23 December, 2017

Type Different

You can drive a keyboard. If you're average, you can pilot it somewhere between 30 and 70 words per minute, which isn't bad at all. After 40 years behind a keyboard I could cruise near the high end of that range, but I left it all behind. Stenography called out to me with the promise of 200+ words per minute, and I jumped. The Open Steno Project makes the secret tools of court reporting available to anyone with the desire and time to Type Different.

Picture in your mind typing out the word, "and ". In the quiet of your mind, you can feel those three fingers snapping down on the A N and D keys, and then your thumb smacking out a space. You know the shape and timing of the word, "and ". You can type it in under a second without thinking and without error, even though it's four separate actions that must happen in a precise order.

Stenography converts those four actions into one, allowing the stenographer to type faster than lawyers talk.

Imagine that world for a second. Imagine you could hit all four keys for the word "and " at once then smoothly move on in the same way to word after word, spraying 4 or 10 or 6 perfectly spelled characters on the page with each motion. Why stroke 4 keys, when you could lay down 2 or 3 or 4 words in the same amount of time? Who could walk away from a deal so sweet? In fact, why don't our computers already do this?

The rub is, "Dan"

If your poor computer sees you stroke A, D, N, and the spacebar all at once (assuming your computer reads what you typed from left to right), it would have no way to know whether you meant, "and" or "Dan". Even the shift key would offer no clue, because you might want, "And" and not "and". Therein is the awkward difficulty in word-based typing, and why us computer users still slog along with letter-based typing.

Stenography is the science of making word-based typing possible. It's complex, but within the grasp of most people. It works by settling on some soft rules.
1) The keys stroked on a stenographic keyboard are always read from left to right and top to bottom
2) The keyboard is rearranged with consonants clustered at the left and right and vowels in the middle so as to make the largest number of the most frequently used words typable with one stroke. Every remaining word, special character, and control character can be typed, albeit with 2 or more strokes
3) One finger often hits more than one key at a time, making more patterns possible
4) The total number of keys on a stenographic keyboard is actually smaller than the number letters in the alphabet. What is more, some of the keys appear on the keyboard twice -- yes, it works. The combining of keys makes up the difference
5) Stenographic words are typed by sound more often than by spelling, and those sounds become memory helpers pointing toward the shape of each word
6) Why have a spacebar at all? When you're striking a word at a time, it's obvious where the spaces should be, so a stenographer seldom types a space

Steno knows the difference between "and" and "Dan" because the steno keyboard actually has one D on the left side and another on the right. The stenographer can choose to stroke DAN or AND, making it clear to the computer just which he or she meant, and the principle extends to every word there is. Assigning a unique stroke to each and every word is a heady science, but one that's proven its validity over years of the most rigorous use.

Nothing about learning to type at 200+ words per minute comes cheap. 
Remembering back to learning to type, there were many days of frustration when you knew what to type and your fingers just wouldn't do it. Stenography uses half as many keys, but does so in hundreds more ways, so achieving competency takes time. 2 years is the usual minimum time it takes a dedicated student to test at 225 words per minute. Learning to type different is a commitment, not a whim.

Everything about learning to type at 200+ words per minute is rich. 
The exercise of absorbing new rules, the challenge of creating new muscle memories, and the new thinking patterns word-based typing allows are all addictive. The drudgery of typing is elevated for me into a rewarding experience full of wins, level-ups, and discoveries, except the skill I build will be available to me for years to come. This game makes a difference.

I'm not a dedicated student, so 2 years is not in the cards for me. I played at steno for just over a year before I was good enough to start using it daily for everything. After 4 months of daily use, I've almost made it back to my daily typing speed pre-stenography. I've watched others progress faster, and some much faster, but that's okay. I've enjoyed my journey so far, and it's clear I've still got plenty of room to grow. I may never hit 200, but 120 seems sure to happen someday. The quest is fun, and the future looks rosy. I was maxed out typing the same as everyone else, but I'm nowhere near my limits with stenography.

The people at the Open Steno Project are as friendly as I've ever met, and questions are always welcome. If I've piqued your interest, drop on by.

06 October, 2015

The Two Martians

I've read The Martian and seen The Martian, and I have some thoughts about which is better. No, the book is not better. They're both better.

The book is an 8+ hour investment, and by and large it gives good return on that investment the whole way through. The movie is a 3 hour investment, and it does the same. Both mediums gave me the experience of laughing my way through a deadly experience, and I highly recommend either one.

