Day Thirty-Seven: Inspiration Stuff 3; Make a Dent

Wow, that’s a lot of numbers for a single post title. Sorry! But Inspiration Week continues here at Jerk in Progress. For a second day, I’m going back  to that rich and abundant MetaFilter well for short motivational thoughts. Today: “Make a Dent,” as contributed by user fussbudget. 

They say “This was always my mom’s advice when I was having trouble starting homework, and I still use it when I’m feeling balky or unsure about a project and just need to get started.”

That’s some solid get-started wording right there.

Make a dent.

Make a dent: advice for anyone (except limousine drivers)

I kind of wish I’d had that one back on January 1 of this year, and especially for the first couple of weeks, when there were a lot of early pains associated with stopping drinking and eating more sensibly. Make a dent… set a target and start working toward it.

My initial goal for the year, and for this podcast is 100 days. My not so secret goal is to have that be inspiration to keep going for the medium term. And for that to energize me for the long term.

So what does “make a dent” mean when the dent’s been made?

I love it as “get started” advice, and I’m going to probably wind up using this at work. I do a lot of project-based things, and often they seem insurmountable.

Make a dent.

Maybe it’s a matter of saying “make the dent bigger.” If you’ve made a dent, there’s no reason not to keep making it.

Or maybe it’s something to hang onto for those tough days, or tough moments, when you have to reframe your worldview from the next few months down to the next few hours. We’ve all been in the grip of immediate temptation, so having “make a dent” in the back pocket as a guide to the next hour of our lives isn’t a bad idea.

Either way, it’s a good one. Nice and short, too. Make a dent. Let’s do that.


Day Thirty-Six: Inspiration Stuff 2 – MetaFilter

Wow! So I’ve been a member of MetaFilter, the best community on the Internet, for a while now. I thought I’d ask for short motivational thoughts there, and as always, they excelled.

There’s a treasure trove to explore in that thread, but I don’t want this to become a megapodcast, so I’m just going to pick one or two things a day.

Today, I’m a big fan of user liber hair‘s proposal of “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”.  He mentions Sheryl Sandberg as his source of the quote; i t may be older than her, but she definitely said it.

Inspiration in a constant state of anxiety

I wouldn’t say I’m afraid as much as anxious, but I am anxious an awful lot of the time. Doing the wrong thing is something that weighs on me pretty consistently. It’s not always a paralyzing state, but it is sometimes.

There are a couple of outpoints to anxiety, too — one is what anxiety prevents me from doing. I don’t know if I’m going to succeed at this. That makes me anxious. So I don’t try it. I don’t feel confident about that. So I won’t do it. Anxiety… fear… keeps me from things.

But anxiety also drives me to things. What is drinking but a response to anxiety? It’s literally a toxin whose effects dull my natural threat sensors. Maybe overcalibrated threat sensors, but that’s essentially what’s going on there, right?

If I think of people I know that don’t drink, and are public and open about not drinking, “afraid” is not an adjective that applies to them. They do not seem like afraid people. But if I think of people that know they should stop drinking, but don’t… there’s often a lot of fear there, when I think about it.

So “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” kind of works on two levels for me. It’s a single-problem motivator… I don’t want to try this, I don’t want to do this. Get rid of your fear and do it.

But on another level, it works as kind of a big switch as well. Would you drink if you weren’t afraid? Would you be stress-eating if you weren’t afraid? And then you focus on what you’re afraid of and how to attack that, rather than just doing things to alleviate that constant state of anxiety and fear.

I’m liking Inspiration Week! This works for me.

Day Thirty-Five: Inspiration Stuff 1 – No Matter Where You Go

Day One of Inspiration Week!

As promised on Friday, I’m trying to shake this up a bit, and this week, I’m going to be looking at little internal motivators — things you use to help keep yourself on track.

I thought one good way might be to look at a short saying a day; something I use for myself, or that people I know use to get themselves or keep themselves on track.

We’ve covered “Kill the bear!” before (don’t kill bears). So that’s done.

Inspiration from my favourite movie of all time

A lot of my earlier favourite things have passed with time. Two decades ago, I would have told you my favourite band was Skinny Puppy. My favourite food was lasagna. My favourite place was New York City. All of those things have changed.

But my favourite movie of all time has steadfastly remained the pure distillation of ’80s alt-pop genius: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension.

For too many reasons to get into here. And not for the watermelon.

But one of the reasons is the the movie is, in many odd ways, kind. That’s not one of the things I loved about it as a kid, but that’s one of the things I love about it now. It’s a movie about kindness, in a lot of weird ways: extending compassion and camaraderie.

