The Challenge of Distraction

Over the past few years I have tried to improve my writing. Better writing often leads to a better understanding of an idea, be it a question, a problem, or a memory. Given how easy it is for our emotions or biases to colour perceptions of a topic, the process of writing allows us to better separate ourselves from a subject when the need arises. Naturally, this doesn't mean that the things we write should be devoid of personality. What we should strive for when putting pen to paper, however that may be, is an absence of inaccuracy and an abundance of clarity.

The former is generally easier than the latter.

At the beginning of this year I made a number of changes to some habits so that I can invest more time in thinking. I no longer wear headphones while out and about in the world, using them only when talking to people through the phone or Internet. I carry something to write in at all times. I do not have music playing in the background all day to overcome the silence that permeates my life now. This has had a noticeable effect on how much time I spend thinking about important matters that were previously kept at bay by playlists, podcasts, and other distractions. Thanks to the reintroduction of "boredom", a number of realisations have been discovered and important decisions have been made.

That said, there is still one distraction that gets in the way of mental clarity: the internal monologues.

This is a plural because there are generally two thoughts that are vying for attention at any given time. There is one that is trying to focus on right now, whether it is work or reading or prayer or something else. Then there is that distracting voice that presents memories, asks off-topic questions, demands food, or something else that interferes with and sometimes overpowers the first. This is different from the "Voices of Self-Doubt" that I used to struggle with because the distractions are rarely demeaning or self-destructive. Instead, the distractions are more like a young child that runs around in an attic full of old boxes asking "What's this?", "How about this?", "Can I have this?".

Perhaps describing this voice as distracting is a little too generous.

One of the things I've been doing to try and reign in this internal "Chaos Monkey"1 is to have a paper notepad next to me when trying to focus on a specific task. Some testing over the last few weeks has shown that when I write down some of the ideas that are being thrown to the forefront of consciousness, the distractions can be set aside for a short while. Time still needs to be dedicated later in the day to mull over the concepts and memories that were presented, but the main area of focus can continue to receive the bulk of my attention. What I find interesting about these half-thoughts and memory fragments is that, when looked at as a whole, a pattern emerges that can offer insights into a problem or something I thought I understood. It is as though the mind is saying "You're not done with this, yet".

What does this have to do with better writing? Quite a bit. The insights are written about in my journal, in a letter, or on this blog. Because a proper amount of time was afforded to them, what I write is generally – but not always – more concise, with fewer tangents that lead to nowhere. I also find myself to feel better afterwards, as if a small weight has been lifted off my shoulders; one less burden to bear.

The voice continues to cause interruptions throughout the day but, perhaps by attending to that monkey, it will eventually run out of things to say and I will learn more about myself along the way.

  1. This term comes from a tool developed at Netflix that would randomly shut down parts of their infrastructure. This was done to ensure their systems were built to be resilient against failure. It's also a good term to describe the little voice in our head that is never satisfied with the present.


Today marks the beginning of a new calendar year, a day that many people enjoy with friends and family. The start of January is also a time where people over the age of 40 traditionally plan or begin their new year resolutions. It wasn't always like this. Just twenty short years ago new year resolutions were made by the vast majority of people regardless their age. What I am seeing a lot more recently is a growing number of people who announce that they will not make any resolutions for one of two reasons:

  1. The resolutions will be broken before February, so why make them at all?
  2. There is no need to make resolutions because we're fine just the way we are.

The logic behind the first reason certainly seems to make sense. We want to better some aspect of ourselves or our life but the resolution is just so grand or, more commonly, so vague that success seems an effort in futility. So, rather than redefine the resolution1 we give up entirely.

The second reason, however, strikes me as remarkably shallow and narcissistic.

Every one of us has people we look up to. These personal heroes come from all walks of life, all professions, and all ages. We admire and emulate aspects of these people because they show us a better way to act or think or play or create or work or dance or love or learn or simply be. It's the people whom we respect that we strive to be more like. Heck, these role models do not even need to be real. How many of us grew up respecting a fictional character?

