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Why I Don’t Choose to Get Drunk or High… Or, Conversely, Why I Do Keep Choosing Recovery. Part 10,990

That 10,990 isn’t a random number. That is exactly how many mornings I’ve woken up and asked God to keep my raging alcoholic in his cage in my mind for another day. That version of me is in there with my angry self and they’re both doing pushups and pullups, trying to outgun the other at the gun show. Sometimes I wonder how I make it with those two dolts.

Not really.

I don’t often imagine opening the cage door, anymore. I’d never trade the fantastic life I have today for guaranteed misery. No chance.

I only feel gratitude and the hope I’ll have another day (or 10,990) to pass on my experience, strength and hope.

Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle happens.

In Cycling, Variety Isn’t The Spice of Life. Nor is Carbon Fiber… Though Carbon Fiber Does Help.

I’m atop my Trek 5200 for an indoor commute to nowhere watching Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for the umpteenth time, and it occurred to me how much I love this bike. It’s nowhere near as fast as my Specialized Venge, but it’s as comfortable or slightly better… and I had a hand in rebuilding it from the ground up. Put simply, the old alloy wheels that came on the bike sucked the life out of a ride so upgrading to wider rims allowed for wider tires which meant a better ride quality, too.

Now, the Trek needed the upgrade to carbon fiber wheels.

I also ditched the original Ultegra triple for a more efficient and 14-years newer 105 compact double. The compact 50/34 chainrings match my 18 to 24-mph average pace perfectly. The old 52/36 put a cadence hole between 19 & 22-mph so I always felt like I was in the wrong gear. I could have gone with an 11-26 cassette and fixed the gap but I felt I needed the 28 for climbing. For that reason, I went to compact rings and haven’t looked back.

With that out of the way and with those upgrades, there’s nothing I can do on my Venge that I can’t do on my 5200. Conversely, there’s plenty I will do on the Trek I wouldn’t on the Venge. It does take a noticeable amount of effort to make the Trek perform like the aero bike, but it’s not a bridge too far.

My eight-year-old Venge is perfect in my eyes. It’s light. It’s sleek. It’s aero. It’s got decent wheels. Great components. It ticks all of the boxes except “new” and that’s a box I don’t care much about.

My 5200 checks light, decent wheels and decent components, but it’s got something that the Venge couldn’t have; me as a designer. For having that history with my Trek, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for that bike above all others. It’s kind of funny and ironic, really. Now that I’ve got a whole stable full of bikes, I’ve come to realize it’s not about having new stuff so much as it is a great bike that’s mechanically sound. It did take me eight years to get that Trek to where it is now.

Above: My 5200 as it sits today. Below: My 5200 in March of 2012. Just a few months after I brought it home.

One thought that’s been working well of late…

I don’t have to be a jerk to stick up for myself. In fact, it works better the nicer I am.

Just a thought for a Sunday.

The Fine Line a Man Must Walk for the Woman He Loves… Isn’t As Fine As Clickbait.

In my quest to become a better me that’s lasted a little more than nine months I’ve found there’s a vast array of self-helpers out there who, it seems, worry a little more about clickbait or working the extremes than in delivering consistent advice about real relationships. There’s a wide chasm between dating advice and marital advice, and it seems most of the quick and easy “game playing” topics trend toward the dating advice.

I wanted to learn how to better treat my wife of 25-years, not how to win a date. I wanted to learn how to let my wife know she was loved without overwhelming her (turns out there’s a very fine line to that as well!). I wanted to learn how to grapple with my crushing possessiveness issue – something that I’d never experienced in all our 27-years together. I needed to know how much emotion and vulnerability was too much, and how much was just enough (I already knew how little was too little). How could I be helpful without being a doormat?

My wife is a very particular person in those regards. She’s burnt out quickly with too much sugar, but she craves it just like chocolate. She’s leery of too many ways of saying “I love you with all my heart” but loves a nice variety. She loves consistent attention, but needs space for the marriage to breathe. She wants to feel safe, but not too safe.

