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This is not going to be an easy post to take – especially if you’re a negative person who likes to blame your problems on others… Good luck!
Positivism doesn’t happen on it’s own. I didn’t wake up this morning and realize my life was spectacular enough that I can now go about being a happy positive guy. Shit just doesn’t work like that. For anyone.
There are constant forces at work to drag us down, right? People who wrong us and make us angry? People, places or things that make us this, or make us feel that?
Well yes there are, but they only count for anything if I want to be dragged down. And stay down. That isn’t me.
The trick to relentless positivism
I have to completely divorce myself from the outside world when it comes to concentrating my energy on my attitude. The second “you” enter my train of thought, I’m pooched. People, places and things are entirely out of my control. It’s not about how the outside world is, but how I perceive it and how I then, in turn, react to it.
My positivism is not an accident….
If you’ve been following along for any length of time, you know I was working on a difficult project a couple of hours’ commute from my house. Each way. We were given a target date when the owner was going to start moving furniture in. My boss, just back in April, confided in me that he thought it was an impossible goal, that it wasn’t going to happen – there was no way the owners would be moving in on time.
My team beat the date by three weeks. It’s been an ugly process getting there, but we’re there. We blew the budget, of course, because you can have something built fast, built well, and built inexpensively… you only get to pick two. The owner picked fast and built well and we delivered. It cost an arm and a leg.
I gave that job everything I had, every day. I didn’t miss a minute of work, not even to have a crown fixed that I’d accidentally loosened on a Jujyfruit the day before I was to start – I put that crown back on and ate on the other side of my mouth until I had an open vacation day four months later that I used to go to the dentist. There were several days I’d have to stop at a rest area on the way home to take a nap because I was getting too tired to drive safely. I had only had three waking hours a day for my family. My wife and kids got to a point they told me they missed me… but I still took that job by the horns and I made it my bitch. One day at a time.
On my last day, several of the foremen from the other subcontractors told me how much they were going to miss my positive attitude on the job, that I was a light on that site.
Folks, that four months (and some change) out of my life was hard. My car broke down twice, I had that tooth issue, my glasses broke, my phone was stolen, the owner’s management team rode us like red-headed rented mules… there were a dozen other little things that could have brought me down but I didn’t budge. I just kept motoring ahead, one day at a time, with my eye on the prize.
My friends, not letting that outside stuff get to me was, plain and simple, a choice. At each opportunity to fail or fold, I thought to myself, “Is this the thing that you let bring you down?” Each time I answered “F*** NO.” I became so relentlessly positive that I got strength from making the choice to stay positive, to keep winning. Just the act of acknowledging the difficulty and that I wasn’t going to let it break me made me stronger, more resolute. More positive.
It wasn’t always easy. I wasn’t perfect. There were times the drive really got to me. The look on my wife’s face when she said she and the girls missed me… driving down to work without my glasses was scary as hell (my eyes are not bad enough I couldn’t pass the State’s eye test – my driver’s license did not require corrective lenses, I’d just gotten so used to seeing perfectly…). One particular time, when my team and I were on the hot seat to get some critical work done and we were struggling to produce, that one almost got me. I quieted up for two days… but then I realized what I was doing to myself and I asked that most important question. “Will this be the thing I let bring me down?”
I bounced back the next day.
I have a choice of whether or not I will let an event or another person bring me down. Every single day. I don’t know what God’s plan for me is, but if my past is any indicator, He’s got some big plans and I’m going to have a lot of fun fulfilling them. Either I can get on with it, or I can curl up in a ball on the floor and stick my thumb in my mouth. It’s my choice.
That stack of drywall you see under the bridge is all we’ve got left on a job that needed more than 2,000,000 sf. That’s it. There’s so little remaining to do, I’ve worked myself right out of the job – there’s nothing to gain by having full-time project manager-level supervision on site anymore so I was sent back to the office to save money.
