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Yearly Archives: 2022

While You’re Dealing with the Narcissist You’re Married To, You Might Want To…

One of the more shocking discoveries in my recovery occurred when I began listening to Richard Grannon talk about covert narcissists and how to tell if you’re living with one…

And I found out, the hard way, I was a covert narcissist.

If you’re looking at your spouse as a possible narcissist, do yourself a favor and look in the mirror first. Or don’t, and watch your spouse point it out when you lay it down for them.

If you have a shred of decency and honesty, you’ll need a spatula to get your jaw off the floor. I did.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others. That Guy In the Ferrari Could Be Thinking About Wrapping His Car Around the Next Viaduct Stanchion He Sees…

Some of the better advice I’ve ever given newer folks to recovery is “Don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t know what they have to give up to have what they do.”

I heard a second part to that, though, from Jordan Peterson that I really liked: “Instead, compare yourself to who you were yesterday.”

Another of his favorite tips for creating a better future for yourself is to try to improve just 1% from yesterday to today. It’s such a small, trivial amount that almost anyone should be able to do that, right?

Well, do that for 100 days in a row and see where you’re at then! I can tell you, I’ve implemented that and it works. What a difference just a month or two of sticking to that makes!

Enjoy your Thursday. It’s the only one we get.

Sunday Funday on a TNIL… on the TANDEM?!

I’m going to put it as simply as I can; my wife and I found each other again, after several years. It’s better than that, really. We’ve learned how to talk to each other to find peace with one another, rather than to beat the other. We’ve learned how to listen and to work things out so we can be happy together. I’m so grateful, I find it difficult to put into words. After 3,000,000 words on this blog, I’ve never been so happy and stuck for words to describe it. It is love and joy and relief, and it is good.

My wife and I spoke yesterday morning after I’d been at the office a while. We both expressed what a wonderful evening we had the night before. It was a perfect evening together that ended in us watching our favorite show, holding hands and falling asleep on the couch. My wife asked how we could possibly keep this going at this pace without burning out (now, there’s a good context and a bad context to that question – her context was delivered in the good way – as in, “Please, Dear God in Heaven, how can we keep this going because it’s awesome?”). Thankfully, I’d already had the same thought and fear and meditated on it thoroughly. I had answers. I know what we have today is doable, and I am freaking stoked about it.

[As a rule, I refuse to use the work “sustainable” outside of my conversations with my wife who “gets me”, because it’s generally a fair bet a person who uses that word in a sentence has no idea what they’re talking about.]

Anyway, the evening before, I’d asked my wife if she’d ride the tandem with me on Tuesday night. She was working from home and attending one of my daughter’s rare early tennis matches so I had a feeling she’d ride Tuesday night, but I wanted to really ride with her. Not just on singles. My wife said she’d like to tandem during a phone call early Tuesday afternoon, and so it was.

The main A/A-Elite mixed group went off first, then we followed a minute later. We flew going with the headwind and did well north and south, but struggled in the headwind, relying on Big Joe and Dave to handle some of the up front duty. On the second mile, something occurred to me and I decided to share it with my wife rather than risk forgetting it – one more reason we’re going to make what we have last. To keep it simple, we’ve never had anything resembling what we’ve built over the last few months. Best of all, we’ve made it safe for each other to express that love however we feel it. The passion is real and it is fantastic… but that can also be terrifically horrifying in that, the general thinking is; if it burns hot, it burns fast… then burns out. And so, my thought that hadn’t occurred earlier was this; we’ve learned to talk to each other (and listen, my wife interjected) in a way we never have before. The way we talk and listen is set up to help us keep this alive and well. It was a significant point.

Anyway, we had a fantastic ride, the four of us and Jess and I headed home afterward to a wonderful dinner of chicken and gnocchi soup – leftovers from dinner the night before when my daughter made the soup from scratch. It was another wonderful evening together. It’s actually been a stretch of great days and evenings. We’ve needed this for a long time.

