What “In The Zone” Means For Me

Posted in Live-In Favorites on April 15, 2011 by liveinhusband

I’ve read a lot of tips for how to make fitness a consistently high priority.

Here’s another one.

For me, running with my friends (who were also my coworkers) was a great help when getting started. Now, a big part of fitness is about being “in the zone.”

When people say “don’t sweat the little things,” they are suggesting that pretty much everything we worry about is minor. To be honest, I find this sort of thinking suspicious.

“Don’t worry about your health.”

“Bring me three pizzas.”

It isn’t going to take long before reality demands that we sweat over those pizzas.

Still, there is something to be said for focus and distraction, and many of the things that we focus on do distract us from what really matters.

For me, being in the zone means reaching a point where failure is something I can learn from rather than sweat over. I can have a terrible day at work or in my personal life, but if I run, swim, or cycle hard, I might be able to shed that weight and figure out how to solve a problem — or realize that I didn’t have a problem in the first place.

Sometimes it takes a while to reach, but the longer I’m in the zone, the better I’ll feel about just about everything.

And the more fit you are, the longer you can stay in the zone.

So get out your sneakers.

When a Recovering Type A Personality Marries a Get Out of My Way Personality

Posted in Live-In Favorites on April 13, 2011 by liveinhusband

Every morning, I ask my wonderful wife about our plans for the day, often before I say “good morning.”

This drives her crazy.

However, not knowing what the plan is — or not having a plan at all — drives me crazy.

I have a Type A personality, which means that I manage my time intensively and find interruptions very stressful. A Type B personality is much more likely to say “we’ll play it by ear.” When I took a test to see whether I was Type A or Type B, I was overwhelmingly Type A. A coworker at the time said I’ll die of heart disease if I don’t learn how to take things easy.

Relax or die.

Just what a high strung Type A personality needs to hear.

It’s strange to see how stressed I can get, because I think I’m usually pretty easy going. Still, when I play pickup soccer, to take one example, if the game should start at 10:00, I will arrive at 9:50. Everyone else arrives at 10:15. I spend every minute between 9:50 and 10:15 brooding about what else I could be doing with all of this wasted time. Instead of coming late, I’ll probably bring a book to read during the wait, because they should arrive on time, damn it.

In many ways, I live more easily if I don’t have to be around others. But that doesn’t make for a very interesting soccer game.

So before I became a live-in husband, I began making efforts to curb my Type A personality. To some extent, I used my personality to prevent stress by making back up plans. When all of my best laid plans fail, I can get really frustrated, but by taking time to make those back up plans, I experience that intense stress less often.

Perhaps the most important change I made was organizing my daily routine around avoiding rush hour. What a relief.

Unfortunately, my wife does not share my commitment to intensive time management. Quite stubbornly, she insists that we should just leave the house “whenever,” an attitude that might seem reasonable. However, I tend to associate this attitude with “If I want to go the gym, the world can get out of our way.”

The world will not get out of our way. The world will be busy and crowded. That doesn’t matter to my stubborn wife, but it does matter to my blood pressure.

I know they say married men live longer, but I can’t help wondering if my wife and I will be the exception that proves the rule.

So every morning, I will ask “what’s the plan for today?”

Resisting the Urge to Spend

Posted in Live-In Favorites on April 11, 2011 by liveinhusband

I blogged recently that I need to find an expensive hobby so that I can keep up with my wife’s shopping. I may have found it.

Coats.

What a great time of year to feel a craving to buy a jacket.

How did this happen?

Growing up, I focused mostly on being warm. Function over fashion. Perhaps to a fault. I wore the same jacket for spring / fall weather throughout high school and university, and I wore the same winter jacket for even longer. When I left Canada, I moved to Hong Kong, so I left my winter wardrobe behind. (And when I returned there last winter, my parents had lost my beloved coats). So when I became a live-in husband, I already had a decent amount of formal wear, including some tailored suits, shirts and slacks, but no outerwear.

Suddenly, I needed to think about buying a coat for the first time since high school.

I don’t know why, but one of the easiest ways to integrate into American culture has been through fashion. When I first moved here, I bought a pea coat, which I think is a pretty standard Northeastern tradition. I also bought a very nice three button wool topcoat to wear to work and other formal occasions. My wife told me that it rains a lot here during spring, so I recently picked up a serviceable used khaki raincoat to take the place of my topcoat.

Now I’m looking for a blazer to dress up jeans and a button-down. The Strokes just released a new album, so I’m always thinking about buying a leather jacket.

And while shopping, I also came across this winter coat and this car coat.

It doesn’t seem like I’m far away from spending all of my money on fall and winter clothing in spring.

It occurs to me that I have a problem.

So now I’m trying to resist the urge to shop.

You’d think this would be easy, but it’s not.

My first approach was to ask my wonderful wife for advice.

“You’re asking me for advice on how not to buy clothing?”

Good point.

At the moment, I’ve found the most effective method of resisting this urge to buy has been to simply find something else that I’d like to buy and then research it instead.

The downfall is that the list of things that I’d like to buy is growing…

And the longer I wait, the more reasons I come up with to buy another coat.

Yoga, Breathing, and An Alternative to Offering Solutions

Posted in Live-In Favorites on April 8, 2011 by liveinhusband

My wonderful wife says that sometimes I’m a jerk.

She’s right.

Of all the jerk things I do, I think the worst might be offering unsolicited advice. When people complain about their life, I just feel compelled to offer them advice, even though I complain all the time. Examples?

“I’m so tired today.”

“Have you tried sleeping at night?”

What a jerk thing to say.

I can’t help it.

“I’m really thirsty.”

“You should drink more water.”

How to overcome this jerk burden?

