Monday, September 9, 2013

The end of suffering...

Kanji for bitter or suffering

                The person you were yesterday is dead!

                This is an idea I try to keep in the back of my mind on a regular basis.  This is especially true for those of us who hold on to things and worry over them like a dog worries over its bone.  This simple idea has allowed me to, by and large, let go of the things I can’t control or at least the things I’ve done/said in the past that I can’t change now.  It’s a concept I’ve brought up occasionally but with the recent changes in my professional life it’s a concept I’ve had to embrace a little more closely.  We all do things or make mistakes we can’t undo completely.  We’ve all had those ‘if only I had done that’ moments as we’re driving home and some of us worry over the consequences of those words/actions just a little bit.  (or in my case, quite a lot) Those moments are when the idea of who I was being dead comes into play.

                This concept stems from the Buddhist teaching that ‘Life is suffering’.  I always wondered how relatively happy looking Buddhists could walk through life thinking that it sucked due to all of their suffering.  I read some books and looked into it a bit and discovered that it’s not life that suffers but rather it’s our view on life that makes it suffer.  So, as we drive home and worry over what we coulda/shoulda/woulda said to the jerk-off we just dealt with at the office we are in effect suffering.  Suffering sucks.  I hate doing it.  Actually, I hate worrying too.  It’s an energy suck.  It’s a time suck and it is very rarely productive.  I had a supervisor once who used to worry through every little issue we might deal with on a given day/event.  Having a propensity for the same thought process often times we would end up ‘brainstorming’ just how messed up things could get.  We’d get ourselves in a tizzy and become tired and irritated and depressed over how helpless we were.  We were suffering.  The day of the ‘issue’ would arrive and all the things we thought would happen actually wouldn’t and often times the day would turn out ok but our stress levels would be through the roof.  We’d spent days, weeks, and sometimes months worrying. We suffered. 

                But back on track…..

                If who I was yesterday is dead and I can’t change that person then why am I worrying?  We need to continue forward with our lives.  If we don’t like what that dead person did yesterday then don’t do it again today.  If we spend our time trying to correct what he/she did yesterday we are wasting the precious time we’ve been given today.  I’m not necessarily saying we should ‘Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die’ because that idea supports more of wasting the time we have rather I am advocating caring a little less about what happened and what is to come and concentrate on the here and the now.  I can spend my day beating myself up for not riding, writing, being a better father/husband yesterday or last week…….or…..I can simply accept that those things happened and be Better today.   I think, and have tested it out on myself, if we concentrate on being Better today those ‘If only’ moments become less and less.  The idea leads us to being able to have a moment between stimulus and response.  Living in the here and now with the conscience idea that what we do NOW matters,  makes us slow down and react with less emotion/passion. 

This idea can be even more powerful when you realize who you were when you started reading this doesn’t exist anymore. 

That person is dead as well.  We are constantly moving forward, wasting the time we have worrying about who we were even five minutes ago seems pointless to me.  Acknowledge and move on. 

                Taking it a step further; if the person we were a minute ago is dead….then the person we are to become has not been born yet.  Living fully in the now and being Better now will lead to the birth of a better person every minute.  Expecting the future you to be better but not doing anything to make that happen will lead to suffering as well.  Expectation leads to disappointment.  Expecting the negative to be a positive, expecting a Monday to be a Tuesday will lead one to more disappointment.  So we must let go of the dead person behind us, not worry about the unborn you yet to be fully realized and embrace the moment right now.   I’m writing. This leads to a blog post which leads me to contentment.  Yesterday I rode because I woke up and that’s what I knew I needed to do.  Because I did what was right for me at that moment I look back on that dead me and am content that I did what I wanted to do when I had the opportunity to do it.


