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.

Mike Davis

My former teacher, Mike Davis, wants us to get out of our cages.

Another Year Over

I took a couple of courses with Mike Davis, and we were on good terms. I enjoyed our interactions, and I learned a lot. The classes were online, so all of the interactions were online. We kept up for a short while after the classes were over, via facebook, or via the comment section on his blog, and I still read his blog, as you can see.

But I imagine that Mike Davis doesn’t like me. 

More likely, he doesn’t think about me at all, cause I don’t mean anything to him. I’m fine with that.  I know I am irrelevant. I should be. We’re not friends, and I don’t want to be.

I admire the guy.  He taught me, and he was a good teacher.  He was actually the best writing teacher I ever had, which, ok, admittedly, isn’t saying much.  But it’s something. 

And I like what he’s trying to do.

I imagine that he doesn’t like me, only because I am the kind of person, I imagine he doesn’t like.

(Yes, I’m making it all up. That’s what writers do – but it could be true, because we have gifted insight).

A person who won’t get out of his fucking cage.

Why should I bother saying that I want to be a writer, that this is my aspiration, that someday, yes, algun dia, I will visit America. If it’s just a dream that will never happen, then you’re full of shit. You either do it or you don’t. You get no credit for saying you want to.

This is why I think he doesn’t like me. How can I be inspiring, in a cage? Why would you want to surround yourselves with people like that? 

I want to be a writer but I am an accountant. I want to be a writer, but I travel a lot, and have a nice house and cars and fine dining experiences and furniture, and an under-funded pension, and a lot of other expenses. I want to be a writer but I am a husband.

And I eat too much.

You know, whatever.

I am in a cage. 

I can’t make different choices (except maybe that I could eat less).

I can’t sell our house and all our stuff, so I don’t even have to pay to store it, and move only what we need into a cheap apartment. I can’t decide we don’t need cars, because we won’t work, and we can uber if we really need to get somewhere or rent a car twice a year for a trip, and walk everywhere else, or ride a bike.

I can’t live frugally enough to retire, now, or even in three years. I can’t change careers, or move to another country.

I don’t have that freedom.  

Not that I would want any of that.

But I want to be a writer. I’ve pretty much always said, effectively always, that I want to be a writer. And doing some or all of those things would help.

I know I’m not going to do them, but can I write from my prison cell?

That’s a kind of freedom.  To write the truth.  Can I do that? I would need to free myself from another cage.  I have to escape the past. No simpler way to say it. I think that’s what Mike Davis is talking about.

I mean what that means for you, escaping the past, may be different than what it would means to me, but it is a very broad all encompassing statement.  So, probably it’s true for everyone.

Maybe for her it’s a trauma, maybe for him regrets, maybe for me it’s just the expectation that I will stay the same as I have always been. How do I escape from the expectations people have of me that I, myself, have nurtured and established?

I don’t know. But this is why I write now. Whether I post it anywhere or not, writing is, for me, the means by which I am going to attempt an escape from prison. I don’t know if I’ll be successful. We can never know.  But I believe I can prevail. So, I’m working on the locks.

Happy People

I don’t even know

My own name

It makes me jealous

Of all the happy people

I’ve seen waterfalls

Canyons and Craters

The Aurora Borealis?

Not yet

But on my bucket list

Is only happiness

And I yearn to be real

Even though everyone lies

I am the same

As I’ve always been

It will all

Make sense to you at once

Feliz Año Nuevo!

So here it is, my only New Year’s resolution.  It’s not to write more.  It’s not to blog every week, or to write stories for Kindle’s Singles, like it has been in prior years. It’s not to save the world, I think that’s what I wanted to do last year.

I was speaking to a co-worker from Bogota, Colombia and she said that they write down their resolutions and don’t tell anyone, and she usually gets them done.  Kind of like when we wish on our birthday and  blow out the candles and think that if we tell anyone it won’t come true.

I told her that en los Estados Unidos, we tell everyone our resolutions and then we don’t do them. Maybe that’s the reason we don’t do them. And then I went on to tell her mine.  But I only have one, because I want to increase my chances of doing it. Everything else that I want to do, I may still do, I may write more, I may blog more, I may save the world. But if I get this one thing done, and even if everything else falls by the wayside, I will feel a great sense of accomplishment for having finally achieving one of my long time goals.

That is, to learn Spanish.  Now, “learn” is subjective. Specifically I intend to complete Rosetta Stone’s five levels in Latin American Spanish by year’s end.  Towards that end I subscribed to their online version only for a year. Sure you can keep the desktop version forever, but if you don’t do it in a year, you’re probably not going to, that’s what I think.  And I think that compressing the study will help me recall what I learned and build upon it for the later lessons. I also intend to do extra, with Duolingo and whatever else I can find time for (I have Pimsler CDs that I’ve owned for a decade that I listen to in the car sometimes). And I plan to take opportunities to speak to people I know who speak Spanish, like mi compañera de trabajo de Colombia, because I think Rosetta stone is a great tool, but won’t be enough just by itself.

And I just got the opportunity to join a group at work that over the next 3 months will meet once a week for lunch to speak Spanish. So, I may even try hard to get through as much Rosetta Stone as I can in the next three months.

I’m been trying to learn Spanish (off and on, of course) for 35 years.

Esta tiempo.

That’s all.