Category Archives: life


I have been watching more TV lately.  This started when I realized how much content I could download to my phone or Kindle to watch while in transit on the subway.  This was initially great!  I could immerse myself in television programming any day of the week, not just the one or two days when a favorite show came online.  I started picking entire series to watch, starting with Parks and Rec and adding Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.  I watched a huge chunk of the first season of Outlander while traveling to and from Toronto.  And I could keep watching all the weekly shows that come up in “real time” like Divorce, so long as I watched them on the above ground bus to work in NJ.

Then the TV watching time began to creep up.  I started watching episodes of TV at home, on an actual TV.  I would watch two or three episodes at a time.  Suddenly, entire hours were disappearing.  I would look up and realize I was looking at a screen still at 11pm or midnight, throwing off my sleep schedule and my body’s ability to stay asleep due to the light suppressing the melatonin production I need for a good night’s rest.  I’d make up for that with a melatonin pill, and then I’d wake up groggy and start compensating for that with caffeine.  Which, as I learned last fall, I can only consume in moderation as well.  TV is both a bad influence and a bad habit.

Image result for download netflix meme

It isn’t as if I’m watching crappy TV even!  I’m watching a lot of consistently smart, female led, well reviewed content.  CexG , for example, is an extremely smart show, digging into its characters motivations and human frailty and mental health and changing sense of identity with a great sense of compassion and insight, sometimes expressed through musical numbers.  Parks and Rec is one of the best comedies ever, mostly based on the strength of its ensemble.  Neither show relies on gender tropes to build their characters.  Neither is based on laughing at its characters, as some sitcoms consistently do.  They are both well written, compassionate programs.  But they’re also passive content, and as long as I’m sitting there consuming the content, I’m not engaging in anything else.

Image result for crazy ex girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: the only show to compare our mammary glands to the density of white dwarf stars.

It’s addicting to consume passive content.  It’s addicting to have an entire entertainment feed directly into my brain.  I have always read so much that I’m used to what Jasper Fforde called the “imaginotransference” process in the Thursday Next books.  To have multiple senses provided for me, without having to use any imagination myself, is fantastic.  It is so much richer an experience to see each nuance of a character’s facial expression, to see their setting, to hear their voice. This is why we all universally love television and movies, after all: they are a full display of storytelling that shows us a full, exacting vision, without relying on our brains to place the information in context or create our own visuals.

So as much as I try to justify my consumption of television, I also know I’m being lazy when I watch.  And I also know that as long as I”m watching, I’m not creating anything of my own.  I’m not blogging or writing.  I’m not practicing piano.  I’m consuming someone else’s creation, and as smart as that creation may be, the only good it does me is to be entertained by it.  I’m not thinking my own thoughts when I’m consuming passive content.  Sometimes, that’s OK, because I need a break and it’s nice to be entertained and heartwarmed by someone else’s vision of, say, Pawnee, IN: a place full of hope and positivity.  Other times, it’s just consumption, and it’s just taking up my time…and, to an extent, my energy.

Am I judging passive content?  No.  I’m judging how easy it is to be passive when consuming media.  With the infinite access to entertainment that is Netflix and its counterparts, one can access the cream of the art form of TV, the best comedies that are out there.  Even those of us with very specific comedic preferences (“Female Driven Sitcoms With Women Who Swear A Lot“) can find hundreds of hours of our preferred content on these platforms and watch those hours all at once.  Yes, I’m sure passive TV watching happened before this, but it didn’t happen to me.

I have to figure out more balance in this area.  Still, I enjoy watching these shows.  I’ve rarely watched much TV.  Doing so now opens up my ability to participate in more conversations around what makes a good vs. bad piece of video content.   And it’s also given me a whole new respect for the writers who make their visions happen in the long run.

Image result for parks and rec meme


cave day!

I first found out about Cave Day through Daybreaker.  It seems incongruous, a morning rave and a day of focus.  Still, I can see the overlap. There are bound to be people in those early morning sober rave dancers who have their own projects to focus on.  The idea of taking an entire day for mandated focus would therefore have a lot of appeal to anyone trying to translate a vision or an ambition into reality, and I’m pretty sure that anyone committed enough to get up at 6am for a sober rave is committed to some sort of hustle

Cave Day is literally just a day of being in a metaphorical cave.  That “cave” is a state of focus on a work flow.  Whatever one is working on, it doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that you’re in a cave and isolated from the outside stimulus that may distract and derail.  Cave Day is eight hours of work sprinting, of trying to stay “in the flow” of whatever project it is one wants to get done.  I checked out a review online, and it seemed to work: the combination of mantras, focus exercises and peer pressure definitely induced work.  Oh, and despite their email address of bats (at), they are not related whatsoever to Bats Day.

