POSH People…

Before I rode yesterday, I walked my dog as I do most mornings, through a local nature preserve. It’s more of an amble than a walk. He stops to sniff the sniffs that capture him, and I use my lens to capture what I call, the smalls —  insects, flowers, and the like. Together, we walk a mile and a half.

Yesterday morning, as we approached the halfway point, I could see a man and a woman walking toward us. They were maybe 60 or 70 yards away. The woman was small in stature, though that image may have been distorted due to the size of the man she was walking beside. He was tall, maybe 6’2” or 6’3” and looked to weigh in excess of 400 lbs.

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My dog, a chihuahua/dachshund mix, walks off-leash and weighs just over 7 pounds. Generally, he walks 10-yards or so ahead of me. If he sees people approaching us, he might get a little bit further ahead — he anticipates either praise, a treat, or both.

As my dog’s pace increased and he approached the two people headed in our direction, the large man put his hands up over his ears and begin making unintelligible noises. He then hid behind the small woman beside him. It only took a moment for me to realize that the man was developmentally disabled. He was afraid of my dog.

Realizing this, I scooped my dog up with one hand and veered away from them a few steps.  As we passed them though, I wished them a good morning and continued walking. With my dog in my hand and with me veering away, the large man began to ask me questions about my dog. His speech was difficult to understand, but I got it figured out. He wanted you to know my dog’s name and how old he is.

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I explained that his name is Stroodle and that he’s 15-years old. The man giggled, in the same way a toddler might. I explained that he’s a very friendly dog the man giggled more.  I offered to let him pet Stroodle, but he declined.  I wished he and the woman beside him a good day and continued on. As we walked away, I heard his feet shuffling in the dirt on the trail.  I looked back over my shoulder and saw him running like a child at recess. There was a purity to him that I wish I could know.

Home from my walk, my workday began. I earn my keep as a fitness trainer. I have a studio adjoined to my house where people come and I help them exercise. My first client yesterday was also a special-needs person. I’ll call her Anna, though that’s not her real name.

Anna is almost 32-years old and she’ll be in the custody of her mother and father as long as they are able to take care of. She’s a beautiful person and one of the most pure human beings I’ve ever known. She has the innocence of a child, the sense of humor for teenager, and she lives in the body of a small adult.

As part of her exercise session, I take Anna for walks around my neighborhood. We make small talk while we walk and I make jokes that I can’t get away with making around other clients. In one section of our walk, where there is no sidewalk, no marked shoulder to the road, and where cars come flying by, I hold Anna’s hand for 20 or 30 yards so that she feels safe — so I feel that she’s safe.

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When this happens, and I can’t explain why, but when my hand makes contact with hers, I feel that sense purity that I long for but don’t otherwise know. I felt that same sensation earlier in the morning when I offered to let the large man pet my dog. Walking and holding Anna’s hand, might be the most pure I feel all week long.

With the workday done and my daily ride still a couple hours into the future, I asked my elderly mother who lives with me, if she would like to get out of the house and spend time at a local thrift store that she frequents.

She always says yes.

The thrift store, in this case, is one that uses developmentally disabled people to help keep it clean and organized. Adjacent to the thrift store, is the training center where the same developmentally disabled people receive training and advocacy.

While mom is in the thrift store, I remain in the car and reply to emails, text messages, and I return phone calls. Occasionally, I take a nap. Mom usually spends an hour or so in there. As I sit in the car staring into my phone, every couple of minutes or so I look up and see some of the special-needs people walking from the thrift shop into the advocacy office, and vice versa.

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There’s one young man there, maybe in his mid-20s, that I’ve seen daily for the three years we’ve been doing this. He appears to be the lead helper in the thrift store. He and I have never spoken.

Yesterday, from nowhere, he stood beside my car, reached into the window to shake my hand, and said hello to me. He was smiling from ear to ear. He had a soft handshake and a very friendly voice. I asked him how his day was going. He told me they were very busy. He then waved at me like a child, told me to have a good day, and resumed his job of organizing the sidewalk merchandise.

My day wasn’t half through, and I already had several encounters with Special-needs people. I don’t like that term — special-needs. I don’t like developmentally disabled either.

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So as I enjoyed my ride, taking in the scenery, embracing the hills, and contemplating life, I spent a fair bit of time thinking about my three experiences prior to my ride — three experiences with people pure of soul and pure of heart. And that’s when it hit me — they are not developmentally disabled nor are they special-needs. These are the POSH People: Pure Of Soul and Heart.

