Category Archives: Operation De-Stress

Why I am Trying to Give Up Drinking

Anyone who follows me on Twitter or knows me in real life knows that I am quite fond of my evening glass of wine. It’s at a point where it’s almost a personality trait, along with my pugs.

I am vaguely aware of the fact that it’s not really a good thing to be known as the person who drinks a lot. I had the problem of thinking that people like Dorothy Parker and Lucille Bluth are super cool and have lead me to attribute this as a positive personality trait.

I wasn’t always like this.

How I Started Drinking

The first time I ever got drunk was at my bachelorette party. It was a very interesting experience for me. It felt like having a migraine only it didn’t hurt. It put me into this weird, almost meditative state that I found very stimulating.

I never partied when I was in high school or college. I used to spend my Saturday nights watching public TV with my parents. When I was in college I would spend all night alone in my apartment doing cross stitching while watching Law & Order marathons.

I felt kind of like I missed out on my youth and I wanted to make up for lost time. I figured I would get tired of it and I didn’t worry about it too much.

I went back to school to learn programming. I had a lot of anxiety about how I was going to find a job because I knew that the tech industry was very youth-centric. I knew as a woman in my 30’s with no experience it would tricky to break into the industry. I knew my best chance was to work my ass off and try to increase my skills as fast as possible. I stopped cross stitching and doing all the things I used to do to relax. The easiest way to get myself to relax was to drink. I half heartedly tried quitting a few times, but I was so stressed out that I figured I would deal with it later.

Then my marriage started falling apart.

The last year I was married I gave myself alcohol poisoning five times. Two weeks into my first job I was out for New Year’s and I drank so much so quickly that I could not keep water down for a few days. I didn’t want to tell any of the young guys at my job that I got so drunk I couldn’t keep water down, so I just kind of got through it.

After I left that job I worked from home and worked on a book. I used to keep boxes of wine outside where they would freeze overnight. I would bring them in and by the time noon rolled around the wine was thawed enough for me to drink it.

After the divorce I went through a massive depression that I did not expect to go through. I had to commute sixty miles a day to and from my job. By the time I got home I was so spent that all I could do was open a bottle of wine and drink in the bath tub. I deluded myself into thinking I didn’t have a problem because I stopped giving myself alcohol poisoning.

I am painfully aware that these behaviors that I am describing are really unhealthy. But I was stressed out and depressed and this wasn’t at the top of my list of things to worry about.

Why I Am Going to Stop

I am honestly trying to remember what triggered this most recent decision.

The last few months I haven’t been able to go for walks because of the weather. I used to walk 45 minutes a day. It was therapeutic. I wasn’t doing it to lose weight, it was just to get away from the computer and try to clear my head.

I hit 34 and started noticing things like lines around my eyes. I feel like I have put on a bunch of weight over the last few months. I bought larger jeans that used to be loose that are now not anymore.

I recently was able to start doing my walks again recently. I realized that even though I was jogging two miles a day I probably wasn’t going to lose any weight because of my drinking habit.

For some reason, this really bothered me. I don’t want to be a person who is obsessed with losing that last ten pounds, but I am at the point where a bunch of this crap is really bothering me.

I have cleared out enough other emotional baggage from my queue that I now want to deal with this.

I don’t want to feel this way anymore. I have had enough periods of my life where I was out of shape and not feeling particularly well. I know that inevitably at some point I am going to be old. It will be harder to lose weight than it is now. My joints will bother me. I can’t keep this from happening, but I can push it off a while longer by making changes now. It’s better late than never.

What I am Trying To Do

My initial thought was that I would do things in moderation. I would limit myself to one glass of wine a night. I then realized that was not going to work. I always think I will have one, but then after the first one I feel really good and the evening is still early, so I have more.

I also decided not to try and replace alcohol with another sweet beverage like fruit juice. I want to be healthier and lose weight, so replacing alcoholic sugar with non-alcoholic sugar was not a great idea.

I am trying to go cold turkey on most sugar.

I did this a few years ago. I drank nothing but water for like two weeks to retrain my palette not to expect everything it encounters to be sweet.

I am restraining my beverage intake to just water, sparkling water, and tea. I am putting some honey in my tea in the mornings because I am also putting lemon in it and I need something to ameliorate it. I know honey is sugar and sugar is bad for you, but I am confining it to that one thing and I have no allusions that it’s healthy, so don’t lecture me.

I am taking this one day at a time. I know from watching people fail at diets that I am going to have bad days. I will have days where I simply can’t deal with it and I will drink. I will not throw in the towel and give up on the experiment. I will just try to do better next time.

Things I have Notice So Far

I am only on my third day of this, so in a few weeks this might be a laughable blog post. But I have noticed a few things so far.

Nights are Boring

My routine used to be that I would finish work, take a bath with a glass of wine, get warm and comfortable, then go to bed.

I can’t do that anymore.

I used to think that after I got done with work, that I was spent for the day. I would basically drug my brain to get it to relax and calm down so I could sleep and work the next day.

The last few days I have realized I can take a bath and be refreshed enough to work on something else that I actually want to do.

It’s really disconcerting. I know I am tired and I need to sleep, but my brain gets a second wind.

This might be a temporary thing and I will probably crash in a few days. At that point I need to figure out a better way to relax. I never thought I would forget how to relax. It was so hard to do any work when I was younger that I never thought I would be stuck in the mind set that I had to work all the time.

