Sunday, March 25, 2018

March 25th, 2018

I remember the wait for Halo 2 to come out. I spent about two months waiting for that game to arrive and it felt like an eternity. I was 14, the game was the most anticipated thing I had seen up until that point and I wanted it really bad. Those two months felt like two years to me, and when the game finally came out I couldn't believe it.

I worked as a dishwasher for six months and that felt like such an eternity. By the time I quit six months later I couldn't believe I had lasted even that long. The job was terrible and I dreaded coming into work but I made money and I learned things. Those six months felt like two years though. I felt like things lasted forever.

This past summer I waited two months for Destiny 2 to come out. Nothing else was going on and while it felt like a long time to wait (especially the last two weeks), it wasn't that long. There was other stuff going on. Now that its release has come and gone, I'm a bit sad because I wish that feeling of it releasing had felt longer to me. It didn't take long to get here and now its over.

I have been working for Starbucks for almost three years (it's two years and seven months after this month). It feels like I just started yesterday. The time has just blown by and I can't believe it.

The older I get, the more my frustrations around memory and waiting have switched. When I was young, time never seemed to pass fast enough. Now that I have become older, time passes me by so quickly with each passing day. I enjoy the benefits of not having to wait for everything, but it makes it all the more important that I take each day for what it is.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

January 3rd, 2018: Positive

For a long time I've felt like I'm in survival mode and everything is constantly going wrong. Work always felt like too much for me. There were too many other things going on for me to manage the rest of my life. It was like juggling a few too many plates and I was always making excuses about how I wasn't able to complete things because there was too much going on in my life and because nothing was working. I think I would have described myself as a negative person with this kind of mindset.

Recently (within the last month) I have felt differently. Instead of feeling like everything is constantly falling apart, I now feel like things are pretty good. My life is stable and I'm happy with how things are going right now. I can't say I've felt this okay about how are things are going in recent memory and so I'm having to adapt to how this feels. I'm not constantly telling myself how things are terrible and making excuses for why I can't keep in touch with people and keep the house in the order and keep up with the things I want to. Instead I'm exploring how to take advantage of this period of time and being grateful for such a time.

This whole experience is teaching me that I don't really know how to be okay with how things are going. I'm so used to complaining that being thankful does not come naturally at all. But I'm trying to practice how to be grateful, and hopefully something good comes out of it.

Monday, January 1, 2018

January 1st 2018:

Last year I set a bunch of goals for myself like I do almost every year. As is probably the case with many people, I stopped tracking them aggressively about two months in because of a combination of being sick and becoming overwhelmed with the stress of two jobs. However, I came back to them at other points in the year and it has led me to think about them differently this year.

Usually I think of goals as a kind of pass/fail thing. You set a goal for the year and then if you don't complete it you failed and you try to set better goals the next year. This is slightly demoralizing but it makes each year a kind of checklist. The problem with this approach is that it doesn't allow for iteration or improvement. If I put that I want to go to the gym more on my list every year but never complete it, this checklist method means that I never bother to solve why I can't complete that goal. I just don't complete it and I put it on the list again next year.

But this year when I revisited my goals part way through the year, I revised them to make them more realistic or more helpful. As I got into the weeds of the year I just realized some of the goals I had set for myself weren't very realistic or weren't set up in a way that was sustainable. When I gave myself permission to view them as ongoing goals, they became a lot less demoralizing and lot more encouraging. It was no longer about pass/fail but instead was about building sustainable practices for better living that could be improved on over time. Though I only completed a few of my goals, my life looks a bit different now than it did at the beginning of the year simply because I tried to change my habits and improve my practices.

As I sit down to make my goals again this year, I'll look at them in the same way. Each goal is not something to check off, but a problem to think about and work through how to solve within the context of my own life.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

December 27th 2017: Problems

"You can't underestimate how much of an effect scarcity would have had on the people hearing these stories for the first time"

This was a line one of my profs said in seminary and it has stuck with me to this day. We were having a discussion about one of the stories in the gospel of John and as we discussed it, my professor raised the point that these people were living in what he called a starvation economy where every day the need to get enough to food to survive into the next day was an ever present concern for a lot of the people listening. You have to read the Bible with a sense of what a person with a constantly grumbling stomach might think as they go through these stories.

I still think about that a lot because when I read the Bible, I read it with my own selfish perspective. Whenever you read anything you're always thinking "what does this have to say to me" and the Bible is no different. As I'm reading, I'm thinking about all of the problems and concerns that I'm having and I want to know how what I am reading speaks to those problems. Sometimes it doesn't have anything to say about them and then I get to thinking that the Bible doesn't have anything to say to me.

In these times I have to remind myself that the things I spent a lot of time and energy thinking about are often very abstract and they're things I think about only because I am so far removed from that starvation economy that I have time to think about things like sexuality in a really abstract way because I'm not thinking about where to get food from. That doesn't mean that the things I'm thinking about aren't important. The Bible has things to say about this stuff and they're human issues that require thought and consideration. But I always have to slow myself down a little and remind myself that the world is an interesting place right now and the problems that we're wrestling with are problems only because we have solved so many others.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

December 23rd 2017: Oscillations

In the last week or so I've been dragging myself out of bed pretty late in the day. Pretty late for me is like 8 AM, but that makes me feel like much of the day has already gone by. For most people that doesn't mean anything, but I pay close attention to things like this because I'm trying to understand myself.

