Thursday, September 22, 2016

Missing the Blog

I think about this blog frequently.  Post titles pop into my head while I'm showering.  Entire lines of text write themselves in my mind while I'm examining patients.  I am the type of person who is constantly trying to understand life, to fit it to a logical narrative, and this blog feels like an integral part of that process of understanding.  And yet, I don't make enough time for it.  Days or weeks go by without a post until I return, overwhelmed with things I want to write about, only to write a list of bullet points.

I've been working a lot lately on habits - finishing up my work efficiently, getting to the gym, staying connected with friends - and I think that blogging is going to be the next one I try to work one.  I'm finding that if I just leave things to chance that I never seem to get to them, but if I make a regular commitment of time, then I tend to get things done.  So hopefully if I make a plan for blogging I will start logging more than one or two posts per month.

Any suggestions on how frequently I should post?  If you're a blogger, how do you keep up a regular posting schedule?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Revisiting the Budget for the Millionth Time

I started writing a post about the emotional impact of medicine (thank you counseling for digging up all the painful memories and for making me feel all the feels), but it was too much for a late night blog post, so I thought I would write briefly about budgeting (yet again).

I thought I had finally solved my budget dilemma by simply increasing my daily allowance, but when I tried to put it into practice, it just didn't feel right.  I found myself alternating between feeling stressed about essential purchases like cat litter because they would put me over budget and searching for frivolous things to spend money on because there was suddenly room in my budget.  I am constantly looking for balance in my life, and the budgeting system I had used for the past two years was starting to feel very unbalanced.

(Physician On FIRE wrote a good blog post about this phenomenon here.  Definitely worth a read.)

The problem came to a head over the long weekend, when I had a nice chunk of money sitting in my budget, and I decided to spend it on a massage.  Not a utilitarian therapeutic massage, of course, but an over-the-top, self-indulgent spa massage.  Complete with a complimentary robe and slippers, assorted spa snacks, and a post-massage relaxation room to allow me to "slowly re-integrate into the outside world".  It was more than twice as expensive as any massage I'd ever had, and it made for two of the most pleasant and relaxing hours of my entire life.  Pure bliss.

But then it was over.  And after handing over a ridiculous sum of money, I was left with nothing but the memory of Renaldo's hands massaging all of the stress out of my body.  And while that is a lovely memory, it doesn't get me any closer to financial security.  Later in the day of the massage, as I was following the endless rabbit holes of the Internet, I stumbled upon a blogger's Philosophy of Money.  And one section really stood out for me:

"I want to live in such a way that I minimize the number of years that I have to work for money. I’ll have a modest house, car and lifestyle and will never spend more just because I earn more. I’ll invest any surplus so that I can live on my own terms sooner than later."

Yes.  Exactly.  Just because I'm finally earning my doctor's salary doesn't mean that I want to inflate my lifestyle to the typical doctor's lifestyle.  I want to live reasonably and modestly so that I can save any extra money and be in a position to retire early(ish).  I want freedom more than I want complimentary spa snacks.

I will never spend more just because I earn more.

So I'm revisiting the budgeting yet again.  And instead of trying to stick to a defined spending limit, I'm trying to focus on maximizing the value I get from my spending.  Whenever I make a purchase, if it isn't something I clearly need (Cat litter - yes.  Wine - kind of?), then I try to determine whether it's something that is going to enrich my life more than the time off that I could buy with the money.  Going back to the ridiculously expensive massage, I could have lived for two days at my current spending level for the cost of the massage.  If I'd invested the money for ten years, it could have bought me four days of freedom.  When viewed in that way, the decision is easy:  I would always choose two days off of work over a massage.  No matter how perfect Renaldo's hands may be.

Interestingly, this approach to budgeting seems to be working better for me so far.  I recently had to buy cat litter*, and I didn't panic over the fact that it put me over budget.  I'm currently sitting significantly under budget, and I'm not looking for things to spend money on.  I'm just trying to focus on the things that really make my life better, which can very rarely be purchased.

*Why do my cats have to eat the most expensive cat food and poop in the most expensive cat litter?  If I didn't love them so ridiculously much I could be much better off financially.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

So Many Things

You know how something happens and you think "I should blog about this", but then you don't have make the time to do it, and then something else happens that you want to blog about, but you can't because you still have to blog about the first thing, and then it happens over and over again until you have ten things you want to write about and you haven't blogged in almost a month?

