Productivity Stress

In January, I wrote about how I more clearly understood my need for recharge time after being around people.  My recharge time typically would involve just sitting around on the couch lazing around, using my phone, not really doing anything “productive”.

I say “productive” because it is productive to me as I need the recharge time to continue so I am gaining something positive from it, but from the outside it looks like I’m just wasting my time.  However, I decided to try to be more actively “productive” by working on projects or reading more often.  This was part of the reason I decided to do a challenge every month.  In addition, I decided to finally go through two books I had bought in 2011/2012 – Seven Languages in Seven Weeks and Seven Databases in Seven Weeks.

I am very motivated by lists and can tend to feel (overly and unnecessarily) like I failed if I don’t complete lists that I give time restrictions to, so I tracked these productivity projects in my planner, written on specific days, with little checkboxes that I had to check off.  I figured this would give me the motivation to do everything.

January, February, and March, I decided on challenges that required me to do something daily (daily yoga video, daily donation, daily wiki page).  It started off okay – the daily yoga video was a structured 30-day challenge so I didn’t need to make any decisions other than deciding what time of day I should fit it into.  We went on a short weekend trip, but I was still able to do the daily video while on the trip, so I got through it pretty smoothly.

February started to get a bit more stressful.  Before starting the month, I had already made a list of potential places I could donate to, and also asked for suggestions on Facebook.  I wanted to write a bit about all of them in Facebook posts, and especially for ones that I had a specific connection to, give more information about them and donate to them on relevant dates (for instance, donating to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) on Rare Disease Day).  Even though I had a pre-made list, it has hard for me to decided which donations should go on which days – sometimes I spent up to an hour trying to decide on a donation because I knew I couldn’t get through all of the ones on my list in the month, and I wanted to prioritize ones that I felt were more important to me.  I also stressed myself out because typically after work I want to just relax and sit on the couch and just browse Reddit or play some games, but I had to make sure to do my donation and post before midnight in order to do it on that exact date.

March I actually got behind on reading some of the daily wiki pages.  I read the ones featured by Wikipedia each day, and sometimes the topics were just very boring to me (you should read about Ferugliotherium and their teeth).  Since I wasn’t doing anything public about them like a daily Facebook post, I actually felt less stressed about being behind, and would just catch up on them a day or two later.  Here I discovered how much being publicly accountable for things puts stress and motivation on me – not just in situations where it’s my responsibility and people are depending on me such as at work, which I knew about before, but even where I just arbitrarily gave myself some public deadline and no one else even knew or gave a shit about it.

Having discovered this, I decided to give myself a much more relaxed April challenge – each week, restart a conversation with an old friend, and also send a postcard to a friend.  That was definitely less stressful… but remember the two books above that I also decided to finally get through?  I decided to start the Seven Languages book in February.  Each language involves a short intro, 3 days of info + homework, and a short wrap-up.  I split these into 3 days a week (intro + day 1, day 2, day 3 + wrap-up) and slotted them into days we don’t go to the gym.  I got through Seven Languages smoothly, and Seven Databases started off pretty smoothly…

But then this month (April) we went on a 5-day trip where I did not do any of the book at all.  Of course after being on a trip I needed recharge time, but we came back in the middle of the week so I had to go straight back to work the next day and didn’t get the full relaxing I needed.  Instead, did the relaxing after work and put off catching up on the Seven Databases book… and it just got put off further and further.  I got really stressed and anxious and panicky – the last few days were not pretty.  Seeing the empty checkboxes and having visual confirmation that I was very behind on things (there were other month tasks I was behind on too because of the trip) put a lot of pressure on me, and the more anxious and panicky I got the less I felt like doing any of it so I wasn’t even slowly catching up.

Slowly though I’m getting my previous tasks done… today, 15 days after we left for the trip, I am finally caught up on the Seven Databases book up to the point I had pre-planned to.  I still have other things I’m behind on though.  I’m trying to get over putting so much pressure on myself for these things – it’s not that big of a deal!  I literally just made up the dates I wanted to do them on!  It’s okay to be behind!

