Distractions That Bring Loneliness

A Lonely Week

Over the past few days I’ve been moping about. The days are getting shorter. I experienced unrequited interest from a girl. I had a nasty stomach bug (sous vide honey ginger tea and saltine crackers are a godsend.) It was a below average quality week as my weeks go.

No Reason for Sadness

I have no legitimate reason to be upset for very long. I live in a comfortable home. I  have an excellent job I enjoy with coworkers I enjoy even more. I have more good family and friends than anyone can reasonably hope for. I get to see and talk to them often. Yet I still sometimes, especially during times of relative (psychology is about relative pain and pleasure) low points, feel lonely and undriven, even though I know this is absurd and that my absolute position is one that is incredibly privileged. Perhaps you do sometimes, too. During these times, I try to be particularly aware of the mechanisms by which my malaise is manifesting itself so that I can mitigate the symptoms. This past week has been one of those times.

An Insight

I had a relevant insight last night when I went to check my phone for the thirtieth time of the evening. Something I’ve been doing with it is exacerbating my malaise. It’s pervasive, it’s dangerously close to me, at all times, and it’s addictive. It stalks me on several different fronts and I can’t reasonably get away from it: digital communications. I go check on them far too often. And then I get a little disappointed every time there is nothing to see, especially when there’s nothing from my friends.

GMail, Facebook, Reddit, Slack, SMS, Instagram, and even Yelp. I love these things. They keep me updated. They keep me in contact with friends, family, and strangers with similar interests. They help me build lists and hire virtual assistants. But they also become an outlet to churn the feedback loop of loneliness.

feel a bit down or lonely. But my surroundings all point towards comfort and reasonable happiness. So I keep looking around for distractions from the feeling. This easily leads to over-checking my phone for contact from my friends and being just a little sad that no one took the time to notice me or think of me. I’m not talking about anything drastic. I don’t get upset or angry. But just a marginal amount in less of a good mood. Over time, checking the phone over and over again this can add up if I’m already in a below average state.

A Mission

I have things I want to do on my ownWatch good movies, read insightful books, spend time building hit-lists for my next project or blog. I’m good about keeping physically active. But more passive activities become very easily distracted by the GMail, Facebook, Reddit, Slack, SMS, Instagram, and even Yelp funnel. They are fast, easy, and addictive distractions.

A picture at a venue somewhere in Las Vegas.

The Distraction

Notifications and websites are always there, a lingering potential that someone, at any time might have texted, emailed, messaged, upvoted, approved, liked, or recommended. When I’m alone, I want that contact. Small pleasures come from being acknowledged by a friend. I want to see what people thought of my blog article. Or how they are reacting to an event my roommates posted on Facebook. I want to see if my favorite flight deal blog has posted any new deals or if credit card companies have announced new signup bonuses to exploit. But when there’s nothing left to check, there is a feeling of lack, especially when I’m hoping just marginally to hear from my friends.

The value of this social  and information connection is great. But it has a proper place. I need to be able to see who I am on my own, and love doing the things I value on my own. I don’t want to go to an app or a website to get a quick social fix. I don’t want to be distracted by an app or a website with the hope that someone valued something I posted or said. I want to see those things. But, I want to see them on my own time, not in a constant flow. That certainly is not what’s currently going on in my life at the moment. How would I like to improve in this area?

Focusing on a Mission

I want to have a distraction-resistant mission for my free time. I know the books I want to read, the exercise I want to do, the flexible social time, the movies, shows, the silent reflection time, naps, cleaning, whatever it may be. I want to value my time and mission enough to not turn to GMail, Facebook, Reddit, Slack, CatholicMatch, SMS, Instagram, and even Yelp for an outlet, except on my own terms. I want to be able to focus better on the tasks at hand. When I run out of things to do, I want to have a calm and reflective plan to build out a new plan. Perhaps I lack a detailed, practical, and actionable enough personal mission. By mission here I mean to speak of the tasks, people, enterprises, values, and goals for which I want my time to serve.

Having a phone by my side or a computer in my room at all times isn’t bad per se. But it becomes a problem when those devices become small ATM’s of validation and distraction flickering their seductive subtle lights 24/7.

