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.

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

An Optimist

I’m an optimist, though my wife thinks she’s the optimist. Now, it’s true that I often seem dissatisfied, with my career, my accomplishments, even who I am. I’ve wished I was someone else for most of my life, honestly, except when I was pretending to be someone else as an actor. When I was playing a role, I was someone else and I liked that. She accepts her lot, says she is happy, has much of what she wants and can live without the rest. It is what it is, to her, at least she says so, and I have no reason to disbelieve her. So she may be happy. But happiness and optimism are not the same thing. I may be unhappy, but I believe things will get better, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, despite years of trying, despite regrets and failures. That’s optimism. I’ve been learning Spanish for 40 years! A pessimist would have given up by now. 

I’m also a romantic. My wife would probably laugh at that, I’m guessing, but she doesn’t know me as well as she thinks she does. I don’t think we have the kind of relationship where it feels safe to be romantic, to tell you the truth. It’s my fault (of course). In seriousness, I don’t know who’s fault it is. Blame it on the cow. But neither one of us is particularly romantic with the other, at least not the way that I define it. She may think that a nice dinner out is romantic, or a trip. She may think that the time she packed a bag for me, and surprised me at work and swept me away to a bed and breakfast for my 30th birthday was romantic. Most people would probably agree with her. In fact, writing it down, it does sound like that.

But the kind of romance I wish I had isn’t defined by anything she’s done or I’ve done or even think to do. I consider myself a romantic because I want that fantasy kind of love that people who don’t have it say doesn’t exist, that honeymoon that lasts forever. I want to feel like I can’t live without her, that she makes me happy, all by herself, and that I want to be like her. And I want her to feel the same about me. I want to love her so much that I believe in her when she doesn’t even believe in herself, that I can convince her how great she is, and help her to be her best. And I want it back. I’m not saying I’m a romantic just because I want to do romantic things. I want to feel it.

Now, maybe they’re right, maybe this doesn’t exist. Being romantic may be like having faith in something that has no scientific support. I’m not saying that it’s rational. I’m just saying it’s what I am.

I don’t think that she has that kind of faith. But I could be wrong, Maybe she’s just given up. Maybe we just haven’t found that niche with each other.

We have good times. We laugh together. We have, over many years grown towards each other, become a bit more like each other, whether we originally wanted to or not. But after all these years I still feel like she doesn’t really know who I am, or doesn’t appreciate who I want to be, or doesn’t believe in me. She shouldn’t have to. I don’t want her to lie. I should believe in myself. Maybe I convince her. Or maybe I test her love by being who she doesn’t think I am, who she may think that she doesn’t want me to be, and give her the opportunity to love that… or not.

Now there’s an interesting standard, a way to measure love? Why not? Not all love is the same. Maybe the gold standard of love, the highest level, so to speak, is when you want to be the other person. If you really appreciate what it would feel like to be her, then when you’re with her, you would take it on, empathetically, like it’s contagious. Or him. And if you like how it feels, who you have become in that moment, then you want to spend more time together. And the other side of that is when she does that to you, you get to appreciate yourself through the eyes of another. She, or he, helps you to appreciate your own self. But you need to get each other right too. You don’t want someone appreciating you for something you aren’t, and don’t want to be. That’s expectation to be something you’re not and pressure to change. He needs to appreciate her for what she wants to be, and vice versa. She needs to show him who she really is, and vice versa. That’s our part. Two people who feel like that about each other will grow stronger individually and as a team. They would learn from each other’s strengths, and leave the weaknesses to stagnate. Oh, and they would love each other. A lot.

I Pretend to Hate My Job

I don’t know how I feel about work. Sometimes I like it, but I seem to try hard not to admit that, as if I don’t want to like it. It’s because I’ve always dreamt of doing something else. I originally intended it to be temporary, this career, I told myself that. And then it went on and on and I have always felt trapped, like I just couldn’t get out. Maybe I lied to myself. Maybe I always intended it to be permanent. I mean, there’s got to be a reason I didn’t do enough about changing anything.

This is the best place I ever worked now. People actually do enjoy it. I enjoy it. I work with nice funny people. They are like friends. 

