Month 8 - It's Getting Good
In this post: reflections on the first 8 months with a kid, reflections on “is life Good or Bad???”
8 months with a kid
One friend told me “about 8 months is when we turned the corner and started enjoying having a kid.” As with so many parenting stories, I’ve found this true for me too. Some reasons:
- Watching him one night doesn’t mean I’m ruined the next day anymore. Most nights he sleeps from 8 until 4 or 5, I give him a bottle, I go back to sleep until 7 or 7:30 or sometimes even 8. I don’t feel awesome the next day, but it’s within the realm of “normal tired.”
- I can do a lot with him. Especially anything out of the house, he generally loves. As long as he’s not bored.
- I took him on his first bike ride yesterday!
- During the week, our nanny gets him, I go to work, I come back and have like 1.5-2 hrs with him before bed and that’s a decent amount of time with him.
- He’s very cute.
- Effexor 75mg seems to be working for me1.
Parenting is kinda about as fun as a decent hike now. Not a breathtaking Yosemite or something, but a kinda-difficult kinda-boring hike. Or playing Agricola. I’d generally rather be doing my own thing, but it’s tolerable, and there are moments of fun. (“ooh a cool bird”, “I managed to build the extra room in my house that I wanted”, etc.) It’s tiring, and I’m generally glad when we get a chance to stop.
(shit like this (“boring people find parenthood a chore and interesting people find parenthood a great adventure”) does live in my head. Response 1: guilty as charged. I’m boring, and prone to depression, and climbing my way out of it. Response 2: fuck off, different people are different and react to different things differently and that’s ok.)
But it’s worlds better than months 0-4! Holy cow. I don’t feel like an uncontrollable rage/hate/despair monster who’s forever cursed to be out of sync with this world anymore. We can laugh about it2 a bit, but it’s also kind of raw, especially to hear T talk about it.
37 years with a self
Ok, so in trying to make sense of this, my story so far is something like “I got hit by a tornado called Depression for a few months, now I’m climbing back out of it.” Depression turned me into a worse person. I was angry, hateful, frustrated, despairing. People liked me less, and I liked myself less. I hardly recognize myself then (this is still true). There wasn’t much good about it.
This story is difficult, because it recognizes that anyone can get hit with any kind of tornado anytime. Tomorrow you might get cancer. Or long covid, or hit by a car, or wrongfully convicted. You go from now, where your days are between -5 and +5, to -1000. (reminder that human experience is logarithmic.) You’d then spend at least a couple months or maybe the rest of your life trying to climb back out to the state that you’re in right now. And at the end, the reward for getting through all that is… nothing. A peer may just not have any of those hardships and be just generally doing better all-around.
How can we live in such a world? How can we be optimistic, positive, hopeful, interesting when some of us just get screwed? Unpreventably, unpredictably, through no fault of their own?
Here’s a couple thought fragments:
- some people do just fine pretending those -1000s don’t happen, because they don’t, to them! ok, this doesn’t seem like the healthiest way to deal with it
- we can’t avoid all -1000 experiences, but we can learn to capitalize on positive experiences. Maybe -1000 is bearable if regular day to day is between -5 and 500 instead of -5 to 5.
- or maybe not everyday, but some peaks. If you have a handful of experiences that convince you that life absolutely cannot be worth living, then get yourself some experiences that convince you that life absolutely must be worth living. (some ++++ experiences, maybe.3) Let the +s and -s fight it out.
- you do get something from -1000s: depth. I just thought again of Fiona Apple. I didn’t, until just now, know much about her life but I googled it and it seems rough. She said, of one particular trauma: “It doesn’t get into the writing. It’s a boring pain. It’s such a fuckin' old pain that, you know, there’s nothing poetic about it.” but I bet she couldn’t have made what she has without the depth of that pain4. (Not only that trauma, but OCD depression and anxiety.)
Not sure yet which of these I believe, but the baby’s waking up; time to go do some more hiking.
It does kinda make me tense. For a while it lowered my appetite, but that seems to be back. Some mild sexual side effects. I worry about long term effects of boosting my norepinephrine (as well as serotonin). But it’s better than Months 0-4. ↩︎
tweet by me: “Me to new parents: Congrats! Hey, I can listen if you have problems. I mean, the first few months I felt real bad. So feel free to vent. Yeah, I felt like absolute dog shit, worst time of my life, awful dark thoughts, psychopathic nightmare shit, wait where are you going” ↩︎
for the record, the official stance of this blog is “don’t do anything illegal.” ++++ experiences on drugs are purely hypothetical. Get some ++++ experiences meditating, maybe. ↩︎
… this train of thought goes to weird places. It’s a fine line between appreciating art that comes from pain, and celebrating pain. If life’s not beautiful without the pain, well then I’d rather never ever even see beauty again. But again, it’s unavoidable, so we make the most of it. Please don’t take this as celebration of anyone’s pain. ↩︎
A Little Less Everything
Baby is 7mo. This is better. He is kind of fun to play with, he is cute, he makes fewer awful distress noises, and he sleeps better. He’s at one wake-up, which is close to 0 wake-ups, which is close to having our life back (evenings free + full nights of sleep -> I don’t hate everything). I actually look forward to seeing him a little.
I am feeling better. I have a little mental space. My tank is not full but it’s not constantly empty anymore. I also feel like I have much less going on inside my head, for better and worse.
