I reached my zen this week. There was this moment where I was at home, and it just hit me that I didn't have anything to do. I've been in this position many times before but mostly when I didn't feel like working on my to-do list. This time, however, I legitimately didn't have anything to do because Carrie had taken care of everything. Lately, she gets bored and then finds something to work on. The place is super clean now, and all our errands around town are getting done super quickly. Now she's the one at home receiving packages from Amazon. With her contributions, I reached a level of relaxation I haven't known in years. It felt great. Sometimes when I have to make a coin toss decision, I refuse to make a choice and instead dig deeper to find the underlying causes so I can make an informed decision. An example of this is picking a place to eat. From all my time being unemployed and even when working from home, I could eat just about anywhere I wanted. Now I get really picky and waste a ton of time and energy on a really basic decision. It's wasteful. Alas, this refusal to toss the coin transfers to how I used my free time. I always needed to be productive. I needed to maximize my relaxation or optimize my leisure activity. Wrong, wrong, wrong. During the zen moment this week, I dropped everything and simply relaxed. I existed. I was. It's like in The Matrix when Morpheus was training Neo in that dojo area. "Stop trying to hit me, and hit me!" For me, it sounded more like "Stop trying to relax, and relax!" I breathed more deeply than I have in I-don't-know-how-long. I turned off the TV, put away the headphones, and I just laid in bed and appreciated the moment. This is a good sign.

One of the self-care skills I learned in counselling is containment. It means to put my feelings into context and to take a break from them whenever I don't want to deal with them. I wasn't able to contain my emotions from last summer to this past April because my life flew off the rails, but now, all the sources of my grief are gone. There's nothing to manage now, nothing overwhelming to contain, so I'm in an even better state than when I practised all those skills. It's like the difference between fans celebrating their favourite sports team winning in the playoffs versus consoling themselves and celebrating the little victories. Saying all that matters is that they had fun, that they tried their best, they put in 110% and executed play by play. In my case, I'm not losing anymore. I don't have to budget my willpower between self-care, coping, or overcompensating for wild emotions. Even as I practised these coping skills to address my anxiety, there was a part of me that didn't really believe myself when I said that everything would be okay or that it was alright to feel overwhelmed. The war is over, so I can stand down now.

Seeing as I'm not battling overwhelming feelings anymore, I'm able to bring the fullness of who I am to everything I do. I feel more in sync with myself now that nothing is tearing up my heart. It's a bit of an adjustment with my first time working in a mall, but I'm embracing it. I'm practising a lot more people skills than I ever have in previous positions, which will help with my social awkwardness. Trauma is described as a separation of the soul from the body, and now that I've worked through a bunch of my childhood trauma, I feel more in tune and in harmony with myself. The wounds aren't fully healed, but they might as well be. A similar situation is how my surgery scar from last September healed up nicely after six weeks according to the surgeon, but to this day it still feels bizarre because it's tighter than most of the skin around it. That's how I would describe my emotional scarring. The wounds are closed up enough for me to live a normal life again, but it's still noticeable. Emotions do come up a bit when I think about what caused all that pain, but it's basically nothing compared to before I started counselling.

I'm still drained. There's so much transition that, after work, I pass out for hours and I'm still tired enough to sleep at my normal bedtime. I thought I would start working on my eating habits once Carrie graduated, but that's too much effort at the moment. I might just try drinking more water than fizzy sugar water, but that is already a lot to attempt. My shoulder injury is getting better with physio, so I'm back at the gym early in the morning again. There's room on my plate again to take risks. I got some flashy new shoes, Air Jordan 1's. I still got them in muted colours, but I'm slowly making my way towards dressing more confidently. I picked up some high quality Smithbilt cowboy hats which were significantly discounted, so I no longer need to find discarded ones on the concrete during the Stampede every year. Another sizeable risk I'm taking is buying a bunch of parts for my 3D printer. There are still quite a few upgrades that I can make to improve the print quality, and I just bought a few parts to do some of those upgrades. It means stopping all prints until I'm adjusted to the completely new set of parameters, so even though I've always wanted to get these superior parts, I haven't had the stomach for the work involved until just recently. I wrote a few weeks ago about how I would still push myself to about 90% of my capacity even after the shitstorm ended. That's held true for these past two weeks. I'm a lot less tired and overwhelmed than before, but the activities that contribute to it are very different. Now that I'm not being forced to deal with my emotional problems and childhood baggage, I'm finding new trouble to get into. Some of them are actually fun instead of being stressful, so it's a better kind of tiredness. Don't get me wrong, I'm still overdoing some things like stretching my muscles so hard that I can't move, which kinda defeats the whole purpose of stretching. I'm still the same Jon you know and love that's always on and generally too much, but I'm slowly improving.

