In this podcast we have a conversation about whether or not to have a third child. We also stray into alcohol vs. psychedelic hangovers, why we don’t turn our lights on at night, and strategies for keeping the fridge full without decimating the bank account.
In this episode, Lia and I recount the story of how we met, fell in love, broke up, and got back together again.
After 4 years, Lia and I have decided to start publishing these podcasts again! We’ve found that the forced conversation is as close to a date as we can manage these days, and so we’ll be doing these bi-weekly.
The technology has also gotten much better, so it looks like we’ll be able to publish these episodes to iTunes for easy subscribability.
I wrote down my bucket list a month ago, then this month I reread it.
Here’s the list of things I want to do before I die, followed by my own reflections regarding the list and my internal war with some of it’s elements…
My bucket list:
- Build a strong family with Lia and our daughters, maintain loving, healthy, respectful relationships with each other as we all grow and change.
- Become a grandparent – hopefully many times over!
- Get barrelled.
- Clear $200,000 in gross annual income.
- Become financially independent.
- Break the 5 minute mark on a breath hold.
- Dunk a basketball.
- Do stand up comedy.
- Build/buy our dream house / land on water.
- Teach my daughters to surf, free dive, spear fish, jiu jitsu, muay thai, soccer, volleyball, hockey, ultimate, golf, skateboarding, carpentry, code, knife throwing, climbing, canoeing, investing, business, mindfulness, goal setting/completion, music, art…
- Leave the world a little better than it was when I arrived.
In reviewing my bucket list, I’ve realized that I’ve been holding back on going for the big goals. The most pronounced one is dunking a basketball. I initially didn’t put it on the is the list, then had to incrementally increase the goal from tennis ball to volleyball, and only now am I accepting the reality that I will one day dunk a basketball. IF I train!!
This acceptance is big. Overcoming my internal resistance to one of my biggest dreams represents a significant change in my forward progress. I’ve been static on that for a long time. Now I’m moving. Move on one formerly impossible big goal, and then move on the next.
I’ve been static on that for a long time. Now I’m moving. Move on one formerly impossible big goal, and then move on the next.
I’ve also been going through a restructuring of my time to forcefully prioritize time with my wife and daughters at the expense of time doing work for other people.
This has made me very happy. It has compounded the love I have for my girls, most potently with Isla. I have historically shut her out the most in order to work, and giving her my full attention has felt really good.
It is becoming clearer and clearer that earning Isla’s love is the most important thing to me, because I can see how it’s possible to miss out, even a bit, and not do as good a job as I could have, and fucking regret that.
Same goes for Lia and Lake. But right now Isla, at the stage she’s at, seems most urgent.
Following my bucket list goals to their ultimate conclusions, yes grossing $200K would feel amazing. As would attaining financial independence. But those without making an absolute success of my family would be damn near fucking meaningless.
Looking at it the other way around, I wouldn’t care much if I never grossed over $200K, it would be harder not to ever feel what financial independence feels like… but I’d be happy. I’d be SO happy. Like I am now.
Mostly, us dads lack breasts. And when we have them we’re shy about using them to sooth our babies.
A solution – The Jaguar.
The Jaguar swaps mom’s nipple for dad’s thumb, and baby doesn’t know the difference. In fact, there may be ways in which The Jaguar is even superior to a boob.
In the remainder of this article, I’ll point out a few key reasons why I’ve relied so heavily upon The Jaguar in soothing both of my daughters during infancy.
1. The Thumb Nipple
The hand that cradles the face and head doubles as a suction opportunity for the baby. Your thumb becomes a pretty damn “handy” nipple! Just make sure you keep those nails trimmed and smooth, and obviously wash your hands before trying it. No need to give baby an unintentional first taste of wing sauce left over from lunch.
2. Better Scenery
I’m convinced having things to look at makes babies less pissed off. The Jaguar allows your baby to point outward, instead of inward at a hairy dad bod – making for a more enjoyable ride.
3. Single-Handed Operation
Being able to totally comfort your baby with one hand leaves the other hand free for all kinds of useful things.