We emulate others – or how we perceive others – because we know that we can be better in some fashion. We can choose to be more mindful, more eloquent, more patient, more active, more inquisitive … more than we currently are. Nobody is "fine just the way they are". The only person who could even come close to having that distinction would be Jesus Christ, and goodness knows that none of us can live up to the standard He set.

New year resolutions are personal goals to become a better person. This benefits ourselves and the people around us.

With this in mind, choose an adjective that you would like people to associate with you by the end of this year and go for it. For me, I resolve to be more generous in 2023.

  1. I like to use the SMART methodology here to ensure the resolutions are not so vague that identifying accomplishment seems impossible.

Goodnight, Nozomi

This morning I woke to a message letting me know that Nozomi passed away last night in her sleep. She was diagnosed with multiple tumours several weeks ago and, as time went on, she lost her appetite and ability to keep food down. I can only hope that she was not in pain and did not feel any fear during her final days on this planet. Nozomi meant the world to me. She deserved better.

Nozomi was born on May 7th 2010 in Miyagi, a prefecture just north of Fukushima along the eastern coast of Japan. We met for the first time 100 days later at a pet store in Nagareyama, Chiba. Her energy was infectious. The first time I held her in my arms she went straight to work chewing on my right thumb. Her sharp teeth cut through the skin before too long but, as she was just a puppy, it wasn't something I was bothered with. I've worked with animals in the past and skin heals pretty quickly.

She didn't come home on that first day, but something about this furry ball of enthusiasm kept her in my mind for the entire week that followed. Another trip to the pet shop was made seven days later. Just like the week before, she was playing with her heart-shaped stuffed toy in the clear case next to the window. Chewing. Tossing. Jumping. Money was exchanged, some basic supplies were acquired, and the puppy was brought into the family on her 107th day.

We became close friends almost immediately.

Over the following years she became my confidante. We would go for walks in parks both near and far. Sometimes we would sit on a bench and just watch the world go by. I'd share with her all the things that I was thinking about. Any hurt that I was feeling, any frustration that I was hiding, any fear that I was denying. I would share with her the dreams I had for the future and the places I hoped we could go. She always listened quietly while seated next to me. Nozomi was very patient when the time called for it.

On our walks, I would often reciprocate that patience. I would stop to let her sniff every blade of grass that may have caught her attention. If she wanted to explore a new area in a park, we'd follow her nose to discover whatever might be laying in wait. If the weather was nice, she could do this for hours … and sometimes she did.

Nozomi helped me through a lot of difficult times. There were so many days when I was ready to leap off a bridge or step in front of a train. Too many days. I would talk to Nozomi. She would listen. She wouldn't get angry. She wouldn't interrupt. She wouldn't judge. She would put her head on my lap and exhale heavily through her nose as though she understood and just wanted to let me know that I wasn't alone. Later, as we walked home, she would go a little slower and make a show of her sniffing as if to say: Slow down and explore what's around you. There's a lot to appreciate and you don't want to miss it.

Nozomi was born 4,620 days ago on a sunny day in northern Japan. I was blessed to be with her for 4,240 of them. While I could not always give her the time and attention she deserved, I did what I could. My only hope is that her pure spirit can enjoy exploring a beautiful park until we can meet again.

Tapping the 60%

Over the past week or so I've been reading a book while hitting the gym, expanding the mind while exercising the body. Before this month, books were something that I would enjoy either in the living room with coffee or in bed right before falling asleep. While neither of these two habits will disappear anytime soon, I've found that engrossing myself in words while sweating on a 10km+ simulated bike trail has allowed me to ignore that internal voice that insists on living a sedentary lifestyle. Mind you, this discovery could be due to the content of the book, Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins.