I know a lot of this seems basic, but I find that the most basic truths are the hardest to do. Understanding them is no good if we don't live them. I gave up so much of my health during school that I vowed to relearn how to human after I graduated. One of those projects is to correct my posture. I feel like I have so many issues. Flat feet with the most pathetic arches one hockey skate salesman ever saw. My left hip bone is rotated because my hip flexors are so tight from sitting so much. I injured my left shoulder because one of my bones is also twisted out of alignment from my pecs being small and tight, caused by sitting hunched over a desk. My shoulder joint would pinch a tendon whenever I raised my arm a certain way, leading to searing, white-hot pain. My traps store(d) my traumatic energy, so they always have a number of knots in them somewhere. Apparently my hamstrings are also so tight from oversitting that my medial glute muscles are atrophied from doing nothing at all. My back is arched in the wrong direction. My terrible forward, closed posture accentuates my belly, making it look bigger and rounder than if I sat and stood straight up, contributing to some self-esteem issues. I'm done working on the emotional symptoms of my childhood trauma, so now I'm focusing on the physical ones. Lots of stretching and strengthening antagonistic muscles. There's no shortcut here. I have the equation nailed down and lots of great insights from my physio, skate salesman, massage therapist, podiatrist, doctor. Now I just gotta work at it and keeping chipping away at the problem. Simple and basic, but not easy.

Compound interest is built into our problems. If we procrastinate dealing with them, they snowball and get out of control. I dove headfirst into my emotional problems, but now I have to correct various aspects of my physical posture so that my default way of being doesn't crush me. Similarly, my emotional posture used to be ergonomically unsafe for me, where my default responses to problems contributed to other problems. Getting a trained and certified professional to look at the issues objectively helps me to adjust every day. When the physio digs into my pecs to loosen up the fibres pulling my shoulders forward, it reminds me of when my counsellor would skillfully navigate my beliefs and values surrounding my abuse. Sometimes she would be gentle, but sometimes she would confront me and stop me from hurting myself further. The manifestations of the abuse I endured are all interconnected, physically and emotionally.

Digging into the source of why I injured my shoulder at the gym about a month ago, I discovered that I was rushing to reach to my health and appearance goals. Why did I feel this way? Since I've been inconsistent with my health previously, I unknowingly assumed that I would always continue to be inconsistent, so I had to squeeze all my workouts into those few sessions where I did manage to get to the gym. The mentality of "you're lazy, you're not trying hard enough, just do it" is unhealthy and it just doesn't work. Instead of trying harder, I should have focused on viewing the issue holistically. Zooming out to perform a root cause failure analysis. I tell myself all the time that my only aim is to get to the gym. Setting a smaller goal makes it easier to reach the full one. If I'm already at the gym, I might as well do something. My previous attempts at getting healthy were motivated by willpower alone, so when I ran out, so did my routine. Instead of putting a band-aid solution over the problem by simply trying harder and forcing it, I'm addressing the matter of consistency and rely on zooming in and out, which in this case means the compound interest of making it into the gym. I'm backing up the car and finding a better route forward. Compound interest got me into this mess, and it will also get me out of it.

Be. In response to doing too much, I'm being. Taking a moment for myself every morning before the hustle and bustle of the day rushes in. If I don't do it first thing in the morning, it takes progressively more energy to pump the brakes the longer I wait. I've only been doing it at the end of the day if I'm still feeling way too amped up, but I try to do it every morning. Call it the calm before/after the storm. (Isn't it generally calm whenever it's not stormy?) From the Brad Pitt article last week, one of the many things I liked was how he makes a fire every morning and night because it pulls him into the moment, to contextualize and contain the day. An extension of that is when he's in the workshop and has to clean up at the end, no matter how chaotic or tidy the day's work has been. Even though I do supportive things in the morning like making a protein shake, listening to my audio Bible, and going to the gym, the aim should be to pause and collect myself before embarking on my day. Sometimes I forget to take that moment and I rush to start a 3D print or to weigh myself and get dressed, and then before bed, I won't really know what I did because it'll all feel like a big blur. When I'm at home, I work in spurts of 30 minutes. I was wandering around the neighbourhood this week on a gorgeous day, and I stumbled into an art gallery close to home. I didn't really know what to expect, and while most of it didn't really speak to me, I saw this hourglass that just grabbed my attention. It was built to last for 30 minutes, which is perfect. I normally ask Siri to set a timer, but this (half-)hourglass is way more soothing, especially when I'm on a roll while I'm writing. It really pulls me into the moment, and I think it's brilliant. I'm still learning to take the hour or so at night to get ready for bed. That involves refilling the humidifier, doing my stretches, flossing, and too many others things. When I'm still too agitated to sleep, I'll keep coping with some combination of brightly lit, rectangular screens until after midnight. If I'm feeling emotional, I'll take a shower. I suspect that preparing for bedtime is part of the catharsis, so reinstating my bedtime alarm should help that cause. Starting and ending the day with a pause for maximum success. Be.

I reached my zen this week, and I'm aiming to stay in that zen zone by pausing every morning and night. I'm not being steamrolled by life anymore, so now I can tire myself out with all this room for activities. Now that Carrie is taking care of a lot more, I'm free to be.

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le