I’m being told, by individual mouths as well as much of my culture, that I should be upset and/or ashamed that my body is, at age 38, no longer “perfect”.
Well, it wasn’t perfect before. Or rather, if I looked at my 20-year-old body now I might say, “Perfect!”, but I never felt nor was allowed to feel like it was perfect then; and in strict terms it was never true — I’ve always had the uneven breasts, thick legs and most of the scars, for starters. And I was obsessed with that inch of belly-fat back then; I hated it and myself, because I was told to, every day. It was awful, and my body and I had such a terrible relationship for a while because of it. Even though it looked “perfect”, or so I’m told now.
So it’s hard to grieve for this “perfection” that never felt like mine to begin with. Perfection seems like something that’s only designed to be appreciated from afar — i.e. when you have it, you can’t enjoy it; and once you lose it you’re supposed to feel sad. …I smell bullshit.
If, however, “perfect” is a designation relative to a thing’s use, or the zeitgeist it’s in, then my body is undeniably MORE perfect now than it ever was in my numerical youth. I’ve found parts of life to occupy where my breast-evenness doesn’t matter at all (or is interesting, or even “cute” and exciting to people), and where most of the people around me love my leg-muscles and sure as hell don’t mind scars. This body is also flexible, has great endurance, and is usually pain-free — things that might have also been true before, but which I was in no position to appreciate. I’ve taught it to dance, and do kungfu, and swim and climb — all in the last decade. Every day it gives me new opportunities to play with and learn balance, strength, relaxation, and a host of other amazing skills that a) I couldn’t gain without a body, one that has limits and challenges; and b) a perfect-looking body wouldn’t help me obtain one whit.
I feel joy and appreciation for my body daily, now, partly because it has taught me how to seek and find and experience so many wonderful things. Is that not what having a perfect body is like? Daily joy and appreciation?
“OK, so you’re lucky,” they say, “but as time goes on, your body’s going to fall apart.” Yes, thank you; I knew that. I’ve actually had it fall apart already, several times in several ways. I know what it is to be unperfect in the sense that you can’t walk because you have 250 stitches in your gut, and to use crutches because the damn knee is acting up again, and other such things. (I’ve also gotten to re-learn walking and then for good measure learn to do plank push-ups, which I never could before the gut-surgery; and I’ve gotten to grit my teeth and train like crazy until the bum knee never lands me in crutches anymore — all wonderful, brilliant gifts that my body gave me by failing to be flaw-free.)
“But you won’t be able to look attractive when naked anymore.” I love when people say this, because thank you for holding up a giant sign that says “I’M BAD AT SEX, DON’T BOTHER” — I’ve got a long list of potential lovers, and I appreciate the administrative help identifying the ones who aren’t worth the effort. The more years of experience I rack up with attraction, sex, and love — all things I was a flailing newb at, at 20 — the more important it becomes to me to have partners who are good at it: And people who think that judging someone’s looks against preconceived models is any part of foreplay are, I can say with confidence, terrible lovers 100% of the time. (People who are *not* my potential partners who judge what they think I look like naked and whether it would be “good enough” for them to fuck are not just bad at sex, they’re gross and inappropriate, and they can rest assured that this body is way more likely to punch them than get in their beds. Perhaps they should be looking at its form and strength more than its scars and skin, because it might help them to know that I throw one hell of a punch — way harder now than when I was 20. And I like punching almost as much as I like sex, so it’s all good by me. ;)
When we say that something is “perfect”, are we calling it immortal, unchangeable? If so, then “perfect” is a simply meaningless word. If not, then no breakage, aging, or failure of any part of my body makes it less perfect. It just makes it a perfect, mortal, changing thing, that yes, will eventually give out entirely. Exactly the same can be said for a perfect flower, a perfect animal, a perfect forest or a perfect star.
And if you ask me today, with a few more inches of belly-fat and a few more scars, to imagine and name off the perfect things in this world, well. This body, that’s driven me all around the planet for all these years, that’s taught me brilliant lessons and brought me amazing pleasure in a thousand ways, is one of the first things that leaps to mind.
I'm reposting this in its entirety from Everything2, mostly because it's an old site and this piece is over 15 years old, and I can't bear it being at risk of vanishing. I looked it up again today because I knew people at the Ghost Ship, none who are confirmed dead so far, but many who are grieving. This piece is not only beautiful in its description of this horror, but as it describes an event of over a century ago, it serves as solid proof that neglect of fire safety is absolutely unconscionable, and I hope the owners of the Ship start with jail time and move on to burning in Hell, frankly.
(From the entry "Fire" on Everything2.com)
Eyewitness at the Triangle
By William G. Shepherd
the Milwaukee Journal, March 27, 1911.
I was walking through Washington Square when a puff of smoke issuing from the factory building caught my eye. I reached the building before the alarm was turned in. I saw every feature of the tragedy visible from outside the building. I learned a new sound–a more horrible sound than description can picture. It was the thud of a speeding, living body on a stone sidewalk.
Thud–dead, thud–dead, thud–dead, thud–dead. Sixty-two thud–deads. I call them that, because the sound and the thought of death came to me each time, at the same instant. There was plenty of chance to watch them as they came down. The height was eighty feet.
The first ten thud–deads shocked me. I looked up–saw that there were scores of girls at the windows. The flames from the floor below were beating in their faces. Somehow I knew that they, too, must come down, and something within me–something that I didn't know was there–steeled me.
I even watched one girl falling. Waving her arms, trying to keep her body upright until the very instant she struck the sidewalk, she was trying to balance herself. Then came the thud–then a silent, unmoving pile of clothing and twisted, broken limbs.
As I reached the scene of the fire, a cloud of smoke hung over the building. . . . I looked up to the seventh floor. There was a living picture in each window–four screaming heads of girls waving their arms.