One thing I’ve tried is placing my phone 20 secs walking away in my living room when I get home. This has helped a bit. However, things get more complex with my laptop. It holds all my work, my entertainment, research, emails, etc. I’m not sure I can reasonably set it outside of my free-time work space without sacrificing the value of internet connectivity.

I want to write separately about becoming oneself through understanding one’s personality and temperament and preferences and personal mission enough to become distraction-resistant. This concept is topically distinct enough to deserve a separate post, however.

The High Desert in Vya, Nevada

The Danger of Digital

Digital devices can become an outlet that exacerbate problems in our lives. We use them to confirm false assumptions about the world. In my case, I was having (obviously false) thoughts my loneliness/sadness was justified slightly by the fact that my phone was blowing up with notifications on a Friday night. Of course this is absurd. But without the human physical connection, GMail, Facebook, Reddit, Slack, CatholicMatch, SMS, Instagram, and even Yelp become a way to simulate and churn the feedback-loop of loneliness self-talk.

Concluding Considerations

Think about your phone and computer. How often do you go check them? Do you ever feel left out if you don’t get a notification or information? Is this a reasonable reaction? How much time have you lost on these distractions when they were unnecessary? How close do you hold your phone and computer to your important work, literally and figuratively? Are you a distractible person? What steps have you taken to become distraction-proof?

140 Philly Cheap Eats Worth Eating- Fall 2017

The following are the Philadelphia cheap eats that meet my  criteria for visiting. These criteria are not meant to give an exhaustive list, but to serve as a beginning point for finding excellent food based on crowdsourced data and analysis.  The categories are not perfect, not every place may be the best for every type of food. But, this list is a great starting point for finding good cheap eats in the city of Philadelphia. It is not meant to be free from error. Defining cheap is admittedly arbitrary but effort was given to get close to reality. I encourage you to investigate individual restaurant menus before you go. Some of these are bars and cafés, which may be fun to visit do  not necessarily get their rankings for the food. I have included these because I know many of this blog’s readers enjoy beer and camaraderie. I apologize if there are any misrepresentations or omissions and I’m open to hearing suggestions.

The Philly 140

American

The Grill Smuckers
Texas Wiener
Rybrew
Meltkraft At Reading Terminal Market
The Original Turkey
Billy Murphy’s Irish Saloon
Donkey’s Place
Nick’s Old Original Roast Beef
Magic Carpet Foods
John’s Roast Pork
Paesano’s Philly Style
Max’s Steaks
Leo’s Steak Shop
Fox & Son Fancy Corndogs

Asian and Indian

Foo Kitchen Asian Fusion
Mr Wish Bubble Tea
A Cup Of Tea Bubble Tea
China House Chinese
Fu-Wah Mini Market Convenience Stores

 

Saad’s Halal Restaurant Halal
Masala Kitchen Kati Rolls and Platters Indian
Hardena/Waroeng Surabaya Restaurant Indonesian
Sky Cafe Indonesian
Panda Cafe Indonesian
Cafe Pendawa Lima Indonesian
Ramayana Restaurant Indonesian
Bangin’ Curry Franklin Japanese Curry
BAP Korean
Mood Cafe Pakistani
Philly Pokè Pokè
QT Vietnamese Sandwich Vietnamese
Cafe Diem Vietnamese
Nam Son Bakery Vietnamese
Brown Street Coffee & Bahnhery Vietnamese
Cafe Cuong Vietnamese
Tu’s Tea & Banh Mi South Philly Vietnamese

 

QT Vietnamese
QT Vietnamese Sandwiches in Philadelphia

Bakeries

The Bagel Hut
Beiler’s Bakery
The Bakeshop on 20th
Artisan Boulanger Patissier
Varallo Brothers Bakery
Four Worlds Bakery

Bars

Philadium Restaurant & Tavern
Fountain Porter
Win Win Coffee Bar
Brew
Crime & Punishment Brewing
Saad’s Halal PC: https://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/0b/83/a5/0a/photo0jpg.jpg