I find it really hard to connect to my more-depressed self. I cannot really connect to the version of myself who felt these things:
- “I vaguely hope I don’t wake up tomorrow” (n.b. I was never suicidal)
- “I’m so angry I need to go out to the garage and scream and punch trash cans”
- “I want to hurt a small animal” (n.b. I never would)
- “See that random stranger, I hope they suffer today” (n.b. I would never cause this)
- “This thing that everyone else thinks is trivial, that I am arguing with T about, I should continue to argue about it”
It’s nice not to feel these things. Still, how is it possible that I’m the same person who, just months ago, felt these things? Inescapably? With Real Knowledge that they were Ultimately True and Would Never End? Outie-innie thing. I feel sad and scared about my Innie. I know I’ll be him again, and that’s overwhelming.
I’m on my third try of antidepressants, Effexor this time. Is it doing anything? I don’t know! It did make me feel kinda bad the first couple days, so that makes me feel like it’s doing something.
Nothing to say! Even to good friends or family or therapist. That’s not entirely true: I am obviously saying something. It just all feels… less important? Like I don’t have as many thoughts. I’m used to having a lot of thoughts.
what the hell is tpot and vibecamp
About 2 years ago I started using twitter in a different way: trying to get to know people I don’t know. This has had some good effects. It has been weird in some ways. I don’t think it’s had downsides, besides maybe wasting time.
what? how? that seems nuts
I … don’t know? All social media is weird, twitter doubly so, but it’s actually pretty nice if you use it in the right ways. And I’ve always been skeptical of forming real connections on the internet, but you definitely can.
I suppose I started by following a list of people helpfully compiled for me by the genie from Aladdin. Then just start replying to people, making good conversation, and, well, there you go.
who are they?
Usually I start with something like: you know the Berkeley rationalists? Eliezer Yudkowsky, Robin Hanson, Scott Alexander, etc, LessWrong, Slate Star Codex? A bunch of people read their stuff and thought, yeah it’s cool to think more rationally, but it’s not that cool, c’mon, there’s got to be more to it than that. And then some of them went into niches of therapy, some went into body-centered stuff, some into meditation, psychedelics, astrology, uh rock climbing, I dunno, there’s a pretty wide gamut of stuff that this group is into.
But they’re nerds in at least sorta the same way that I’m a nerd, I feel? Some labels people have used include “tpot” (this part of twitter), “ingroup”, and “postrats” (post-rationalists), though most people hate all these labels.
how’s it going now?
I don’t have a lot of deep friends from it, but I have some solid friends who have helped me through difficult times (mostly on a discord hosted by aforementioned genie). I have some acquaintances who do interesting things that I like to follow. I have some friends I like to post jokes with. Plus there are still my friends who I know from offline, and it’s fun to post things with them too.
Oh yeah, a month or so ago, I went to a campground in Maryland with like 800 of these people. It felt like a conference, but fun: we were all interested to meet new people, it helped to bring something so you had something to talk about, there were lots of pretty neat events. I did some putting-names-to-faces and a lot more learning-new-faces. And juggling, teaching juggling, singing meditation, tai chi and qigong, singing campfire songs, swimming, drinking kava, fighting, discussing psychedelics, origami, coffee brewing, feeling your fascia, dancing with and without metta meditation, visualizing, men’s-circle-ing, tarot, talking astrology, &c. So that’s the kind of crowd.
- it’s weird to meet people on twitter. it’s even harder than IRL to transition from “acquaintance” to “friend” I think, because you mostly interact by sending public statements.
- it’s weird to be so twitter-focused while, y’know, El*n is running it into the ground. hope it survives!
- it’s really nice to have a way to interact with some people I know in two minutes between other things I’m doing. makes me feel a little less isolated.
- it’s weird that, being on twitter, there’s a built-in “how popular are you” number. If you interact with someone new, you immediately know if they’re a 400-follower nobody, or a 10k-follower Niche Internet Microcelebrity. This colors my interactions so much! I wish I were better at “just being cool”, regardless of people’s Popularity Score, but alas
- who are all these followers? I mean dunbar’s number etc - how can there be 3k or 10k or 50k people who follow you “just for posting stuff”? and if you have, say, 3k followers, how many of them interact at all? I feel like kind of a lurker, but I must be more active than 99% of people, because I’ll be one of the, say, 50 replies on a 10k account’s tweet! It’s the internet’s 90-9-1 rule again, I guess.
- but if I’ve been pretty active for 2 years and only have 400 followers… the thought keeps creeping in: “what am I doing wrong?” I just try not to think about it and just have fun doing what I’m doing. Chasing popularity, especially Goodhart-able popularity metrics, seems a recipe for sadness.
- Anyway, status games aren’t anything new - academic conferences had them too! You know who’s a tenured prof, pre-tenure prof, grad student, postdoc, etc. And you know whose work is super popular and who’s squeaking by at a no-name university. I think some part of me actually enjoys status games.
- Status games get more fraught, though, in nerd-spaces, because I feel the urge to show “I’m a cool nerd, not a nerd nerd.” This was activated by the lemur thread, and the constant chatter about how Vibecamp was like 80% men, but is just always present in my mind. I’m always happier when I stop paying attention to stuff like this.
- 6+ Months
- Mental Models
- Levels of Depression
- Baby Prep: Feelings
- baby stuff megapost
- baby prep things to do megapost
- A Month of Metta
- 3 Months In
- More Links
- How to Stay Sane and Healthy on Social Media
- Fast-Forward Time
- We're at about a month
- "I Just Want to Feel Everything"
- We Had a Baby
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