Things that keep you anchored when things are going to fecal matter

This was going to be entirely different blogpost. I may still finish the original one day, when I started writing it was going to be humourous piece on feelings forming for a female friend, and how as an adult the only time a ‘crush’ should exist (ie; when you having feelings for someone and don’t man up and tell them about it) is when the person you have feelings for is in a relationship (which the girl in question did), thus revealing how you feel would not really be beneficial and would mostly create drama. (not to mention a surefire trip to the abyss) There’s also professional reasons not to make a move if you work with them, even then there are situations where it’s probably safe to. (however inadvisable)

It was going to be a slightly gutsy post because while I changed/fictionalized some details to cover my arse there was a semi-high possibility she’d actually read this and probably put two and two together and figure it was her. Despite that I was going to humorously reflect on my views on the situation were different from me of ten years ago.

I had about the half the post written up, I thought it was good, and then I got made redundant from my job and everything kind of went to shit.

It wasn’t entirely unexpected. We knew the company had been bought. We knew there’d be changes. Once that paperwork went through for the merger the redundancy axe went swinging and landed directly on me. For the first time since I’d finished school I was unemployed and that scared the crap out of me. Not to mention a week earlier my car had breathed it’s final gasping breath. (though I’d rather humourously managed to sell it online for a $200 despite listing everything wrong with it in the ad.)

First day after it happened I was pretty destroyed. I literally avoided driving over certain bridges because I was concerned that the temptation to pull over and jump off would be a little too great. The spiral of self hate was pretty epic.

Poor old blindly optimistic Liam had disappeared. The kind of blind optimism that fueled some of the craziest adventures. Running 1000 miles. Becoming a marriage celebrant. Writing a book about tracking down and interviewing every girl he ever had a crush on.

The blind optimism that even made the long shot “no chance in hell” ideas that failed fun. Gaining 29 inch biceps in a year. Inviting that girl I’d had a crush on years earlier (who was nine years my senior) to my 30th birthday party despite her violently bad reaction to my book. (“I’ve seen ‘the Right Kind of Wrong’ okay! Beautiful things that seem impossible happen everyday!” I would adamantly declare to disbelieving friends.)

But that moment the redundancy axe landed on me, there was no blind optimism. My blindly optimistic self had taken a vacation to Alaska.

I had a lot of friends and family looking out for me, and that’s probably good because two things managed to bring me back to a close approximation of my old self.

On the Monday afternoon was when I’d been told about being made redundant. We had the Tuesday off to deal. Wednesday those that were leaving had to come in for their final ‘bullet to the head’ meeting as I jokingly called it. (I was later informed this may have been in bad taste)

The first thing that saved me happened on Tuesday afternoon, I want to talk about here, I really do, but feel the friend involved would prefer I keep it quiet, for fear of his own embarrassment.  Suffice to say it was an act of great kindness that stopped me from descending to the darkest depths of despair in my mind.

The second thing was the wedding I did on the following Saturday.

I became a celebrant five years ago, while the idea had always appealed to me, it wasn’t until an offhand dare from a friend caused me to take action and actually do it that I actually took the course and registered with the Attorney-General’s office. (the latter being a remarkably painful process)

I’m not stressed during a wedding ceremony. I may be stressed getting to a wedding ceremony (but that could be a by-product of having a potentially untrustworthy vehicle for most of my celebrant life), but during a ceremony I’m all calm. Once I’m there the worst is over and I’m making do.

In a week where nothing seemed right, and everything was uncertain, and I felt so much that I didn’t know what to do, I found myself with in a situation where I was sure, I was steady, I knew what to do. People looked at me for instruction. I was confident. I was balanced. I was calm. Weddings were MY world. My ball park. No one could take that away from me.

I flirted with a pretty girl. (Just flirted… nothing more…. from experience it’s unprofessional to do otherwise, but that is a story for another blogpost)  I hummed along to the last of the couples chosen wedding music as they started taking photos and I packed up my gear.

When friends and family saw afterward they could see a difference. I wasn’t a totally broken person anymore. When an organised temp job fell through later that week I was okay.

I was well on my way to being back to my old self. I’m not totally there yet but I’m pretty close.

I’ve got a casual job doing data entry work, so I won’t starve and or go homeless.

My friends. My family. Being a celebrant. These are my anchors. The things that keep me sane when everything is falling apart. And for that, I will be forever grateful.