One of my favourite uses for my other hand is to pat my daughter on the back for added soothing power. Though removing the other thumb first is a good plan if she’s just eaten (so vomit can get out).
So go ahead – give The Jaguar a try! Leave a comment if it works as well for your little one as it has for mine.
I love it when Isla jumps into my videos midway through and just slays a set of whatever she wants. I read in The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting that kids don’t so much learn from what you say so much as they model what you do – and so far that’s accurate. Maybe the biggest hidden benefit to working out every (week)day is that Isla sees it and wants to imitate it. I help her with pull-ups and dips for now, but I can already feel her getting stronger, and I don’t think it will be too much longer before she’s doing them on her own.
Due to volleyball finals being this evening I’ve focused on light shoulder movements and some full back stretching/strengthening. I simply cannot advocate hard enough for Jefferson Curls. I generally wake up with a pretty stiff back, and after only a few Jeffersons my spine is loose and warm like a well-steamed piece of asparagus. It also doesn’t matter where in my back is stiff because the curl traverses every single vertebrae in sequence. I’ve said before that it feels like yoga in that it’s extremely relaxing. The stretch at the bottom (if you’re using a little bit of weight) is just scrumptious. It hits my horribly neglected and always piano-wire-tight hamstrings too, which I don’t really think about until I get to the bottom and feel the pull in my legs.
Today’s workout was recorded first thing in the morning so lighting was a bit of an issue, but you get the idea. Improvisation was necessary to accommodate Isla’s desire to absolutely dominate me on the pull-up bar (and with me lifting her that many times, definitely contributed to the workout). Also, at the end of the video I thought Isla was concerned about me doing pushups (she’s never seen that before) but actually she was in the middle of shitting her pants.
Fall is my favourite season, but I do get depressed when the daylight hours shorten. While I don’t necessarily suffer from full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder (I don’t think!) I do get a little blue when I’m getting less exposure to the sun/nature/outdoors in general.
The colder weather means going outside is more of a pain in the ass. Snow and ice force me to use footwear which needs to get put on and taken off every time I indulge in some outside time. It doesn’t sound like much of a barrier – but those little inconveniences, for me, can be the difference between hours spent outside and zero time outside for days in a row. Most of the time, I just don’t do things unless it’s really fucking easy to start doing them. “Start” is the important word here, because the activity itself can be difficult. I don’t mind exercising, I maybe even like it. But if starting it is difficult, there’s little to no chance I’m going to do it. Any of it.
I used to have one of those suspension workout systems that you brace in a doorway and use the straps to do various exercises. It lived in its box, and that box lived somewhere in my closet. I never used it, and it wasn’t practical to keep in a doorway because every time I opened the door the thing would fall out and scare the shit out of me. So now I have a pull-up bar above the stairs leading to the basement (where our only washroom is). I drink lots of coffees and so I walk under the pull-up bar many times a day. I do maybe 8 pull ups a day, every other day, if that. But the difference between 8 and 0 isn’t 8. It’s fucking infinity. You can’t multiply anything by 0 to get 8. And that’s because 0 is the most worthless number in the world. People live and die by 0s. If you smoke more than 0 cigarettes, you’ll probably fucking die of lung cancer because once in a while you get drunk and smoke a pack of cigarettes and do irreversible damage to your already shitty lungs. You do that a few times a year, for your whole life, then you retire and smoke more out of sheer boredom and yep, you die of lung cancer. I don’t smoke but the above story certainly applies to me for drinking. There’s a blog post on here about me only drinking one beer or some bullshit, and I solemnly swear to you that that nonsense is over. I like to drink, and when the stars align for a night on the town, I drink like I mean it.
Zero to one kid is another infinite difference. If you have zero kids, you’re going to be pretty fucked when you get too old to take care of yourself (unless the future supplies us with free robots to change us when we shit ourselves). No amount of paid nurses will ever do as good a job of a genetically obligated successor at giving a fuck about your senile ass when dementia turns you into a wrinkled puppet for the hedonistic spirits to play inappropriate and very public sexual pranks with.