And a note to my riding buddies who read this page: I’ve been a little too selfish when it comes to what I want to do and how that relates to my marriage. I have to even things out a little bit with her before I find my new normal. I’ll be the same rider, just a little less self-centered. Thanks in advance for your patience while we get this sorted.

Why An Expensive Road Bike is Worth the Outlandish Money… Even If “Expensive” Isn’t a Prerequisite for Being Fast

After riding the tandem with my wife for the last few weeks, I finally threw a leg over my Specialized Venge Wednesday night. The weather is, at long last, changing for the better and we’ve had more than enough rain to clean the roads… it struck me just how much fun it is to ride my Specialized Venge.

I’ve got a little more than $6,000 into that bike, by the time you figure the $3,100 price tag plus the upgrades – handlebar ($350), saddle ($250), wheels ($750), crankset ($550), brakes ($157), Ultegra drivetrain ($200 pre-owned but spectacular), stem ($167), seatpost ($110 after shipping), new rear derailleur ($75), chainrings ($105)… so, new, the bike out of the box weighed in at 18-1/2 pounds. As it sits today, it’s down to 16 pounds – or perfect… for a bowling ball or an aero-bike.

I rolled out with my buddy, Chuck for our normal loop and the first thing I noticed as I got my butt used to the saddle again is how twitchy and responsive the Venge is after riding the tandem so much – and how easy it is to make the Venge accelerate. You simply push on the pedals and it goes. Anyone who’s ridden a top-end race bike knows this fantastic feeling. Even above that is the fact that the bike, after eight years, is still as tight as it was the day I brought it home. Everything still works as it should, in other words. No creaks or weird clicks, no loose parts (though the original seat post did fracture during a seated attempt at a City Limits sign…).

One doesn’t need a great bike to ride a bike very fast. One needs strong legs, massive lungs, a good diet and a decent bike (preferably with some aero wheels as those do make a difference) to be fast. Oh, I almost forgot; and a whole lot of “want to”. Most who have had the great fortune of riding a fantastic top-end bike, though, will tell you they’re worth it.

Not exactly necessary, but wonderful indeed.

Recovery; Your Life Will Become So Good You’ll Think It Simply Can’t Get Any Better… Then You’ll Realize It Did, All By Itself.

My wife and I had a weekend I only could have dreamt of a few years ago. It was truly a miracle. We set about making some changes a couple of months ago, now and we’re finally getting comfortable with knowing that we’re safe in our marriage and that the changes are real.

For me, the changes are foundational, right down to my baby toes.

After an amazing, wonderful weekend spent with my wife and kids, I woke up this morning, had a couple of cups of coffee and worked on a post. It was much more in depth than this one but I didn’t have the time to finish it. When it was time, I put my computer away and went in to shave and get ready for work. After, I went into our bedroom and dressed for the office. I pulled out something special to show my wife I wanted to look good for her.

Then, I climbed into bed and gave my wife a hug and kissed her forehead and told her I loved her deeply. She said, “Jim, thank you for a much better marriage”. I couldn’t hold back the tears of happiness.

We’ve worked so hard to get here. We’ve talked at length about a lot of really tough things. We’ve negotiated hard for things that matter to us. And we’ve both let go of intense fear and hurt so we could begin to heal.

As recovery from alcoholism and addiction goes, and this particularly pertains to marriage as well, I must remember that I am the problem. If I don’t know that I’m the problem, I need to pray that my Higher Power will show me where I’m the problem.

As long as I remember that, I have a chance. Today, I’m so grateful I’m actually grateful for being grateful. None of this was possible until I was willing to ask God to help me to be a better me. I don’t know if I was ready for how much I had to improve, but it all worked out in the wash.

My wife and I are on the right path and we know it. You may wonder how it is we know that. It’s simple; we don’t have to work to stay on the path. We want to stay on it because neither one of us want to go back to what we had before.