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Sleepless In Canberra (like Sleepless in Seattle without Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, the love story…. or pretty much everything else)

Well…. it seems that my last blog post received some of the reactions I was expecting.

The topic of my sleeping patterns required a entire blog post all of it’s own. And so here we are… believe it or not, there’s an actual reason for me only sleeping five hours a night. Plus I’m procrastinating from writing something else so….

High School.

To be more specific, a least desired part of High School: for two weeks of every year our Phys Ed classes were replaced with ‘Social Dance’ in which the boys and girls classes were merged (normally separate for PE) and we learned to dance. There was a few aspects of this I disliked, but you can read my book for the indepth discussion of that. (jump to the Camille chapter, it’s all covered there)

But the day I’m focusing on… was bad.

My eyes were watering. I was exhausted. I felt like I hadn’t slept in three days, because, well, I HADN’T SLEPT IN THREE DAYS.

One girl, whom we’ll call Paige, rotated around the circle, and she was so subtle and so elegant with her reaction to my appearance.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” She asked.

Every movement felt like effort. I looked like shit. The bags under my eyes had gone so black it looked like I was sporting two black eyes. My watering eyes were bloodshot as all hell.

You know how when you wake up from a dream, and think back over the dream you realise it had a sort of unreality to it? Like it was faded and different and in retrospect didn’t feel real? Well all of reality had that dream like state to it.

In the days that followed my body would relent it’s incessive onslaught of insomnia and allow me to get an hour or so of sleep. Due to sheer exhaustion it would hightail straight to REM sleep and give me a vivid dream. Unfortunately as all of the reality had the same dreamlike state to it, there was a brief period where I was unable to distinguish what I had dreamt from reality.

So adequately described in “Fight Club” everything felt like a copy of a copy of a copy.

On Day Two the doctor told me he couldn’t prescribe/advise sleeping pills due to tenous side effects. “Eventually your body should relent and sleep,” he said “Another day or so and you should be fine.” he said.

On Day Five when I returned to the Doctor’s office looking like I’d had my arse kicked and clearly had gone way too long without sleep he gave instructions to pick up sleeping pills, and some herbal alternatives called goodnight formula.

Day Six was spent mostly sleeping, but when I woke up I felt more exhausted than I went to bed. This was WHY he hadn’t wanted to prescribe sleeping pills in the first place. Plus everything still felt like unreality.

Day Seven I tried to sleep without the pills. Day Eight I managed to score a couple of hours sleep which was enough to sustain me.

After a few days the insomnia passed just as mysteriously as it arrived.

And then about a year later it made a return appearance.

I was at a different school by then so there were no dance classes. I did have to cycle to school though (my parents didn’t have a car so asking for a lift was out) and doing that for a guy who hadn’t slept in three days was sheer torture.

I would have awkward conversations with my friends about events that hadn’t taken place because I dreamed them in those two short hours of sleep my body had relented and given me after four days.

I’d walk up to attractive girl at school who I had never had any classes with and didn’t have the guts talk to and start a conversation because I remembered have a long and deep conversation the day before only to find I dreamt that and she had no clue who I was.

And just as mysteriously and quickly as the insomnia arrived it disappeared.

When it happened the next year I was ready. I started drinking Pepsi Max to keep myself coherent during insomniac days. If after three hours tossing and turning in bed I hadn’t drifted off to sleep I started doing school assignments. Oddly my schoolwork productivity increased, thought I did get my first C in an English class that semester (I always got A’s in English) so MAYBE that was a sign that the work wasn’t that ‘up to standard’ But in fairness I still got A’s in IT in the assignments I did on sleepless nights.

And, once again – say it with me now – just as mysteriously as the insomnia appeared, it vanished.

I had thought with school finished, with me working full time, not living at home, and being on medication that caused drowsiness that the following year I would be free of the insomnia for good.

I was wrong. I was so wrong I’m literally shaking my head as I write this. Oh Past Naive Liam. How I wish I could travel back in time and inform you of the days to come. Maybe tell you the technique that eventually rid me of the insomnia for good. But alas, time travel is currently impossible, and so…

It was 10:30pm at night. The time I normally went to bed. The time my uni student housemate mocked me for going to bed so early. Once joking that I was weak because I was getting a good ten hours sleep at night. (Yet also perplexed as to why I had so much trouble getting up in the mornings)

I’d taken my meds and lay in bed drowsiness kicking in making it hard to stay awake. I lay down in bed, lights off and waited for sleep to claim me. And waited. And waited.