Breakfast and Brunch

Dutch Eating Place
Coffee House Too
The Tasty Toast
Dew Inn
Brunics

https://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/0b/83/a5/0a/photo0jpg.jpg

Cafés/Coffee/Tea

The Living Room Cafe
Good Karma Cafe
Tuscany Cafe
I Tea
Mr Wish – South Philly
Café y Chocolate
Red Hook Coffee & Tea
Rival Bros Coffee
Lulu Cafe
Lucky Goat Coffeehouse
The Monkey & The Elephant
Five Points Coffee

Caribbean

Reggae Reggae Vibes
Jamaican D’s

Crêpes

Vineyards Cafe
The Creperie
Global Crepes & Local Shakes
So Crepe

Delis

Spruce Rana Gourmet Deli and Market
Christie’s Deli
Antonio’s Deli
Hershel’s East Side Deli
Gooey Looie’s
Pastificio
Doc’s Deli
Richie’s Deli & Pizza
Stan’s Deli
Vincenzo’s Deli

Desserts

Heung Fa Chun Sweet House
Dottie’s Donuts
Ice Cave
Fezziwig’s Sweet Shoppe
Winterfell Dessert
Beiler’s Donuts
Donut Plus
The Icery
Lil’ Pop Shop & Cafe

Food Truck and Stands

Mom Mom’s Polish Food Cart
Halal Gyro Express
Magic Carpet
New York Gyro Halal Food Cart
La Dominique
Fresh Fruit Salad Cart
Dump-N-Roll
Tacos El Rodeo
Chewy’s Food Truck
Foolish Waffles
The Spot Food Truck
Calle Del Sabor
Mama’s Meatballs
Jerry’s Kitchen
Philadelphia’s 9th Street Italian Market
Octopus Falafel Truck
New York Gyro Truck

Mediterranean

Talia’s Grille
Pita Chip

Mexican

South Philly Barbacoa
Maribel Restaurant
Pancho’s Cafe
El Compadre
Los Gallos Mexican Taqueria
Tacos Don Memo
Tamalex Restaurant
Prima Pizza Taqueria Mexicana
El Purepecha
La Guera Mexican Grill
Taco Angeleno

Other

Parada Maimon Dominican
Goldie Falafel
Palm Tree Gourmet Grocery

Pizza

Pitruco Pizza
La Rosa Pizzeria
Rione
Zuzu’s Kitchen
Uncle Nicks Pizza
Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza
Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza
La Rosa Pizza Philadelphia PC: https://rowhomeeats.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/img_1103.jpg

Salads

Cafe Square One
Cafe Walnut

Sandwiches

Bui’s
Lyn’s
Rocco’s Italian Sausage
Palm Tree Gourmet
Primo Hoagies

Vegetarian

Mama’s Vegetarian
Hibiscus Cafe
Kung Fu Hoagies

Why I Got Rid of Half of My Stuff

Why Get Rid of Stuff You Might Need?

Possessions are inherently dangerous opportunities to become implicitly materialistic.

The things we own can easily own us. 

Yet they also are necessary and good. Finding a balance between the extremes of materialism and non-ownership is the story here. Over the past couple months, and since reading Tidying Up and Early Retirement Extreme (this is a book about financial independence, not a promotion of bumming around) I’ve been moved to take a deeper look at what I’m holding onto. I didn’t have a ton of stuff before, but now I have a countably finite number of possessions. The experience has been joyful, enlightening, and universally positive.

Purge

I decided to get rid of anything I don’t consider almost essential or essential.

I’ve gone through my room, my storage boxes, and got rid of everything that doesn’t spark either a feeling of necessity and/or joy. In my definition, “necessity” is anything I need to keep up with generally acceptable hygiene and appearance  and the comforts I expect (bed, multiple sets of clothing, a desk, lights, notepads, a dresser.  It’s not a statement about an item’s necessity to my survival. It’s helped me to recognize objects that I could improve (tailor clothes, clean things, improve health routines, move things around for the logical organization.)

Most of my possessions now fit into two small sets of drawers. Everything possible goes out of sight into the closet as per Marie Kondo’s recommendations in Tidying Up.

