Daylight Savings

It’s around 6:30 in the morning, and it’s that perfectly calm time before enough people are awake to make you feel as though the day is started. I’m sitting on my back porch listening to the bugs. There is no loud drone of nearby air conditioners, because honestly, the temperature is perfect and has been perfect all night. My wife told me yesterday that Atlanta didn’t get the memo that it isn’t summer any more.

It’s dark but getting brighter. Still dark enough for the slight motion of my head to trigger the lights on this porch, which is irritating me :/ I remember when i was a kid, my dad shot out a light on the border of our and our neighbor’s yard, because it would never turn off, and we and our neighbor hated it. Then, the city came and fixed it. Then, my dad shot it out again. I was just thinking that it’d be nice to do that to the light on my back porch, but I think the ambient brightness is getting to be enough that the light is shutting up.

I just noticed some birds chirping that weren’t chirping before. Notifying us of the morning. The smell in the air is nice. I imagine not many people are on the highway at this time of morning on a Sunday, because the usual loud drone of the nearby highway is barely noticeable.

Ooh - more birds! I wish I could recognize them by their songs. A year ago, I would often come out here with cheap binoculars and try to catch a glimpse of the birds. It’s a lot harder than I originally thought. Anyway, that’s still on my list of things to get better at - looking at and identifying birds.

Sun rises in 15 minutes or so. I’m so happy for the local shift in time. My schedule is centered around what the sun is doing. I wake up before sunrise to pray. With the shorter days, it has been easy to stay up afterwards. Now, with the time shift, I’ll have another hour to do something in the morning before my first meetings at work. Before, I had time to do things after praying fajr, but it wasn’t quite enough time.

I’ve been having distressing dreams lately. They are not quite intense enough to call “nightmares”, but I do love being overly dramatic for the sake of humor. In any case, I woke up to one of these today. I had another one a couple nights ago. It was on the verge of being believable. In the dream, my mom received the letter and gift I sent her from my recent trip to Montreal (which I actually did send, but she hasn’t yet received), and expressed an expectation that the gift I sent would have been worth more money, considering the expense of the trip (which I didn’t pay for, btw, not that it mattered in the dream). What a terrifying dream this was to me! (that’s me being dramatic, I was only very slightly terrified, though I did wake up in a full body sweat). It took me a full five minutes of being awake afterwards to realize how ridiculous this dream was - my mom is almost certainly going to love the gift, and she definitely doesn’t care about how much I paid for it. She’s just happy she’s finally receiving a response to her letters over the past couple months (and excited that it contains a little something extra).

But the fact of the matter is, I have been dreaming more, and in most cases so far, these dreams have been ever so slightly off-putting. Just enough to be disturbing, but not enough to make me wish I wasn’t dreaming.

It’s much brighter out now. I can actually clearly distinguish all the colors. The sun should be coming up, but I’m not in position to see it. The birds nearby have chilled out a little, but I’m hearing new kinds in the distance. I think I just heard some crows - or some other kind of bird that makes a “caw” sound. The insects are still making their soothing background music too. I’m curious for how long.

It’s obvious to me why I’m dreaming more. I have quit most (all?) of my addictions within the past month, and that includes my daily cannabis use. Nicotine was the really bad one. I’ve never been addicted to cigarettes, but I’ve had a nicotine habit (vaping) on and off since college (mostly on). I used to drink a lot of alcohol (in large part due to my college and friend group), but I haven’t since sometime around 2018 (shortly after college graduation). Alcohol was actually very easy for me to give up. I don’t even crave it. Nicotine, on the other hand, I’ve quit a few times in the past. And the cravings get less frequent, but every once in a while there is a very powerful stressor and corresponding craving. And this can bring back my nicotine addiction full force. And very often, this will also cause me to relapse into other bad habits.

Anyway, I’m fairly optimistic this time. I took advantage of my trip to Montreal for work in order to quit vaping. I had been listening to several audiobooks and podcasts on the topics of addiction, dopamine, and the particular effects of different substances on the brain and body (e.g. nicotine, cannabis). Even just learning about how my dumb brain and body act in response to certain stimuli made it easier to quit. My main concern was that the irritability from nicotine withdrawal would come out to my coworkers, and I wouldn’t be pleasant to be around. But this didn’t happen at all. In fact, I felt more invigorated and excited to do things and interact with people than any time I can remember in recent history. I didn’t even think about nicotine. But, since I had been learning about dopamine and the brain, and being around people is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world, I knew for sure I would experience an emotional crash when I returned home. And this did in fact happen, even before I got on the plane to come back to Atlanta. But I just had to bear through it for a couple days to get back to something resembling an emotional equilibrium. Then I finally wrote my letter to my mom.

