2015-03-19

Non-24-hour living

As far back as I can remember, I always had trouble getting up in the morning... and no trouble staying up during the night.

During the years I went to school - and the brief time in my late teens when I actually worked in an office - having to get up in the morning was, without exception, horrendous. It was due to the experience of these years that I thought I hated mornings, and it took me a while to realize I really don't. I actually love being up and alert when the sun is rising, with the streets still calm as night, when nobody is yet up. I really don't mind getting up at that time, either. I just absolutely can't handle a 24-hour sleep cycle.

Early in my twenties, I started to become less dependent on other people's schedules, but I still tried to keep a 24-hour sleep cycle, because that's what you are supposed to do. I would still try to get up at about the same time every day, but the time kept slipping. Getting up at 10 am turned to getting up at 10:15, then 10:30, 10:45, and so on until I was finally getting up at 5 pm, and going to bed when the sun rose in the morning. I struggled against this tendency; I used alarms, I guilted myself to get up earlier, but I was never successfully able to turn the clock back. Always forward. When the cycle came around so I was getting up at 6 pm again, I pushed myself the following few days to stay up much longer, so that I would skip a day and begin waking up again at a reasonable hour. Always, I wished this time around I could start sticking to a reasonable schedule. But again, getting up at 7 am turned to 7:15... And then 7:30... And so on, until it was time to skip a day again.

I failed to stop the slippage at either end of sleep. If I tried forcing myself to get up at a consistent hour, this became increasingly difficult until my eyelids felt like cinder blocks, and it was impossible to honor the alarm. If I tried to make myself fall asleep at the same time each night, I would increasingly just toss and turn in bed.

A few months ago, I thought to myself, what the heck. I had always tried to keep a 24-hour sleep cycle. It had always been a struggle, and in vain. But by now, I'm no longer tied to nearly anyone else's schedule - and I'm far from anyone's judgment. So why not let myself stay up however long I want, until I feel like sleep; and then sleep for however long I need?

For the past few months, the result has been a close-to-25-hour sleep cycle. My wake-up time shifts by about 1 hour, on average, per day. For the first time in my life, I'm neither tossing and turning in bed, nor waging a "get up!" war between spirit and body. I'm rested and relaxed, and never groggy after I wake up. Throughout the day, I feel like I'm at full capacity. This is what a smooth experience feels like.

The negative, of course, is that for a good portion of the month, I'm sleeping through the day when other people would expect me to be up.

A known condition that fits these symptoms is Non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder. I have not yet sought a diagnosis, so I cannot claim that this is what I have. However, the article states: "The disorder is an invisible disability that can be 'extremely debilitating in that it is incompatible with most social and professional obligations'." That is approximately right. One could argue I'm fortunate to have a life and work situation that allows me to accommodate this condition. But the truth is, this is not coincidental. I have never been free of this tendency. I built my life and work situation around this. Chances are that I would not have made the same life choices if I didn't have what felt like a biological requirement to not get locked into a fixed work day.

It is a condition that limits. It does not help me to have it. I have worked my way around it, at some cost.

2015-03-07

Fair and unfair agreements

In economic terms, an agreement can happen where both parties extract value from the arrangement. A fair agreement is where both parties extract proportionally similar value. An unfair agreement is when one party has few alternatives, so the other party can negotiate terms such as to capture most of the value.

If you deal fairly with people, you will offer them agreements that provide them with proportional value. You will do so even when you could negotiate them into terms that are much better for you than for them.

Walmart could be considered an entity that extracts all the value in their agreements with employees, because the counterparty has very limited other options. These are consensual agreements, but they aren't fair. Making such agreements is legal; but that doesn't get you off the hook as a scumbag.

Many countries have legal requirements which attempt to ensure that certain types of agreements - especially in employment - are not only consensual, but fair. This is a form of state coercion which I've come to think is necessary, and welcome. Employment is an area where allowing people to be scumbags has especially detrimental results.

But employment isn't the only area where an agreement, or a mutual promise, can be unfair.

