Taking a Hiatus – See You in July

This one’s simple: Right now I need to focus on the transition to new studio space and growing the business. At the same time, I need to be sure I’m managing my physical and mental health. During times of stress I tend to not eat or sleep well. My cognitive issues get worse, which quickly turns into a downward spiral as that only increases my stress. So I’m taking a hiatus from blogging, social media, and public-facing personal projects in order to concentrate on the things that are my highest priority right now.

Get rid of what you don’t need, to make more space for the things you do.

There’s one last HUBRIS post coming tomorrow, because it’s already written. There’s one more podcast episode coming next Thursday, because it’s already in the can. After that, silence for a couple of months.

See You in July

Assuming things go according to plan — which includes a wide margin of error for things not going according to plan — things here on this site will resume on 1 July. At the very least, I will touch base and give you an update. I have some tentative plans, but I’m only going to be working on them in the margins, i.e. when I have some genuine free time between other projects, and using that time for more projects won’t be detrimental to my health.

I want to do an actual newsletter-slash-zine. Like, a weekly MailChimp blast with a monthly print zine as a companion piece. I envision these as being of a piece with the weekly podcast, which means all of this will likely be managed via Patreon. The timeline, of course, depends on how quickly we get settled into the new studio space, and how long it takes me to recover from said settling in.

Taking a Hiatus

Another One of Those Moods

I’m in another one of those moods. The one where I want to delete all of my social media accounts. Where I take the site down to a single about me/contact form page. Unpublish the Patreon and end the podcast. Put everything that I want to say to the world into books and zines, rather than blog posts, podcasts, or tweets. Put quality over quantity, and focus on being concise about what I put into the world, rather than begging for your attention on a regularly scheduled basis.

This summer, Katie and I really want to make a run at getting rid of the internet at home. To prepare for this, I’ve been spending more time listening to the radio and reading books. No decision about what to stream. No distractions. I’ve been woolgathering about having the daily paper delivered, and subscribing to some magazines. No comments sections, unless you count curated letter columns. 99% news and informed opinion, less than 1% know-nothing commentary from random strangers.

During this period of blissful silence I have experienced a boost in productivity. It’s been easier for me to get into a flow state. I’ve been happy with both the quality and quantity of work that I’ve been getting done. That’s not nothing.

So the question becomes, what do I want? Get rid of the things you don’t need to make more space for the things you do. I want to create things, and put positive messages out into the world. I don’t want to deal with people who can’t think of anything better to do with their time than be actively hateful on the internet.

Another One of Those Moods

the things we make give us power and insight

Everyone has something valuable to contribute. It is that simple. It is not, however, that easy. For, as the things we make give us power and insight, at the same time they also render us vulnerable. Our obsessions can teach us about who we are, and who we want to be, but they can also expose us. They can expose our weirdness and our insecurities, our ignorances and our deficiencies.”

Adam Savage, Every Tool is a Hammer

the things we make give us power and insight

To be minimalist can mean making things, rather than buying them. It can mean repairing things, rather than replacing them or paying someone else to fix them. Even if you don’t embracing being a maker of some sort, it will be about creating more space for your obsessions. That can be something mainstream, like having fewer, better kitchen gadgets. It might be “weirdness”, like collecting Funko Pop figures.

Having less will definitely bring these things to the forefront. They won’t be hidden among the clutter. You will have made conscious choices about what to keep and what to get rid of. What is essential to you, and what isn’t. Those things will then be more visible to other people as well. You won’t be able to hide among the clutter, either.

To be minimalist is to know yourself. It is to show yourself to the world. That’s why it’s often an act of defiance, as well as a path to inner peace.

Examining the Phenomena of Red Forman Syndrome

Like about half of the Americans I met in Finland, this guy was a know-nothing blowhard. He was explaining That 70s Show, the sitcom, to a group of Finns with the gravitas one would expect from a lecture on Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. The main character’s father, he espoused, was a mean old man that hated everything. He existed to be the foil, the enemy of fun, bane of the teenagers that were the main characters. On some level that may be true, but I think it’s a misread of the character. Blowhard was drawing a conclusion without understanding the full context. I’ve come to call it Red Forman Syndrome.

Red Forman Syndrome

Having lived through the 1970s, I knew people like Red Forman. Which means I’ve seen the full Hero’s Journey of the Red Forman archetype. America had made him a promise. If you do these things, follow this path, and keep the faith, you will be rewarded. Red was a veteran, and served his country in two wars. He had a strong work ethic, and was loyal to the factory that had employed him for many years. He believed in the American Dream.

Then, at the start of the series, he gets laid off. The company was not as loyal to him as he was to it. The world did not work the way he was taught to believe it did. While he stuck to his principles and stood up for traditional values, his anger was in many ways fueled by disillusionment. He was torn between teaching the teenagers to behave in the way society expected them to, and feeling betrayed by the same social norms.

Am I Overthinking It?

