Old Photos

I’ve had some cameras that I thought were top quality, an Olympus 35mm for awhile, when they thought a lot of themselves, like they were the top choice of the professionals, and they might have been, I don’t know. They used to brag about how many lenses they had. So many options. A lens for every situation. I only had one, the one that came with the camera, a nice 50mm lens that got as wide as, what was it, something ridiculous, like, 1.2 or something.  I bought a couple more lenses, but they were third party, Sigma, Tokina, and I liked them too. Well rated by consumer’s report.

I took that camera on a cross country trip and shot a lot of film. It was mostly a manual camera, but it needed a small battery for metering that never lasted, so I sold it eventually. It would actually shoot without the battery only at 1/60th of a second, and without metering, so you’d have to guess – I should have learned to do that, though it could be expensive to experiment back in the film days.

Then I had a Canon Rebel for awhile.  I took a lot of photos with it in the early years of family.

I look at my old pictures now and realize that there’s a soft focus about them. I took a lot of landscapes because when I travelled, I wanted to more than document my trip, I wanted art. I thought that an artsy photo would only include what I was there to see, and an amateurish photo would have us in it. I did also like to take pictures of people, just not us, but also the mountain wouldn’t look at you funny if you take a picture of it. I guess I could have asked a person, “is it ok to take your picture?” But then it’s posed, and I hate posed pictures, for the most part. I was with someone once who asked a guy whether she could take his picture, and he said no.  She said, “no?” He repeated, “no.” And she didn’t take the picture. So, I took mostly landscapes.

Landscapes are where a professional’s technique shows, and I didn’t have all that. I really didn’t have the patience for it.  I assume it was me and not my equipment, although I didn’t have the best money could buy either. You can tell the professionals; their pictures have unreal clarity. People have a lot to offer in terms of character, such that you can forgive some technical imperfection, or just be satisfied with a certain standard you don’t have to go beyond. Photojournalism even more so, because it’s the content that matters, and they’ll take the best they can get.

But I like my photos. To me that’s how I remember the places, just a little fuzzy. Memory is always a blur, amirite? and a photo like that reminds me that things aren’t so still. Time never stops like in a photo. No matter how perfectly a person can recreate with a photo everything you could possibly have seen (and couldn’t see), it’s always going to feel woefully incomplete. You’ll never hear that creak, feel that breeze, smell that grass (or manure). A perfect image reinforces that so much is missing. Why not go impressionistic in general? Something can be abstract and still representational. It can hint more effectively at all of it, if it also just hints at what you would see. We don’t want to focus so hard. You’ll miss it.

 

Doing Stand Up

A thought just occurred to me. What am I supposed to do about biking when winter comes?

Also, my bike is making a noise dammit. Might need to be oiled somewhere. I should have kept up the maintenance, but you can’t get in to see anyone anymore. Also thinking about ordering new tires, just in case. And new brakes. They work, but they make a noise. I think it’s normal, but I haven’t replaced them in the 13 years I’ve had the bike. Thirteen years sounds like a lot, but in use, it’s much fewer years. What is the average that a person uses a bike in a year? I’m sure I’ve been below it, especially if you exclude people who don’t use their bikes at all and therefore effectively don’t have bikes. “A person who doesn’t read, holds no advantage over one who can’t,” as Mark Twain said.

They maintain airplanes based on miles flown, so how many miles have I flown? That’s what matters. My new app will tell me, at least going forward. My total miles 43.1. My longest single day ride was 10, since measurements began in the 2020s.  And that happened yesterday.

My new stem makes a difference. I still think the crank is too big, but I am able to raise the seat a little. My knees feel a little less strained, though it still feels like that’s where the muscles are that I’m using most. And that doesn’t make sense to me.

Is this really a blog post? Interesting thoughts in it? More like a journal. I don’t want to post things that are boring. On the other hand, I’m not a good judge of that, and I don’t want to give up writing, and no one reads this anyway, so why do I care if it’s good, or how sure I am of it.

Yes, another biking post, three in a row now, that could get old. On the other hand, reasons. I could come up with dozens of reasons to give up writing. Dozens.

Weird way to measure isn’t it? I could give up for multiples of 12 reasons. Is that so many more than multiples of 10? Depends on how many multiples.

Scores of reasons. Are scores more than multiples of 10? Or Dozens? Well, if you know that a score is 20, then you might say yes, but I would argue that they are the same. Infinity plus one is still infinity. Multiples of any amount, if you don’t define the multiple can be anything, and two anythings are always equal. That could have been the thesis for my senior project if I had stayed at Bard College, and stayed in mathematics. It would have been hilarious, if not right. Maybe I would have failed and then gone on to use the story in a lucrative career doing stand up.

