It takes courage

It takes courage to admit what you want, to look it straight in the face despite reservation & fear.

You only get there by getting beyond the place where you care about the judgments of people. We hold each other in place with invisible shackles, formed by all manner of materials both seemingly beneficial and not so. Comfort, accolades, social promotion just as much as laws, punishment and open derision.

It’s a whole system, of course, and it doesn’t need to be actively maintained anymore. Like “mature landscaping” it’s become quite capable of caring for itself – it operates without emotion, without sensitivity, without humanity. A system with no teleology rooted in reality, and no real purpose except to perpetuate itself. It’s a weed, I suppose.

Anyway, it takes courage to be in a system like this and to say, “Hey, I know that people like ME are supposed to do X, but I’m going to do something else.” Even worse if you’ve spent some time doing what you are supposed to do – then it feels like treason. WE THOUGHT YOU WERE ON OUR TEAM – cruelty is especially potent for traitors.

  • It takes courage to have taken a stand and then to back away from it on further reflection.
  • It takes courage to have been in the closet and then to have come out.
  • It takes courage to have built a career and a life and to reevaluate and change direction.
  • It takes courage to eschew the precious comforts of safety and security (inner & outer) to move strongly in the direction of a dream.

That’s what I’m telling myself here, now, at the outset of a new project the scope of which I’m only beginning to comprehend. It’s comforting to think that, despite the risk, there is the payoff of having exercised courage. A precious opportunity.

The tools I use to do the work I must do (with some diversions to methodology)

Since my daughter left the nest, I’ve been getting ready for something. I’ve not been entirely sure what – but I know it’s got a scholarly bent, it will involve a lot of reading & writing, and that it’s going to test me in ways I’ve not been tested for a while. I thought I was ready last summer, but life has its way of reminding you what work you have left to do – doesn’t it? So, the last year or so has been one big getting ready process. Several renegotiated commitments, some deal of transformative chaotic pain, and one move to the ocean later – it’s time to get rolling.

The first big push has to be developing tools, methodologies & capacities that will allow me to manage everything I have to manage while making space for Deep Work.  No small task. But, if I don’t build the scaffolding, I won’t be able to do anything else of any worth. I know that about myself.

I’ve always been a gear head, a lover of the Apple ecosystem, and a tinkerer with systems. In fact, this last difficult year, I’ve tinkered a bit too much. Things got a touch out of control. The last three months have seen me reigning it in. Because this is my personal blog, and you’re not the boss of me, I’m going to talk about my gear, how I use it, and give some examples in the coming months. This will be helpful especially to those students of mine who are as dorky as I am about this stuff, and wonder how I get things done.

This post, apart from serving as notice, is also intended as an index of sorts of what is to come. In the rest of this post, I’ll just layout the problems I’ve faced – which creates the outlines of where I sought solutions. As I write posts about the various problem/solution pairs, I’ll come back here and add links. So, eventually, you’ll just have to find this post and follow its lead to all the rest.

IMG_1602A quick note that I may develop later. My digital gear is as follows (as of 2016-05-31) : 2015 Macbook Pro (retina), iPad Pro 9.7″, iPhone 6s. I have an Apple Pencil & Smart Keyboard for the iPad. I also have an Apple bluetooth keyboard and Magic Trackpad 2 for when I’m working at a more or less stable workstation. I do also have a Canon printer I love (it is loud, though) and, more importantly, a Fujitsu scansnap ix500 scanner – one of the most perfect pieces of consumer engineering I’ve ever been privileged to know. So – everything below works on one or more (usually more) of these pieces of hardware. The hardscape of my little ecosystem.

The Problems

  1. Lots and lots of data

I am a professor, owner of two businesses (one online, one brick & mortar), a clinician and a naturally curious person. I was a student in higher education for 10+ years. I’m a collector of information. I have a LOT of data, and gather more all the time.

Like you, I have a million digital photos and all the nostalgic detritus that most of us gather. I have bills & household documents of various kinds – scanned in, generated digitally, and even some still as paper. Egads. I come across websites, photos, phone numbers, book chapters, signs, video, audio, sculpture, street corners and restaurant meals all of which I’d like to remember. Much of that will turn out to be irrelevant, but I’ve found over time that more often than not, I end up wanting what I gather at some point or another.