I recommend the book to everyone who:
  • Wants to get the feel of the science behind the decisions the character makes
  • Wants the feeling of an alien disaster to fully permeate their imaginations 
  • Wants to enter into Mark Watney's psyche

I recommend the movie to everyone who:
  • Wants to share the laughter and fears with others as part of the experience
  • Thrills to see human emotion as opposed to visualizing it
  • Would rather block off 3 hours for the experience than catch as catch can with a book for 8 hours spread over however many days

Both gave me the same laughter, fear, and tears, but they did it in different ways and on different levels. To be sure, the movie added some preachy moralizing at the end that wasn't in the book, but I can live with that. The book is probably the better personal experience, if you have the time to invest, but there's something special about the shared experience of the movie.

As for books allowing you to really get into the character's head, I'm not so sure that's correct. The movie simply had to cut 6 hours of the experience. Many actions and events didn't make it into the movie, but virtually all the feelings did. Over and over again, I saw Mark Watney react emotionally to some event, and felt as much a part of it as when I was reading. A thing explained deeply in the book was a fleeting glance in the movie, but I found both powerfully fun.

Both are good for 4.5 out of 5.

05 February, 2015

Is Living Better Spiritual?

I'm writing about physical stuff: sleep, food, exercise. Is that spiritual?

I don't know.

A lot of people argue we can be spiritual while we're doing physical stuff, but I'm thinking the truth is somewhat further down the road. I'm just not sure where.

The Lord is very clear, and His disciples after Him. "The kingdom is not meat and drink; but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." Physical stuff is not the material of the kingdom.


I'm currently experiencing a thyroid deficiency. I function normally until I suddenly hit an energy limit, after which I barely function at all. From that moment until I recover, hours or days later, I judge every person harshly, make mountains of molehills, and find joy in nothing. There's nothing grossly wrong with me, just a tiny hormone imbalance, but my contribution to the goodness of the kingdom plummets. Every relationship in my life is tested, and I'm helpless to contribute positively. It's all I can do not to undo the good I built when all was normal.

My standing before God doesn't change one whit, and I turn to Him in those times, not away. This is not a faith issue. My spirit may even be mysteriously strengthened in some way in the midst of this trial, but I'm confusing and hurting people I love. His grace is sufficient for me, and for those whom I love and hurt, but this little thyroid imbalance reverberates painfully through my little corner of His kingdom.

Eating well, sleeping well, and exercising wisely, the things that keep me within my thyroid's limits, become spiritual disciplines. Should I spend fifteen extra minutes preparing wise food or praying? It's a toss up. The contrast is clearer if I throw in a third option, like watching the latest tennis match. A trashy meal or a skipped prayer won't crush my thyroid, but a missed TV show might actually help it by making time for me to eat, sleep, or exercise. Doing right things might make a positive difference for someone tomorrow.

If physical things become spiritual in times of duress, are they not always spiritual? I think they are. More and more, I believe Jesus was looking forward to the day He would get to cook fish for His friends, the day He'd really need a long drink of water, the day He'd fall happily into bed and enjoy His fill of much-needed sleep. I believe Jesus desired to put on flesh even before His death became part of the mission. Jesus must want to relate to us physically, because He was certainly under no obligation to create such a physical world. Jesus must love this world and His people as the sweaty, real, amazing things He created us to be.

Since I'm still an old 'Damentalist (I take the "fun" out of "fundamentalism") I'll share with you a scripture that persuades me.
Mat 25:34-36
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
The King relishes shared, physical acts. The kingdom may not be meat and drink, but it is awarded to those who share their meat and drink.

I reach this conclusion. Self-improvement is not spiritual, but living better is. Eating, sleeping, and exercising to mold myself into a stunning specimen of humanity may be great, but when used that way they are nothing spiritual. These same disciplines, however, when used to make me better able to love the people I love, seem pretty spiritual to me.

Food, rest, and work become the kingdom of God.

27 January, 2015

Lifting myself

I lift myself up a lot. I lift myself from my chair and bed onto my feet several times a day, of course, but I do a lot more than that. I lift myself from the ground using my hands, or only my feet. I lift myself up to a bar using nothing but my hands. I even lift most of myself using only my back muscles.