I Rode in the Rain

It may be the reason I have struggled with depression much of my life. Could it be that simple? That I didn’t ride my bike enough?

It might be a little bit too early to come to that conclusion, I only just recommitted myself to riding, but I’m going with it.

I hated myself early, too early to know exactly when, but I remember saying it into the mirror. “I hate myself.” Probably 4th or 5th grade. Jr High School had it’s ups and downs, the last year of it, 9th grade, was my favorite year of school. I made friends I still have (or again, thanks Facebook). I played drums. I smoked pot. High school was tough though, which I often attributed to my own choice of schools, In NYC we had some choices. I chose Music over Drama (Music and Art over Performing Arts – two schools which later merged into one. The latter was the subject of the movie Fame). I chose distance over proximity to home, so, sometimes I’ve blamed the commute, 45 minutes each way by subway. Sometimes I’ve just blamed myself, and my own insecurities.

But in the summers when I was dragged to Connecticut by my parents, someplace I didn’t want to go, my brothers and I rode our bikes all day every day. We would start with 6 miles to a park and rec program in the town, where we would play softball and soccer and other games until noon, then we would ride back, more often than not taking the “scenic” route. We explored, we discovered.  We knew our way around better than our parents, every road. We would re-appear to take a dip in the Long Island sound when we got hot, and then back on our bikes. One year we decided to ride to an annual family weekend trip to Shelter Island. The rest of the family drove, but my brothers and I rode to New London, took a ferry, crossed long island, and took another ferry to Shelter Island. On the way back we averaged 20 mph for 20 miles  to catch the ferry back to New London which left only once an hour. My older brother led the way, I was next as our younger brother disappeared from view. I tried to catch up to tell our older brother we needed to wait, but I couldn’t. So we arrived on time, and as the ferry was about to leave without us, here comes our younger brother around the curve. He rode right onto the boat, as we walked on to the applause from other passengers. I’m remembering it accurately.  We were famous. And we were in really good shape.

I’d end those summers excited to return to school, a feeling which would last a week until I fell back into my more typical funk. I sometimes attributed my happiness during those summers to pot smoking, wondering if I would have been happy if I had smoked more consistently throughout my life, but now I see it was a combination of the two, with much more credit due to the exercise than I have typically ascribed.

I dreampt, back then, of biking across Europe or the US. I wanted to bike everywhere. I didn’t think that through, never made a plan, how I would climb the Rockies, or carry supplies, like a tent, a change of clothes, for example. But I believed. In those days I believed in possibilities.

So now I’m back, easing into a daily routine. I biked 10 miles today, not like the old days, but hell, that’s ok. I am also content to get through one Spanish lesson on duolingo and one on Mango each day and it’s doable. It will take me 2 years to get through them all, but what’s two years when I’ve spent decades in failure?

Even just that feels great. And I’m beginning to lose weight. Well, muscle weighs more than fat, but my stomach is shrinking. I even feel overmedicated for my thyroid, so I cut my dose. Regular exercise of one hour per day significantly improves thyroid function according to a study in India.

Was this all I needed to do to be my best self? All this time? Crazy right?

I don’t want to obsess about lost opportunities. Yes, it might have been nice to be happy for most of my life, but whatever. What else would have been different that I don’t want to be changed at this point? More importantly, it’s not too late. Does this mean I can actually be happy? Have I finally figured it all out?

I knew it would seem simple once it came to me.

So I checked the weather last night and it didn’t look like rain but you can’t believe weather people. I check every night, but I sometimes feel that when I start into a good routine, God throws obstacles in my way. It’s as if I’m not supposed to be happy, or maybe I’m supposed to learn to persevere, I don’t know. But I keep waking up, stretching, getting my water bottle ready, dressing up in my t shirt and shorts (I don’t wear “the uniform”) and socks and sneakers. I tie my shoes (I’m just trying to make this sound like a lot). And then I step outside to discover it’s raining. Today was one of those days. Once before I ran instead of biking, because I was scared to bike in the rain, but I hate running. I need to bike.

So, I did some internet research. Turns, out, you can ride in the rain. The skinny tires of road bikes actually don’t hydroplane. You just have to a little careful to brake slowly and not take turns too fast. So I went anyway!