A side note : I actually keep very little in the analog world. I have a habit of throwing away things I later need. I like clean surfaces. I’m allergic to clutter. But, digitally, and in the life of the mind, I’m a collector. Maybe a hoarder.

So – I need a way to keep and manipulate data. That’s problem number one and really forms the foundation of what I do. My current system consists of:

  • Devonthink Pro Office + the browser extensions that clip webpages and other content there
  • By the way, I use the Google Chrome browser
  • My Fujitsu scansnap (I’ve digitized all of my paper notes & other files)
  • Hazel for automatic filing, useful particularly when I need to download PDFs

2. The need to teach & grade efficiently, with style, and in diverse environments

  • iThoughts HD (mindmapping, usually my first line of defense)
  • Omni Outliner
  • And of course, Devonthink
  • Good Notes
  • Google Drive, Airmail 3 and various other things
  • I’m starting to work more with Keynote
  • When I’m prepping slides and classes for online use, I like Screenflow, though I’m told Keynote works fine in certain circumstances
  • This is where the Apple Pencil comes in quite handy

3. The need to read, write & think and then find what I’ve read, wrote & thought

4. The need to manage a bewildering array of commitments

What I’d like to do is come back and expand on this post.

I’ll add more links, more information, and eventually talk more about how I use these tools. But, however many posts and pages this becomes on the site – I’ll come back here and link it all together so it’s easy to find what you might be interested in reading. For now, it’s a bit of a skeleton post, I’m afraid.

Why I’m leaving Portland

IMG_1132Portland, OR, is the darling of the moment. Everyone wants to live here, and with good reason. It’s a beautiful city. Every season has something to love, but the spring and summer are particularly glorious. Oh wait, also fall. Winter can be hard, of course, but not hard as in many places – it all depends on your constitution. I love the rain, I love the cool. Climate & ecology considered – nearly perfect.

It’s a place with lots of possibility. A strong creative and entrepreneurial class, lots of educated people, plenty of educational opportunities. If you have a restricted diet, if you just love food, if you enjoy a pub crawl every now and again – Portland has you covered. There are restaurants and neighborhoods I dearly love. The city is walkable, full of bike friendly aspects, and great public transportation abounds. Starting in late spring, there is always something free to do outdoors – theater and concerts in the park, cultural events, whatever.

I can talk almost anybody into moving to Portland without a hint of regret. If I could go back 11 years to before I moved here, I would do so again without any hesitation. The city has been incredibly good to me and my family, and I will always love it. In fact, even with the move that is happening for us in the next couple of weeks, we will be returning to Portland often. We’re moving only two hours away, and we’re maintaining our clinic (strong as ever) and I will continue teaching at NCNM. We’ll likely be back every week, at least for a while. Portland will still be a strong presence in our lives.

So, why leave? Moving, buying and selling homes, uprooting our lives, moving farther from our established communities of friends, colleagues and friends… it’s all a big pain. Why?

For once in my life, I’m not moving to GET AWAY FROM, but to move towards something I desire. Now, to be fair, that was more or less true for our move to Portland. We moved here so I could go to medical school. But, even in that, there was something about escape. I wasn’t really SURE I wanted to be an acupuncturist. It was a from the hip decision based on the fact that I didn’t feel adequate to the task of becoming an academic philosopher – my prior dream. I knew we had to get out of Eugene (a city I still really just don’t like very much) and I knew we were at risk to drift. I don’t like drifting.

So, though we were moving TOWARDS a kind of life we chose, and we were excited about it, it still wasn’t like this time. This time we’re leaving a situation that, for all objective observations, looks ideal. Getting better all the time, really. We could stay here forever and probably be fine.

