Self-Improvement

Ants and <em>The</em> Straight Line of Life

Ants and The Straight Line of Life

Here’s the definition of a Straight-line — containing, characterized by, or relating to straight lines or motion in a straight line.

Hm…let’s try this one: A line with no curvature; a line with constant direction.

Okay…got it.

***

Ever see ants scurrying about?

It appears they’re lost, confused, and well…just lost.

They bump into a grain of sand, turn around and head back toward the direction they just came. Then they’ll scamper around a blade of grass, dodge a twig, summit a mound of worm castings, round a dirt clod to find themselves bumping into the same grain of sand again.

Did you know that ants use a variety of means to find home?

Vibrations, chemical trails, eyesight, peeping—yeah…peeping. Peeping is where they drop their large cache of food, look around for a clue as to where they are, adjust, and BAM! Home again.

If you or I get caught peeping, we’ll have to explain ever so delicately to the officer that stops us as to why we’re…peeping.

Oh, they count steps. I can barely count anything with all my digits without having to start over. Seriously, I have NO clue how many steps I need to take out my front door to reach the curb.

There are three different types of memory they use. I can’t even successfully recall one memory thingy:

“Honey, where’s my sunglasses?”

”Um, on your head?” she gently reminds me.

”Oh.”

Here’s something mind-boggling…

An experiment in an attempt to confuse ants by surgically removing or adding a portion of their legs!

WTH!? Who thinks this stuff up?

Apparently, some sadistic researcher was finally able to confuse an ant or two by this surgery, and they couldn’t find their way back home.

The good news here is that because I have a hard enough time remembering the simple things of life, where I am, or what I’m doing currently, I doubt any lunatic is going to try to confuse me by surgically altering my limbs.

***

Detours suck.

Some general, way back when, said, “No plan ever survives first contact.” Grrr.

We plan, we analyze, we run analytics, we study the data, we get it all figured out…

And still, the uncertainties of life rear up in the midst of our perfect plan!

Right in the middle of our straight line.

It’s hard enough to execute on a life-changing plan without all these unknown elements life throws at us.

Then, I begin to wander around like an ant—except for said ant actually knows where the hell they’re going!

So, the wandering becomes a detour.

And detours can lead to massive frustration because they’re NOT part of the plan.

And in the midst of a detour, it’s far easier to try to numb the mind with distractions: T.V., music, doing a chore that doesn’t necessarily need to be done right now; email, Facebook, and a plethora of other things; instead of the hard work of quieting ourselves and spending time with our thoughts and emotions.

And…

In the midst of a detour, it’s easy to get caught up in the blame game; blaming others, and…blaming ourselves: for being stupid, for not thinking, for not doing it right, and for a ton of other things that lead us into self-guilt, self-hate, and self-induced stress and worry.

And…

In the midst of the detour, if you’re like me, you’ll impose some strange self-imposed time constraints as to when the detour should end.

It’s all very draining.

***

I’ve spent a lifetime in which I have thrown myself onto an anvil and incessantly beat it into a shape with the heaviest and coldest hammer I could find: hammered into a form that I thought I would gain love, acceptance, and understanding from those who I wanted that from.

I didn’t love myself. I was more worried about forcing and coercing love. It’s all I’ve known.

I realized that I needed to change from trying to gain approval from others and learn how to approve and love myself.

To forgive myself.

And with graciousness, let others walk out of my life that wanted no part of me unless I performed a certain way, or said certain words, or believed certain whatevers.

Even when I did try to pound my life into their molds, it never felt comfortable, and always left me empty, confused, and stuck—stuck in the muck and mire of someone else’s insecurities and fears.

Then I’d fret over the time spent in detours because I hate just simply waiting…waiting for the lesson to be learned while in such detours.

Today…

I try to quiet myself more and spend time in silence loosening the bands of self-imposed time constraints of those detours, because if it were not for those detours, I’d be the same while repeating the same ole.

I am grateful for all the detours and wanderings.

I am grateful for all those who’ve handed me a life based on conditions.

I am grateful for all those who said they loved me and walked away.

It hurt. It wounded. It helped.

Now, there is none to blame, only gratefulness of the experiences of those detours. A life filled with amazing squiggles, deviations, crisscrosses, and curves.


Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

Posted by Christian Martin Jr. in Life Hack, Living Better, Reinvention, Self-Improvement
The Best Way to Compound Your Stress

The Best Way to Compound Your Stress

It took me years to figure out this simple thing.

We have lot of stress in our lives. My stress isn’t more or less than anyone else…the fact we are human, and we work our butts off to pay bills so we can live, and we have relationships to juggle around our work life, and kids to raise in the middle of all that…

Then…

We need to find the car keys, right now, because we’re late for work, and since we forgot lunch, we grab a candy bar or nothing at all, then deal with stupid on the highways and byways to get to work—mention nothing about traveling around accidents and road construction, and still…we might be on time to work.