For 30 minutes a day, I lift myself in the most difficult way I can. When it gets easy, I intentionally make it harder. I lift myself using just one foot. Or I lean more of my weight onto my hands. I'm only just getting to where I can lift my whole mass up to a pull-up bar, but someday I'll need to make that harder. And when the day comes, I have several strategies, ready-made.

The thing is, the more and harder ways I find to lift myself, the better my body becomes at doing it - and the better I become at being me. I think I've probably already written a piece somewhere about how exercise makes me better at being a social creature, so I don't have to write that now. Today, I just want to write about making my body better at doing body stuff. Over the last three years, I've been amazed at watching what I've made better and worse by pushing myself physically.

I'm all-in on doing this until the day I die. It may be the most consistently exciting 30 minutes of my day. I mean that. I always resisted exercise, but I love doing this.

First, let me talk about the things I've made worse. I'm pushing this thing, but there are concerns.
  • Repetitive Stress Tendon Injuries
    I started doing this at age 47, and was pleasantly surprised how much I could do and how quickly I became able to do more. I read all the warnings about letting the tendons develop, and I understood them. I still didn't let my tendons develop, and I repeatedly injured them. I'm continually re-realizing how very weak my tendons had become, and how much more slowly I need to progress through levels of difficulty. Not less than 6 weeks after a mild tendon injury can I begin testing that tendon again. If I stop immediately upon noticing an issue developing, I can get back into the game after a 2 weeks rest, but I keep trying to pretend nothing's wrong. In my youth I played through injuries. With each new injury I learn again I must always let tendons heal, and I'm actually getting better about it.
  • Adrenal Fatigue
    This one is no joke. Almost a year ago I began to notice I was tiring sooner while working. I kept pushing, and even pushing harder. I especially applied this thinking to my 30 minutes of lifting. I imagined I was growing weaker, and only work would reverse that trend. Wrong. My body was slowly shutting down and trying its best to warn me, but I interpreted its messages incorrectly. By May of 2014, any hard work would drain me completely, to the point I could hardly think straight or even stay awake. In June I took a little swim out into the ocean and very suddenly was so drained I wasn't sure I'd make it back. 8 months later, I'm pretty sure I'm beginning to make a recovery. Pushing myself when my body was crying for rest was a bad, bad mistake. After this year, I might even avoid making it again. Time will tell.
Spending months recovering from troubling adrenal exhaustion while simultaneously nursing strained tendons is a small price to pay for the benefits I feel from training my body to do all it can do. I'm genuinely not sure whether I'll make those two mistakes again, or how often, but it's worth the risk. I'm still all-in on this stuff.

Everything in my world weighs about half what it did three years ago. I used to have to rest after carrying my 70 pound tennis ball machine to the courts. Today, I set it up and go. I used to have to plan a day before to make sure I had energy for setting things up at church. No more. I bring the groceries in with the same number of loads, but now I don't wish I hadn't carried so much. I can weed the yard now, without regretting it for days afterward.

More importantly, to me, I'm smarter and less afraid about almost everything. I've hit my limits several times every week, so I know what I cannot do and what I can. I used to say, "Sure!" when presented with an opportunity to do something beyond my limits. I did it easily last time. (Yeah, twenty years ago.) I would go out, and sure enough do it just like twenty years ago, but then I'd be sore for weeks. Now, when presented with the same opportunity, I know for a fact whether I can do it and whether I'll suffer for my decision. That knowledge makes my yes's and my no's confident. I value that.

Here's a high level record of what I'm doing these days
  • I work on balance almost every day
    Two years ago I learned I really couldn't stand long on one foot, no matter how hard I tried. The progress comes glacially, but it comes. Over the course of a month I see almost no difference, but somehow over two years it's made a real difference. I can now stand on one foot with my eyes closed or walk a slackline. Since falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injury in the aged, I can't ever imagine stopping this effort.
  • I work on strength about 3/4 of all days
    The benefits are wide-reaching. I work pushing, pulling, standing, forward, and backward strength, and am learning to skip sessions when I need to.
  • I work my aerobic capacity 2-3 days a week
    I sprint in 6 foot wide figure eights, followed by pushups, then half squats, all in succession and as quickly as I can. The net effect is to drive my heart rate and breathing up somewhere near (but not to) my max.
  • I work flexibility a little bit each day
    I'm not really getting any more flexible, but moving to the limits of my mobility keeps those limits as comfortable as possible.
  • I never jog
    Everything I do is sprint-like. Nothing in my life requires me to keep my heart rate at 70% for hours, so why train myself to be able to do so? People jog, treadmill, stair step to build an ability I never personally use, so I don't copy them.
The experts to whom I choose to listen say I'm doing it right, but this is the 21st century. There are experts out there everywhere saying jogging, boot camps, power yoga, bicycling, weight lifting, martial arts, rock climbing, gym membership, massage, swimming, rowing, crawling, or any other thing is the perfect thing. What I'm training matches up well with what I do. It's just the usual stuff I do every day, taken to a useful and fun extreme.