I signed up for this as part of the 2018 work I’m doing, where I’m trying to focus more, period – and especially on my own arts and projects.  I’ve been kicking around an idea for a non-fiction book tied into my Political Science minor in Comparative Federalism, an exposition on my theory of why Canada got Justin Trudeau and his “sunny ways”, and America got Trump and his safe space for white supremacy.  Therefore, I wanted space to work on that book idea, and figure out if it was a viable idea I could roll out into a book proposal – and ultimately, justification to take a sabbatical to write.  However, as great an idea as I thought this was, I was never finding time to write in my daily life, no matter how many times I blocked it off in my day planner.

Therefore, Cave Day not only guaranteed that I would spend at least half a day writing, but it also gave me a deadline to finish some preliminary research and exploration to ensure that was what I wanted to spend the time on.  It isn’t as if I have any shortage of writing projects to work on: I also took a novel writing class last year in the hopes of getting my own tribute to the steampunk genre out of my brain and onto paper, for my own entertainment.  If my non-fiction project wasn’t viable, maybe I’d just get re-started on my fiction project.  Or I could just crank out a month’s worth of blog entries.  Whatever.  Cave Day was going to make sure I wrote.

(I should add, one of my goals this quarter was to submit a blog piece to my employer’s Official Company Blog as part of Building my Personal Brand as a Senior Account Director and Media SME.  I could have sat down and banged out 5 blog entries, a mix of personal and professional and it would have still been a satisfying day)

I wasn’t sure what to expect at Cave Day, to be honest.  I assumed everyone there would be much younger than me, the sort of people who have “side hustles”.  I was partially correct on that: the founders and organizers, Jake and Molly, were definitely squarely in the millenial generation, as were many of the attendees.  There were a few people in my Xennial category though, including the guys at my table.  It was also a slightly male skewed event, with an estimated 65/35 male to female split, as if men feel a pressure to do more.  The 25 of us in the room were, however, diverse enough that I didn’t feel out of place.

In fact, I actually made new  friends.  After an hour sprint of researching  why Canadians have such a vested interest in the common good, I looked up to see a group of grad students writing on a whiteboard headed “Why Are Canadians So Happy?”  It was, for a moment, disorienting, like my imagination come to life.  I bounced into the room, in true Canadian Tigger-like fashion, and discovered it was a marketing project, developing a new campaign.  I cheerfully then volunteered my opinions on Canadian culture:

  • Bears in swimming pools are a thing in heat waves. So are cougars in suburbs, the predator, not the human female.
  • Don’t mention gangs, too soon after the last spate of violence in Vancouver and Toronto
  • Yes, Tim Hortons is HUGE in the East, but in the West, we’re all Starbucks
  • Nanaimo Bars are the only real Canadian food I can think of
  • We are very proud of our diversity and tolerance and of being SLIGHTLY LESS RACIST than America
  • Yes, we all agree, Justin Trudeau IS good looking.
  • We all secretly love the Queen.
  • The North is special to us.  We are, after all the True North, strong & free
  • We don’t vacation IN Canada.  We go to the USA
  • These views are limited to English Canada.  Don’t ask me about French Canada.  Pretty sure they HATE the Queen
  • Margaret Atwood is ALL OVER TV right now and we suspect Netflix’s $500M investment is just going to all be adaptations of her work

After expounding on the culture of my homeland though, I did actually get right back to work.  The day was structured in work sprints, 50 to 60 minutes apiece, three in the morning and four in the afternoon. In the morning, we also started with a one-line intro and commitment to our projects, which we re-emphasized at the end of the day by stating how much we felt we’d accomplished on that project.  We wrote down our plans for our day and each sprint in advance so we would have a clear end goal in sight.  And after each sprint, we stopped, stretched, took a five minute break, and re-set ourselves to work again.