I like that, POSH People. We should all be so POSH.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 5
165 miles
8,200’ climbing
15.1 mph avg
10,500 calories

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there is this from Rick Danko. Enjoy…!

 

Declined…

I want to say it was in 2005, but I really don’t remember. Maybe it was in 2003 or 2004 — that period of my life was very chaotic and I look back on much of it as a blur. This moment however, I remember with unmistakable clarity.

It was 11:00pm, I was in bed unable to fall asleep, and I was profoundly depressed. Still digging my way out of the rubble of divorce, and poorly negotiating the meaningless life I tried to assemble after that divorce, I’d simply had enough.

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Bike: Bomer The Kreeps…

I got out of bed, put on whatever clothes were laying on my floor, and I drove 6-miles to the Ralph’s grocery store off Highway 76 in Oceanside. I remember turning the radio of my car on and off the entire way to the store. I wanted to hear something good — something to cheer me up, but nothing on the radio was what I wanted to hear.

Once in the store, I immediately grabbed the largest bottle of tequila I could find, and I put it in my handheld basket. Next up were a couple bottles of NyQuil — boom, into the basket they went. I headed to the automotive aisle, where I’d grab a bottle of lead gasoline additive, because I’d read or heard somewhere that you don’t survive drinking that stuff.

At this point, it was just shy of midnight.

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At the checkout aisle, I swiped my debit card through card reader, but made no eye contact with the checker. I just stared at the ground as I began to feel the shame building within me, from my chest up to my head. I had hoped the checker and the bagger weren’t onto me.

Still looking down, I heard the checker’s voice…

“Your card has been declined, do you have another card you’d like to use…?“

I explained that was impossible and that I had plenty of money in that account. She looked at me as though she heard that a thousand times before. This was my business account though, and at the time I had about $5000 in it.

I asked if I could swipe my card one more time and she afforded me the opportunity to do so.

Declined.

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Bike: Cortez The Killer…

I was stunned because I knew there was money in the account. So stunned, that I failed to process that there was an ATM machine just a few dozen feet from me at the end of the checkout aisle. I had no cash with me, so I left my things on the conveyor and headed out to my car, looking down the entire way. I drove home angry, confused, and I guess a little bit relieved.

This was in the early days of online banking, but as soon as I got back to my house, I logged onto my account and saw that I had plenty of money available in the account linked to that card. I couldn’t make sense of my card being declined, but I was emotionally exhausted and determined that I would deal with it in the morning.

For some reason, which I will never know, my card was errantly declined that night. I remember drinking wine directly out of the bottle until I fell asleep.

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The doorway…

The next morning I woke up in a pretty good mood. The truth is, I always wake up in a good mood — I always have. Wanting to drink led gasoline additive or a gallon of tequila was the furthest thing from my mind. And that began to resonate with me — that I woke up in a good mood and that I never wake up depressed.

In fact, as I woke up thinking about the failure of my debit card, I began making plans to kayak in the ocean later that day. I remember making a list of cleaning priorities, also for that day. The night before, I had realized, I didn’t want to die for the rest of my life. I simply wanted to die for that moment.

That thought, that I only wanted to die for a little while but not for eternity, would forever change the way I would view the ideal of suicide. My depression, I was coming to realize, was something that ebbed and flowed, but was never present at the start of a new day, and that always passed. It always passed.

Thinking about this as that day continued, and understanding that it is only the bricks of ritual that can pave the road to mastery, I began the process of mastering my depression — of getting me beyond those moments when I didn’t want to be me any longer — when what Epictetus referred to as “The Doorway” seemed like the best option.

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Bike: Tobio Obsession…

This is where I will be the most honest with you…

…my brain has been peppered with thoughts of the doorway intermittently, each day for most of my life. I understand that most people never experience such thoughts or feelings. There are millions though, perhaps tens of millions who feel this way everyday. I have no memory, since the 3rd grade, of a day in which I didn’t think the best way out of a bad moment was to not be alive.

I wouldn’t wish that burden on anyone.

Of all that I am proud of though, what I am most proud of is the strength that I have found in those darkest times to know that they always pass — and they always pass.