That said, there are cracks in the façade. I deal poorly with traffic, and if you’re going to be driving a car in Portland, traffic is gonna be a thing. I’m also just not well disposed to being surrounded by lots of people and their stuff (physical and beyond). I get irritable, I take on too much, I forget myself. It has been eroding me, bit by bit. That’s been enhanced by some other life choices and situations that increased my stress level to unhealthy highs. A toxic soup of lifestyle factors that make it difficult for me to find the love for my city.

(I’m going to leave aside now – because I can – the other difficult realities of Portland. Gentrification, the racism that fuels it, passive aggression, spiraling costs, homogeneity of culture, etc… I recognize my privilege in not having to make that a major part of my narrative.)

But, that’s not really why we’re leaving. We’re leaving because there’s a life we want to live, and this city isn’t consistent with that life. In fact, no city could be. We’re leaving because we want our daily reality to be wind, water, trees. We would rather spend most of our time around fewer people and more wildness, and visit the city when we want to bathe in the roil of humanity. Not the other way around – as we do now.

There’s something about space. About not being surrounded by human beings. And there’s something about Astoria, OR. I’ve never been so entranced by a town. I can’t really explain it. Sometimes, you go to a place, and it just feels like home – right? Portland felt that way from an intellectual perspective. It was the right “fit” and I enjoyed certain aspects of it. But, this is different. It feels like home in my bones. Everything relaxes. But everything becomes piqued as well. I want to know it, in that long, slow, lifelong IMG_1077romance sort of way.

It’s a perfect balance for me, for us. Despite the seeming suddenness of our decision, and how intensely the process has moved – it feels absolutely right, ok, perfect, even. That’s terrifying, of course, but… not really. It’s that kind of, “Oh yeah, this is how it’s supposed to be,” that usually only happens for me in dreams.

There’s so much to say about this – and so much to come (for Watershed as well as us personally). But for now, a photo, and goodbye.



Left turn

PIMG_0755ersonal blogs being what they are, I’ll write about what I want. So there. Lots going on in the world of Eric Grey, and it’s mostly only interesting to me. This is fortunate, since I’m likely the only one reading this. One of the things, though, that I’d like to share is my journey to Astoria, and to a different version of myself, and the things I learn along the way.

Mostly, I’ll be learning about plants and animals, wind and sea, restaurants and local haunts, logistics and movement, and how to take a left turn in one’s life when one’s life is already pretty much a left turn. I guess then it’s a circle? Or a sort of square U shape.

What is certain is that I won’t be pursuing a PhD any time soon. That was a dream, I think a good one, launched because I felt inside of me the urge to do something different. But, as usual, my expectation was that this “something else” must be “work,” and that turns out not to be the case. More work is going to put me in my goddamned grave. I’m not ready for that, yet, so… A turn in a new direction.

Towards simpler realities, with no loss in complexity. Towards more time in nature, and less time in buildings trapped in front of a computer. More time bullshitting with people for no reason, less time being annoyed because people are talking to me. More time watching weather, less time being pissed off about it. More time actually learning my profession and how to practice it in this wild world, and less time being drug along by some vision of my life that I never really fully signed on to.

There will be twists and turns, to be sure. But, I’m feeling pretty good about it right now. So, I’ll write more here, soon. For now, I’ll show THE VIEW from our new place. It’s not 100% ours, yet, because we don’t close until April. But, it’s about 75% ours, and I’m excited about that. The people who have owned it clearly loved it, and put a lot of time and energy into it, and I hope to honor their work by living in it very well, and taking great care of it. And staring at that view. A lot.

Radicalized professions

big old tree

I was going to write another post titled, “The Long and Winding Road,” to explain how and why I’ve found myself without the headspace to write on this personal site. But, then, I realized – it doesn’t matter. There I was and now here I am.

There’s a strange feeling on the air, on the airwaves, all around. It’s faded in and out over the last couple of months. A stray news story here. An odd conversation with a friend. Unexplained physical symptoms. Ten and twenty friends at a time having the same dream. It lulls, things go back to “normal,” but then it comes around again.

A feeling that something, for real, is happening. Globally. Maybe collectively. Maybe it’s a doomsday feeling common to people living in collapsing civilizations. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been eating too much gluten. Hard to tell.

