28 July 2021: I Need Breathing Room

There’s a Tibetan Buddhist practice called Lojong that, to oversimplify it, is designed to help you get your head straight. It begins with experiencing things as they are. When you’re happy, you appreciate it and wish for others to have happiness as well. If you’re having pain, you sit with the pain. The point is to learn to experience objective reality without suffering. Things sneak up on you, though. It can be a lot to process. So right now, I need a little breathing room.

For the past three months I’ve either been planning to move, moving, or getting settled in after the move. At no point have I had the chance to sit with that. There’s been no opportunity for me to process it all. As Katie pointed out in her blog post yesterday, culture shock is catching up to us. We’re suddenly not in Finland, where we’ve lived happily for the past 7 years. Neither of us have lived in Delaware before, so there’s a lot that’s new. The United States has changed drastically in the years that we’ve been away. We’re eating unfamiliar food. Our routines need to be rebuilt. There are a thousand little details that pop up and need to be dealt with every day. It’s overwhelming.

I Need Breathing Room

Yesterday’s post not withstanding, I’ve been running my business on autopilot since May. I set up a lot of projects to keep myself busy, because that’s what I needed to get through this. Now that I have the chance to stop, reflect, and process. I need to reevaluate things. The purpose of work is no longer to anchor me through a physically and emotionally trying period. Now I have to deal with the reality of mind and body, and let the work return to being what it needs to be.

Breathing Room Media is going forward, but it will happen when it happens. Pieces will be ready when they’re ready. I’m not sure I can write about Finland yet. The kind of minimalism I am able to practice here, what I need to practice here, is different from my practice there. Certainly the defiance I need to express in consumer-driven, materialistic, late-stage capitalism America is not the same as in the Democratic Socialist Nordics. What I considered to be inner peace when I was looking out onto a lake is a separate entity from what I’m seeking when the night before last there was a brutal murder-suicide six blocks from here.

Like I said, a lot to process.

I’ve temporarily shuttered the Patreon, and pulled the newsletter, zine, and podcast pages back behind the curtain. I’m still working on them, but I need to get my head around what exactly it is I want to accomplish, and what I want to say, now that I’m in this strange new world. I’m going to keep blogging, though. I just need a moment to get my feet under me, intellectually and emotionally. Stay tuned.

27 July 2021: I Need a Moment to Think

On any given day, I rail against people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Pick a subject. We’ve got politicians that think they know more than certified experts. There are people that believe strangers on Facebook more than decorated scientists. Katie and I deal with people all the time that have no idea what it takes to be a working artist or run a creative business. Everyone thinks that their opinion carries weight. More so if it’s a topic they’re passionate about. So I need a moment to think, because I feel like I’m on the verge of becoming one of those people.

I spent part of today listening to a guy that made excellent points. Maybe I would have been more receptive to those points if they’d come out of the mouth of a mental health professional. I would really have been more receptive if this guy wasn’t touting that he had the answers, and you can read about them in his book or learn everything you need to know by taking his course (only $129.00 if you sign up now!). The appeal of his ideas diminished the more I felt like he was trying to get me to join his cult.

I Need a Moment to Think

That scared me more than a little bit, because I started to question my plans for Breathing Room Media. I can speak to my lived experiences with minimalism. I can share what’s worked for me. That doesn’t make me an expert. My passion for the subject, and my opinions, don’t necessarily mean I can, or should, charge money for content I generate about that topic. My philosophy that minimalism is both an act of defiance and a path to inner peace suddenly feels a bit cult-y.

I still want to write about minimalism, and create a zine, and do a podcast. Right now, though, I seriously need a moment to think about my approach. The way to be sure I’m not going to end up being that guyย is to be genuinely concerned about turning into that guy.

26 July 2021: Paralyzed by Choices

Every time I sit down to read, I don’t know where to start. When I’m currently reading something, it’s easy; keep reading that book. If there’s something that I need to research, I can pick up the appropriate book on that topic. Reading for pleasure, though, has become more difficult. There are too many things that I want to read. I have too many options. Sadly, I have become paralyzed by choices.