"Call the firemen," they screamed–scores of them. "Get a ladder," cried others. They were all as alive and whole and sound as were we who stood on the sidewalk. I couldn't help thinking of that. We cried to them not to jump. We heard the siren of a fire engine in the distance. The other sirens sounded from several directions.
"Here they come," we yelled. "Don't jump; stay there."
One girl climbed onto the window sash. Those behind her tried to hold her back. Then she dropped into space. I didn't notice whether those above watched her drop because I had turned away. Then came that first thud. I looked up, another girl was climbing onto the window sill; others were crowding behind her. She dropped. I watched her fall, and again the dreadful sound. Two windows away two girls were climbing onto the sill; they were fighting each other and crowding for air. Behind them I saw many screaming heads. They fell almost together, but I heard two distinct thuds. Then the flames burst out through the windows on the floor below them, and curled up into their faces.
The firemen began to raise a ladder. Others took out a life net and, while they were rushing to the sidewalk with it, two more girls shot down. The firemen held it under them; the bodies broke it; the grotesque simile of a dog jumping through a hoop struck me. Before they could move the net another girl's body flashed through it. The thuds were just as loud, it seemed, as if there had been no net there. It seemed to me that the thuds were so loud that they might have been heard all over the city.
I had counted ten. Then my dulled senses began to work automatically. I noticed things that it had not occurred to me before to notice. Little details that the first shock had blinded me to. I looked up to see whether those above watched those who fell. I noticed that they did; they watched them every inch of the way down and probably heard the roaring thuds that we heard.
As I looked up I saw a love affair in the midst of all the horror. A young man helped a girl to the window sill. Then he held her out, deliberately away from the building and let her drop. He seemed cool and calculating. He held out a second girl the same way and let her drop. Then he held out a third girl who did not resist. I noticed that. They were as unresisting as if her were helping them onto a streetcar instead of into eternity. Undoubtedly he saw that a terrible death awaited them in the flames, and his was only a terrible chivalry.
Then came the love amid the flames. He brought another girl to the window. Those of us who were looking saw her put her arms about him and kisshim. Then he held her out into space and dropped her. But quick as a flash he was on the window sill himself. His coat fluttered upward–the air filled his trouser legs. I could see that he wore tan shoes and hose. His hat remained on his head.
Thud–dead, thud–dead–together they went into eternity. I saw his face before they covered it. You could see in it that he was a real man. He had done his best.
We found out later that, in the room in which he stood, many girls were being burned to death by the flames and were screaming in an inferno of flame and heat. He chose the easiest way and was brave enough to even help the girl he loved to a quicker death, after she had given him a goodbye kiss. He leaped with an energy as if to arrive first in that mysterious land of eternity, but her thud–dead came first.
The firemen raised the longest ladder. It reached only to the sixth floor. I saw the last girl jump at it and miss it. And then the faces disappeared from the window. But now the crowd was enormous, though all this had occurred in less than seven minutes, the start of the fire and the thuds and deaths.
I heard screams around the corner and hurried there. What I had seen before was not so terrible as what had followed. Up in the ninth floor girls were burning to death before our very eyes. They were jammed in the windows. No one was lucky enough to be able to jump, it seemed. But, one by one, the jams broke. Down came the bodies in a shower, burning, smoking–flaming bodies, with disheveled hair trailing upward. They had fought each other to die by jumping instead of by fire.
The whole, sound, unharmed girls who had jumped on the other side of the building had tried to fall feet down. But these fire torches, suffering ones, fell inertly, only intent that death should come to them on the sidewalk instead of in the furnace behind them.
On the sidewalk lay heaps of broken bodies. A policeman later went about with tags, which he fastened with wires to the wrists of the dead girls, numbering each with a lead pencil, and I saw him fasten tag no. 54 to the wrist of a girl who wore an engagement ring. A fireman who came downstairs from the building told me that there were at least fifty bodies in the big room on the seventh floor. Another fireman told me that more girls had jumped down an air shaft in the rear of the building. I went back there, into the narrow court, and saw a heap of dead girls. . . .
The floods of water from the firemen's hose that ran into the gutter were actually stained red with blood. I looked upon the heap of dead bodies and I remembered these girls were the shirtwaist makers. I remembered their great strike of last year in which these same girls had demanded more sanitary conditions and more safety precautions in the shops. These dead bodies were the answer.
OK, look. I love logic. I basically got a degree in it, and I was raised in a pro-intellectual household by a man whose bread and butter (and therefore mine) came from his skill at arguing — and I'm good at it; I won't even pretend to be modest there.
I know a LOT of people who also love logic, but who don't have my training in it — tech people mostly; people who work inside a system where logics, both the mathematical / formal kind and the informal systems and debate kinds, are very valuable. These people are natural allies of logic-when-it-comes-to-human-interaction
We don't tend to kill people, in this part of the world at least, for pushing this pro-logic, hey-let's-try-being-reasonable-instead-o
But what your average pro-reason, pro-logic person I interact with doesn't seem to understand, generally, is that for humans, being logical / reasonable is VOLUNTARY. It's a choice, like eating vegetarian, reading a book a week or napping twice a day. Like all things we can choose to do, the choice to "use logic" to interact or to "be reasonable" in a given situation or about a certain topic are, first and foremost, GOALS that we set for ourselves.
We don't get to flip a switch and say, "OK, I'm logical now! I've decided to be pro-logic so from now on, everything I do is representative of logic and reason!" It's not a jumper on a motherboard, or a radio-button in Edit > Preferences. It's something you devote to, study, try to understand and then struggle to apply to yourself in every case you can. You will not always succeed, because again, that's not how humans work. But a "vegetarian" is not a human who has not had animal product pass their lips in X months; a vegetarian is a human who has decided to live on a non-animal diet, and who makes all of their decisions in an attempt to live by that principle. A logical / reasonable human is the same.