Overall, I liked Caveday.  I loved the space in the Breather offices in midtown. I appreciated the little bit of drama when we entered and were able to symbolically burn whatever it was was wanted to leave outside the cave by imagining it implanted in a ittle piece of flash paper that was burned on arrival.  I appreciated having my phone taken away from me.  Even the scents of the candles (citrus) and the sound piped in (water) were selected to improve focus and flow.  I wrote over two thousand words, completed a much procrastinated review for a direct report, cleared out a bunch of Scout email and caught up on some of my belated Todoist items.  It was a well spent nine hours, in which I accomplished much more than I would have on my own.

Despite liking Caveday, I don’t know if I would go again.  Nine hours is a lot to commit – I sensed I was the only parent in the room.  It’s also time spent traveling into Manhattan, for a 10.5hr day on a Sunday.  That is  huge bite out of my time.  If I can replicate that kind of focus closer to home, then I’d rather stay in Brooklyn – even if it’s just doing work sprints at the library or a coffee shop, somewhere outside the home where I can’t be disturbed but also where I don’t have to go far from home or take an inflexible amount of time out of my day.   Caveday is a great value though: $50 to sit down and accomplish something priceless, with lunch, snacks and coffee thrown in.  If it was in Brooklyn, or if it was more flexible, I’d do it monthly.

So that was my experience in the Cave.  One last thing I did take away was a custom coaster, printed on one side with “I am IN the Cave” for when I’m in a state of focus/flow, and “I am OUT of the Cave” for when I’m not.  It reminded me of my Camp Nerd Fitness wristband, where the red side represented a desire not to socialize, and to be left in an introverted state.  Together, my CNF bracelet and my Cave Day coaster side make an impenetrable wall for focus and concentration and staying in my own brain for a bit.  Totally leveraging both the next time I need the mental space.




art vs craft

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few months about art and craft. They seem as if they should be interchangeable terms, as they go together so often in our language. Yet it is only art that we apply the term “fine” to. The “Fine Arts”: drama, music, writing, visual arts, etc.

This, to me, exemplifies the difference between art and craft. I believe Art is based in talent, a calling to create. It begins as a gift of creativity, an ability to transubstantiate emotion and thought into something others can experience. Creating something is an astonishing process, one Elizabeth Gilbert called, “Big Magic” for a reason.

Craft is more achievable to me than art. Craft is when you practice crafting something. It is ironic we call a craftsperson an “artisan”, a word that conjures up images of a handcrafted product. Craft is what we associate with making things, with shaping and perfecting aesthetics, perhaps, but ultimately with a functional product. That may be something as prosaic as a clay bowl, or as decorative as jewelry, but it is a tangible, functional item meant, mostly, for use.

In an age where so much work is now knowledge based, where does that leave us for craft? Are we no longer artisans? I believe that means we have to adapt our ideals of craft to intangible work. Knowledge work is now a craft. My expertise in digital marketing and in business is my craft. It is the work that produces something functional which I practice every day.

Art, however, remains art. The arts have always been a form of knowledge work, producing intangible, cerebral creations. That has not changed. That’s what makes art, the idea of transforming neutral, bland materials into full neural responses. And still – every art is also a craft. There is talent involved in art, but how does one become adept and skilled at transforming that talent into a chosen medium, unless one practices? That’s where art and craft dovetail again, in the requirement for practice, repetition, that constant refinement and polishing of words the same way a blacksmith would polish and re-shape a sword. It’s the challenge of making something that’s as perfect when formed as it was in it initial ideal. Without the same practice one would apply to a craft, art has far less impact and may not even be viable.

It is hard to create art in a form that one isnt innately familiar with. When I noodle on the piano in free-form mode, I still use music theory to pick out the harmonies and chords. I still calculate the relative minors and majors, dominant sevenths, diminished minors. I couldn’t create without that framework.

So an art must be practiced like a craft. Craft can also, at its most practiced, become art. Once an artisan has the practice of creation down, they can take it to the next level, embellishing and decorating, stretching the medium into something extraordinary. This is where craft becomes art, where the statements and thoughts, emotions and intellect, are added to a piece to make it resonate in our minds instead of merely functioning.

What are my arts and what are my crafts? I see writing as a craft. I see my work as a craft. I see music as my art, although I work at it like a craft. No matter what the medium though, I feel the same part of my brain light up when I translate a thought into a medium outside my brain. When I have the right answers at work, when I have just the right word for a blog post, when I hear music in my mind and replicate it on a keyboard, it all hits my brain the same way. It lights something up in me. Whether it is art or craft, do we not all need to have something that lights each of us up?