Sugar Withdrawal Really Sucks

I think part of the reason I was drinking as much as I did was because I trained my brain to associate sugar with work being over.

I knew that alcohol had a lot of sugar in it, but I didn’t think about the fact that I was slowly increasing my intake over the last few years.

Yesterday I wanted to stab someone for a drink, not because I craved the alcohol, but because I craved the sugar. I ate a few pieces of dark chocolate and I felt better and the craving went away.

The long term goal isn’t to replace one source of sugar with another. I know that cutting back on all sugar is the goal, but it takes some time to get there. At least the chocolate provides some satiation. Alcohol is an appetite stimulant. I will not be hungry, but then I will have a glass of wine and suddenly be famished. Cutting back on the alcohol not only cuts those calories, but also all the ones I would eat after getting the munchies.

I am hoping the cravings get better the longer I stick with this.

Not Exercising Bothers Me

My Apple Watch got pretty passive aggressive with me over the winter because I wasn’t going on my walks. It was annoying, but I didn’t feel super compelled to do anything about it.

The last few days I have been crawling the walls if I can’t do some kind of exercise.

I wanted to go for a walk yesterday and I almost jumped out of my skin trying to find a time I could get out of here. It was too cold to walk, so I did a strength training exercise for half an hour and even that didn’t feel long enough.

Sitting at my computer today drove me crazy. I am going to try to find a way to do a standing desk of some kind. It’s harder to do with the retina iMac than it was with the laptop and the robotics boxes.

Moving Forward

For me, the biggest test of how this will go is when I got to my first conference this year in two weeks, RWDevCon. I need to decide if I am going to forgo drinking altogether at that event or try to limit myself to one drink. If it were right now I would forgo it completely, but I will see how I feel then.

I wish I could see this in an optimistic light. Yay, I can work on side projects after work. I can work out and lose weight and be healthier. This is going to be super awesome.

But I can’t think of it that way. This is going to be a huge and difficult adjustment. I know I used to live quite happily not doing this every night and I can probably do that again. But it’s going to take some time and effort to relearn how to relax so I don’t burn myself out. I feel like I have taken the fail safes off of myself that kept me from doing too much. I knew I could force myself to relax by basically drugging myself. Now that I am choosing not to do that anymore, I am not sure how I am going to function. I guess I will find out.

Learning To Cook: Is A Food Subscription Worth the Cost?

About two months ago I got sick of going grocery shopping, so I decided to try out a subscription food service. I noticed that when I went grocery shopping I would be spent for the rest of the day. I kept meaning to go after work, but by the time I finished work I was so drained I could not deal with getting dressed and organizing myself enough for a shopping excursion, so I would wind up going on a Saturday and then spend the rest of the day staring at a wall because I could not deal with anything.

Nice braised chicken with carrots, dates, and sweet potato.

Nice braised chicken with carrots, dates, and sweet potato.

I also noticed I would get overstimulated when I would go shopping. I would see a bunch of pork chops and butternut squash and fresh mozzarella and other stuff and I would wind up impulsively buying a bunch of stuff that would languish in my fridge. One bad impulse purchase was a bag of pears. Those sat in my fridge for two months because the stuff I would buy to cook with them would go bad and be thrown away.

I also really like having projects to work on. I figured out when I did cross stitch that it was worth the additional cost to buy preassembled kits. If I had to buy all the components and organize them on my own I was less likely to finish a project. Getting a project with all the component and all the thread colors cut to the same size and in the qualities I needed was the small push I needed to actually finish a project. It is stupid how easy it is to give up on something where there are too many small hurdles to get over.

I noticed with my food that I was doing the same thing over and over again because it was hard for me to get organized. I would go to the grocery store planning to buy stew meat to make beef stew, but then I would see the meat was as expensive as six meals worth of chicken thighs and I would not buy it even though I was tired of what I was working with. It was hard to push myself to try new things, even though I really wanted to do them and was excited about them.

Why I chose Plated

I looked at several subscription food services, and I chose to go with Plated. I read reviews of their boxes for a few months and it looked the most promising. Their meals were generally a little more complicated than some of the other boxes I saw. They seemed to have a lot of things I am excited about, namely Asian dishes and some more homey dishes like meatloaf.

Sophisticated recipe with good flavors and well composed.

Sophisticated recipe with good flavors and well composed.

Each week they have seven options for meals. Each meal is targeted for two people, so I would have a set leftover that I can eat the next day for lunch but not so many leftovers that I would have them for a week and get tired of them. You choose between one and seven meals each week, but it generally assumes you are going to order three. One thing I don’t like about this service is that if you want to change what you get for a week, you change your whole plan rather than picking and choosing how many you do each week.

They also have a few premium options where you can get more expensive ingredients like scallops and duck or add a dessert.

I get three sets of ingredients for three meals delivered each week. This costs $72 a week. This breaks down to $12 a meal with each recipe composing two meals.

Cons of Plated

So far there are a couple of things I really don’t like about my service.

Expensive

I will be up front that this is moderately expensive. I pay $24 for each recipe I make. When I go to Costco and buy chicken, I can get six meals worth of chicken for less than twenty bucks.

$24 for mushrooms and chicken? Not quite...

$24 for mushrooms and chicken? Not quite…

Some of their options for meals really don’t seem to be worth the cost. One option was grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. Those ingredients are like five bucks.

I know that you are not just talking about the food cost when you are dealing with something like this. My cost includes shipping and packaging the ingredients. It also includes the cost of research and development by the people running Plated.