So here's, I think, the important part: You can't decide that ANYBODY ELSE is logical, is a devotee of reason, beyond yourself. Logic is wonderful, and it's necessary in many pursuits, so you can definitely be part of a thing where you (and others) are obligated to act reasonably as part of it (for instance, if you become a doctor, you're agreeing to act according to reason, and can be punished for not doing so) — but simply being human does not put you, or your opponents, under the umbrella of "if logic says you're wrong then I win, wham".
I think this is SO important. (Did I mention it's important? Because it's important.) Because by treating logic as an assumption rather than a deliberate, buy-in system, we lose SO much of its value, for one thing. To be a fan of reason is to hold up mankind's ability to choose to think carefully as a treasure, and to say to yourself and others, "This is so important and so awesome, that I'm gonna do it, going to choose to live by it." That's a gold star that we shouldn't take away from logic by treating it like it's as obvious as needing to breathe or pay the bills — because it isn't. Many, many people, in many cultures — probably most of both, if you were strict about it — are NOT logical, and have no desire to be.
And you can't make them.
But you have to deal with them. Literally, you have to make deals with them — over everything from your work, to your relationships and family, to voting or getting a spot on the subway or walking down the street unharassed — you have to butt heads and argue and state your case and try to get along with (or overcome, depending) all these people who have no real interest in logic (though they probably say they do, because it's popular here and now).
By "real" interest, I mean that they value logical thinking and rational conclusions, including and especially as applied to themselves. Someone who does that, you can have a logical discussion with, and you can use reason to point out flaws in their own position and trust that they will at least attempt to follow your meaning — and if they agree that their position is unreasonable, you know that, because they're a devotee of logic, they will try to change it.
However. That is, I repeat, NOT most people. Not most of your family, your journalists, your friends, or your cops and governors. Most people's interest in logic ends right with "knowing enough about it to sound smart enough to get people to do what I want", period, end of story. Those same people, if this were a few hundred years ago, would be professing to be super-fans and experts in Christianity (or Islam or Hindu or Buddhism, depending on your part of the world), and they'd be happy as pigs in mud to violate every inconvenient principle of any of those things while quoting scripture at the same time. They're still out there, of course, too — the world changes slow — but when you think about how easy the not-really-a-believer, in-it-for-the-power priest is to spot nowadays, realize that he hasn't gone away; only changed his religion. He's a huuuuuge fan of "logic" and "science" now.
But he's not our biggest problem, those of us who love our logic and would, if we were allowed, use that system to govern our whole lives. Our biggest problem is the half-believers, the Undecideds, the people who are probably perfectly happy to "go along with" logic and reason, but who in reality are still WAY more comfortable actually making decisions the easy, the automatic (and therefore "natural"-feeling) way: By turning toward things that give us a pleasant tingle, and turning away from anything that hurts. Because we're animals, and if you take away our self-reflection and intelligence (or just choose to never develop them), then that's what we do: We skate through life like amoebas, turning towards things that smell like food, and running from anything that seems painful.
And the thing I find myself wanting to scream at my fellow pro-logic folks nearly every single is this: YOU CAN'T REASON WITH PEOPLE WHO DON'T. And that includes people who wish they did, or want to say they do, or really like the idea but don't know how…in other words, really, most people.
Look, logic survives and thrives for the same reason all other systems do: Because it works. But it doesn't work if you're standing there taking punches and talking about how this is all very illegal in your rulebook. Logic is like boxing: It's a voluntary game, with rules that have to be agreed on by both / all parties in order to work. And these are scary times, where a great many illogical people are spouting a bunch of terrifying ideas. Appeals to logic are not going to stop them. They might stop other people who really are logical from agreeing with that thing, but for every one mind you reach that way, you lose a hundred others. And you certainly can't protect yourself or anyone else from the dangerous bad ideas going around lately by pointing out that they're not logical. That is 100% analogous to standing in front of the Inqusition and pointing out that what they're doing isn't very Christian. …Do you really think they gave a fuck it wasn't? And do you really think that people pushing to start a Muslim Registry or bring back the fine art of blaming women for rape really give a fuck if their claims aren't logical?
Be safe out there, friends. And yes, be rational! Use rationality and reason to teach each other, to reach across boundaries, to learn awesome new things about yourself and others, and to find new ways to be kind and fair when our amoeba-selves would be otherwise. But when the "conversation" you're in is clearly no-holds-barred emotional; or when the "news" you're reading is clearly flat-out lying; or when giant financially invested forces are playing off of false exhortations to "be reasonable" to tone-police those they're hurting (you saw this with the DAPL protests), remember that you're not boxing unless you're in a ring. If you or those you love are being attacked in an alleyway, be it a physical or an intellectual one, then make sure you're respecting logic by applying it where it makes sense, and using other tools where it doesn't.
OK, enough babble from me — I'm trying to muster the will to shift this website around (ugggh, hehe) while also Xmas shopping and not just hiding under the blankets 24/7 because it's cold out and almost everything I see and hear outside my house makes me want to jump off a cliff. (I'm sure that totally wasn't obvious at all, from any of the above, lol.)
(*which necessitates justice :))
So, regarding sleep and scheduling, I'm sad to report that my Dymaxion adaptation, while it was going well and I was really starting to feel like I'd gotten it, did not survive the recent U.S. election. I'm envious of people who can work right through something like that without floundering, but that tidal wave of angering and worrying news hit me hard, and there's no sleep schedule that could have survived it, even if it wasn't a tricksy one that I was barely used to. *siggggh*
1) I liked a lot about Dymaxion, and it felt perfectly great for 2 days before the crap hit the fan, so I'm hoping to do it again.
