You can only change yourself…

My small group ministry from church closed our discussion on family tonight with the following quote from an unknown monk circa 1100 A.D. I was really drawn to this quote because it answers very succinctly the conclusion I was clumsily trying to get to a few entries ago in my frustration with being unable to change the world.

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realized that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.

How simply beautiful. I read this over and over and I tell myself that, unlike the old man in this dialog, I am not too old to change myself. There’s still time. Maybe I won’t get so far as to change the world, but I’ll shoot for making an impact on my family and my “town” (town being, really, my immediate community, where ever in the here and the future that “town” is).

I can only change myself. Others may or may not follow my example. That doesn’t take anything away from the experience because I’ve at least done something for myself. And maybe, just maybe, I’ve touched a few people along the way. Isn’t that what Jesus was really saying when he asked people to “Follow me”? Lead by example, not by force. Be the best person you can be to yourself and to others. Such actions do indeed inspire change.

Heavens to Betsy!

My grandpa H’s favorite exclamation whenever he heard something absurd or surprising was, “Oh, heavens to Betsy!” Whenever I think of my grandpa H, that phrase pops into my mind because he said it so often.

Grandma H used to respond, like a comedy routine, “Bernard, I don’t know who this Betsy woman is, but you’ve been talking about her for the last forty years!”

It used to send me into fits of laughter when I was young. I’d never heard this expression before; to date, my grandpa H is the only person I have ever known to use it. A few years ago, I was determined to revive this phrase into the popular lingo, but I keep forgetting to use it. My favorite expression, which I’ve used for years, is something I must have heard on some old television show, “Egads!”

Over the last couple days, I’ve contemplated renewing my effort to bring “Heavens to Betsy” back into the common cannon of expressions. I need some silly expressions to counterbalance my natural tendency to use swear words now that so many of my close friends are spawning children. Maybe it’s about time I should clean up my act. Funny how I never attempted that at the birth of my godson, Dylan… But I guess finally age is getting the better of me and I realize that shouting obscene exclamations, while nicely shocking, might be offensive and give a bad first impression of me.

Besides, cute expressions such as “Holy buckets” (something I read on the Prairie Home Companion website) and “Heavens to Betsy” really bring color and ethnicity into your conversation. So while I’m vying to bring back “Heavens to Betsy,” does anyone out there have any unique expressions you’ve picked up in your youth or from people you’ve met along your life’s journey?

Oh, and feel free to borrow “Heavens to Betsy.” Each time you do, my grandpa H smiles!

Added Later: Apparently the origins of “Heavens to Betsy” are a mystery. Wikipedia.org also revealed to me that there was a punk band in the 90’s named Heavens to Betsy (aka NTB). I’m jealous that they got to that cool name first… Of course, I don’t have the talent to be in a band… So I guess it’s okay.

Thoughts of a 130.6 mile week…

Continuing our effort to be fully trained by TOSRV, Michael and I intrepidly set forth on a 65 mile bike ride yesterday. We’d had it planned for a couple of weeks that we’d drive up to Lake County to do an old training route he used to do when he lived in the area. Our plan was to book a hotel so that would stay up there after the ride to enjoy the fruits of the region–in other words, I wanted to drink my pain away with the finest of Ohio wines. I’ll use any excuse to stay up in Lake County, actually.

Well, yesterday’s morning showers actually lasted through the afternoon. We started the ride at around 10:30-11am to gray skies, a nasty wind, a chilly temperature (I’m guessing in the 50s). I was wearing shorts and cursing myself for not bringing my long pants. Michael forgot his arm warmers so I gave him mine since I had a fleece jacket with me and I had decided that I was going to wear that and deal with lugging it if by miraculous intervention, it just happened to become sunny and 70 degrees.

I was not happy. I totally did not want to ride on this particular day. I think I’ve determined I’m a fair-weather cyclist. I can deal with the elements on a registered ride–if I have to–and I usually don’t purposely start a ride in bad weather (however, I did so on the Hancock Horizontal last year and was just as brooding and annoyed as I was yesterday). I guess it all comes down to one thing: I hate being cold. Starting the ride off cold just made me damn ornery. I made a crappy riding partner who had to grit my teeth to talk to Michael, my patient friend who seemed much more gung-ho for the ride than I did.

I pushed through, though. I had committed myself mentally to at least 62 miles and 62 I was going to do despite the anger the crappy weather was inducing in me. Besides, if I seriously wanted to enjoy the wine and the Italian food at Ferrente’s that I’d sworn myself to, I had to do the mileage. Of course, I was also concerned about my ability to complete TOSRV–the weather on this ride could very well be just like what I was going through.

The first 40 miles, to me, were literally hell. We battled on and off misty spring rain, high winds, and a bitter chill you just could not figure quite out to dress for. I started out wearing both my fleece jacket and rain coat for wind-breaking purposes. Several times, I removed the fleece or the rain coat, never quite finding that comfort zone of being just warm enough and over-warm. I even had to put on my shoe covers at one point.

We did some really nice climbs. Along the Grand River there are quite a few roads that dip down into a river valley for a nice, sharp climb back out. I only got scared on one climb–I was going 4mph in my lowest gear and I wondered if I would be able to hold steady enough to maintain enough cadence to prevent toppling over, but I did all right. I just kept repeating to myself the mantra, “This is nothing. Stucky [the horrible road on Roscoe Ramble where I had to get off and walk] was harder and you did the first part of it.” I guess Stucky has become my measuring stick for my ability to handle hills.

