a blog on tech, politics, life and zombies


The Lure of the Simple Life

I’m writing this from a small patio of a wine and coffee shop in Jordan Village, near Niagara Falls, ON (and posting it much later). My wife is asleep in the hotel room next door (because I woke her early to get breakfast) and I’m seriously debating if I need something alcoholic.
I think I do. Be right back.
Okay, alcohol acquired. A nice chardonnay. 
I’ve thought a lot lately about achievement. If I took the wrong road in life, if I should’ve worked on my math, gone in to business school, been some kind of banker or something. I’d love to tell you I’ve followed my passion, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t passionate about HR, but it’s been so difficult to find a job, that I feel like I’m years behind many of my university and high school friends, in terms of where I’d like to be in my career. Some of that is my own fault, for being comfortable where I was and not, perhaps, applying more far and wide and working harder at finding a new job, but as I sit here, looking out at what I think is a Ferrari outside a nearby restaurant, I wonder a bit if I shouldn’t have made different choices. If I shouldn’t have pushed myself more. If I will ever get to the point of comfort with my job, my finances.
But at the same time I wonder if I really want that. Ferraris are a lot of work. They involve a lot of time spent at the office, a lot of time spent in seminars and professional development, and a lot of money spent developing yourself. Maybe I’m buying into a narrative that folks with a lot of money work hard for it, I’m not sure. Is the Investment Banker’s job harder than mine, or does it just require more training up front? Assuming the former, is it worth the long hours? The pressure? 
I’ve often yearned for the idea of working fewer hours. Working a 4 day week, for example, and wondered if I’d trade a fifth of my pay for that now. It’s not even something I could consider, financially, right now, but it’s a thought I’ve had.
We’ve spent the last couple days around Niagara, driving by farms and vineyards, and through small towns and shops. We point out houses we like, and wonder at the idea of eventually moving out here, growing grapes, making wine, and running an animal rescue. We started plotting out names for that eventual property and winery today.
It looks like a simple life, but it is deceptive. One of our favourite stories if of the winemaker who had to miss the birth of one of his children, since it was the only day he could press the Syrah. It seems simple and easy here, but I’m sure it’s not. It’s hard work, often physical, always emotional. I’m sure these little shops here don’t make much, and I’m sure a lot of these wineries operate on thin margins, or require huge up front investments, or extensive background knowledge. 
But the idea of something different, something simpler, speaks to me when I’m down here. I yearn to get away from the rush of downtown, from the pressure of my job. But I wonder what I’d sacrifice for that. WoW? Wine? Times like this, a Saturday where I can sit on a patio with a glass of wine and write? I want it all somehow, the simple life where I can drive the Ferrari.  I don’t know if it’s doable without some advance lottery numbers or severe mucking with the space time continuum. And I still can’t decide which way I’d rather lean, to have a more steady, restful life with fewer amenities, or a busier one with more, filled with rich food, good wine and fast cars.
Likely, like most people, I’ll end up charting a middle path, as I try to do with most of life. But places like Niagara, like Jordan Village, always leave me wondering about the simpler path, about something quieter. For now, I’m going to enjoy the quiet, close my laptop, and sip this very fine Chardonnay. 
And ogle the Ferrari a bit. I mean, I’m only human. 

