Since I am getting ready to do a series of posts and I am going to be encouraging participation in the way of comments, I thought I ought to set some guidelines for said commenting. If you spend any time on FarceBook you have probably seen the pages and pages of comments that are anything but helpful or kind. I don’t want to go down that road on this site.
As such, I have added a Commenting Guidelines page. If you have not read it… I would encourage you to do so now.
I’d love your input. Let me know what you think of the guidelines in the comments on this post.
I am, at times, an aimless wanderer… I admit, it isn’t optimal for getting things done, but it is interesting. I have spent much of the last several months using aimlessness as an excuse not to write here. I kept telling myself, “I have no idea what to write about.” and, “I really have nothing to say.” and even, “Who really wants to read what I think?” It dawned on me though… When I started this project I had NO ONE reading it. A group of people have signed up to follow so there are kind folks willing to commit a few minutes to my silly randomness. Thanks.
So, here I am, in my bathrobe with a glass of something dark and bubbly and my laptop telling you about what you can expect for the next few months. I figure you might as well be informed enough to decide if you want to follow along.
I think, if you have read any of my previous posts, you might have the idea that I am a fan of Brene Brown’s work on wholehearted living. I’m a fan because I stink at it and I want to improve. As such, I’m going to spend the next 10 – 15 posts reflecting on the resonant points in Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection : Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. ( <— affiliate link).
I read the book a couple of years ago and it made a lot of sense, but I am going to revisit it and give you the thoughts of a middle-aged dude on confronting some of the things Brown points out that hold us back from living a wholehearted sort of life. She’s done the research, I’m looking at application from my perspective. You may get stories, or poems, or drawings… or just me talking through it. I hope you will participate in the comments of the next several posts.
About comments: I really want to have comments be a part of the blog experience here. I think conversation is a good thing, but it MUST be civil. If you aren’t sure what that means… don’t comment.
One more thing: I will send a copy of the book to someone (one randomly chosen person with an address in the United States, to be clear) who comments on this post by Friday, December 2, 2016 @ 5:30 pm. The only requirements are that you tell me why you want a copy of the book and you are or become an active subscriber/follower of OneSureChord.com using the sign-up on the top right side of the blog. If you comment, follow the blog, and are chosen (randomly, of course) I will respond to your comment to let you know and send you an e-mail to get your shipping info. Cool?
I’ve been a bicyclist, but for the last several months I have been a walker/hiker. The bicycle and I had a rough patch in our relationship last year. Pushing myself too hard and one close encounter with a Ford truck has me pretty skittish to get back in the saddle. I will get back to it. In the meantime I’ve been trudging about the forest happily.
Bicycling for me is an endurance challenge… I don’t ride fast and I don’t ride far, but I do like to ride farther than the everyday bicyclist. 20-40 miles is a nice ride. The problem is, for a ride of that length, I have to ride with cars and trucks on the roadways. As one rides on the roads, it becomes apparent quickly that many motorists either don’t care about or don’t like bicyclists. It makes for some frightening moments. Those moments were happening too often when I did finally quit riding, approximately nine months ago.
It then became evident that I would need to find something else to do to keep active and moving. Inactivity is bad. It actually hurts more than long bike rides in the cold. I was feeling the pain of sitting so I got some boots and started hiking.
When I began, I was treating hiking as a contest. I had to go faster and farther and prove something to someone. After a couple of months of that… I realized that the only one who cared about how fast and far I was going was me. It also seemed like I was hiking in beautiful places and missing it. So I chose to slow down.
I have done three hikes in the last two weeks. Those three hikes represent, to me, an affirmation of what I thought might be true. Hiking is best when it is savored. Hiking has healing effects when it isn’t a competition. Hiking can be therapeutic. As I consider my thinking and learning there are three things that are clear now about me and hiking.
First of all… I am stronger than I thought I was. I have never been very good at gauging my performance on a bicycle. I would pedal to keep up or pedal to catch up or pedal to get home as fast as possible. In the end, I would just be depleted. Not that I ran out of fuel, but emotionally I would be spent. I could never find a rhythm or sweet spot where I could just go all day. With hiking… that rhythm is easy to find. I went on a 7.5ish mile hike on Saturday. I went with the idea that I would walk with purpose, but I wouldn’t wear myself out. I wanted to get to the end and still feel like I could keep going. As I got going and my heart rate came up… I could feel my breathing syncing with my footfalls. I felt like I was leaning into the walk. and before I knew it I had walked 4 miles.
