Casey Grisez

November 3, 2022

Sticky Notes Lesson #3 - Shaving Ritual

I signed up for a month-long, email-based writing course from Cole Schafer of Sticky Notes, Honey Copy, and Chasing Hemingway fame.

He sends a lesson and prompt every day. I have 10 minutes to read and consider the prompt, 40 minutes to write, and 10 minutes to edit before posting publicly.

I’m posting here to not drown my Casey's Notes content. On to day 3...


For as long as I can remember, I've been a stressed guy. I'm not sure if it's because I have four older brothers and have always had to "want it" more. Maybe I just got unlucky in the genetic lottery and stress runs in my blood. I have no idea.

All I know is, while I hide it well, I tend to take important things -- marriage, parenting, career -- too seriously and emphasize performing well. I want to be the best husband and parent I can and I want every work product to show how much of a professional I am. I seek external validation rather than internal.

My stress levels are bad enough that when I was in the middle of a decision whether to relocate my family for a job, I got a blind spot in my vision. I can't remember the exact name (I think "maculopathy" or something like that is in there), but the usual patient is a high-stress, type-A males.

It's a hell of a rude awakening to realize your stress means you can't see too well out of one eye. Cutting back the stress is getting to be medically necessary.

Today's prompt from Cole is to share my so-called "shaving ritual." The shaving ritual is derived from a story about Leonard Cohen. His mom told him to shave when things were going badly and everything would get better. Cole wants me to share my shaving ritual, the thing I do when the world has gone to shit and I need to find my footing again. The thing I do when the stress hits a level even I don't experience too often.

My shaving ritual is simple: get outside and take a big deep breath. I don't mean get outside in the #getoutside way favored by office-dwellers draped in designer outdoor gear (though yes, I've used the hashtag before). I just need to get out of my house and deeply breathe in fresh air.

The first step you take outside, where you're far enough outside to look up at the sky and breathe one of those deep breaths that goes all the way down to your belly, it is bliss. That same breath indoors, looking up at a ceiling with a bad paint job or cobwebs you need to clean, doesn't have the same effect. 

I'm sure there's a biological reason for it, but the breath makes the whole experience. It somehow makes me feel more connected to the world. I'm looking up at the same sky that people have looked at for thousands of years. Nothing I face is new, nothing I face matters now, and nothing I face will matter in a month, a year, a decade, or a century.

Meanwhile, I have heating, air conditioning, modern medicine, and too easy access to all the food I could ever want. My wife loves me (usually). My kids are healthy. All things that people looking up at that same sky a thousand years ago would have killed for.

Getting outside, looking at the sky, and taking a massively deep breath bring perspective. And it's the greatest way I know of to scrape the layer of scum off the top of my mental pond.