Japanese Kanji for Peace which is what we get when we end our suffering
 
                So, how does one go about avoiding this ‘suffering’?  To a certain extent I’m not sure we fully can, we are after all humans and humans worry.  When I discovered the idea through my reading and research it was a ah-ha moment (also a decent 80’s band) but it also took me a lot more soul searching to keep the idea alive and in play within my life.  At first the idea spent a lot of time on the bench.  It’d raise its hand occasionally trying to get my attention and I’d ignore it.  One day after a particularly frustrating series of events at work and a couple of weeks off to soul search I put it in the game and it’s been playing center field ever since.  I’ll forget about it once in a while and the idea might go through a slump or two and my life de-volves into a lose/lose scenarios but it doesn’t seem to last as long and I am able to put the bad stuff behind me quicker now.  It’s come to the fore front once again recently because of my current job posting which is very new to me and I’m stumbling here and there a bit.  I’m catching myself for the most part but this concept has helped me to get up each time, brush myself off and get back in the batter’s box again.  Hope it helps for you as well.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Is this a mid-life crisis?

    My question today is; when can we stop trying?

                I’m 40 now, is that an appropriate age to stop, relax and smell the flowers?  Or is it 50…60?  Do I need to keep striving to be something better until I retire?  Isn’t that sort of too late?  If we’re pushing hard to be better at work, to podium at every race we enter, and being the best husband/father ever, where do we rest and enjoy the life we have right now?  Are we moving too fast to enjoy the here and the now?  Will the people who are constantly trying to get to that CEO position or Supervisor position end up at 65 looking back on what they’ve missed?  I don’t want that.  Since I graduated High School I’ve been striving to be better.  Better at what I’m still a little unclear about but I know I wanted to be better.  With this new promotion chances are this is as ‘better’ as I’m going to get.  So if being ‘better’ has been my motivator than what is it going to be now?  I’m facing twenty to twenty-five years of work still in front of me.  I’ve promoted for what could, in all honesty, be the last time.  Above me degrees are required, experience is required, and skills….skills I don’t generally possess…are required.  My mother went out and got an education and a career in her 40’s and I applaud her for it but is that still a realistic option.  I looked at signing up for school to take some IT courses and bone up on my limited but ok tech skills.  I couldn’t get in and it would’ve cost me nearly $300 for one class if I did.  (after books)  So is the question one of passion?  Do I simply lack the passion to move forward.
 
                It dawns on me that it might come off as sounding a bit whiny.  I thought about deleting it and starting over.  It’s been my policy to not post complaints and tirades about life but these questions; this concern is real to me.   Work is good, the four week old promotion has been awesome and yet I’m left wondering if it will be enough.  Yoda accuses Luke of looking, ‘to the future, to the past, never his mind on where he’s at, what he is doing’  (I paraphrased a bit).  Am I un-trainable?  Will I bring balance to the Force?  Ok, Ok I’m probably trainable but I doubt I’ll bring balance to the force.  Seriously though, will this promotion bring enough challenge and enough opportunity to learn and stretch that desire to be ‘better’ will fade over time or to get me into my retirement years?  At what point is a dog old enough to stop learning new tricks?  Is that the point where we retire?  My Dad retired because he was tired of the politics not because he hated the core work he was doing.  I hate the politics of work now (does this mean I get to retire?) but what job doesn’t have them and honestly who actually thrives on them?  I love the core work responsibilities I’m being given (even when the load of it has quadrupled since I was promoted) will that be enough to keep me going or as I age and lose a step will it be too much? 


                It seems this post is one of questions, the unknown and the unknowable.  It’s kind of a cool thing to not have the answers, to not have a clear and concise path laid out in front of you but it’s also a scary place to be.  Walking the knifes edge of sanity is an awesome exhilarating experience yet the danger always exists, the possibility of falling into the warm embrace of insanity is always hovering over you and it’s a long walk I have waiting for me with lots of opportunities to fall.  I have no answers fellow reader, do you?  How do you my fellow forty-something year olds deal with this weird ‘not-quite-mid-life’ place we find ourselves?  Are you happy?  Do you face the same ‘fears’ and uncertainty?  I’d love to hear from you.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nothing Else Matters...


                In a few weeks I’ll reach a milestone that in today’s fast food society is reached less and less.  On August 21st my wife and I will celebrate 20 YEARS of marriage!!!!!  Holy cow.  There are several thoughts that pop into my mind.  First, there is no way I’m that old! Second, there is no way my wife is that old!!!    The time has flown by.  It’s had its ups and downs and everything in between.  We’ve cried, we’ve hurt but most of all we’ve laughed and we’ve grown together.