2) I will *never* do a "gradual adaptation" again; that was pure awful and zero help.
3) After a week of bouncing everywhere in terms of sleep, food, and just about everything else, I've mostly gotten myself settled back into E3. I'm gonna stay here a while, and like I said, keep an eye out for good-seeming oportunities to try Dymaxion again. This is now an absolutely impossible time to transition anything major, though; the most I'm hoping for is to be able to stay stable and healthy and strengthen my center while the world goes nuts around me. :/
More stuff: I'm planning to smash all my websites together, not sure when, but, if you have thoughts or notice changes and want to talk about them, feel free. Currently I have 4 sites in varying states of okay-ness running on separate WordPress instances; I'd like to turn them into one site with four "wings" that I can update from one interface. Stay tuned for THAT mess while I figure it out, lol.
I'm working this week to get my hour-a-day-minimum exercise regimen back on track, since it'd been deteriorating / getting sloppy for a while now, and yeah the last 2 weeks destroyed that too. It'll be hard to motivate to go swimming regularly, with the weather being cold and time feeling crunchy and high anxiety always looming, but I'm up for the challenge! This will be a swimming-ful winter!
Talk to you all more soon; I keep having ideas by the bucketful, and being too psychologically exhausted to share them. This, too, I'm hoping, will soon change.
Here's to change: As it is inevitable, may it at least sometimes be kind.
…in honor of the screaming Anarchists, in no particular order, things that have been occuring to me the last couple days like the angry ceaseless waves of a storm sea…
1. We wanted people to vote for "anything but [X]", and they did, but they decided that the worst thing, the thing that needed to be voted against no matter what, was the establishment; the continuation-of-things-as-they've-been. SOME of that, definitely an election-swaying amount, is in response to the ongoing failures of all the recent US administrations, including out-of-control war-profitteering, pathetic response to climate change, and outrageous levels of inequality and corporate control of government. Some Americans believe that ousting the government that's currently killing our middle class is more important than all the many downsides of electing fucking Trump. I may not agree with those people, but I am also not going to dismiss them; they're Americans, they voted, and when I do the same, I expect people to respect my right to do so based on my real opinions. I can vehemently not share the opinions of my fellow citizens — to me, protecting the basic rights of vulnerable populations is more important than making sweeping changes to our government; even though I completely agree those are needed, I wouldn't sacrifice individual freedoms for them — but I can't just declare *everyone* who made this decision to be an idiot and slam the door.
If anything, it's pretty imperative that the door not be slammed, especially now. We are going to need each other, to get through what's coming. The near future is going te be a true "united we stand, divided we fall" time, and people on ALL sides are going to have to swallow a lot of rage and fear and reach out their hands to people they don't like, if we want to survive as anything like an America.
2. It's tempting to look for all the racist, sexist, xenophobic and other horrible acts going on right now and to immediately blame them on fucking Trump and those who voted for him (or didn't vote against him), but that would be disingenuous: All of those problems have always been here, and they've always been terrible. If that stew of shit is boiling slightly harder now, since the election turned up the heat on it, it's still stupid to blame that extra three degrees for everything: The pot was on, loaded, and boiling hard long before this. Bigotry, hate-crimes, and discrimination are long-term problems that we ALL own, and every one of us, regardless of politics, is responsible for standing up to them as hard as we possibly can, now. We must do this to save ourselves. Blaming each other for the state of things is worse than useless at this point — we have to find things to agree on, and fight for them together.
3. This kind of stress and anxiety is HELL on the brain. I'm proud and happy to report that mine is stll functioning, still making it to work and taking showers and feeding the robot; but holy shit has it not been an easy run. My heart goes out to everyone who struggles with mental illness at a time like this…having the outside world upend itself on you like this, having things legitimately go dark and scary, is rrrrrrrrroooouggggh. Whew.
4. Being a parent puts a whole thick layer of fear and anger on shit like this, that I hadn't expected and wouldn't have understood before, but holy gods, I cried as the news sank in enough to start thinking about my daughter's place in all this. At thirteen, she's old enough to be paying attention, and knowing she was hearing any of the vile talk this election season was hard enough; but now? Now she's going to spend her formative sociaopolitical years hearing that shit from every loudspeaker, seeing all the ugly hate and ego-driven uncritical thinking and unmitigated greed and assholery that times like these always spawn? Oh god. I still don't know what to say to her. I know I have to think of something (and probably I will) supportive and useful, but all I *want* to do is fall down and tear my hair and apologize for the world she's inheriting until I lose consciousness.
5. I've slept a little extra (~2.5h Wed and Thurs), because the anxiety's just been burning me out, and there's nothing I can do about that; I know when, for health reasons both mental and physical, I MUST take some extra time out. I'm hopeful that I can get back on Dymaxion without paying too harsh a price, but if not, I will take an E3 break and plan to do it again later. I like this schedule, overall, and want to give it a longer-term chance, whether that's now or at a more auspicious time.
6. Speaking of auspicious times…this isn't one, of course; these are very grim times in many ways; and there are proper ways to handle both. In grim times, especially when the problems are huge and unreachable, un-affectable by one directly, the correct action is not to run around crazily trying to push the cruise-liner with your bare hands. That's totally my inclination: To look for ANYTHING I CAN DO, because I know that at least DOING SOMETHING will salve this high-pitched hum of inner panic that I'm desperate to not feel right now. But the *correct* thing to do is to *wait properly* for an auspicious time, a time when one can act, to return. Waiting properly means self-care, and also taking time to re-assess, to make or adjust future plans, and to set up emergecy measures that may be needed to take care of self or loved-ones should the excrement really contact the rotating blades. That's where I am now: Beyond continuing my stated commitment to stand up and yell about bigotry and discrimination when I encounter them, for now I'm staying away from throwing wads of my time and money at activism. I've always been a supporter of such things, and I will continue to be, and maybe a lot more in the future: But now, right now when things are so up in the air and so many immediate dangers have just reared their ugly heads, I need to fortify my everything. …As I write this, I haven't made it out of the woods of shock enough to really begin this work, but I've made a faint wiggle here and there, and that's my path going forward.
