Too Much Resistance From Within

I’ve got much to do to prepare for moving out of this house and striking out.  I need to sell my possessions, clean my house, get it ready for sale, and sell it.  This needs to be done in 6 weeks and 2 days, according to the schedule which I have set for myself.  But I’m hiding from it!

12938293_941187132668312_4293895371415604462_n

I’ve already resigned myself to being late.  I’m procrastinating brilliantly.  I am studying computer science, learning German and Thai.  I take long walks and play volleyball every day.  I listen to Dan Carlin podcasts, binge watch Vikings, and go out to drink with friends.  I drink alone, too.  Oh, and occasionally I move forward with my plans.  But the pace is slow.

What is wrong with me, God damn it?  I wonder, is there anything I could seek after that will bring me to decisive and consistent action?  I remember being in college, as an undergraduate, and I worked diligently.  Same as a graduate student.  But somewhere, some of the life has gone out, some of the radiant hope has been replaced with apathy and bad habits have crept in.

What is the purpose of all of this?  I am seeking to find adventure and at first blush I’m only meeting resistance.  It reminds me of “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, wherein he talks about Resistance with a Big R that artists must fight in order to discover their muse.  I also think of the saying that the muse will only find a man when he is working.  I’m thinking of how I’m supposed to find my passion by dropping the pretense of the rat race.  By simplifying my life, I will uncover my true desires.  Or at least, that’s my working premise at the moment.

Right now, I have only to report that it’s slow going.  It’s too late to turn back, thankfully;  I have thrown my hat over the wall and must now get to the other side to retrieve it.  But by every measure at the moment, my destiny is to cultivate my lazy nature.  I feel like I’m hiding from the path I’ve set out for myself.  I know this is going to be epic, but no Hero’s Journey can be had without some slogging.  In all this resistance, my current goal is to get a few hours’ work done per day.

I fear none of this post will make much sense to the reader.  Perhaps it just sounds like a bunch of self-absorbed musings from a confused and uncertain man letting an ordinary midlife crisis drive him into a foolish dream.  Well, so be it.  I apologize to anyone reading this.  I hope the story gets more interesting as time goes along.  THAT is truly the goal!

Are there stars in Bangkok? I don’t remember

I stood tonight in the street where I live, smoking a cigarette and staring down the street reflectively.  I saw the wide, clean streets, the careful drivers, the clear skies with stars in them.  I looked up and thought, when I live in Bangkok, will I see the stars?  Will the haze of the high humidity and hot environment obscure them?  Will I care?  What will be my concern?

I have 55 day, 19 hours and 2 minutes until 5pm on June 1, 2016, when I quit my job at 50 years old and start a new life.  At that point, I will have sold much of my belongings, and on my way to selling my home of 15 years.  I have engaged in an intense process of expatriation, for the sake of adventure and whatever is beyond my event horizon.

This is where I am tonight.  I’m afraid and alone.  I have friends who understand, friends who do not understand.  But I have friends and that is quite remarkable.  I have plans that make sense, plans that are instinctive, plans that will change, and plans that are inspired and fundamentally unchangeable.  I know that being fully who I am is the passport to my adventure, and yet I cannot fully admit that to the world, or even to myself.

We are all just evolved monkeys.  I feel that clever monkeys want to see the mess that other monkeys have made so they can avoid their own messes. This is the motivation for the maxim “if it bleeds, it leads,” in the modern press.  We strive to learn from each others’ mistakes.  But there is also the risk versus reward paradigm, where the greatest riches are available to the monkey willing to swing to the farthest branch, not knowing if it will give way to the waiting tigers in the jungle below.  Some monkeys learn to display their risk and the other monkeys gawk at the spectacle.  There is no optimum, all are necessary for a functional human society.

And in each of us, there is a risk taker, a watcher, a fearful monkey.  Do you want to collect the bananas, or do you want to find another tribe of monkeys?  I see that my passion lies with discovery, even if it involves risk.  I think the current environment favors risk takers.  As Warren Buffet says, “Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.”  Look around.  What do you see?  I see fear.  And I’m making a bet that therein lies my opportunity.