When in search of wisdom, go to yoga.

At the end of a recent class, my (Hatha 1) yoga instructor approached me and complimented me on my form and how I’ve tied it to my breathing.

I guess everyone else in the class breathes according to her instructions (“exhale, twist, inhale, untwist”). Once I know what the motion is, I move in time with my breathing. To be honest, it’s very relaxing to do this, which is why I usually ignore the timing of her instructions. In comparison to the rest of the class, I guess I have fairly healthy lungs, so I’m usually five to ten seconds behind. I’m not doing my own thing, but I do what I’m doing in my own time, and she appreciates that since she always tells us that yoga is about tying motion to breath.

This was the first time that anyone ever complimented me on breathing, and to be honest, I would not have included “breathing” on a list of things that I would like to receive recognition for.

But it was probably the best part of my week.

So the next time someone complains to you, give them a compliment.

“I’m thirsty.”

“Maybe, but you have really good skin.”

Fly One Time

Posted in Live-In Favorites on April 6, 2011 by liveinhusband

Trading in my life to move around the world and become a live-in husband was not an easy decision. It meant leaving a lot of things behind and required a belief that my life would be better if I took a chance.

Our situation was unusual because my wife and I lived apart for one year.

Marriage was a pretty easy decision for me.

Moving to live with my wife was not.

In times of doubt, I would listen to “Fly One Time” by Ben Harper. In particular, whenever I would fly to America to visit my wonderful wife, I would listen to this song a lot because I loved living in Hong Kong. “Fly One Time” is a song that, in Ben Harper’s words, is about “stepping out of your life and stepping to it,” and I found that this sentiment was exactly what I needed to hear in times of doubt.

If my life has had a guiding philosophy since I was about 21, this idea of stepping outside of self-imposed constraints would be a big part of it.

For example, I bungee jumped off Macau Tower with three witnesses (and none of them jumped with me). Jumping off of a tower with a rope wrapped around my ankles was an easy decision for me because it meant that I was stepping outside of life and into it at the same time.

Oddly, moving to the land of the free has in some ways led me to live a very constrained life. You can do very little when you wait for your green card, which is why I started writing this blog. Now I’ve been in America long enough to obtain permission to work and study. It’s a return to purpose and active citizenship, and I think it’s fitting that I am building my life again during spring.

Every day offers a little more sunshine, and I feel compelled to do something with it.

But it’s irritating to think that I might be wasting hours. I’m beginning to shed the “live-in husband,” but so far I’ve only managed to become an “underemployed husband.”

I don’t feel like I’ve found my place, and it’s not clear how I can find it.

Usually, I would just move to another country when I feel this way.

So putting my life back together will take more than a snap of the fingers.

Sometimes I feel depressed.

Sometimes I feel frustrated.

Sometimes I feel like I’m coming out of hibernation.

So I’ve begun listening to “Fly One Time” again.

Brooches, Inner Tubes, and Stupid Things I Say

Posted in Live-In Favorites on April 4, 2011 by liveinhusband

Sometimes I say things that are so stupid that even if I provide a context for them, no one will come to my defense. My wife takes advantage of this. If you’re wearing white pants, you shouldn’t ask how you look.

“White pants aren’t slimming.”

Everyone knows this, but it doesn’t need to be said.

“It doesn’t need to be said” is something I’ve always had trouble with, especially because I don’t think I lie very often.

My wife has recently begun wearing brooches, which I think makes her look like she’s fifty. That doesn’t mean that I should point that out. And all of her older friends love the brooches. So does my mom.

Great, enjoy your fifties.

When you’re the clean one in a relationship, you’ll often hear questions like “where are the screwdrivers?” There are correct choices for a responsible husband to choose from, and I rarely choose the right option.

For example. Spring is here, my wife has a new bicycle, and she needs extra inner tubes to take along on her first cycle of the season. Where are they?

“I have no idea.”

Discard.

“How should I know?”

Discard.

“I don’t know.”

Now, “I don’t know” is honest, but it might lead to trouble. I decided that it was least likely to lead to trouble. I was wrong, because it led my wife to declare that if I clean the house, I should know where things are. To which I (perhaps too quickly) replied “if you leave something where it’s not supposed to be for weeks at a time, I don’t see how you can claim to care where it is six months later.”

I’m not saying that I was wrong, or that I disagree with this argument.

But that was a stupid thing to say.

No One Ever Expects to Wake Up To Trimming Nose Hair

Posted in Live-In Favorites with tags on April 1, 2011 by liveinhusband

It’s difficult to walk away from history class without getting the impression that all changes can be tracked. Looking back, I can clearly see how I changed from the sort of person that would never marry to the sort of person that would. How did I not notice that it was happening at the time?

When we look at the present, we often try to predict the future. I remember reading an Asimov story in which people used miniature nuclear reactors to dispose of their garbage. That’s not really what happened (yet), but I can see how he thought it might. Science fiction if full of such predictions.

When it comes to the experience or realization of change, I think it feels much more chaotic or sudden than we are prepared to realize. Certainly it’s more devastating than we realize.

Take aging, for example.

Now, I knew I was going to lose my hair. My grandfather was chrome-dome bald by 19. My father made it into his 30s. I knew what was coming and kept watch.

Sadly, you can’t pay attention to everything.

So I was shocked to wake up this week and see that there were massive bags under my eyes. Of course, I’ve always had bags under my eyes when I did not get enough sleep. But these ones don’t appear to be going away, even though I’ve been sleeping really well this week.

In terms of appearance, I just aged like five years over the course of a day.

Moments like these are a real wake-up call for me — I suppose that they are for everyone.

What’s next?

  • Trimming nose hair?
  • Plucking ear hair?