A lot of people probably skip over titles like this, thinking that it's a "self help" book or a collection of truisms that many feel are self-evident. This is generally what people have said about such books for decades. However, this particular book is more of an autobiography of someone who could have been yet another statistic but went on to accomplish great things. Some of those accomplishments were quantifiable, such as getting into the U.S. Armed Forces or earning a Guinness World Record, but the most important accomplishments are the ones that he recounts over the course of 11 chapters: he conquered his inner voice to do things that were said to be impossible.

Chapters two through eleven follow the exact same formula: life got better, he grew complacent, a challenge arose, then another, and another, and another, then he persevered to overcome the obstacles and reach his goal. At every step along this path he struggled with defeatism and that inner voice saying "Why are you doing this to yourself?". A valid question that we can ask ourselves whenever life throws us a curveball.

Around the mid-point of every chapter, there's a paragraph written in a manner that only someone who has spent most of their adult life in a military could pen. It speaks to that self-defeating voice that hinders the vast majority of us when the going gets tough. Here's one of the better ones:

Our minds are f···ing strong, they are our most powerful weapon, but we have stopped using them. We have access to so many more resourced today than ever before and yet we are so much less capable than those who came before us. If you want to be one of the few to defy those trends in our ever-softening society, you will have to be willing to go to war with yourself and create a whole new identity, which requires an open mind. It's funny, being open minded is often tagged as new age or soft. F··· that. Being open minded enough to find a way is old school. It's what knuckle draggers do. And that's exactly what I did.
– Boggins, David (2018). Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds (

These words are quite rough but cannot be disputed. David Goggins came from "nothing" and, over the course of decades, put his head down and worked hard to overcome every obstacle that arose in his life. Like most people, he made mistakes along the way and faced consequences as a result. But he kept his eyes on whatever prize he sought, whether it was being part of a specific military unit or conquering an extreme marathon, and went for it.

One of the things that I found interesting about the book was the formula that exists for each of the chapters after the first. In every one of them there is an admission of ill-preparedness, which is something that seemed odd by the middle of the book. Because this is a consistent pattern, it would seem logical for a person to recognise the failure and work towards fixing it. Rather than go into every competition without first researching how others succeed, he would show up with little more than the clothes on his back, only to be beaten down. Again and again and again this pattern appears, right up to the last chapter where he's roughly the same age as me.

But this admission gives the book more authenticity. We all get into these similar patterns where there is one thing we consistently fail to do over and over and over only to have it hold us back. To make matters worse, we're probably blind – wilfully or otherwise – to the fact, which will ensure we continue to defeat ourselves before the world even takes notice of our existence.

We all know that there are things we can do to improve our lives today but postpone indefinitely because of one or more reasons that voice inside our head might give. However, if we take stock of what we're doing and what we're not, then there is a greater chance that we might make a small change today that can help tomorrow. Then another small change tomorrow to help the next day. Then another small change. Then another. Like compound interest, these small changes will accumulate and turn something that once seemed impossible into something tangible and attainable.

It's a slog. It's hard as heck to maintain momentum and motivation day after day, month after month, year after year. Particularly when it feels as though the world is out to get you. However, if David Goggins could overcome everything he did to reach the vast majority of the goals he set out to accomplish despite his background and the prejudices of people around him, then who knows what the rest of us could do if we just put our minds to it a little bit more.

Am I Doing It Wrong?

Earlier today I made a trip into the city to attend a second mediation discussion at the family court. Reiko and I have been separated for almost five months and, as one would expect, she wants to have a reliable and steady amount of income coming in to ensure bills are paid; a perfectly reasonable demand given that she currently has sole custody of our son.

The first discussion took place at the end of July and, on the surface, resulted in little more than the scheduling of today's mediation. However, one of the things that I was acutely aware of during the first meeting was how closely the two legal representatives assigned to the case were watching me. They wanted to see whether I would be angry, vindictive, dismissive, disrespectful, or unwilling to live up to the responsibilities that come with being an adult. They took plenty of notes. They asked plenty of questions.

Why haven't you contacted the plaintiff to work out a payment arrangement before now?

I'm not permitted to communicate directly with her. I had to sign a document upon my release from detention saying that I would not contact nor be in proximity to her going forward. I will keep my word as it's the only thing of value that I have.