To help me through the decision-making process, I set up a Scrivener file. I created a folder for each genre or category: general fiction, spy novels, science fiction, fantasy, romance, etc. Within each folder I add a text file for each book, labeled with title and author. Inside this I make a note of why I want to read it, who recommended it, and so on. Now I have a reminder. The next time I go to the library or want to buy a book I have more than a list of titles I can’t remember writing down. When I sit down to read the book, the text tile becomes a place to take notes or write a review.

Because the issue is being paralyzed by choices, I try to keep the amount of books listed to a minimum. A list of 5-10 books per category is probably too much already. Any book lover knows how easy it is to expand to 20, 50, or a 100 books per category.

So far, it’s working. What am I in the mood for? A cozy mystery? What was it that I had wanted to read? Look in the file. Oh, right. That one.

The other key is to pick up the book and start reading immediately after making a decision. If I pick something and wait until lunch time, I’m going to start thinking about other books. The same goes for acquisitions at the bookstore or library. I need to start reading as soon as I get home. Even if it’s a few pages. Once I start something, I’m good. I won’t have a crisis until that book is finished.

25 July 2021: Twitter is Stupid! Free Marielle!

For those just tuning in, my wife Katie is an artist and educator. Among her other endeavors, she runs an Instagram account called Go Marielle Go, Marielle is a tiny Finnish doll (handmade by Katie) that loves having new adventures!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Katie Kinsman (@go_marielle_go)

Not too long ago, Katie expanded to Twitter and created an account for Marielle. Today they locked her out of that account. The reason? A mention that Marielle is supposed to be 11 years old. Katie was asked to provide a birth certificate, passport, or other documentation to prove that Marielle is old enough to have a Twitter account.

A little critical thinking would go a long way here. Let’s be honest, though. A mindless algorithm did this. We hand too much control over to machines. Now it’s a matter of getting an overworked, underpaid human to take an honest look at this situation and give enough of a crap to restore the account.

You can still follow Marielle on Instagram.

24 July 2021: Zen and the Art of Desktop Organization

We’ve been in Delaware for over a month and we’re still getting settled. It feels like I point that out in every journal entry, and frankly, I’m tired of it. Every time I think I’m done, something else pops up. There are a ton of little things that need to be attended to, tweaked, or set up in order to do basic work. So today I want to talk about Zen and the art of desktop organization.

When we moved to Finland, Katie and I went overboard backing up our data. We bought a terabyte external hard drive and copied the contents of our laptops to it. I paid far too much for a cloud service and stuck all of our data on that as well. The concern was that our computers might be damaged in transit. Nothing happened, but better safe than sorry.

In moving back to the United States, my concerns were different. I’ve seen stories of American citizens that have been abroad for extended periods of time getting grilled when they reenter the US. Why were you gone so long? What were you doing there? They’ve had their phone and laptops searched, or confiscated.

I have nothing to hide, but I was concerned that my files might get messed up. I’m looking thing over, stuff could get moved around, or accidentally deleted, or corrupted. There are too many works-in-progress that I can’t afford to lose. So I did a different sort of backup, just to be safe.

Zen and the Art of Desktop Organization

My normal workflow is to keep folders related to works-in-progress on my desktop. Drafts are inside those folders, and there’s a link to the current draft on the desktop next to the folder. Everything is organized in neat rows, so I can find things easily.

Prior to the move, I made a folder called “Desktop” inside the Documents folder. Then I dragged all of the files and shortcuts there. That folder got tagged for backup by both Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive. My logic was that anyone wanting to poke through my files might be less likely to disrupt things if they weren’t front-and-center. It wasn’t an attempt to hide anything. I was just protecting my assets.

Now that I’ve landed, and have a desk, and want to get back to work, I need to put the desktop back together. Of course, I’ve thought of a better way to organize things. I’ve had ideas for a while, and this is the time to implement them. A better layout for ease of finding and accessing files.

It’s just another delay, though. Even putting things back together the way they were would be a delay. I just want to get back to work.