Unfinished Business…

I think that most aging athletes are little balls of unfinished business. I am, anyway. I always feel like there’s a little more to be done — that there is no endpoint. Death, perhaps.

I stepped into the weight room for the first time nearly 43 years ago. Although there have been some workouts skipped, a few weeks taken off here and there to rest, and a couple years missed after s skydiving accident in 1993 when I could not work out at all, I have stepped into the weight room nearly 13,500 times.

Do anything 13,500 times, and you’re bound to struggle with motivation on occasion. I’m going through a very unmotivated phase these days. I’ve been unmotivated before, so I know it will pass, but this one seems to be lingering — to the point where it has me questioning why I am still doing this after 43 years…? It takes less than a minute each evening, as I step into my weight room, for the lyrics of the Eagles song, After The Thrill Is Gone, to start doing gymnastics in my head…

“You don’t like winning, but you don’t want to lose, after the thrill is gone…”

As recently as August, I was enjoying a motivated uptick with my training. I had been training hard, and messing with my diet too. My physique was filling out a little bit, and I had been getting a little leaner. Though I had no aspirations to step on a bodybuilding stage anytime soon, I always feel like I’m six weeks away from being in the best shape of my life. And in the summer of 2017, I felt like I was approaching the best shape of my life, yet again.

Then, on August 2nd, I came off my bike at nearly 25 mph. I suffered one small fracture in my upper left temple, another one on my left jaw, and the third one on my left collarbone. Despite these, I only missed a half-dozen or so workouts, and I was on my bike again within a week. But the workouts were more stressful than meditative, due to the negotiations between any kind of movement at all, and the pain in my collarbone.

The wave of momentum I was riding prior to my accident disappeared beneath my feet. I haven’t seen it since. Though I have stepped into the weight room approximately 120 times since my accident in August, my workouts have been less than inspired. I don’t like winning, but I don’t want to lose…

My eating…? I feel more like the late comedian, John Pinette, than an athlete making a personal comeback. Still, I keep stepping back into the weight room at night, and getting on my bike each morning, for that feeling of unfinished business…

Certain things you retire from, recreational bodybuilding — fitness, whatever you want to call it, has no end point. So long as I am living, it will be a work in progress – – unfinished business.

So I will ride out this wave of unmotivation, in hopes I get my mojo back. Motivation lacks, but I have unfinished business. Same dances in them same old shoes… Jhciacb

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More Quality Time…

It might sound strange to suggest, but I think I need more quality time – – with television.

Let me restate that…

I think I should be watching TV more, and in a better way.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, my father used every bargaining chip he could to curb my obsessive TV watching. He took it away from me at every opportunity — when I screwed up, talked back, or failed to make grades. He tried requiring me to spend one hour out of doors for every hour of television I watched. He even tried using a demerit system to correlate good behavior around the house with increased opportunities to watch my favorite shows. My father was constantly looking for ways to keep “the idiot box” from corroding my mind.

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In some ways, I think he was successful. Despite my relentless addiction to television, I did spend a great deal of the time outdoors in order to earn my TV time. I was also more receptive to household chores, and to saying please and thank you in order to purchase TV time.

Like many baby boomers, television has been both a positive in my life, and a negative. For better or for worse, TV has been an undeniable presence and influence in my life, regardless of which direction that needle was pointing at any one time — positive or negative.

In my post-divorce life, I had fallen more inline with my father’s opinion of television in his post-divorce. That is, I began to see television a legitimate social cancer, slowly dumbing down the human species, one episode of anything at a time. Always a walking contradiction, at the time I came to the conclusion that television was cancer, I owned 4 of them.

One morning in 2005, while getting ready for work and hustling from room to room with all my TVs going at once so I wouldn’t miss a moment of SportsCenter, I saw the ridiculousness of it all. I immediately stopped what I was doing and placed all 4 televisions on the sidewalk in front of my house. They were gone within an hour.

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In the 13 years since that morning, I have not owned a television, though I have lived in places or with people where TV was present. In those situations, I have watched them minimally, including my current situation where my mother has large TV in the living room we share.

I often click the TV on when I’m in the room, just to create some background noise, but I don’t pay too much attention to it. In instances of the occasional mass shooting or natural disaster, I might pay a little more attention, and watch for longer periods to ensure I’m ‘well informed’.

There’s no television program though, nor has there been for years, that I watch with any regularity, other than the Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy. Those, I watch alongside my mother each evening, as I keep her company and make small talk. I wouldn’t trade that TV watching experience for anything. I have no recent memory though, of watching any TV show or movie from beginning to end, without being otherwise interrupted or distracted by something seemingly more important at the time.

Let’s tell the truth: in this era, if you own a phone or laptop, you own a very small and portable TV. In that sense, for last 13 years, what has really changed is the size of my television, not the absence of one. And in the internet era, I have been able to manipulate and select my viewing choices, and have had more ownership with them.

However, the Internet has also provided something else; multiple rapidfire distractions in the form of smartphones and social media. Like many, most days the internet has me bouncing off the walls like a gibbon on crack. What little TV I do watch, on that 40-inch screen in my living room, is frequently interrupted by the 7-inch screen in my hand, or the 17-inch screen on my lap.

