Diary, 9/30 to 10/6/19

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

The Willpower Instinct:  highly recommended

{9/30/19}  Weight 224.x.  It’s a flabalanche.

68° inside this morning, 45° outside.  Montana gets four feet of snow in a blizzard.  Summer ended a week ago.

Watched an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus on DVD last night.  It was funny.  I found three DVDs at Bookhounds for a buck each.  I guess enough decades have elapsed since I found them so excessively familiar as to be totally boring.

My recent episodes of binge eating and my reading of The Willpower Instinct suggest that I’m having willpower (“wp”) troubles.  The thing is, I’ve been very good about some wp challenges, such as controlling my food shopping (except recently!) regarding sugar and sodium, and not overspending on books—always at best a partial success, and often a partial failure.  So, I really need to work on the wp problem, and I think the easy solution, or better, the first easy test, is exercise.  That, and continue focusing on cutting down sugar in my diet:  no more binges (which always involve sugar), no more chocolate cream pie at Lorene’s, and keep my food shopping under control.

I wonder about wp challenges that I consistently ignore, like my studying/practicing German.  Does this make other wp challenges harder?  I don’t have an answer.

So, exercise:  McGonigal says that five minutes a day, especially if done in nature, is very good.  I don’t have nature available—I live in a sea of concrete and dirt.  To get to nature, I have to ride the bus, and there goes your “five minute exercise.”  On the other hand, I have those dumbbells, which have been sitting in my living room, untouched, for many months.  Today I did my simple dumbbell exercise, which takes two minutes.  I bet that two minutes of real exercise is pretty useful.  Anyway, I can commit to doing that whenever I’m feeling depressed, or feeling a wp challenge, such as wanting to snack.

Wanting to snack shouldn’t be too difficult:  a simple deflection might get me past it, a deflection such as getting up and looking at my bookshelves for something to read, or getting up and putting on a CD, or getting up and lifting the dumbbells, or just getting up and walking around—not to the kitchen!

Just recognizing things as wp challenges will probably help with a few, I mean, helping me to avoid the bad behavior (which is the same as doing the good behavior).

{10/1/19}  Weight 223.4.

An up-and-down night, that is, my sleep was interrupted four times or more, by my bladder’s needs.  Now, at 6:30, I’m up.

Watched Norwegian Forest last night, a Japanese movie based on a novel by Haruki Murakami.  It had a lot of good things, charming moments, generally good music and lovely cinemaphotography, and a lot of bad things, mostly in a rush at the end.  Overall it’s a downer and I can’t recommend it.  The title remains baffling.

{10/3/19}  Weight 223.6.

Lost my phone yesterday, which is pretty annoying.  I left it at a bus stop or on the bus.  I’ll go to the bus lost-and-found today, and if they don’t have it, I’ll call my phone and see what happens.  I plan to offer $60 for its return, which is more than it’s worth, but less than it would cost to replace it.

Watched The Edukators last night, a good movie from Germany.  The politics suited me very well, and the plot took some too-predictable as well as surprising and satisfying turns.  The actors were excellent.

However, I am burning my days watching DVDs and TV (mostly news) while I neglect my “important” goals.  So far, the willpower book has had no visible effect, though one hopes.

{10/4/19}  Weight 223.6.

Yesterday was pretty horrible.  I left the house at eight to go to the writing group, then to the bus office to see if my phone had been turned in.  It hadn’t.  So I returned to downtown to use the pay phone at the bus terminal.  I called my phone number but was informed that the number was not available—so I assume it was either shut off, or in use on a call.  So I went to Lorene’s and had a piece of pie, then back to the phone, but with the same result.  So, over to Rite Aid to buy a phone—a “Jitterbug”—which they had for $100, or $75 “with a card.”  I had not anticipated this, so my card was at home.  <sigh>  Down to Dagny’s to use their Wi-fi, and found J there.  He tried calling my phone, got the same message.  The Greatcall web site seemed uninformative.  J offered several times to let me have one of his phones (he had two with him), and it proved difficult to make him hear me that that wasn’t what I wanted, a smart phone would cost me $32 a month (as well as requiring coordination with my probation officer, who was currently unavailable, which I didn’t bother explaining), and so on.  So I left Dagny’s, having told J that I’d be back, thinking I’d go buy a phone.  Out on the street I realized that I still didn’t have “the card,” but I didn’t want to go back into Dagny’s, so I went home, got the card and my last bill (from 2017) from Greatcall, then, laboriously, back to Rite Aid to get the phone.  They didn’t have one.  “What!” I said, followed by whining that they’d had one that morning, etc.  Turns out it was under the counter, so whining apparently does have its uses.  Bought the phone and a little bag of cashews.  Back to Dagny’s, thinking I’d use the Wi-fi again, two hours or more after I’d left.  J was still there.  He let me use his phone to call Greatcall, and that went very easily, as well as one could hope.  It was now 4:00, time for me to leave for my group meeting at 5:30.  Had dinner at the taco truck across the street from the meeting, then at 7:00 I was on my way home.  I had intended to catch a taxi because I dislike being out after dark, but since it wasn’t dark and the timing for the bus was convenient, and despite my fatigue, I decided to take that route, thus riding my eleventh and twelfth buses for the day.

Somewhere in there a bus didn’t arrive as scheduled, causing me to wait an extra half hour at the bus stop.  As I said, a pretty horrible day.  What I didn’t fully convey above was my indecision and confusion about getting the phone, getting it activated, where to get it, and so on.  I’m amazed that during all that nonsense, I did not forget my group meeting, and did not forget to ask Pastafazool for the bus pass (the Feds give me monthly bus passes because of my poverty, but actually getting the pass each month always requires multiple asks).