If you’re a fella and starting to wonder how in God’s name can a guy keep track of all that, I actually have something useful to offer.

Before I get into this, one exceedingly important caveat must be laid out; my wife has her issues, too. Those issues made changing very difficult at times. My wife worked very hard on her issues and changed considerably over this time and her willingness to change was just as important as mine. However, whenever I concentrate on my wife’s issues, rather than focus on what I’m working on, I run afoul and typically make a fool of myself. On the other hand, I also learned to not be afraid to let my wife know when she’d stepped on my toes – preferably nicely and calmly, though that took a lot of work.

The trick to keeping all of that in order and to learning how to love my wife better was honest communication. Everything was a negotiation and we learned to make those negotiations safe so that we could each express ourselves as we needed. I talked about everything. My wife had to learn how to stop politicking me, too; the art of telling half the truth that shows her in a good light and miraculously forgetting the other half so she can be right. I had to learn how to just be honest about things like feelings and emotions, altogether. I stuffed everything under the rug till I had to walk around the damned thing. With progress came less fear (and I mean that in the false evidence appearing real sense). The more we talked things through, the more we learned how to negotiate for what was best for the marriage (not necessarily ourselves), the better we did… and the more we worked through things.

Sadly, this isn’t the easy route. It works a lot better than trying to play dating games with one’s spouse, though. Much better.

When Life Gets Too Busy… It’s Never Too Busy for a Meeting.

It shouldn’t be a shock, for goodness sake, it’s Christmas. Things are crazy hectic, though – in a great way. I have so much to write about, but no time to actually push the keys on the keyboard. This will have to be rectified, but not today.

“Your life will get so good, you’ll think it can’t possibly get any better. You’ll keep coming back and keep working the steps and six months later, it got better. All on its own.”

Been there so many times I’ve lost count. And it just happened today. Again.

I’m out the door with Jess to meet her dad at Early Birds.

The Single-Best Line I May Have Ever Uttered To Win A Fight With My Wife…

Forgive the click-bait Title.

The single-best line I’ve ever uttered to avoid a fight with my wife because I misinterpreted something my wife did is as follows:

“Please help me to understand where I went wrong in understanding what just happened.”

My wife has talked about the effectiveness of that question for days. She even told our daughter about it to help her through a rift with her boyfriend. My wife loved it because it wasn’t a yes or no answer. It required thought and a long answer that she didn’t want to use to turn into a fight.

The best way to win a fight is to not have it. If either one of us loses, we have to live with a person who’s been beaten. How much fun is that going to be?

Just a thought.

Don’t Quit Five Minutes Before the Miracle; In Recovery, Marriage and Life.

I’ve written dozens of times on this blog, “don’t quit five minutes before the miracle happens” as it pertains to recovery over the years. I love that line, but have only ever used it in a limited fashion. As things tend to happen when one asserts themselves to greater depths, the roots grow deeper (thanks, Jess).

I have a problem with our marriage, though. Since I grew up. Erm… earlier this year.

My wife and I woke up and got ready as we have every day for the last ten-ish months. We look directly into the others eyes and affirm our love for one another and our commitment to our marriage. I won’t give you the exact words because they’re ours, but they’re powerful. I walked out the door and headed to the office with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. She was smiling as I closed the door behind me to head to the office.

When I had time to think of her throughout the morning, my thoughts were happy and I reviewed a great weekend, though we had an intense negotiation Friday and another little issue Saturday that required a discussion that wasn’t very fun for either of us. The post-mortem review was excellent because either of those issues would have led to a week-long fight and of us barely talking to each other. Today we have something so strong, neither one of us is willing to hold onto any resentment or perceived sleight longer than a couple of hours without working it through to resolution. What we have is too good and, not to put too fine a point on it, we’re not the same “us” anymore.

Even so, at some point close to lunch, my thoughts turned sad on me. I liken it to a form of separation anxiety and when I really looked at how I was feeling, I realized this happened almost every Monday. That description is simplified, it’s not near as intense as true separation anxiety; after spending all weekend together, I simply missed my wife.