I’m trying to find a balance – lists definitely get me to do things (no list is just me sitting around thinking about the things I should probably do), but too much listing stresses me out a lot.  I think part of it is that I’m using a pre-made year-long planner, and I fill it out a month at a time – one of my weekly tasks (that I am going to be behind on because I was supposed to do it today but I need to go to bed soon) is, on the last weekend of the month, to fill out the monthly challenge and monthly tasks for the next month.  However, this means that if anything comes up and is unexpected, it throws up to an entire month off and gets me stressed about being behind and not checking off all the little checkboxes.

I’m still using this planner because I went and bought a customized one with my name on it so I feel like I need to use it entirely to get my full worth out of it.  But on the side I am also using a separate blank notebook to do some bullet journal trackers – after this planner is done with (omg it feels like so far away, 8 more months…) I’m going to switch fully over to the blank notebook and do more of the bullet journal system for daily planning.  From the ways I’ve seen people do it, I’ve tried to think of a system that would work for me, and I think I will have a yearly summary page, where I can put dates and tasks that come up and have a deadline in future months.  This will just be a general aggregate page.  Then when a month is coming up, I will create a monthly summary page, where I migrate the dates/tasks for that month from the yearly summary, and can also add more dates/tasks as they come up in the month.  Then I will have a weekly spread as a week comes up, where I migrate dates/tasks from the monthly summary, and actually put down per day of the week the tasks I will do on those days, with checkboxes.  If things don’t get done in a week, I’ll migrate them to the next week and mark them as “resolved” – that way even if it’s not done I don’t feel like it’s unaccounted for and I need to keep going back and stressing about it.  Hopefully this way I’ll only have one weekly spread I need to look at at a time, and I don’t pre-schedule things too far ahead and stress myself out.

This was very long.  I’ll be honest, I just wrote this because one of my monthly tasks that I’m behind on is to write a blog post once a month, and it’s coming up very close to the end of April.  Luckily this also made me a bit less stressed out though, especially writing out how I’m planning on using a bullet journal to solve the stress I’m putting on myself.  Also I am definitely now more convinced that I really need that time just sitting around on the couch, and am going to try to stop stressing that I’m “wasting time” when I use that relaxation time.

Anyway, that’s the end of my brain dump.

February 2018 Daily Donations

For my February monthly challenge, I decided to donate a small amount to something different every day.  It was a mix of organizations I already knew and cared about, and others that I discovered or were suggested to me.  I wrote a small bit (okay sometimes it was a large bit) about them on Facebook each day, and tried to donate on relevant days if there were any (for instance, the 28th was Rare Disease Day) to make it more interesting.  My goal was to not only expand my knowledge of organizations doing good stuff, but also spread knowledge and awareness of them.  It was interesting to look into the organizations and learn more about them – hopefully you also discover something new and interesting in this list!

  1. Wikimedia Foundation
  2. Humane Society Silicon Valley / Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA / Nine Lives Foundation
  3. Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge
  4. International Pemphigus & Pemphigoid Foundation
  5. Second Harvest Food Bank
  6. Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation
  7. Planned Parenthood Northern California
  8. Sharks Foundation / Golden Knights Foundation
  9. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  10. The Dancing Cat
  11. Code.org
  12. Freakonomics Radio
  13. Electronic Frontier Foundation
  14. KitTea Cat Cafe
  15. Free Software Foundation
  16. Kitten Lady
  17. Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
  18. World Food Program USA
  19. DonorsChoose.org project
  20. Mario Lemieux Foundation
  21. Kiva / a Kiva loan
  22. Heifer International
  23. First Exposures
  24. Fred Rogers Company
  25. Palo Alto Medical Foundation
  26. San Francisco Symphony
  27. World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
  28. National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)

What Makes Me Happy?

I decided to do a Year in Pixels for 2018 (basically a daily mood tracker), and just finished up January:

It’s a bit hard to figure out the dates, because I had deliberately not put months/days to keep it cleaner.  I may add them later though; it’s getting annoying to count them out to double check the date.