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In the pre-Internet days, it would not be unusual for me to spend three hours watching a movie – – One Eyed Jacks, for example, staring Marlon Brando. For all the nonsense and ridiculousness of the downside of television, the upside of TV has always been that it could take me to another place and another time, during which I would sit still and forget all things. TV was the beautiful distraction that kept me from other less beautiful distractions.

Now though, with the different ways we can watch TV due to the internet, and with all the distractions and interruptions that smartphones, laptops, and social media offer, the idea of spending three hours watching Dances With Wolves, uninterrupted seems prohibitive, if not impossible. In hindsight, gazing at a three hour movie almost seems like meditation compared to the chaotic media life I live today…

I can’t remember the last time I sat down and watched a movie which took me to another place and another time for several hours, where I was not distracted by notifications from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, while also watching short video clips via YouTube.

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Yes, I think I should be watching my television more, and in ways that take me to a different place in time. I long to sit still and to be transported, without my attention span being chopped to smithereens by the temptations of technology. In the same way I now look at the George W. Bush White House as ‘the good old days’, I now look at the idiot box and its dumbing down of the America psyche, as a more simple and more wholesome time.

Excuse me now, Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes is calling me. I’m going to watch it, and I’m leaving my smartphone behind… Jhciacb

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Miss Perception…

…it’s not a beauty queen…

Monday through Friday I ride my bike through 10 miles of mixed Hills every morning just after sunrise.  It’s a full-on sprint. Each outing I ride at roughly 95% of my highest capacity for that course.

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On Sundays though, I ride a flat round-trip of 26 miles from Bonsall to Ocenaside, ending at the water’s edge where I take a moment to honor the sea before I turn back inland. My Sunday ride is not a sprint, just a steady pace in an enjoy the scenery kinda way..

For the 20 months or so since I have been using this protocol, one inconsistency has stood out on my flat, 26-mile Sunday ride, yet I had not figured out the reason for this inconsistency until a few days ago.

Despite that my route to the coats is flat, and that the wind is usually at my back, my return trip from the coast is always, ALWAYS slower than my ride going there.  I average roughly 19MPH headed west, and 17.5MPH on my return.

One might immediately attribute this to tired legs, and that might make some sense.  Also, stopping for a few moments at the halfway point to take in the sight of the ocean does me no favors. And there is the psychology involved with turning back — the dreary trip home mentality.  So, it’s easy to assume that my return trip would be slower and pass it off as the combination of a mental and physical letdown.

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One problem though, I’m an athlete. I train, eat, and prepare like an athlete, especially before my Sunday morning ride.  To my way of thinking, there’s no reason that my 13 miles coming back should be any slower than my 13 miles getting there. In fact, the wind is usually against me headed to the coast, and at my back on my return.  Still, I’m always slower on my coming back.

And equal distance. A flat ride. Proper nutrition prior to riding.  The wind in my favor on the return. So, why am I always slower on the way back…?

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Perception. Or should I say, misperception…?

You see, my flat ride is it really flat. I start at roughly 300 feet above sea level, and I end at sea level. Only now, after 20-months of riding this route, have paid attention to my GPS data.  Now 300-feet of an elevation change over 13 miles is almost invisible. To look at this bike trail at any point along the way, it appears flat.

But it isn’t flat, and 300 feet of climbing, even if it’s over 13 miles, will impact cyclists of any level, and I am only an intermediate cyclist.  This 300-feet climbing costs me about -1.5MPH on my return.

Of course this has nothing to do with cycling, and everything to do with human perception.

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For 20-months I have assumed this ride was flat – – and it is never been flat. And that, THAT makes me wonder what other assumptions I make all day long that are incorrect or that am completely blind to …? Indeed… Jhciacb

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Flow With The Bummers…

Corky’s #7…

In the 1970s, after his career concluded, surfer Corky Carroll, espoused a dozen or so rules for living.  Rules from the perspective of surf culture that he felt, if followed, would help one better survive in a chaotic world.  Though I cannot find a single record of these rules, I remember rule #7 by heart, and it has done more to guide my adult life than the Ten Commandments and The Golden Rule combined…

Corky’s rule #7:  Flow With The Bummers

The absence of a Thou Shalt before it, makes it all the more agreeable.

Stick It To Me…

Life can be a lot like opening a cheese stick – it rarely goes how it should.  Cheese sticks are sealed in plastic, with the two plastic ends at the top loosely separated to be pulled apart.  Most often though, separating the two tear-away pieces of plastic takes more work than it should, and rarely ends well.  However, for those like me who have the tendency to block out past struggles, relying on the built-in method to open a cheese stick is always seen as the best option.

So, with one of the plastic ends pinched between my thumb and index finger, the other hand doing the same thing with opposite plastic end, and with the body of the cheese stick floating in limbo, I’ll pull the plastic ends apart, and it almost always tears before the full cheese stick is exposed.  Crap.

