The Bear

One of the most worthwhile television shows of late has been The Bear, an incredibly intense and beautiful series that follows an ensemble cast of people who try to turn a simple, neighbourhood restaurant in Chicago into a world class establishment. Central to the story is Carmine “Carmy” Berzatto, a world renowned chef who, in the wake of his brother’s suicide, inherits the restaurant together with his sister. Carmine is a complex character, and his relationship with his brother was complex too. As the show progresses, it dives into the complexities of relationships, as well as the human experience, in a beautiful way.

Despite this beauty, the show tends to be quite raw. Carmy comes from a dysfunctional and self-destructive family who bring out the best and worst in each other. When I watch an episode, I do so with a mixture of fascination, revulsion and recognition. I know all of these people because I grew up around them. Each character on the show represents someone in my family. Each event has a parallel in mine. Each triumph, each celebration, and each failure and disappointment. Each barely controlled fear and anxiety which results in a fight or argument. I recognise them all.

There is a flashback episode in season two, which shows a Christmas celebration, which features a few characters that are not on the show in the main timeline. Jamie Lee Curtis plays Carmy’s mother, and Jon Bernthal plays Carmy’s older brother. They deserve all the accolades. I both hate and love these characters, as much as I hate and love who they represent(ed) in my own life.

What a beautiful show. A beautiful, beautiful, ugly show. I get emotional just thinking about it.

Steve Jobs on Consulting

I have never found Steve Jobs to be an inspiring or inspired person, but I just came across a quote of his that I agree with.

I don’t think there is anything inherently evil in consulting, but I think that without owning something over an extended period of time, […] where one has a chance to take responsibility for one’s recommendations, where one has to see one’s recommendations through all action stages and accumulate scar tissue for the mistakes, and pick oneself off the ground and dust oneself off, one learns a fraction of what one can. Coming in and making recommendations and not owning the results, and not owning the implementation, I think is a fraction of the value, and a fraction of the opportunity to learn and get better. You do get a broad cut at companies, but it’s very thing. […] You might get a very accurate picture, but it’s only two dimensional. Without the experience of actually doing it, you never get three dimensional.

Fifteen Years

Lieve mamma,

Het is vijftien jaar geleden dat ik je voor het laatst heb gezien. Ik ben blij om je te vertellen dat het nog steeds goed met me gaat. Jouw afscheid werd met de jaren makkelijker, maar daar lijkt nu echt een einde aan gekomen te zijn. Ik schreef al eerder dat ik eerst je miste omdat ik bang was, en dat ik je steeds meer begon te missen omdat ik je miste als ouder. Dat gevoel wordt alleen maar sterker.

Ik begin mezelf nu pas goed te leren kennen, en er zijn erg veel eigenschappen en trekjes die ik heb waar ik de herkomst niet goed van ken, of niet goed begrijp hoe ze zich over de jaren ontwikkeld hebben. Daar heb ik jou voor nodig, iemand die mij dat vergezicht kan bieden. Ik besef me, natuurlijk veel te laat, hoe belangrijk dat is. Ik wou dat ik meer tijd met je had kunnen spenderen.

Ik heb je nodig om mij te vertellen wie ik ben.

Abstaining from Alcohol

Over the last couple of years I’ve noticed that my tendencies around alcohol steadily became more and more dysfunctional. I never drank often, but when I did drink, I would drink more than was healthy. One autumn morning, after an evening of drinking which left me wondering, not for the first time, what the hell I was doing drinking as much as I had, I thought it was time for a change. My stepfather, whose birthday we had celebrated on the evening in question, had just quit drinking for two years, before slowly reintroducing alcohol, mostly a glass of wine or two during a nice meal. He had told me that during his time being sober, had reset his relationship with alcohol, and now simply could not drink to the excess that he could before. I decided that I wanted to try doing what he had.

After some thought about the length of time I would give up drinking, I settled on a year, with a minimum of six months. I knew it was unlikely that I would give up drinking altogether, but what I was looking for was the same that my stepfather had found; that the baseline frequency, amounts, excess, would be reset to a healthier level. Over time, a hangover went from a rare, once a year mistake, to a regular, once a month routine, which left me wonder where it would lead if I let it run its course. Extrapolating that escalation of behaviour over another decade did not look pretty.

So I started. The first few weeks, predictably, went quite easily. And then I noticed that the only hard part was finding something else to drink when going out for dinner, and what to tell people who offered you a drink. Both got easier over time. I found that sparkling water, or ginger beer, were a great substitute, and that most people applauded and encouraged the decision not to drink.

I was quite pleased to find that I did not have a physical addiction to alcohol, but rather that the challenge was one of habit. As the weeks turned to months, I found that all of the benefits of not drinking (clear skin, weight loss, etc.) were all a pretty big lie. The one thing I could confirm for myself was that I would get better sleep. I already knew that my sleep was worse on the days that I drank alcohol, but it became more and more profound the longer I did not drink, which showed me that I was also paying a compounding price in quality of sleep.

After a few months, things got boring. There were no new discoveries, no new improvements, and no new insights. After talking it through with Joasia, I decided to plan my return. I briefly wondered whether I was giving up before it was getting really hard, but I decided I felt I had learned what I was going to learn and my insights would not profoundly change whether I would stop drinking for six months or six years. What I was interested in was whether my return to drinking alcohol would reveal something. Would I achieve the reset I desired? Would my behaviour bounce back to what it was before? Would I find the effects of alcohol still worth the price you pay?

Seven months after that one autumn morning, I had a drink again. And it was okay. Since then, I’ve returned to having a glass of wine at a nice dinner and making some cocktails, which is still my favourite way to drink. The big revelation is that after about two drinks, I really feel the effects of it. I know that there is no physiologically change in my tolerance and that what I’m simply no longer treating the effect is normal, but it still feels like my tolerance has shrunk. It makes me less eager to have a drink, and it makes me realise that I’ve started pushing my boundaries more and more over the years. Hopefully that revelation will help me going forward. But let’s see what more I can learn.