Then…

We deal with the gossip at work, the insincere co-workers, the work we wish we didn’t have to do, and the idiotic boss who doesn’t know their own job no-less try to tell us how to do ours.

Ugh! I get stressed just writing this.

***

I’ve noticed through the years that if I don’t take care of myself then the stress that just seems to be as natural and normal to our lives like breathing and farting, seems to compound to levels that are nearly off the charts.

For example…

When I stop doing idea lists and let my mind stagnate, then I’m not able to come up with quick solutions to problems and I contribute less to those around me. My brain seems to become sluggish.

When I allow negative people into my life and engage in gossiping and say Yes to everything and don’t pay attention to taking care of my emotions, then I tank and become negative myself and all the energy seems to drain out.

When I quit praying, meditating, and taking care of my spiritual side, then I find myself getting hard, irritable, easily frustrated, and less focused on what’s important in my life. Apathy creeps in and begins to choke love, faith, and hope off and I stop being grateful for life and those precious people around me.

When I go days without a physical workout, I feel dull, everything seems like an effort, and stress gets lodged under my skin and tumbles around in my guts like broken glass.

All those things mentioned above, combined, will compound your stress.

But the best way to activate a hideous feedback loop whereby the stressors in life seemingly grow out of the silliest situations, get entrenched, and you sink daily until you break the cycle of this one thing.

Sleep.

Rather, the lack thereof.

Every time in my life that I’ve allow myself to think that the key to success, excellence, and the pursuit of whatever is somehow tied to pushing myself to the point of exhaustion where I get 3 to 5 hours of sleep, every night, I end up dealing with emotions, thoughts, and physiological responses of my body that sabotages anything resembling success.

I did it for years in my last career thinking that the more sleep I sacrificed, the more I would get ahead and would be a better leader. It was just the opposite.

The less sleep I got, the more depressed I became.

I even knew the studies that came out at that time that screamed to us that an individual who stays awake for 24 hours has the cognitive process and reaction time of someone who is inebriated with a blood alcohol content of .100—you are considered legally too drunk to get behind the wheel of a vehicle of most states at .080.

After a period of time of operating on 3 to 5 hours of sleep, I would get muscle tremors and cramps. My guts felt like they were always quivering. My head had constant pressure. My vision was blurred. There were times when I could feel my heart race, then slow, then it was like my heart muscles would vibrate.

I would hallucinate while on duty at night and during the day. I’d enter into these micro-sleeps where the brain shuts off for microseconds at a time and when it’d fire back up, it’d fill in the gaps with some crazy shit.

I really thought I was going crazy at the time. I operated like this for years too. Even on days off, it got to the point where I couldn’t sleep at all.

Lack of sleep was a badge of honor after a while. I would brag to other supervisors and colleagues about how I never slept and just worked all the time, like some weird game of “Mine is bigger than yours”.

Emotionally I was a wreck.

Life is hard enough when everything is working good, but not to get proper sleep, it’s like a death sentence to the emotions.

Depression is practically guaranteed when sleep is disregarded.

Sleep deprivation has its own strange cycle where it locks a person into its stranglehold. I got to a point where my circadian rhythm expected to be awake after just a few hours of sleep. So, even if I wanted to, I just couldn’t sleep right.

Stress?

Yes, stress and sleep deprivation walk hand in hand and love each other’s company. It’s the most surefire way to stay stressed out.

It’s crazy, isn’t it? We get stressed over things we can’t change and will stay awake thinking about those things, or issues in life, or money problems, or whatever it is that stresses us out…losing precious sleep.

And yet, sleep is the very thing we need to reset our brains, heal our bodies, and comfort our hearts.

And…those who don’t get enough sleep, 7 to 8 hours a night, live shorter lives than those who do get proper sleep. Some studies state that we shave off at least 10 years of our lives by not sleeping properly.

***

Sleep, self-improvement

I’ve even take a nap once in a while

One of the things I set out to change in my life a few years back when making some radical decisions about the direction of my life was that I needed to figure out a way to get some sleep, any sleep, and more the merrier.

And, one of the best things I ever did was to ban my cell phone from my bedroom.

I know, when you’re on call in the middle of the night like I was, that’s not always an option, BUT, it sure is on your weekends and days off.

Getting rid of electronics—TV, laptops, iPhones, iPads—out of the bedroom, or anywhere near I sleep has been a game changer.

I normally get to bed earlier too these days. But not today because I worked, took care of life events, and now it’s well into the night, but trust me, once I hit the publish button here, I’m going to shut this laptop down and go shut my eyelids.

I’m going to tell myself that everything is going to be okay and the money issues, relationships, life events, and everything else that vies for my attention will be there in the morning so might as well think about something I’m grateful for and get a good night sleep.

 


Photo by Alexas_Fotos

Posted by Christian Martin Jr. in Burnout, Life Hack, Living Better, Self-Improvement