Our impromptu lunch stop ended up a little cafe in Madison. It was nice to get off the bike and eat at a sit-down establishment. I actually gave in to my sugar cravings and ordered a milkshake. It really seemed to pull me through the rest of the ride. As we ate, the misty drizzle stopped and the sun began to poke out a little. It was still a bit chilly–again, I donned the fleece/rain coat combo–but it was durable. Maybe food in my stomach helped too.

The last 25 miles went much better. It was still cold and very windy, but I didn’t feel like I was dying (like last week). Except for during the last three miles, which were headed directly into the wind, along a road in an industrial park where there was not many tall buildings or trees to block the wind. I found myself going a cursed 9mph and I actually had to drop into my granny gears to pedal. It was completely demoralizing. Michael suggested I draft off of him, which I tried to do, but I get paranoid about bumping his wheel and falling if he had to stop suddenly. The whole concept of a draft line is still lost on me–I’m too afraid of getting that close to another cyclist. I’d rather just suffer alone.

When we got to the park where we started the ride, I was actually about a quarter mile short of 65 miles, so, in true fashion of the obsessed, I turned back up the road for a bit. This is a marked improvement, for last week when I was coming up short of 55 miles, I was totally exhausted and flat out refused to take an extra half mile jog to obtain the mileage (which is completely out of character for me!).

So, today, to prove to myself that I was not a wimp, I decided to do the 3pm ride from Revere with the ABC. I knew it would be only 15-20 miles, but hilly, and I figured it was the last nice day the weather’s predicting we’re going to have for a few days, so I got back on the saddle and rode. Fortunately, everyone seemed to be at a very casual pace and, unlike my first pre-season Wednesday night on Sunday ride last year, I didn’t get dropped at all. I actually held my own near the front.

It was a nice afternoon for a quick ride. And it brought me nicely to 300 miles. I just need another week like this one to bring me to the suggested 400 mile prerequisite for TOSRV and I should have the confidence I need to complete. I plan to do some kind of 75+ mile ride next weekend just to finish the training off well… I am worried due to the bad weather we’ve been experiencing that I’m going to be behind the whole cycling season. But then I just have to remind myself that it’s still only April…

Growing up

When I was younger, I was a party girl. Not a crazy party girl, mind you, but enough of a party girl that I could have been in a clip of Girls Gone Wild if the opportunity had arise. Having been pretty much the school nerd in high school, when I got to college, I slowly began to “let it all hang out” in attempt to win popularity, especially among the guys. I had this little habit while getting drunk of flashing my boobs, to the wild excitement of some of the dopey guys who turned up at my cousin’s yearly parties. I thought that this girl was the real me; I thought alcohol just tapped me into this person I was beneath the skin, the one I should have been in high school. The truth is, this girl was my incarnation of insecurity, the part of me who wanted so desperately to be popular that I sacrificed my own beliefs about myself to garner any attention I could get from guys.

I have to admit that I kept up this act through most of my twenties. And there were also some confused years after Mike’s death when I didn’t know who the hell I was at all and so I reverted back to Mars Party Girl whenever I was in a situation that involved alcohol. It took me a long time to realize the consequences of my actions and by then it was almost too late because my male friends associated with the clique I used to party with had dropped an image of me into a bucket and they absolutely refused that image come out of the bucket.

I realized this one evening at comic book convention a few years ago. A group of friends and I were hanging out in our hotel room after the show, trying to start up the usual round of drunken silliness. I was already a few sheets to the wind. My then-boyfriend, T, was there with us.

A group of drunken bachelor party guys–in their early twenties, I would guess by their behavior and their general lack of age lines–had heard the noise of our party and decided to crash it. One of our friends, K, let them in since there was a general milling of people in and out of the room. Well, K had been one of the witnesses to my earlier breast exposures. So he found this as the opportune moment to pester me about a repeat performance since it was a bachelor party.

“Come on,” he kept urging me after I had calmly told him no. “Come on, you always do it.”

I looked to T but he wasn’t saying anything, either trying to keep the peace, or, wistfully hoping I’d expose my boobs as well. My face started to burn with embarrassment and anger.

“Come on,” K continued, more urgently, almost violently. “Who are you trying to kid here? You’re just trying to be good because your boyfriend is here.”

I told T that K was really annoying me. I was trying to explain, but the words didn’t come, my utter shock for even being asked this. The room was noisy, confusing.

T finally stepped in and told K as evenly as he could muster, “Look, it’s up to Mars Girl. If she says no, then back off.”

K turns on T, “What? Are you pussy-whipped or something? She always did this when you weren’t around!”

The rage was making me quake. Not only was I upset that J ragged on my boyfriend with the insinuation that he was being controlled by his girlfriend–an insult that runs deep in the “man world”–but I also abhorred the image of being the type of girlfriend to control my boyfriend. That suggestion always makes me senselessly mad. I’m a very easy-going girlfriend. Not much makes me upset or jealous or angry. A guy dating me is lucky because I generally will not go postal on him for no particular reason.

Strip clubs? No, problem! Have fun, here’s some money.

Talking to a girl? So what? I have a lot of guy friends!

So, to insinuate to my boyfriend that he’s pussy-whipped is just as much of a slap to my personality as it is to my boyfriend. Furthermore, K’s fervent insistence on me flashing my boobs was almost abusive in nature. I was actually starting to feel as though he was my pimp and I was the misbehaving prostitute. It was literally that bad because of the anger in his words, the expectancy of a behavior in me. He kept suggesting that because T was there, I was fighting against my natural urges to expose my breasts, in order to portray a cleaner image of myself.