{10/5/19}  Weight 222.2.  Diarrhea diet.

That is, I bought a chocolate shake at Wienerschnitzel because I missed my bus (I’d been shopping at Food Maxx).  It was too thick to drink, so I brought it home and drank it with my dinner, rotisserie chicken.  So, around midnight I had diarrhea.  Could have been the chicken, I suppose—I’ve had several chocolate shakes lately, from Wienerschnitzel and from The Habit, with no ill results.

Since getting rid of most of my cookies and other sugary treats at home, I’ve found myself getting these shakes and chocolate cream pie at Lorene’s.  Well, at Food Maxx I bought prunes, raisins, grapes, and nuts, i.e., healthy snacks, hoping to cut down the impulse buys.

Reading Kelly McGonigal:  The Willpower Instinct:  How Self-Control Works, Why it Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It has prompted me to make changes in my life, starting with my diet, and thinking now about how I spend my time.  Too much worthless TV, very little reading yesterday, and I was home all day except for the food shopping.  Not much writing, either.  In the evening I tried reading McGonigal but kept dozing off, so I read a bit of Melville’s Clarel and managed to stay awake for half an hour despite its dullness.  I went to bed a bit early and read maybe ten pages of Bertrand Russell:  The Problems of Philosophy, which I’ve read several times before because it’s easy and pleasant and short.  Again I was nodding off, so I turned off the light.  This sleepiness is annoying because I had a nap in bed yesterday morning, possibly an hour, which I try to avoid because my nighttimes have been a bit erratic and the only way I can get to sleep through, it seems, is to wear myself out during the day with walking, shopping, and so on, and avoiding naps.  In addition, I also avoid eating or drinking after 5:30 to avoid multiple gettings up to pee.  My success rate with this has been modest to nonexistent.

Much of McGonigal’s book urges reflection on goals, short-term versus long-term.  When I channel surf or otherwise kill time with TV, I am neglecting superior alternatives.  Now, I don’t want to read or write all the time, but I have a number of projects on hold that should be pursued sometimes:  learning German, hanging pictures, sketching or painting, and winnowing my books, not to mention housework.  Pursuing these would also help with “my depression,” which comes and goes and never gets serious—in other words, my usual moods.  Decades ago I heard Ray Bradbury say on the radio, “Get busy and it will stop those moods you’re having”—which may not be completely accurate—and I think of it often.  In any case, I don’t hope to change my sedentary nature “at this late date,” though it might be wise to make gestures, at least, in that direction.  And perhaps even wiser to give it a try, i.e., learn to refuse to sit still.  Um…ain’t gonna happen.

But what should happen?  I mean, aside from breakfast, which I feel urged to do.

McGonigal’s book, which I just finished reading this evening, seems to me the best book I’ve ever read towards increasing my maturity and getting my goals accomplished.  I’m 72, but there’s still time to do some things that I very much want to do, notably, “making the world a better place through my writing.”  And let’s not fail to mention, finding someone to share my life with.  In other words, this is a Very Important Book for Everyone to Read.

Now, bubbling in my mind is the idea of yet another Meetup group:  this one based on the book, possibly named “The Willpower Tribe.”  The idea of a “tribe” being important toward supporting one emotionally, encapsulates my idea for the Meetup group:  we will form a tribe for the purpose of supporting and encouraging members of the group, as is commonplace in self-help groups of all kinds.  I’ll start on this tomorrow and see what happens.  This is exciting.

What are my “willpower challenges”?  Writing; curing myself of “my neurosis”; getting that “someone” into my life; losing weight!  Cutting down on time spent on channel surfing and “junk TV.”  Exercise.  Saving money.  For starters.

Or, as the first fruit of this reading, I wrote the following:

Better than Junk TV

Writing:  diary, Kick Me, blog

Typing:  quotes, Prison Diary


Housework, dishes, decorating

Read poetry, anything


The idea is to print this out and tape it to the TV screen each night, so it will remind me not to thoughtlessly reach for the remotes the first thing in the morning.  I may still turn on the TV, depending on what else I expect to happen in the morning—for instance, tomorrow I have the Hemlock Club to get me out of the house at nine in the morning, so I likely won’t have a lot of time for other activities.

I find it impossible to believe that this simple trick won’t influence my daily activities for the better, “the better” meaning, more work on these projects, less time pissed away channel surfing.  Weekday morning shows are generally things I don’t want to watch anyway, such as Stephanie Miller and non-prime MSNBC news.  I do want to watch Democracy Now, but that’s not on tomorrow.  What is on tomorrow is AM Joy, which I can easily skip—though I might try to catch the top of the hour headlines.  In any case, the real point is to make thoughtful choices—in everything—rather than thoughtlessly following bad habits.

{10/6/19}  Weight 222.4.

Another up and down night.  This morning, I turned on the TV first thing, intending to catch headlines.  But given that I’m up before AM Joy, I turned it off again rather than channel surfing.  This is good.  Of such small changes, a better life can be made.

Diet will be a tougher nut to crack.  Yesterday, Pablo and I went to Leo’s, and before I ordered I said, “I want to get something really nasty,” meaning something other than a sane choice.  So I got an Ortega burger and fries.  Poe’s “Imp of the Perverse” was awake in me then.  What was I rebelling against?  In addition to that, I also should have gone to a cheaper place, because my dining budget has been heavily depleted already this month.  I sorta felt that I “couldn’t face Del Taco again.”

Hemlock Club today.

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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