Generally speaking, getting this service is more expensive than eating out. It is also more work than eating out or buying some kind of prepared food. I am mentioning this because one thing people talk about with cooking for yourself is that it is supposed to be cheaper than eating out. It really isn’t. You can cook at home much cheaper than eating out if you do thinks like macaroni and cheese, but if you want to make adult food it is more expensive. There is also the cost of peripherals like pots and pans and other equipment.

I could feed myself more cheaply.

Repetitive

Plated’s menu is somewhat repetitive. Last week one meal was chicken meatballs with broccoli and peanut sauce. Next week one meal is the same thing with beef instead of chicken.

Being repetitive isn’t necessarily a con, per se. I have certain things I always like to make, like meatloaf. I missed the last meatloaf they sent out because it was the week before I began. I got a meatloaf this week and was happy to get to try it.

I am just at a point where I realize that I am going to get tired of things after a while because they are going to be somewhat repetitive.

Oversimplification and Missing Components

I don’t mean missing components like they forgot to send a vital ingredient in the box. They have been very good about that. I mean missing components in that they have oversimplified the dish.

The first week I had a ginger salmon in miso broth. Miso broth is supposed to have a base of dashi, which is a fish and seaweed based Japanese broth. It adds a depth of flavor and a richness that is necessary for a miso broth. The ingredients that were sent to make this dish were just miso paste and soy sauce.

These look beautiful, but the meat was rubbery. Buying a thermopen was the best thing I have ever done.

These look beautiful, but the meat was rubbery. Buying a thermopen was the best thing I have ever done.

I had dashi bullion crystals in my pantry that I used to doctor the dish. I find myself doctoring all of these dishes. They don’t include enough spices for most of the dishes and I wind up having to add things I have in my pantry to season the dishes properly.

They consistently tell you to make the oven too hot. I think they are targeting this at busy people who want a recipe that can be done in half an hour. They sent me a set of turkey thighs that should have been roasted for an hour on a lower temperature, but they were trying to get things done faster and they wound up being rubbery.

I have started to almost throw the recipes out and modify them to be more complicated. One thing they send a lot of are meals that are meant to be cooked on a sheet pan. I am searing my meat, then braising everything in the oven longer and slower than they say to. After I started doing that and I invested in a meat thermometer, I stopped having so many misses.

I have read some people complain that the meals are too complicated. It concerns me that this trend will continue with fewer components and more simplified directions that lead to not optimal results.

Food and Other Waste

One reason I wanted to do this service was because of food waste. I would make a large portion of food that I could not finish before it went bad. I wanted to make sure I had a limited amount of food that would be cooked so I would not throw half of it out.

This was a beautiful dish that I wound up throwing all the leftovers away on because I waited too long and the steak turned grey.

This was a beautiful dish that I wound up throwing all the leftovers away on because I waited too long and the steak turned grey.

I don’t throw half out, but I still throw a decent portion out.

Some of these meals give you way more food than I thought they would. Some of these provide enough food for four or more meals. I had a stuffed acorn squash meal that provided five large meals for me.

In addition to the food waste, there is the packaging waste. It’s nice having a lot of packaged ingredients, but it does contribute a bit of waste, specifically the ice packs. I can compost the insulation and I am reusing the boxes to pack up my books, but I will acknowledge I am not being environmentally minded here.

I have noticed that the food is starting to pile up. I had to throw one meal out because I left it in the fridge for too long before I even got a chance to cook it.

I am going to give this some more time. I had Thanksgiving, Christmas, and now New Year’s interfering with my ability to move food out of my fridge. I am giving it some time before cutting back or cancelling the service. I want to try and see how this works when winter finally hits and I don’t want to drive in the snow to feed myself.

Pros of Plated

I wanted to get the cons out of the way to try and put the pros in a better perspective.

Quality is Good

Even though I complained about the cost, the quality of food is good. The meats are antibiotic free. The produce is nice.

The meals are sophisticated. Even though I complained that they didn’t include dashi with the miso broth, they are one of the few services that would actually have a miso based dish.

I have not gotten a piece of meat or produce that I thought was just garbage. I have a few that I let get a little too old, but generally speaking the food quality is top notch.

The recipes have a lot of vegetables, which I appreciate. The nutritional content is well balanced. I could get take out cheaper, but it would be less healthy. It’s nice to have a well balanced meal with lean protein, veggies, and some starch that I don’t have to plan out that is good quality.

Stuff I Would Not Normally Try

I was excited to do the stuffed squash. It was one of those things that I always wanted to try but I was afraid to do on my own. I was afraid of cutting my finger off, so I was kind of happy to get some in my box so that I had a reason to figure out how to do that.

My first stir fry!

My first stir fry!

I have a wok in the basement that I have never used. Both my ex and my dad did stir fry but I was not trusted to use one because they thought I would hurt myself. Having a chance to pull it out and try it out was a good experience. I knew I might ruin my food, but this is a learning experience.

These dishes include weird mushrooms and other spice blends I might not try on my own. It’s cool to get a chance to work with things I would not be able to find on my own or I would not know what to do with if I did.

I Don’t Have to Leave My House

Mentioned earlier that I find going grocery shopping to be very draining. I have two jobs along with working on books and tech talks. Losing a day of productivity so that I can go out and buy milk and eggs vexes me to no end.

All the squash...

All the squash…

I feel helpless. I will be laying on my chair with my pugs staring at the wall cursing myself for being worthless because I can’t function after doing something that everyone in the world seems able to do. It fucking sucks.