Perhaps I am thinking about this too hard. Arts and crafts are what each of us have, on some level, to make us extraordinary. It’s what lights our brains up and, if we practice hard enough, we can even extend that to other people and their brains. Both are miraculous that way.

the nightmare before christmas, live in brooklyn!

Last Wednesday, I took the boys to see the Nightmare before Christmas – Live to Film. It was the projected film, with live music and vocals by the original cast voices. That meant Danny Elfman, in person, belting out the part of Jack Skellington, in front of a full two hundred piece orchestra and backing vocal chorus, below the projected film. It was amazing.
Featuring famous Canadian Catherine O’Hara!
Nightmare, along with Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice, are part of the goth canon for my generation. Burton’s early work is what fits with the whimsical, dark faeryland aesthetic of second generation goth, both due to the constant reference of death in imagery, and the elongated lines, dark curlicues, and stark contrast stripes. That is the the Tim Burton aesthetic, and Nightmare, with its horror theme, Halloween imagery and Danny Elfman soundtrack, is a pinnacle of goth entertainment.
It’s also worth noting here that, while Oingo Boingo are considered goth adjacent, I do not believe they are considered goth canon. Except for “Dead Man’s Party“, and that I heard more as the Last Dance cover at Bar Sinister. Paul, however, enjoys Oingo Boingo quite a bit, and, as he remarked to me at the end of the movie, this was the closest we would get to an Oingo Boingo concert for a long time. The fact that it wasn’t an Oingo Boingo concert though did not stop us from occasionally quiet-yelling “PLAY DEAD MAN’S PARTY” or “ONLY A LAD!”
Ben is not yet a fan of Oingo Boingo (Paul is working on it), but he loves Nightmare and even asks to watch it in off season (That’s my baby.). He likes the movie so much that he even took a second run at watching its cousin film, the recent adaptation of Gaimans Coraline. (Still too scary.) This event appealed so much to our family that I invested in the mid-range seats at the Barclays Center so we could actually see the performers.
We walked in to find genius product placement: Hot Topic ads featuring Jack Skellington. I dislike the appropriation of Jack Skellington as this sort of bad boy symbol in general, and I squarely blame Hot Topic. Still. Genius product placement.  Then again, Nightmare does inspire some things that sound like a Hot Topic imploded into a quasar of overkill.

Marilyn Manson is also NOT GOTH.
I read retroactively that “Barclay’s Center will become Halloweentown!” and that costumes were encouraged, but I didn’t see anything themed or otherwise.  I did see a handful of outfits and Jack Skellington T-shirts, but no effort on the part of the venue was visible as we walked halfway around it to get to our seats.
We sat down just in time for the warm up: Disney’s Silly Skeletons, with a live score performed by the orchestra. I forget how deeply disturbing some of these early cartoons are. Multiple points in this were nightmare fuel:
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The next piece was a medley of the score, with what I assume were Tim Burton’s original pencil crayon drawings. Ben was very impressed at the drawings and asked if Tim Burton was also an artist.  We had just finished explaining that yes, he was, but he was best known for directing movies, like the original 1987 Batman and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure but by then the movie had started.
Overture with drawings, which someone kindly posted on YouTube
Right away for the opening number, five cast members filed onto stage, whom we assume were all original score, launching right into “This is Halloween”.  It wasn’t until Jack’s first song that Danny Elfman came out, singing “Jack’s Lament” with an incredible intensity.  I haven’t seen Elfman sing live before, so therefore I was amazed by his depth of sound.  Also, like everyone else on stage, he was clearly having a freaking blast.  Despite singing a lament despairing of the sameness of every day in Halloween Town, Danny Elfman was still downright joyful.
That would prove to be the theme for the evening.  I have rarely seen a performer enjoy themselves as much as this cast was.  Ken Page, singing the Oogie Boogie song, was delighted to be there, and was having so much fun with his performance that it took all the fear out of that most nightmarish of characters.  Catherine O’Hara came out and sang “Sally’s Song”, perfectly note for note as she did a quarter century ago, emoting Sally’s tragic longing while still having a good time being on stage.  There is something to being at a show where the performers have that contagious joy at being there.
I was just so impressed with this production.  I can’t even begin to imagine the work to take the score and sound layers apart and put them back together to sync up to the orchestra and singers.  To do so, the original creators of the idea must have had to determine where the live music and voices would cut in, and give direction to sound engineers to specifically take track layers out at those moments.  It must have been incredibly detailed work that would require stress-testing with performers.
For that matter, I can’t imagine being in an orchestra performing an entire score all at once.  That’s insane, two hours of performing a score straight through without more than the intermission break, plus the opening cartoon and overture.  How would you have the entire score on your stand and manage to turn the pages and keep up and play flawlessly for that long?  I am blown away with the caliber of musicians that performed this soundtrack, beginning to end.
For all these reasons – for the concept of seeing a live-to-film movie perfectly edited, for the joy of the performers singing on stage, for the quality of the musicians who performed, I was so glad we were able to go.  It’s our way of celebrating the holiday season: by watching a movie where Halloween nightmares try to reproduce Christmas and end up terrifying everyone.  Every family has its traditions.  This was a particularly special way for us to celebrate ours.

