Plague Bringer

Chapter 61

Plague Bringer is the name of the hamburger I had last night in Indianapolis. And yes, perhaps you know that this is also the name of a heavy metal band. Because Jake and I were in the Metal band burger joint known as Kuma’s Corner here in Indy. It was outstanding! Best burger I have eaten in a long while. And even though I don’t eat a lot of burgers anymore, this one was really good. But it was in a bar. A drinking, alcohol focused bar. I am not drinking these days. Let the battle (of the bands?) begin.

So once again, I made a mental decision, along with a mental conversation as soon as I discovered where Jake was taking me, to not drink. I don’t know if this helps or not, but it seems super logical to me to decide ahead of time that you are going to hold the line and continue the long process you have been having success with all along. And I ordered the one and only non-alcoholic beer on their extensive menu. Jake ordered two luscious smelling beers - and yes I choose to smell everyone’s beer order and enjoy those near tastes, because in my life and where I live and travel around the world, I will never get out of bars and so I have to find a way to navigate those places, and at the moment, smelling substitutes drinking.

Long story short, I enjoyed the evening, the burger, and successful did-not-drink again for the 103rd consecutive day. It might end today, which is true everyday, but it has been a great run.

Habits and the road

# Chapter 59

The life on the road is wonderful terrible. Wonderful because I get a chance to have some quiet and catch up on some tasks and projects that need to be done. Terrible because I am sharing this space with 100’s of other people, one of which pulled the fire alarm this morning which created quite a stir. They crowd the breakfast space, they crowd the elevators and the fitness center. You get the picture.

But my systems save me from the traveling chaos, and these habits keep me on track. That is why I am sitting here writing this chapter out, because of habits. I am wanting to make not drinking one of my most stable habits if for no other reason than alcohol will never make me a better version of myself, or improve on what I am right now. The people in my life deserve and need the best version of me, and that can never be the alcohol-fueled version of me.

Instead, drinking alcohol is the tacit approval to NOT be responsible and caring and thoughtful and adult. It is the decision to “let our hair down” and not do what we know should be done. It is the decision to not make any more decisions, at least the one’s that the non-drinking version of me would likely make. This is why I can never think of alcohol as the reward, ever again. Thursday night out with boys, is a horrible manner in which to express “I am finished” with whatever. There has to be a healthier and more positive manner in which to say “enough” and “full stop.” If drinking is the reward, then it is a thorny painful regret-filled reward.

238 miles in the wrong direction

# Chapter 58

238 miles in the wrong direction on purpose. I know, few would do this in America I am discovering. Pretty much everyone thinks I am nuts. But I am also discovering that I value my kids and grandkids far higher than the average American . . . that is if you measure this value by how far I am willing to travel in order to see them. Even if for less than a single day. That’s right, the 500 mile round trip was to see my daughters and grandkids for less than a 24 hour period.

This is the sharp clarity that comes from the deepest clearest understandings of the fragility of life, and the brevity of life! No one will ask me how many hours I worked everyday for the span of my life, nor will anyone care how much I accomplished. Nor will they even care how much money I made or wasted. Now and at the end, the quality of life can only be measured by the relationships that I have and nurture. And I deeply value my relationships with my children and my grandchildren. I am always looking for ways to spend more time with them! I want them to have the deepest and richest memories of me, more than anyone else ever in their whole lives. That can only happen as I sacrifice and make the effort to see them, even though we live continents apart from one another.

I find that Americans spend measurably less time with their relatives, the closer in proximity that they live to them. No wonder I think that American’s minds have been lobotomized by alcohol. Their understanding is clouded by the consumption of these toxic beverages. I love them too, what can I say? But at the moment I am taking a break from alcohol, and I am loving my clarity. On the other hand, there may be no connection whatsoever between alcohol consumption and broken relationships, or devalued relationships. Heck, perhaps alcohol consumption is the only way some people can stand to be with their relatives at all. You decide.

The three F’s

# Chapter 56

There are three things that distract most people according to Bobb Bhiel fog, fatigue and flirtations and according to me (and a great deal of data) alcohol affects all three. You flirt with temptations more easily when drinking. You are definitely more fatigued when drinking. But the one that strikes at me most when drinking is fog. 

