What I Learned and Enjoyed in January 2023

So far this year I’ve tried to pay attention to the lessons I’m learning as well as the art and activities I’ve enjoyed. This is the first edition of this exploration.

What I Learned and Enjoyed in January 2023

So far this year I’ve tried to pay attention to the lessons I’m learning as well as the art and activities I’ve enjoyed. This is the first edition of this exploration.

What I Learned

We’re Constrained
Not only are we constrained to this one single life, but we’re deeply constrained by the limitations of our energy and time. Contrast this with the reality that there are endless things we could be doing with each moment, and life begins to feel overwhelming pretty quickly.

In the past, though I’ve known this can’t possibly be true, I’ve thought: You know what, I CAN do most or all of the things that I deem important AND the things that those I interact with expect of me, too.

How ridiculous!

As I’m learning more each moment though, this is certainly not true. Here’s a quote from the book I’m currently reading, Four Thousand Weeks:

“So, technically, it’s irrational to feel troubled by an overwhelming to-do list. You’ll do what you can, you won’t do what you can’t, and the tyrannical inner voice insisting that you must do everything is simply mistaken. We rarely stop to consider things so rationally, though, because that would mean confronting the painful truth of our limitations. We would be forced to acknowledge that there are hard choices to be made: which balls to let drop, which people to disappoint, which cherished ambitions to abandon, which roles to fail at.”

I’ve found peace in acknowledging that not all can be done, that I am painfully limited and that I will disappoint myself and others. I’ve found beauty in that.

Alcohol Dramatically Inhibits Sleep. Poor Sleep = Challenging Next Day.
I’m grateful to have been using an Oura ring, a sleep tracker, for over three years now. I’ve been able to make the connection again and again between if, and/or how much I may drink on a given night and the quality of my sleep that follows. Though it may feel that sometimes alcohol helps you fall asleep quicker, I can assure you that the overall quality of your sleep is certainly diminished.

I’ve learned that if I choose to drink on any given night that it’s wise to (a) limit myself to two drinks and (b) aim to create space between my last sip of alcohol and my bedtime. Having one drink has a minimal impact, whereas even a second drink can cause a more pronounced negative impact on my sleep. Though I don’t often go beyond that, the negative impact of sleep is certainly exponential as the number of drinks increases.

I don’t know about you, but when my sleep suffers, I don’t perform nearly as well as I could the next day. So, the connection extends. Not only does alcohol consumption lead to poor sleep, but it also impacts my ability to enjoy the next day. Over time I’m getting better at answering the question, “Is it worth it?” for which I’m more consistently answering, “No.”

I Can Read 3 Books in a Month if I Read 3 Pages a Day
In January I set a target to read (at least) 3 pages per day. I’ve hit that most days and, unsurprisingly, I often read more than 3 pages when I decide to read at least 3 pages per day. No matter how much you may enjoy reading, if you build too high the activation energy (and time) needed to start reading, you’re going to struggle to read (or do anything else) as much as you’d like. Therefore, start with consistency: one page per day, one pushup per day, one minute of meditation per day. You might find that once you’ve started, it’s easier to keep going than you would have imagined.

What I Enjoyed

Movie: Dead Poets Society
O Captain! my Captain!

I had a feeling based on who recommended this movie to me (thank you!) and the fact that it starred Robin Williams in this type of role that I’d love this movie. I did. It’s continued to stay with me since I’ve watched it. I’m not sure I’m ready to articulate all of the lessons I’ve taken from it, so for today I’ll take the easy way out and leave it simple: Carpe Diem.

Album: Déjà Vu
Déjà Vu was the album I listened to most in my Mom’s car when I was growing up. When I learned that David Crosby had passed, it was obvious that I’d have to give this album a spin. It features the song I danced to with my Mom at my wedding, “Teach Your Children”, as well as some of my other favorites such as “Almost Cut My Hair", and a song that Andie has fallen in love with too, “Our House.”

May he rest in peace.

And just for fun, here’s a pretty awesome performance at Newport Folk Festival of another one of my favorite artists, Jason Isbell, co-performing “Ohio” with David Crosby back in 2016.

How many more?!

Book: The Hobbit
Gandalf to Bilbo:

“There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself.”

Gandalf knew what would be true if Bilbo were willing to exit his comfort zone and answer the call of the Hero’s Journey set before him. Lest you think The Hobbit ends abruptly after Bilbo says “No thanks” a few pages in, to just stay in his hobbit hole for the rest of time, I’ll offer a slight spoiler: he answered the call.

Activity: Rock Climbing
Prior to the pandemic I was beginning to rock climb more often. It was a challenging activity that forces presence, our limitations, and what’s just outside of our current capabilities. The more I return to practice, the more possible routes became that previously were impossible. A few weeks ago I returned to my starting point: weak grip, out-of-form technique, and a baseline discomfort of the entire practice. It’s still difficult, and I’m not where I used to be, but I’ve made progress again — and for that I’m proud.