When I ride my bike each day, or when I walk in the woods, or when I lift weights, or when I just sit on my patio and pet my dog while listening to the birds, I reflect on the night that my debit card was declined just before midnight. There has not been one day since, that I haven’t thought about that gift.

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I’m sharing this story, above all, so that those who can relate to it know that they’re not alone. I’m also sharing this so those who can’t relate to it will consider that they probably know and interact with people like me in their everyday lives, and they probably have no idea those people carry these feelings.

This is what I think about my ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 4
164 miles
9,200’ climbing
15.3 mph avg
10,000 calories

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there is this from Jonny Wickersham. Enjoy…!

The Fence Between Meaning And Me…

Whether I’m on my bike or not, the search for meaning — what it is or where it can be found, consumes much of my thinking time.

The truth be told, I’m as certain about meaning as I am about anything, that I know exactly were it can be found. Meaning sits alongside perfection and enlightenment, and it’s over yonder, on the other side of the chickenwire. More on that in a minute.

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The two words that strike me most when I contemplate meaning, are work and relationships. Fundamentally, I believe if my largest priority each day is to complete a good day’s work, and in the process of doing so, protect and nurture my human relationships — as well as my animal relationships, that puts me in the best possible position to find meaning.

Seems pretty straight forward and should be pretty easy to attain, but for all the distractions.

Of course the large distraction of self, and all the little distractions that come attached to self, are like 3 layers of chickenwire separating me from meaning. I can see meaning and I know it’s there, but every time I reach for it, the chickenwire keeps me from knowing it completely.

Through the years, I’ve gotten good with experiencing intermittent tastes of and steady glimpses of meaning. After all, through the chickenwire I can still smell, taste, see, and even feel meaning in small doses. Still, I’m a prisoner to my self if not of myself.

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The older I get though, the more visceral my desire to remove the chickenwire gets. Also the older I get, the more dependent I have become on the little gratifications of self that make up the chickenwire. A strong desire to remove the chicken wire, while simultaneously needing it more than ever — that is the conflict that consumes me.

Those gratifications, by the way, are not necessarily material things. In fact, I live a pretty minimalistic life, the ever increasing heard of bicycles not withstanding. My gratifications come from alone time, the simple amusement of books and music, and the physical activity that serves as a metronome to my brain, keeping it working in proper time.

Back to work and relationships

I am much better at one that I am at the other.

I’m fortunate that I am involved in a line of work that I know well, and I’m able to do it on behalf of people who allow me a great deal of trust and latitude. In that sense, I get to the other side of the chicken wire a half-dozen times each day. When I am working, I am immersed in meaning. People pay me for a service and I attempted to give them every bit of value I can for that service. Most days end in the net-positive for my clients.

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Relationships though, are where I fail to find meaning, and I fail daily. It’s not that I’m not committed or that I don’t work hard at them, it’s just that very often I put the chickenwire first — especially when it comes to my friendships. I return calls and texts casually. I remember birthdays infrequently. Though I do listen attentively when called upon by friends, I do a lot less reaching out to my friends than they do to me. I hate that about me, by the way, I really do.

Given a choice between reading the latest book by Robert Wright or joining friends for an evening of dinner, live music, or both, I’ll take the chickenwire — ehr, the book every time.

In my morning contemplation, among the first things I remind myself to do is to work harder at my friendships. This usually breaks down by about 730 or 8AM. I love my friends, but do I really want to put them ahead of the latest album by the Waterboys or today’s bike ride…?  Of course not. Still, I do it regularly.

Back to meaning…

In those instances when I am torn, but when I choose lunch with a friend over the new Waterboys album, I may feel frustration and even some resentment at the time. However, when I crawl into bed at night, I am glad I chose friend over the dopamine loop. I ask myself, why don’t I spend more time with friends and less time building chickenwire fences…?

Of course the answer to that can be found in balance — something I strive for daily and am terrible at.

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Tomorrow’s a new day. I know where I can find meaning, just like I know where I can find perfection and enlightenment. When I wake up, I will be in hot pursuit of all three, and then it will be time for breakfast — and I will blow it again.

This is what I think about one I ride… Jhciacb

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This Week By The Numbers…

New Bikes Purchased: 1. It will be here Tuesday.

Bikes Ridden: 4
144.5 miles
8,200’ climbing
15.7 mph avg
9,800 calories

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there is this from David Johansen. Enjoy…!