Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tension is who you think you should be, relaxation is who you are. ~a fortune cookie

I have a theory that the reason there are so many geeks fascinated by the medieval time period is because of the peaks and valleys of stress in the technical industry. For many, either you are utterly stressed or bored out of your skull. We (and I say “we” because I consider myself part of this group) long for simpler times. In Utopian terms, there were two main phases you were in.

1) You were putting on armor, grabbing a long stick with a deadly bit on the end of it and dealing with your problem.
2) You were celebrating the fact that your problem was dealt with, feasting on whole animals, and listening to musicians sing tales of your courage and strength.

The reality is, there was plenty to stress about. To name a few: disease, foul odors everywhere, Vikings showing up and wreaking havoc, frightening medical practices- and, worst of all, lack of instant access to reliable information on any topic. Also, being under siege for years is a whole new level of boredom and stress.

My point here is that computer geeks often have stress which leads to odd ways of dealing with it – I know I did. It was based on a technique that Native Americans would use when they were suffering from grief or anger or any emotion that they could not get under control.

First, he would fast for a day or two just to let his body know that he meant business. Next, he would go down to a riverbed and search for a rock that "called to him." After that, he would take this rock and go far out into the woods, grip the rock as tight as he could and visualize himself pouring all his negative emotion into it. Finally, he would bury the rock and walk away, leaving whatever was troubling him behind.

If you are an insomniac like me, this may make more sense. The goal is to have a memory of something you can latch onto instead of whatever is bothering you repeatedly forcing itself into the forefront of your mind. You just remember burying the rock when the emotion pops up and eventually it fades away.

I was not about to fast or bury a quarry’s worth of rocks to deal with stress, but here was my procedure. On my walk home at the end of the day, I would press my hand against a certain cement pillar and leave my work stress there. If I started to think back about my job, I would remember the pillar. And, believe it or not, it worked pretty well for me.

When we moved houses I needed a new pillar. After giving it much thought, I decided on a weird sculpture-thing I would be passing by every day. The next evening, following my pattern, I placed my hand on it and, to my surprise, it moved. I grabbed it and experimented and realized that it was meant to spin and, also, the main pieces rotate on their own while the base is spinning.

This is way cooler than the pillar. On particularly bad days I would get the whole thing spinning as fast as I could, nearly slamming myself in the head a couple of times.

I still don’t know what the sculpture-thing is or what it’s supposed to represent. I’ve included a short video below – if you have any idea of the true meaning of my stress totem, I’d love to hear it.

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