I also did one for Jack:

There was a weekend that we were in Tahoe (the large green chunk in my tracker), and when I asked Jack for his mood to fill his in, it seemed a bit like he was just saying he was happy because he felt like he had to since he spent the weekend on a trip with me (something that he denies).  It made me think about the days I was marking as happy, and I realized that I didn’t necessarily actually feel happy.  I was doing things that I wanted to do, on a trip having fun, and it felt like I should feel happy, so I had marked those as happy.  But I realized I didn’t really feel that much happier than a normal day – to be honest, all of those happy days were probably really neutral days.

So in reality, my month was pretty much just chugging along and being pretty meh the whole time.

After we got back from Tahoe, I tried to think of things that actually made me feel happy, and this is what I had come up with at the time:

  • Cat snuggles
  • Skiing amongst trees
  • Going to Penguins games
  • Sleeping in
  • Snuggles

Cat snuggles, sleeping in, and snuggles are pretty passive and more about just relaxing – I think it would probably be more appropriate to say that I am content in those cases, rather than happy.

Skiing amongst trees was something I only remembered because we had just gone skiing; it made me think of one time years ago in Idaho when I was skiing somewhere further away from the more popular runs, and for some reason I was by myself.  This was many many years ago, probably middle school, and the Lord of the Rings movies were very new.  It was just me skiing in an area where the path was narrower and there were more dense trees around, and in my head I just heard Lord of the Rings music.  I had a sense of wonderment, and felt very calm and connected, just surrounded by nature.

Going to Penguins games is something I can definitely say makes me very happy.  It’s really exciting to be at the game watching everything happen.  It’s a lot of fun to be around everyone else cheering or booing along with you, with no obligation to actually talk to any of them.  Even though I have to be around large crowds of people, the excitement and happiness outweighs the feelings of being overwhelmed and exhausted, and the lack of actual interaction with strangers is relieving to me.

I figure I should probably try to do more things that make me happy, after this very blah January retrospective, so I asked Jack what makes him happy and what he thinks makes me happy.

For Jack, he is happy playing games, especially with friends.  He is also happy when he drinks and plays games with friends, or drinks and talks about thought-provoking topics with friends.  Personally, hanging out with friends is fun for me, but I think it’s overall more neutral than happy because being around people, paying attention to so many conversations and reactions and anticipating if people need something (especially when we’re hosting) or watching out for when people are done with things so I can clean and get them out of the way (when hosting) makes me exhausted, and I need recovery time afterward to just stay in and not do anything.

The only new thing we could come up with that makes me happy was eating good food.  However this is not very practical to do often, as all the instances of good food where I was very happy were expensive fancy places.

In writing this and reading back through it, I think I’ve found the disconnect between when I have fun and when I’m happy.  Having fun for me is something that is very in-the-moment, but there are consequences to the fun, especially since being around people drains me.  So I can have a lot of fun but not end up being overall happy, because I’m exhausted and I need recharge time.  The cases where I’m happy are situations where I have fun but don’t get as drained, or where I get recharged (as it seems like being surrounded by nature may do, or just lazing around at home doing nothing).

So perhaps I should not be measuring purely just how happy I am?  It would be a very boring life if I was happy but not also having a lot of fun.  Maybe I should start splitting my tracker to track both mood and level of fun, and keep mood more honest to how I’m feeling overall, but also track when I had moments of fun.

I don’t really have a specific plan to make February more happy, but being aware of fun vs happiness will hopefully help me find ways to increase happiness.

So I guess the answer to what makes me happy is that I don’t know, but I’ll make sure to have fun finding out! (Wow that was so cheesy)

New Year Rest

It’s a new year, and the day before work starts again.

All I’ve done today is rest and relax, only leaving the house to go to the gym and pick up some food.  Did some Blogilates after I woke up, ate a light lunch while reading Hedy’s Folly, wrote in my planner/journals, watched the Pens @ Flyers game (Fuck the Flyers), worked on the weight average app I’m making for myself, went to the gym, ate dinner, did some cross stitch, did the second day of the YOU-NICORN 30-day workbook, did the second day of the OmStars 30-day yoga challenge, and read a chapter of War and Peace.