It’s a little bit of an exaggeration to say it was raining. When I first stepped outside it was drizzling. Once I hit the road, it was wet, but it didn’t rain anymore. When I rode beneath trees, they dropped a little bit of rain they had been saving just for me, to reward me for my efforts (thank you, that was sweet), but other than that it’s not raining on me anymore.

Ride My Bike

Hello, I’m back.

Here’s what’s been going on in my life since the pandemic started.  I’m working from home, and loving it. Well, to be honest, I don’t love work, I’d prefer not to work, as you probably know about me,. But if I have to work, I like doing it from home.

I have also been put on a reduced schedule, accompanied by reduced pay. I accept this cause I know my company is suffering, and anyway I am saving some money by not traveling, by not commuting, by not eating out as much and because the colleges my kids go to have refunded some room and board since they aren’t using it anymore.

And while the “reduced schedule” is a little bit disingenuous for a salaried worker like me who is paid to get the job done, it has allowed me a little flexibility for goofing off without feeling guilty. So why has it taken so long to start blogging again, you might ask? Low energy. Depression? Why depressed if you like working from home so much? It’s like this. After a couple of months I realized I’m getting even less exercise than ever, and feeling worse than ever. It used to be I’d get some steps in just to go to the bathroom. The more water I drank the more exercise I got (for most people it’s the other way around). But now the bathroom is only steps from my desk, and I don’t even have to walk to my car of from my car to the office building. My efforts to feel good by eating less? Exposed as misguided. It’s not my eating that is to blame for feeling bad, it’s the lack of exercise. It always was.

What a wonderful realization. You know why? Because it means that if I start working out, maybe I don’t have to watch what I eat either, and can even enjoy eating again. That’s why most people I know work out, so that they can eat donuts without feeling guilty. It took me this long to realize it, cause I’m stupid. Don’t hate. I admit it.

I remember now that when I was young, when exercise was a game not a chore, I declared to myself that as an adult, I would never go to the gym just to stay in shape, but would continue to do things that were fun to stay in shape. And then I got a desk job. Maybe that’s why I hated working.

You can’t always find 18 people for a softball game, and I never did like running, but I did love biking. When I was a kid my brothers and I would ride all over all day. And recently, that is, 13 years ago (omg why does time go by so fast), I bought myself a road bike, not unlike the “10 speed” Peugeot I enjoyed then and up into my 20s. This one is a Specialized model and has 27 speeds.  It wasn’t cheap, but it was good value, compared to what some of the other models costs. And much improved over the standard of the 1970s.

But I didn’t ride it as much as I anticipated. Maybe because I didn’t buy the outfit.

Actually, I was suckered into buying padded gloves that I don’t use, and bicycle glasses that cost more than I was ever willing to pay for sunglasses that weren’t for bicycle riding.

I don’t use the glasses much either because I have a helmet that has a built in visor now, held on by magnets. Makes me look a little like a storm trooper.

Biking, however, has been more of an effort than it was in the past, and the bike never felt as stable and comfortable as I remember of my Peugeot. There was something awkward about it. Maybe cause I’m older, I thought.

But then came the pandemic. And we all got outside more. I started walking. I realized I needed to exercise more and concluded from internet research that there is nothing wrong with riding every single day. So I resolved to do so. I’m not the only one. Good Morning America just reported that bikes are selling out. If you want to start biking two months into the pandemic, you’re late! You should have started earlier. Guys are even buying pink and purple bikes, cause that’s all that’s left.

So when I started thinking maybe this bike wasn’t the right size, I wasn’t going to have many options. I was hoping it would be the last bike I ever bought, because, quite frankly, I kept my Peugeot a long time, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. And if it is broke, fix it. But before I decided to sell it and buy the right size, I did some more internet research. I adjusted the saddle, and ordered a new stem to put the steering column a little further away, which hasn’t come yet, and I’m not sure that was a good move, and then I realized something else. The crank is too long for my short ass legs. Bikes are almost universally fitted with the same size crank, whether you’re six feet, or whether you’re five-six. And when I peddle, my knees bend to under 90 degrees and my knees sometimes start to hurt, and I need to get up off the saddle early in my climbs.

That’s not an adjustment you can just make. It’s an expensive thing to experiment with, cause you have to buy new cranks.  And most bike stores are either on limited hours or overwhelmed with business, or both. So, I can’t go anywhere to try things out, or get bad advice. Nor do I want them to give me Covid.

But I’m thinking of just buying a new crank and guessing about the size and putting it on myself. Maybe I’ll err on the side of too short. I don’t mind spending the money, but I don’t want to spend it twice. I don’t want to go shorter and discover I didn’t go short enough, like the opposite of women who decide to get bigger tits, and then go too big, But that’s a topic for another blog.

