Family

I’ve spent the summer pretty close to my family. This is pretty unusual for me because most of the time I’m 3000 miles away from my family on the other coast for work. One of the benefits of hanging with my family is sometimes my father talks me into going to Synagogue with him. It’s the oldest synagogue building in the use, Torro, and the entire service is in Hebrew. I don’t speak Hebrew and what little I learned as a kid has left me. So I read the English translations in the book and think about what they are talking about.

Somehow this past weekend, I got to thinking about the community in and all the intricacies of that group in the building with me. I started to think about my family and somehow to got to thinking about how which of my grandparents would be living in year (A.C.E., but going back to year zero of the Hebrew religion). Going through my current family, We’ve had four generations between 1900 to 2000. If we assume this math going backwards with generations, we have 20 *100 years = 2000 years. If we have 4 generations per 100 years, that means we have 20 * 4 = 80 generations since year zero.

The next step to this fun math is to realize that each generation adds another layer of parents.

Notice the trend? Powers of 2. As a software engineer, powers of two are my specialty. If you keep going back to 2 to the power of 80 you end up with a gigantic number: 1.2089 * 10^24. I feel like my math must be wrong, but if I’m doing this right, I’m related to more than the current population of the planet over the past 2000 years.

Someone please tell me where my math falls apart?

The Internal Family Systems

Have you ever had the thought: “part of me feels …” ?

Turns out there is whole part of modern psychology focused on understanding humans a collection of parts. It’s called IFS, short for Internal Family Systems, and was first described by Richard Schwartz in the early 1990s. The general idea being that our internal mind can be represented a bunch of different personalities inside our head, each trying to protect or do some job for us as humans. At the core, there is a concept of Self, or the governing body of your person. When one is in control of the self one can understand what each of the parts wants and make informed decisions about actions.

There is much more to IFS, including the formation of parts from traumatic events, but I’m not a psychologist, and I’m not trained in any way with IFS except to view myself as a combination of parts. There are categories of parts that are designed for different purposes.

I was first introduced to this concept of IFS while reading “The Body Keeps The Score” by Bessle Van Der Kolk. I’ve been practicing talking to my parts for over a year now, and while they are still often not in balance, I definitely am more aware of their existence in my daily interactions. This has helped me calm down or see why I’m getting too involved in a small piece of nuance.

The reason I’m writing about this is because I’ve had several conversations this week that really bring this to the front of my brain. I’ve talked to some people about defining my personal values and the conversation was so akin to IFS, I couldn’t ignore it. I had a conversation with a dear friends sister who is a psychologist who has attended an Van Der Kolk conference. I’ve also been keenly aware of my own parts playing out in my daily activities.

With all this pervasive parts talk in my week, I just wanted to call some awareness to the concept IFS and throw some interesting resources out there. In addition to The Body Keeps The Score I’ve also been reading Parts Work: An Illustrated Guide to Your Inner Life. Would recommend both.

Hope you enjoyed this weeks post on psychology. Back to normally scheduled writing next week.

Deceptively fast for … Self Deprecating Humor

Self deprecating humor is a double edged sword. On one side, being able to laugh at yourself is somewhat healthy. We are comical animals who make all sorts of weird sounds and have crazy individual tendencies, if you think you don’t, you are either lying to yourself or crazy (see Merlin Mann’s tweet on priorities)

On the other hand, we sometimes use this humor to cover up areas of insecurity. Using self deprecating humor this way can re-enforce the belief that we are broken or defective. This isn’t healthy.

I’m really fond of saying “I’m deceptively fast for how fat I am” in acro. While this isn’t a lie, it’s not a nice thing to say about myself. Firstly, I’m not overly fit, but I definitely feel fatter than other people perceive me. Secondly, people don’t need to know that I’m deceptively anything, they just need to know I have them while spotting. By continually saying I’m fat in this context I feel fatter. Not healthy!

I have a long history with self depreciating humor. My family is a teasing family, we tease each other. It’s a form of showing love, but it isn’t healthy for me. I got into the habit of hearing areas of my life where I was weird or not as good as the rest of the family. This lead me to believe that some of the teasing a jesting that I experienced was true.