It was at that moment, somewhere amidst being abrasively commanded to expose myself and the ensuing argument between T and K, that I realized–realized fully–the consequences of the actions of my youth. In K’s head, I’d been labeled as I wanted–Mars Party Girl–but with this title came among my resume of “cool” qualities was, “flashes boobs on command.”

This is not how I wanted people to see me. This is not how I saw myself. When I flashed my boobs at guys, I mistakenly thought I was being described as “so crazy she’ll do anything;” instead, I was being labeled as “she so uninhibited, she’ll show us some skin for free!”

It made me feel bad about myself. This minor indiscretion had become a defining label for me, something majorly opposite to my own internal values. I was a good girl. That’s the image I wanted for myself, not as the crazy party chick, willing to do anything to make guys notice her. I wanted guys to notice me for my legitimate characteristics–my thoughts, my ideas, my passion for life. Nothing could escape the truth that even when I did release my inhibitions and expose myself in this way, some part of myself, deep down, was ashamed and embarrassed. I was selling my sexuality for popularity. Isn’t that, in itself, a form of prostitution? Maybe not in the traditional sense, but I was doing to it get something of value to me in return–notice and attention. That’s just as valid a form of payment as money.

The problem with this particular group of friends is that they do revere sexually explicit behavior from women as “sexy” and “feminine” and “uninhibited.” From their point of view, it is a good quality in a woman to hype up her sexuality in such a way that it draws attention. This is “cool” to them. To me, it’s degrading. I prefer my femininity to be genuine and my sexuality to be subtle. I want a guy to find me attractive for the qualities I don’t overtly push. Leaving some things to the imagination can be sexier than downright stripping. Why else do men visit strip clubs, but marry Marion the Librarian? Because, in truth, while they enjoy indulging their eyes in the beauty of exposed flesh freely shown (or, not so free, in the case of strip clubs), they want to make wives of the women who reserve their bodies for their own private viewing. No man will marry a slut; however, he won’t miss the opportunity to use the services of one should she be offering.

Maybe this isn’t the truth for all guys. I’ve got serious doubts about the group of male friends with whom I’ve spent the last several years of my life associating. They hype up the girls who talk loudly about their own sexual exploits and they call me prude for deciding, in what appears as a sudden change in attitude, to keep my sex life quiet when I used to be so vocal. They view the signs of my growing up as personal attacks against them. Over the last several months, when attempting to express my frustration at their behavior and drawing some lines between acceptable and unacceptable behavior towards me, I’ve been accused of many things, including being a man-hater and lacking a sense of humor. I’ve been told I’m taking the jokes too seriously, that I’m reading hidden agendas into their “harmless” little pranks (such as photoshopping my head on top of scantily clad female bodies and pregnant women). But how could I not? What would that suggest to you other than I’m just a piece of flesh to poke fun at sexually? Why not photoshop my head on the top of Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica? Why does everything have to be reduced to some aspect of my sexuality? (It’s not just me they do it to, either… The other girls are “cooler” than me and therefore do not complain.)

It hurts me that these “friends” cannot understand what I’m saying. It hurts me to realize that we’ve grown apart because I’ve matured and they remain at the same mentality as they had ten years ago. More hurtful is that they expect me to react to their jokes in the same way that I did ten years ago.

I honestly don’t know what is going on in their collective group mind. I suspect they may think I’m still angry about my husband’s death. Some of them might say that when Mike was alive, I was more fun. (I was also in my early twenties when Mike was alive… had he lived, I might be a mother now, and at the very least, I’d be older and the two of us would have changed together.) Perhaps they think my sudden prudishness is spurred by my discovery of a religion. (Ha! Obviously they are not familiar with UUism and its liberal philosophy of sexual education.) Time moves. People change. These friends are stuck in history. They adore Mars Girl of ten years ago; Mars Girl of today is no longer fun.

It’s frustrating that they can’t see the difference between me asking them to tone down the sexual innuendos made about me and an occasional silly lustful comment I make about a celebrity. Or if I pass on a sexual joke. Because I no longer describe my sex life in detail to them does not mean I’ve lost a sense of humor about sex. If they were paying attention, they would have realized that I stopped discussing my sex life back in the days when Mike and I were together. In the words I read from someone on another blog a few months back, “I knew I was in love when I didn’t share every detail.” Maturity is realizing that what you share with someone you love is your private secret to be shared only between the two of you. If this is prude, then prude I am.

I hope that someday we will be able to look at each other and really see each other as we really are. I don’t expect to be the friends we once were, but I would expect some mutual admiration and respect–more than we’re showing for each other at this moment. I wish these people in question could see how much progress I’ve made in my life, how much happier I am now than I’ve been since Mike died. I’m growing more content each day as I discover strengths within myself and test the limits of my endurance through healthy activities such as cycling and hiking. I’ve been able to better see the positive aspects of life. I’ve become more centered, more focused, and more giving of myself to others. I may not yet have the job thing figured out, but I’m also not just sitting there bemoaning my situation (even though on a down day some blog entries may seem that way)–I’m exploring a job possibility that I feel will make a difference to myself and others. Those friends who really know me have seen these changes in me. I’ve already received countless encouraging comments about how much happier I seem…

I’m headed to a good place. I seriously think that I will be able to, eventually, look back on my life in the way my grandma H taught me so long ago and say, “I’ve had a good life.” I don’t even need to add the reminder that it was a rough road. When I look back, I want to realize that despite the bumps, the general condition of the road was good. I could be in a much worse place, as I explained earlier this week in my entry about not being able to change the world.