                Nearly twenty years ago I’d just barely graduated.  I was a skinny geek who had no idea what he wanted or where he wanted to go.  I met a fine young woman who had come to visit with another friend.  I was hobbled by a soccer injury.  She gave me the total and complete cold shoulder and I was hooked!!  The rest is history, a year and a half later we got married and we’ve been making happy memories ever since.  In 1993 Monday night football was still on network TV.  Chipper Jones was a rookie on the Braves, Hoffman was a rookie on the Marlins, Raul Mondesi a rookie on the Dodgers, and Brad Ausmus was a rookie catcher for the Padres .  Toronto beat the Phillies in the World Series, Dallas won the super bowl, and Chicago won the NBA championships.  (So I’m a little sports centric…I can guarantee she just smiled at the Ausmus reference!)  There was really no internet and cell phones were still brick sized.  I drove a really sweet Mercury Cougar (which died and led to an even cooler Yamaha Scooter) and life was just getting started. 

Too often we get caught in this negative loop in life.  We see the bad, the poor, the ugly but seldom do we stop and see the good.  But you know what as I lean back and gaze back over the landscape our 20 years has created I’m pretty happy.  I see mostly good times, a life built and a family created.   We’ve done a pretty darn good job.  We’ve learned to communicate, to express how we feel to each other and how to sacrifice for each other.  We’ve grown up together.  Most of all though, after 20 years we are still very much in love with each other.

                I have had successes in life and I have had failures.  I’ve been up and I’ve been down.  I’ve had far too many jobs and even more hobbies I’ve attempted to pursue.  In the end my wife has always held me up and been my rock.  A lot of people don’t see that part of our relationship but I’m here to tell you that without Kelly I would not be the happy, fairly balanced family man I am today.  She has, over the years, supported all the cooky little things I’ve done, let me vent when I needed to, put up with all of my undiagnosed personality defects and in the end what more can a man ask for from his wife?  She’ll watch baseball, football, and even tolerates a bit of the Tour de France as well as a soccer game or two.  She’s the perfect wife. 

                Nothing I do is ever as good as it is when my wife is with me.  As much as I love riding my bike, if I couldn’t share my adventures with her (even though she’s bored to tears as I describe my latest ‘cool’ ride stats)the rides just wouldn’t be as cool afterwards.  Without her I’d never be able to see a doctor (I hate filling out those darn forms).  Without her I’d have no faith in me, I’d doubt myself at every turn but her support and sometimes stern reminder to shut-up keeps me going.  Due to my job we don’t get a lot of alone time or little dates except for a quick hour lunch break on Tuesdays.  There are no kids and often times we go to the same restaurant but I don’t care what food I’m eating because I’m really just happy that for a few minutes we get to hang out.

                Kelly you are my rock.  You are my inspiration.  You’re my BFF and life would just not be as fun if you weren’t in it.  So thank you dear for these years.  Thank you for your support, your love and your devotion.  Thank you for the countless sacrifices you’ve made for me and for our family.  Thank you for always being there with a shoulder to cry on, a stern word to keep me in line, and kind words to keep me motivated.   Thank you for an awesome 20 years.  I love you. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pause that.....


               
     Time does not stop for us mere mortals very often.  Try as we might the world keeps on spinning, the sun sets and the moon rises.  Tides go in, tides go out and the wheel keeps on turning (good song that last bit).  It is the way of things and as much as I wish it was otherwise it’s probably for the best.  Stagnation is never a healthy thing for any living organism, humans included.  As most of you know we recently welcomed a new member to the family.  My fourth child.  He’s awesome and for the past three and half weeks or so I got to freeze time, or at least put in in extreme slo-mo. 

                Last June I got to pause life for a twenty four hour camp out with the family and it was pretty awesome.  This time its nearly four weeks of pause time.  Now though, life is slowly beginning to speed up once more.  I’m not entirely sure I’m happy about that.  The isolation the family has had has been, well, pretty dang awesome.  There has been no school, no work and a whole lot of us just being a family.  I had grand plans for the time I was off.  Ideas to go camping, to take the three ‘older’ kids to a museum or two and to get out but none of those materialized.  Last night I spent time thinking about that and at first I was a little down about it.  I like to think I lead an active lifestyle but the past few weeks my life has been anything but.  I feel like I let the kids down a bit but then I thought about what we’ve been through and the fun little moments we’ve had and I’m not so sure I did.
 