7. HEY YOU. INTERNET. THANK YOU for being there for me the last couple days. Being able to read and study the words and thoughts of excellent thinkers all over the world has been super helpful, though not half as much as being able to contact, converse with and comfort my friends and family, just by flicking my fingers. You aren't perfect either, but holy shit am I grateful for you right now.
I owe a thousand writeups on a hundred things to at least sixty people, and being that I've been awake for 22h of the last six days, I have zero excuse for not providing them…other than that I've just really been enjoying spending the time by myself. I'm reading books, making chainmail again, watching movies I meant to get to, organizing all my stuff, and oh yeah, doing a whole bunch of stretching and taiji practice, just for my own edification, that I'd normally never have time for (even on Everyman :)).
So yes, the Dymaxion schedule seems, at least so far, to be an awesome find! A couple notes on that adaptation, though they won't mean I don't owe more details later, I know:
* The "Gradual" adaptation method can kiss every butt in New England, if I have my say: That noise was AWFUL, and I'm sure if we hadn't finally abandoned it and switched ("sudden"ly) to the schedule we wanted to end up on, this all would have failed. So many people have told me about their gradual adaptation attempts, and I never had any personal experience to offer, and now I feel terrible about that and wonder how many failures could have been prevented if I'd tried this earlier and known to say GOD NO, GET ON YOUR SCHEDULE, because long dragged-out sleep dep where you're desynchronized from your regular schedule *but* not actually learning the new one is, if I may be dramatic for a moment, unspeakably awful. For 17 days, I just grew more and more tired; on day 18 I decided to give the gradual the middle finger and just get on Dymaxion, and by day 19 I was already starting to feel better. The last two days have been almost easy; I'm sleeping well and waking refreshed, and barely feeling any tiredness in-between…but NONE of those positives started until I got on the schedule.
* The Schedule, Dymaxion, I was awfully dubious about too; but unlike the gradual adaptation (which, when it works for people, I'm sure it does by accident \ because they manage to get on the full schedule before the gradual part wears them out too completely to adjust), it seems to have a whole lot of merit. It took two days (of actually being on the schedule!) for me to start napping the whole 30m, but once I did, magic. I'm absolutely reminded of Uberman, in terms of what the naps and the rest of it feels like, but it's no lie that only needing to sleep 4 times a day instead of 6 is WAY easier on the ol' "real life". I don't want to make any final-sounding declarations with less than a week of actual adherence under my belt, but suffice it to say that now that I'm doing it, I think I really like this schedule. <3
When it comes to "getting stuff done", well, overall the extra hours in the day have been pretty well balanced by being too sleep-deprived to do shit — for that last week of gradual especially, I was all kinds of useless. Now, though, I'm starting to catch up and then some, and many things I'd missed being able to do even on Everyman are starting to become regularly possible, like practicing music and making art…it's pretty great. And even on the other side of nearly a month of super difficult challenges, I can still easily say that yes, feeling rested and like you have enough time is *totally* worth the effort of finding and adjusting to a sleep schedule that works for you. …It's nice to know that after all these years of messing with it, that bit is still true. :)
Other minor notes:
– Per usual, I didn't give up coffee (which affects me very little), but also per usual for a strict schedule, it affects me more than normal, and I've cut back slightly from my usual 3-4 cups a day to two, max.
– I also still enjoy a drink sometimes, but I have a limit of ~one beer a day (I try to not drink more than that anyway, but I'm more strict about it on this schedule). I don't notice any ill effects from that daily beer (thank goodness :D), but a week ago I had two and *ugh*, that I felt.
– My exercise load has been medium-light (*for me*, my range being on the high end of normal amounts), but I've not only had no trouble with it, I've used the extra time to add some more stretching and conditioning to my usual martial arts stuff, and that's gone fine. Next week I plan to add back my thrice-weekly swims, too.
– Since yesterday, my sleep dep has been at 10% or less. It's not completely gone yet, and I'll report back on how long that takes, but I feel as good or better than on monophasic, and almost as good as I did on Everyman 3, already, which is pretty awesome, yeah? :D
More soon! Nap lovely <3
I'm not calling this a "Dymaxion update", because I'm still not on Dymaxion…after 2 weeks, I'm getting close, but progress in adapting has been slow.
The long slog of low-level sleep-dep has exactly the effect I was worried it would: By the time you start reducing cores to really get down to your desired schedule, you've been fuzzy-headed for over a week already, and your willpower is a bit blinkered, as is your ability to think clearly and be creative when you need to be. It's the same problem you get with adaptations that don't work at first, and get continued and continued: One runs out of all the necessary energies, slogging through sleep-dep that long; even if it's not *bad* sleep-dep (and for the first couple days after the first big change, it is…it just gets about 50% easier after that, but sticks around).
For me personally, I'm also not doing well with the 30m naps. I think I've only gotten the entire 30m a few times; mostly I reliably sleep my 20m, and then am tired again and wanting a nap in about 4-4.5h, leaving me overtired by the time I do sleep (but apparenlty not enough to sleep 30m — maybe I need to set my alarm later, since the overtiredness DOES make me take longer to fall asleep than normal?) My adaptation-buddy is having better luck with this, though, so it might just be how used to 20m naps I am.
Still! I'm determined to keep trying, and hopeful that if I get a few more perfect days in with my 90m core and 30m naps, I'll feel better enough to adjust the core downward again. Or I could leave it where it is, and see if I can adjust to it fully enough to burn off most or all of the sleep-dep, so I have more energy to move forward? …Obviously I'm not 100% sure, but fortuntely I have an excellent buddy and a great group of people in the Slack chat to help me ponder and decide.