I also had a rough bus in middle school where I was constantly made fun of (even to the point where I started riding my bike to school in fifth grade by myself). I got into the habit of starting conversations with the kids on the bus by insulting myself to get it out of the way. I had heard the teasing from my family and I felt like the kids on the bus lacked creativity. I used my intellectual strength to come up with witty insults for myself that the other kids hadn’t thought of.

This behavior has evolved over the years into the self deprecating humor I use continually in my life. Several of my friends have brought this up this week as I talked them about my life or about this article I was writing. All of them wanted me to stop being so self deprecating, some of them didn’t even want me to waste any time writing this post and thinking about this negative subject.

If you google the topic, you will find a mixed bag of results. A lot of the results are based off this one study that finds that have a sense of self deprecating humor is helpful for online dating, and being happy. After a bunch of reflection, I feel there is healthy self deprecation and unhealthy. Healthy: making fun of yourself in a way that pokes fun at the human experience in a healthy headspace where you aren’t looking for any reaction other than humor. Then there is unhealthy self deprecation: using yourself as an object of humor to reinforce your insecurities and hopefully have those around you be more aware of them.

I definitely do most of my self deprecation in the latter form. I’m looking for sympathy or emotional companionship and instead of asking for it. I make a joke hoping for someone to step in and defend the part of me that is wounded underneath.

In response to writing this I’m going to try do three things differently. One, I’m going to try to find humor outside of myself or other people. I don’t want to insult others, because I don’t like it when others insult me. I won’t be perfect but I will try. Two, when I do use this type of humor (which will hopefully be rare), I’m really going to do it from a genuine, detached space, and focus on the humor not the response I get from other people. Three, I’m going to continue to focus on the positive pathways in my brain (this one’s for you, GGU).

Purpose

I was watching a TED talk on Youtube the other morning as I was getting ready, just like any good engineer in the Bay Area. Once the talk I was watching finished, the next talk was by a woman who was trying to convince me that life wasn’t about happiness, but rather purpose.

It may just be me, but this is not a new theory. I’ve always believed that there was a purpose, but I have had no clue about what it is.

In this cacophony of words, images, video, sounds, and generally multimedia, I often feel that sharing my opinion with the world is a bit trite.

I have traveled more than most. I have experienced a lot of different cultures and have unique experiences, but so does everyone. I’ve always wondered what makes mine special?

The answer is simply, it isn’t special. I am not special. Or more specifically, I’m probably exactly as special as anyone who would ever read this. If I’m special than so is everyone else.

Recently I’ve been contemplating the sources of information I consume. With Facebook maybe effecting the last Presidential election, I’m concerned that I spend so much time reading a plethoria of potentially unreliable articles. I don’t know if these writers are good stewards of my mind. As more and more information is available on the internet, it is hard to know what to trust.

This has lead me to two truths. Firstly, I should not be reponsible for deciding if you want to read my content. That is your choice. If you think my experiences are worth reading, great, read them. If you think I’m full of crap, write poorly, or am just generally annoying, feel free to ignore what I say. My second truth has been that if I ever want to be a voice in this world, I have to publish. I have to learn to write. There is relatively little harm in writing and having people ignore my content.

Sure, if someday I really learn how to write, I could be embarrassed about what I’ve written previously, but that is a risk I’m prepared to take in order to move forward in my writing.

Swim Across America, Year 3

Every year around the mid of September I do a swim in the SF bay. Well, by every year, I mean the last two years and I’m about to do my third year. Swim Across America is a special event.

Year One

I somehow got talked into doing this swim by one of my teammates, Jessica Steffins. Jessica is a phenomenal swimmer, she was actually part of team USA Waterpolo in 2012 that won the gold medal in 2012. I really didn’t know what I was getting into. It’s a very early morning start, around the palace of fine arts in the city.

Half asleep they throw you onto a bus and ship you across the city to where you board a ferry. Once on the ferry, you get tatted up with some temporary tattoos marking your commitment to the event. First year, you get a rookie tattoo. I plastered an additional tattoo on my forehead.

They then put you on a boat, and take you out into the bay. There is a ceremony where they invite people who have been touched by cancer to talk about their experiences with the disease. Some get up and talk about their loved ones, some doctors get up and talk about their experiences treating cancers, but the most powerful stories are those who are surviving with cancer and still out here to swim.