It is like the fog on the lake this morning, being created seemingly out of thin air and obscuring your clarity and vision. Lake fog makes for awesome and epic photographs, and it was amazing and I took a ton of pics.  But life fog is frustrating, making you uncertain and doubtful about your next course of action, it makes thinking erratic, cryptic and perplexing. Most of all it makes practically all movement dangerous. You can’t see what is coming, you can’t see where the edge of the pavement is located, you can’t see the deer crossing the road out in front of you. All of these are great metaphors for what fog in your life does to you.

Yes you can can have fog in your life without drinking, but drinking always makes it worse. This was and is one of the primary reasons I have decided to take a break from drinking. I need all the clarity I can muster and then some. There are problems to be solve, challenges to be overcome and solutions to find. Beer will never help me find those things nor accomplish those things. No matter how much I enjoy it, alcohol only takes in the end. It never gives.

At the cemetery

At the cemetery 

It’s quiet. And that is not to be funny. In a world with very little quiet, it’s a beautiful and silent place. I guess that equals peaceful in the modern world. It also feels lonely, missing my mom always makes me feel that way. 

Remembering her from the days of my childhood and youth makes me hurt to have that wonderful warm presence in my life again. She was so much fun and brightness and vivaciousness. Everything can appear to be fairly gray in the post-mom era. I wish I could remember more of the stories that she told, the history that she shared, more of what she taught us. But mainly I remember what I felt. 

Now things feel very different. The noise of the house is non-stop and not nearly as dynamic and conversational. There are no thoughtful moments, no thinking and little consideration about the deeper things of life. Whatever appears in the frontal lobe gets spoken into words that circle endlessly around in the same boring loop. Well I guess it is time to head back to the present. Quiet time is over for today.

Who is driving your life?

In the thousands of miles I have driven across America 

. . . these last 10 days, I have noticed a very interesting leadership phenomena

 . . . other drivers will tailgate you while in the fast lane, driving so close to your car, encouraging you to go ever faster, you can’t even see the front of their car they are so close! And then very often, when you pull over into the slow lane to allow them to pass, they then slow down? 

Let’s extrapolate here. It seems apparent to me that people are willing to go above the speed limit and break the rules as long as someone else is out in front of them and is the primary target. But when left alone in the fast lane, with no one to be the primary target but themselves, they immediately decide the risk is too high and they slow down.

I think many people live their whole lives like this. Especially Westerners. They want someone else to take the lead, shoulder the responsibility, take the initiative, do the hard work, while they benefit safely in the backdraft of someone else’s efforts.

Don’t know about you, but I prefer to choose my risks, choose my path, make my own efforts, take responsibility. You gotta own your life, or someone else will.

Is it a habit yet?

Chapter 60

Is this a habit yet? When is anything a habit? Isn’t a habit simply a dependable decision to choose a consistent action? Well yes and  . . . no I think. I have been working out for over 20 years pretty much every single day. If I am not in an airplane or car or train traveling to some destination, I simply always have some form of a workout, its almost like breathing after so many years. I pack for trips based on workouts. My shoes selection is often based on my hoped for workout plans. My daily schedule revolves in truth around my workouts, not my productivity.

Some might call this obsessive behavior instead of a habit, but I would not. Time has proven over and over and over again, how much better I feel and how much more productive I am throughout the day, when I have a workout. Those are the facts of my life. Your mileage may differ. But this is a habit in my estimation, and writing these 275 words a day are not. Even though this is my 60th consecutive day, I won’t miss this, like I would a workout. Of course writing 275 words does not affect my physical body like exercise, but I have other habits that are mental in nature and they DO give me a kick, albeit a mental one not a physical one. So I am still waiting for this daily writing practice to give me a mental kick that I will miss out on, if I fail to do it, and then I think it will be a habit in the Dr Aderholdt world.

Uncripple your mental clarity

# Chapter 55

Great sleep is only one of the benefits of my 100 plus days without imbibing. Mental clarity is another. Thought I will admit this one is more difficult to track and measure. It does however show itself in a dozen ways. And it comes with an additional bonus - more control.