It’s really crazy what addiction (in particular, nicotine and cannabis addiction) did to my brain. I remember being particularly irritable after returning from my trip, and blaming it on being in an elevated/euphoric state due to being around people for a week, and experiencing a crash afterwards. I was writing about this to my mom in the letter. At the same time, I was preparing some food on the stove (I just tossed stome stuff in a pot at low heat and was stirring it occasionally). Over the course of the two-page letter, I completed my cooking and began eating. By the time I was finished eating, I was also wrapping up my letter. And I felt a lot better. But it was too late! I had already written all this stuff about how these feelings I was feeling in the moment of writing were attributable to social withdrawal and not having my crutches (i.e. nicotine) to rely on, etc. etc… But really I was just hungry and I needed to eat. How much of what I would previously have called “nicotine withdrawal” was just me forgetting I had a normal appetite that I suppressed with stimulants??

So anyways, I have been doing a lot better lately. I still have occasional cravings, but I have no desire to be addicted to anything again. It feels awesome to be able to enjoy simple things like the smell of the air or the sensation of fabric on my skin. Or these bugs which - while quieter - are still going at it. I’ve been sleeping a lot better, too. Surely, it helps to not be consuming stimulants all the way up until bedtime. Weed also doesn’t help with getting restful sleep either (or dreaming!).

But there are some obvious “downsides” to quitting my addictions, even after the withdrawal period has ended. Now, I have no way to easily drown out the things I need to do. At least not unless I decide to get addicted to social media or something again.. lol. Before, whenever I felt stressed (or hungry, or sad, or thirsty, or literally anything), I would just hit my vape and it would seem to help (but not actually, lol). Now, I just have to accept that nothing will be done about the stressor unless I do something about it, or accept my powerlessness to do something about it (depends on the stressor).

One habit I have been developing to help me deal with stress without additive

Whoa there’s a super cool parkour squirrel jumping through the trees! What a ninja! That was exciting.

One habit I have been developing to help me deal with stress without addictive substances is to take cold showers in the morning. Staring down a cold stream of water and stepping in deliberately, and staying in for several minutes does a lot for my perceived ability to adapt to stress. It’s really satisfying. The sensation of drying off afterwards (and the natural dopamine high) is better than any hot shower. Plus, it feels like I got the most stressful part of my day out of the way right at the beginning, motivating me for the remainder of the day. I’m getting excited just thinking of taking a cold shower after I finish writing this. Actually, I’m a little nervous that it won’t actually be stressful (what a weird thing to be nervous about). Yesterday I took a cold shower and I was able to be much more meditative and calm. So it felt like I wasn’t actually getting any practice being exposed to stressful situations. Now it just feels nice. Which I guess is fine. But I also liked the feeling that I was exercising some “ability to deal with stress” muscle. I’ll still be searching for new ways to do that. Because I know I can’t go back to nicotine or weed for that. It never helps long-term.

I’ve biked to the local book store yesterday. They’re closing down (maybe temporarily?) but had a bunch of books for free out front. I got some good ones, including Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, one of my (and my wife’s) favorite authors. Though I wouldn’t suggest starting with Doomsday Book. Rather, you should start with To Say Nothing of the Dog, which takes place in the same universe, but which is decidedly more hilarious and less depressing. An employee at the store also gave me Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole after learning that I was searching for anything by David Foster Wallace, and noting that the only thing she had accessible in that moment was an autographed copy of Infinite Jest (which obviously she didn’t want to part with). She also didn’t have accessible anything by Tolkein (she was very busy and technically the store was closed), but she recommended (extremely extremely highly) a fantasy series called The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. Based on her pitch, I am not expecting to be disappointed (although I haven’t learned anything about it yet).

Writing felt nice. It’s solidly daytime right now (7:43, almost an hour after sunrise), and it’s time to get the rest of my day kicked off. May God guide me, and any readers, and our loved ones towards all that is good and away from all that is not.