Even though I think I’ve always needed it, it hasn’t been until this last year that I’ve really put into a conscious thought and words my need for recharge time.  I guess that it’s pretty classical introversion, though I never really connected it together before.  When we take vacations, if we’re coming home the day before we go to work, I prefer not to come home too late so that I can just sit around on the couch for at least a few hours doing nothing important.  For this long holiday break, even though I’ve had days in the middle to just rest and relax at home, I pre-reserved the last day to just spend at home doing my own thing.  Even just going out for dinner takes energy away from me; being around people, even if not talking to them, makes me really tired.  Being in very loud and energetic environments is stressful and completely drains me.

In fact, even though I’ve been at my current job for over 5 years and am very comfortable and familiar with what I do and the people around me, so I don’t have the anxiety of finding my place and getting used to people, I come home exhausted just from being around everyone.  Jack used to ask me why I just sit around and do nothing so often, and I think it came from that that I gradually had to put it into words that I need to just sit and re-energize.  Even if we’re hanging out with friends we like, even if we’re out doing something fun that doesn’t involve interacting with the people surrounding us, just being around the people is a lot for me.  I need mini home vacations after actual vacations where I’m continually surrounded by people.

I bought the book Quiet in 2012 but I never got around to reading it.  Seems like it should be the next on my list.

Anyway, I decided this post is also a good chance to look back on the cross stitching I’ve done this past year.

  • I made this Pusheen for Jack to put on his desk
    • Made this for some friends getting married
    • Two sets of friends had babies within 3 days of each other… so I did two of these in a row
    • Made this as a housewarming gift
    • Making this now to be a birthday gift

Goodbye, Jokulhaups

A few weeks ago we had to put one of our cats, Jokulhaups, down.  He was only 3 years old, but he had developed FIP.  From what we understand through the vet and some Googling, there is a common virus that many cats get when they’re young, but all it really does is give them some diarrhea before they get over it.  However, in some cats, it then mutates into FIP, and there is no known cure for FIP at this time.  Cats usually affected by FIP are on the young end or the old end, and the vet said Jokulhaups was on the upper edge of the young end that get it.

After we put him down we had him cremated, and we got him back yesterday.  They put him in a nice wooden box and printed a shiny gold sticker with his name on it – unfortunately it was spelled wrong, but it’s on the back, and I’m considering ordering a plaque for the front.  We put the Jokulhaups Magic the Gathering card (which he was named after) next to him.

Jokulhaups was such a smart and determined kitty.  We got him along with Dragon in 2011, and from the beginning he was finding ways to rebel against us.  When we first got them we kept them shut in our bathroom so they could become more comfortable before we released them into the apartment.  Jokulhaups was always eager to explore more and kept trying to escape the bathroom, so soon we decided to expand their area.  It’s a bit hard to explain, but basically across from the bathroom door was the door to our bedroom.  Standing at the bathroom door looking at the bedroom door, there was a wall to the right, then a sort of open frame to the left that led to the rest of the apartment.  What we decided to do was take a folding table and lean it on its side against the open frame, so that the cats could travel from the bathroom to the bedroom but couldn’t get to the rest of the apartment.  It was at a height where we could just barely swing our legs over it to get back and forth when we needed to.  Jokulhaups decided that wasn’t enough – the tiny 2-month-old kitten jumped high enough to just jump over the table!  No matter how many times we put him back, he would just jump back over.  At that point we just gave up and let them explore the entire apartment.

Jokulhaups had crazy energy and loved to play.  He also got into everything, though.  He chewed through a laptop cable once, and he would chew any paper or pens he found, so we learned to keep everything shut away.  That wasn’t quite enough though – he learned to open the drawers and cabinets in our desks and in the kitchen.  We ended up velcroing them shut, but he was so strong that sometimes he was still able to pull them open, as they all had handles.  It was pretty amazing to watch – the kitchen cabinets had vertical bar handles, so he would just stand, place his left paw against the left cabinet door for stability, and use his right paw to pull on the handle just like a human.