Those stories are really very powerful. I’d do the swim just for those stories alone.

Year one was a smaller group, we had only a couple of people from Salesforce signed up on our team. I believe there were four of us.

Once you jump off the boat you swim in to shore. I was wearing a full sleeved wetsuit and was very hot the whole way in. I panicked just out of the boat and was concerned about making it in. Jessica was there to calm me down and had me focus on taking a couple of strokes and breaking then doing a couple more then breaking again.

Year Two

Year two I practiced more. I spent a lot of time in the pool working on my swimming. We even did a practice run in the ocean. The group was much bigger, somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 people. I got salesforce tattoos for the team.

The process was roughly the same, but there was a lot more current and it made the swim much harder, and I actually had to be towed in a bit at the end.

Year Three

It’s coming and I haven’t done any real training. I’ve been spending more time in the water this year, both in Newport, surfing, wind surfing, and wake boarding, but I have spent very little time on long swims. This is really going to be a change. Please consider donating!

Reasons to Donate

I’ve had several friends ask why they would donate to a swim that I’m doing? Here are several reasons why you should consider donating:

  • Most importantly: you agree with the notion that cancer is a terrible thing and it is especially terrible in the young ones. Childhood is rough enough, going through cancer as well just seems like too much.
  • You wish you could swim this year, but didn’t register in time, so you want to donate your sign up money to my fund.
  • The more you donate the more I feel like crap if I don’t make the swim. Help me raise my minimum so that I have no choice but to get up at 2 am, drive to the city and then spend some time in the super cold bay! Think of it as a punishment for all the ways I’ve annoyed you over the years. Get me back!
  • You want to support the engineering team. Currently I’m the only engineer on the SFIQ team, please don’t let Will Roller and his product ways beat me.

How to Donate

http://www.swimacrossamerica.org/site/TR/OpenWater/SanFrancisco?px=1462996&pg=personal&fr_id=4371

Go there and donate some money. Any little bit helps.

July Off

Two years ago I got to visit Newport, RI for a couple of days in October, but because we were right before Dreamforce I had to work almost the whole time I was here. I realized that even if I hadn’t needed to work I wouldn’t have been able to experience all of Newport that I wanted to experience, a weekend just isn’t enough. I promised myself that I would take the summer of 2017 off from work, and when I got back, I started asking my bosses how I could do it. Guess what? It’s the summer of 2017, and while I’ve decided not to take the whole summer off (I technically could have), I am taking July off.

There are no rules about this month. I’m not allowed to get mad at myself about doing a thing or not doing a thing. I’m not going to berate myself if I don’t build something spectacular, I’m just going to relax and do the things I feel like I need to. I’m reading a little about swift, I’m looking at a couple of other programming things that I’ve been meaning to look at but been too busy, but there are no requirements. I’m not accountable to other people this month, I’m accountable to what I want to do.

About half way through the month, I’ve driven across the country, done an acro yoga festival, visited seven different Patagonia stores (eight if you include Newport, which is a technically not a corporate owned store, but might as well be), sailed four of the last five days, been to Maine for the first time in over a decade, seen my niece and nephew, played with dogs, driven a scooter, and eaten at some of my favorite childhood restaurants (though I’m still searching for a good latté in Newport).

In short, my dream two years ago has been realized and I’m ecstatic about it, and I still have two weeks left!

As people we often talk about what we want to do, but if what you want to do turns into a dream, I suggest you find a way to make it happen. This one ended up not being that hard to pull off and I encourage you to look at your dreams and evaluate what it would to turn them into reality.

Five Dollar Fifth – The Conservation Fund

I’ve been thinking a lot about the environment ever since we elected a President that doesn’t believe in Climate Change. Apparently, so has my favoriate company Patagaonia. They donated 100% of their Black Friday sales to grass roots movements to help the enviroment, totally around 10 million dollars.

For this month’s fifth, I chose The Concservation Fund this month for my donation. Found it from Charity Watch, they have an A+ ranking. If you feel like going out and exploring is important to you, maybe you can consider donating as well.

The Story

This post is originally posted on clairevango.com

When I was a kid my family moved around a bit. We lived in CT, PA, KY and then back to CT again. We spent a couple summers on a boat in RI while parents handled the move between states. While my brothers and I were seperated by years, interests, and social cirlces, we found a way to coexist. We weren’t close, but we were never too far apart.

