as a convenient storage facility when there’s too much wee crystal for normal channels, or maybe a few of the cleaners took a night off to watch the footie – HA – pun!

So anyway, after a week, I can now get my shoes on and I can walk. So it’s now back to the gym, increase the water levels, reduce stress (oh, right!) and remove a few more of the nice-to-haves from my diet. You know, I’m not sure this healthy living actually makes you live longer, or if it just feels like that once all the nice things have been taken away from us!

Being Dad – Best. Job. Ever.

image

Today is Father’s Day, and all around the world people are giving thanks to Dads for their selflessness and caring, their kindness and love. And that’s all good, of course. I love my own Dad and I’m extremely grateful to still have him in my life (he is 81 years of age). But this isn’t a post about saying thanks to Dad. I will do that privately. No, this is a post to say thanks for letting me be a dad. If it wasn’t for the love of a beautiful woman, and the serendipity of circumstance that brought us together over two decades past, this wonderful, rewarding and ultimately fulfilling life would not be mine.

Dads have the best job

I’m grateful as a father for my two wonderful daughters, growing up so quickly into young women. I delight in their growth and development as individuals, and I wonder where their traits came from (I will choose not to question too much, just in case 😉 ).

My eldest now has her license, and she’s moving into her last year of High School with an average in the 90s. She will have her choice of universities, and her creativity will ensure she excels in her chosen field. My youngest is growing into a fine young lady. She becomes a teenager in a few days time (she was the ultimate Father’s Day gift the year she was born). She is our athlete: volleyball, running, track & field – and she has creativity all her own.

I look back over the years, flowing by too quickly, I know, and I give thanks for the course my life took. All through our journeys we have decisions as to which path to take. A few of these are monumental life changing moments, several are minor variations to life’s path. Whether you are a believer in destiny or the randomness of life, we can all look back at the few major decision points and wonder ‘what if’. I cannot conceive ‘what if’ my life had taken a different course, because I would not want to contemplate a life without the three most wonderful women in my life.

My mind holds the moments of my children’s birth bright and clear, like a picture in high contrast. I can see the face of my eldest in the minutes following her delivery, laying in the crib with an all-knowing air as she gazed around. At that point I felt the truth of a reincarnated spirit, with her gaze saying, ‘so here we are again, let’s see what this journey holds’. My younger arrived on her due date, just a couple of minutes into Father’s Day. Her impatience has been evident ever since. She’s had second child syndrome for her whole life, determined to outshine and out achieve her big sister.

So today may be about saying thanks to dads, and that’s a good thing, of course. But dads – am I right in saying we got the best end of the deal? Being a dad is the best thing in the world, and I’m eternally grateful to my wife and daughters for their love, affection and devotion over the years. I am truly blessed.

PS being dad to a furry kid counts too!