I am trying to figure out the actual cost of this service. I look at the base cost of $72 a week, which I totally know I can do cheaper and causes me some feelings of discomfort. I feel like it’s wasteful to spend this much money on food for myself when I am one person.

One thing that causes a lot of ill will in my marriage was that I was angry at my ex-husband for doing stuff like this. He had a meat CSA where he would spend hundreds of dollars on organic special meat. He would go to the farmer’s market every week and buy a dozen eggs for five bucks. I felt like we were spending money we didn’t have on specialize food just to be snobby and feel like we were better than everyone else.

When he moved out I was planning to live off of beans and potatoes and live a lot cheaper. I feel like by doing this service I am a hypocrite because I am doing a thing that I judged him for when we were married.

I finally got to a point where I realized I have to do a lot of things for my own mental health. Losing a day of productivity to leave my house and buy food is not worth it.

I am looking at the cost as not just paying for the food, but paying to avoid having to do something I don’t enjoy doing. If I am too depressed to leave the house I don’t have to worry about not being able to feed myself. Having all of the ingredients and having a nice set of directions calms me down and lets me do something that makes me feel better.

I tend to get overwhelmed by choices. If I have a “babysitter” to tell me that I have one choice for what I have to cook and it’s something I picked out that I know I like, it’s easier for me to function.

It’s been a little bit of a running joke this year at my conferences that I need people to remind me to feed myself. I get hangry and overwhelmed by choices and then I can’t make any because I am too hungry to process what I want, so I wind up curling up in a ball losing my ability to function. Having meals automatically sent to me each week removes a lot of the anxiety I have about things and gives me an activity I can throughout the week that doesn’t require me to do things that cause me mental health issues.

So Is It Worth The Cost?

Overall, I am finding this experiment to be a success. I don’t know how long I will continue to do this. I am hoping to get comfortable enough with my cooking skills to be able to try things without a safety net.

I have had to do a lot of things for my own mental health recently. I went to my parent’s place for Christmas and even just going back home for a few days really threw me into a depression. I came home last night and was so happy to be able to have access to the things I need to take care of myself.

As god as my witness, I'll never be hangry again!

As god as my witness, I’ll never be hangry again!

I didn’t have my tea. I didn’t have a space that was mine where I could just focus and chill and be on my own. I didn’t control when I ate and what food I had.

I don’t like how necessary it is for me to control my environment right now. I know I used to be able to function without these things in the past. I hate how tenuous my grasp is on my ability to be functional. I am hoping this is just a rough patch in my life where I have to control everything.

If I can get some mental health from paying $72 a week for someone to box up a bunch of ingredients and send them to my house so that I don’t have to deal with a world that currently overwhelms me, then that’s worth it to me right now.

I don’t like admitting I need help. I don’t like admitting that doing every day thinks like grocery shopping or visiting my parents overnight throws me into chaos. It really sucks. I am deciding instead of being annoyed that I am paying too much money for ingredients to keep myself alive and functioning, I am going to be grateful that these services exist and I earn enough money to be able to afford to do this so I can keep my job and be productive. Saving twenty bucks a week by going and buying them myself but losing a whole day to the endeavor is penny wise and pound foolish.

Operation De-Stress: Relapse

This was a bad week.

I had a lot of work to do for my job as Ray Wenderlich this week. I had deadlines for the update to the book that I forgot about and obligations for my talk at RWDevCon along with my regular duties for the Swift Team. I deluded myself into thinking that because I don’t have a conference for a while that I had a period of freedom that was premature.

Instead of doing cleaning in the mornings I was catching up on work for these various obligations. Things went downhill from there.

I didn’t do my yoga any morning this week. I think I did my meditation once.

I was going into this holiday weekend thinking I would have dedicated time to work on my graphics projects. I forgot that I had social obligations.

On Thursday I spent all day making pie and spending Thanksgiving with my other family, so that day was shot. Then on Friday I had Thanksgiving with my actual family. I got some stuff done, but being away from my house and in an unfamiliar environment made it difficult for me to focus. I also felt under the weather because I wasn’t drinking enough fluids because I didn’t remember to when I sat down to work.

I feel very silly talking about this stuff, but if I get off my schedule I get sick. I set up routines for myself to stay healthy and take care of myself because if I don’t I forget to. If I don’t make my tea in the morning I forget to drink fluids. If I don’t schedule a walk or some kind of exercise then I don’t do it.

Black Pixel is having a holiday party I was planning to go to in Seattle on my birthday, but I realized that the disruption of trying to work in an unfamiliar place was going to interfere with my ability to function.

Here is the reality I deal with when I travel somewhere.

I have to make sure I have access to hot water or else I don’t get my tea and it throws me off my whole day because I won’t drink fluids. I have difficulty at conferences when they have breakfast that is just pastries because if I don’t eat protein in the mornings, specifically warm proteins, I have difficulty functioning. I used to bring a lot of things to conferences with me to offset some of these issues. I have found that most conferences have tea, so I don’t need to bring my tea brewer and my loose tea. I haven’t figured out a solution for the warm protein thing yet. I should just bite the bullet and get breakfast at those conferences rather than just feeling grumpy.

A lot of people have somewhat made fun of my request that someone make sure I buy food for my train trip back from 360iDev. I need people to help me find food because when I am off my schedule and in places I am unfamiliar with I get very discombobulated and it becomes difficult for me to function. I get paralyzed by choice. Surrounded by a lot of restaurants I don’t know. Having to choose one. Then further having to choose what I want from the menu. I usually look over the menu at a restaurant before I go so I know what I will get because if I don’t, I will spend half an hour pouring over the menu trying to figure out what I want and that is rude.