It’s as good as it gets – and I have faith it’ll get better. I’ve been here too many times to believe otherwise.

Thank God.

A Wonderful Day Off the Bikes…

It’s a rare Saturday after May 1st that we’re off the bikes but yesterday’s weather was intermittent junk. On again, off again rain, clouds, a little peak at sunshine here or there. It was just a mess.

Anyway, there was no riding in the early morning. Too much rain.

My wife and I tended to chores around the house that had been neglected now that she’s working regularly. Jess and our eldest daughter then turned their attention to getting their nails done while I dropped off a few tools to Ukulele Dave who’d loaned them to me as I attempted to sort out an odd click in our tandem. Then we spent some time at the bike shop, working on a few items for the club’s main ride in August, amongst other items that aren’t quite ready for the light of day.

After, we came home to what appeared to be a clearing in the weather. I hopped on my tractor and dealt with the backyard grass – and got about 20 minutes into it before it started raining lightly again. I came in and sat down to a game of Skyjo with my wife and daughter.

Then came date night. My wife and I have instituted date night once a week again. We both need that time together. We’ve got a fairly rocky past with a lot of good and some very bad… I like to think of the coast in La Jolla, California – stunningly beautiful, exciting and fun, but exceptionally rocky in places. We’re now full into working on making our marriage the best it can be… call it excavating some of those rocks from the beach.

We walked around a couple of shops my wife likes, then went to dinner and finished the night playing pool for an hour and some change. Even though walking around shops gives me the vapors because I can’t help but feel like I’m wasting time, I put that f***er in the melon committee in the cage for my wife. If I’ve found anything over the last couple of months, I’ve come to see how self-centered I really am. It was a shockingly eye-opening realization. I’m doing much better, as is my wife, through the process.

Finally, we headed home to watch some of our favorite binge-watching TV show (Castle). I made it one episode before falling asleep on the couch, my wife in my arms. She made it one episode and two minutes. A couple of episodes later we woke up and headed to bed.

It was, unquestionably, as good as it gets.

A Crazy Friday… With Some Tandem Time and a Surprising Possible Solution to Our Mysterious Clicking/Ticking Problem.

I was up and working well before the crack of dawn… even though dawn around these parts is approaching 5:30 am this time of year.

I’ve written a couple of times about a “tick” or “click” we’ve developed over the last few weeks that’s been driving us a bit bonkers trying to locate it. Last try was taking apart the eccentric bottom bracket cam to clean and lube everything – and I had high hopes for this one. I tackled the task shortly after arriving home Thursday afternoon. It was, believe it or not, a fairly simple affair. Remove one side of the threaded external bottom bracket, loosen the set screws for the eccentric cam, pull the cam, clean the parts, lube the parts, put everything back together. It was perfect, if it did take a little bit of time. I was sure that was going to do it…

Friday morning’s ride was the big test… and the first three-quarters of a mile were dead silent. Then, as we picked up the intensity, tick… tick… tick… and it grew in intensity. Click… click… click… double-click… Well, that wasn’t it and I was about at the end of my rope. My wife and I decided to add a stop to the bike shop to see if they could help with the diagnosis.

After describing the issue, my friend and the owner of the shop and I wheeled the tandem to the park next to the bike shop and went for a cruise. Neither of us had mountain shoes on so we wore our tennis shoes and rode on the Shimano pedals like they were platform pedals in our sneakers. And, not a click or a tick. The problem is in the relatively new mountain bike pedals. My wife and I went for a spin after Matt and I did. No matter how much power we put down there wasn’t a click or a creak.

I’ll have to isolate which set is bad, but it’s simple at this point. Heck, I just might buy two new sets of pedals just to be done with it.

Sadly, the rest of the weekend, especially today, is looking quite crappy. There may be some salvation tomorrow, though. We’ll have to see.

Don’t Do This To Your Spouse! I Can Save You a Year of Marriage Counseling!