Wish us (long, slow) luck!
(Brought to you courtesy of Day 6 of the Dymaxion adaptation… :))
OK folks, time to open up: What are you reading right now? Should I read any of them??
Because this is my currently-reading list, so clearly I need more:
1. "Time Travel", James Gleick — one of the first books I have ever pre-ordered, and totally worth it, omG. A history of the *idea* of time-travel, told by my favorite science biographer. Just got it, so a couple chapters in, but already <3 <3 <3 soooooo good!
2. "Peace", Gene Wolfe — holy shit. Neil Gaiman called this one of the small handful of books he would save in a fire in the last library on earth, and though I'm not very far in, I already think I see why. This is like some crazy elvish elixir you drink with your eyes. I may never be the same again after reading it, and I'm 100% OK with that.
3. "Both Flesh and Not", David Foster Wallace — I've always liked DFW's short works and essays more than the novels, and while some of this is still a bit tedious, it's fun to pull out, admire briefly and put away, like an antique muscle-car. I'm close to done with it, and will probably pass it on when I am; I like it, but not enough to keep the hardcover around. (I am *trying* to get better about not actually living in a fort made of books.)
4. "Computable Bodies," Josh Berson — my friend Josh's PhD work in kinesthetic awareness and the cultural evolution of things like proprioception, balance, sleep, and social cues is utterly fascinating, but it's thiiiiick stuff, and I have to review it someday probably, so taking this one slow. Recommended, though; Josh is a great writer and manages to walk the line between interesting and academically thorough *very* well.
5. Iain M. Banks, "Matter" — Eh, the Culture books are always good for a fun brainswim now and again, though this isn't my favorite type of story, and if I'm going to read it I usually just crack open Foundation again, because holy shit <3 Foundation. Trying to make it through more of the classic SF people here and there though, so this one's kicking around half-done and gets some lukewarm love.
6. "The Inner Game of Tennis," can't remember dude's name, WOW this book is amazing; I'm re-reading each chapter twice as I go, and highlighting it like crazy; it's almost over but I don't want it to be. Simplistic in ways, but overall the best education I've ever gotten from a book on physical learning. If you do ANY kind of training, you really, *really* want to read this — or at least tell your teachers to!
7. "Evidence of Satan in the Modern World," Leon Cristiani. A little early-80's paperback by a priest with hilarious beliefs but also damn good research skills; this is a fun romp through a HUGE number of known cases of possession (one of my fav topics, I know, sue me), including some great gems in the form of direct quotes/translations from, like, French priests (cures, accent over the e, if you're cur-e-ious :P) from the 1800's about shit they supposedly saw and dealt with…If you like shit like amityville and tend to read too much, well, you probably have books like this too. We won't discuss how many I've read. :) I could have read this book in a day or two, but I parse it out a few pages at a time, both because of the :groan: religion and because stuff like this is hard to find, so I'm making it last. :D
…And per my rules, I'm not allowed to deep-dive into more books than about that; my habit WILL just spiral out of control and next thing I know I'll be "in the middle of" twenty books and there are stacks of things falling over whenever I try to move, and also oh yeah what day is it. Fortunately some of these are almost done, so I can get some new ones in play. I have copies of "The Long Earth" by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter, and "John Dies at the End" which I've heard is awesome in book form, and a Brian Sanderson novel because I ain't tapped that yet, and yet another cool book on space-and-time theory called "From Here to Eternity", all in the pipeline and waiting to go…and that's before I get the predictable sudden hankering to re-read HoL or something. *sigh* I'm just sayin', if there's an afterlife, there had BETTER be libraries in it.
(That title can be read two ways, both of which are correct!)
Coming into day five, and the last 24h have been predictably hard — days 3-4 of any sleep-schedule adjustment are hell pretty much no matter who you ask — but I feel good, overall.
The other day I was working at a shop, a little nervous in the back of my mind because I knew I was sleep-deprived, and there I am holding an angle grinder. Then the guy next to me holding an angle grinder groans and tells me that last night was his third one this week getting only four hours of sleep. He's monophasic, so he's had his sleep cut by half for three days, while all I've done is shorten my usual core by 1/3 and kept all three of my regular naps.
This is the world, at least the modern one: Most people, I find, are sleep-deprived for at least a few days each week.
I'm not someone who's always run away from sleep-deprivation, since trying to avoid it by getting 1/3 of a day of sleep every 24h never worked well for me. I have, in experimenting and looking for solutions to how I, personally, can feel rested, sometimes run towards sleep-dep, gritting my teeth and girding all my willpower and giving my brain the ol "Bring it on!" in various attempts to overcome my sleep issues. Many people have not done that. Many people "know" (actually or imaginarily) that they would feel rested if they just slept 8 hours every night, so they keep aiming for that. Which would be fine and wonderful, if they were getting it. But many, way too many, keep missing sleep, often chronically; and they may feel sleep-deprived or not, but on a daily basis…most of them are.
Also, every once in a while someone tries to convince me they're not sleep-dep'd when they clearly are. And this tickles the crap out of me, of course, because naw, I can see that shit clear as day now. I can hear it in their voices.
Not all of my experiments worked, I should remind everyone. Some of them, like, "maybe if I stay awake as long as I physically can, I'll reset my biologial rhythms and be able to sleep monophasically!", were huuuuuge disasters. I should also add that none of those experiments have ever hospitalized me, or caused me any illness or unhealth that I'm aware of, even after ten years of, shall we say, "alternative" sleeping. (I have, actually, nearly wound up in the hospital for sleep-dep related symptoms twice… but that was when I was a new mother, and monophasic.)