I don’t have to be perfect, or mistake-free. I don’t have to be the best, or the strongest. I just have to give it my best and care about what I do. I have to choose to remain positive. The key to being positive is choosing to be positive, and refusing to let my negative thoughts get in my way.
I can choose to quit and ball up in the fetal position tomorrow. As long as I remember that tomorrow never gets here.
As we don our red, white and blue, may we always remember what we declared independence from in the first place – and it wasn’t just British rule.
From the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution of the United States, everything was set up to ensure one thing; the Independence of the People of the United States.
This is why the Constitution was written as a limitation on government, not the people. Anyone who tells you otherwise is ignorant or is seeking to rule you. Don’t take my word for it, either. Read it. Often. Please. What makes our Constitution different from other nations is that our freedom isn’t granted by government. Our freedom is natural, we’re born with it, so when you hear some knucklehead talk about a “living, evolving, changing Constitution”, that’s the part they want to change, they’re just too lily-livered to say it. They want the government to be the grantor of rights and the arbiter of freedom. Once that happens, folks, you’re no longer free.
nouna person who settles a dispute or has ultimate authority in a matter.
As it is now, the arbiter of freedom is God. If you think your freedom is better off in the hands of a politician, you’re deeply mistaken. And likely nuts.
While our Country is, and its Founding was, far from perfect, there’s a reason we went from start-up to the most prosperous nation on earth in 200 years…. politicians have had their hands tied by a document.
It’s important to put politicians in their proper place in the food chain. What is the world’s oldest profession? Well, the second oldest is politician and that’s all you need to know.
So there was only one thing that I could do
Was ding a ding dang my dang a long ling long
One of my best riding buddies, Jonathan, just picked up a 2012 Venge, and got a smokin’ deal on it… Then he went to work on it. The bar tape is new, the wheels are new, even the drivetrain is new (it had SRAM Red and was upgraded to eTap).
That got me to thinking about mine, of course… because, like Jonathan’s Venge, mine is far from stock. The frame, fork, and chain rings are about the only original parts on the bike. The saddle is the same model as the original, but a year older… it matches the color scheme a little better.
I ended up taking the Venge out the other day for what was supposed to be a recovery ride day – typically not a good idea because I have a tendency to push the speed a little too much to be able to call it a “recovery” ride. My target, as I was standing in the driveway waiting for traffic to clear was 19 (ish) miles at 17-1/2-mph… I ended up doing 19.75 in just over an hour (19.3-mph average when the dust cleared). So much for a recovery ride.
Everything on my Venge is in perfect working order. Nothing squeaks or creaks (with the exception of the cleats if I forget to lube them up now and again). When I get out of the saddle, the only sound is the whoosh – whoosh – whoosh distinctive to carbon fiber wheels and the subtle hiss of tires on asphalt. The shifts are clean and crisp. My Venge is a lot like a fifteen pound Ferrari.
In addition, everything on my Venge is color coordinated as perfectly as I can get it. I went through a great deal of effort and money to make sure everything was right… and anything that was only close got changed out. From the brakes, to the saddle, and the bottle cages to my Garmin, everything was chosen to get that bike as close to stylistically perfect (without going overboard to gaudy, say by adding red bar tape and red cable housing…). I did the best I could with the money I had.
The Specialized Venge is the best-represented make and model on our Tuesday night club ride by more than threefold, and for good reason. The Venge, especially the first generation, is the quintessential aero race bike. Pure racing geometry, stiff as a board, exceptionally light at the Ultegra+ model (mine is 15 pounds – 16 with pedals and cages included), the Venge is all go and no slow, baby.
My Venge is no longer the newest, most “aero” thing on the road… but it’s hella-fast and it’s me, right down to the red and black, purposely mismatched carbon fiber bottle cages.