But today, there’s some alarming news… a bunch of electronic/online mishaps, power outages (including at my house), odd communications. Global. Specific. People are trying to bury it, brush it off, perhaps rightly. But, it’s odd. Hackers? From where? Why? What’s it connected to – conceptually, or in time?

All that aside, recent reports related to climate change and my own personal experiences living through the drought and unseasonably warm weather in the Pacific Northwest are enough to get me alarmed. Enough to activate something in me that has been dormant for a while.

Energy to resist.

When I was in college, this was common enough – as it was for most people I know. But the long slow road of raising kids, of learning how to adult, of establishing myself in SOMETHING, it quieted the voice within to a whisper.

Now, with dependency behind me and a growing noise in the world, and inside, that now is the time for action. The time for action on the outside, yes, but let’s not forget. It’s also time for action within. To turn pro, I guess.

But that outward action – that’s the real surprise. For me. And I see it rising in the morass of my profession. Amid the distractions of insurance reimbursement and mutual professional respect, we’re missing signals. We’re missing ways we can be more deeply of service to human beings – and all the rest. There are interconnections everywhere, if we’d just have eyes to see them.

There’s something that can rise, and nourish, and challenge, and be a part of actually creating change.

It’s my students that remind me of this – so perhaps this is an occupational hazard. But my walking into Philosophy, my attempt to reorganize my life and time, all these things that are taking up most of the time I might normally use to write, these things are my attempt to take up the call.

I have lived inside of this monster’s belly for a while. I think I have a fair understanding of its faults. That’s good information.




On being a professional gearing up for a PhD

BibliotecaI was accepted into a PhD program in Philosophy when I was just a youngster – 12 years ago. It was unfunded the first year, so not exactly a clear cut vote of confidence, but still. I was accepted to a good institution. I had no clue what I was doing, why I was going, or what any of it meant. I just knew that was the next step.

It ended up NOT being the next step, as I would leave that program in the first term to return to my place of origin. It wasn’t the right time, wasn’t the right place. I had 12 years of growing to do, apparently. I had to raise a daughter in a complex co-parenting situation. I had to get married and buy a house and deal with various demons. One of the major things I had to do was acquire a profession – the profession of Chinese medicine.

I’ve been in clinical practice for over 5 years now, and studying this stuff for a decade. I’m only 38, so that’s more than a quarter of my life on this Earth, and over half of my adult life. I’ve got a LOT left to learn, of course. The masters of my profession have been in practice for 20, 30, 50 years. But, I have a professional life. I practice, I teach, I participate in my community. That’s never going to change. In this work, I found the fuel and the fire to keep me going through this sometimes too-damn-much life.

So, it’s pretty weird to be contemplating this next step. It feels a little self-indulgent. It feels a little like betrayal. It feels like something I might regret. But more often, it feels completely logical. Inevitable. It feels like somehow why I got into this profession in the first place. To have something that forces me into frequent contact with the world and with people so I can formulate real questions. Questions with real consequences is, I suppose, what I mean.

When I was admitted to that PhD so many years ago, I had been in higher education for almost 6 years. All the jobs I had held were academic, or service oriented. I spent most of my time studying, parenting, and – yes – partying. I found a bubble, was comforted by it, and stayed there. Of course, being a very young parent and also being LGBT identified, I did find myself on the margins at times – and I was involved in activism and advocacy of various kinds. But, more or less, my life experience was limited.

I guess it’s always limited. Finite beings and all.

Point is – in these 12 years – I’ve had much broader AND deeper contact with humanity. With the systems that govern this country. With myself, even. This experience has laid many questions and problems bare. For whatever reason, I cannot leave these things alone. I cannot stop thinking about them. They distract me. And, I don’t have the skills or support to answer them on my own. I’ve tried.

So, despite having a profession, and despite being successful in that profession – I’m facing the prospect of going back to school. To devoting myself to a vague and borderline impossible task for several years. Probably setting my overt advancement in my home profession back a bit. Definitely forging murky and uncomfortable waters. Being a little broker. A little more uncertain.

It’s a strange feeling.