Around midnight, desperately clinging to my last shred of sanity the unsettling sensation dawned on me was that the insomnia was actually defeating the drowsiness effects of the meds.

Shit.

By 2am I would’ve sold my soul for some decent shut eye. Please stupid insomnia rattled brain, please just allow the rest of the body to sleep. I tossed and turned. I shoved my head under the pillow. I switched on the light and tried reading. I tried warm milk. At 6am the sun began to rise. And I headed to work, walking around the city all day in a zombie like state.

If riding to school and social dance had seemed tiring on no sleep, having a 9-5 job which involved walking everywhere for most of the day almost killed me.

I took a day off work. Still no sleep.

On day three I grabbed some sleeping pills and succumbed to three days worth of exhaustion. For the next week I operated in an entirely different zombie state but it was due to the drowsiness of sleeping pills and not lack of sleep. Sleep I was getting plenty of.

I stopped taking them and a few months later the insomnia reared it’s head for a single night.

It was around this time I read an interview with writer Greg Wiseman who was asked about one of his characters who changed from one form to another overnight, and if the fictional character ever slept.

Greg’s response was “she gets by on very little. I get by on about five.”

My housemate’s mocking of my sleeping patterns, and the words of someone I greatly admired finally struck me. Would it be possible to get by on five hours sleep a day? I barely functioned on no sleep. But I functioned. And I was used to staying up late talking with my friend Sare at that stage. I’d done the five hours sleep unintentionally before.

And maybe if I trained myself to only sleep five hours a night I’d function a lot better when this bloody insomnia reared it’s ugly head again.

And so it began, surprisingly, it only took me about a week to get used to it. I’d have an energy drink in the mornings to wake me up, and I’d always had trouble waking up in the mornings before so that was relatively unchanged.

As my friend Alyce pointed out to me years later, I always look like crap in the mornings. I suspected this has always been the case, and can guarantee you that ‘looking like crap’ never went away during insomnia period.

Speaking of insomnia: with the five hours a sleep night it never happened again.

That sentence was worded awkwardly for a reason. Because many years later, at the insistence of friends and family members that only sleeping five hours a night wasn’t healthy, and was repeatedly sighted as a reason for my ‘perpetual lateness’ (despite the fact the ‘perpetual lateness’ dated back to primary school long before ‘late night Liam’ was around) I decided to give normal sleeping patterns a try.

For two weeks I reverted back to normal sleeping patterns. At first I was irritable about how much less time I had because I was sleeping all the time. I was moody, I still had trouble waking up in the mornings, I was still perpetually late, and I felt even more tired and exhausted all the time.

You know how you get cranky from over sleeping? Well by that stage that was me if I got more than six hours. (which yes, did happen on Saturdays and Sundays when the fight to wake up was a lot harder to justify) And I was getting 10 hours a night.

I was short tempered at work. Short tempered with housemates. Short tempered with my friends. I was an emo jerk.

So if course me being in the best of moods is when the insomnia reared it’s ugly head. It took one night of no sleep to send me running back to my five hours a night.

And I get it’s not ‘normal’. It’s normal for me though and I’m okay with that. When I lived in shared housing I was used to moving around quietly after midnight (or 10pm depending on when the housemates went to bed). When I go to the coast with friends, travel and stay at a friends house, I’m content to read and keep myself occupied until 2am when they’ve all long since gone to sleep.

It’s become so normal that I actually feel better when it starts getting darker outside. Once even going as to post an FB status on a particularly bad day that said “I wish it was night. I always feel better when it’s night.” (This immediately followed by my friend Stu informing me that was because I was a ‘gay sparkly vampire’. Ah friends, you’ve got to love ’em.)

I read up on polyphasic sleeping patterns earlier this year. Essentially sleeping for 20 minutes every four hours so essentially only sleeping for 2 hours a day. There other types of polyphasic sleeping, one in particular is spreading it out to equate to four hours a day, so with five I’m actually doing pretty well in comparison.

For the most part I function fairly normally. I look like shit in the mornings and am generally in dire need of either a run or caffeine to return to normal. Other than that you couldn’t tell I only function on five or so hours sleep.

It assumes me a little when I mention actions I’ve done 1am in the morning and see I look of disbelief on someone’s face. It’s a gentle reminder that to them 1-2am is a foreign time that is generally spent sleeping.