Have you provided her with some money before now?

She has sole access to the family savings account. Here is a copy of the transactions from the bank. As you can see, she is still withdrawing money every month, and her credit card is still being paid from here. I do not hate Reiko and I do not want to create problems for her or our son. They will have access to this money until we reach a decision for regular support payments.

Will you demand a divorce?

Yes, when my lawyers agree that there is no chance of an amicable agreement.

They asked questions – good questions – for a solid 15 minutes trying to gauge whether I was being honest or simply speaking nice words to come across as "a nice guy".

When it was my turn to ask questions, I inquired about frequency of renegotiations, minimums and maximums, how the payments should be reported on income tax statements, and the like. I also asked questions that they couldn't help me with, like whether I could visit my son and get my dog or any of the paperwork that was removed from my house could be returned1. All in all, it was an interesting exploratory meeting.

Before finishing for the day, they asked another question:

How much would you be willing to pay in support every month?

I'm not sure how to answer that. Reiko has not provided any expectations so, if I say a number, it may be taken advantage of or intentionally balked at.

That's understandable. Any number that you say here will remain confidential. This is really more to understand what general amount might be agreed upon.

I gave them a number that I considered fair. It was more than the minimum while being about thirty percent less than I expected Reiko to ask for. As I've reiterated on numerous occasions, I do not hate and I have no desire to punish or otherwise seek retribution. All I want is what is fair; something that I have not been able to enjoy for many, many years.

Five weeks have passed between the first and second meeting. During that time Reiko hired some lawyers and used the money in the family account to pay them, withdrew a good amount of cash, and spent more on her credit card. All of this was to be expected, of course, which is why I allowed her complete access to that bank account until recently. Two weeks ago, in order to prepare all of the requested paperwork and financial statements that were requested by the court, I had to reclaim ownership of the main bank account. As it's in my name and contains only the money earned from my employer2, this seemed logical. I've not heard any complaints, though.

The legal representatives at the courthouse today wasted no time in getting down to business. They brought out a two-page document outlining the amount Reiko was requesting along with the breakdown of how the number was derived. It revealed some interesting details that I was completely unaware of with regards to our son and a claim that I consider insincere, but the number turned out to be the very same amount that was proposed at the end of the previous mediation discussion. The number seemed to be more than a coincidence and I said as much.

Do you agree with this this amount of support?

This is the very same number that I gave you two months ago, and I am a man of my word. Yes, this amount is fine.

They both nodded in approval of this answer, as though I passed some sort of test.

However, I want to know whether this is a complete amount. Will I still need to pay for credit cards, utility bills, or anything else?

No. It's just this amount.

Being prepared, I pulled out some statements showing bills and withdrawals over the previous five weeks and also asked about a peculiar situation where it seemed I was paying for natural gas at two homes. Fortunately this turned out to be a misunderstanding on my part due to a complete lack of communication; the gas company also provides electricity, so the higher gas bill was actually gas + electricity. Problem solved.

Some additional items had to be agreed upon after the primary amount was settled.

There is also a payment from the city for your child every three months. This needs to be added to the support payments.

Yes, of course. That money is for my son, not me.

And there may be another month or two of payments for the credit card.

I can agree to some of that, but I will not pay for a shopping spree. That credit card has a limit the size of my annual salary.

How much would you be willing to pay?

Just as before, I gave a number. It was similar to the previous month's payment.

And you'll need to share the legal fees.

Share? The bank statement I showed you says that the legal fees were paid from my account on July 7th.

Will you ask for some of that back?

No. There was no financial agreement before today. It doesn't make sense to argue about it when I intentionally left the account accessible in case they needed money.

Again, the legal representatives nodded with a slight smile, as though they were happy that there wouldn't be a long, drawn-out argument over a few handfuls of cash.