cutting back on caffeine IS KILLING ME

A few weeks ago, my brain hit a wall.  That is the best metaphor I can come up with,  not just because I hit a limit, but because that’s what it felt like. It felt like my brain was actually damaged. I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t process information or  communicate normally.  There were times when I struggled to string words together, much less manage to go into Marketer Speak Mode, in which I use buzzwords on autopilot to sound authoratative in meetings. (“What we need is a closed digital tracking ecosystem that mirrors the customer journey,” is the kind of phrase I throw out in that mode).

This isn’t an entirely new state for my brain. I am used to a fairly bad depressive jag around November, when the days get shorter and the time change happens. Layering seasonal affective on top of existing clinical depression creates an annual drop in dopamine and serotonin that I can’t keep in check with the same practices that work the rest of the time.

This jag, however, was worse than any other year in that it was not only mentally worse,  but that it brought a whole new set of physical symptoms. I get a slight vertigo when I am in a depressive state, a light dizziness combined with a sense that the world is on a 15 degree angle.  In addition to that, I had a permanent headache that Advil couldn’t fix. And I was completely exhausted,  lethargic in a way beyond my usual seasonal affective disorder. It was bad in that it actually kept me from doing stuff.  I went so far as to be tested for Lyme, and the doctor threw a thyroid test in to boot, but no conventional test could explain the problems I was experiencing.

After ten days of this, I was also running out of hope to get through it. What if I had done something to my brain?  What if I had actually broken it and my usual methods wouldn’t work ever again?  I am used to being able to control my depression with a regime I’ve spent the past five years working on, a base of medication that covers about half the problem, and then a series of lifestyle changes that cover most of the remainder.  But with the extreme lethargy and the headaches, I wasn’t able to get enough exercise, and exercise is a huge part of my mental health regime.  What if I never got past this?

I was complaining about this to a friend, about how I felt.  I told her the physical symptoms reminded me of the times I’ve gone off caffeine suddenly, like I’d been given decaf.  I couldn’t feel the impact of the coffee I was drinking, so I kept slugging back more of it.  Similarly, I couldn’t feel the effects of my antidepressant medication.  Her response was that maybe coffee was actually the problem.  Maybe coffee was over-stressing my brain.  Maybe that was causing part of the issue?

My immediate response when someone suggests I cut back on coffee is OVER MY DEAD BODY.  I’ve been drinking coffee since I was twelve.  I asked my mom if I could start drinking it, and her response was, “It will stunt your…..oh, have a mug.”  At twelve, I wasn’t freakishly tall, but it was obvious stunting my growth would Not Be A Problem, that I was trending after my namesake, “Big Jill”, my 5’11 aunt.  My entire adult brain has therefore been formed around caffeine.  I have a long history of it that I documented twelve years ago when I tried to quit the first time.  I’ve tried quitting in the past, and found that my personality doesn’t function the same way.  Gone is my innate Canadian Tigger-ness.  Instead, I’m much more like a Kanga, a risk-averse milquetoast mom.  (Obviously the last time I did this, I had a toddler.)