                There have been many moments over the past few weeks that have brought us together as a family.  We’ve entertained Lil P together, we’ve fed and comforted him together.   In those moments when he was asleep and we were awake we’ve relaxed together.  We’ve watched TV, we’ve gone shopping, we’ve played video games and in the end maybe I didn’t let them down as much as I thought I did.  I just know with the two of the kids being 12 one day soon they’re not going to want me around, or at least they’ll pretend really really hard they don’t want me around.  Maybe in the end, as life creeps towards warp speed for me, and the family soon thereafter, the summer wasn’t as ‘wasted’ as I thought.  When Lil J was born it cemented our family together and now with Lil P I think the finishing touches were put on the family as whole.  The girls love the little guy and enjoy helping out.  Lil J has been very gentle around the new guy and seems very fascinated by the whole affair which is really awesome. 

                In about 36 hours I’ll be returning to work (can I get a big Darth Vader ‘Noooooooooo!!!!!!’?) and about three weeks from that older kids will return to school.  Two weeks after that my wife returns to work and the family will be diving head first into life.  I’m not sure we’ll have the opportunity to freeze life the way we’ve just done and I’m a little sad about that.  Life does not often slow down and I feel like we’ve put it off just long enough.  I hate to admit it but it’s probably time to hit the play button once more.  It’s always a bit scary when you restart that older computer you’ve had sitting on your desk for years and is covered with cobwebs. I very much feel like that old computer as I begin prepping for a return to life (Hey, I look good in cob webs).  It’ll be a fitful wheezing start but it will start and soon will be chugging away like nothing ever happened.  I’ll miss the alone time, the quiet moments spent holding a newborn and just watching him (they’re even fascinating when they’re asleep) but there will be new moments.  There always are. 

                So I’ve gotta say is ‘Stand back Life!’  I’m on my way back and you better look out if you know what’s good for you!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Dusting off an old Habit...er Hobbie......

     Back in the day when my girls were younger and just before Lil J was born I started to get into photography.  I took a lot of photo's.  Way to many probably but it did leave me with the photog bug.  I do love taking picture but I got tired of not being in the photos.  Over time I got tired of constantly trying to get shoot family functions instead of enjoying them.  So with gear that was aging and a lack of desire I slowed the photography shooting to a slow crawl and relied on my trusty cell phone to document life.
    Fast forward 10 odd years and with some new changes occurring in my life I have felt the photography itch starting to set in.  So I scratched it, bought some newish gear and have been having fun shooting the world around me.  It's been fun.  I'm not sure if anything I shoot is great (you'll have to be the judge of that I'm afraid) but I do enjoy recording my families lives and perhaps one day in the far off future my off-spring will look at these photo's that some Grandpa two or three generations removed took and they'll be able to share of piece of me and see who I was.  It's a romantic thought, I know, but it's why I love photography so much.  So now interspersed in my writings and ramblings I'm hoping to bring you a few shots from time to time.  Let me know what you think.  So without further ado here's a few from a little family gathering the other day.



My Father.

Eagle Eye Herself (only slightly smiling cuz they're not big fans of having their picture taken...they used to love it!!)

Still Life?  Or just ick?  ;-)


I do like landscape stuff and with as much work as my parents put into their garden I had to take a few shots.  This was the best of the bunch.


I'm not as good with the whole 'still life' stuff but this one turned out fairly well.  Tried to pull out the reds in the rust and the yellow stripe.  Still getting used to using Photoshop again.  Not sure if my 'post production' really worked or not.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Embracing the routine or It's time for a change...