By noon, an agreement had been fully reached. I would provide eleven days of earnings every month and automatic payments from my accounts would be ceased within a short period of time. Documents were signed. Smiles were exchanged. We said our goodbyes. Reiko was never present during any of these discussions, opting to phone in with her lawyer. This likely made things easier for both of us.

While making my way home from the courthouse, a couple of friends commented that they were surprised by how well I was taking this and how uncommon it is to not argue about past expenses. Is it so odd, though? What value would being upset bring? It doesn't make sense.

The way I look at the current situation is like this:

  • children cost money to raise and I have a responsibility3 to offer financial support
  • despite everything that happened before and after the separation, I do not hate Reiko or seek some unnecessary sort of vengeance
  • money is just money, and I will earn more
  • the price that I have already paid as part of this separation, the loss of my son and Nozomi, has been high … but I am far less stressed and anxious today than at any point in recent memory

Despite everything that has been lost, everything that has happened, and everything that still needs to be done, I am in a much better place today psychologically and physically than I could have ever hoped for. A very important part of my life has come to a crashing halt, but I am hopeful that the future will be bright so long as I continue to work towards being a better person, aiming at goals that benefit others.

Anything else would be a waste of time and energy.

  1. The legal representatives could not help with these matters because the course case was about support payments and nothing more. So anything revolving around pets, visitation, custody, or property was outside of scope.

  2. The money that Reiko earns from her employer has always gone into an account that she has sole access to, which makes sense.

  3. This is a responsibility, not an "obligation". There is a pretty big difference between the two.

What Should Be Twelve

Twelve years ago Nozomi joined the family and not a day has gone by where I haven't seen her happy smile. Unfortunately, for the past four and a half months, I've been limited to seeing just photographs. Before the boy came along, Nozomi was the subject of most pictures. We would go out for a walk along a nearby creek and I'd have the phone ready to capture a moment. Sadly, this hasn't really been possible this summer.

Nozomi has been notoriously difficult to photograph because her fur reflects so much sunlight that images turn out fuzzy. That said, there have been a number of pictures that have remained my favourite throughout the years, such as this one here:

Happy Nozomi

This shot was taken on an August day in 2014. Nozomi and I were on our way back to the apartment and, was was usual for the time, we stopped at a bench to enjoy a bit of quiet time. This would often be a time when I'd talk to her and share some of the things that were bothering me. She would sit next to me and appear to listen, looking up at me every so often with her happy smile. These little moments helped me relax and centre myself before returning home for the night. This photo always brings a smile to my face.

One of the last photos that I managed to capture of Nozomi with something better than a cell phone took place in 2020 when we were in the yard outside the house:

Nozomi in the Yard

This one was taken shortly after the summer heat had finally dissipated, making it possible for us to enjoy more than a handful of minutes in the sun. As we weren't leaving the property, Nozomi didn't need her leash.

The last clear photo, however, was taken in January of this year after a bit of a snowfall:

Nozomi in the Snow

Nozomi was always a little cautious when walking in the snow, as it doesn't fall every year and it is undoubtedly uncomfortable for her bare paws. That said, she would always choose to walk on the grass and make her own path.

Almost five months have passed since Nozomi was taken from the house making this anniversary a bitter-sweet one. I continue to hope against hope that she will come home in the near future.


Every day we're met with a countless array of proverbial forks in the road, each with their own set of pros and cons. Do we go left or do we go right? Which option will get us closer to the immediate goal? Will the option we choose detract from our long-term goal? Given the opportunity, every decision might leave a person paralysed with indecision as there are simply too many unknowns to account for. Or so we're often told.

A Fork in a Japanese Road

One of the many things I've learned over the years is that the decisions we face are much easier to address when goals are clearly defined. A fine example of this would be a personal fitness goal. If someone says "I want to lose some weight" and leaves the goal vague, then there's nothing stopping them from enjoying a bag of potato chips or a slice of chocolate cake. This is because "some" can be any amount. However, if a person makes a clearly defined goal like "I want to weigh 85kg by the end of this year", then decisions surrounding food intake and activity are better calculated. Chips and cake? Sure! But be ready to work really, really hard for the next two weeks to pay for that pleasure today. Otherwise, just stick with a coffee and slice of cheese.