However, after ten days of my brain feeling like it was alternately too big for my skull, or missing entirely, I was willing to consider options.  So I did some research.  Turns out coffee can actually damage serotonin receptors over time! It turns out it can also wear out norepinephrine receptors.  I take Burproprion, the generic Wellbutrin, which is a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (different than most antidepressants, which are serotonin reuptake inhibitors).  This keeps extra norepinephrine in my brain, which seems to be the missing chemical link in allowing me to function like a normal human most of the time.  Maybe by damaging the receptors with caffeine, I had actually canceled out the effects of the NRI?  Or I had made it difficult for my brain to process serotonin, eliminating a set of positive emotions entirely?  Or I had produced too much cortisol and was exaggerating the effects with coffee?  All the theories sounded like caffeine could be a factor.  Therefore, I decided to cut caffeine back and see what happened.

Ten days ago, I stopped drinking my afternoon pick me up cup of coffee.  And I itched for that coffee.  I would droop at my desk in the overheated client office around 2pm, and long to be able to go down and get an almond milk latte from the in-house coffee bar.  I still need a ten minute nap at 3pm because I can’t just slug back more caffeine like I have trained myself to do so I can push through. (Note that I do not always get said ten minute nap because work).

Last week, I cut from two 12oz cups in the morning to just one 12oz cup.  This would be fine at the time, but then I’d be sleepy mid-afternoon again, and be unable to go get a pick me up cup at 2pm.  On some days, the half-life would wear off as early as 11am and I’d be sleepy before it was even lunchtime.

This week, I’m down to one 8oz cup.  One normal cup.  Granted, I went through 3 cups of organic instant decaf yesterday (partly because I was mixing MCT oil in for a snack) but I’m down to less coffee than I’ve had in twenty-five years.   This isn’t easy for me.  I’m used to combating any fatigue with coffee.    I’m used to caffeine being what powers me through my day.  Now, I’m drinking organic decaf as a placebo, which is useless.  My brain is not fooled, and it wants that steady drip of something that fights off sleepiness through its entire day.

And it may be that the coffee was the problem because I feel better.  Actually, not just better, I feel joyful.  I feel like everything in my world is fantastic (true, my life is awesome) and each and every day will be a wonderful set of experiences.  Most of all, I believe that I will have the energy and the physical ability to actually go and engage with that world instead of being physically and mentally exhausted.  It’s a night and day change from the state I was in ten days ago, where I felt like the world around me would go by and I would just count down time in it, unable to rouse myself to move, and unable to feel anything positive even if I did.

Is this all due to the caffeine cutback?  Maybe.  It could also be the L-tyrosine I started taking.  It could be that this episode just ran its course and my brain healed itself.  I know part of the headache was actually allergies – after re-visiting my morning Zyrtec, those went away almost entirely as well.  But i’m still working on cutting back caffeine just in case that’s the dominating factor.  I’ll cut down that 8oz of caffeinated coffee to decaf on Thursday…and over Thanksgiving weekend, I will actually try to go without coffee.  (This is also why I’m staying home over Thanksgiving to detox and sleep)

Still, I’m just not willing to risk resuming that old habit just yet.  I’d like to see how much better my brain gets, how much I can heal myself.  I’m not ever going to not have to deal with depression, but at least I have done the work to alleviate the symptoms most of the time, and reduced a chronic condition down to an occasional flare-up.  Cutting back on caffeine may be part of that self-care regimen that I have to accept in future.

simulated caffeine withdrawal

Last Friday, I hit a wall.  I ran out of energy.  I thought it was a depressive episode at first, triggered by hormones, a unique facet of depression that only biological females have to contend with.  Then it stretched out for a week of exhaustion, of headaches and dizziness, of a slightly elevated pulse, of a need to constantly nap or rest.  Now I’m not sure what it is, if it’s depression that has extended itself into physical symptoms or a physical condition that’s causing me to be exhausted and subsequently depressed.  Given that cardio – either running or cycling or HIIT – is a key part of my self-care and depression maintenance, it may just be that my inability to muster the energy for exercise is making the mental condition worse, feeding into the cycle.
Whatever it is, I would like it to stop so I can have my life back.  It feels like I’m in caffeine withdrawal, like someone has swapped my two cups of high octane organic coffee with decaf.  It feels like the norepinephrine and dopamine that my antidepressants are supposed to keep in my brain are missing again.  It feels like any and all stimulants, whether from the antidepressants or from caffeine, are simply missing, leaving me in a state of withdrawal and misery and exhaustion.  It feels like my batteries are drained.  Maybe I’m sick, maybe I’m depressed – I have too many x– factors to be able to tell.
I thought it was enough that I already spent hours every week trying to hack my brain and correct the chemical imbalance I was born with.  I have a problem with my brain’s wiring, an inherited depressive condition that causes a complete lack of motivation.  Superficial research indicates that this is a problem with the receptors in my brain: I do not get any sort of positive reward for tasks accomplished or for actions that should give me joy.  Hence, a sort of Eeyore-ish response of “why bother?” to every possible action.  Why accomplish anything?  Why even get out of bed if there are no positive emotions to be had for it?
This is not the best way to live my life right now.  I’d like to have my normal existence back now please.  Perhaps there is a physical reason I feel this way.  I hope it’s something I can figure out, fix, and get back to my normal existence