Paul tells me bodily exercise profits little, by which he means it only helps one part of me and only for these brief 70 years. I can accept that. But I'd just as soon these last 20 years I have here be useful. I'll keep doing what I'm doing.

17 January, 2015

Food matters

I now weigh 30-40 pounds more than when I left the Army. And I live in America. It's impossible that I should not know this is an issue. For years I've said I would never diet, but in all those years my weight was never an issue. My words were empty. Well, now the rubber hits the road, and I have to decide what to do. And now I'm a few decades better informed. The science has advanced.

Nothing's going to change.

I have friends who battle anorexia, friends who've given up trying to eat better, friends who never realized there was anything to learn about food. Frankly, though, there are several ways eating well is part of living better, so I'm going to try to capture a few thoughts about it in a post. From the perspective of living better, where living better means trying to make the relationships in my life more alive, here's why I care.
  • Dying of an eating-related disease wouldn't make my relationships any more alive
  • Making myself weak and sick to look stunningly thin wouldn't make my relationships more alive
  • Being weak and overweight wouldn't make my relationships more alive, either
  • Refusing to eat what everyone else at dinner is eating, without a real reason, strains relationships
  • Being strong empowers me to do all the other things I need to do in those relationships
It matters to me to eat relationally.

Here's my diet. I've kept this up for twenty years, and I've enjoyed it.
  • Every meal I eat is pleasurable to me
  • If mankind's been eating a food for the last 6000 years, I'll eat it every time no matter what the FDA says
    • Salt, milk, wheat, butter, eggs, beef - I'm in
    • High carb and low carb have both been part of mankind's diet, and I eat both
  • If mankind invented it in the Industrial Age, I'll avoid it when I can
    • White anything (sugar, bread, rice, caffeine) provides energy, but none of the fiber, enzymes, and vitamins needed to repair the normal damage of life
    • !!! Any sugar substitute !!!
      • I'd eat a meal of white sugar with a spoon before I'd drink a diet soda
    • Except dessert. I think humans were made to enjoy dessert, and several times a week I enjoy me some industrial age dessert.
  • I try to get as much real food into me as I can
    • I don't go for the whole raw thing, but I eat a little raw food
    • Real food, not stripped, shaped, flavored, and repackaged, contains all that stuff I mentioned above.
    • That's the stuff that enables our bodies (when mixed with adequate sleep) to self-heal so many of the leading causes of untimely death
    • Seriously. Given only empty nutrition, our bodies lack the resources they need to heal
  • I try to eat/drink something fermented three times a day
    • The intestinal biome is critically important and enables us to digest milk, wheat, and other good stuff
    • Kombucha, kefir, buttermilk, sauerkraut
  • I take supplements
    • They're of debatable value, but when I quit taking each I suffer symptoms
    • I buy the expensive, food-based supplements - very few grocery vitamins do anything
  • I never count calories

Diet is critical, but in America it's about body shape - thinness - and thinness is about diet. When people talk about food, they're talking about calories. Low fat and low carb are both all about body fat. That's a deception. Diet should be about life, and life is many-dimensional.

You need to know heavy dieting combined with heavy exercise, the formula recommended by all and followed to extremes by some, is a leading cause of hypothyroidism - which is a leading cause of weight gain. Yes, you read that right. Weight loss is a leading cause of weight gain and heavy exercise is a leading cause of low energy.

I'm suffering with hypothyroidism (in my case, not due to dieting but to poor stress management.) I'm advised to eat less and take thyroid meds, but I'm resisting that advice. So far I'm six months into my resistance, and I'm happy with my progress. My plan does not include intentionally reducing my caloric intake. Time will tell which set of experts is right, but I'm currently going with the ones who say some thyroid deficiencies can be addressed with diet, proper exercise, and rest.