Confidence and Telepathy

I cannot read minds.
This may sound like a relatively mundane revelation to you, but it was stunning to me, when I read it recently.
I’d heard it before, of course. I think my therapist or a friend said something similar to me, but I definitely needed a reminder. You see, I have confidence issues. Huge. Self-worth issues, what have you. Every time I do just about anything I’m mentally preparing the counter-argument to someone who thinks I should do things differently. Every time I take a few minutes off work to use the bathroom, on the walk back to the office I start mentally preparing how to defend my bathroom break to my boss. “Sorry boss, my stomach was bugging me,” stuff like that. Every time someone speed walks past me on the walk to the train (as many people do, because I’m short and have short legs and generally hate walking fast) I come up with something to say when they, of course, inevitably, shoot some smart comment at me for daring to walk slowly (I’ll note this has happened a stunning total of zero times). 
This was important though, because it reminded me that I cannot, in fact, know what people are thinking of me. In all likelihood the person speed walking past me hasn’t given me a second thought. Ditto for my boss when I’ve went to use the bathroom.
It’s the same thing in personal relationships though. I always worry that Klutzy is deftly not saying when she’s angry, and that of course I’m reading what she’s not saying correctly and she’s secretly hating me, despite the fact that our whole relationship is basically built on being honest and forthright with each other. It might take us a few minutes, but we always get there, and it’s never as bad as (or even what I) think it is.
Even with my friends I often worry about what they’re thinking, that they secretly hate me for x y z. It’s hard for me to remember that, if I were to reverse any situation, I wouldn’t hate my friends, or would forgive them, or what have you. I’m special, you see. I’m not worth that extra consideration. 
I’ve been trying to work on my confidence a lot, because it impacts everything. Trying to trust myself, and in turn work on trusting others. It’s not easy. But the silly revelation of the fact that I cannot read minds, that I cannot know what someone else is thinking, was huge for me. It’s important to remember you absolutely 100% cannot know what someone else is thinking, and most of the time, it’s important to trust them at their word. Cause in the end, really, what else can you do?
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I’ve made mistakes in my life. Personally, professionally, in all aspects. I make them…if not daily then likely weekly. A missed deadline, a misspoken word, anything and everything. 
I say this because I think we don’t say this enough. I think we curate our lives too carefully, on Twitter and on social media. I get a bit frustrated when people seem to be only sharing the positive things in their lives. Life is not all positives. If it is…well, then you’re very lucky, or you’re not doing too much. Or more likely you’re just not being honest, either in public or with yourself.
One of the difficult things for me is to admit to mistakes and to remember they aren’t the end of the world. I’ll never forget what a friend said to me once when I was worried sick about a mistake at work: “Did anyone die?”. We want to do the best at our work, absolutely, and in no way am I saying not to take mistakes seriously. But there is no point in beating yourself up over it. It happened, all you can do is learn from it. And guess what? You can be perfect, you can do everything right, and things can still slip through your fingers. It’s still possible to make a mistake, no matter how cautious you are, no matter how many precautions you take.
And someone will say that that’s terrible, and that something like 99% is not good enough, as a friend said his boss said to me. And…I’ll be honest, I don’t think that makes sense. We should all strive for 100% perfection, of course, but for it not to be good enough is just not realistic. 
I think it’s important to be honest about mistakes. To own up to them, and to share when we make them. I think it helps normalize it. I think to expect that perfection is unrealistic, and sets a dangerous standard.
So, I’ve fucked up, occasionally. I’ve caught a couple recently, despite my best efforts. I slightly hate to be that guy who always asks a question at the end of the blog post (cause I feel like it’s a bit of a blatant grab for comments) but I’ll ask this here, and feel free to tell me here, over email, or Twitter, or smoke signal, or telepathic emanation:
What was the last mistake you made?
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What You Carry With You

Scattered around this vacation house (which we will soon be leaving, sadly) are things about being inspired. It’s part of the name of the company we booked through, you see, so it’s everywhere (even in the WiFi password). But it’s made me think about how vacations can be inspiring. I always find I write more around vacation time. My drafts folder is filled with stuff from around BiSC and traveling. Something about getting away from my usual life seems to inspire me a bit, in more than a few ways.

And I think that’s good. Obviously. But I think you can pull different things from different places. This place has instilled in me a few things that I hope I can carry with me. It would be all too easy to just go back and slip into the usual routines. There’s a reason for that. Ruts are well-defined and comfortable. And I don’t have any dramatic changes in mind, to be clear. My New Year’s Resolutions are really more goals, and most of them aren’t SMART, in that they’re not whatever the fuck that acronym stands for (I know the M is measurable, the A is achievable, the T is time-sensitive, but I can’t remember the rest. Bad HR guy. Bad!). But I don’t think they always need to be. One of them, for example, was to be a better husband. I don’t think I’m a bad one now (nor would my wife call me one) but I will always, always strive to be better, because she deserves nothing less than every measure of my striving.

But I started writing this, sitting here on the porch, when it’s probably a little too cold to do so (but I’m doing it anyway cause it’s DEFINITELY too cold to do so at home now) because I wanted to think about what I wanted to carry with me from this place.