At our second apartment, he was also able to open the kitchen cabinets – these cabinets were the kind with a little indentation at the bottom for you to pull with your fingers, and he figured those out, so we would often come home to random cabinets open.  We were able to reorganize to keep important things where he couldn’t reach though, so we left them.  At this apartment we discovered another amazing thing he could do – when we first moved to this one, we kept them in the bedroom only, to make it easier for us to unpack outside.  Again, this was not good enough for Jokulhaups.  He apparently watched us enough to figure out how to open doors – the doors at this apartment were light and the hinges were loose, so all he had to do was pull down on the handle and he was out.  It was pretty scary the first time we were in the living room and all of a sudden heard the bedroom door opening.  We ended up having to keep the bedroom door locked until we were ready to let them roam free.

As I mentioned before, the doors at this second apartment had loose hinges – the bathroom door would naturally swing almost shut.  Opposite from Jokulhaups, Dragon decided it was fun to shut doors, so she would go into the bathroom and lean a bit on the door so that it would shut completely.  The first time she did this, I watched Jokulhaups open the door for her again from the outside.  However, he wouldn’t open it for her after that all the times she decided it was fun, so after coming home to her shut in the bathroom a few times, we just had to get a door stop to keep her from shutting herself in.

When we got our condo, we actually decided our kitchen cabinet styles based on Jokulhaups – what would be the most difficult for him to open?  We settled on flat cabinets with a round knob.  He couldn’t possibly open those, right?  …Wrong.  We once again came home to random open cabinets.  Jack told me he witnessed him open one once – he actually wrapped his little paw around the round knob!  How did he know to do that?!  We also came home to some open closet doors a few times, but I guess they were too boring for him, as he eventually stopped opening them.

Jokulhaups grew up to be a very large healthy kitty, ending up around 16 pounds as a 3-year-old.  Dragon is only around 9 pounds.  When we first got them Jokulhaups would be pretty aggressive, and would win any play-fights.  Over time though it seemed that he would let her win – we would watch as he would lay on his back with his belly wide open, and allow Dragon to just pounce at him.  He loved to play and didn’t use his weight as an advantage.  He was also so very friendly – a friend brought her cat over once and that cat and Dragon were terrified, but he just wanted to play!  He excitedly went right up to that cat to investigate, and tried to play.  We also brought them over to another friend’s place that had two cats, and Dragon and those cats were terrified, but Jokulhaups just kind of took the entire apartment over, investigating everything.  He loved to say hello whenever anyone would come over.

When we moved to our condo in January, we noticed that he became a little more reserved – we figured he was growing up and maturing.  We no longer needed to keep our pens and papers hidden away, and he did not open the cabinets as often as at the last apartment.  However, a few months after that we noticed that he slowly stopped eating.  We couldn’t figure out why, as we didn’t change anything around that time, but after a while he started eating again, so we didn’t think much of it after that.  A few months later we noticed that he seemed to be losing his balance.  When he was on the couch, he was very unsteady, and he quickly got worse – he didn’t have the strength to jump up onto the couch when he wanted to snuggle, and would fall back down and give up.  We took him to the vet and they could see he was unsteady and that he had lost 6 pounds, but couldn’t find anything obviously wrong with him, so they took some blood for testing and let us know they would get back to us.

When they did get back to us, we found out that he had FIP.  It was uncertain how long he had.  At the vet appointment they had injected him with some fluids, and we got some liquid medicine to give him that would make him a bit more comfortable, but not cure him.  He wasn’t happy with the medicine though; the first day he took it fine, but the next few days after that he would throw up the morning dosage.  We went back to the vet and they gave him some long-term antibiotic shots (long-term meaning a few weeks) so we could stop giving him the liquid medicine.  They also showed us how to inject fluids into him, so that if the fluids helped and he felt better, we could give him fluids weekly on our own.  It kind of freaked me out – I don’t do well with needles, and the fluids also cause a hump under his skin when injected that also freaked me out, so I couldn’t really watch and Jack had to take the responsibility of learning how to do it.