Several months ago I resolved to work towards a number of goals, medium and long term, with the overarching plan to lead a decent life. What's interesting is that I've noticed that the work put into this effort has made decision making so much easier. While I've never been one to be hit with indecision for very long, examining choices in relation to personal objectives has removed most of the reckless impulsiveness that would lead to failure.

While the near future remains just as unknown today as it was a month ago, these are the medium-term goals that I am working towards:

I want to weigh 85kg by the end of this year

This goal is not just an example, but something I've been actively working towards for months. I've changed my diet to reduce portions, eliminate most fats and greases, increase veggies, and eliminate (most) sugar. There is also a ridiculous amount of exercise taking place, both indoors and out, to ensure calories are being burned and muscles are being developed. It has been a painful and exhausting road at times, and the scale shows I'm a full 4kg heavier today than when I started on this plan, but there is still time to drop some fat. I was a decent 80kg just three years ago and would like to hit that number again at some point next year after reaching this first milestone.

I want my house to be ready for guests and/or my son

At the moment, my home is half-empty. There are still things in the house, but it doesn't feel like a place that others would find comfortable. Just walking around, one can feel that something has happened. Over the last few months I've been filling the voids with lovely photos full of colour and smiles as well as other touches, and the yard has seen quite a bit of work as well with more to come this weekend. Ultimately, I would like the place to be ready to entertain guests who might stop by unannounced and for a future visit from my son. While there's a very, very small chance that I'll see him before his 20th birthday, I have no desire to leave his room in a bare state. So long as everything goes according to plan, I'll have the house and yard "done"1 before Christmas.

I want a Suzuki Swift before the summer of 2023

This goal consists of at least a dozen smaller goals that need to be completed before a car can be purchased, but it's something that I am aiming to accomplish. While I can get around with public transportation at the moment, I fully expect the limitations imposed with riding busses and trains to be more of a hinderance by next summer. Having a car, a Suzuki Swift in particular, will make things a heck of a lot easier.

Why a Swift? That's a topic for a different day.

I want to visit my parents while I still can

Late last year I learned that my father's health has been deteriorating quite rapidly while I've been away. Flying back to Canada has not been possible for the most part because of COVID restrictions and legal expectations but, as things start to calm down, it should be possible to hop on a plane and spend a couple of weeks in Ontario, visiting my parents, sisters, and other family members. The plan would be to spend at least two weeks visiting people, but this could be extended depending on circumstances.

That's all for the medium-term goals. There is just four of them. So when I am presented with a decision, be it to purchase some snacks for the weekend or a book to scrape away at the ignorance between my ears, I consider how it will impact these four objectives. Left or right. Red pill or blue pill. Which one will bring me closer to achieving these one or more of these four? Because beyond these four medium-term goals are some much longer plans that will hinge on the success of these initial steps.

  1. A house is never done … but this would mean that a lot of the work that was started years ago in the yard is complete and the rooms are all properly furnished and organised.

Four Months

Four months ago today, at six o'clock in the morning, I gave Nozomi some breakfast, said my goodbyes, and left the house for what I thought would be the last time. This is probably true, in a manner of speaking, as there was nobody remaining when I returned later in the afternoon. In the eight or nine hours that I was out, Reiko packed up as much as would fit in the car and left for her parents' home with our son and dog. I've not seen nor heard any of them since. It's been said many times before and its truth remains: this house is far too quiet without them.

Routines have changed quite a bit. Some preferences have, too. Yet what I find most interesting is how some old routines have quietly returned, revealing patterns in my past that I've been blind to for decades.