I know she has a virtual staff meeting that normally lasts until noon Mondays so I doubted I’d be able to call to hear her voice. I tried anyway and got a second-ring text that she was in her meeting and would call back after.

I drove to pick up lunch and run my vehicle through the carwash and on the way decided I was going to do things differently this Monday. In my post yesterday, I mentioned that I had found two people who genuinely had what I wanted and only one was alive. I called him. He answered on the second ring and started our conversation with how glad it was to hear from me. I told him about the post I’d written earlier and after telling him how I missed my old sponsor, who had been one of his best friends, I let him know that he was the other person I’ve always admired enough to want to be like “when I grew up”.

I explained some of the changes I’d been through and went through how they came about. He jumped in (deftly) and added that my wife had spoken to him about the differences and told me how happy he was for me. We talked about a range of related items, especially how surprising it is that recovery just keeps getting better as we work the steps in our everyday life. Then I got to the real issues. I told him about my trouble with Mondays and asked if I could call him from time to time because I know he loves his much like I do Jess.

He said he’d be honored and to never hesitate to call for any reason and ended without trying to “fix” me. He simply offered that “It’s wonderful to feel like this, isn’t it?”

I told my wife about the conversation last night after she got home from work, and that’s when she dropped that line I’ve used so many times about recovery.

“I’m so glad we didn’t quit five minutes before the miracle happened”. So am I.

More in another post. This one is getting long enough!

[I should add here, if my wife had thrown in the towel, I don’t think any of the changes I’ve made would have done any good. It takes two to tango, and there’s no way a marriage works solo.]

Who Do You Envy?

Today WordPress wanted to start a conversation with the question, “Who do you envy”?

I love this question. Not only because I have a great answer, but because it’s an important question.

Do I envy someone like Bill Gates? A man so filthy rich he’s come to the conclusion the natural next step in his progression of personhood on this planet is to spend his money to impose his will on the world?

Um, no. There are plenty of little men before him who have done much more with less.

Look, I could go on, but here it is: the honest to God truth is, I envy no one.

I’m not willing to give up my soul for money. I’m not willing to give up my friendship with my wife, or our marriage, for anyone. Seven or eight billion people on the planet, and the only other I want to see at the end when I lay my head on the pillow is my wife. The sun rises and sets on her for me.

I’m not willing to give up what others do to have what they do because I am truly content to be me. I have an awesome life, though there is a twist.

I do have two people in my life – well, one, really… one passed away years ago – who showed me how life is supposed to be lived enough that I want to be like them. One was my sponsor for a short time. The other is a friend of my wife’s father who grew up in the same Alcoholics Anonymous that my wife, her dad and my old sponsor grew up in.

I don’t envy them. I want to do what they did so I can have an impact on others the way they impacted me.

Both men had (or have, as the case is with Ian) the ability to make someone else feel better about being themselves simply be looking them right in the eyes and saying, “Wow, I really love you. It’s so great to see you. You look happy…” Then following that up with a hug and some small talk. They had, or have, the ability to change the dynamics in an entire room full of people in a matter of minutes.

I’m not envious of that ability, though. I know it’s within my grasp, I just have to walk the path to it.

And that’s the hard part.

The Gimmick of Being Different; Bicycle Manufacturers Jump the Aero Shark

Have you noticed that almost all bikes, with the exception of a gimmick here or there, look alike (I’m looking at you, Specialized, with that preposterous rear shock on the Diverge that looks like it’ll change the saddle angle so it jabs the nose into… well, not a good place to have a saddle nose jabbed into)?

How about the Trek Madone with that seatpost modification that… well, I don’t even know what the hell the point is?

Here’s the fun part; look at Canyon, Trek, Specialized, Giant, Cervelo… the king of the heap being Pinarello. With the exception of the gimmicks, they’ve come to resemble each other so closely you could slap any of their logos on the other and believe that was the actual manufacturer.