My willingness to put myself through sometimes severe sleep deprivation has given me a bit of a reputation for somehow liking it or defending it as a practice (sort of like Indian ascetics defended hunger?) — but I don't think that's accurate at all. I hate being sleep deprived. It SUCKS. It was my hatred of it and the fact that I felt it all the time, from insomnia and poor sleep, that started all this. And if anything, all my years of switching schedules and experimenting and gritting my teeth to stay awake have only deepened my apprecation for how much sleep-dep sucks.
But let me say this again: Almost everybody I know is sleep-deprived. This society, with its glut of we-didn't-have-time-to-think-this-throug
Ask the dude next to me, yawning with the angle-grinder. He isn't on Day 3 of an adaptation, like I was then. I'm on Day 5 now, starting to feel better already, and, if it turns out this schedule is compatible with me and works, I expect to feel almost 100% rested again in another 5 days. If the schedule needs modifications or I have to abandon it for another one, maybe I'll be sleepyish for a bit longer; but either way, I already know how to sleep well and be rested, thanks to the other work I did. He, though we're almost the same age, doesn't. Nor do most people.
I get asked a lot, what do I think I'm actually promoting with all this stuff? Some people look at what I do and assume, because I'm voluntarily wrangling heavy sleep-dep at times, and helping other people do so, that I must be promoting sleep-deprivation. They could not be more wrong: I'm desperate to find a way out of sleep-deprivation; to share what I've learned and to learn more about how to find a good balance between rest and energy, for maximal vitality. I'm a fan and promoter of polyphasic sleep, "sleep hacking" and individual (and scientific!) experimentation, because I want others to be able to find a schedule that they can be rested on, like I have. That these alternative schedules — polyphasic, biphasic, completely custom, whatever — often have other benefits, in the form of saving time or fitting better with people's schedules and goals, is completely incidental as far as I'm concerned. Those things are nice, as are some of the other side-benefits, but I'd give them all up just to feel rested.
And I get asked this a lot too, so let me put it to bed: I'm not a promoter of any particular schedule. I'm not trying to sell anybody on Uberman, on my methods and tricks for adapting to it, on any of that. Sleep is arguably one of the most individual things in the world, and I am arguably one of the worst salesmen in the world. This is entirely about good information, which I'm passionate about, and my having some actually-useful experience to share and advice to offer, which I try to do as often as I can, regardless of whether it benefits me direclty to do so. Some of "why" I do it is the accident of my having a major experience (adapting to Uberman) to write about at a time when the Internet was bereft of such things; and some of it, I'm sure, is just because I'm a loudmouth. But hey, the world needs some loudmouths, right?
So no: I'm doing this stuff because I hate sleep-dep that much. Because I think that the scientific evidence that sleep dep in the long term is bad for you is not only correct, but probably omitting a lot: I bet it's even worse than we think to be sleep-deprived, and personally I shudder every time I meet another tech-worker or shift-worker or student or parent who's struggling by on three cylinders, feeling like shit and unable to give their best to the people and things that they love.
Right now, I don't actually feel sleep-deprived. It's 5:41 am as I type this sentence, and I'm wide awake; no yawns, no urge to slow down or lay down — hell, I'm sitting in bed, which people who've done this know one does not do when trying to make sure you stick to your schedule no matter what you feel like — but I'm not at all worried about succumbing to sleep, even though I've had less than four total hours a day for almost a week now. The naps work, the timing works, polyphasic schedules work if you do them correctly, and I should continue to feel better every day now. And once I'm habituated to this schedule, I will feel less sleep-deprived, fight less inertia getting out of bed and daytime yawns and all of that, than I EVER did while monophasic. My energy will be incredible. –Maybe it'll just be normal, the normal energy of a rested, gratefully healthy adult human; but if so, that's a normal I never felt in my life until I discovered polyphasic sleep as a lifestyle.
But don't get me wrong: Even though I don't feel it much right now, I *am* sleep-deprived. Sleep-dep is like that: At smaller doses, its effects are pretty much invisible, unless you're testing for them, or doing things at the edges of your ability, where you can see small losses in performance. I'm good enough right this second to do push-ups, play an instrument, read a book, drive a car, or type a blog-post; but I'm not anywhere near at my best, and I can tell because I'm paying attention at the moment.
Now, take all the yawning angle-grinders and bleary nurses and figure that they're only the people whose sleep-dep has built up to a certain level — I'll call it 50%, just because in my personal, internal scale for such things, the part where you feel a little bleary and start to yawn is about half as bad as sleep-dep can get before almost anyone will succumb to it. Think about how many people hit 50% sleep-dep on an average day. Now think about how many probably are at 10,20, or 30%, maybe every single day, and don't know it, because they're either not paying attention to it (accidentally or on purpose), or they, like me, have simply felt that way for so long that it seems normal.
NORMAL, I'm sorry to inform y'all, DOES NOT = RESTED. At least in the middle-class USA, "normal" means "some degree of sleep-deprived, pretty much all the time".
Got a friend who's always energetic, upbeat and full of vim? Who wakes up rarin' to go, and falls into a blissful slumber in seconds? If so, I bet you a hundred dollars that people talk about how notable and weird that is. That you have one friend who seems to never be sleep-deprived.
Sleep dep is normal. Fortunately, a thing's normalcy has never stopped me from flipping it off. Because sleep dep sucks, whether you feel it or not. It makes you slow both physically and mentally, it shoves your mood down and holds it there, it's making you short-tempered and costing you opportunities and successes and increasing your chances of having a nasty accident. And it's doing all those things to your loved ones, too.
If you had to feel hungry for a week in order to get used to a healthy diet that was going to stop you being low-level sick all the time, wouldn't you do it? If your doctor knew about the diet and knew that adjusting to it would be uncomfortable until you formed good habits, wouldn't they tell you to do it anyway? …Would doing it mean that you were a fan of hunger, or that you hated eating?
