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Deep Work and the Long Dark

Sunrise today is at 7:44 am. Sunset is at 4:15 pm. We’re deeply into the time of year that I call the Long Dark. It’s not just that the days are increasingly shorter. Here is the Nordics the quality of light changes, because the sun barely breaks the horizon. It is dark in ways that I had never experienced before I moved to Finland. A lot of people have a difficult time, in terms of mental health. This is why I’m embracing it, rather than fighting it. I’m unplugging and throwing myself into projects. I’m in the process of re-reading Cal Newport’s books. So let’s discuss Deep Work and the Long Dark.

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Some of this dovetails with the Danish concept of hygge. Embrace the coziness. The fairy lights are up. I light some candles for additional ambience, and put on the most mellow, ambient instrumental music I can find. There’s a crackling fireplace on the television. I spend the days reading, and writing, and periodically going on walks.

Leaning In to “I Don’t Want To”

During the Long Dark, all I want to do is sleep. It is the one time of year when my insomnia disappears. As soon as I curl up under a warm blanket and my head hits the pillow, I’m out. It’s difficult for me to wake up, and I need a solid hour of being left alone and a lot of caffeine before I’m functional in the morning. This is on top of all of my other spoonie issues.

This forces me to prioritize tasks. I don’t have time for shallow work, busy work, and “filler” tasks. It’s imperative that I focus solely on the important, the meaningful, and the profitable. When I get to put my efforts into things that are meaningful, it’s actually energizing.

Riding Flow States

It’s easier to get into a flow state when you already feel as if you’ve slipped into another dimension. Again, there is no way to describe how surreal it is when it’s dark all the time. It’s calm, it’s quiet, and for me it’s the perfect conditions for getting into a flow state.

Since getting into a flow state is proven to create feelings of joy and satisfaction, it’s a wonderful counterbalance to the depressive effects of the Long Dark. It’s one of the reasons that I actually enjoy this time of year. Rather than dreading Finnish winter, I look forward to it. I’m going to get a lot done, and have fun doing it.

Deep Work and the Long Dark

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About Simplify – Create – Thrive

This blog is dedicated to one basic principle: if you can simplify your life and dedicate time to create things, you will be able to thrive and find the health and happiness you seek.

About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, simple living minimalist, and spoonie. By day he works as the owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

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Thrive

Make a Post-Election Self-Care Plan

First off, if you read the title of this post and your first reaction was “gurr durr fearmongering libtard” you can go fall in a hole. I’m not talking to you. This is for people possessed of emotional intelligence, critical thinking skills, and a functional sense of empathy. No matter what happens, you need to make a post-election self-care plan.

Avoid the News

Whatever is going to happen will happen whether you’re watching live in real time or not. You do not need to be staring at a screen for hours anticipating something happening. My recommendation is to do what people in the old days did: after it happens, read about it. Find reliable written news source that provides facts. Not video, not opinion, not hyperbole designed to boost their rating and increase their ad revenue.

I’m actually going into a media and internet blackout starting on Tuesday. Other than a few things that I need to do for work, I don’t plan on being online again until the following Monday. There’s nothing I can to do stop things, change things, or help things, so I’m choosing to prioritize my own physical and mental health over whatever lunacy is foisted upon us.

Stay Off of Social Media

This ought to be a no-brainer. Turn off notifications, uninstall phone apps, and delete bookmarks. You already know how much disinformation and hate is circulating now. It’s easy to speculate how the level of vitriol and lies will increase during and after the election, no matter who wins. You don’t need to experience that, either being yelled at by a bad actor, or yelling at a bad actor.

Without turning this into a long story time, my anxiety has put me back on my personal Twitter account. I need to kill that now. Even my business Twitter is going to go dark next week, because I don’t expect to be able to filter the new, the bad takes, and emotionality that will be present no matter who wins or what happens. I’m out. Time to catch up on my reading.

Get Some Exercise

Do whatever you normally do, on whatever schedule you normally do it. If you don’t already exercise regularly, go for a walk. Seriously. When you’re tempted to turn on the news or look at social media, leave the house. Go look at a tree. Find a bench to sit on and people-watch.

Katie and I are extending our normal Tuesday grocery trip so we’ll be out of the house longer. We’re going to wander through shops and stop for a coffee. On Wednesday we’ve got a day trip planned, so we won’t be anywhere near a screen. I’m trying to convince her to just let me turn off the router altogether, and live without wifi at home for at least a few days.

Touch Base with Friends

I’m assuming that this far into the pandemic most people have Zoom, Skype, Facetime, or some other way to chatting with friends other than social media. Email is a thing that still exists, even if you think it’s old-fashioned and quant. Write someone a nice letter and email it to them. Stick to phone calls and text, just stay the hell off of Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and even Instagram at this point.