I just wish for all of my friends, past and present, to find the same state of mind, despite the bumps in their own rough roads. I wish we could travel the road of life together, for good friends can help each other deal with the potholes and pieces of glass encountered on this road. My few really close friends stuck with me through my own ordeals and supported me… I would do the same for anyone else… If they were willing to take the help and listen…

I want a do-over

When the doctor in the emergency room told me that my husband was dead, my instant, ridiculous and totally irrational, thought was, “I want to start this day over. I’ll fix it. Just let me start this day over and I’ll change the outcome.”

I don’t know to whom I was pleading my case for a “do-over.” In times of extreme stress such as this, we find ourselves talking to the great unknown, begging for assistance in navigating the situation. Even atheists do it; I used to. I remember this one time when I was visiting my Grandma H during a really bad thunderstorm. I’m deathly afraid of thunderstorms. If I’m caught outside in one, my knees literally shake to the point of almost buckling beneath me while I’m trying to get to shelter. To make matters worse, on this particular day at Grandma H’s tornado warnings were blaring all over the little town in which she lived.

Grandma H was no help in calming my fears. She insisted we go to Grandpa’s bedroom, where he was laid up during the ending stages of his MS, because she wanted to be with him “if they died.” Back then, Grandma had taken to the possibility of death even though it would turn out to be a good fifteen years off and she mentioned it often with lines such as “I’ve had a good life. I can die today.”

So she was standing next to Grandpa’s bed, calmly repeating this sort of mantra, while the wind whipped at the windows. She ordered me to get into the closet in Grandpa’s room because I was “still young and had life to live.”

Let me just say, I was scared shitless. My mom was utterly fearless about thunderstorms. If she were swimming in our pool and saw lightening, she would calmly count out the seconds between its sighting and the thunder, and then determine that it was okay to finish her swim because the storm was still far off. (By the way, I’ve since learned from a forest ranger that if you can see lightening, it’s too close and it can strike you.) At home during thunderstorms, my mom was a calming force that settled me down. Grandma H’s alarmist attitude, too much like my own, was very unsettling.

We had the radio on. The weather alerts kept coming on, declaring tornado sightings in her little town. I sat in the closet, literally fearing for my life. It’s my worst nightmare to experience a tornado first hand or to be struck by lightening. If I ever lived through my house being hit by a tornado–or even a neighbor’s house–I’d probably be scarred for life, I’m that scared.

Anyway, so, there I was, an atheist, hiding in the closet in my Grandpa’s bedroom with my Grandma calling forth the rapture. I was in high school and I’d heard the saying, There’s no atheists in fox holes. I didn’t think of it at that moment, but whenever I’ve thought of this day in the years afterwards, this saying always comes to mind. Because I found myself part praying and part berating myself for praying. I didn’t say the word “God;” I simply pleaded silently to live through this tornado incident. Please don’t make me go through this, I begged. Please don’t make a tornado hit this house!

Of course, I made it through that day completely unscathed. To this day, I’ve been lucky enough to have never actually lived through a near-miss tornado hit. I’ve not even seen one, even from a distance. I’ve had some scary close encounters with lightening–my metal hiking poles buzzing from a charge above treeline in the mountains, lightening blasts exploding around me while descending a mountain, tornadoes whirling around the hill on which I was camping for an astronomy event (though I still never actually saw one). I’ve had close calls. But, thankfully, no hits. Still, I’ve got this overwhelming fear that some day I’m going to be struck by lightening. I sure as hell hope not!

The second time in my life that I found myself doing what would be considered a prayer was that moment the doctor told me of my husband’s death. Again, I was a fervent atheist. Yet, there I was, pleading with some unnamed keeper of the hands of time for a chance to rewind the day and start over. Maybe it’s just a statement about the kind of person I am–that when I’m doing something and I feel I’ve messed it up, I just scrap what I have and start over. When I’m having trouble writing something I actually want to publish–my real writing, not what I tumble off of my head for this blog–I will open about two or three windows of my choice word processing program because I’ll start a page of work over again if I feel that it rambled into the wrong direction. Then I’ll go back and forth between the two and compare them until I figure which one is “right.” Sometimes I take bits and pieces from the two attempts and merge them. If I don’t like the way a single paragraph is going, I’ll make spaces on the page and start the paragraph over in a different way.

I think of it like one of those “chose your own adventure” books that were popular when I was a kid. I’m sure everyone who read them did as I did–read the book over and over, trying every possible path until you reached the one with the “good ending.” I remember this one book about an alien abduction that I could never find the path to the “good ending.” The good ending was there, I’d found it paging through the book, but I could never figure out what paths I needed to take to get to it. Maybe it was just there to throw me off. It was like life; there was indeed a good ending out there, but not everyone had access to the paths that would lead to it.

When faced with the outcome of April 14th, I irrationally demanded a “do-over.” Surely there was something I could have done that morning to change the outcome. If I’d known CPR. If we had just gotten up for the morning and had breakfast instead of enjoying each other’s company as young married couples do. If I had not fumbled for my clothes before calling 911. I had lots of “ifs” I felt, for years, that I could have done differently to change the outcome. I’ll never know if any of those would have worked. In fact, to bring me the peace of mind I need to continue, I always console myself with the reality that CPR would probably not have saved him, nor a call to 911 one minute earlier. By the time I fully realized something was wrong with him, he’d already turned blue. No air. I’ve learned, also, that very few people are actually revived from CPR or defibrillators. Unfortunately, life rescue is not like the movies.