People cheat in lose/lose situations

The internets are full of condemnation for cheaters, and I often feel like I'm the only person tilting at the windmills of hatred against them.

Cheating is wrong. It's not the upstanding thing to do. It's an attempt to eat your cake, and have it too. If you're in a relationship where you're going to cheat, then you shouldn't have entered it in the first place. If you desire to experience intimacy that the rules of your relationship do not allow, there are two proper and upstanding alternatives: either to abstain, and reject temptation; or to confront your partner, and let the chips fall where they may. This could mean ending the relationship, or relaxing the rules.

(Or often, relaxing the rules, and then ending. That's how open relationships acquire a bad reputation; when closed relationships make their last-ditch efforts to save themselves by opening up, and can't.)

The thing is - when people cheat, we tend to judge them way too much. We vilify the cheater, and exaggerate the harm done to the person who was cheated on. We maximize their victimhood, and minimize what they did to help create the situation. Cheating is only ever seen as the cheater's fault.

I argue that the way most people set up their expectations in relationships makes it inevitable that someone will either cheat, or be tempted to. Further, even when temptation is repressed - when cheating doesn't actually happen - the fact that there's repression is a cost. It's a lost opportunity for someone to experience something beautiful.

If you're in a monogamous relationship, the first thing you should notice is that you're extorting your partner. Monogamy is a form of blackmail. Your partner loves you; but you don't love them back freely. The only way you will love them is if they do not love anyone else. Your partner has a burning need to be with you; but the only way you'll grant them this is if they agree to abandon other needs they have. You will not allow your partner to fulfill all their desires. You will not allow them to fully express themselves.

The most common response is that this is fine, because people agree to it. That marriage vows are entered voluntarily. But to suppose that this is fully voluntary is wishful thinking. There is pressure from peers and family; from churches, colleagues, and employers; from the state; pressuring people to at least appear to pursue a traditional, heterosexual, monogamous lifestyle. Even heterosexual monogamous people who decide to merely not have children can be treated as social pariahs. We are only now, and only in select countries, on the road to marriage equality for people with same-sex partners. For people with multiple partners, widespread acceptance is a long way down the road.

It takes unusual guts and self-awareness to go against this pressure, especially at a young age when a person still needs the support of others. Now add to this that a young person getting married doesn't necessarily yet understand themselves, or know what they can and cannot repress in the long run; add to it that the most valuable thing which they know they want - the love of their partner - comes dependent on a monogamous promise; and it's hard to argue the decision isn't made under duress.

There are certainly people who take shitty actions for no reason. In most cases, however, people make shitty decisions as a result of shitty circumstance. What hurts the most when you're being cheated on is the lying, the betrayal; but the main reason the person is lying is that what they have with you does mean a lot to them. There would be no reason to lie, if honesty didn't lead to losing something they value.

So then why cheat, in the first place? Well, because they don't only love you. They also love, and/or need, something else. In the situation they're in, there's no honest course of action that would allow them to have both. Either they lose you; or they lose the other something. It's a lose/lose proposition for them.

Cheating is what people do to delay an inevitable loss. For a while at least, as long as they can hide it, they can have both things they want - which they believe they could otherwise never have.

2015-03-06

Self-confidence and crazy men

People value men based on self-confidence we project. The thing is, a man without self-confidence isn't perceived as weak. He's perceived as scary.

Statistically and physiologically, men are a gender of anger and violence, much more so than women (who are dangerous in more subtle ways). If you lack self-confidence, it sends a signal that you don't know what to do with your raw power. You're prone to misuse it, you're prone to act out, you're prone to do something dangerous - hurt someone or yourself, potentially - because you aren't at ease with yourself.

A confident man is attractive because he projects safety. Not just safety from others, or safety from external circumstance; but safety from his own whims and impulses. If he's self-confident, it means he's more likely to respond appropriately to situations. It means he's less likely to lash out; less likely to be a source of harm.

Being attractive, as a man, is largely about assuring a woman that you aren't crazy and dangerous.