                So where have I been?  I’ve got to be honest I’m not sure.  My muse has been on a vacation?  But again if I’m totally honest with you dear reader…and myself for that matter…writing just hasn’t been all that important to me the past eight months or so.  It all started with a change in scenery at work and then snowballed from there.  Changes at home and a readjustment of priorities in life and suddenly writing ended up taking a back seat, as did blog maintenance.  I can’t quite pin-point when it happened or even why, it just did.  I keep asking myself if that’s a bad thing.  I’m not sure I like the answer.  They say that if you really want to write you will find a way to do it.  If that’s the case then perhaps I don’t really want to be a writer.  This seriously made me reconsider how I was spending my time.  The experts seem to agree that one needs to find what they love and do that.  In the end I believe that’s what I’ve been doing.

                I love being a Dad.  It’s really the best thing in life.  Yes, there are up’s and down’s but in the end it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.  I won’t sit here and say I’m good at it, far from it, but it fires me up.  It makes me want to get up in the morning unlike anything else in my lif 
e.  (It also makes me want to go to bed from exhaustion more than anything else in life!)  So for the past eight months I’ve balanced work and being a dad.  Writing has just seemed like a chore.  I’ve not had ideas or desire to sit down and put anything to paper (or to the screen in this case…but that just doesn’t sound as romantic).  I can almost always find something to do other than write.  Some of you had read a few chapters of my only completed manuscript and I appreciate it.  I still want to work on it and perhaps one day I will.  I’ve even tried to start a couple other projects, they’ve fizzled and failed.

                Instead I’ve embraced the cool comfort of routine.  I get up, I go to work, I come home and I enjoy my family. Some will tell you that routine is evil.  Monotony is the destroyer of creativity and perhaps that’s true after all I’ve not even been riding and you know what??  I’ve not really cared.  I like my monotony just the way it is.  I’m quite content to do the same thing every day.  Maybe it’s turning 40?  Maybe it’s the constant little aches and pains that seem to have accompanied the turning of the hour glass.  I’m not sure, don’t think I care either.  I’m happy, I’m stress free, and life’s a beach.  This is not to say I’ll never write or ride again, (I mean technically you are feasting your eye holes on this here piece of writing).  I hope my muse has not abandoned me permanently. (I know my fitness has, but that’s another blog post)  I am still exploring the world with my kids and I still occasionally come up with an interesting idea for a story, (I’ve got a great female android character with a red Mohawk just itching to be written about) so I’m sure there will still be writing.  My family is growing up very quickly and I guess in the end the choice between sitting, sequestered in my office delving into the mysteries of my own mind…shudder… or hanging with the family, I would prefer to sit in my chair and watch my children grow up or go hang out with them.   Yeah I like that idea.  I like it a lot.

                So no my gentle humans, I have not disappeared.  I’ve not dropped off the end of the earth (hmmm is that another idea for a story or what?) I’m just sitting, relaxing, and enjoying life.  The world is pretty cool and I should probably slow down and stop trying to do everything and be everywhere.  Perhaps the best thing to do is relax, slow down, and embrace it all.  It won’t work for everyone but for right now, it’s working for me and life can’t get much better.  Well maybe it could but that would require a donut shop being built in my backyard and let’s face it….that’s just not practical. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Riding the San Jaun...


                So at the very end of 2012 I got a text from a buddy of mine asking if I wanted to hit up the San Juan trail with he and a few of his buddies.  I’ve had to say no to this guy way more times than I was comfortable with and was super excited that this time I got to say yes.  I was on vacation, the wife was off to take care of the kids and so I was in the garage that night prepping the old Santa Cruz Heckler.  For those of you not in the know San Juan, when shuttled, is primarily a downhill trail.  So I figured the Heckler would be perfect and I hadn’t been on it for nearly a year.  So I cleaned her up, put some lube on the chain and inflated the tires.  She was gleaming and eager to get going.

                We were meeting early and the morning dawned brisk, crisp, and clear.  It was going to be an epic day.  We met up at my buddies house, got the bikes switched from one car to another and all the gear squared away and off we went.  The starting point for the San Juan trail when shuttled is right outside of Blue Jay campground (yes Tyson the campground with all the flies…it’s an inside thing and another post).  We parked, unloaded the bikes, and promptly started to mentally compare bikes.  Watching Mountain Bikers….or any bicyclists can be hilarious.  First, we eye the competition and start to calculate how much the other guys bike might have cost.  Is that a SRAM or a Shimano parts group?  Is it a 29er? Then when we’ve got our facts straight and we’re feeling comfortable with our choice of bike the conversations starts. 