I had a dream in the weeks after Mike’s death in which I was able to go back in time about a month with my memories of this outcome fully intact. I spent the dream trying to get Mike to see a cardiologist. He was really confused by this task and was fighting me about it. One of my high school friends, her father a cardiac nurse, was in the dream, too. She kept talking about Mike’s funeral in front of Mike, and reminding me that you can’t change the future, that it would cause a time paradox. (Obviously, I watch too much science-fiction.)

I woke up from that dream exhausted. I wanted the reality of it so badly. The biggest “if only” of all: If only we wouldn’t have taken the emergency doctor’s word for it that what Mike had experienced a few years before was really an anxiety attack, not a heart attack. In 1999, before we were married, while out of town on business, Mike experienced what he thought was a heart attack. He was driven to the hospital. Tests were run–EKG and blood work–but none of them revealed anything abnormal. The doctor told him he was having an anxiety attack. No one would have thought about cardiomyopathy, which could not be detected by the conventional heart attack tests.

Cardiomyopathy is a thickening of the heart muscle, usually something a person has from birth and passed down through genetics. Mike was adopted by his father when he was almost too young to remember. He had no contact with his biological father. In fact, up until 2000, no one in his family would admit that he was adopted. It’s such a shame. In the months after Mike had confirmed–he always suspected he was not the biological son of his father–he was adopted, he told me time and time again, “I just want to know who my father is for medical reasons. He means nothing to me. I wish my dad [meaning his adopted father] would realize that.”

To this day, I don’t even know who Mike’s biological father is, or if he is even still alive. If only the timing of Mike’s history had been revealed a few years earlier. If only he’d pushed for the truth sooner. Maybe some fact would have unlocked the door to knowledge that could have saved his life. From Mike’s birth, the timer on a bomb was ticking, just waiting for the right set of circumstances to cause it to explode. When I think back on my life with Mike these days, I can hear the spastic tick-tick-tick-tick of time as the seconds of his life are counted out. So utterly unfair. I’m now one year older than he got to live. I’m not ready to die. Not by a long shot.

I guess I’m stuck on “do-overs” this morning because I feel the pressure of a clock ticking off seconds in my own ears. Maybe it’s because of my age; though young, I know too well that my youth secures me nothing. And, as exhibited in my last blog entry, I’m feeling weighed down by my own bad decisions. Well, maybe not bad, but disparate choices I’ve made that continue to lead me down paths that turn out to be dead-ends. I feel restless, like I should be doing something more. I feel like I should make more informed decisions instead of blindly fumbling down these paths I randomly select because I’m momentarily inspired. Yeah, a life inspired can be exciting, but I’ve been doing it for too many years and it hasn’t led to the overall fulfillment I desire.

Hindsight, as they say, is twenty-twenty. I know that. That’s why a “do-over” is so desirable. If I could do it again, I’d start at college. I’d not bother with those wasted years towards an elementary education degree and just start right in with English, my true passion. I’d minor in German. I’m still not sure what exactly I’d do with that. I’d relive my years with Mike with more zest and appreciation. I’d certainly make him see a cardiologist. We’d move to Colorado and I’d stay there, no matter what happened to him.

I suppose, though, I’d still screw everything up. There’s no saying that I would know what I know now, if I could go back. Look at me, making guesses on something that’s an impossibility anyway. There’s no saying, though, that I’d be any less confused about myself if I could set things “right” or differently.

I just long, desperately, to find something to do with myself that gives me fulfillment. I’ve done ten years or so of dreading my arrival at work every morning. Every once in awhile, I’d like to wake up, excited like I am on the weekends. Some people have jobs they enjoy; it can’t be an impossibility. Why am I always so dissatisfied with everything? Am I, like my dad tells me, just never satisfied with what I have? (He, by the way, admits that he is also like this, so when he points it out, he’s telling me that I’m like him. Gotta love them genetics.)

I’d like to think I am capable of satisfaction. I enjoy writing. Keeping up this blog is highly satisfying to me (and definitely more satisfying than the writing I do for my job). If I could make an actual career of writing fiction, I might be happy. If I could have a career that helps other people, that would be great too, not to mention more realistic than my so-called fiction career. (I’m not sure I could handle rejection–look how defensive I got about the comments of Mr. Anonymous in my last blog entry.)

My years with Mike were pretty satisfying. I liked my job then. Liked it enough, anyway. Maybe the job frustration was satiated by the fact that I had someone who loved me to come home to. I’m a sap. But we did enjoy each other’s company. And somehow, through him, I thought anything was possible. Sometimes it seems that just dealing with the world alone is much harder than when you have a companion to battle it with. Of course, right now I’d probably be pregnant or something. So maybe it wouldn’t have been as fun. Still, with him, motherhood didn’t seem like a curse, even though I’ve never really wanted to have kids. Who knows how my life would have turned out had he lived. I’ll never know. Maybe it’s ridiculous to even contemplate. The mind wanders, the soul thirsts, and the heart burns. Some days more than others. I just wish I could find and maintain a state of comfort with my life.

I can’t change the world

And what am I to do
Just tell me what am I supposed to say
I can’t change the world
But I can change the world in me
— U2, Rejoice

When you’re a thinking, compassionate person like me, it’s easy to let the weight of the world’s problems bog you down. On the way to work today, Edward Norton (one of my favorite actors) was speaking on the Opie and Anthony show about a show he narrated on PBS called Strange Day on Planet Earth. So, of course, the discussion went to the environment, on today, Earth Day. And once again, my mind was filled with worries about the state of the planet and what we as human beings are doing to it. A lot of people think global warming (or “global climate change”) is a myth, as though it were a matter of believing in something or not believing in it, like faith.