The people that need to be able to reach me all have my phone number. They can call, text, or message me on WhatsApp. Everyone else can send an email, although I’m probably not going to begin answering until the following Monday. No matter what happens, I don’t think I’ll be in the mood to talk to anyone I don’t already know.

Do Something Special

Treat yourself. Cook a special meal. Buy yourself a little present. Watch the movie you’ve been dying to see, or binge your favorite TV show. Work on the project you’ve been putting off. Break your normal routine. Change your priorities so you’re doing something enjoyable, rather than something necessary or obligatory. Create some sort of pleasant experience, and a happy memory.

As I said above, Katie and I are taking a day trip. It’s the first thing we thought of when we decided to make a post-election self-care plan. Nothing extravagant, and not something we couldn’t do any time. It’s just something we don’t normally do, which makes it memorable. I’ll be focused on logistical, and the stimulation of being in a place that I don’t get to see and experience all the time. It will hopefully be fun, but at the very lest it will be distracting and take me away from the temptation of looking at the news.

Make a Post-Election Self-Care Plan

If you enjoy my posts you can buy me a coffee. Consider subscribing below, so you can read my daily ramblings about the writer’s life, minimalist, being a spoonie, and the intersection of all of those things.

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About Simplify – Create – Thrive

This blog is dedicated to one basic principle: if you can simplify your life and dedicate time to create things, you will be able to thrive and find the health and happiness you seek.

About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, simple living minimalist, and spoonie. By day he works as the owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

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Thrive

Productivity as Ableism: Examining the Problems

As much as I try to fight it, I have been brainwashed by the cult of productivity. This has served me well as a simple-living minimalist, a lo-fi writer, and a spoonie. I know how to pare things down to the quickest, least expensive, and most effective practices. Today, though, I want to discuss the problems with productivity as ableism and why the drive for peak performance isn’t always a good thing.

Allow me to start with my own problematic behavior. I frequently throw around the Teddy Roosevelt quote, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Each of us has different capabilities, different resources, and different circumstances. We need to find ways to make the best of it. While I firmly believe in the sentiment expressed, I realize that I sometimes take it too far.

For example, I have bragged that I can get more done in a day than a lot of able people. This is largely a reaction to being told what I can’t do for most of my life. I was told I’d never make a living as a writer. That I’d never be able to live in Europe. And there’s no way I could run my own business, according to my own vision, on my own terms. Thpppt!

All People Have Value

The harm here is that some ableist people take this to mean that if I can do it, anyone can. They don’t see it as a call for able people to apply themselves. It’s not viewed as a call to use your gifts, no matter what those may be. They see it as “proof” that disabled people are lazy and just need to try harder. They fail to acknowledge my privilege, or that I am an outlier.

The other issue is that of a person’s worth being judged in accordance to their productivity. My drive for peak efficiency comes from a need to pay the bills in a generally low-paying industry while not burning myself out. Trust me, if I didn’t have to work as hard, I wouldn’t. A person that doesn’t maximize their efficiency, or go to extremes to manage the use of their spoons, or simply cannot work, is not less-than. Everyone has a right to basic dignity and respect.

This is just a shitty capitalist trope, that there are makers and takers. It’s dehumanizing and lacks basic empathy. There’s a streak of competitiveness and classism, to quantify who is better than whom, about the whole thing. I hate that, and I hate that these warped cultural values are so deeply embedded in my psyche. For that, I apologize, and I promise that I will continue to try and do better.

 

Examining the Problems of Productivity as Ableism

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About Simplify – Create – Thrive

This blog is dedicated to one basic principle: if you can simplify your life and dedicate time to create things, you will be able to thrive and find the health and happiness you seek.

About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, simple living minimalist, and spoonie. By day he works as the owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

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Thrive

The Benefits of Being a Spoonie

Today I’d like to share some of the benefits of being a spoonie. Yes, you read that correctly. I have found an upside to having limitations.

For a start, I am more mindful of what I do and how I do it. I’m aware of how much various activities take out of me. There’s a keen awareness of the cost of different ways of doing things, what tires me out more quickly, and what helps to recharge my batteries.

As with any resource limitation, it forces me to be more creative. For any given task, I need to find a way to do it that uses the fewest spoons. When you have limited time and a finite budget on top of that, you become uncannily resourceful. It’s helped me to become a better planner, and to better prioritize things in all areas of my life.

Finally, I’ve learned to take nothing for granted. I don’t mourn the things that I can’t do, or at least can’t do the same way most people do. I appreciate the things that I can do, and how clever I am for discovering ways to be able to do them.