My go-to inspiration from Buckaroo

And one of the moments that sticks with me, that I actually to turn to from time to time, happens at the mid-point of the movie. Buckaroo, a dimension-hopping genius neosurgeon physicist adventurer, is also naturally a rock star.  He looks great.

Inspiration from Buckaroo Banzai
From out of the mouth of a very, very groovy Peter Weller: inspiration.

He’s playing a club when he sees a woman crying. The crowd is not having it. And Buckaroo spakes thusly:

Hey, hey, hey. I know. Don’t be mean. We don’t have to be mean. ‘Cause remember… no matter where you go, there you are.

“No matter where you go, there you are” is kind of the bumper sticker there. I’ve gotten it printed on things, it’s engraved on my iPad, if I ever get another tattoo, that might be it.

But the “Don’t be mean. We don’t have to be mean.” is getting to be a bigger part of it too.

It’s an oddly comforting, kind of ur-Buddhist, statement. It seems to have no confirmed antecedent before Buckaroo. I choose to believe Earl Mac Rauch made it up; or, even better, it was whispered into his ear from somewhere across the 8th dimension.

No matter where you go, there you are.

I need to start digging — I haven’t done my homework for the week, and I’m looking forward to exploring some of these as we move on.


Day Thirty-Two: Future Plans

I started this podcast with no future plans.

It was a vague idea somewhere around December 28 to keep me motivated starting in January, and I think I built the site on January 1, starting this on January 2. No intention beyond just personal audio-logging and a kind of blog journal thing.

Over a month in now, I think it’s sticking. I’m glad it’s sticking.

It’s time to start actually thinking a bit more about the future, though.

Mainly because I don’t want this to get boring, or me to get bored.

Make no mistake: I can access statistics for this. This podcast has two listeners. Me, and my wife. Hello, darling!

And she doesn’t even read this blog. She has no idea this sentence exists.

But I don’t want to get bored with myself doing this. And who knows? Maybe somebody, someday, will start listening to this thing.

Future plans: mixing things up

So starting next week, I’m going to start messing with the formula a bit — doing series of things; maybe look at week-long explorations of a topic related to sobriety or motivation or accountability.

A week of great quotes. A week on nutrition. A week on different ways of looking at alcohol. I’m not sure. But some future plans to keep this fresh and interesting for myself, if not anybody else.

The number one enemy of change, for me, is boredom. It’s hard to maintain good habits when I’m not interested in them. I’ve definitely been slipping a bit recently in food logging, and diet, and I need to buckle that shit back down.

Not being bored is a bit part of that.

So: future plans. I’m making ’em. You can expect ’em.

Good luck to all of us.


Day Twenty-Nine: Perseverance in a World of Despair

Among the many things America’s Nightmare Clown President has to answer for, my sleep is among them. Bad sleep last night was not due to the cat, but literally waking up in the middle of the night in a world of despair.

For those of you who might be catching up on this in the future, yesterday was the height of the Nightmare Clown’s insane deportation order. It was also the day he tried to boot the heads of intelligence out of the National Security Council and insert his neo-Nazi intelligence officer onto it.

It’s hard to sleep in a world of despair.

Hard to stay sober, too. There’s certainly a new and different refrain almost 30 days into sobriety: why bother? Why bother exercising and eating well when there is literally an insane person in charge of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal? Why bother being sober when there’s good Vegas odds that the Nightmare Clown is going to start a nuclear war over a tweet?

Because the world needs you, is why.

The only answer I have off the cuff is a fundamentally arrogant one: I make a difference. It may not be a world-altering difference, it may not be epochal or earth-shattering. But just by being a decent human being and standing up to the Nightmare Clown, his propaganda machine, and his army of know-nothings, I’m making a tiny difference.

One of hopefully a billion tiny differences that can tip the scales back to sanity and decency and human progress.

I can’t be decent to other people, decent outwardly, unless I’m decent to myself. So while the Nightmare Clown can rob me of sleep, I’m not going to give him the satisfaction of robbing me of health.

Staying the course becomes another way of sticking it to evil, and the evil people trying to subvert what’s good about our world and our government. So in the end, it’s motivating. I’m going to get healthier, both physically and financially, by pursuing this course. I’ll have more vigour to fight and more money to fight with.

Up yours, Nightmare Clown. You and the jumped-up neo-Nazis you rode in on.


Day Twenty-Seven: Sober Saturday Mornings

Saturday mornings are great.