For most of my adult life I have gone through annual oscillations of energy. In the summer I am productive and active and as winter sets in I slow down until I get a little burst of energy around January only to be torn down by February and then reemerge when the weather improves. I thought I was like a sunlight thing or a school thing. More recently I am thinking it may be something wrong with my mind or my brain somewhere because the oscillations have gotten shorter and I've started to pay greater attention to them. Sometimes I have a ton of energy and I get lots of things done and I'm not sleepy. Some weeks I just stare at my computer screen and don't want to do much of anything. I notice a difference now between the two states because I don't beat up on myself like I once did. I used to say "I'm so lazy", but now I see that I'm not always like that. Sometimes I'm really good and completing goals and getting things done. Sometimes I don't touch videogames for weeks because I'm more interested in other stuff. Other weeks all I do on my days off is play Destiny for eight hours and then go to bed and sleep in a lot the next day.

As I've paid more attention to my behaviour and my energy level I don't think I've come to any universal conclusion. I think everyone's reasons for their behaviour is different. Some people are legitimately lazy. Some people just lack proper motivation. Everyone is different. What I do think I've learned though is that if you tell yourself "I shouldn't be this way" it makes it harder to catch what is going on in your mind. Yes maybe I shouldn't want to play so many videogames, but if I let that play out then what happens? Do things change over time? Do I lose interest? Are my motivations revealed after some time? Paying attention to what you're doing can be helpful. That's all for now. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

December 19th, 2017: Waiting for Part of the Day

Note: Sorry I've been missing for a couple of days. I am trying to track my mood and one of the side effects of that is that sometimes I find it very difficult to think of things to write. I've got something today though so let's continue.

There are two ways to look at life. The first way is to look at life as though it supports a very specific part of your life. Let's say that you love to read and that's your favourite thing in the world. You could contort your life in such a way that "reading" was what you considered to be the real joy in your day and everything else was just a support. Your time at work was just to make money so you had time and a place to read. Your family was just there so someone could help support your reading. Every moment in your life is spent enduring just so you can get back home alone and read.

I think a lot of people live this way. I certainly have at times (including some days recently). It is easy to become dissatisfied with whatever things you're doing and focus only on the bad parts of them. In doing that, the things you do become poisoned in your mind and it becomes difficult to see any positive qualities in them and so they become something to endure instead of a moment to live in.

The second way is to take enjoyment out of each part of your day. To find something in each thing that you do that makes you feel as though that is valuable. So even if you don't love your job, you find things in it that make you feel good. You try to love the people you work with or the people you serve. When you do chores you try to draw some level of satisfaction out of it. When you recreate you really try to enjoy those moments for the temporary joy that they are. This way instead of feeling like part of the day belongs to you and the rest of the day is stolen by everyone else, you can feel that each part of the day belongs to you because you choose how you interpret each part of it.

I recognize that there are some things in life that are just automatically terrible, but starting with the presupposition that parts of your day have been stolen from you is just a recipe for unhappiness. I am learning this lately.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

December 14th, 2017: It Takes Time

I've been cooking a lot more in the last two months. We subscribed to this dinner service where they send you all the ingredients for dinner in a bag with a recipe and then you just have to cook it. What I have loved about this is it eliminates the need to go to the grocery store which can be a challenge, it cuts down on waste, and the recipes are good so you always know it will take you a short time to cook which is good.

That being said, I spend way more time in the kitchen now just doing basic stuff than I did when we were just eating out all the time. Cooking takes time and then you make a big mess with all the dishes that you have to clean up later. It takes so much time.

And this reminds me of something else. I missed my day off this week because of something at work, and I'm really feeling it because there's a big pile of laundry, things are a little disorganized and I just haven't had time to tidy things up. I reminds me of a line from Fight Club where one character says "the things you own end up owning you". Maintaining a state of order at home takes time and energy. I have always known this but I find it helpful to express it publicly to remind people that yes regular life takes some level of energy and planning that takes away from other things and that can be a challenge at times.

Monday, December 11, 2017

December 11th, 2017: The 67th Minute

On Saturday I watched the MLS Cup Final with two friends. In true bandwagon fashion this is the first TFC game I have watched all year, but TFC is Toronto's team and after last year's heartbreaking loss in the final I really wanted to see them win the whole thing this year. TFC fans suffered for a long time with virtually no success and so to see the team do well is an exciting thing.

I don't know if you saw or not, but they won the game yesterday. They didn't just win the game they put on a clinic for how to absolutely dominate a soccer match. Seattle didn't even come close to scoring in the entire game. However this is what happened last year, and the game ended in a scoreless draw followed by penalties where Toronto lost. As we watched the first half of the match, the thought that the same thing could have happened lingered in our minds. What if we just don't score again and things go the same way they did last year? That would be excruciating. The tension built in the game.