The thought of going to Seattle, trying to figure out how to get to my hotel and from the hotel to the office every day and trying to figure out how to feed myself without access to my kitchen or a working knowledge of what is around me was too daunting for me to deal with.

I was supposed to go out with people yesterday. One person was having a joint birthday party and another person was having a game night. I lied to these people and told them I had a migraine because the thought of trying to leave my house yesterday not once, but twice, was too overwhelming for me to deal with.

I lied because people don’t understand. I told everyone I had a migraine because that is something people understand. They don’t understand the complete and total exhaustion of losing an hour just traveling to and from Madison. Of being in a place that is not mine, that I don’t control. I find being in public to be incredibly overwhelming. I didn’t used to, but it’s gotten harder.

Most of the conferences I attend are relatively small with a lot of people I know. I usually have a hotel room I can retreat to when I get overwhelmed. I find doing a talk in front of a hundred people easier to deal with than having to spend time at a restaurant in the mall where it is noisy and chaotic and I have nowhere to escape to.

I have no idea if this will get any better. I don’t know if I am making it worse by doing things like working from home. I don’t know if this is because of the divorce or getting older or what. I think I used to be able to deal with this stuff, but I never really immersed myself in large crowds of people for concerts or other events.

I just know that some days I cannot fucking deal with anyone and I just want to stay in my house. I get overwhelmed and I stop doing things I need to do. I am seeing the clutter in my house accumulate because I need to clean it but I can’t. I am spontaneously buying books from Amazon because that is what I do when I get stressed out, which adds to the clutter. Just because I know I have a pattern of behavior doesn’t mean that I can keep myself from doing it. It’s simply a symptom I can see that tells me I need to do better.

So I am hiding in my house. I am going back on my schedule tomorrow. I am going to get myself back into a stable state so that I can hopefully be able to go to the grocery store and get lemons for my tea before I run out. I am hoping to get all of my food cooked before more is delivered on Tuesday.

I am replacing my yoga with a long walk. The yoga wasn’t really working well and I didn’t do it every day like I was supposed to. I also have gotten rather sedentary and my watch keeps cutting my calorie burn target each week because I barely move. I used to walk when it was warm out because I didn’t have to put on socks and my shorts were what I just normally wore around the house. I don’t want to put on jeans and socks and shoes every day, which is why I really should be doing that. I might have trouble being out in public, but I can take a quiet walk around my neighborhood without being bothered and getting out is probably good for me.

Also, as much as I want to get on my graphics stuff, I should go back to cleaning in the morning before work. It was working well for me and it made me feel better, so I am going to go back to doing that, even though it means there is an hour of productivity in the morning that I am giving up. If I have obligations for Ray, I will do those, but I am trying to reserve that time to cleaning up something.

I know I can’t control every aspect of my life. There are holidays. There is my periodic trip to the grocery store to get things I don’t want to have delivered. There are the days where I will feel overwhelmed by loneliness and will need to get out or else I will go crazy. I don’t know if I want those days to happen more or less. I have friends I never get to see who I will make time to see because they are important to me. It’s a balancing act to see how far I can push myself before I retreat back into my cave. I pushed myself too far this week and I am in damage control mode. Going to try to spend today recovering so that I can focus on my job tomorrow. I also need better coping strategies rather than just letting myself spiral downward until I smack into something that breaks my fall.

Life Hacking: Phase Two

I finished my second week on my schedule. My first week was a little rocky, but the second week worked better. I only missed one day of yoga and meditation.

I am really surprised, but my house is coming along a lot faster than I thought it would. After I started breaking it down into manageable tasks, I made a lot of progress. Knowing that I was going to give away or throw away a lot of my junk really helped.

After the initial excitement of getting house clean subsided, I was still left with an empty feeling. I thought maybe I was just lonely, but I tried interacting with other people and it didn’t go so well.

I’ve felt rather empty since I went to CocoaConf San Jose. I couldn’t really put my finger on why. I still really can’t. It might just be a new phase of the depression, but I am trying to figure out what to do to fill the hole in my soul.

The meditation and getting my house clean is helping, but I still feel a lot of melancholy about the direction my life is going.

Doing What You Love

I saw Brent Simmons talking about his reflections on getting older at CocoaConf San Jose. One thing that he said specifically really connected with me. He said to do what you love.

He said that he loves working with text and HTTP. I have things that I love that I don’t get to work with because I don’t know them well enough to really make a go of them.

I met my mentor Brad because I wanted to learn OpenGL and work with GPUImage. He hired me to come work for him, but we didn’t work with those things. We did this really amazing project where we rewrote our robotics software in Swift. It was an incredible experience and opportunity, but I felt like my iOS and Cocoa skills were atrophying. I also had to drive sixty miles a day and I had no time or energy to work on the things I loved.

I started working for Black Pixel recently. I work remotely. It’s been really nice to not have to drive two hours a day and never see my pugs, but I am still not working on the things that I love. This is to be expected. I am a new programmer and we all have to work on things we don’t necessarily love. I am not trying to be bratty or anything, I am just trying to figure out how to balance out what people need me to do with what I want to do with what I need to do to keep from falling into a depression.