In the winter of 2001 I had exited my first long-term relationship with a woman named Jen. It was quite a challenge to parse because, as a 21 year old guy, none of your friends are much help with processing these things. They would always respond with typical guy-isms that sound nonchalant and/or macho, but accomplish little beyond being utterly dismissive of a person's need to communicate. So, as my friends were of little help, I invested a little money into a Sony Discman, burned a CD with some of the popular tunes of the time1, and started walking. A lot. I would be out for anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes every evening after getting home from work. After returning home, I'd shower then sit in front of the computer and chat on IRC until midnight before heading to bed because there was always work the next day.

The walks were incredibly helpful. I had gained quite a bit of weight during the relationship with Jen and I wanted to lose it so that I'd be less disappointed with what I saw in the mirror. While there wasn't a great deal of weight loss as a result of the exercise, the effort paid off a few months later when I moved 4,300km to the west coast of Canada. I didn't have a car at the time and money was tight, so I walked just about everywhere for the first couple of years. This allowed me to lose a great deal of weight and feel better about myself as a result.

And then the pattern repeated.

In the autumn of 2005 I had exited a relationship with another Jen who I had fallen head over heels for. While my friends were a little more help at this point, there would still be the dismissive guy-isms tossed around and not very much done in the way of processing. So, just as before, I invested a little money into a set of headphones that I could use with my Palm Tungsten T2, which would act as a portable music player while I went out walking for an hour to ninety minutes after getting home from work every day. After returning home, I'd shower then sit in front of the computer to chat on IRC or play Need for Speed until midnight before heading to bed because there was always work the next day.

Just like the winter several years before, these walks allowed me the time to think things through and lose a small portion of the weight I had gained during the failed relationship. The effort paid off again, because in the early months of 2006 I met Reiko and in August of 2007, I moved 7,700km across the planet to be with her. Shortly after getting a job2 and walking several kilometres a day to get from location to location, I became really sicktwice … and lost just over 30kg as a result. Stepping on the scale and seeing a number lower than 80.0 for the first time in a decade felt great, though I wouldn't wish the double-illness experience on anybody.

And now the pattern seems to be repeating again.

In April of this year Reiko and I split. My friends have been far more helpful with this situation, as we've all grown into adults3. And, just as before, I've invested a little bit of money in an Apple Watch that can track far more details of the walks that I embark upon twice a day. Because it's summertime, the total walking time is about 100 minutes per day, but in the springtime I was averaging about double this. Working from home means that the time that could be used for commuting is now used for power-walking. In the mornings I'll usually listen to podcasts while in the evening Paul Van Dyk or Nora En Pure will belt out the fast-paced techno that encourages greater calorie burns. After returning home, I shower then sit on the sofa with a book and read until eleven o'clock, which is the ideal time for me to get to bed so that I can start walking the following morning before seven to beat the humidity.

Just like in Canada, these walks allow me the time to think things through while losing a little bit of fat, building a little bit of muscle, and challenging myself to be a little faster with each lap of the walking course.

There are no plans to move, though. Not yet, anyway. There are still so many responsibilities here that I must tend to.

This pattern of fitness and relocation after each break-up strikes me as interesting because it's not something that I've consciously recognised before. Many men will certainly join a gym, start jogging, or otherwise try to improve their appearance after a separation in order to have some visual means of saying "Look, I'm making improvements", but the consistent pattern I've observed in my past has me wondering if there are some additional big changes coming up.

Every breakup preceded me leaving an employer by about six months and, after every job loss, I moved a remarkable distance to start over again. The first move was 4,300km and the second was 7,700km. Will the next one be 11,000km? That might mean going to Buenos Aires (11,400km), Rio de Janeiro (11,550km) or Cape Town (9,200km). This seems unlikely, though. I have responsibilities here in this part of the world. Moving elsewhere would add needless complexity; particularly if it would involve moving to a country I've never been to.

A lot has happened over the past four months. A lot will happen over the coming months, too. Will the pattern that I've observed from the past breakups continue, though? Only time will tell.

  1. I remember there was Eiffel 65's Blue, Kylie Minogue's Can't Get You Out of My Head, and Nickleback's How You Remind Me, but not much else.