At that point I was joined by friends who are runners and in my estimation, more fit than I am. I was a little worried when they came running down the trail and told me they would walk with me. What had been a comfortable pace for me, I imagined would not be for them. 2 miles later, I was still feeling great. By the time we reached the end of my walk, I still felt like I could do the entire walk again. It was interesting to me that while we were still going faster than most of the other hikers on the trail, I was able to keep up, hold a conversation, and speed up when it was necessary to pass others. At the end of the walk, I was amazed to see that I had walked the loop 45 minutes faster than the first time I walked it and I wasn’t nearly as tired.
In addition to feeling stronger I have learned to appreciate the quiet solitude of the forest. The quiet of the forest is different from the quiet of a room. It is a bigger quiet. It is a quiet that has underpinnings of life and noise, but it’s not noisy. Much of the noise in the forest is that same noise I try to create at home in order to get to sleep. Running water, wind in the leaves, and birds singing are all powerfully quiet and soothing. Often, in my office after children leave, I sit in the “quiet” and try to get things done. The quiet of the office can be stifling, like a wet wool blanket over my head. It’s too quiet, too heavy, smothering… lonely.
Which brings me to the last bit I have learned. The forest is lovely for solitary walking and thinking, but is equally lovely when shared. Sharing a hike is different from other social activities. When I share a meal with someone there is usually continual conversation and interaction. Hiking with others doesn’t mean that you spend the whole time talking. I think the experience of it and taking it all in is the key to sharing a hike. I have been inviting people to hike now for three months. My family always goes and it’s great having them along, but I also like hiking with friends.
We had the privilege of sharing a miserable, rainy hike with another
family and although we were all drenched and chilly by the end, no one was complaining. I learned a lot about hiking that day and how to prepare better for things like unexpected downpours. On another occasion we got to spend the day with a colleague and his son. We walked, hiked, rode a tram and took mass transit. It was an adventure. I’ve learned a lot about my family and my friends. Those lessons are the ones that stick. They build relationships.
Hiking and therapy have come to be similar in my mind. Both are about self-discovery and building up strength of mind and spirit. My time in the woods is restorative after suffering the daily grind of work and politics. I go to the woods… to laugh… to learn… to live.
Who wants to come along?
When it comes to “giving up” the first thing I think is, it’s a quitters phrase. I was raised, like many of us were, are, or will be, thinking that quitting is BAD. It’s a societal thing. Quitting is frowned upon.
When I think of giving up I initially think of defeat. Someone beaten down who can no longer muster the courage to stand back up. It’s a melancholy state of being. But then… I have to think a little more.
Giving up. Is it ALWAYS bad? Is giving up cowardly? Is giving up weakness? After the initial thoughts fade I consider some of the following:
Giving up cigarettes, booze or other chemicals that have garnered too much control in our lives. Giving up on relationships that are, one-sided, controlling, abusive. Giving up on a job that is a sad compromise at best. Giving up on habits like overeating, gambling, and watching porn that can be pretty destructive. Giving up on trying to accumulate things instead of living abundantly.
All of these require courage, commitment to an ideal, a plan, support and time. The outcome for any of these give ups will likely be a more fulfilling and pleasant life which isn’t a bad thing. As a matter of fact, I think if we could see the good outcome in advance, clearly, we would be less inclined to have fear around giving up.
I think one of the biggest problems is when we allow others perceptions of us shape how we think, act and feel. If we worry how people will think of us if we give up, we will likely never be free of that trouble.
Others perceptions play a huge role when one has to admit to being an alcoholic or long-term drug user. It’s scary to out the skeletons from the closet of a lifetime of living with an abusive partner. No one wants to be considered an addict. It’s hard to admit when the job one has worked a lifetime to keep has really been a source of pain and displeasure. We all end up wanting to save face.
My struggle is beer. I am not an alcoholic, but beer plays a pretty significant role in many of my social situations. I like to brew beer. I think I’m pretty good at it. I have MANY friends with whom I associate around beer. They are great people. Love all of them. I worry though, if I make the decision to “give up” beer, we may not have anything to talk about and they may find me to be a bore, or a prude or a teetotaler, yet… when I don’t drink beer, I feel better, physically and mentally. It’s right there, I am ultimately worried about what they will think about me. And maybe, it doesn’t matter. If they are truly my friends, they will understand.
Giving up… maybe it’s ok.