The Benefits of Being a Spoonie

If you enjoy my posts you can buy me a coffee. Consider subscribing below, so you can read my daily ramblings about the writer’s life, minimalist, being a spoonie, and the intersection of all of those things.

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About Simplify – Create – Thrive

This blog is dedicated to one basic principle: if you can simplify your life and dedicate time to create things, you will be able to thrive and find the health and happiness you seek.

About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, simple living minimalist, and spoonie. By day he works as the owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

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Thrive

My Bona Fides as a Spoonie

What I love about the spoonie community is that no one asks you to prove anything. No fellow spoonie has ever asked me for my bona fides as a spoonie. We all understand how exhausting it is to have to constantly explain our physical and mental conditions. Being called on to perpetually justify your needs is insulting and dehumanizing. The term spoonie itself stems from an attempt to dumb it down for the benefit of those who have no experience with the way we need to live.

The default assumption in the ableist world is that you’re just lazy. You could do things if you wanted to. All you need to do is try a little harder. The secondary assumption is that you’re seeking attention, or sympathy, or special treatment. Yeah. Like putting in a ramp is “special treatment” for people that use a wheelchair.

When I talk about my particular issues, it’s not some sort of weird flex. It takes someone with a severe empathy gap to think that people with disabilities are lying, or trying to scam them. My goal is to educate people about the realities of chronic conditions and especially invisible illnesses. The only way to reduce a stigma is to stand up and refuse to be stigmatized.

My Bona Fides with Chronic Pain

I’ve stated before that I’ve been in pain every day of my life for over 40 years. This is the outcome of several different accidents, the first of which happened when I was a teenager. I am “lucky” to have a pronounced limp, so when people see me in motion it’s obvious that something’s off.

Even if it’s not my hip that’s bothering me, people rarely challenge that I’m experiencing some sort of discomfort. More often than not it’s actually my ankle (same leg) or shoulder (same side) that are bugging me. The hip doesn’t really hurt all that often any more; it just doesn’t work right.

My pain is “diagnosed” in that all of the injuries were treated at the time of occurrence. I have received various treatments for chronic pain, including physical therapy, steroids, bioelectric treatments, acupuncture, and massage. At every step I have refused medication, because I never wanted to become addicted to heavy painkillers. Currently I manage pain through diet, moderate exercise, meditation, and over-the-counter painkillers.

My Bona Fides with Mental Health

I have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) with accompanying panic disorder. The latter also comes with hypervigilance, which has led some doctors to speculate that I actually have undiagnosed PTSD. The GAD is also responsible for my executive function disorder (EFD), which basically means that when I’m stressed I exhibit symptoms similar to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which also connects back to the hypervigilance.

The hypervigilance isn’t just an aversion to noises, or a sensitivity to too much stimulation. My brain actively seeks out signs of danger. I constantly scan the area visually. Crowds are hell because there’s too much motion. If it’s 2am and a flat two floors down on the other side of the building has their TV on, my brain strains to hear it more clearly. It’s more than a distraction, because a hypervigilant episode is often a precursor to a full-blown panic attack.

If you’ve never had a panic attack, it feels like you’re dying. That should be all I need to say there. It’s not pleasant.

The EFD is my current daily struggle. It affects working memory, planning, and problem solving. This is why I live out of a bullet journal, and why I consider the journal “base”. When in doubt, look at the list and do the next task. That keeps me moving forward and somewhat focused. I can keep knocking out rote tasks. It doesn’t help with creative work, though.

Diagnosis is a Tool, Not a Sentence

When your car gets a flat, you don’t abandon it and go get a new car. You change the tire. If your car is making a noise or the check engine light comes on, you go to a specialist so they can identify the problem. Then you figure out how to fix it.

That’s the bottom line to my life as a spoonie. If you can’t do this, you can still do that. When you’re not able to do a task this way, then you figure out how to do it that way. No one can do everything, but nearly everyone can do something. It’s just another set of resource limitations, like time and money, that you need to get creative and work around.

I don’t need to prove my bona fides as a spoonie. I do need to understand how my body and mind work, so I can use them as effectively as possible. Knowing that I only have so many spoons to work with in a day, I can plan and prioritize how I use my time.

My Bona Fides as a Spoonie

If you enjoy my posts you can buy me a coffee. Consider subscribing below, so you can read my daily ramblings about the writer’s life, minimalist, being a spoonie, and the intersection of all of those things.

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About Simplify – Create – Thrive

This blog is dedicated to one basic principle: if you can simplify your life and dedicate time to create things, you will be able to thrive and find the health and happiness you seek.

About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, simple living minimalist, and spoonie. By day he works as the owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.