But as Ragnar in the Vikings series says, “Rule with your brain, and not your heart.”  I take counsel with my heart, to tell me what I fear.  I then ask my brain, is this what others fear?  If so, I do the opposite.  I have not done the math, but I suspect this leads to a good result.  And of course, I ask, is this what others find comfort in?  If so, I do the opposite.  I bid you choose counsel of your heart but let your brain rule you as well.  What strategy do  you follow?  I’d love to hear your comments!

My current plan to rule the world

In his book “Getting Things Done,” David Allen points out that if you do not put everything in your life into a reliable personal organization system consisting of concrete things that you need to do, then your brain will keep on interrupting you with random worries and reminders on the order of “Oh that’s right, I need to do X and Y!” at all hours of the day and night.  This is stressful and not productive.  As he puts it, “if you are thinking too much about what you need to do, you are not thinking enough about what you need to do.”  This is also called the Zeigarnik effect, which says that if you have a trusted plan for something, your brain will quit worrying about it.

So I have a list of to-do items, but I find having a nice timeline for the Big Things in life really helps.  I thought it might be neat to share that here and perhaps spark some soul-searching for any of my many readers.  So I give you my “Prepare to Move to Thailand” Omnigraffle document in all its glory.  Each Sunday I update it.  The columns are areas of interest and importance to me and of course time increases going down.

At a glance, I can see where I need to put more focus perhaps, and it’s clear what to prioritize in the current week and the impact of missing my deadlines.

Enjoy and stay happy out there.  Oh, and by the way, this weekend is when I discover my passions.  I’ll explain that in a later post.  🙂

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 8.52.05 AM

The subtle negative effects of too much daily caffeine

I recently took two days off from caffeine.  In the calmness that I felt as a result, I could see how caffeine had been impacting my mind.  Caffeine forces me to stay in action and never rest.  This prevents my meditation from being fully effective, limits my sleep, and reduces my ability to recover from injury or fully feel my body.
Caffeine puts a layer of dishonesty on my experience.  It makes me less happy.  I feel a rush and a need to achieve that makes me overlook the moment.  It seems that without caffeine, I’m more able to stay in the moment, and more attuned to it, and willing to listen  and having the freedom to do and not do things, as opposed to being driven by a chemical impulse in my body.
With caffeine there is a “do something, anything” kind of push in my experience, which removes the possibility of doing nothing and therefore everything that I do is that much less of a choice.  I hate feeling trapped, like I’m not in control.
Caffeine has me moving from experience to experience, with the times between the experiences being considered as wasted.  Meditation encourages and strengthens the experience of feeling every moment and the ability to stick with a plan and not deviate.  I prefer the latter.
I’m switching to one cup per day.

There’s never enough time! So slow down.

One of the challenges of being a distractible and curious person is that I sometimes think I don’t have time to do what I’m doing at the moment.  My mind wanders to the next thing on the agenda and I second-guess my choice to be doing what I’m doing.  That’s true even as I sit to type this.  I need to work out, I have a girl in my bed that I want to cuddle with, I have about six super important things I should be doing, and I don’t really have time to write this entry.  There is no time set aside in my routine, I’m not convinced it’s worth doing, and right now just doesn’t seem like the right time.  And so my blog languishes.  And why shouldn’t it?  A voice in my head reminds me, “Nobody’s reading it anyhow, and you’re never going to make money off it, so why bother?”

Given my last post, you might think these are strange thoughts for a man about to chuck it all and venture into a life of travel and ease.  Why stress out about whether to write a blog post?  Welcome to my mind.  I’m the best second guesser on the planet.  I double back on everything, and that’s a very bad habit.