I'm never going to have the ripped beach physique, but that doesn't mean food doesn't matter to me. I just care about it differently than most of the books I read. I care about eating food rich in nutrition, and even at my current weight I'm enjoying good food and good strength. I have the energy to spend time and energy with friends, and worrying about the food that might be served doesn't interfere with our plans (except for that tree-nut allergy in our family.)

I live better when I enjoy food and to profit from it.

09 January, 2015

Snippets of Doom

I recently read a Facebook status by a major Christian personality stating he'd never missed a day of scripture reading. He went on to assert - insist - we should all take up that standard. He clearly stated it was wrong to skip a day of reading. I'm not living right unless I'm reading scripture daily. Such "snippets of doom" have ruled my life for a long, long time.

I am trying to "live better," so I have to engage with this man's assertion. Will reading scripture daily be part of my plan? What about Fasting? Diet? Exercise? Literature? Prayer? Savings? Insurance? Tithing? Charity? Tidiness? Checklists? Passion? ... Sleep?

Every one of those items has been declared mandatory if we want to "live right." (Except exercise. Paul said exercise is of little profit, so many Christians wipe that one clean off the table.) I want to "live better," so I'd better stop living wrong.

In fact, if I'd only quit living wrong, I'd be living better automatically ... without ever living at all!

Instead, let me share this quote from a tennis training podcast I heard the other day. "There's no right or wrong. There are only consequences."


Let's agree there are things at the ugly end of the spectrum that really are wrong and things at the lovely end of the spectrum that really are right, but focus for a blog minute on the stuff between those extremes. Should I improve upon my idea of "living better," and replace it with "living right?"

To my misguided ear, trying to live right sounds like the better strategy:
+ Living right conjures images of selecting an unimpeachably correct target then striving to reach it.
- Living better smells like taking a vague step somewhere in a general direction and hoping it ends well.
+ Living right copies the best method of navigating to a far-away city. Pinpoint the goal on the map and follow the instructions for getting there.
- Living better reeks of the process I use to enjoy a walk in the woods. Stumble across a promising path and wander where it leads.

Actually, that hippy-dippy "living better" stuff scares me to death. I instinctively want to know God's standard and the best way to achieve it. Full stop. The idea of proceeding without an ideal sounds like a recipe for becoming lost, and not in any good way. I genuinely fear hearing the Lord tell me, "Take from him the talent he has, and give it to the man who has ten." Living better sounds like the express lane to eternal vagrancy

Still, I'm committed to vagrancy these days and I think I like it.

Looking back across the years, living right didn't make me the righteous man of my dreams. Living as if I were holier than I was paralyzed me. I was afraid to live at all. A man who does nothing does none of it wrong, but he doesn't live.

I think I'm a fundamentalist-ish outlier in this whole area. I believe a good number of people are pretty comfortable with the first part of my quote, "There is no right or wrong." It's popular these days to quit doing everything the preachers call mandatory. So, I'm probably not alone if I do not commit to read the Bible every day. Still, if I resist my fundamentalist nature and quit trying to live right, I still stagnate if I don't aggressively choose to live better.

Daily scripture reading is neither right nor wrong, but we choose our consequences when we decide how we'll use our Bibles. There are questions only God and His children can answer, and it's work to chase them them through scripture, commentary, conversation, and blog. Searching for treasure enriches those who find it. No one makes wealth doing nothing.

For some strange reason, this balance excites me. I like hearing I'm free from doom, and I like even more hearing there's a reason to sweat out the work of living better. Life isn't good to those who believe every snippet of doom. Neither is life good to those who neglect the work needed to live better. Finding the road between those two ditches is the trick.

07 January, 2015

Do You Want to Live Better: Sleep

Living better requires sleep.

Seriously. If you intend to make your relationships come alive, there may be no single better way to shoot yourself in the foot than regularly to short change your brain on sleep. I've done this all my life, and it's never worked well for me. In seeking solid information on the subject, I found this amazing article:
We don't always want sleep, but we need sleep

God told us something like this a long, long time ago, but science is getting closer to understanding why it's true. I find that helpful.

Every bodily function produces waste, but the brain's wastes are handled uniquely. The brain has to shut down to clear them, and the process takes a long time. It appears the brain clears these poisonous waste products by shrinking our neurons as we sleep, thereby making space to flush a whole slough of damaging waste proteins away.

When we wake up our neurons re-expand, and the waste products begin accumulating again.