Low Standards

I’m setting low standards for myself these days, but so far keeping to it. I got out of bed, for instance. That’s not asking much.

“Get out of bed, A Lawrence.”

“I can do this.”

“I know you can.”

Me talking to myself.

And look at me, I’m posting…. Something…..

I did one Spanish lesson on duolingo, extending my streak to 9 days. Gotta keep that streak. 

I have started a couple more shows on netflix, and I will probably spend some time today watching. At least I am not setting any expectations to the contrary. It’s allowed.

I guess there’s nothing else that I HAVE to do. 

Because the Sky is Blue

A lot of cultural attention is focused around gender these days. It is a unique time in which people are more and more courageous to live authentically in this respect, to tell people how they feel, who they are, what gender they relate to most, to put it one way. 

But I want more than that. I don’t just want to acknowledge a dual nature in regards to gender, I want to do that, but when I yearn to live authentically, to be who I am, to be unafraid in the face of societal expectations or judgments or norms, it is about so much more than gender. It is about the freedom to be different. It is about the freedom to be crazy. To accept things that may not have any logic behind them. What do I like? what do I need? I know. If I listen to myself, I know. I’ve always known. And why I am like this, doesn’t matter. 

There may be a why.  Or a because. But you can’t wait for it. You can’t even know it until you first recognize the what. You can’t justify who you are to yourself or anyone, until you live it and feel it. And if you do that, you don’t ever have to know why. You don’t need why to be happy. 

Because. That’s why.

I (choose to) Believe It

Reincarnation is like being challenged with a puzzle. We are here to learn how to get out of the escape room, to recognize what we are, to transcend the limits it places upon us, to learn what we need to learn so we don’t need to return.

I feel this stress and depression because I put too much of an importance on things that don’t matter. The answer, for me, is to look around, notice the details of this holodeck we are trapped in, and marvel at where I find myself, recognizing that it is like a game. I ask myself, how is this different than the last time, and I remind myself that when we die, we  get another chance in different surroundings and circumstances.

When I travel, I feel out of sorts until I learn how the public transportation works, or find a particular cafe I like to return to, and then I can start pretending, at least, that I’m a local, that I know the ropes. Incarnations are like that. If we accept that this is just a temporary home, different, not who we are, and learn about it, we’ll function better. For now, this is who we’ve always been. That’s the game we should play. We may not like this life, but we’ll get another chance, unless we as a people destroy the entire planet. Then, I suppose our spirits can get in line to incarnate on some other planet, but we might have to step backwards. We won’t have the instincts developed over many incarnations. And I guess it would be fair if we had to wait in line behind those souls that didn’t destroy their own planet.

But that’s the thing. If we recognize that this is a game, that we don’t have to take any of it too seriously, our job preparing tax returns, for example  – seriously, how perfect does a tax return have to be – then we can start focusing on what really matters, like what can we do to help preserve the world for our own future?

I was sitting on my drums yesterday and looking around the basement, trying to notice all the particulars of this place I just woke up in. I was telling myself that I am a not limited by this particular circumstance. It is not who I am, and it’s ok that I feel out of place.  that’s normal. I always felt like my name didn’t fit, that it wasn’t really me. Maybe that’s why I used to feel that getting braces changed who I was, and imagined that if my teeth were left alone, maybe I would be more authentic. But, no, that wasn’t it. There was never anything I was supposed to be here. This is what it is. It doesn’t matter if I don’t like this particular incarnation, if I want to be someone else. It’s not permanent. It’s not my only chance. It’s not my first time. It’s not my last time.

Yes, I am constrained. Because incarnation is a prison, a maze, a puzzle. It’s a game. We have only one role to play here. We are missing out on all of the other roles. But if we recognize that we have many lives to live, doesn’t that make it so much easier to accept this one?

The belief passes my test for a good belief in every way. The test is to ask, “what if I were wrong?”  Does believing it encourage me to do the right thing, does it help me to embrace my experiences, does it help me to lead a better and happier life? If I die and then there is nothingness, did believing that there was something-ness help me to get more out of this life? Yes. And it inspires me to do right to better the world, for future incarnations.

