The Simple Life

I had surgery on Friday, an inguinal hernia repair. It was an elective procedure (non-emergency), but it will take six weeks to recover. It wasn't really bothering me day to day, but there was potential for it to get worse if I didn't deal with it now. I have no idea when it herniated. I just know I had it for like two years before my family doctor caught it. That's why you don't skip physicals. It was a day surgery, so I was out of the hospital by 5 PM. Now that I'm recovering, I'm not allowed to lift anything heavier than 10 lbs., so I'm really being forced to take it easy. Doing nothing is challenging. I made some plans over the next few weekends because I didn't really know how recovery would look like. I may have to cancel some of them now. It's really hard to repair the hernia again if the stitches pop, so I don't want to take any chances.

One note that I wanted to add to last week's post was that I think some people thought I quit my job just so I could lose a few pounds. On a slow week, I'll get around 100 page views, which I was expecting for the previous post, but this past week saw over 700. Thus, I'm not sure how many people missed previous posts and context. I'm using my physical health to prop up my mental health, and I wasn't capable of doing so while working in my current situation. So yes, reading that post in isolation would give people the wrong impression of why I quit my job.

I recently made these plans to exercise, and with this surgery, luckily I didn't set my ambitions high. I just signed up for a year's membership at GoodLife Fitness, but I probably won't be able to really get started until November. Until then, I'm still supposed to walk around so that blood clots don't form in my legs and so gas doesn't accumulate in my bowels. My other goals were to adjust my diet and sleep, but I still want to put them on hold in favour of exercise. Whichever goal I chose would inevitably encounter some setbacks, which is why it's so hard for me to keep up with everything. I should focus on exercise, but diet is the most important, but you can't lose weight without having deep sleep, but you need exercise to supplement your diet, but you can't just do one thing and ignore the others, but you can't lead a sedentary lifestyle, etc. Lion tamers use stools with multiple legs in order to confuse and distract the lions they're taming, so I'm going to have to focus on just one end instead of chasing a bunch. There's always been a good reason to change the goal posts, but I have to put my foot down at some point.

I'm taking T3 and ibuprofen as painkillers. They're working. It's all good.

This week, I want to focus on the simple joys of life. I think our Western society tells us we should want the best of everything. Everyone has to be the best at something, you have to make the most money, you have to live in a massive home and drive the best car. But some of us don't need much by way of material possessions. We just want time with our best friends and family. We want to relax. I, on the other hand, have lived a long time trying to improve my efficiency and effectiveness with technically superior solutions. I squeeze myself to make more of my time. I seem to always need some sort of system or gadget to nullify the drudgery of manual labour. I need a lemon press so I don't have to squeeze lemon sodas by hand. I need a 3D printer to build stuff like funnels, bath tub plugs, or a dock for my Apple Watch charger. It's a very engineery way of approaching life, to advocate for the better technical solution. Conversely, I think the average person picks the better solution when it's simpler. LED light bulbs were always more efficient and brighter than incandescents, but the cost was prohibitively high a few years back and they were hard to find. Now that the cost has been brought down and you can get them at any hardware store, even IKEA, it's easier to pick the better option. Organic produce works in the same way. It used to be double the price for the tastier and fresher apples, but farmer's markets are more accessible now, and their apples cost the same as the gross ones at the supermarket. There are quite a few ways I could lead a technically superior life, but now I'm learning to appreciate the simpler options.

What does the simple life look like to me? I won't obsess about small decisions anymore. Just toss a coin and move on. It means slow mornings without appointments or rushing out of the house. It means listening to music for hours at a time. It means turning off the TV and lying on the couch in a quiet home. It means going for walks with no true destination. It means putting down my phone when there are no timelines or feeds worth scrolling through anymore. Instead of using my free time for a hobby or building some skill, it means truly doing nothing. Especially with this surgery, it means lying down and not moving at all. If Carrie's around, we'll catch up in bed at the end of the day and take naps on the weekends. Maybe we'll even stay in on a Friday or Saturday night. 😮

I'm a fussy and picky person. I'm very particular about my choices and how I like to enjoy myself, which I've been told makes me the worst person to have for Secret Santa, but that's another topic. Here's a weird example. The iPhone 6s has 3D Touch, which means that the screen is pressure sensitive. You can click a little harder on the screen, and that enables new shortcuts depending on the app you're in and what you're hard-pressing. In my mind, I paid for this new feature, so I should always be using it to maximize my expensive purchase. Now, there are always a few ways of achieving the same task in a modern operating system, so let's say I'm looking for the song "Clarity" by Zedd. I'm on the home screen, so I could either pull down for Spotlight Search, ask Siri to look it up, open my Music app myself and navigate to it through my Library, or I can 3D Touch the Music app icon to quickly search for the song.