As an adult, I feel like I’ve missed something something by moving the west coast. I’ve missed opportunity to be closer to my family. I’ve missed the opportunity to see my brothers grow to be men. I know I will be missing much as they begin to start families and I’m 3000 miles away.

When my youngest brother told me I was going to be uncle, I felt emmense joy and also sadness because this was a transition in stage of life for him. I haven’t been around since he got out of the marines. I’ve never been close to him as an adult.

When the middle brother told me several weeks later that they were expecting, I realized that both of the relationships with my brothers were about to change.

I thought of the things I wish I had done with my brothers. I thought of the times I missed the most. My first thought was the long annoying road trips we used to take. From our home in Connecticut to skiing in VT. That time we traveled all the way to Maine, to visit our best friends the Beckers. At the time, these were painful experiences, but looking back on it, these were times where we learned about each other. One brother would pick the first CD we would listen to, another the next. Spencer got us into listening to the entire Harry Potter series on tape.

We learned a lot about each other on the road, stuck in a metal box for hours at a time.

These memories inspired my crazy idea:

Buy a van, build it out, and travel with them before they had their first children.

I’m a firm believer that I learn about myself and others on the road. This is the story of me, trying to learn about my brothers and myself on the open road.

Zen and the Art of Zack

This week I caught myself hunting for new sneakers. I’m in my room right now, and I can see no less than 5 pairs of sneakers in sight. I know have a bunch more around my room. The thing is, I don’t need more sneakers. I’m hunting for sneakers. I could find the perfect pair of sneakers. You know, sneakers that at the same time magnificently comfortable and also incredibly stylish and durable. Sneakers that would be great to run a marathon in or take to the tumbling gym.

This whole thought process makes me think of a TED talk I heard called: The Paradox of Choice. The general concept is that as we have more choices we get consumed by finding the best choice. This exercise is somewhat futile because even if we find something good we are consumed with the thought that there is something better out there.

This idea that there is always something better has haunted my life in all aspects. There must be a better way to train. There must be a better food, one that is both healthy and tastes like candy. There must be a better pair of pants that is both cool (in temperature) and cool (in style). There must be a shirt that fits me perfectly. There must be a better way to make this View Controller (for all you iOS programmers out there).

I’ve been consumed with the hunt for the better. While some level of striving for better is a good thing, the obsession I have with it doesn’t feel healthy. I’m never going to stop pushing myself, it is just part of my ethos, but I am going to try and accept more. Be tolerant of more. Take the steps I need to get there.

As another aside, I’d like to mention that I recently re-watched the last two episodes of Life. It is a great show, and has a lot of Zen concepts. I used to be sad that this show ended in only two seasons, but the more I think about it, the more I feel that it was the way it was supposed to be and I have to be content taking the lessons I can from the two seasons that were produced.

Reverse Quitting

I was listening to a radio ad the other week about quitting smoking. It was very compelling. The ad said that all people who quit smoking are people who have tried to quit before, failed, and kept trying until they didn’t fail. They learned each time what didn’t work, until they found what did.

I’m not quitting.

I’m starting.

I love beginnings.

I love the beginnings of each day, I’m a morning person.

I love the intro skill, the back handspring, the toss hands, the hello world program, the basic rule of thirds photograph, the empty notebook before it has been marked.

There is a lot of promise in a beginning. Somewhere along the way I feel like I mess it up. I make a errant mark in the notebook, miss the exposure or composition of the photograph, lose the technique on a harder stunt, each too much junk food by the end of the night.

I keep trying to get started and don’t make very much progress. I give up and live in despair for a couple of days, and then try again.

The problem is, that I’m not sure I’m good at keeping track of my mistakes and avoiding them the next day, the next start.

I’m going back to my “Make Something” manifesto. I’m going to stop ending each night by just watching NCIS episodes. I”m going earn each episode. I’m going to earn each nights sleep. I’m going to earn it by eating better, working on building my projects (van, travel, climbing), and taking care of my body.

I will keep trying to figure it out, and if/when I fail, I’ll figure it out and start again.

Today doesn’t feel like a failure, and I’m excited about carrying this beginning into tomorrow!