One of my favourite sports moments in Toronto from the last ten years is when Jose Bautista did his bat flip a few years ago. I actually have a poster of it over my desk because I love that moment so much. Sure, the move itself is kind of great, but it's also an amazing moment because the Blue Jays were terrible for years with Bautista in the lineup before they got to that moment. It was years of empty promises where they Jays just couldn't break into the playoffs. There was always something that got in the way of their success. Things would go okay and then something would go wrong and the whole thing would just slip away. That was happening in that baseball game. It seemed like the whole thing was slipping away. But then Jose hit that home run and the years of anticipation were let out in a singular moment and you can see it on Bautaista's face as he flips that bat.

In the 67th minute of that TFC game a similar moment happened. In a beautiful passing play, the ball is passed out to Jozy Altidore who is running just a bit too fast for the defenders to catch him and the keeper comes out to challenge just a bit to far and Altidore flips the ball over the keeper and they score. Everyone in the bar went insane when that happened. It was amazing.

You can go and watch the highlights and see the goal now. It really was pretty. But watching the goal doesn't grant you the same experience as watching the whole game. There was 67 minutes of baited breath before that moment of relief. And watching that game doesn't compare to following the TFC for the previous two seasons or since their inception. The longer you follow a team, the more that sense of anticipation builds. The more that builds the greater tension there is waiting for release. And when that release comes, how sweet it is. In the 67th minute, the TFC got that release. Toronto got that release. This is why people watch sports. To wait ten or fifteen years for that one moment of catharsis to talk about for the rest of your life.

So when the Leafs win a Stanley Cup, Toronto might explode.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

December 10th, 2017: Saying Nothing

I get on twitter once every month and tweet at one of the many left-leaning accounts that I follow that tweets about something relating to Trumpism. This week it was someone who usually does movie criticism and commentary reposting a video of the host of Infowars asking  an Amazon Echo questions and then claiming it was a sign Echo’s are a brainwashing plan by Amazon (you shouldn’t buy an Echo, but only because that technology does not work as advertised yet, not because of a corporate conspiracy).

As this guy tweeted (for a laugh mainly) about how stupid a point this was, I was reminded again of something I often say about right-wing populism in the United States; there isn’t a debate or a changing of sides, there are only increasing and decreasing levels of engagement. Right now I don’t see any meaningful attempt by the left to try and understand why populism is so powerful and develop a proper communication response. Instead what happens is there are moments where the left repeats the same things its been saying at a louder volume before quieting down a bit.

I stay out of the conversation mostly. I figure if I want to say something politically, it best be something that tries to engage both sides meaningfully instead of looking like some kind of schoolyard argument between kids calling each other stupid and evil over and over again. Right now Twitter looks like that. I’m still waiting for the moment when that can change. Maybe it never will. But until it does, I’d rather say nothing by saying nothing. It takes less effort.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

December 7th, 2017: What does my hair have to do with the book of Jonah?

Every once in a while, someone at work complements my hair. I've been growing it out for just over two years now, and in growing it out I have discovered that my hair is pretty healthy all by itself without me doing much. It's got some nice natural waves in it. My ponytail looks like I curled it when I was at work and all I have to do is wash it and let it air dry and it looks pretty good. I was saying to Amanda the other day that having long hair is one of my favourite things right now. I've passed through the awkward time where it's simply annoying to the time where I really like both the way that it feels and looks.

The thing is that I had nothing to do with this. My hair looks like this because of genetics. My hair is not falling out because of genetics. I haven't had to do a whole lot in order to enjoy my own hair in this way. The whole thing has just sort of happened.

In the book of Jonah (the one where the guy gets swallowed up by the whale) there's a scene at the very end that I think about a lot. Jonah is sitting on a hill overlooking the city of Nineveh which has just repented of all its sins. Jonah still believes that Nineveh will be destroyed by God because he hates it passionately. As he sits up on this hill seething with rage and wishing the city would catch on fire, God sense a vine to grow up where Jonah is sitting so it can shade him. The vine grows up and Jonah gets to enjoy the cool shade while he sits there wishing to wipe Nineveh off the face of the earth. A short time later God sends a worm to kill the vine, and then God makes the sun more intense so that Jonah is baking out in the sun on his hilltop perch. Jonah complains to God

"Why did you take my vine away? It's better if I just die now!" God turns around to Jonah and says.

"You didn't do anything to grow this vine, so what are you so upset about? You care so much about this vine, which you did nothing for, but there's a whole city of people down there that I care about that you want dead. Lighten up Jonah. Have some compassion."

This story always reminds me of how much we have in life is a gift. I didn't do anything to be born, it just happened. I happened into a lot of the good things in my life right now (the church where I work, the Starbucks I work at, the wife I have, the apartment I live in, my hair). The things in my life are all gifts from someone else. Sometimes I lament when I lost things. I think "Why did that get taken away from me?" but the reality is that I didn't do anything to gain it in the first place and if it goes away, that's okay.

With my hair, when I think about it, someday it's not going to look the way that it does now. And that's okay because I'll enjoy it while it's here and when it's gone I'll remember God's words to Jonah. How I didn't do anything to get it, and to have some compassion on others instead of being so focused on myself.