I am really looking forward to my vacation next week. Like, really. I’m not doing any incredible international travel or anything. I’m just going home to St. Louis for five days. I have to check on my house there that I’m renting out, which likely needs a new roof. Luckily, St. Louis is a relatively cheap town for housing repair; it’s a cheap labor city. So it will be reasonably affordable to get it done, I hope. And of course, when you rent out a house, repairs are tax deductible. Which means that come next April/May, I’ll get some of it back. That house has been so bulletproof for so long that I’m starting to get scared that a bunch of things are going to happen at once.
Work anxiety is up a little bit too. We’re hiring someone to help me, and now I’m afraid: what happens if I don’t have enough work for them to do? What if I have to work a huge amount harder because of them? Why am I being ambitious here? Shouldn’t I just shut up, keep my head down, and do the work that I can do and do it quietly? Maybe that would be the better way to go. Maybe it would be the best thing for my recovery. Don’t be too ambitious. Find a quiet spot where I can settle into a calm, relaxed career.
But I’m looking forward to going back to St. Louis. I’ll be going to a baseball game with Lawn Boy and Jimmy Legs. I’ll be seeing my old shrink, and my old marriage counselor each, for a check in. I expect to cry a lot. Which will be good for me, I think. And I’m going to go to my AA Men’s Meeting next Wednesday. And boy will that be good. I miss the hell out of those guys. I like my men’s meeting here in ECC, but the group of guys at the Lindell Club Wednesday night is special.
And I’ll be running in St. Louis. Marathon training doesn’t pause for vacation. This past weekend BB and I ran a 14.4 miler, which basically ties for my longest run ever. According to my GPS, I missed my longest run ever by about 30 yards. We did it in about 2:34, which means that even in the heat and humidity of midsummer, we’re running much faster than 15 months ago when we ran our first half marathon. 10% further in 4 fewer minutes. But I know that this weekend will be a challenge. 15 miles without BB running beside me for inspiration will be very difficult.
BB leaves for Iceland Friday evening. She’ll be there for a week, running trails and so forth. I expect she’ll have the world’s best time, though traveling “alone” (she’ll be with a running group) can be lonely sometimes. I know that I’ll be lonely without her. We’ve spoken nearly every single day since we first met. I think we might’ve missed one while I was in London last summer. Next week, we’ll certainly miss several days while she is in the Icelandic wilderness. Apparently, the geniuses in Reykjavik haven’t finished installing the wifi tundra routers yet.
Things are good. But I definitely need time to rest, recuperate, and unload. I’m looking forward to time with old friends and familiar places.
Tomorrow morning, we have 14 miles on the schedule. Twice before in my life, I’ve run 14+ miles. Once about 2 weeks ago, and once last fall. I’m excited but also feeling a little tired. My training this week was good, but I monkeyed around with the schedule. I took Monday off entirely, feeling tired and having a sore throat. Well, not sore exactly. The feeling came on overnight and I felt like someone had punched me in the throat three days before. It’s still not quite right.
Then Tuesday I did a full strength and conditioning workout with my trainer, followed by a 5.3 mile run. It was slow, but it felt good to do a lot of work. Wednesday I was scheduled to run, but my knee felt tight after the hard day Tuesday, so I rode 16.35 miles on the bike instead, which took about 75 minutes. A good cross-training day. Yesterday I ran 5.6 miles.
So, starting the week Sunday, I’ve done two gym workouts, 14.2 miles running, and 16.3 miles on the bike. I’ll do 14 tomorrow, and that will round out a successful week of training, I think, even though the schedule got mixed up. Today is normally a rest day, but since I took Monday off, BB and I are thinking of a light gym workout or a bike ride tonight.
In the past calendar year I have run 1015.3 miles. Of which 55.5 were competitive. I’ve also averaged two days a week in the gym, and now, over the past two months or so, I’ve ridden 197.6 miles. If you had told me a year ago that I would do all that, I’d have guessed I’d be a lot fitter than I am now. I’m discovering that fitness is really, really hard to attain.
I mean, yes, obviously. As a person on twitter said to me not too long ago, when has it been evolutionarily advantageous to lose weight easily? And yes, I know that fitness and weight are not perfect correlates, but they go together pretty consistently. But I seem to have hit a plateau. After losing about 50 pounds (22.7kg, for my metric friends, and 1.4 pood for the Russians), I’ve stalled. I’ve been hovering around 185 lbs for about eighteen months despite all the work I’m doing.
But my body has changed dramatically. I’m trimmer, and I even wear a 40R suit jacket for the first time in my adult life. I can do three pull-ups in a row without putting my feet down. Even though I still have a reasonably thick blanket of flab about the middle, I am capable of doing things that were so far beyond my abilities a few years ago that it didn’t even occur to me to dream of doing them.