I remember watching a movie a couple of years back, it might have even been ‘The Santa Clause’ with Tim Allen, and there’s a scene where the father and son wake up in the middle of the night and it dawned on me that there was no longer an almost time of the night that if you’re awake during it doesn’t feel right because everyone else is asleep. Everyone is generally asleep when I’m moving about at night so that’s not unfamiliar to me.

I accept this may change when I get a girlfriend. (Note: I’m using the phrase ‘when’ now. OPTIMISM!) Unless of course she has the same sleeping patterns as me in which case I should probably marry her.

Why I’m Always Late (and how it bothers me just as much as it bothers you)

I’ve been writing this blog post for about a week so it’s kind of lengthy. I’ve tried to make it as upbeat as possible but considering my dislike of the topic in question it may come across as a bit of a downer.

It was a few years ago, when I was at my old job.

I held my leather jacket up to the card swiper on the office door, it read the card in my inside pocket and made an affirmative beep and the door unlocked. I cautiously stepped inside to survey what my options were.

My desk at the time was in the office help desk, which unfortunately meant the only way to get there would be to walk straight past my boss, my boss’ boss, and pretty much every supervisor in our area as they were conveniently seated right outside the help desk.

Praying to God, Buddha, Spongebob or anyone else that was listening that by some freak miracle all of them would be away from their desks and not notice the help desk worker slinking in twenty minutes late for work.

My eyes fell on the completely unoccupied desk of my two supervisors and hope screamed to life in my head. This was it, I was safe!

Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth but simultaneously not wanting to draw attention to myself by running, I walked as quickly as I could to the help desk. I actually made it all the way to help desk when my boss, who for years I theorised was a ninja, appeared out of nowhere behind me.

“Liam, I need to talk with you for a minute in the boardroom.”

I sighed accepting my fate, and headed to the boardroom, sat down and a piece of paper was slid in front of me.

It was a formal warning. It was because I was often late in the mornings. It needed to change. Sadly that was neither the first nor the last time this would happen in my working life. It had been an issue for a while.

Just how long my ‘snooze button addiction’ had been an issue actually didn’t consciously register with me until I wrote my book. Part of my book detailed various parts of my past (all relating, in some way, to girls I’d had a crush on), it was when I was typing the chapter about learning the homeless I’d given $100 to had turned up alive, and not dead from a drug and/or food overdose like various pessimistic friends and co-workers had postulated, that I realised I’d typed the phrase ‘I was going to be late for work.’ before.

Now having written record of my past it dawned on me how many times that topic had come up. The teacher in the primary school who wanted me to show up for morning assembly and ten minutes after it started like I normally did. The high school teacher who was pissed off at me, despite being the only ‘A’ student in the class, because I showed up 15 minute for the classes that were first thing in the morning. The boss at the law firm who was annoyed because my first job was to pick up the daily newspapers and since I was often 15 minutes late.

In comparison being 20 minutes late because someone had spotted the homeless guy alive was pretty much par for the course.

The thing is, and honestly as weird as it sounds I genuinely think there will be people who’ll be surprised by my next statement:

I actually really hate being late. Believe me, the level of disdain I have for myself walking into work late in the mornings is greater than you could ever imagine. It’s the combined annoyance and frustrations of various co-workers, bosses, teachers, mechanics, family members and anyone else that’s annoyed by me not showing up on time in the mornings. Now take that annoyance and frustration and times by a thousand and you’d have how I feel towards myself when the clock says 9:20am and I’m meant to start at 9am.

And yes, I’ve heard it all before. “Well, why don’t you just get up on time then?” or
“Surely getting a formal warning, potentially getting fired would been enough motivation to fix the problem?” or
“Try going to bed earlier”
“Avoid caffeine”
“Exercise a lot”

The standard answers to these questions are “I’m trying.”
“You’d think, but at times all it does is heighten the stress when I am late. I’m trying. It may not seem like it but I’m trying”
“Literally made no difference”
“Literally made no difference”
“I would like to say ‘literally, made no difference’ again, but if anything it may have made it harder” (for four months last year I ran an average of 14km everyday – that’s I’m not alone in this problem. A simple google search of getting up on time gives you a plethora of people constructing more and more elaborate ways of ensuring they get up on time.