I get up at my usual time, but I don’t exercise on weekends (I get a lot of walking in). So I have more time to putter around the house. I’m making soy milk to make soy yogurt this morning. Made a big french press of coffee. Doing this blog/podcast, obviously. Prepping for the radio show I do with my wife in two hours.

Saturday mornings are my sweet reward for Friday nights.

It can be tough, living with somebody who still drinks when you’re staying sober. Again, I’m in the fortunate category of having an off switch that works well and a dimmer switch that works very badly.

Actually, that should be its own post.

Anyway, I can live with booze in the house, and a spouse who drinks; I have an easy time not starting, so the key for me is to just not have a drink in the first place. And having a spouse who is respectful and supportive is key — there’s no cajoling to come out for a drink or to have a drink at home.

It is hard, though. I shouldn’t downplay that it’s difficult. It’s difficult in the “the other kids are out playing and I’m stuck at home doing homework” way. It’s difficult in the “my brain is wired to want a drink and I’m not giving it one” way. It’s difficult in the “constant internal dialogue of whether or not I have A PROBLEM” way.

But dag nabbit if getting up on a Saturday morning feeling fresh, fit and clear-headed doesn’t put that cost into perspective.

My wife brought up the idea of “doing things for your future self” earlier this week; this is something that’s been kicking around for a while. I usually use it as a work joke. “That’s a problem for future me.” But the idea of doing favours for future me is pretty compelling too.

So that’s a bit of framing for not-drinking nights: it’s not not-fun, it’s paying it forward so future me can look back and say “thanks, past guy. Also, here are the winning lottery numbers…”


Day Twenty-Four: The Best Time to Plant a Tree

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

I know that’s Hallmark-card wisdom, but I ran across it a while back, and it actually hit me at the right time in my life to make a difference. Out of the mouths of babes and fake woodburned signs at one of those weird home decor stores, I guess.

Have you ever gone into those stores? Have you ever bought anything in one? I’ve seen them my whole life, but I’ve never seen a human being in one of them shopping. I’ve certainly never seen anyone leave them with a purchase.

The best time to plant a tree is probably not late January.

There seems to be some confusion about where the saying comes from, but odds are good it’s not Canada, or at least not Canada for about five months of the year. This is a terrible time to plant a tree. If a Canadian had written that proverb, it would read

“The best time to plant a tree  was 20 to 20.5 years ago, depending on the current season. The second best time is now, plus or minus up to six months, again depending on season and current weather conditions.”

There’s a reason there aren’t a lot of Canadian proverbs.

But we get the spirit of the thing, right? It’s a “today is the first day of the rest of your life,” kind of deal, but built on a foundation that leans a little more towards “well, you kind of fucked this up, but better to start unfucking thing now than never, I guess” in spirit.

Okay, now that I’m thinking about it, it’s kind of a bummer saying. It’s really predicated on the fact that there have been a ton of missed opportunities.

What’s wrong with “It’s never too late to plant a tree” or just “the best time to plant a tree is now”?

Welp, you really shoulda done this two decades ago, but I guess you can get on it now, sucker.

Thanks for nothing, saying.




Day Thirteen: What One Man Can Do… (Don’t Kill Bears)

This is kind of a spinoff of yesterday’s podcast, and the notion that I’m hitting the wall for the first time since this project got started.

There’s a pretty middling movie called The Edge from back whenever, with Anthony Hopkins and Thin Alec Baldwin, written by David Mamet, who is kind of inherently problematic but what can y’do.

There’s a key moment in the movie that — oh hell, let’s just watch it:

Admittedly, this clip is missing some glorious profanity from Sir Hopkins at the end, and I am super not down with people killing bears, but “what one man can do, another can do!” is something that’s stuck with me.

(I repeat: do not kill bears. That’s a different podcast entirely.)

What one man can do, another can do!

Sexist, yeah. I did mention that Mamet was problematic, no? But the core idea is one that does help me out from time to time, when I’m hitting a roadblock: if other people have walked this path, it is evidently doable, and if they can do it, so can I.


That’s one of the reasons I’m fond of the Stop Drinking subReddit; it’s just a cavalcade of reg’lar folks who have, well, stopped drinking. Some in more dramatic circumstances than me, plenty who have just decided, like me, to knock it off because they’re not comfortable with it.

And I’m not a stand-in-line-to-take-a-picture kind of guy, but if I ever met somebody who champions sobriety in the public eye — Craig Ferguson is a bit of a hero of mine — I’d express gratitude.

What one person* can do, another can do!

Don’t kill a bear.