Right, so, that's where I'm at. I'm enjoying having more time to write, blog posts and other things too, but I'm going to call it there (kind of abruptly, I know; sorry) and read a few more pages of this really incredible book I got, before it's time for work. Have a great (alert, energetic, well-rested — or if you're adapting, like me, sleep-deprived but determined not to be asap) day, everyone!
It's Testing Time Again: Gradual Adaptation & Dymaxion
I've been quite happily sleeping on the Everyman sleep schedule for years, but it's time for a switch. After much delibration, I've decided to test out one of the major schedules I've never tried — the one commonly called Dymaxion, after the excellent scientist Dr. Buckminster Fuller. I'm also attempting to transition to this schedule gradually, as opposed to all at once ("suddenly"), which has been my usual way of doing things.
One reason for both of these experiments is that I simply haven't done them before, and both this schedule and this method have become pretty popular over the years, so I'd like to be able to offer a more informed view of them than reiterating things other people have told me.
The other reason is that they happen to fit well with how things are at the moment, minus a few predictable and not-overwhelming challenges; and after the recent changes to my career settled in, I was left with my usual E3/E4.5 schedule being less than ideal. (That may also not have been work-related: Perhaps something else changed.) For me personally, "What haven't I tried yet?" is a valid consideration when choosing sleep-schedules, lol.
*Dymaxion* is usually described (and I'll be trying it) as four 30m naps per day — so, the same 2h total as Uberman, but in two fewer naps. Of course, one additional challenge for me is that I've learned to nap quite handily in 20m chunks; can I get 30m regularly enough to make up for having no 3h core at night?
Wellllll…we're about to find out!
The other big question is about the method of moving slowly, rather than quickly, into a new sleep schedule. I wrote a chapter on Gradual Adaptation in the Ubersleep book, and in the first edition I was pretty against it; by the Second Edition, I had spoken to more than a few people who claimed that the gradual adaptation method made their transitions to Uberman and Everyman easier and less gross in terms of severity of sleep-deprivation felt (though I never was able to definitively tell if their sleep-dep lasted longer). Since then, I've developed two more detailed thoughts on gradual adaptation:
1. It seems to be a really popular thing for people to try and sell about polyphasic sleep, which makes me very wary. Basically (and this I have experienced already), figuring out a sane "gradual adaptation schedule", which bridges the gap between your current schedule and your target one in a not-crazy amount of time (since you want to get on your new schedule asap) and is still possible around something resembling real life is _complicated_. So there are apps and people out there who would love to take your money to help you do it, all of which I've read up on and all of which trip my BS alarms pretty hard. Maybe the complexity is just a necessary evil, but then again, maybe it's more than just convenient for the people looking to get rich on bullshit.
(Life rule: There are _always_ people looking to get rich on bullshit, and you can often spot bullshit by looking for those people, the same way you can spot a watering-hole by looking for a bunch of drinking animals. If you're not great at the subtleties of this, just watch religious preachers to see it in it's pure form…they're like the giraffes of the bullshit watering-hole: really visible and pretty ridiculous if you stare too long.)
2. Plenty of people seem to succeed with gradual adaptations, though I have no way of knowing how the success rate compares to sudden adaptations (i.e to getting right on your chosen schedule and staying there), other than my gut feeling that they seem to be about the same.
Those two thoughts have made me eager to try it myself for some time.
So, here's where I'm at!
– I did a perfect E3 schedule for 2 days (E3 is my normal schedule a couple days a week, with Everyman 4.5 filling in the other days, when I usually miss a nap), then dropped my core from 3h to 90m.
– This gives me my Dymaxion schedule, but with one nap being 90m instead of 30. (Naps are at 7am, 1pm, 7pm, and 1am; 30m each. So yes, I'm banking that I can learn to nap for 30m, when I've been taking 20m naps for a freaking decade. Neuroplasticity ho! :D) The plan is that I'll walk that nap down from there, giving it 2-3 days in-between changes. My hope / the idea is that this will be gentler on my system than just losing my core all at once, but that it's close enough to the final schedule right away (none of the other 3 naps will change at all) that I can still be adjusting to it even while making that one change.
– I have an adaptation buddy (testing the same schedule & method as me, but starting from monophasic — and also an experienced polyphasic sleeper). It's mad helpful! We maintain a shared spreadsheet where we log all our naps, plan check-ins with each other, and keep our BFLs (Big Fat Lists of things to do).
– I'm on Day 3 right now, it's ten to five in the morning and I've been awake since 2:30am; I have a nap coming up at seven. I feel pretty good at the moment — look, I'm being productive and finally writing a post on this! — though last night was brutal…I had a super long and unexpectedly physically draining day at work, and couldn't sleep for either my morning or evening naps due to tension and whatnot. (I did lay down for them though! No skipping naps or oversleeping during adaptation!!) So last night I was really tired, but with help I made it through, and got up on time, and things are easier this morning. So it goes.
– And yes, I'm insanely busy this month — sorry for the lack of updates, generally! There've been a million things I've wanted to post, and to write elsewhere, and all kinds of stuff; but I took on an extra job (brining my total to four, LOL) for holiday money that turned out to be a bigger investment in time and energy than I realized it would be; and things were already kind of full up. That job lasts two more weeks, but obviously if this works out (it and my other jobs are ALL nap-friendly, now! \o/) then I'll have some additional time on my hands to start chipping at this MONSTER to-do list. Mother of god. :P
– CONSTANT UPDATES AND INFO about how this adaptation is going are available on our Slack, if you want to follow along or ask questions!
More updates, and more stuff in general, coming soon! Hope you are all well, and if I owe you an email, my bad; thanks for your patience with me! <3