I got a bit lost there, let’s get back to talking about why fall makes me fucking miserable. I believe my daily happiness depends in large part on the inclusion of (in no particular order):
- Spending ANY amount of time outside, other than “none” (huge boost to happiness if I can absorb some sunlight into my skin and eyes)
- Experiencing the sensation (even the illusory sensation) of “progress” in something (anything) … (this is why I’m always cutting and stacking firewood)
- Socializing / spending time with other humans
- Not being hungover (this factor is definitely increasing with age, and impacts several days at a time) / getting quality sleep
The above checklist seems pretty attainable right? It should be easy to do ALL of those things EVERY DAY if it means damn near guaranteed happiness every day. But no. I get “busy” with some bullshit on the computer and before I know it I’m redlining stress hormones and haven’t taken a real breath since waking up. I’m tense. I’m irritable. The sun has just set, it’s 5pm, and I’m depressed. So I go to volleyball and get drunk after and don’t sleep well and that fucks me for the whole next day.
Anyway this post is probably less useful than it is satirical, and I hope I made you laugh. And please, don’t feel bad for me. This isn’t me complaining, it’s just me writing openly. Today I’m happy because I actually respected my checklist. I even got some sun on my face while taking a piss in the backyard (to avoid the pull-up bar) and I got to spend lots of one-on-one time with Isla (Lia’s away for a girl’s weekend). You can’t really get too depressed when an ass-naked 2-year-old is tearing circles around the dinner table, tiny fists full of peanuts, belting out wheels on the bus for the 5000th time.
This is one of those posts that gets weird before it gets useful. By the end of it, I hope to share with you one of the most life-altering realizations/techniques which has made me a tangibly happier man.
To start, we need to talk about psychology for a hot second. Specifically, we’ll look at 2 innate mental reflexes that must be tweaked in order to make us permanently happier. The first reflex up for modification is our hedonic adaptation. The second is our ability to visualize the future.
To be clear, this post isn’t about big, laborious or dramatic shifts in thinking. There is very little effort required here. We don’t need to go off into the mountains and meditate on mushrooms in a cave in order to make these changes to our brains. We are not monks, this is not Nirvana. We are monkeys, and this is merely a bigger stick to shove into a juicier mound of termites. I want you to think of these 2 mental techniques as being more like simple realizations, doorways into a different (and much happier) way of thinking. Simple is good. Simple can be profound. So let’s grab us a stick and get some motherfucking termites!
Hedonic Adaptation is one of the great human advantages. We have this shit wired right into our core programming. Hedonic Adaptation is what allowed our ancestors to adapt to the absolute shittiest living conditions, make nature our bitch, and ultimately take over the fucking planet using only fire and stabby objects.
Hedonic Adaptation, put simply, is our ability to get used to anything. It brings our happiness levels back up after something horrible happens to us, like death in the tribe or getting our genitals mutilated by barbed wire whilst attempting to escape over the fence at summer band camp. On the other hand, Hedonic Adaptation also automatically lowers our happiness back to our normal levels after something insanely awesome happens in our lives, like finding a legit lightsaber amongst the wreckage of a UFO crash site or inheriting a sizeable troupe of (highly obedient) samurai chimpanzees. If left alone, our Hedonic Adaptation will reliably return our happiness levels to normal no matter what happens in our lives.
So how can we fuck with our hardwired Hedonic Adaptation? To start, take a coat hanger and unbend it so it’s nice and straight. Then take that twisty part that’s like a cork-screw and, with great care, guide it up your left nostril until you feel some pain. Next, find a power outlet and…
If I want to consciously override my Hedonic Adaptation, I need to have a look at my desires/appetites. If I have a shoe fetish (which clearly I do), a big part of my fetish is fantasizing about new shoes. I get a major jolt of pleasure when I buy the latest Prada Stilettos, black, because they make my calves look sexy and I can wear them with anything. But the moment those beauties belong to me, they begin losing their appeal. Hedonic Adaptation is already eating away at how happy they make me. In no time, I’m swiping through celebrity Instagram accounts hunting for my next shoe fix.