You’d have to be a fool to not understand the huge affect we have on the environment. Yes, there are planetary processes and phases involved that we don’t understand. But there are also some things we do understand. And it’s so obvious that we are causing harm to our environment. Don’t get me wrong; the planet will live on, the planet will always live on (it was here for millions of years before us, it will certainly outlive us). However, we, humans, are fragile and there’s only a narrow band of climate in which we can exist. If we destroy that, we kill ourselves. Can we afford to sit back and watch as we waste away the only biosphere in which humanity can exist?

We will run out of oil. There are limited resources there. We need to stop coasting in this hedonistic attitude that makes us procrastinate in finding a better, more environmentally friendly solution. Now, you think, would be the time, as gas prices are seriously getting to the point where they are crunching people like me who make decent money. The price of oil going up affects many things: the cost of products that use oil in their creation (i.e., vinyl), the cost of airline tickets (they have to pay for the fuel somehow), transportation prices for food. We can easily become price-crunched in the next couple of years on even the basics because it all trickles down to the most common of items.

I’m a novice scientist when it comes to explaining all the environmental problems. Yes, I have been tainted by Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Yeah, I think it was mostly propaganda with a slice of environmentalism. It made me think, though. He’s not the only one explaining the numbers crunched by scientists. This is not a simple matter of faith: it’s a truth we’re avoiding because we don’t want to look at or contemplate what it all means.

I understand avoidance. I spend my days avoiding the problems of the world that my mind wanders to on occasion. I want to put my rose-colored glasses on and focus only on the road in front of me because my own life, though middle-class and pretty easy in comparison with someone, say, living in South Africa, is hard enough to deal with. I spent six years mourning the loss of someone I loved. It was hard enough to see beyond that pain. In dealing with depression issues of my own, life for me can sometimes be a daily struggle to keep my head above water, to look at what I have and praise it instead of see only the negative.

Thank God I was born in a country where women are not just sex objects for men to barter and own.

Thank God I managed to live 33 years in relative safety, never once fearing for my life (except for the one time when I spun out on the highway during a snow storm).

Thank God I don’t wake up every morning to the sound of mortar fire and the smell of burnt human flesh.

Damn, I am lucky. Of all the people on this planet to whom I could have been born, I was lucky enough to be born to a middle-class couple with good values in a safe nation in an era in which women are less repressed than they have been in the past. I’ve thought about it before. I could be anywhere but here, and my life could be miserable.

But not everyone is so lucky. And, again, my thoughts drift to these people every once in awhile. What are we going to do about them? How do we stop all the senseless killing and genocide and oppression? I can’t even ask this question without a tinge of guilt, for men and women from my own country are right now battling on some foreign ground of which I can’t even imagine the appearance except by what is told to me in the news. We are adding to the violence. And I don’t really understand why. Oh, people on the street will give you a bunch of reasons:

“It’s to stop terrorism so that we don’t have to fight it on our own turf.”

Ask the Europeans about this one; they’ve been fighting terrorism on their own turf for decades. We are lucky to be separated on our own island from the rest of the civilized world.

“We will get control of the oil.”

Oh yeah? How come I’m paying 3.50/gallon with the future looking towards $4? If it was for oil, I want my gas price at .50/gallon. Hell, I’d gladly take 1.50/gallon at this point.

Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”

Where? Give me the proof. I think we all know that there were no weapons. I’m tired of the discussion of WMDs.

My head aches with the circular nature of this discussion. I’m so confused–by the media, the talking heads, the President–and I don’t even know if there was a legitimate reason for any of this anymore. I’m not even sure our people on top remember why we’re there. It reminds of me of the book 1984. Was it newspeak, they called it? That untruth given to sedate the masses, confound us to the point where we really don’t know what exactly was said and, by the time we’re done tumbling it around in our big brains, we no longer care.

I’m so tired of arguing with people about politics, the environment, the war. No one listens to what anyone has to say, for real, anyway. Our minds are made up and we’re not budging. We’re blinded by our own interpretations of reality and we won’t let go of that for two seconds to consider another point of view. You can get lost in points-of-view anyway. At the end of the day, you just end up arguing with each other and still getting nothing done. Our big brains are a burden. Lions don’t debate about whether they should kill the gazelle for food–they just do it. Could we stop sitting here debating whether or not global warming is a reality caused by humans, and just agree that we do need to be better stewards of this planet, regardless of what we think the ultimate consequence is? Don’t we pick up litter on the side of the road? Don’t we keep our houses clean? The Earth is one big house to humanity; do we not owe it to ourselves, for the sake of neatness, to keep this big ecological house clean?

I try to put everything out of my head by consoling myself with the fact that I can’t do anything about anything. All I can do is affect my immediate environment. I can reduce my own carbon footprint on the planet. I can love my neighbors, treat my fellow man with the respect and dignity he/she deserves. I can reach out, volunteer, work to make the small microcosm of the world I inhabit better. I can vote for the people I think will do the best job of stewarding my country, state, city; though, I have to ask myself if what they do really makes a difference anywhere.

How does a person just shut out the screams of the rest of the world? How can I live with the fact that much of the world lives in a state of poverty that I’ve never known? How can I deal with the responsibility of being what is considered wealthy to people in other nations of the world? How do I not feel the guilt of their hate and jealousy of my lucky situation?

Again, I reiterate: I’m just frakking lucky. It’s not predestination. My soul is not here, in the U.S., because God loves me better than he loves the people in third world countries. It’s not because I was raised Christian, making me an associated member of an elite club of the saved. It’s not because I did something right in a former life. Or that my parents are good people. My soul just happened to draw the lucky straw. And here I am. And there all the unlucky ones are, hating me because of my lucky draw.