I imagine the brain-flush to be somewhat like tooth brushing. It's a critical habit, but missing any individual session isn't risky. Plaque is only a problem, for most people, when it's allowed to take root. The beta amyloid that causes brain plaques doesn't seem to be a problem if we sleep long enough, regularly enough to keep major deposits from forming.

A sleepless night isn't going to kill anyone, but a discipline of late nights and early mornings supported by coffee damages us in real ways. Science is currently connecting beta amyloid accumulations with Alzheimer's, but I find my experience with irritability, impatience, depression, and willpower deficits after accumulating sleep debt plenty convincing. John Wayne, Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, and a thousand other red-blooded Americans unite and call me a wimp. With them I must agree. I don't want to be a wimp, but I really am.

God and life both call us to endure times of great hardship, and I'm happy to pull my weight when I must, but I can't call keep it up. If I miss too much beauty rest, I'm truly ugly to be around. I'm daily called to play a part in tending the lives of a few people to whom God has joined me, and I best live up to that calling when I'm reasonably well-rested.

Americans are tough.

Proud Americans take no handouts. We make it by maximizing our productivity, maximizing the number of productive days in every week and the number of hours in every day. My insomnia's always been a flag-waver's blessing, and I'm at home as an American, living the American way. God's way is Sabbath, but Sabbath is difficult. I'm American, from my debit card clear down to the bottom of my 401k, so Sabbath is frankly terrifying. Believing God will meet my needs, while I simply rest, gives me all the warm fuzzies of a bungee jump into deep fog.

If I'm going to live better, though, I must risk rest. With God's blessing, I hope to treat my ongoing insomnia as enemy rather than friend. Ten years ago I was sleeping 5-6 hours per night with very little insomnia. Five years ago I was up to 6+ hours, but as I started getting closer to having enough sleep I started facing insomnia. I've made it to 7+ within the last 5 years, and am working toward 7.5. Evidence is rich I'm not sleeping too much, but I'm rested enough my anxieties lead to insomnia commonly. Here are things I'm trying:
  • Absolute darkness
    Science says darkness is necessary for deep sleep. I hate to be a science denier, but darkness never did much for me. I slept in absolute cavernous darkness for a couple months, and observed how my symptoms and degree of restedness didn't change at all.
  • Turning off screen devices
    For years, I shut off my computer and fell quickly into sound sleep. These days, I find about twenty minutes after I stop the last activity of the night, often when I shut off the computer, the first wave of sleep hits me. Since my biggest problem is accidentally pushing through that sleep wave into my second wind, I'm finding some ease sleeping when I make sure I stay on the computer until bed time.
  • Melatonin
    When I get my second wind, I'm going to be either awake or in an awful, zombified, half-asleep state for a couple hours. As soon as that happens, I take .6-1.2mg of melatonin every 20 minutes until I'm asleep. It works very consistently for me. Happily, on nights when I hit the sack at or before that first wave of sleep, I fall asleep well without the assistance. That assures me the assertions melatonin are not addictive are probably true.
  • Prayer
    Prayer cuts both ways, for me. When anxieties entangle my mind, prayer lets me slowly brush away each strand. I'm not wired to just slice through the whole web with one bold declaration of faith, but I can sort of roll each concern up in front of the Father and leave it with Him. That's a necessity for me. Once, however, the wave of sleep hits I don't quit praying! I start obsessing about prayer itself. I can't just quit. Suddenly, I find I'm well into my second wind, and prayer transforms aggressively from solution into problem.
  • Talking
    Copy and paste the prayer stuff here. Talk can relax me, but at some point I'm surprised to find I've pushed into my second wind and there's no going back.
  • Meditation
    Meditation is a tremendous sleep aid - prior to 7:00 AM. Or practically any other time I should carefully stay awake. As an intentional sleep aid, though, it never has worked for me.
  • Thinking happy thoughts
    I always thought I stunk at thinking happy thoughts. Actually, happy thoughts only work if a sleep wave is rolling in. My problem has been trying to "happy thought" my way back to sleepiness after reaching my second wind. Knowing that, and managing my sleep waves better, I finally discovered a happy thought that works consistently for me (I'm reporting against almost 3 weeks of happy experiment with it.) That's kind of cool. The trick for me is to find a thought sufficiently complex and absorbing, but completely without any goal or solution over which I can obsess.
When I do all this, and still fail to fall asleep, I'm not shocked. I remind myself I'm not truly exhausted, refuse to allow myself to solve any of my problems, and wait quietly until the melatonin kicks in.

Life really is measurably better this way.