This is the common pursuit of happiness we all grow up with. Everyone we know does this to some degree, some more egregiously than others. There is this treadmill approach to happiness through creating external jolts of pleasure, as illustrated by the highly scientific and technical chart below:
You can see how the black line (a person’s happiness) is like an excited heartbeat, spiking when something good happens (like buying a brand new hot tub), then fading a little below the average happiness level as the person Hedonically Adapts, compounded by a healthy dose of buyer’s remorse upon reviewing his credit card statement. Once the hot tub no longer gives adequate pleasure, the person makes another indulgence in order to spike happiness levels again.
So apart from not ever buying hot tubs, how do we set up our happiness such that it resembles the chart below?
Here we have a nice, gradual increase in average happiness over time, with a smoother rise and fall in our high and low levels. External events still affect us, of course, but our inherent happiness is far less reliant upon our ability to repeatedly indulge our various novel appetites.
The answer is drugs, so many drugs.
And a little golden nugget of awesomeness blatantly stolen from A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy called “Negative Visualization”.
First let’s look at Positive Visualization, because that’s going to be much more familiar to us.
Positive Visualization gets shit done. We picture the job we want and we go out there and get it. We picture the person we want to marry and we don’t stop searching until we find her. We picture a big, greasy hamburger and we drive to McD’s and crush one in the parking lot with the A/C blasting into our sweaty, desperate faces.
Positive Visualization is one of the most powerful techniques humans are innately capable of. It gives us the power to create the future we’ve imagined. With our minds, we shape god damn reality as we see fit.
That all sounds awesome! So why bother with Negative Visualization? That sounds like it sucks! Why would I think about un-eating a hamburger? Why would I picture myself without a job? Why would I picture my wife leaving me for Ellen Degeneres? I imagine all of this because, however counterintuitive it might seem, picturing my situation as worse than it currently is makes me happier by making me realize what I already have. It shifts my desire away from things I don’t have, to things I do have. And while I’m visualizing not having these things, my built-in Hedonic Adaptation reflex starts adjusting to the shittier reality (if even just a little bit). Then when I come out of visualizing not having these things, I’m suddenly very grateful for having them!
Positive Visualization helps us get what we want by creating present dissatisfaction. Negative Visualization helps us want what we already have by thinking about being without it, creating present satisfaction.
OK! I Get it! Just Get to the Gummy Bears Already!
I have an almost-2-year-old daughter, Isla. Positive visualization with Isla includes seeing her, in my mind, on her first day of school, taking her to her first beach volleyball tourney, and beating her first ex-boyfriend to death with a sock full of gummy bears just so the next kid in line knows I’m not fucking around.
While these fantasies make me smile and look forward to the future, they preclude my full enjoyment of the present moment with my little lady. I believe happiness derived from the present moment always trumps happiness derived from looking forward to some future moment, or happiness derived from memories. If some kid breaks Isla’s heart, it’s way more enjoyable to actually beat said kid into unconsciousness with a sock full of gummy bears than it is to merely fantasize about it. Don’t worry – I wouldn’t actually beat a kid to death with a sock full of random gummies. I’d make sure to eat all the red ones first.
Negative visualization, by contrast, is much more morbid. Negative visualization with Isla is picturing that she’s mortal (which she is) and that one day I will hug her for the last time (which I will). Even just writing that chokes me up. But it also makes me more loving and appreciative of the sound of her little voice as, while I write this, she sings the Paw Patrol theme song:
“Da da do, da da do, da da da da da DA DOOO!”
Realizing that my time with Isla is finite motivates me to actively and immediately increase the quality of my time with her. The more often I’m able to remind myself of our limited time together, the better that time will be, and overall the happier we both will be.
Yes, thinking about the inevitability that both of us will die (and I fucking hope it’s me first) does invite a quick dose of heartache into my present moment, but the immediate payoff of being hyper-aware of my love for my little girl and the resulting (and overwhelming) joy of having the time with her that I do have, is well worth a quick look at the harsh reality of our inevitable separation.
I’m more a fan of a little preemptive sadness if it buys us a happier today. I’m less a fan of avoiding sad thoughts with the assumption that we’ll always have tomorrow.