I like to dream about just quitting my job and spending three months doing whatever the hell I want, but I know that wouldn’t happen. I would be okay for a day or two, then my lack of structure and deadlines and accountability would throw me into a depression and I would get nothing done. I dream about taking a coding cruise where I spend a week working on whatever I want with no distractions, but I know I would go crazy not being able to check on Twitter every five minutes.

I might be able to get to this point at some point in the next few years, but I am not there now.

I need to figure out how to put myself on a path that I want to be.

One thing a lot of people ask me is how I wound up working for Brad. I got to work for him because I was very targeted and focused on what I wanted. I had a list of five companies (including Black Pixel) that I eventually wanted to work for. I decided I would not take any job that did not further that goal.

I talked to so many of my classmates who would not just specialize and get good at one thing because they felt like they had to know a little of everything in case someone wanted to hire them to do any of them. So there are lots of people who I talk to who complain about being stuck working on Java because it pays the bills and it’s too hard to make the move to something they didn’t invest capital in, like iOS.

This scares the crap out of me. I am terrified of becoming an expert in something I hate and then being too apathetic to make the move to something I love because it’s too lucrative for me to stay with what I am doing. This is trap. This is the path to the Dark Side.

So what do I do?

Getting Back on Track

I need mental discipline. I need structure. I am starting to work with this by setting up a schedule for myself. Now that I am through the first few weeks of my schedule, it’s time to evolve it a little.

I want to be a graphics programmer. I need to spend time learning how to do it and doing projects. This is what I am adding to my schedule.

My plan is to do something every week and write it up on Sunday. I have a tentative list of things that qualify for that something:

Learning Project List

  • Make a decent OpenGL Template
  • Write custom shaders for GPUImage
  • Analyze and write-up an explanation of the math and code in a shader in GPUImage
  • Read a chapter in a book like “Metal By Example” or “iOS Drawing” and then do a sample project based on what I learned in there
  • Work through a tutorial on Core Animation, Sprite Kit, Scene Kit, etc…

I noticed that people tend to want to talk to you about things you talk/write about. Right now I am talking a lot about cooking and depression and getting my house clean. I am afraid if I don’t talk about tech that people will stop thinking of me as a tech person. I want to talk about tech that I want to be an expert in, so I need to make time for it because it is important.

I have a few larger projects I would like to work on, but I don’t want to write them here. I think last year I said I was going to spend this year building an analog synthesizer and it bothers me that I haven’t done that yet.

My goal here is to have several talks ready on graphics programming for the Spring conference tour. I would also like to be able, six months from now, to plan a vacation where I go on a cruise for a week and I actually have the mental discipline to get a sizable chunk of work done. I want a plan of attack on one of my projects and I would like to be mentally at a point where I can take advantage of that situation and be productive.

Shout Outs

I want to give a shout-out to my boss Janene at Black Pixel. I tried to talk her out of hiring me because I am a mess and she told me that she knows and wanted to hire me anyway. I am going through some issues right now that I have been avoiding for a while. I feel like running away from my life sometimes. It’s helpful for me to get toxic thoughts out of my head and she’s been very kind in letting me just get them out even though I know they sound really bad.

I was worried when I left SonoPlot that I would lose my mentor, but I gained another one. I gained one that I need right now and I appreciate her helping me figure out what I am doing with my life.

Operation De-Stress: Week One Assessment

I wrote on Monday about my attempts to refactor my life. I am really stressed out and I feel kind of lost, so I am trying to figure out how to take care of my own mental health.

Scheduled Activities

I was on various medications for about a decade. I really did not like how I felt on them and I wanted to fix whatever the underlying issues were. I figured out that I needed a schedule for myself that I needed to follow and I needed daily meditation to be able to properly deal with my anxiety.

After I moved in with my husband, I stopped doing things I needed to be doing for myself. I didn’t meditate because my pugs would jump on me. I also had difficulty carving out time for myself because when you’re part of a couple it’s very difficult to say you need your own time. Most of the time you feel like you’re supposed to be doing everything with your significant other and I didn’t think to really push for what I needed to do to keep myself healthy.

I had kind of thought I should meditate, but I would only do it like once a month. I realized I need a schedule. I need something to remind me to do this regularly or I won’t do it.

I was really hesitant to try and set up a system for doing things. I am suspicious of systems, which is something I would like to write up as a blog post at some point. I tried to figure out what the simplest system is that I could implement that would allow me to be productive.

I started out small. I created alarms on my phone. I started with two, one to do yoga each day and one to do meditation each afternoon. I want to start with small changes and work out from there.

This week was not so good for the yoga. I only did it on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday I went to the grocery store before work. By the time I got home and settled for work, I had only been focused for five minutes. I didn’t want to interrupt my focus, so I missed that day. I had trouble focusing most of the rest of the week and I just didn’t do yoga.

I only missed one day of meditation. I found it very helpful and necessary on the days this week that I was lost and couldn’t focus. I am also trying to figure out when I need to go to my boss for help when I can’t focus. I had a bad few days and I wish I had come to her after the second day rather than waiting for her to ask me how I was doing. I am going to learn to be more proactive with asking for things I need to be productive rather than trying to just muddle through it because I am afraid to say I am having trouble focusing. After I spoke to my boss, she focused me and I felt much better.

Going to give this schedule another week to see if I can get on track with it. If I still have trouble I am not going to add anything else until I do better with what I am doing.

Food/Cooking

I hate going to the grocery store. I find it exhausting to go to the store. I needed to go for nearly a week and I kept thinking I would go after work, but I was too tired.