My wife and I have been on an exciting, excellent path of late. We were well into 24-years of a good, but far from great marriage when my wife took her first paying job since before our daughters were born. I became the traditional breadwinner when my wife was ordered to bed rest for minor complications in her pregnancy – and they were only minor because she stuck to what was prescribed for her. When she gave birth to our beautiful daughter, she asked if we could try to make it on one income so she could stay home and raise our kids. I was fearful, of course. I wasn’t making all that much money, but I hoped we had a better chance of raising good children if we stuck to the older style of splitting duties. Divide and conquer.

We were not mistaken.

Over the years, my wife would complain every now and again that it would be nice if I’d call her at lunchtime to say hi and talk about my day with her. Going into breadwinner mode and making assumptions about how I should handle myself according to what I thought that meant, I focused hard on work – especially when I went out as an owner for 13-years. I tried to call my wife on a regular basis, but often would get lost in what I was doing and didn’t think beyond my work till I got home. Eventually, I learned to call my wife, but I never really understood the “why” of her asking me to. After all, I had dragons to slay and demons to banish to hell so I could make our money! I did well at the money part. We made enough that we had a humble but nice house, two cars, and a semi-comfortable life. [ED: Notice I didn’t put what I did on “society”? Blaming “society” is an excuse for an emotionally compromised person who can’t think their way into responsibility for their own actions and decisions – in other words, “society” as an excuse is a copout, best I can tell].

My wife learned to cope with the lack of connection during office hours. Even when I did call, it was rarely sterling conversation. She made the most of it, but eventually the lack of connection took a toll on her heart. She built barriers to protect her emotions and often “punished me” emotionally and otherwise for not understanding her needs better.

So far, if this sounds familiar, please give me two paragraphs to get to the good stuff.

I’ve recently come to find that I was something of a clueless narcissist. I had no idea, until I started listening to a YouTube series by Richard Grannon on the way to work on narcissism – thinking my wife was the narcissist (and she is, most certainly). So here I am, listening to this lecture, doing the “yeah, she does that, and she definitely acts like that“… until I hit a snag. The fourth item in, I did. Then the fifth and sixth… my jaw literally dropped. I knew my wife was a bit of a narcissist. The shock was, I was, also.

With the truth out in the open, I set about fixing myself. I broke down all of my defenses and let my emotions see the light of day for the first time in quite a while – and I was not prepared for what came next. I’m a big manly man, after all. I have command of my faculties and emotions, etc., etc.. Right? Nope. With my emotions now on my sleeve, having finally seen the light and realizing I could have done a lot better as a husband and father, I had a bit of a breakdown, but in a good way. I called my wife to talk about what had happened. I ended the conversation in tears, maybe the third time in 20 years I really cried – happy tears, like when my daughters were born, excluded. I’d broken my own heart, listening to a lecture about narcissism.

Now, fast-forward a month and with my wife at work, I find that I now need that connection while we’re both at our respective offices. All of a sudden I know exactly why the woman I love asked me to call her once or twice a day to make a connection – and I had a difficult time living up to such a simple request.

The realization of what I’d done was devastating. My wife, who had to build up emotional barriers over the years so she could go about her day detached from me was now, naturally, doing exactly what I’d done to her, and it hurt. All those years and I had no idea what I’d done to her. I built those barriers with my actions just as much as my wife did as a response. Man, it was eye-opening and brutal. In fact, it’s hard keeping from kicking my own ass for not understanding what my wife had to go through. It’s a lesson worth learning, though.

I didn’t have to worry about thinking outside of the box. I needed to think outside of the gray matter between my ears.

Please Have a Look at a Friend’s Post: Just a little leak — unironedman

Hawthorn blossom in the park It didn’t all start with the failed fostering of Ernie the wonder hound. But he certainly was the actual nail in the proverbial. Ernie is a 40 kg greyhound, and we took him on a few months back with a view to fostering and possibly adopting. He didn’t so much […]

Just a little leak — unironedman

Please have a look at my friend from Ireland’s post… The link above is the important part as he’s raising money for life savers… so they can have proper kit and training to save lives. Good stuff. Donate if you can, even if it’s a small amount.