At this point, there ae two options.  One, dig in with my finger nails to release the cheese stick.  Or, take a knife and finish the job like I’m gutting a fish, and risk punching the blade through the plastic and into my supporting finger.  It shouldn’t be so complicated, but most often, I gut the cheese wrapper like a fish and puncture a finger.

On rare occasions, as I pull the 2 layers of plastic apart, the separation is clean and smooth.  The cheese stick in question is easily extracted, and I have just experienced a moment.  I enjoy those moments, because I know they are few, far between, and surely will not last.

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What usually happens…

And for those times which are most times, and when the plastic breaks before it exposes the cheese stick, I just flow with the bummers.

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A moment of pure magic…

A Deep Breath And A Silent Chuckle…

I call it my Sunday Morning Service.  It takes place at sunrise, and it is as holy to me as any hymn, pulpit, message, or messenger.  I ride my bicycle roughly 26 miles to and from the coast, from a starting point that’s a 7-mile drive from my front door.  This morning started like any other.  The weather was perfect – foggy, cool, and no wind.  My soul swelled with the anticipation of my spiritual ride.  My mind was overcome with gratitude as I could already smell the salt air.  I parked my car.  I dawned my riding gear including my helmet, gloves, and my waterproof windbreaker. I took my bike from the back of my car (the front wheel must be removed so I can fit my bike in the back seat), and balanced my bike on the rear wheel and front forks.  I went back to the car for the front wheel.  You know, the front wheel that I left in my driveway – 7-miles behind me…?  Yah, that front wheel.

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Sunday Service…  Today’s Sermon:  Flow With The Bummers…

After a couple rounds of expletives, and a rolling of my eyes into the very back of my head, I remembered Corky’s rule #7…

Flow With The Bummers.

I smiled a secret smile, gently placed my tongue between my teeth, and loaded my bike back in my car for the return trip.  Once home, I chose an out-and-back ride from my driveway into the local hills, and todays’ Sunday Service was inland – and what a service it was.  All the while as my heart raced, my face penetrated the fog, and as my mind chose to laugh at the error of my morning, I kept repeating to myself in a congruent cadence with my feet…

Flow With The Bummers.  Flow With The Bummers.  Flow With The Bummers.  Flow With The Bummers…

And what a flow it was.

I’m So Different Now…

Of course, it hasn’t always been this way.  There was a time when I could go from zero to son of bitch in less than 2.5 seconds – and a time when that bike would have been thrown back into the car, followed by a slammed door, and very loud mother#cker!!!  With age comes wisdom I suppose, born from a trail of bad decisions, busted belongings, and broken relationships during critical times when I did anything but flow with the bummers.

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Nature’s Pulpit…

I’ve never met Corky Carroll, and his rule #7 took decades to really sink in.  All these years later though, I am grateful for what has become my own golden rule.

Flow With The Bummers, people.  Or as Epictetus would have put it, face facts and act accordingly…  Jhciacb

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Chimp With A Smartphone Part II…

 

No essay this week.  No words.  Pictures.  Pictures only.  As my daughter says, I’m just a chimp with a smartphone and the social media habits of an 8th grade girl.  Guilty I am.

I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with an essay on my hatred of the telephone.  Until then, enjoy some pictures from Fallbrook, Bonsall, Oceanside, and a few from my own back yard…  Jhciacb

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Obedience To Observation…

On the table to my right, rests a rectangular of book of paintings by the artist, Andrew Wyeth. The book is one of the few remaining links to my childhood. Looking at it this morning, I am reminded of the formative nature of things, even those things we may take for granted.

For most of my childhood, the Wyeth book was the centerpiece of the coffee table where I would rest my feet after school each day, and dull my sensibilities by watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island, McHale’s Navy, and Hogan’s Heroes.

During the commercials though, I enjoyed flipping through the pages of the Wyeth book, staring at his paintings, reading the stories about them – about him, and imagining those scenes in my head. I’d snap the book shut though, as soon as Gilligan came back on.

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What fascinated me most back then, and what would become so formative for me today is that, despite the diversity among Wyeth’s work, he painted on the same farm, week after week, year after year for most of his career – always finding more within a relatively small space.

The artist, author, and naturalist, James Prosek once said in an interview…

“If you’re not looking, you won’t see it…”

He was speaking about walking in nature while trout fishing. Hearing Prosek offer that sentence, I was taken back to Wyeth, painting on the same farm for most of his life – finding so much without going too far.

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The lesson learned from both artists, born two generations apart, is central to my life today. As I amble through my life each day, I not only take pleasure in stopping to observe small things, I am compelled to do so. Observation has become my obsession. Whether I am walking in the woods, or in the cereal aisle of the local market, I enjoy stopping appreciating the details.

Now in no way am I comparing myself to Wyeth or Prosek.  I’m just a chimp with a smartphone, and too much time on his hands. I am grateful though, for the fingerprints both Wyeth and Prosek have left on my soul.

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Walking in nature each day, in the same place, and taking pictures with the expectation that I’ll find the new, forces me to slow down, and to look more closely at small things. And that is a lesson which can be superimposed over every other aspect of my life… Jhciacb

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