                “So how do you like that (insert bike brand/model here)”

                “What do you think of those (insert brake brand/model here)”

                And for this ride the topic of conversation most often brought up….adjustable seat posts!!  I was at the back of the group when we started off so I could gauge my skill level with the others without holding anyone back.  I was riding along marveling at the idea that I was actually riding with other human beings when the topic kept coming up here and there as we climbed and then dove down another decline.  I was having a blast but chuckling as everyone was fiddling with their hydraulic seat posts.  I’m old school, I keep mine at one level (unless it slowly drops like it did in Moab) and I ride with it there.  It’s old school but it’s also much cheaper than those fancy hydraulic posts.

                I pulled up the rear for the first couple of miles and made idle chat with a guy who was a paramedic at a pretty nice hospital in Utah.  He was a childhood friend of my buddy and his son was riding with us on a hardtail and doing pretty good at it to all things considered.   The trail was pretty rock strewn and I kept waiting for a pinch flat but my slightly worn Nevegals held up just fine.  We regrouped and my buddy called me to come up front and ride with him.  I got up there, let the group rest and then we took off.

                The next hour or two is a total blur.  We would fly down some sections where I was really pushing my skill level.  There were some ninety degree turns where I was grabbing all the brake I could just to make it. A HUGE thanks goes to my bro-in-law who did an excellent job bleeding my brakes nearly a year ago.  It was a blast of a ride.  We would fly down a section and then wait for the group to gather.  Then it was off again. The upper section was fast, twisty, and narrow.  Those are all the ingredients for some great times on two wheels.

                When we finally got to Champagne Rock (I’m pretty sure that was the name of it) we took a break, took some pictures and enjoyed the view of Orange County and the Pacific Ocean.  We snacked, chatted and then remounted to begin the long decent to the other parking lot.  This section was fun.  It was a little loose and had all kinds of switchbacks, ruts, and rocks.  It was honestly some of the best riding I’ve done since Moab/Fruita back in 2011.  We were flying along, grabbing brakes, riding out of the corners and then letting gravity take over.  The Heckler handled it like a champ.  I was doing fine and feeling light on the bike, right up until I grabbed to much brake, washed out the front tire right into a rut and over the bars I went!!  It hurt.  A lot.  I haven’t crashed like that in probably ten years and felt all 39 of my years at that moment.  I laid there on the trail staring up at the blue sky my right shoulder really hurting, my knees and lower legs scrapped up and bleeding.  Once I figured nothing was seriously broken I got up and checked out the bike.

                It was fine, thank goodness!

                I climbed aboard, a little shaky and with a right shoulder that was throbbing.  Nothing I could do about it at that point so off I went although much slower than before.  This last section of the trail required a lot of body English and a lot of braking.  My shoulder would scream at me if I turned just the right way so with the advice of my father ringing in my ears….I didn’t turn that way very often. 

                Finally we got down to the cars that would shuttle us back up to our starting point and the cars we left behind.  I was sore and in a little pain.  The paramedic took a look at it and was concerned enough that I decided to hit up the Urgent Care when I got back to town.  As we loaded the bikes we joked and laughed and reminisced about different parts of the trail and other escapades we’d been on in the past.

                The x-rays from the Urgent Care came back negative, nothing was broken or pulled.  A radiologist called me a few days later and told me the ligaments had been strained and that was it.  I took it easy for the last few days of vacation and tried not to use the shoulder/arm very much.  It’s gotten better but not 100% yet.  There is still a twinge here and there but it just reminds me of what an awesome ride it was.

                It’s really cool how this sport can bring people together.  At the start of the ride the only guy I knew was my buddy and by the end of the ride I felt like I’d made some great friends.  All of these guys have been hanging out together since they were kids and I want to thank all of them for never making me feel like an outsider.  It was an awesome day for a most excellent ride with some pretty cool dudes.  Nothing much in this world beats that combination!!