And that’s the real goal of fitness for me. Yes, I’m incredibly vain and I’d love to look good naked and all that. But what I really want is to be healthy and active and able to enjoy the things I’d like to enjoy. Being active allows me to eat things I like to eat without much remorse. It allows me to participate in things that I enjoy without being miserable, like walking for hours and hours and hours in a strange city. Or just playing. This weekend, I think we’re going to go to a waterpark. I love waterparks and I almost never go. And I’ll have the energy and fitness to run around and play for hours, because of the work I’ve put in.
I am approaching my fitness much like I approach my sobriety. Incremental progress. Progress, not perfection. I am doing better than I was, better than I thought I could. I will never be perfect. Not in any aspect of my life. But I feel good about where I am and where I’m heading. Life is good. I feel strong and healthy and sober and happy. And I feel ready for the next challenge, whatever that is.
Given that I’m starting another year here, I thought I’d copy (well, adapt) a trend and ask a few questions of my readers.
1) Tell me about yourself. Who are you? Are you in recovery, or do you know someone who is? And if not, what brought you here and why have you stayed?
2) Have you told anyone else about this blog? Why? Was it someone who you thought needed to hear about sobriety? Ever sent anything to family members or groups of friends who don’t understand your situation?
3) How did you find us and how do you regularly follow us? through Twitter, Facebook and/or other beyond-RSS mechanisms?
I was asked in the comments of my last post, what has been a highlight of this past year, the year I was 40? There have been so many it’s hard to keep track. I have deepened my relationship with the woman I expect to spend the rest of my life with. I have improved my fitness and health in ways I never thought would be possible for me. I have advanced my career dramatically. I’ve published in new areas and I’ve been promoted. It’s been a good year. Thank you all for being a part of it.
A morsel of flesh draped on a scaffold of bone, pressed against an enormous spinning ball whirling around a nuclear fire too massive to contemplate. Which is itself a pinprick of pale yellow light in a vast darkness. I am small. Forty-one circuits of this cone of gravity. A paper in the basement of a hospital somewhere says so. It is inked with the imprint of my feet.
I am my own kind of light. I am a thing of intention and I have in me whatever it is we have in us that makes us alive. I have learned, after a great length of indifference, to cherish that. To hold as precious the clockwork of living. To be in myself in the world a grateful part of it.
This is my line of fire in the sky. I am a beating heart, boiling in the void. Forty-one times that beating heart has circled its star. But whatever I am made of has been here from the beginning. And whatever I am made of will be here until the end. We are all eternal.
While I linger here, I will be a voice for gratitude. I will wonder without apology. I will stumble and I will stand and I will stride forward again. I am small. But I am big to me. I am the only me that I have. I have gone, in my estimation of myself, from the center to the periphery. I have surrendered to irrelevance. But I am still me, to me.
So here, a strange reaction of chemistry and physics has survived another passage of its great circle. This last one was a good one. I hope we all have a good one this time round. All these shining lights. We are a beacon. I am a flame in a fire of a whole burning world. A fire of life. Blazing in an infinite night.
The internet, particularly twitter, has become a wonderful new way to cast stones at sinners. The latest eruption, the dentist who killed an African lion for sport, is currently being played out. It’s distasteful to kill large, elegant animals, especially those with uncertain futures at the species level. We shouldn’t do it. And here this rich man has gone and done it. In a shady – though perhaps not illegal – way. Other things that have come to light about his background suggest he’s a generally unsavory character.
I feel like there was almost a sigh of relief in the internet when this came to attention. There has been so much to be furious about lately. An enormous amount of absolutely legitimate rage is percolating constantly. The city of Cincinnati is preparing for riots in anticipation of the release of yet another video of yet another cop killing yet another unarmed black man. It keeps going on and on, and I don’t see an end or a solution, sadly. I don’t know how you fix a problem like a nationwide denigration of the right to life and liberty for a segment of our population.
When this dentist shot this lion, I felt a gasp of release online. Here is a problem which is clean cut and simple. It fits all the right pegs into all the right holes. A rich white man, with a history of being accused of sexual harassment, has killed a lion for no reason other than his own selfish pride. And a beloved lion, at that. It is the essence of imperialism distilled to a fine elixir of privilege and arrogance.
There are many times when rage is not only justified, but required. The last year, since the death of Michael Brown and the parade of likewise unacceptable atrocities, there has been cause for rage, activism, and change. We’ve seen some. The President has ended a program by which police departments are given military surplus equipment. That’s a small but good start. More and more police wear body-cameras. That’s a small but good start. Video of these horrific events is being broadcast to the world. That’s critical accountability. In Baltimore, police were charged with murder and other crimes. We may finally be turning a corner toward justice.
But amidst all this important rage is another kind. An ugly kind. A fashionable kind. The kind directed at this dentist. For a few, perhaps, this is their issue. Their science. Their hill to bleed for. But not many. For most, it’s about the opportunity to be outraged and mean while being on the right side of a political issue that their friends will praise them for. The victim of this public shaming is seen as deserving it.