Do I feel completely comfortable there, like it is home to me? Am I relaxed enough to just be myself? No, but I rarely feel like that anywhere I am among people. What would happen if I did? I’m not even sure I’d act any different, I just usually feel guarded. What is it I would admit, or show people about me that they don’t already know? Would it get me fired? I’m sure they’d give me a warning first.

“A. Lawrence.  You’d better start pretending again. We don’t like this new you.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Sorry.”

But really, I’m already an open book. I probably admit way too much shit about myself, and yet I feel guarded. Like I’m scared they’ll see something I didn’t tell them.  What?

It’s probably worth it to think about this stuff. What do I really like about my career, job, life, and what could be better. I could like it if I admitted that I liked it, and that I don’t have to be scared of anybody.  What’s the worst that can happen? I could lose my job. But that’s pretty unlikely.  And if it happened, particularly because I was being myself, then it’s probably for the best.

I think I’ll try to like it. I want to like it. This is the best opportunity I’ve ever had to like it. It will help me to do a better job, which will in turn help me like the job even more.

Yup.  

An Assembly of Minds

I have multiple personalities. I think it is true for most people and not particularly unique especially among writers, though not everyone will acknowledge it. I was at a book festival once and someone was handing out leaflets for a writer’s group. I took one, and after a few minutes he tried to hand me another, saw that I had one, and stopped himself. “I’ll take another,” I joked. “For the others.” He laughed and told me who knew exactly what I was talking about.

It has it’s downsides. Sometimes it’s hard for me to get going because I’m worried that I’ll interrupt myself. Like I’m scared I won’t get to finish my thought. I don’t want to get my hopes up only to be disappointed because I can’t ever finish anything. But you know what? We need to have our hopes up. Without hope we can have no confidence and, confidence is all you need to succeed, according to Mark Twain.  

The exact quote is, “all you need in this life is ignorance and confidence and success is sure.”

The point I’m trying to make, is that you try.

I like to let all of my personalities out. I admit that I think it makes me interesting to others. When I simply let myself out, just go with the flow, just write whatever comes to mind, the writing already has conflict.

You may think this is just a trick that I use, to stoke my imagination. Maybe it is, but I really believe that I have to take this seriously. If I consider them a figment of my imagination, then that marginalizes them. Even if they were, even if you believed this was all a fantasy, and you were right, I still need to believe it for it to work. I need it to be true, if I am to tap into the entire team and fulfill our potentials.

And no one usurps the throne. We’re either all free or we’re all in prison.

When I was, I don’t know, 13, I wanted to be an actor so bad. I think it’s because I wanted to acknowledge the “assembly” of minds inside here. Maybe the way we let them out is to think of it like there is no distinction between what we are and what we pretend to be. 

I’m not like Sybil, where all of her personalities are fucked up. We’re a team. We’re friends, or at least co-workers.

Now, it would be disingenuous not to admit that if one has multiple personalities, then it would be unlikely that they are all the same gender. And it suggests that gender is not so black and white (neither is black and white I guess). But regardless, don’t call me, like some who are non-binary like to be called, “they.” No offense intended, but it’s just a pronoun. I think that even if I wanted to be a female, I’d be fine being called a he. Is it because that’s what I am on the outside? Yeah. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t exist. But even she has to acknowledge that physically we are in man form. So call us that. It’s simpler that way. It doesn’t mean she isn’t a she. It doesn’t mean she can’t think of herself as a she. Other people don’t define you. 

Go ahead and get mad at me and tell me I don’t understand anything, if you want. I understand myself. And I’m not telling anyone else what to do, or feel, or trying to suggest that anyone else is exactly like me and should define anything the way I do, That said, I think that if people with gender ambiguity would just acknowledge all of the characters in their play, so to speak, that they wouldn’t be as hung up on pronouns. It’s highly symbolic, in my opinion, because they think it would be easier to think of themselves as multifaceted if they were referred to differently. But what they are called doesn’t change who they are. I am a he. It’s not untrue to say that. I also may be a she, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a he. 

I don’t think anyone would be allowed to come back the same all of the time. How would we learn and grow? We have to get outside our comfort zones. If we have male or female parts, or hormones, or brains, or roles to play in this incarnation, we should make an effort to get used to them and to appreciate them. But we shouldn’t deny our spirit. We should accept everything that there is in here and stop hating ourselves. And if we want different parts, then we should be patient. We’ll probably get another chance, in another life, unless we destroy the world first.