the devil’s in the detail

‘Santa’s Sweat Shop, Nick speaking.’

‘Nick, it’s Luc.’

‘Luuuc! Wassgoin’ down…’

‘Nick, don’t be a jerk.’

‘…down there in Hades?’

‘Nick, for crying out loud, I’m calling on business.’

‘Luc, I’m in the ‘nice’ business, you’re in the ‘naughty’ business, I’m not sure it’s ‘good’ business to take what you’re selling.’

‘For crying out loud, I’ll hang up, and you won’t know how your ridiculous new app is going to screw everything for you on the 25th!’

‘What do you mean?’

‘And all those piddly little brats will miss out!’

‘Miss out on what?’ demanded Nick.

‘Your app’s stuffed, Nick.’

‘And how does the Lord of the Underworld know about my app?’

The line went dead.

Probably too far, Nick admitted to himself, settling back down in his chair to call Luc back. Thing is, he never could resist winding him up. Patiently he tried to redial but no luck. He put the receiver down and began to flip through the papers on his desk, looking for Luc’s number. ‘Rudy!?’ he called out, moving books, sifting through drawers. ‘Rudy, have you got a minute?’ he called again, a little louder.

Still no answer. He pushed up from his desk and walked to the doorway, and shouted ‘RUDY!!” at the top of his lungs. At almost the same moment, Rudy appeared in the doorway, right under Nick’s nose, holding his hand over the mouthpiece of his mobile. He glared darkly at Nick.

‘If you call me by the name of that stupid red-nosed git of a reindeer  of yours one more time, I’ll–’

‘I’m sorry,’ Nick said, and managed to look contrite and sound sincere at the same time.

The elf handed him the phone and said, ‘it’s Luc. There’s some problem with our code.’

Nick took the mobile. ‘Thanks, Rudy,’ he said innocently, and closed the door on the frustrated tantrum of his 2IC.

Nick sat back own. ‘Ok, Luc, sorry about before.’

‘Are you going to listen to me?’

‘Of course!’

‘Without being a jerk?’

‘I … Luc, you take all the fun out of things.’

‘You know, you treat your staff like shit.’

‘Rudy? He’ll get over it.’

‘Fair warning, Nick. He’d jump ship if I offered him a job.’

‘He–’ sputtered Nick.

‘Warmer climate, better hours–’

‘Luc! Shut up! What’s wrong with the app?’

‘Ah, so now you want to focus.’

‘Just tell me what’s going on.’

‘I’m not done having fun with this.’

‘LUC!’

Luc laughed down the phone.

‘I will hang up on you, now, dammit!’ Nick cried, frustrated.

‘No you won’t. Not until you know what it’s about.’

‘Fine.’

Luc’s tone changed slightly. ‘Just remember – what I tell you, I tell you only on the condition that you keep me out of this.’

‘“Keep you out of this”?’

‘Yeh. My name is not to be mentioned in any connection with this.’

Nick stifled a laugh. ‘Ok,’ he managed.

‘This is not about me doing good.’

‘Sure.’

‘It’ll ruin my reputation!’

‘I’ve got your back.’

‘I need your word!’

‘Okay, Luc, I promise! It will be my official line: the Prince of Darkness had nothing to do with saving Chris–’

‘NICK.’

‘All right, all right, I’ll stop, I’ll stop.’

‘You have to be the most frustrating human being of all time!!’

‘After the Mansons, though, surely.’

‘I want to speak to Rudy again!’ Luc yelled.

‘His name’s not Rudy,’ said Nick, feigning hurt and offense on Rudy’s behalf.

‘I don’t care WHAT his name is, he’s the coder, you need him to fix this!’

‘Fix what??’

‘The code in your ridiculous ‘Xmas Wish’ app, Nick, or whatever the hell you’ve called it. It’s not working.’

‘The app the kids are using? How do you know it’s not working?’

‘Because all the data, all the wishes from the kids are re-routing to my server. I traced it back to the code in your stupid app.’

Your server?’ Nick asked, unbelieving.

‘Yes. My server. The Hades server.’

Nick smiled. ‘And you’re worried about this because…?’ although it had already dawned on him that he knew the answer.

‘Because the kids won’t get their pr–’ Luc started shouting, before abruptly strangling himself into silence.

Nick laughed loudly down the phone line. ‘So!’ he shouted gleefully. The Hedon of Hades has a soft-spot for kids at Christmas!’

‘NICK, you bast- ‘

‘Now, now, Luc, we should keep this PG. We are talking about the kids, after all.’