Standing there, sweating in my driveway, uploading my ride from my Garmin to the interwebs, I couldn’t help but think back to one of my favorite Ministry songs…
Jesus built my road bike
It’s a love affair
Mainly Jesus and my Venge
Without my recovery, there’s nothing. No wife, no kids, no house, no job, no cars, no cycling, no freedom, no happiness, no joy… I will freely give all of those away to stay drunk. I have no control once alcohol enters my system. And the notion that I might successfully use some other drug in lieu of alcohol because alcohol is my “drug of choice” is simply preposterous. Laughable to the extent that anyone who believes such nonsense doesn’t have what I have. Living in the solution, a life without mood or mind-altering substances, is the only way that works for an addict like me. That’s just how I roll.
With that in mind, and considering I’m woefully short on time lately, due to work, how can I stay up on my recovery with only three waking hours after work?
Technology offers so many options to maintain recovery, it’s hard to imagine how they did it back in the 1930’s.
My sponsor and I split duties when it comes to opening up our favorite meeting. Normally we open it together after we have dinner together, but when one of us goes on vacation, the other takes the solo responsibility. The other day it was my turn. As is often the case in the early spring on a nice evening, attendance is sporadic. I was the only one to show.
I opened my Joe and Charlie tapes app and listened to “How It Works”. Then, for a laugh, on the way home I listened to “about sex” because there’s nothing funnier than a couple of old-timers offering a lesson on coitus. To say I pulled in the driveway with a smile on my face was an understatement. I was refreshed. Happy. Content. Comfortable in the knowledge that everything was as it should be. Revived is a good word. Rejuvenated might be even better. Other days I’ve read from the Daily Reflections, or from the Big Book itself. I can call my sponsor, work on a resentment, work with a newcomer, or write a blog post… Whatever it takes put the focus back on what matters most; another day clean and sober is my only hope for a happy existence.
The most important thing to remember as a recovering addict and alcoholic is without recovery, there’s nothing else.
And I can have my misery of living in addiction back any time I want it. All I have to do is take a drink.
Cycling and the High Capacity Water Bottles; Not Quite as Useless as Nipples on a Bull, but Close. A Funny Junior Science Experiment.
I will first cop to using the high capacity 26 oz. water bottles for years, thinking I needed them because I’m an endurance cyclist.
I am. I like the long distances and light, racy bikes. Here’s a photo of my Specialized Venge the day I brought it home in late 2013:
Big, Extra oz. H2O bottles
I swore I needed the extra capacity to keep me hydrated. One day I noticed the shorter regular water bottles were used predominantly by the faster crowd. I thought they were dupes.
Then, I bought carbon fiber bottle cages for the Venge. The hi-cap bottles rattled when I hit a bump and it drove me nuts. Eventually, I happened on a small, regular capacity water bottle that worked with the bottle cages. I still carried the big bottles around for the long rides and lived with the rattle, though.
I needed the extra hydration, right?
Look real close at that photo… that’s from last year, on the Northwest Tour with my friends, a 72 mile day.
Well, one day I’d decided to use a regular bottle after filling up a junior. I dumped the contents of the small bottle into the regular and my jaw dropped.
Folks, there was a sip’s difference. A sip.
Don’t take my word for it… try the experiment yourself.
Better, there’s only a sip’s difference between the regular and the high capacity bottle. A sip.
I never used one of those big bottles again, and I’ve never regretted it or prematurely run out of something to drink on a ride.
It’s not that they’re entirely useless, those big bottles. They rattle around in carbon fiber cages. And we can’t have that. If, after completing the experiment for yourself, you still feel you need a big ole water bottle, by all means; have at it. I’d bet you see the light I did, though.
Why am I so lucky? I take the time to contemplate this now and again.
I’ve been active all but five years of my life. Not “I broke five bones and had seven operations” active – in fact, I’ve never broken a bone (knock wood). My level of activity is best described simply as, “I get my ass off the couch and move” active. I don’t live paycheck to paycheck, but I’m not that far off, either. I have decent genes, but I’ve got heart disease on mom’s side and Alzheimer’s on dad’s – they’re not great, either.