The only counter to that is that bravery born out of the belief that I cannot actually die may lead me to embrace an early death in support of a good cause. But if I were to die for good, helping others to live, or live better, then I don’t mind. My life will be relatively short, no matter how long medical science can extend the lives of humans. And even if this is all I have, then I’d rather it be a life that I can die proud of, then a longer life that wasn’t worth anything. I may shortchange myself, if I am wrong, but my belief would still benefit others. There’s evidence, don’t get me wrong, plenty of it. And some of the greatest thinkers believed in it. But that’s not proof. So, I apply the test. What’s the downside? If I have a spiritual belief that encourages me to do wrong to others, in a misguided belief that I will get a reward, then that belief fails the test. But if the only potential harm is to myself, in sacrifice to the all, then no one should have any reason to contest my choice.

Cultivating the mind

This is not what I want, up at 6, trying to get it all done in the morning. Tired at work. Nothing but journal. Confused, stiff, uncomfortable. That would probably be a good way to describe me, as uncomfortable.

What I want? I want to be able to write whenever an idea comes. To exercise to read to think to try to make something of myself. I want that time to do those things. I want to pursue it. And language, sure. Why do I think I would do that if I didn’t have to go to work? I could make time to study language every day anyway. Just keep looking at those words. But there’s so much else I want to do. And I get used to sitting. I make a habit of stuff that isn’t furthering the way of thinking that I want to cultivate. It’s not that I couldn’t find time to learn Spanish, it’s that I need to cultivate a way of  being, and I need to do that all of the time.

That is what I want.

It’s About Freedom

I’ve been depressed lately about having to work. We are approaching almost $900,000 of investments, which, I know, could drop significantly the way the market is, but still, it’s there right now, and yet that isn’t near enough to think about retiring because we spend way too much money every year. It would never last our entire lives.
I don’t want to work, because I want to have the time to figure out what it is that makes me happy. That’s why. It’s not that I hate my job. When I was young and actually thought that I could save money and buy freedom and work towards the opportunity to do something else, I liked having a job that I was good at that paid (or had that potential). But this has been a career and only relatively recently have I been able to put money away, most of our lives we lived in debt (some of this was saved into retirement funds while we carried debt), and it’s late to turn that around and I’m tired of putting off happiness.
That’s the new way I’ve come up with to put it these days. It’s not that I want to write, or play the drums, or exercise, ok, yeah, I would do those things. But the bottom line is I haven’t been happy, just I like being me happy. I love people in my life, and I am happy for them, and they make me smile and I enjoy spending time with them, and I have fun with them, but when was the last time i just felt like this is who I am meant to be, like I have a purpose that I believe in?
Is that unrealistic? I don’t think so. I think it is defeatist to think that it isn’t possible. What else should you be doing with your life? Of course you try for that. If there are things that make you happy, why not try to have them? And if they are attainable, and not impossible, then of course you should.
For me, it would just be a matter of spending less on things that don’t matter to me in order to have the time to live my life in a way that is joyful. It does not make sense to work forever in order to be able to retire and have 10 good years or whatever where you can finally think about those things, because we don’t know how long we’ll live, and even if we live until 90, why should you start being happy at 65? Or later. It takes practice. 
I have a friend, I’ll call her that. We’re friends on facebook; we keep in touch, minimally. We met in an online writing class. Never in person. She just wrote a novel and is on cloud nine about it. It appears to be getting some good press. I’ve always liked her writing. I suspect that her husband supported her so that she had time. I could be wrong, because I don’t know her that well, but it looks like that to me. And I think this helps a lot of women writers to succeed. That happens for women more than it happens for men. I’m not saying I’m entitled to that. I’m not bitter about it. I’m happy for them. I’m just saying that my failures so far do not indicate that I couldn’t do what she did, given the right opportunity.
Single people also have an easier time.  If I were single, I really wouldn’t need much money. I think I could live off 25,000 a year. I wouldn’t have a car. I’d walk to work. I’d bike to the store. I’d uber if I really had to. And while I do like to travel, I like it the cheap way better than I like it the expensive way, and by that I mean visiting people you know, and going to cheaper places, and doing less touristy things, hanging with locals if you can. And I could even give that up to be able to spend every day doing what I want. I like home too. I like a routine of things I like doing. I could live in a cave, like the one I’m in for the next 15 minutes.
If I had all the time off that I need, would I write, or would I get even more depressed? It would probably be a struggle to be disciplined. But the more time I have the more writing I do. This has been true. When I’ve taken time off I did write more. Maybe not as much as I should or would have thought but I did write more, and I did produce some things in those times. And it’s not just about writing. It is also about reading. It is about thinking. It is about taking walks, and being physically fit and getting good at other things. Maybe learning a language. It is about being creative. It is about freedom.