Yeah.  That. 

So...because I can't decide which of the major life events I want to leave out of my blog post, and because no one wants to read a brief autobiography disguised as a blog post, here is the last month of my life in bullet points:

  1. I got back together with my (no longer) ex-girlfriend.  After the breakup, I don't think I went more than four or five days without seeing M*, and I definitely didn't go that long without talking to her.  I missed her.  We started out doing the "we're spending all our time together but not dating" thing over a month ago, and we declared ourselves dating again a few weeks ago, and so far it seems to be going well.  We're doing our best not to repeat some of the mistakes we've made in the past, and it definitely makes for a healthier relationship.  We shall see where this goes...
  2. My grandmother died.  My grandmother was 94, slightly senile, and diabetic, and yet I was convinced that she would live forever.  A few weeks ago, I got the call that she had had a heart attack and been made palliative, so I headed out to her small community as prepared as one ever is to say goodbye.  When I arrived at the hospital, she was asleep in her bed, but she quickly roused and demanded to be taken home.  By the time we got her back to the PCH, she was back to her usual feisty self, showing no signs of what had happened.  Unfortunately, a week later she fell and broke her hip (for the third time), and that was the beginning of a very rapid end.  My grandmother was the most resilient of the resilient Depression era farm women, and so it's still amazing to me that she's gone.  I still have moments when I feel guilty for not visiting her, so I don't think it's quite sunk in yet.
  3. I decided what to do with my budget.  The comments on my previous blog post were fascinating to me!  It's interesting how everyone has their own unique way of being financially responsible, many of which are different from my own.  In the end, I realized that my current method of budgeting is actually working pretty well for me, except for the fact that the amount of money I was allowing myself didn't fit with the amount of income I was bringing in.  So, I threw $500 at the budget to get myself out of the black, and I increased the regular amount in my budget by 1/3.  Since the change, I have bought Threadless t-shirts and Happy Socks, taken a thankfully not sick cat for a very expensive vet visit, and booked a luxurious spa day for the long weekend.  So I'm over budget again.  But enjoying spending some of my hard earned money instead of just hoarding it in the event of future catastrophe.
  4. I started counselling.  I wrote before about how I had seen a psychiatrist through a service at work, but what I've never written about was how abysmal the whole experience was.  I went in looking for some coping strategies and maybe some cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety, but what I got was someone who wanted to put me on medication and explore all of the supposedly traumatic events from my childhood (um, no thanks).  It was a terrible match.  I put off looking for someone else until M and I got back together, and then I decided that I needed someone external to help me navigate the waters of rekindling an old relationship.  I've met with the counsellor once, and it seems like a better fit so far, so I'm hoping that something good will come out of it.
  5. I started exercising again.  It has become abundantly obvious to me that everything is better when I exercise.  Not in a future oriented "I won't have a heart attack when I'm 50" kind of way, but in an "I'm less of a psycho hose beast when I exercise" kind of way.  Exercise is definitely good for my stress, my energy level, my sleep, and my all round happiness.  My goal for September, in fact, is to restart the habit of exercising three times a week.  It will likely consist of me running on the treadmill on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, as I have no clinics those mornings, and then doing something else on Saturdays or Sundays.  I may alternatively do an exercise class at work on Thursday afternoons, as there's one that starts after my work day ends.  This week I'm planning to go to yoga on Saturday morning, as my sciatic pain has flared up from the running**, but I may be more creative in the future.
  6. I signed up for a meditation class.  This terrifies me.  I've been reading books about how wonderful meditation is (like 10% Happier and Full Catastrophe Living), and I'm fully convinced that it can make me a happier and more productive person, but I absolutely hate the idea of having to actually do it.  Sitting with nothing but my thoughts?  Breathing exercises?  Walking meditations?  All of that sounds terrible.  And yet, starting October 5 I will be doing it every Wednesday evening.  
And that is my life.  How is everyone else doing?

*I'm giving her an initial, because it's far too tedious to keep typing "the girlfriend" or "the ex-girlfriend" depending on my current relationship status.  Also my hands are sore from typing chart notes.

**When did I turn 80?