‘You annoying jerk, you–’

‘“The Devil, making sure kids get their gifts at Christmas”,’ Nick laughed even harder.

‘Just remember you promised you’d keep me out of this!’

‘I – I know,’ Nick wheezed, tears streaming down his face. ‘I can’t believe I did that.’

‘You promised!’

‘I did,’ Nick grinned. ‘I promise I won’t tell anyone that you were involved in this.’

There was a pause, and then Luc said, ‘thanks, Nick.’

‘I’ll keep your ironic beard and topknot out of it, too.’

And somewhere in Hades, a mobile phone smashed against the floor before landing in the eternal embers of damnation.

it’s not you, it’s me…me and my amygdala.

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So I rock up to my barista and order my large cap, and toast with a tiny bit of vegemite. The coffee here is perfect, the service outstanding, and as I glance at my watch, I don’t know whether to sigh or smirk about being on time for my meeting. I choose to sigh happily and move out of everyone’s way.

At about the 8-minute mark, hipster-suity-groover guy rocks up and orders his coffee and same toast as me. Yes, that’s right. You can see where this is going. My happy barista man calls my name – ‘Someone’s toast is ready!’ I turn to grab my things, move back toward the counter – and before Hipster-Suity Guy’s coffee is even ready, he casually reaches over AND GRABS MY TOAST. Seconds later – wait, I’m not finished shouting: SECONDS LATER, HE HAS HIS COFFEE, THEN HE’S GONE!!!!

To know me is to concede that on a good day, parts of my nature are loveable, but today you’re pretty sure how shit is going to go down. But what if I surprise you? That’s right: things have changed and we are now familiar with the Amygdala Impact.

No matter our individual, or even collective thoughts on how we’ve evolved, we can count on the amygdala to keep us in touch with our Inner Primitive. Or as I affectionately think of him: my Inner Cyberdyne Systems series T-800 Model 101 Amygdala Terminator. The T-800 Amygdala controls the fight or flight instinct, scanning the environment for risk and danger five times a second – that’s right, FIVE TIMES A SECOND – and [analysing it through the super-high tech, military-grade, optical-screen of death] generates cortisol and adrenalin as required. Saving our lives since the Dawn of Man, the amygdala is a compact yet superior survival system, responsible for getting us out of the way of woolly mammoths, errant (or malicious) spear throwers and alerting us to problems that might affect our remaining with the clan. (Because that used to be a Thing.)

Crucial to the continuation of the species, it is one of the strongest drivers in our physical makeup. It is instinct. It’s why we’re here today. And it has this habit of overriding everything.

Now, back to today. It’s February 2017, and waiting for hipster-suity-groover guy’s toast, I have to tell you I don’t see many woolly mammoths about. Unless I’m particularly careless or stupid, or (thanks Pauline) consume too much sugar, there is no immediate threat to my survival past morning tea. I live in a modern family and haven’t sufficiently upset them or any members of my extended family to the point where my position in the clan is at stake. Overall my chances of continuation are pretty good. So. Why? Why the tightness in the chest? What the rush of heat? Why am I ready to go White Crane on hipster-suite-groover guy?

While our pre-frontal cortex is taking all this in, taking it’s time at a rate of 300 million Thinking Bits per second (hmm. What just happened?), our T-800 Amygdala has sorted shit out in a mere 20 million Outraged Symbol Bits (&%$@#**!@#$ etc), and stands up and shouts,

  • THAT WAS MY BREAKFAST!
  • I AM STARVING!
  • AND LYN WILL BEAT ME TO THE MEETING!

New Bron is now equipped with means to have a go at muffling the T-800 Amygdala. She clamps a hand over the speaker system. Smiles for the lookers-on. ‘Nothing to see here’, her smile says. She hisses at the T-800 Amygdala to go into standby mode for a minute, and proceeds to consult the pre-frontal cortex, posing the T-800 Amygdala’s responses as questions, and looking for positive directions in which to re-think things:

  1. Yes. That was my breakfast. But perhaps hipster-suity-groover works for Medicins-Sans-Frontiers and he had to rush to the airport. You could have just saved lives!
  2. Your survival is not contingent on the turkish toast. You’ll probably make it to morning tea. Except you’ll end up with hipster-suity-groover’s toast, so…
  3. Look, I really don’t have an answer to this one, you’re incredibly childish, so…you’re on your own. (Ok, I deserve that one.)

The trick is to remember that you have to work pretty hard to overcome your amygdala’s response. With practise you can. Try it this way:

Identify and label your physical response. (Tightness in the chest, nausea; the name of any karate poses you assume.)

Trace these physical responses back to what you are thinking. (Injustice, starvation, going one-up at work.)