But the thing is – those people who don’t have problem getting up in the morning (of which they probably outnumber us 4 to 1 I’m pretty sure) have no concept of difficulty waking up. To them it’s simple: you wake up, either by your internal body clock or your alarm clock screaming, and then you get out of bed and start your day. They don’t understand the struggle to make your brain think clearly after it’s just woken up. Your brain that is quite happy to return to the state it once was. and coherently justify any action that agrees with that.

A friend of mine was once telling me about her new boyfriend
“Lying in bed with Marty this morning and he woke up and immediately just started talking as though it was a conversation he was having in the middle of the day. Morning people scare the crap out of me.”

I have been known to set up elaborate schemes to force myself accountable.
Enlisting housemates to enforce a $50 fine if I fail.
Setting up multiple alarm clocks around the room.
Having someone call me every morning.

The problem with at least two of these was that I forcing somebody else to deal with my problem and I didn’t like that. Of course that’s also loosely what I was asking to do when I was late everyday so I didn’t like that either.

So I became one of those guys that looks on the internet and reads up on everything about a problem possible. (I’ve pretty much done the same with winning over the heart of the opposite sex – since a lack of success in that department is apparent maybe I’m going wrong somewhere with this philosophy) And I found two methods that a lot of people say have helped.

The first was an alarm app on my phone that required me to go scan a specific barcode in my kitchen to shut it up.

The second, a highly regarded one, was to train your behaviours to get out of bed immediately. The book, “The Power of Habit”, backs this one up. The method sounds stupid but it states an truth for non-morning people that you can’t trust your morning self to follow through. Your Morning Self is not thinking clearly. I cannot tell you how many nights I went to bed bursting with postivity that I would get up as soon as the alarm went off and head to work, only to struggle to wake up hitting the snooze fifteen times

The method in question is this: the night/day, when you’re completely awake with a brain you can trust (not the still-mostly-asleep-morning-brain), you recreate your morning routine. The one you want. Get into whatever you sleep in, switch off the lights, set the alarm for about ten minutes from now, climb into bed. When the alarm goes off switch it off and immediately get up and go about your morning routine. Preferably some sort of exercise that induces endorphins. Then repeat as many times as possible.

I haven’t tried method two. I procrastinate too much. I’m thinking I will try it this week however, because method one WAS working to an extent.

See: fearing justifiable job loss I leapt into action a couple of weeks back.

Now I normally get around five hours sleep a night. I tried crashing really early earlier in the year and getting more,
and it seemingly only resulted in effected my mood, made my time management shot to crap, I was constantly in a
bad mood and oddly tired from oversleeping and more importantly: I was still late for work because I had so much goddamn trouble getting up in the morning.

My new plan however moved my 2am bedtime to 12:30am. And my alarm set for 5:30am. I used the app mentioned above.

I told only my boss and our HR rep vaguely about my plans. This was wise. Too many more people would have brought about immense mocking when it took almost a week to successfully to pull it off.

Don’t get me wrong – I *was* going to bed at 12:30am, but I was struggling. And I WOULD get up to scan the barcode in the kitchen… but I’d fall asleep in the armchair in the living room.

Finally on the morning of victory, where I was coherent, and not falling asleep on the armchair. I posted a facebook status commenting “So this is what 5:30 in the morning looks like” and managed to stay awake. In dire need of caffeine.

I’m fully aware if I could still run, this would’ve been a lot easier task to pull off. I know I could easily adapt if I threw on my running gear and went for a run first thing. But about six months ago I dislocated my ankle, the tendon popped it straight back in but it still hasn’t healed and I haven’t been able to do any exercise involving it since.

The day of success led to two, before I started falling asleep on the armchair again. In essence I still counted this as somewhat of a success as you didn’t sleep so well in the armchair so I was normally up and awake for work on time. Except for the last two days when I totally misjudged traffic.

The important thing is though: the getting up when the alarm clock goes off in working. Now I just add in extra habit to wake me up between the kitchen and the armchair. If I can do that, maybe, just maybe I can break a habit 30 years in the making.

If not, I’m trying method two and training my behaviours a lot.

The point is I’m trying. It may not seem like it but I’m trying. And I get that is hard for people to grasp the concept of, christ, if were in their shoes I wouldn’t believe me either. But I am.

To quote Earl Hickey “I’m just trying to be a better person.”

Also the Buddha “It’s better to conquer yourself than win a thousand battles.”