I know, you’re thinking “Berin, you’re reading a lot into a sitcom character that probably isn’t there.” Am I overthinking it? Probably. You need to understand, though, that Billy Joel’s song Allentown came out the year I graduated from high school. I lived 16 miles outside of that city, and 8 miles away from Bethlehem Steel.

Well, we’re waiting here in Allentown
For the Pennsylvania we never found
For the promises our teachers gave
If we worked hard, if we behaved”

That’s the Red Forman archetype that I know. It’s my own generation as well. I grew up with people who knew, from the time they were in elementary school, that they were going to go work with their fathers and uncles and cousins and older brothers after high school. Not just at Bethlehem Steel, but Victor-Balata, Mack Printing, and dozens of other smaller factories around the area. By the time we were ready to enter the workforce, those places were downsizing, or moving elsewhere, or closing entirely.

Curse Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal

It felt like a slap. These places weren’t just a source of jobs. They weren’t just the foundation for the local economy. People made places like Bethlehem Steel a part of their identity. It was the center of the community. If you didn’t work there, you knew someone who did. You drove past the massive facility on a regular basis. You heard the sounds, and saw the trucks and trains coming and going it.

These places were literally part of the landscape, and we were told they’d always be there. They represented stability, and continuity, and a validation of the moral benefits of hard work and diligence. Then they were gone. The world changed. The profits of the shareholders were more important than the livelihoods of the workers.

So when people say that Red Forman was an angry old man, well, I think he had a lot of valid reasons to be angry. But only if you know the full context.


Habit Stacking, the 5 Second Rule, and Kimmy Schmidt

Like most people, I take tips that I learn here and there and mash them up. It doesn’t always work, but occasionally you find a combination that fits together exceedingly well. That’s what I hit upon by synthesizing James Clear’s concept of habit stacking, the 5 second rule from Mel Robbin’s book of the same name, and some folk wisdom from Kimmy Schmidt.

Habit Stacking

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about habit stacking. Basically if you want to develop a new habit, piggyback it to an existing one. It doesn’t even have to be tied to a habit, just a regularly recurring event like waking up, eating a meal, or going to bed. For example, after dinner I get away from screens and read a book. Because I’m already in the habit of having an evening meal, I have a built-in cue to help me maintain the habit of reading.

What has really worked for me, though, is the way Clear writes things out, and builds habit upon habit. The format is this:

  • Before I do Task A, I will do Task B
  • After I do Task B, I will do Task C
  • After I do Task C, I will do Task D
  • and so on.

With my anxiety-inducted cognitive problems, this was an epiphany. This has become a standard bullet journaling practice, and not just for habits. I need my daily to-do lists, but sometimes they become overwhelming. They aren’t always written in the order they need to be performed. By taking a few minutes to write out “before I make coffee, I will do my morning stretches” and “after I finish my coffee I will answer Daniel’s email” makes stressful days less confusing.

the 5 Second Rule

The 5 Second Rule has nothing to do with how long food has been on the floor. Mel Robbins asserts, in her book of the same name, that when you feel the urge to work on a goal you need to move within 5 seconds. If you wait, your brain will shut the notion down. By acting on impulse, you will get more done. It’s meant to be a ward against procrastination. I can seen where it would be an interruptive distraction, especially for people with ADHD or cognitive dysfunction who struggle with linear though processes. If I need to be working on Project A because I have a deadline, I can’t go down the rabbit hole of Project B.

The way I’ve adapted the 5-second rule is to treat these impulses like email. Then I filter each through through David Allen’s Getting Things Done process. Where does this thought do? If it can be completed in under 2 minutes, just do it. When it can be delegated, do that.  Otherwise, schedule it. Sometimes I use the impulses as rewards; if I get through what I need to accomplish on Project A, then I can work on Project B.

The 5 second part comes into play for me when I’m low on spoons. I get the “I don’t wannas”. Sitting here is comfortable. Getting up to do the dishes means standing, and that’s not comfortable. Well, you’re thinking about it, get up and go get it over with. 5 seconds to get out of my chair and move toward the thing I really don’t feel like doing. Which brings us to the final tip…

and Kimmy Schmidt

On the Netflix show The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the eponymous character talks about how she’s endured some pretty horrific situations. What she figured out is that most people can put up with just about anything for 10 seconds. Do it and count to 10. Then start over and count to 10. Keep doing that, 10 seconds at a time.

When I use this tip, I don’t literally follow 10 second increments. When writing 6 pages feels daunting, I tell myself I just have to write 1 sentence. Then another sentence. If I’m doing dishes and my hip is screaming, I tell myself just rinse the plates. Then rinse the cups. Then scrub the pan. Break things down into smaller bites, and push through those steps that feel far more manageable.

Bringing it back around, it becomes habit stacking. I don’t have to think about the whole list. That’s overwhelming. Just do Task A. Then do Task B. In between, do a pulse check to see how I’m doing. If I can keep pushing through, I do.

Habit Stacking, the 5 Second Rule, and Kimmy Schmidt

If you like this post, you should check out my podcast.