I figured out when I went on Wednesday why I find it so exhausting.

When I go out in public, especially to places like stores, I find it mentally exhausting. I want to do a surgical strike, go in and get what I need as quickly as possible. The grocery store is populated by people wandering around in ways I find unpredictable. They will stand in front of the stuff that I need. They will weave back and forth in the aisle so that I can’t pass them because I am afraid they will veer in front of me and hurt themselves because I am going to hit them with my cart.

Going during the work day when there are fewer people is helpful, but it still takes a lot out of me to deal with.

I had tried to figure out why I don’t like driving long distances and spending a lot of time in highly populated areas, and I think this is why. It’s helpful to know, but I don’t really know how to filter this stuff out. When I was married to my ex, I would follow behind him. It always pissed him off because he thought I was being submissive or something, but it was mentally easier for me to only have to keep track of and anticipate the movements of one person. One of our biggest fights happened when he started to behave randomly, stopping for no reason with no warning. I would smack into him because he wasn’t behaving predictably.

After figuring this out, I decided to try something I was tempted to do, but couldn’t justify the expense of: I am subscribing to a food service.

I chose Plated for my food service. It’s a little expensive, but right now I am just trying to make my life as easy as possible. If I don’t have to go grocery shopping as often because I am having a set of meal ingredients sent to me, then it’s worth the cost to me for my mental health.

My friend Kiera Herbert suggested I try CookSmarts which is a meal planning site where they send you a menu and a grocery list, so it’s like Plated minus the food. I noticed I never looked at it because the idea of having to leave the house to get the stuff I needed and possibly forgetting something was too demoralizing.

Based on my observation of my own behaviors, I expect I will start having meals and ingredients accumulate in my fridge in about two months, so we will see if this is something that works out or not. I am hoping that it will at least be a temporary solution to my mental exhaustion about figuring out how to feed myself. Also, I like that I am only getting enough ingredients for two servings of food. I am wasting a lot of food because most recipes and ingredients are targeted for families of four and I get tired of things before they go bad.

At the very least, this will be a good hobby project where I get kits of components where I can make things. I find these things to be very mentally soothing, so I am excited to see how this works out. I am counting the expense as not just the food, but as relieving myself of having to worry about things and being able to have a ready supply of things I get to make each week, which makes me feel better.

House Progress

Earlier this week I posted some really bad photos of my house. I also set an alarm on my phone in the mornings prompting me to clean the house a little.

Surprisingly, this alarm worked out much better than the yoga and meditation ones did. Even on mornings where I decided I would not clean my house, just planting the subliminal message into my brain about needing to clean was enough for me to do some incremental amount of cleaning.

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I dealt with all the laundry that has been on my floor for the last few months. Some of it needs to be rewashed because of pugs. I was kind of surprised that there were things I just didn’t let myself see because I didn’t want to deal with them. I noticed there were wrappers on the floor in my pictures. I am like, “Seriously? I was so intent on filtering out all the clutter around me that I couldn’t be bothered to pick up trash in my room??”

It was kind of hidden, but there were a lot of books and video games under the laundry. I boxed and organized those things and moved them to the basement.

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When I couldn’t focus this week, I managed to put the office chair together that I had sitting in the living room for a while. I vacuumed up the pug fur and at least deal with a little of the clutter in here. There is less I can do with this room presently, but I can at least deal with the obvious stuff like breaking down boxes I don’t need.

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This doesn’t look like much, but this was a lot of work. This corner of my office had a lot of clutter in it. I had two boxes of business cards explode over the floor. I had a bunch of office supplies and a lot of books in this corner. I boxed the books and finally bit the bullet and threw away all the business cards. I kept a few from the first startup I worked for on the off-chance it actually becomes a big deal one day.

I kept having to sweep and clean this corner because there was a lot of pug fur that has accumulated over the last few years. This doesn’t look like a big deal, but this was a lot of work.

I am moving a lot of things I want to get rid of to the basement. The basement will likely be a huge project at some point in the future. I don’t want to just play musical clutter and move the clutter to the basement, but I do want to get it out of my living area and I do have a dedicated portion of the basement for things that I plan to get rid of.

General Thoughts

So figured out that scheduling things really helps me make sure that I get things done. I have been meaning to join a maker space, but I always felt too tired to come visit. A friend made an appointment with me a few days ahead of time to come visit and it helped me make sure I reserved enough mental energy to show up.

I am going to join the maker space and make appointments to go on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights. I would like to work on my electronics stuff when I go there. There is a wood shop and I would like to learn how to make electronics enclosures there. I think getting out of the house to interact with other people will be good for me. I also have boxes of books I need to get out of the house. Instead of trying to offload them all at once, I can grab a box at a time and process them incrementally.

I also would like to learn how to make French pastry and it will be nice to have a place to take my experiments to because I can’t (and REALLY shouldn’t) eat all the sugar I am planning to work with.

I am also not going to travel for a while. My company is having a Christmas party in a few weeks that I was going to go to, but it would require me to fly to Seattle for a few days. I really need stability right now and I think making that trip would be very disruptive to my mental health at the moment.

My trips the last few months have been amazing and it’s been great to meet people. I hope to see people enough to maintain my relationships with them, but not being home and having a regular schedule has caused me a lot of mental distress. I have not been doing things I need to do to maintain my mental health because I talked myself into thinking that I didn’t need to do this anymore.