More control over what you say or don’t. More control over being generous with your thoughts and words and attitude. But the more control over the words you say is the real gain here in my opinion. A night after drinking with the guys, and I find myself saying things better left unsaid, especially to my wife. You can’t undo these things, and they carry a high price tag and it doesn’t get better in the future. So while we aren’t talking about massive amounts more control, every little bit helps when you are me. I will take it. Its enough to be noticed!

The additional mental clarity can be seen in the alternative narratives that you can construct about why something happened. This is probably the most valuable to the general world, that the added control, but these alternative narratives make many things possible. When my dad says, “that SOB Chris the electrician, he had no right to say that to me!” . . . alternative narratives clicking mentally here . . . and I can say, “well maybe Chris had a really bad night staying up all night with his new baby”, or “maybe Chris just received a really bad medical diagnosis this morning” or “did we do something to spark that response in Chris?” And so on and so forth. Easily three alternative narratives that my dad would have never considered otherwise.

Can you see the power in this?? It is awesome. For some reason, and I wish it did not, but alcohol cripples this ability in me.

Quiet or food?

There are many love languages, a concept and a phrase I think made popular by Gary Smalley back in the 70s, but my dad‘s love language is food. 

Food is the very last conversation I ever wanna have. I am committed to destroying food’s power in my life. That is complicated much by the fact that this is my dad‘s love language. While you’re eating and devouring any given meal, he is already planning the next three meals or even the next week worth of meals. So not only can you not just simply be present and enjoy this meal, you also have to be future oriented and planning out the coming days and weeks. Infuriating. Incredibly difficult. Destruction of all my current goals.

But this knife cuts both directions. My love language is quiet, solitude, and silence. These are a complete anathema to my dad. He cannot stand one single second of silence. He will do anything, and say anything, and make any amount of noise necessary, to fill every single moment of silence. So my love language, and his love language, don’t work together so well. It’s not that I can’t plan out what we’re going to eat tomorrow, it’s just that I am past focusing on food 24/7. It’s not that he can’t have a moment of silence here and there, it’s just that if he has a choice he will never allow a moment of silence to occur.

So the thing he wants most and a thing I want most, neither of us ever receive. Hmmmmmm.

Yet we still get on so good. I guess real love can overcome even our primary love languages?

What I think about it

So yeah, I am not drinking any alcohol at all. For months now. Its been easier than I expected actually, and most people have been very supportive and not made a big deal (or any deal at all) about me not drinking with them. This has been huge, because honestly I expected much more push back than I have received. So maybe I don’t have to upgrade my friends and family after all? Many people do when they make a change of course in their lives. On the other hand I am not sure I am making a change of course in life or still experimenting. Will let you know in 10 years.

But it has been really difficult in my own head. And this of course is where most things are truly difficult. The stories we tell ourselves make a great many things more difficult that perhaps they really are in the real world. And likewise, the stories that we tell ourselves could make our lives a great deal more accurate to reflect the possibilities and potentials that are always around, but rarely utilized. These internal narratives are the foundations of our daily experiences in life.

But I digress about the difficulties of not drinking. My internal narrative about myself does not include a version where I never drink alcohol. I have lived in the Slavic world for the last 25 years. In the Slavic world, everything in life revolves around alcohol. I mean everything! But even the social pressure of the country I live in is not the worst. Its what I think about it, that is most difficult. How I perceive it, the values I place on it, what kind of person I think it makes me, how it defines me in my mind, these are the battles of being a non-drinking person - or anything else in life.

The longest run . . .

Chapter 50

Yesterday’s chapter on nonversation may have confused you since book two is about changes and experiments and life hacking toward greater productivity. Nonversation is like the mental version of being physically drunk - that’s how badly nonversation will deconstruct your productivity.