My brother-in-law once said that it was spooky how much I looked like my dad. He’s right, too. I am a chip off the old block. My mom happened to be there, we were helping my sister and brother-in-law move to a new house, heard him say that and chimed in, “You do, but you’re a much healthier version of your dad. You look much better than he did at your age… because of all of the alcohol, I think”.
I am, without question, a much healthier version of my father in terms of pickling and fitness….
I don’t live in any physical pain anymore. Cycling fixed almost everything that ailed me on that front, including an unrelenting bad back. I don’t have knee problems, feet problems, or disease problems (now that I’ve been in recovery).
On one hand, I often think I might be some kind of freak because I haven’t aged like a lot of other people. On the other, I don’t put much stock in the whole “freak” angle because, in truth, I lead a simple, clean, healthy (relatively), happy life. More important, I have a happy outlook on the life that I’ve got – I excel at staying positive. Combine that with no smoking, no alcohol, zero drugs, an actual program of recovery (not just white-knuckling it), a relatively diet, and a veritable $#!+ ton of daily physical activity… Well, looking at it that way I don’t think there’s much luck to it at all.
Nor is my story special…. In fact, I’d say I’m run-of-the-mill in terms of recovering folks. Maybe slightly above average, but not by much. Everything good in my life started with recovery, and that’s why I keep coming back.
Modern treatment and what is now deceptively termed “evidence based” recovery is often based on something other than recovery. It’s based on managing a decline, or slowing the spiral to the drain. It’s based on the kooky notion that a person like me has a hope of drinking successfully at some point. That’s all good enough for government work, but as far as I’m concerned, I’ve touched the burner on the stove enough to know the f***er’s hot and I don’t have to grab it anymore.
That relapse-based decline management system may work for some, but not this guy. I’ll take happy and healthy over a managed swirly. Any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
I leave work a little after 3 pm and it’s a two-hour commute home from my current job. This is not a complaint, I’m on what is probably the best job I’ve ever had the pleasure of building – I’m in the middle of my most enjoyable work experience in my career, and that’s no exaggeration. The job is seriously getting in the way of my cycling habit, though. It’s not rare for me to rather the trainer than riding outside, simply because the set-up is quicker.
I pulled into the driveway at 4:55 last evening, got the bike ready, and rolled it out the door just before 5:30. My normal weekday riding bud, Chuck, has been inundated with work lately so he couldn’t make it – I had to roll solo. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, but it was just barely out of the 30’s (5 C)… and the north wind was cold… and I was headed directly into it. One north, then a break for two heading west, followed by another north and one west and another north, by the time I hit my first tailwind, I was good and ready. I was a little chilly and had thought about turning the train around more than once – too much work related noise distracting the melon committee – until I hit that tailwind. All of a sudden everything cleared out and was okay as I was cruised along at 20+ (32-36 km/h). I’d opted for the Venge because it was perfectly sunny out and I marveled at how perfectly quiet and responsive the bike is. It’s truly a wonder of engineering, that bike.
As I hit a little decline with the tailwind I pressed on the pedals a little harder and the bike responded. 24, 25, 26-mph… then a sharp left and I was back on the gas. I passed a few people standing on the side of the road at 23, not even the whirring of the chain. Just a whoosh as I went by.
A mile north, in through a subdivision, then out onto the main road and a bike lane. On the way down a small hill a girl leaned out the window of an older maroon Pontiac Grand Prix and catcalled me. I think, considering today’s politics, I should have been offended but I’m old enough to still think of that as a compliment. A couple of more miles east and it was pay-off time for the ride. The home stretch with a tailwind for three of four miles.
Heading up a shallow incline with the wind at my back I didn’t bother pushing the pace. Monday is always a fun day in preparation for Tuesday’s hammer. I just let the wind do its thing and push me home. I rolled into the driveway just under 58 minutes for the 17-1/2 mile route. A little faster than I should have wanted but I was just happy to have gotten out, and stuck with it until the ride got fun. By 6:40 I was showered. I’d eaten by 7:00 and I was out like a light before 8 pm. The sun had just gone down as I drifted off.
What a life. It’s as good as it gets.