The shots and fluids seemed to help him a bit – he was much more awake and aware, and was hungrily eating the liquidy food they gave us for him (he was too weak to eat the chunky food we usually give them, so we mixed the liquidy food with some water, heated it in the microwave, and spoon-fed it to him multiple times a day).  However he was still very weak.  We had to go out of town for a wedding and had my brother watch the cats, but by the time we came back he could no longer stand.  We found him laying under the couch in our second bedroom, and we didn’t want to disturb him so we didn’t move him, but we became very concerned that night.  Every night since we’ve had the cats they always join us for bed – Dragon always sleeps on my pillow and eventually migrates to snuggle with Jack, while Jokulhaups would often sleep on different spots on the bed.  Even if he didn’t sleep on the bed, he would always be in the room.  However that night he did not join us, and was still in the exact same position under the couch the next day.  It seemed that his legs were slowly becoming paralyzed; his little feet got colder and colder.

At that point we knew we didn’t have much time left.  He could not get up to eat or go to the bathroom.  We put a towel under him, and spent the next few nights next to him on an air mattress in that second bedroom.  He’s always squeaked rather than meowed, and whenever he squeaked at us we would lay him in the litter box in case he needed to pee.  During the day, the sun shines directly into that room, so we placed him in front of the window so he could enjoy it while we were at work.

The day before we were scheduled to put him down, we bought some rattly mice.  They have always been his favorite toy, but he would always lose them under things when he played with them.  I figured I would give him one more.  However, I couldn’t get just one, in case Dragon took it from him because she didn’t have one.  So, we gave Dragon one of them outside in the living room where he couldn’t see, hoping that it would make him less upset that he couldn’t play.  We gave him his in the second bedroom – I thought that it would make him feel better but it was so heart-breaking.  He immediately grabbed it in this mouth and tried with all his strength to get up and play with it.  When he couldn’t, it just dropped it and lay there.

The day of, we took the day off work to spend time with him in the sunny second bedroom.  Dragon joined us, and we spent a lazy family day in the sun.  When we put him down, they let us leave that rattly mouse with him.

We’ve tried to keep an eye on Dragon since then to make sure she is okay.  Thinking back on it, she did become very clingy a little while before Jokulhaups got really bad, perhaps because he stopped playing with her.  She started following our schedule very closely – when we went to get ready for bed, she would follow us and sit on the edge of the tub waiting.  Then, once we were done, she would follow us to bed and fall asleep with us as usual.  She was always there when we woke up – and she still does all that now.  She was never that close with Jokulhaups; the very few times I caught them snuggling, I could tell it was Jokulhaups that snuggled up with her, and she never really paid much attention to him even at the very end, other than some play-fighting.  She seems okay now, but I think she still misses him, and she had never been home alone before that day.  Now she is all alone by herself all day when we are at work.  After a few more months, I think we may get another kitty to keep her company.

This got really really long, but I wanted to remember Jokulhaups.  Goodbye, Jokulhaups – we love you.

We’re still alive!!!

BaconFriedRice has been neglected for a long time.  We’re still using this ugly theme I randomly picked a long time ago, even though I was working on making one over a year ago… Jack hasn’t posted about games or anime, and I haven’t posted about books or worked on anything in my spare time like I used to.

Biggest reason – we have no spare time!  Work is awesome, but we put a lot into it and it takes up almost all of our time.  When I’m free on the weekends I’d rather just sit around doing nothing than work on anything.  I’ve sadly even dropped the things I was doing while I had nothing to do at my previous job – I used to read books all the time, and now my reading has slowed so much that it took me over a year to finish reading Crowdsourcing (don’t even ask when the post about it will be!).  I’ve only finished two other books since then (I Am Jackie Chan and Nine Algorithms That Changed The Future), and I never learn – I start new books without finishing my current ones, and still keep buying more!  One day I’ll get through all the books I have… and one day I’ll post about them all… in the meantime, I’m still keeping track of my books on my Books Trello.

I’ve also stopped working on all the projects I had been working on… and learning the new languages… I have nothing made with Node.js, haven’t even finished one language in Seven Languages in Seven Weeks, have not finished the BaconFriedRice redesign (started May 2012!), stopped playing around with random parallax things… just stopped learning stuff on my own like I used to.  I’m sad and I want to keep working on stuff, but I’m just so tired when I get free time now :(  I need to somehow motivate myself to do things again.

In other random life news… My hair has purple highlights, we are buying a condo that will be completely constructed around December/January… and that’s about it.  My life is boring.  Hopefully you’ll see a post about a book or a project soon.