Activity. The notion that one should go out and do things. I’m not saying there won’t be WoW-filled weekends with the TV in the background and the cats cuddling up with us. But I’d like to find ways to get some more activity into my life. I do really want to find time to get better at golf come the warmer weather. There’s such a fun culture around it. Reading about golf reminds me of how I felt when I first started getting in to WoW, that I was on the cusp of this huge subculture of people who shared this hobby, that there was just so much to explore. Golf can take you to beautiful places, give you chances to bond with friends and family, and get you out and being more active. I’m not saying I’m going back to Boot Camp (that was fun, but not sustainable, I don’t think, for me) but I’m saying I’d like to go back to the gym and spend some time on the treadmill. I’d like to try and take the dog for longer walks on the weekends. I’d like to get back to yoga. I think trying to commit to any one activity hasn’t worked for me, but maybe I can look at doing something on a regular basis. That’s what I’ve seen here, people going and running around and doing things. And as much as it may go against my urge when resting (which is to just sleep and rest the day away), I think it would be good for me.

Kindness. It’s a cliche that the South is polite, and I’m sure part of what we’ve seen here has been simple resort politeness, but everyone here has been so incredibly nice. People say hello as you walk by and wish you Happy Holidays and whatnot. People are warm, and happy, and I’d like to try and carry some of that into my daily life. It’s too easy to just slide into grumpiness in my day to day life. I know there are times where I’m short with people because I didn’t sleep well, or I’m stressed about something, or something. I’m not saying I’m going to be perfect. But I’d like to try and carry some of that Southern hospitality into my life. 

Achievement. I’m not totally sure how to put this into words, as it’s a kind of nebulous notion I get from folks here, but it’s the idea of striving for better. Of working hard and playing hard. Of not being afraid to take a work call while on vacation, because it’s important and because one or two won’t break everything. It’s the idea of working a bit over vacation, because you take pride in your work and your work is important, regardless if you’re the President or a salesman. I think it’s also about taking pride in yourself, about dressing up nicely, about taking pride and care in your appearance, because you deserve that. Not because you should, not because you must, but because you choose to. I’m not saying be a workaholic wearing a suit all the time, but there’s a care you can take that won’t destroy your personal life and won’t break your bank.

So that’s what I’m carrying with me as I leave Georgia. Now, I must go get ready to leave, sadly. I will absolutely miss it. I’m not sure I’ll ever be back here, but damn am I glad I got the chance to come here.

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Thieves of Joy and Southern Hospitality

I’m writing this from the porch of a house on Sea Island, in Georgia (the US state, not the country). There’s beer beside me, my wife is napping a couple rooms over, and my in-laws are out of the house. I keep wanting to write. I find vacations always make me want to write, when I’m relaxed, taken away from my daily concerns, and have the time to really get into my own head. Anyone who knows me (or takes a look at this blog) can tell you I have introspection down to a science (if not a fetish) but vacation seems to allow me to order things better. To get a handle on them.

And this has been a lovely one so far. Everyone here, both my in-laws and the folks working the resort, have been incredibly welcoming and understanding, from the guy who helped me learn to shoot a rifle to the guy who lifted me off a horse when I found myself paralyzed getting off it. I don’t know if I’ll ever come back here after this (everything here is quite expensive, though you distinctly get what you pay for) but it’s been a wonderful experience so far.

Being here has challenged me a bit, however. I’m surrounded by people who, by most definitions, are more successful than I am. Now realistically my overall life success rate has gone up in the last few years. I’ve married the love of my life. I’ve bought a house I love. I have cats and a dog now. I have my health, and have even lost a bit of weight in the last few months (which I will likely gain back in this next week or so). In terms of successes, I’ve been knocking them off pretty well.

But I still sit here and feel jealous of people who have more. Who can afford to come here regularly, to spend weekends golfing at fabulous resorts. Who can buy their wives horseback riding lessons. I know I’m young still, and I have hopes that that success will come. One of my big debates is if it can come without losing all my free time, without sacrificing my marriage on the altar of the almighty dollar. The narrative we’ve been taught is that all great success comes with exceedingly hard, brutal, back-breaking, relationship-crushing hard work. I’m hoping, as with most things in my life, I can chart a middle path. 