  2. I still work for this company, too. The current role is very different from where I started, though.

  3. Very few people from North America (or Japan for that matter) under the age of 30 are adults. They're just kids who – ideally – have jobs.

The Wrong Direction

For much of the past few months I've been investing a great deal of time in power walking. The pedestrian paths that surround the local neighbourhoods are excellent resources for people who want to move about by foot or bicycle without worrying too much about motor traffic. Not only are these routes paved, but they have a great number of hills and slopes that allow a person to really work up a sweat while burning some calories. My goal is to get outside twice a day and cover about 12 kilometres; a little more than five in the morning, and around seven in the evening. The purpose is simple: to drop my body weight to 80 kilograms or less.

This exercise plan was first put into place around the end of April, when the weather was still quite enjoyable. The air was cool. The insects were few. The step count was plenty. By the end of May the morning trek was extended to just over seven kilometres in an effort to consume more calories and enjoy just a little more time outdoors before the summer heat would force a shorter course. Ignoring June1, July saw a lot of progress towards shorter kilometre and longer distances. By all metrics, I am burning thousands of additional calories per week via these power walks and couldn't be happier with the numbers.

Before and After

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any weight loss taking place. In fact, the progress I'm seeing is in the wrong direction.

Going Up

Despite the healthy diet, the reduced portion sizes, the elimination of most sugars2 (including my beloved potatoes), I've gained over three kilograms. Am I building muscle and not losing fat? Or is there something else going on?

Based on a lot of the fitness articles I've read, this weight gain is to be expected and can be the result of water retention, delayed onset muscle soreness, an increase in blood production, and other factors. People who are exercising with the intention to lose weight need to change their expectations from weeks to months, and months to … perhaps a year or more.

This can be a little disheartening, but anything worth doing is going to take time and demand perseverance. Originally I had planned to reach 80kg by the end of December. While this is still plausible, it makes more sense to aim for 85kg first and 80kg by next summer. So long as the routine can be maintained, it's certainly within the realm of possibility. Of course, some additional exercise types couldn't hurt for those days when an hour-long power walk is not possible.

  1. No need to go into why, I think.

  2. The only sugar in the diet now comes in the bread I bake and the bit of jam that goes on my morning yogurt.


Human beings are social creatures and there's no denying that many people feel an absolute need to be surrounded by others, even if they are not actively communicating with everyone. A person who does not have an opportunity to be in the presence of – or, more importantly, to interact with – others will often slide into depression. This can certainly explain some of the low points I've experienced over the last four years as human contact has been primarily limited to a handful of people, with most interactions being required to end within a matter of minutes. Some of this had to do with the restrictions expected on account of COVID-19, but this was not the only limiting factor. However, over the last four months, I've found myself interacting with several dozen people in person and calling family on a regular basis. Interestingly, I've also noticed a marked improvement in my outlook on life.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
– Mahatma Gandhi

The past 120 days or so have been quite the rollercoaster. There were times when I felt lower than low. There were times when I felt as though I were floating above the clouds. Recent days are not nearly as heady anymore but, with the daily patterns starting to feel routine, there is a sense of contentment and forward progress. One welcome result of this positivity is a feeling of happiness that is strong enough to push away the negativity that occasionally encroaches on the day. I can think honestly. I can speak honestly. I can act honestly.

Happiness Is …

Asinine as it may seem, this has completely transformed how I perceive the world and people have noticed.

There's no denying that I miss the people I once shared a home with. That said, I do not believe it would have been possible to dedicate the time necessary for the thought and introspection that has resulted in this new worldview without the chaos and uncertainty that marked the darkest hours of these past four months. Even my time in detention – including the last day when I had all but given up hope – was worth the stress and anxiety. Because now when I look in the mirror I no longer see a coward without direction. Instead there is a person who is voluntarily taking on responsibilities, interacting with people to accomplish goals, making new friendships, and moving forward.

While life will continue to throw curveballs my way every so often, I'm hopeful that this new perspective and the additional friendships will reduce the stress and anxiety I would have felt previously.