there must be social commentary in this workout

I went to ConBody this morning.  It’s a bootcamp workout on the Lower East Side, with a well documented story and theme around…convicts. Or ex-cons, to be exact.  The space isn’t a workout room, but a jail cell, complete with a cell door.  The wall features a mural of chain link and figures in hoodies.  The logo is a clock with barbed wire on it. The hashtag is #dothetime.  The branding is genius, and has landed a ton of press.

What’s more genius is that this is a business that actually does help to get convicted felons back in the employment market.  It makes their prison time an asset, not a detriment, in their career as physical fitness instructors. It won’t get them back all their rights, but at least it gets them jobs.  The founder, Coss Marte, from everything I have read, seems a genuinely nice guy, from a family committed to social good: his brother Christopher is running for district councilman in New York on a strong community service platform (Their mom was handing out his election pamphlets after she did the class with us.  AWWWW)

Incarceration is a serious problem in this country: the US locks up more people per capita than any other country.  Two million people are estimated jailed in this country, or just under 1% of all the adults in America.


Incarceration has been called “the new Jim Crow“: a race-biased system that perpetuates the caste system in America.  In her book on this topic, Michelle Alexander argues that incarceration is a method to keep black Americans “in their place”, a seemingly fair, equal and just system that instead is skewed towards POCs.  Not only does prison take away the freedom of a felon temporarily, but it is a permanent black mark that prevents that individual from fully exercising his rights in the future.  He may not be able to vote.  He may not be readily hired to work, resulting in economic disadvantage.

The prison system in America is known to be profitable and corrupt.  Not only do we have the for-profit corporation in a popular Netflix series, but even Margaret Atwood has written  satire about prison economics Now we may be recognizing the justice system as the new vehicle for racial sublimation.

So it is with no small amount of social irony that I, a middle class white woman, went off to do a bootcamp workout, in a room full of other middle class white people.  And it was a fine workout.  It was a bootcamp workout.  It was a hard bodyweight bootcamp workout.  And I appreciate and respect that.  I especially appreciate and respect that Coss Marte has managed to wrap up an equipment-free bodyweight bootcamp workout into a brand package that manages to be tough love and inspirational, threatening in a safe way.  He’s managed to make prison into a weight loss and transformation narrative that sells his service product for him.  He doesn’t need to buy thousand dollar bikes when he has that story to tell.

Now, ConBody has been extended into its own space at the ridiculously named Saks Fifth Avenue Wellery.  That is an even more glaring social irony.  From everything I have ever read about that neighborhood and that store, the women at the Saks location must make the girls down at the LES space I went to look like street punks.  I would bet that if they saw a ConBody instructor outside the space in a hoodie, the same UES women would clutch their pearls and eye him warily, perpetuating the same criminal stereotype bias.  Yet there’s the workout, and the same ex-cons leading it, in a space that also houses a fucking salt cave.  Is that a bright spot in the dark horrors of prejudice in America?  Or is it just a ridiculous juxtaposition?

Either way.  My quads are tired.  A 7am workout followed by a stressful day of chasing clients around their own offices is exhausting.  I’ve taken my magnesium and now I’m going to go handwrite in my private journal until I fall asleep.

And I would like to add that I did the time and then thought about rewarding myself for my “incarceration workout” with a cup of butter coffee with maca in it.  Then I realized how ridiculous I was being even thinking that sentence and got the hell out of the Lower East Side before I could spend the $7.50.  There’s being a spoiled white girl doing a jail themed workout, and then there’s going out after it to blow the same amount of money that some of my fellow New Yorkers probably have for food for the entire day on a specialty drink, and that was just one upper middle class wellness luxury item too far.