Part of the problem is that that “success” is elusive. Is it a matter of staying late at my job every day and working weekends (considering my current employer doesn’t have any promotion to offer me)? Is it spending all my free time sending out resumes and going to networking events? Is it going back to school, improving my education? Or is it a matter of blind luck and some combination of the above? My suspicion, again, is that the middle path is the best one for me (hence why I just cleared my work inbox while on vacation). 

There’s a deeper issue here for me, though, which this vacation time has allowed me to uncover a bit. It’s the same reason I shy away from any political debates with my conservative in-laws, and why I hesitate to dive into any conversation. And it’s what makes me compare other lives to mine and feel lesser. It’s my continuing, and deep lack of self confidence.

I shy away from political debates because my self-confidence tells me my beliefs may not be right, because I think them, and what do I know? I don’t read the newspaper or books on economics enough. I don’t follow the news religiously, and I’m not rich or successful and clearly my thoughts would be different if they weren’t coloured by jealousy. It’s weirdly connected to the jealousy, I find. I get angry that I don’t feel good enough. I get angry that I don’t have all the answers, at myself for not being prepared for every debate. 

I’m losing the thread a bit here, but the point is that addressing that self-confidence likely needs to be a priority going forward. I can’t afford therapy, I don’t think, but perhaps I can work on it using the tools I was given by my last therapist, which amounts to better self-talk, to shutting down that voice that tells me I look fat, that I should know better, that my beliefs are not correct/worthwhile because I think them and they’re not backed up by 20 years of experience in the private sector. The lack of self-confidence leaves me vulnerable, and I think doesn’t do me service. 

In another blog, I think, I will go over how I plan to tackle that self-confidence. It might be a bit weird or unorthodox, but hopefully it might be helpful to someone. I mean, if there’s anyone else out there reading this who might have self-confidence issues occasionally.

I’m sure that’s not many of us, right?

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I Watched Them Pass Me By

I'm gonna start out by saying that if you've never gotten the kind of gadget lust that leads someone to upgrade to the latest and greatest every year, this post may not be for you. Please go ahead and read! But it may not make much sense.

Put simply, I've lost my gadget lust. Not entirely mind you. I watched the presentation today eagerly. I'm planning and hoping to get an iPhone Plus when my contract comes due in October, though I may have to wait a bit. And if someone handed my an Apple Watch I'd be over the moon.

But you know what? I've had the same iPhone for 3 years now, a 4S. Some folks who knew me a while back are shocked at that fact. I used to upgrade all the time. Usually by lining up on launch day. I had a ton of fun doing that. But now the gadget lust has kind of passed me by a bit. Oh, I won't pretend I didn't want a 5 or 5S when they came out. That I didn't try to justify needing a new one before the wedding because mine wouldn't last a day on battery alone. And sure, I picked up a new iPad Air to replace an iPad mini and now want the mini again (always want the one I don't have, you see). But even now I don't feel a great need to upgrade my phone. Sure, mine is older now, barely lasts a battery, and some apps crash it regularly (I'm looking at you, Instagram). But it works. I can charge it at work and carry a charging brick for when I'm out and about.

It's weird though, feeling that lust be gone. I watched the Watch presentation feeling like I was outside looking in. Sure, it looked cool. I'd use it and it'd be fun. It might even make me work out more. And when I have some disposable income and decide I need a new watch, I'll probably get one. But not right away. I won't be lining up or going into debt or anything for it.

The funny thing is, though, I don't begrudge those who do, who lust after these things, who replace them yearly. I really don't. I get it, and I still get a little huffy when someone makes fun of those folks. It's their thing. It's their fandom. Let them have it. It was mine once too, but no longer, really. I'm not sure when it changed. Maybe when I bought the house, or at least when it became this realistic idea in my head. But somewhere it kind of passed me by.

That said, I still have every intention of getting a new iPhone Plus when funds allow. And if I happen to win the lottery or get a higher paying new job soon, you bet your ass I'm buying an Apple Watch (and one for Anna too). And I'll still be thrilled as Hell when I open the new phone, and I'll still marvel at it for a year or so.


Until they release the new one, anyway.

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The New Normal

A couple months ago I got a notification of a new WordPress comment. It was Rachel, saying in all caps that she expected another update soon. This isn't the wedding blog post, though. That's a larger thing that I'm still processing and savouring. I know I need to write it down, because I want to look back at it in a couple dozen years and smile.