I’m a peace-loving hippy. I just wish we all could get along. I wish I could help create a world in which everyone lives with the equal opportunity to earn the means that I have. I wish I could erase all prejudice and chauvinism and hatred from the face of the earth. I wish we could all learn to see the inner beauty in every person. I wish we could all hold hands and sing the highest praises of love for life. I wish we could all fulfill our dreams and find our passions.

My dad always says, “Wish in one hand and shit in other. Tell me which one fills up first.”

Yeah, that’s my problem. I’m a dreamer. And dreamers, at the end of the day, find themselves just grasping shit because it’s more real than a dream or a wish. My dad has it right–you can’t spend your life hoping for things that cannot happen. You need to focus on the physical things, the stuff you can actually do.

Still, the wistful person within me dreams of a day in which humanity finds a way to rise above itself and its baser instincts. I like to think that we’re still in our childhood, a race of rash teenagers still rebelling against our parents and focused selfishly on ourselves. I want to think that at some point we’ll realize that there’s a goal to achieve that’s grander than ourselves out there, a higher purpose and understanding just beyond the horizon to which we can some day sail.

But it’s hard to think that we’ll transcend ourselves when you look at what we’ve got going on here right now. We’ve made such a mess of things. We’re consuming at rates with which the planet can’t keep up to renew the resources. We, a valuable part of nature, are using poor excuses to blow each other up with bombs and guns.

Despite all these lofty thoughts, I’m just a human being myself–no better and no worse than anyone else. I have my own selfish needs which desire fulfillment. I’m just trying to live my life and achieve my goals. I want to give into the short-sightedness of everyone around me so that I can live out my life without further traumatic disruption. Maybe that’s the problem. If everyone thinks like that, no wonder we get nothing done.

Yet, I look at the mess I’m just handing to the next generation without regard for its impact on them. I don’t have kids, but my friends do. What kind of world am I leaving for them? And what if I desire someday to actually have kids of my own? How can I bring them into this mess to deal with the mess I’ve contributed to? How can I have kids and not feel guilty about the world I’m sending them into?

“Someone will fix it,” you may say.

Well, fixing it involves a community. I can’t do it alone. You can’t do it alone (if you agree with me that it needs to be done). We need to band together to change things. We need to stop being so lazy and commit. Or else we’re handing the next generation a dismal future.

In Girl Scouts I learned to leave a location in a better state than I found it in. I think the Boy Scouts have a similar saying. Don’t we owe it to our future generations–if not God, who allegedly gave us this wonderful world-garden–to leave the Earth in a better shape than how we found it?

Got spanked by Truxell

I got a little bold today and took a ride into the (Cuyahoga) Valley this evening after work. I wanted to get at least 25 miles in so that I could stop staring at that pathetic under-100 mileage total that was taunting me as I recalled that Michael is now at about 285. I was hoping to get 30 miles in, but my dad was still at my house when I got home, so I had to make nice and talk to him for a bit.

‘Twas a bit nippy out today. They say it was 55 degrees when I started out at 6:30, but I’m not convinced that was accurate. I wore one of my long-sleeved jerseys and then put a fleece coat on over it. I was still a little chilled towards the end of the ride. Not to mention, I probably should have worn my shoe covers–my feet were cold by the time I rolled into my driveway. The Weather Channel’s temperature reading on my (home) computer’s system tray said it was 35 when I sat down to record my stats. It didn’t seem that cold either. I’m guessing it was about 45 when I got in.

Due to the impending setting of the sun, I had to cut one of my usual routes short. I rode the Summit County MetroParks bike trail to Highland Road, and then dropped down into the Valley. I can tell it’s going to take a few more rides to grow back my “biking balls” because I braked like a student driver down most of Highland, and, honestly, felt bile in the back of my throat on the really steep section before the bottom. It probably didn’t help that while I was on the bike path, I encountered deer crossing the path, which makes me nervous due to the Dog Incident of 2004. When flying down any of those tree-lined hills in the Valley, I imagine every possible animal running from one side of the street to the other, and myself crashing helplessly into them at speeds nearing 35mph. Me in a car versus a deer = pretty bad damage to my car, probably fatality to the deer; me on bicycle versus a deer = deer slightly bruised, Mars Girl pretty frakked up.

At the end of last year, however, I was able to let it all out on some hills (if I could clearly see far enough ahead of me to avoid collision with said animals crossing the road). I’m not up to that point yet. I’m sure a few rides of being totally dropped by my ABC pals will help inspire my guts to harden again… But right now, I’m feeling pretty wimpy.

I took Riverview into Peninsula. This part wasn’t too bad–I was hitting a nice speed between 16-17mph. I passed through town on 303 and then turned onto Akron-Peninsula Road to Truxell.

Now, for all you out-of-towners, Truxell is the easiest climb out of the Valley, at least on the east side. At the end of last summer, I was kicking some serious butt up it. Okay, not when compared to some of our stronger riders (Michael being one of those), but for my abilities, I was slamming up that road. And I didn’t bottom out on my gears. I’d gotten to the point where it really was the easiest climb; it didn’t kill me at all to do it.

Well, it got me tonight. And–pisser of pissers–on the hardest section, I found myself in the lowest gear on my bike. Oh, the insults! I can’t remember the last time I had to use the lowest gear on that climb! I’m soooooooooooo glad that I didn’t go with my second hunch and take Quick Road (a harder climb). I was doing speeds so low, I’m just plain embarrassed to admit to them publicly. This is probably where I lost whatever great average I was doing before I got to Truxell.