A man is the sum of his habits.  The neurons that fire together wire together.  We each have habitual ways of thought and action that take us through the day, consuming our energy and weaving a story we tell ourselves about not having enough time, not being good enough, or being a rock star, unstoppable and lucky to be alive.  No matter what thought you are thinking right now, the chances are it was planted there by your habits and patterns from yesterday, including a habitual view of tomorrow you keep coming back to.

To that end, I try to shape good habits into my life.  I’m continually reformulating my approach to the day, but certain elements are bedrock.  When I see a negative mindset, I habitually challenge it and question my assumptions, creating a more positive and productive outlook.  If I don’t feel like exercising, I ignore that and work out anyhow.  In the morning, I get up as soon as my eyes open, regardless of how I feel.  I brush my teeth before I go to bed.  I don’t drink alcohol unless I have a friend to drink with.  I eat healthy foods.  I think I finally have meditation ensconced as a daily practice.  And so on.

I’ve heard bloggers say how much value it provides to them to write new posts each day.   I can see how that would be so.  Making declarations to the world will have the power to shape my life in a way that privately committing to things does not.  Writing things out will requires me to deepen and sharpen my thoughts in a way that the chattering monkey in my head is not used to.

But blogging is a new habit that I’m not sure will stick.  And this is a challenge in general for me.  Many times, I find a new habit that seems like a potential winner, and I put it down as something to try.  But I get stuck, or stop early, because I get overwhelmed at the choices I have.  There are many potential good new habits, and how will I know which is going to pan out?  Talk about a first world problem!

OK, time to push the Publish button and let the chips fall.  I can always edit this post later when I realize how crappy it really is.  They say “much thinking without practice leads to confusion, and much practice with a little thought leads to knowledge.”  Let’s see if I can insert blogging into my list of successful practices.

Hello World, as they say in Silicon Valley

I’m a 50 year old computer scientist living and working in Livermore, USA.  I have a great job, and make a reasonable, six-figure salary, which is enough to save on and never worry about money while living a relaxed and easy life in the great state of California.  Despite that, I’ve decided to quit my job on May 31 and leave the US for parts unknown, but very likely Thailand.

Travel has never been my forte.  I’ve always preferred 4 star hotels to hostels, and I never camp.  And yet my plan is to throw a tent into my car and travel around the US until I’ve seen enough, visiting family and chilling out, then check out South America, and then it’s on to Southeast Asia.

How did this come about?  Well, it really started in May of 2013, my first trip to Thailand, where I spent 10 days, mostly in Pattaya.  I was blown away by the culture, the freedoms, the food, the sights, the women.

The culture!  Temples and a feeling of gentle Buddhism pervades everything.  The freedoms!  Nobody is going to judge you for being a ladyboy, or for walking down the streets with a beer in your hand.  You can pet a tiger and get picked up by an elephant.  The fireworks are off the hook.  The food!  Thai food is legendary and there is a reason there are so many Thai restaurants in the USA.  The sights!  Temples, crowded markets, clear warm water and beaches, jungles.  And the women!  Ah, the women, so attractive and willing!  My first day or two there, as I recall, I was able to go out on a date with a young pretty lady in Bangkok, about 23 years old.  She was the first girl I asked, just an ordinary girl selling phones in a shopping mall.  The chances of that going that way in the USA are obviously very low, although I’m too intimidated to even try here.

I went back 3 more times, for a month at a time, to explore Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines, Hong Kong, China.  I became more and more desirous to spend time there, to work and live there, to expand my experiences, learn a new language.  If you’ve ever been bitten by this bug, you’ll understand.  If not, then I cannot explain any more than I have.  There is just something about sitting in a small alley in Bangkok, sipping spicy soup, thousands of miles away from home, that just lights my soul up.

I asked my boss and there was no way to set up a telecommute or to take more time off.  I didn’t want to change companies and wait for a chance to possibly transfer over there.  I wanted to just go!  I looked at my life, realized I could make this thing work, as I have enough money saved, and thought, hey, what grander and more challenging adventure could I make for myself?

And so here I am.  Hello world indeed!