No, this is a smaller, simpler post, as I sit here. My wife is beside me, and we're watching a live gymnastics competition in a stadium in Mississauga. Nothing about that sentence would make much sense to me of five years ago. It would all seem weird and kind of impossible, most especially the being married part. I think some part of me never expected to find the right person, find the person who could love me. And yet like most things in life, it was a single moment for me that crystallized that, not only was that not so impossible, that wonderful woman was right in front of me.

But it's been funny, adapting to this new normal of being married. Of coming home to someone, of having someone else to share the load. I am so grateful for her, but most especially for what she brings out in me. Anna's brought a whole new world to my life, filled with sports, golf, new foods, wine, cheese, Disney and puppies. She's brought me a new sense of adventure I didn't know I was missing, and a new dedication to myself. Suddenly I'm more worried about my health, because, well, it would kinda suck for her if I keeled over.

I find I believe in myself more, too. I'm learning to trust myself more, and in some ways, that's almost harder than loving myself. But they're connected, and I'd say I'm making progress on both sides (though trust is a bit more quantifiable from day to day, I'd say).

It's a new normal, absolutely, and there are adjustments, as with any big change. But I'm so grateful for it, for her, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Who knew I could enjoy being at a women's gymnastics event on a long weekend?


A Late Winter Update

It’s been a crazy 2014 so far for me. Good crazy, but crazy.

It’s mostly been difficult, really. Work has been stressful. I’ve been doing a lot of traveling, without really realizing what that does to a person. I still get fascinated by planes, and I still have a bit of a love of airports. But I think the travel does take its toll. My Mom flew with me last weekend to Chicago and she said at the end “I don’t know how you do this!”. It was a bit of a reminder that, as much as it may not feel like much sometimes, it can be tiring. Getting in late. Rushing around at airports. Sitting in less than comfortable plane seats.

Worth it, though, to see Klutzy. Absolutely worth it, and I’d do it every weekend if I could. But I will be glad in May when it’s over. 

Work has been stressful, and I feel like we’re over a bit of a hump, but I worry that may be a false sense of security. A lot of it has been fine-tuning my own work habits, but I feel like I’ve done well at that, like I have a good handle on things. It’s been very educational and a good experience overall, but I know I am ready for the next opportunity. It’s just finding the right one. A recruiter I spoke to recently described the job market like this: Previously, employers would also for a squirrel. The end candidate might be a purple squirrel. Now, they’re asking for a purple squirrel and getting a purple squirrel with polkadots (in this analogy, flashy and garish is better). Basically, it’s a tough market out there, and you really have to find the opportunity where you are the purple squirrel with polkadots. So I’m keeping my eyes open.

A lot of it comes down to willpower for me on job searching. I never want to. I get home and the last thing I want to do is pore over my resume and cover letter. Course, when I do it, it’s not that bad, but it feels like it will be THE WORST THING EVER OMG TOM. I get home and I want to do nothing more than cuddle my cats, relax, game, and sleep. 

However, I’m excited about the next few weeks. Klutzy’s parents are visiting, which means the house has to be perfect (or as close as I can make it) which means a lot of work. Lots of little things really. Move some things around. Unpack other things. Assemble some things. But in the end it means the house will be a lot more put together. I love the touches she’s brought to it, really making it ours, not just mine. And this is a good motivator and, in the end, like most things, this won’t be as bad as my brain makes it out to be.

Plus, it’s my house, so you know I’m going to have Netflix and/or some fun music going throughout.

The wedding is coming together nicely. We’ve already had a few RSVPs and I’m crazy excited for it. We’ve got so many great people coming (not everyone I’d like, of course, cause that would be a fuckton of people) but a lot, which is great. We did the tasting this weekend and picked out some great food. I’m working on my speech and have been sending Klutzy first dance song suggestions pretty well constantly. It changes from day to day. We don’t really have a song that’s “ours” so we’ll have to figure it out.

Honeymoon at DisneyWorld has also been booked. I’m regularly getting all caps gchats from Klutzy about some new thing she’s discovered, a new place she’s reserved, or what have you. We’re there for a week, staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, overlooking the Savannah. Well, the fake Savannah, but still! 