Now: involve your pre-frontal thinking man/woman by asking questions. And think in terms of the positive.

 

With thanks to Sandra Wood for making a difference.

Building Good Momentum For Doing Important Stuff

How dogs meditate

I don’t like routine. I’ve sometimes liked the sound of it, but generally: ew. Not for me. I reluctantly admit that routines are valuable. And looking at my 2017 calendar, I’ve reluctantly decided I should research what they’re all about. And reluctantly I accept that maybe if I’d had a routine a lot earlier, or even yesterday, I might reluctantly concede that yes, ‘they’re great’ and when I concede this, I will try and do it without rolling my eyes or using a mocking falsetto when I say it.

I turned to google in my hour of reluctant searching for routine answers (ha! see what I did there) and it turns out there are a lot of people out there who want me to help myself when it comes to following a routine because, they say, routines are crazy-super. And with slightly less reluctance than when I set out, I begin to realise, hey, some of these tips are really good ideas, and wait, I could probably do that one and before I knew it – !

Here is my new routine. I have selected what I think are the best parts from a number of well-thought out lists of routine things you can do each day. I identified the area of my day where I need the most help: getting out of bed in the morning. Then I picked what is realistic for me. I have ended up structuring my new routine around building good momentum for doing important stuff during the rest of my day. Wait, that sounds really good and caps-worthy, so let’s try it again:

Building Good Momentum For Doing Important Stuff During The Rest Of My Day.

  1. Sleep well.
    Yeh, sure! Right. Add Ironic Tick to that one. Recent heat, recent late nights of tennis, recent interest in Black Mirror, had a coffee too close to bedtime? A good night’s sleep is a myth in my house. I have so many bad habits that I have to change, according to the experts. These experts say that without a solid refreshing seven hours sleep and giving yourself every opportunity to wake up a happy person (wtf, there are happy morning people?), don’t worry about anything else on your list. (They were serious!) So stop right here if you didn’t sleep well and try again tomorrow.
  2. Meditate.
    Spend a couple of minutes, or 10, or 15 on calming your mind. Meditate as your yogi would have you meditate. Meditate on all you are grateful for. Meditate on the quietness around you. (I’ll give you a tip. Don’t slide down the side of your bed (because you’re not yet ready to stand up and walk anywhere) and lean with your back to it, positioning yourself where your dog (who yes, sleeps on our bed) can lean over your shoulder to see what you are doing up so early in the morning and then sneezes all over your neck. 5.30am-inspired invective is not good for his karma.) Dry, and relocated in a peaceful, quiet position, clear your mind, regulate your breathing and focus on calmness. Comes back to you in spades later in the day when you are trying to digest things like current world ‘politics’, or the person next to you on the train keeps sniffing. Calm.
  3. Do something physical.
    Walk the dogs, do some gardening, turn on the vacuum (5.30am, why not? This is not a popularity contest). If, in the early days of establishing your routine, you are only able to manage the making of sandwiches (gourmet, of course), hanging out a load of washing, or filling up the dogs’ water bowls in the morning, then so be it. It’s good to be moving around and forming the habit of being conscious and upright so early in the morning is more important.
  4. Drink a bottle (500mL) of water before you leave the house.
    If you can. That’s one down for the day and you will keep reaching for it.
  5. Jump in the pool or take a cold shower.
    This one will be interesting come Winter, but the thing with a cold shower is that your heart rate jumps and the brain cells switch into high gear: it is now highly motivated into crystallising ideas for making it stop. Stay in there and harness that idea power surge. Also good for increasing willpower and self-discipline. (You’re welcome. I had to look these up, too.)
  6. Read something inspiring or uplifting.
    Take 5 or 10 minutes to read something inspiring or uplifting. If it’s a quote, write in in your diary, write it on your phone, write it on your arm. But take it with you everywhere and re-visit it whenever you can. At the moment my go-to is Marcus Aurelius. A quote that has worked really well for me my first week back at work, where I have been bombarded, ambushed and mauled (of course I never exaggerate) was visualising being the sailor that finds a calm harbour after letting go of people’s necks all judgements. Book Twelve, check it out.
  7. Review your goals.
    Review your goals daily. Why do you want to get out of bed? Oh yeh! My goals! That’s right. Write your goals down. After you’ve cleaned off the dog sneeze, found a way to thank the universe for your dog, hung out the washing, frozen the nucleus of all your cells and read some Marcus-like stuff – have a drink of water while you re-connect every day with your list of goals. Stay on track.

Be calm. Be the sailor. Stay connected. Build your momentum.