I feel this week was fairly successful. I am looking forward to sharing more about how I am going to fix myself over the next few weeks. Sorry, but there are going to be a lot of blogs about cooking. I promise to get back to tech at some point, but I really need to deal with this stuff right now. I miss learning new tech stuff to write about, but I can’t deal with it right now. Hopefully I will not lose too many readers because I am talking about this now. I promise tech stuff will come later!

Operation De-Stress: First Steps

Been writing recently about feeling overwhelmed and trapped in my life. I have been avoiding dealing with a lot of things over the last few years. I have spoken about my marriage falling apart. I hid from that by learning programming and throwing myself into my career to avoid having to deal with my life.

I have been alone for nearly a year now. It’s been rather difficult. I have had to learn some basic life skills like making sure I pay my bills. I have never done that before. I am slightly worried about taxes because I know they are going to be complicated.

I am incredibly disorganized. During the years of my marriage I basically wasn’t allowed to keep any of my stuff anywhere in the house except for one room. Even though it’s been a year, it looks like a crazy hoarding squatter lives in the house. I have not had the time or energy to organize my stuff because I was still throwing myself into work to avoid having to deal with my life.

There are a number of things I would eventually like to accomplish:

  • I want to organize my house
  • I want to have a regular exercise routine
  • I want to drink a lot less
  • I want to stop feeling overwhelmed by my life

I discovered recently that the best way to engage me in a project is for me to get to plan it out and write about it. If I don’t write about it, the complexity of a project gets overwhelming to me and I don’t know where to start. If I have to write about it and organize it into a story, I get more excited and engaged with actually figuring out what the first steps are. I also feel more accountable because if I don’t do anything I have to write about not doing anything.

So I am going to start a new series of posts on my blog about me using techniques from programming and applying them to getting my life back together again.

Right now my life code base is fragile. A lot of people suggested to me that I start doing exercise. I do walk for like half an hour a day when I remember to, but trying to implement a running routine was too much for my system and I crashed and burned. I would like to figure out how to fix the underlying stuff preventing me from being able to do that so that I can add running to my routine.

First Steps

Most of my physical and emotional issues are coming from stress. I have had a few periods of my life where stress has made me physically sick. I have given myself symptoms of full blown lupus and multiple sclerosis in the last ten years because of stress. I have gotten so used to the stress from the last three years or so that I don’t know how to shut it off.

I work all the time because I don’t know how not to work. If I have any free time I fill it with more work. I do this until I collapse. It used to happen at convenient times but now it’s happening all the time and it is interfering with the work I have to do rather than the work I am using to fill my life.

I also have developed a drinking problem. I have been joking about it for a few years, but I haven’t really had the energy or motivation to deal with it because there were other things that I made a priority.

Basically, the only way my brain knows it’s supposed to stop working is if I drink alcohol. I had a friend ask me if I started having lunch wine now that I work from home and I don’t because if I do then my brain will stop working. I have hardcoded a really bad habit into my brain that I need to fix before I destroy my health.

Rather than focusing on the alcohol part, I am going to focus on the learning to relax and stop stressing part. I think that is the first step to fixing all of my issues. They all lead back to that.

Plans

The first thing I am going to do is make a schedule for myself. I do a lot better on a schedule. I know most programmers don’t like them because it’s like micro-management, but I do better when I have a routine. Going on all of these conference trips has been fantastic and wonderful, but they really mess with my head. It’s difficult for me to get back on track when I come home from them and it’s difficult for me to get any work done while I am there because I have a lot of ritualistic behaviors I need to implement to focus on my work.

I have set up a few alarms on my phone that will bother me every day this week:

  • Wake up and spend some time cleaning the house (8:00 am)
  • Do 15 minutes of yoga (11:00 am)
  • Meditate (3:00 pm)

I used to do meditation before I got married, but I stopped because my pugs would crawl all over me and distract me. I am going to lock them out of my room and make sure I spend time each day not worrying.

I have a couple of yoga apps on my phone. I found a lot of the focus in yoga is to be mindful of your position and of your breathing. I really like running because I can just focus on my breathing and how my body feels, but I am not at the point where I can do that yet. So going to start small for a few weeks and try to work up to something more intense.

Said before that my house is in a really bad state. I have asked my mom to “pair program” with me to help me get the house organized. I need to buy book shelves and various other organizational structures to sort and store my objects because right now I have almost nothing. I do also have to clear a lot of crap out of my house. I have had depression and I tend to accumulate a lot of junk while I am depressed. I also get really bad about clearing out my emails. I used to keep only about 200 emails in my primary account, but I have ten times that and it’s all stupid crap like me emailing my mom that I got home from work safe after an ice storm three jobs ago.

The house part is going to be a fairly long-term project, so for right now I am going to focus on doing small amounts of things every day. Today I cleaned my toilet, emptied the dishwasher, and swept up pug fur. Hopefully tomorrow I can put the laundry away from the load I did back in February. I will spend ten minutes here and there boxing up books I will never read to give away. I still need to schedule time to get rid of the books I box up, but focusing on small steps.

Going to try doing those three things for about two weeks. I am going to try not to worry about anything beyond that. Self discipline is a muscle that exhausts easily and I don’t want to try too many things at once because I will get frustrated and quit.

I will do a post mortem at the end of this week about how often I did these things and if I feel any better. I’ll write about any challenges that prevented me from doing things on a day-to-day basis. I will also brainstorm about what the next set of challenges will be after I have integrated these into my life.

Happy Monday! Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Make the most of it.