I’m a little worried about the let down after the wedding. As much as we’ll be finally together and having fun, the time after any big event like this is always a little sad. But then we work on building our life together here, and, as much as I try to be realistic, I can’t imagine that being exciting and awesome. Challenging, yes, but still.

Well, that’s me, for the most part. What’ve you been up to?


Brunch is Happiness

Later on, I would think I'd never really had brunch before. Not like this. 

I had been worried about being over-dressed, but the family in shorts and t-shirts assuages the worry regarding my jeans a polo. They lead us to a booth at the back, away from the crowds, though the place is quiet. A waiter in a tuxedo greets us. We smile at him. She orders a cocktail. I differ from the usual and order something different. I regret it later, and order what she had initially as a second round. I'm not driving today.

The brunch menu is sparse, but the steak and eggs needs my attention. I was initially disappointed at the lack of bacon, but that will fade. She orders something with seafood in it that sounded almost good enough for my attention, but not quite. I order a filet mignon and eggs, feeling odd combining the two. 

"I've never actually had steak and eggs before," I mention to her. She's surprised. My hand slips into hers across the table, somewhat awkwardly due to the angle, but necessarily. There are limits to how awkward I can be around her. 

We eat the bread, each piece slightly different. Not enough to fill us, and when our meals come out I am ravenous. The steak fills my nostrils. The hash browns draw my eyes. The Bernaise sauce confuses me. I slice up the steak and dip it into the egg yolks, unsure if I am being uncouth. She reassures me she has no idea, and doesn't care regardless. The lack of waiters rushing to me and slapping my hand reassures me further.

Everything melts in my mouth, in a way that tells me I've never used the phrase properly before. The saltiness of the hash browns offsets the soft, warm, savour of the steak and eggs. I eat every single bite. She steals a piece of crisp toast and dips it into Bernaise sauce. Again, no one comes and slaps her hand, so I think we're in the clean, couthiness-wise.

The waiter takes the empty plates away. My heart and mouth cry out for more, my stomach cries no more. My hand slips into hers again as I sit back. The waiter remarks on how I've never been to this place before, and hands me a plate of key-lime pie, insisting I try it. My stomach reassures me it has room for this. My mouth takes in the pie and I run out of words. I sit there making noises that make her laugh. We order another piece to go. One of us pays, I don't remember who. It doesn't matter. The meal would be worth it at ten times the price.

I sit back quietly as we begin to pack up. I have no words left. My hand slips into hers as we step away from the booth, I feel her ring finger and think to myself there's an emptiness there I absolutely need to fill. If only for introducing me to good, fancy brunch. 


My Better Self and Mental Stability

I'm gonna preface this by saying this might sound a little weird. Even for me.

It'll surprise approximately zero of you that I spend a lot of time in my own head. I don't read as much as I'd like to these days, but I do write a lot in my head. If I have a spare moment likely some story is being written in my head. This isn't really relevant, but it helps illustrate how my mind works, which is kind of in a creative, constantly writing sort of way. 

In my head I have this little voice that constantly, constantly puts myself down. Any moment that there's anything anyone could judge me on, that voice has it covered. In some twisted way it's me trying to protect myself. No one can ever say anything about me that I haven't said to myself. I think it's supposed to prepare me for criticism or something, but it ends up only making it feel worse when someone actually does criticize me. I want to say "Why are you piling on?!" because that's what it feels like.

So I've wanted to try and silence that voice as much as possible. It serves no purpose.

So what I've been doing is envisioning my better self. 

See, what that little voice likes to do is replay all the times I've felt bad about myself. When my boss berated me. When a customer chew me out. Things exes have said. Anything and everything, it will pull and throw at me. 

What I do now is I envision a better version of myself literally stepping into the situation and just saying, no. It's me as I've always wanted to be, a little taller, slender, confident. Course, also with magical time stopping powers. Minor details changed. And the Better Self will simply snap his fingers, say "Hey, this isn't the most helpful, eh? Let's go to that nice spot in Vegas where you had a cocktail with Klutzy." Or pull me somewhere else more helpful.

It may sound like an odd technique. But it's working nicely so far. I feel like I'm confronting a lot lately, mentally, and this is helping. And I wanted to share it, in case it might help you.

Now, I'm at an airport. Time to find more wine.

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