Spotlight searching for a song can be quicker than 3D touching the Music app

I'm the kind of person who will pull down from the home screen to open Spotlight Search, start typing the song title, stop even though the song already appears and I can just start playing it right there, remind myself to use 3D Touch because it's a feature I paid for and should use, exit Spotlight search, 3D Touch on the Music icon, search, then type out "Clarity" again. Fussy. Complicated. Not simple. It's hard being as ridiculous as me.

3D Touching the Music app is an expensive feature I pay for and feel I should use as much as possible

Don't even get me started on my TV setup. There's more than one way to skin a cat, and there's more than one way to control an Apple TV. I have the Siri remote; I have the Remote app on my iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch; I have a Bluetooth keyboard; I can use the Samsung TV infrared remote over HDMI-CEC; I can use my Wii U Gamepad as an infrared remote as well; and I can yell at Siri. It really depends on what is closest to me at the moment, but I still feel like I "should" use a particular remote sometimes, even though there's another option closer to me. Gawd, I'm the worst.

Now those are stupid little shallow examples. How am I choosing the simple life in real and meaningful ways?

The biggest recent example is quitting my job. Sure, it would have been "technically superior" if I had a steady and substantial paycheque, medical and dental benefits, no gap in my resume, a strict daily routine, and supportive coworkers. I just wouldn't have my sanity for long. I haven't been doing so well since early 2015, and it's been a heavy burden for Carrie to keep carrying me. I couldn't live this simple life without her support.

Being so fussy, one point of friction is constantly switching paths. It adds too much administrative overhead. If I want to listen to music, I could listen on the speaker with the subwoofer, the Bluetooth speaker, my few wired headphones, my wireless headphones, my headphone amplifier, the bookshelf speakers with the home theatre, or on the record player. All fine options, but instead of always picking the one with the best sound quality, sometimes it's just easier to play it on my phone's crappy little speaker. Party girls don't get hurt.

I'm a fatty, so I love to eat. Carrie and I have a running list of places where we love to eat in Calgary, so if I want to treat myself (which is all the time), I could make a reservation at a nice, semi-expensive restaurant. But now, sometimes I won't feel like leaving the house. Pizza Hut delivery is a fine alternative to dining in the Italian pizza shop down the street. I eat so many nice meals, so who cares if sometimes I just go with the simple option? Why do I always need the lamb shank, the lobster mac and cheese, duck breast, Wagyu beef, Korean double fried chicken, German soft pretzel and wurst, Ethiopian coffee beans, fresh French croissants, merguez sausage, Pacific oysters, or Italian sausage and deli sandwiches? There's always instant noodles at home.

Finally, relationships is the major area where I've simplified a lot in the recent past. I have a decent sized social network, but I just don't have the energy or time to hang out with everyone anymore. I've tried to force or save some relationships which veered off course in the past, but it's not always worth the effort. Nothing lasts forever, and people drift apart. I know who I like, and when those relationships run their course, I will replace them with others. I'm not blind or stupid. Things are awkward because of the stuff I'm going through, but even strangers can say "I'm sorry that this is happening to you." I know some people don't know what to say, and that's okay with me. However, my tough times have forced me to re-examine who's worth keeping close. I've effectively been lying in a hospital bed, and lots of people have shown up to visit and share their sympathies. All it takes is a Like or a short message. A few formerly close friends have remained shockingly quiet. Relationships require mutual consent, for both parties to be willing participants. My oldest brother Chris recently reached out to me. I can't be entirely sure that he really wants to reconcile with me, but I am 100% certain he just wants me to come to his wedding next year so his portraits can fake us being one big happy family again. lol

I'm enjoying the simple side of life. Slow mornings, listening to music, reading books. There's value I've missed in the past by not going with the flow. Constantly switching between parties is lame, so better to stick with one camp instead of fretting about which one is the absolute best. In the mean time, it's time for me to take my pain killers.

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le