Well, maybe we would have to leave Pinarello out of that bunch. They employ more gimmicks per square inch than everyone else combined. I actually look at the F-12 frame and wonder if Dr. Seuss was in on the design phase. Not the person who wrote the Dr. Seuss books… I’m talking about a living, breathing Dr. Freaking-Seuss.

Sadly, this is the way of things now that everything is aero tested in a carbon fiber sausage mill with a wind tunnel. When you have a bicycle, a fairly simple machine, wind is only going to move around that thing a certain way. If you’re going for the most aero, eventually everything looks like everything else. And thank goodness one frame is two seconds faster over 40km than another! In a wind tunnel, of course. Not necessarily outdoors where it actually, you know, matters.

Rant over. That was fun! Perhaps we’ll just stick with our old-school cool steeds…

What Does It Take to Make It Work on a Tandem Bicycle Part One: The Captain’s Perspective

This is going to be part one of, at least, two. Maybe three; I don’t know yet.

My wife and I have become quite the tandem couple. I didn’t see this coming, but I’m glad it did. I’m happier on our tandem than I’ve ever been on a single bike. Being on the same bike with her, while challenging at first, with a lot of work became a bright light in our relationship.

The following is how I approached going from a single bike and self-centered, selfish cycling to being a tandem captain to my wife’s rear admiral. And, as I’ve written here often, this is the proper way to look at the relationship. If I start thinking “I’m the captain and my wife’s “just” the stoker, I am going to create problems for us… because the second I don’t respect my wife and cycling partner is the second I might think she’s making mistakes. If we know anything about exercise, we know that when we start to get tired, our filter seems to let just about anything through and we become considerably more disagreeable. Those two together with someone else to blame are a recipe for disaster… and the tandem hanging on hooks in the garage.

Which is why the rear admiral never makes mistakes.

My wife and I started riding the tandem more during the pandemic because, well, with the government paying us to ride our bikes and everyone else too petrified to ride together, why not? We’d had the bike for something like four years but I had a tough time treating my wife like the rear admiral as I detailed in the previous paragraph. My behavior mixed with her misperceptions of my behavior and entire lack of decent communication had her falling out of favor with the bike.

As we rode alone, though, without my need to keep up with whatever group we normally rode with, I started to relax a little bit. I was getting a great workout and we had each other close by to talk to… and talk we did. I think that led to an opening up of the communication channels that benefited us massively. Then, as the group started riding together more often because we were tired of not seeing our friends (and it became glaringly obvious Covid didn’t transmit well outdoors) and rather than always trying to keep up, my wife suggested we try a Sunday Funday where we capped the pace between 16 or 17-mph for an average. With a few very fast exceptions, this worked a treat.

We’d ride the tandem when we rode alone and on Sunday and the single bikes when we were expecting a faster ride and it was quite fantastic.

At the beginning of last season, literally before the last of the snow melted, I had a complete change of heart regarding our marriage. I mean structurally down to my baby toes change of heart where I realized I had a lot of room to be less self-centered and selfish. I struggled along emotionally but the tandem always brought us together and I grew quite passionate about my wife and I riding it. We had an amazing time.

We took our tandem on our first tour in June, a camping trip up to a town I’d spent weeks every summer in when my parents would ship us off to our grandma’s house for a breather. Jess and I were the sweepers for the tour. She had work obligations to be there and we ran the registration, so after registration was complete and the riders were on their way, we’d suit up and ride. We spent most of the tour riding just she and I. We talked and looked around, and stopped every time the mood struck us to take in the scenery. We never topped 17-mph for an average on either of the three rides.

It was at that point I’d realized what I had been missing out on by being too rigid about keeping up and riding fast. I decided that the aggressive cyclist me had to go. My need to keep up was killing our good time on the tandem. And so it was.

From there it’s just a massive amount of communication – and by that, I mean I had to learn how to properly convey what I needed to in a way that was reassuring to my wife, under pressure, while tired and sweaty…

Once you learn how to do that, and to apologize when you don’t live up to it, then you’re a captain.