As my possessions went through this ruthless purge, I found items falling into three categories: needs, joys, and items that do both.

Examples of remaining possessions by category

Necessity

  • Soap
  • Screwdriver
  • Inactive credit cards
  • Important documents (Passport, Warranties)
  • Towels
  • Waste basket
A collage of all my remaining household belongings.

Joy

  • Tour de France shirt
  • Religious articles
  • Baltimore Ravens jersey
  • Appalachian Trail thru-hike newspaper article
  • Cable management box I buil this week from a $0.94 WalMart box
  • Beer, wine, whiskey.
  • Gym Chalk
  • Speakers, TV
  • Bench
  • Daylight box for reducing non-clinical SAD and normalizing circadian rhythm in the winter.

Need and Joy

  • Bed setting, desk, and reading setup from Amazon,
  • Macbook Pro
  • Various food items (spice blends, sauces, knives)

Discard (Trash, Donate, or Sell)

  • Shirts and pants that almost fit
  • All but one book: The Flavor Bible. This is the only book I owned which I considered physically necessary due to it’s non-availability in any form online.
  • Backup toiletries
  • Redundant cooking implements
  • Redundant cleaning and general household supplies
  • Infrequent OTC medicines
  • Bikes I didn’t ride
  • Clothes that were in season but I hadn’t worn in the past month.
  • Various tools I never used.
  • Knickknacks/memorablia I held onto from things I’d done.

Slowly the categories of joy and necessity are merging, which is commensurate with my personality of optimization, but not a necessary element of this program. Because I draw joy from utilization, there aren’t many objects that I keep just for pleasure.

It immensely helped that I didn’t ask my roommates or friends if they wanted anything. Kondo insists on this and it’s been a personal stumbling block in the past. Discarded items need to exit your life to be gone. I would still have some connection to items that switch belonging amongst my roommates and family. Also, figuring out how, when, and who to give your items to in your personal circle greatly complicates the discarding process and exponentially increases the potential to hold onto things to wait for the right person and time to give them away. I recognize this has some negative impacts, but the change in my environment I think is worth this tradeoff.

In all, this purge amounted to being around half of my stuff. I already didn’t have that much, so now I’d consider my possessions to be very lean.

Impacts

I’ve been sharing the book, Tidying Up, with everyone I can. It’s led to significant life improvements.

I have a more rigorous understanding of my artifactual anthropology. I understand what I use and how I use it.  I can see it all. I know why it’s there. Thus, I feel more in control of my environment. Being able to see the things I want and/or need helps keep me grounded in and feel like I live in a purpose-driven environment. This makes my space a place that naturally lends itself to purpose-driven action. Control of one’s environment is essential for psychological well being.

I’m more conscious of the impact of new purchases to my physical and ontic environ. Every new purchase needs a place in this new system. It gets held to the same standard which I’ve held the discarding process. Perhaps this will save me from impulse purchases and help me keep my physical environment practically and visually efficient.

I have a  new take on ownership and a renewed connection to my  possessions. We have finite level of concern for focus. Less things mean the important things get more attention.  The things left remind me of what I value and what I want to do. They are tools for my happiness, my service to others, and my consistent sustenance. Having this simple rule from my possessions helps remind me that objects don’t own me.

My life doesn’t feel any more empty like I thought it might at first. My room is bare, but it doesn’t feel empty. It feels like a lot of space I can use.

After a month, I haven’t missed anything. Most items I’ve trashed I don’t remember at all.

This project has cascaded into a rethinking of what I enjoy and how I want to spend my time. It’s forced me to clash with old assumptions I had about the possessions that I could use to bring me joy. I have found my space to be much more consistently clean. That lends itself to productivity. This productivity has led me to focus further on the other spaces which I inhabit, which I will continue to explore in the months to come.

Have you considered what your physical space means to you? Does it lend itself to focus and joy? Do you feel in control of your space? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Wearing the beloved Tour de France shirt with my brother at the University of Toronto (#22 university in the world).  Late May 2014. Go Blue Beavers!

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