The Goldilocks Saddle Status and the Position Proposition; Attaining True Perfection in Your Saddle Position – and Transferring That from One Bike to Another, Easily

Now, I’m going to keep this as simple as I can, for an insanely difficult and controversial topic. There are three things at play that pertain to positioning the saddle properly, and two that go to the size of the saddle that are absolute musts to achieve something close to perfection. Maybe “really, really close”.

First and foremost, I’ve never found there to be a saddle that corrects for a lack of saddle time. There are comfortable saddles, sure, but time must be spent in the saddle. There’s no way around this.

Before I get into locating the saddle, let’s talk about saddle size and style. The general rule is, the more flexible you are, the flatter the saddle you can comfortably ride. The less flexible, the more contour you’ll want in the saddle. The contouring of the saddle allows the hips to open up when you ride in an aggressive, road bike position. Getting the contour of the saddle to your liking is a big piece in this puzzle of perfecting the saddle.

After contour, there’s width. I’ve read, from much smarter people than I, that a saddle that isn’t wide enough is excruciating. This hasn’t been my experience at all. My problems have always centered on saddles that were too wide. Now, there are interesting things at play here. First, the more aggressive a position we ride in, the thinner the saddle should be. The more upright we ride, the wider the saddle.

I can comfortably ride on a 143 mm saddle on our tandem, but those are excruciating on my road bikes. I rub the insides of my of my pelvic bones on the edges of the saddle in an aggressive setup. On my Trek 5200 (below, left) I run a 138. On my Specialized Venge (below, right) I run a 128 that is pure heaven next to a 143.

After we get the contour, next we move to width. I was measured at a 143 mm width, but that works for an upright position, call it the tandem riding position I mentioned earlier. The more aggressive I ride, on my two road bikes, the less width I want. When it comes down the the bottom line, I don’t mess with what works and keeps my heinie happy. I just roll with it.

The best way to figure your saddle width is to get measured at a shop that has a proprietor or two who know what they’re doing. Make sure to let them know how aggressive your setup on the bike is (if they don’t already know), or take a picture – or even the bike – with you to get measured.

With that out of the way, we’re going to get down to the nitty gritty and position. I’ve been of two minds on this. For a while, I was like, “Yeah, saddle height is important, but as long as you’re close, say within a few millimeters without going too high, it’s all good”. I disagree with that point currently. I’ve got an exact number that works on all of my bikes – and by exact, I mean that word. Before we get height drilled in, though, I should get into the fore/aft positioning of the saddle, because we do this first because this affects the up/down location.

Simply stated, on a road bike, the fore/aft position gets a normal rider’s leading edge of their knee directly above the pedal spindle when the feet are clipped in and the pedals are parallel to the ground. I like to check this when I’m setting a new saddle by getting the height close to where I want it (my personal norm is 36-5/8″ on the nose, maybe a 32nd of an inch less). Then I warm up for a minute or two and check the level by setting my crank arms parallel to the ground and running a 4′ level from the pedal spindle up to the leading edge of my knee. That should be plumb, up and down.

With that set, I move to the height. I’ll go with the 36-5/8″ and give it a ride, preferably outdoors because the trainer just doesn’t do the real world feel justice. Then I set the tilt of the saddle, while I’m out, so I’m perfectly balanced and cradled with my hands down in the drops or on the hoods. Once that’s done, I can drill in my saddle height over the next few rides. 36-5/8″ is close enough, but I may lower it just a touch if something doesn’t quite feel right over, say, 100 miles in a few days.

And that’s how I get to my Goldilocks saddle height position. It’s not too high (any higher and I’ll have some form of pain), it’s not too low. It’s just right.

It’s a lot of effort, yes, but it pays off… in the end.

I couldn’t resist.