Speaking of being drunk, I am not. But I have noticed over the years that alcohol was having a more and more significant impact on my physical body. Said another was, I love beer - sincerely enjoy it, but it doesn’t like me. It slows me down, physically, mentally and makes me feel like crap often on the following day. It wrecks my sleep about half the time. As Ruby Warrenton says, “You never regret not drinking the following morning” has my bullseye painted squarely in the middle of that statement. I have simply never regretted not drinking . . . the following morning. 

So I am currently on the longest stretched of days weeks and months without drinking that I have ever done in my adult life. 102 days since I last had a beer, and while I really miss beer (especially when there is Mexican food involved or pizza) the outputs have been really great. That doesn’t mean that I won’t drink again. Not at all, but I have been moving in this direction for years. Since no amount of wishing will make the negatives of alcohol consumption go away (if that were possible I would be the poster child) and no amount of rationalization will make the positives of not drinking be explained in any other way,  . . . for now, I will see how far the stretch of no alcohol will run.


Chapter 49

Nonversation. This is a word from Lee Bacon novel. It means a meaningless conversation. When it comes to productivity, nonversations are the ultimate death knell. This has graduated senses of meaning. It could be just avoiding someone you live in close contact with and now you have one word nonversations instead of conversations. It could just be the inane speaking of words which constitutes what passes for most small talk (why don’t we have big talk?). Or it could the mindless vomiting of each and every thought that passes through the frontal lobe of a person in the form of an endless monologue. And there are probably subtle shades in between. I have experienced them all, but the last one is most deadly to production.

It is a constant and unending pointless source of sound. Filling up every sacred moment of silence with nonversation. 94% of nonversation don’t even require a response. It is essentially a modern form of monologue under the guise of conversation. 

You know you are in a nonversation when you break in and try to take this to a conversation, and the person just continues off topic about what they were nonversationing about before you broke in. Or you would know you are in a nonversation when the subject hops irrationally from one unconnected topic to the next with no connector transitions. Or you know you are in a nonversation when hours of spoken words by one person, only require occasional grunts or eye contact from you, to continue. Hell, lets be honest, the nonversation will continue whether you give these fake signs of interests or not.

Escape if you can! Avoid if you can! Run away if you have the opportunity! Do not allow yourself to be cornered here in a nonversation. Because if you do, then prepare yourself to watch your productivity just trickle away into noncomplishment.


# Chapter 43

As I got the full tour of the devastation here in Paradise California and the surrounding areas, I came to conclusion that it will never return to what it was in the past. It will return, but that future will be something other than what was here before. It has to be. None of us can ever return to the past really. As Seth Godin calls them, “our memories of our memories.”

Here in California, they can’t return to the past because these houses that burned down (1600 of them!!) were built with money from decades and decades ago when land was cheap and so was labor. And currently post-fire land is relatively cheap. I was looking at some of those pieces yesterday. But the labor and building costs have skyrocketed. I can buy the lot for 10 grand maybe (a great deal in this part of the world) but to build the simplest cement block duplex would cost an astronomical (for me) $450,000!! Paradise was destroyed by a random convergence of perfect factors that resulted in a ferocious fire storm. But their past cannot be resurrected up out of the ashes, because things have changed. They always do.

As thus, neither can you or I return to the past. It no longer exists even except as “memories of our memories.” This is driven home over and over for me right now as I am spending all the time with my dad that I can, since both mom and brother are gone, and its just us (thankful so much for Brenda who breaks up the monotony!!) two boys, and my dad reviews his memories of his memories every day multiple times. About half the time those are the memories of memories of his childhood, and the other half of the time of my childhood. Those worlds no longer exist. There is not even a facsimile of those worlds any longer. While we may occupy the same chunk of ground in the same village, town, county, state and country, nothing else the same.

The only solution is to live in the present and aim for the future, whatever that may be. Here in Paradise, half of the people remaining are now living in RV’s on the burned out foundations of their former homes, and it will be years before the legal stuff is cleared up and they can easily move forward and rebuild. But most of them will not have the resources to do so. The present and future are not the past. The past is nevermore and neveragain. So I can either be constantly distracted by the past as I sit at the table and reminisce, or I can get up and live fully in today and reach for tomorrow. Take action. Move. Act. Don’t be penned in and incapacitated and distracted by your memories of your memories.