And far be it from me to defend him. I wouldn’t kill a lion, and I’d prefer others didn’t too. But I know for damned sure that I’ve done things that, if suddenly thrust into the public sphere, would have many howling for my own blood. Fashionably. Popularly. And so has every person in the mob assailing him.
Lots of academic philosophers defend (or deny the existence of) internet mobs. It’s simply the public’s individualized expressions collated. There’s nothing wrong with it. But there is. At the mob level, and at the individual level. There’s no introspection. So few people seem to be able to imagine themselves placed in another person’s position. Every single one of us has done something that warrants the same kind of reaction as this man killing this lion, to some community. Each of us has done something that some community thinks ought to condemn us to death.
The vast, secular internet community, especially my community, the academic community, is as pious and repressive as any church. It is as puritan. And it wields the same weapons that mobs have wielded since the time of Socrates. Ostracism. The mob send mass emails to employers. The mob makes public the associations of individuals seen to be apostates. These are the stones of modern times, and they can be just as deadly as the literal sort.
But my what a relief, isn’t it, to be outraged about something that doesn’t really matter? A dentist and a lion and now we get to shame someone! Hopefully, we can hound him to destitution! He deserves whatever he gets, right?
There’s a place for all this rage. We need to change our society, and change access to liberty and justice. But rage has become a sport. One we can all participate in. It’s ugly. Because we’re ugly.
I had a great weekend with my old friend from St. Louis, Jimmy Legs, visiting. We went to a soccer game and the art museum and we just sort of generally hung out. And we walked and walked and walked. BB was here this weekend too, and so we also did our training runs. 11.2 miles on Saturday, and 3.3 on Sunday. So, 14.5 miles running. And 45.5 miles walking over the four day Friday-Monday stretch. And an hour-long strength and conditioning workout on Sunday.
And so yesterday afternoon I was cooked. I had to beg off my training run. Well, I don’t know if I had to, but I did. I was exhausted, and sore. So I was scheduled to do five miles yesterday and instead I didn’t run at all. I still got in more than 9 miles walking. But no running. There’s just only so much I can do, and if I need an extra day, I’m taking it. Today I have a training session with my personal trainer, and then I will try to add on the run after.
I have taken to riding my bike for an hour after my training session. So I think a nice slow five mile run should also be possible. It’ll be hot, but I don’t think it’s crazy to try to do the run today. I’ll see how I feel. There’s a long way to go in training, and skipping a day is not unreasonable. Rest is crucial to good performance. But I also need to get in my short runs if I’m going to be fit for the long ones.
So I don’t know what I’ll do this afternoon yet. But I’ll get my mileage in.
I see a lot of people in the world invested in being unhappy. This is true in relationships, careers, and personal goals and activities. As an alcoholic, my investment in my addiction was an investment in unhappiness. In exchange for the momentary flood of intoxication that I thought I needed, I surrendered my joy and desire and success and contentment. I use to lament that I just wanted to be happy. And yet I sabotaged myself at every turn.
Much of my unhappiness was associated with trying to get what I wanted and control the outcome of my circumstances. I was terrible at recognizing what I could control and what I couldn’t. I felt victimized by random events going against me. And I externalized my own mistakes onto the actions of others, so that I wouldn’t be to blame for my own failings. This is a seductive trap. Feeling like a victim excuses so much. It obviates the need to actually work to change my circumstances.
A few things I’ve learned, now, as a sober person in life have helped me move out of that shadow of self-enforcing despair. The past is the past. No one can ever control the past. But we can let it be in the past. One of my favorite movies, Magnolia, has a refrain that “We may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.” And that’s definitely true. But we can choose to set it down, and stop engaging with it, actively. Decide to move on instead of living there and trying to correct it.
Obsession is another source of self-arranged misery. I can get deeply interested in topics, and that’s a strength of mine. It helps me learn and grow. But I can also take things far overboard, and become entrenched in detail and minutia. I am avoiding this with my fitness. I don’t have a heart rate monitor. I don’t count calories much. I know that I could get lost in the quantification of my fitness, and that that would lead me to stop enjoying it.
I read a number of running blogs, and I find so many people obsessing about their time and distance and pulse rate and VO2 Max or something and then talking about how their last three runs were awful because they didn’t make a specific goal or mark. I guess that’s fine if that’s where your goals lie. Personally, I resist making goals that require that. My runs might be hard or easy or fun or awful. But I never really feel like I wasted my run, or had a terrible week running, or whatever. Every time I run, it’s a time I ran. I did something good for myself. I’m happy.
I have decided to try to live without investing in my own unhappiness. I’m not going to participate in things that I can’t influence in positive ways. I’m try to avoid outcome-based assessments of my performance at work and on the running path. I measure what I put in, not what I get out. Sometimes, if I put in more than zero, it’s too much. Sometimes, I need to put in all I can repeatedly, and be grateful I have that opportunity.