While waiting at the stop sign at the top of the hill, a guy on a motorcycle came up behind me. “Did you come out of the Valley?” he mused, amazed. I admitted that I had, but that it hadn’t been easy, and then pointed out that Truxell is the easiest climb. “If you have legs like a Siberian tiger,” he guffawed. I snorted and moved on my merry way. Obviously, he’s never met any of the hammerheads who frequent the Valley, some of whom are ABC members. I am but an amateur in comparison, my motorcycling friend!

I’m so behind my cycling when compared to last year. I know I had more mileage already (I don’t know for certain as I didn’t keep track of my daily miles). This just sucks! I’m so disappointed in myself, as I sit here, tired off my butt and my legs throbbing with pain as though I just did 65 miles. What a loser I am!

Maybe I’m just mad because it was colder than I would have preferred. I seem to accept my pain better when I’ve just enjoyed a warm evening. It took me dinner and a cup of hot tea to finally feel comfortable again (I had to resist the urge to turn up my heat in the house).

It was a beautiful evening, though, for all the glorious sun. Even if I got spanked by a relatively easy climb out of the Valley. Shame on me. I need to punish myself with some excruciating climbs this weekend. I have to get these winter legs turned into cycling legs and fast. And, please, take my wine gut. I shamefully spent my winter like most Ohioans, getting buzzed indoors with my alcohol of choice, and remaining mostly sedentary. Not even my Total Gym can work this flab off. It is going to take fasting (no chocolate! no ice cream! no weeknight beer or wine!) and a lot of cardio to erase the sins of my winter sloth…

My stats tonight: 27.83 miles, 1 hour 56 minutes, 14.3 average, 28.7 max (because I held back on Highland).

Oh, and I purchased a ski helmet for use next winter. So maybe I can be a little less sedentary.

I’m a space cowboy

The boyfriend and I visited The Winery at Wolf Creek last Saturday. This is a local winery we occasionally visit (and where we had our first date!). Every time we go, there’s a wine that wasn’t previously on the list, which is good because they seem to sell out pretty quickly on some of their other wines by the end of the winter. Could it be because it’s so close to civilization and we Ohioans have nothing to do all winter but drink? Anyway, this time, we discovered a little gem called Space Cowboy.

Now, yeah, being Mars Girl and a sometimes amateur astronomer, I admit to being partial to space-themed alcohol, food, theatre, rides, runs, etc., etc. But I was a in wine snob mode and a little incredulous about trying another fruit wine. The little siren in my head was screaming, Sweet! Sweet! Stay away!

However, the spacey name, along with the label of cowboy strandling a peach in front of a star-filled background, called to me so I asked for a sample… and was happily surprised. This wine was very smooth with only hints of peach amidst a base that tasted to me like a semi-sweet Riesling. It had a dry finish.

We drank a bottle and the pleasantness lasted throughout…

Seven years

the tides of time have pushed me away
from the distant shore on which we built our lives
and now i’m asunder in some other land
so far away from you, so far from our love.
we shared a lifetime in three years
we held each other fast and lived;
if only i’d known you’d go away
i would have lived more with each hug and kiss
our time together was so short
torn apart in tragedy,
six or so years wet in pain and fear.
so many nights spent calling to you,
begging you to come back to me;
prayers screamed in anguish,
reverberating off the walls
sinking back into my skin,
shattering my ear drums.
later i asked for signs of hope,
to erase my fear, anesthetize the pain
but only silence followed, your light snuffed out.
now i’ve come to terms with life myself
a long uphill climb to find meaning and grace
i don’t know if you’d know me now
if we would pass each other in my sleep
or on some ephemeral street on the way Home
i’ve changed so much, i’ve grown so different
does the light of the girl you knew still glow?
would you still love me? could we be together?
the scar of the love we shared
still taints my search for new love
even when i try not to,
i compare every relationship to ours.
i’ve let you go in so many ways
and memory slips like missed gears,
fading, fading, fading into the night
while the faint echo of our love still rings in my ears.
yet as time’s tides drag me ceaselessly away
i find it harder to believe it was real,
as though you were a figment of my imagination.
when the seizure of our romance becomes just one piercing spasm,
overwhelming me once in awhile
i’ll be too distant to grieve the loss,
too removed to realize it has happened.
i’ll stop counting the years and i’ll calculate
was it fifteen? twenty? twenty-five?
i was married once and it was extraordinary…
brief and unfinished,
lost like the light of a quasar to human eyes
across the universe
only seen when sought
so old, so long ago, so gone.
if your life continues in some endless place
i can only expect you’ll lose me too
amidst a Higher Love and life i can’t concieve.
to you, our love will be
so earthly, so trivial, so gone.

I’m a lean, mean riding machine

Faster than a speeding bullet….

Lately, some of my cycling friends and I have discovered some, let’s say, inherent problems with these fancy wireless bicycle computers.

Last night, I was riding down Graham Road, trying to squeeze in a few extra miles around my neighborhood so that I could get my total to 20 miles (the loop I did was 17). I happened to glance down at my computer and, for just a split second, the speed flashed 62.5.

It’s a funny thing when you see something absolutely fantastical. I actually shook my head in disbelief as the reading flashed to 15mph, as though it never showed anything different. When I turned off to the next road, I toggled the display to show my max speed, just to make sure I’d really seen what I thought I saw, and–lo!–there it was: 62.5mph.

Of course, this is wildly inaccurate. I don’t think I could really go 62.5 mph if I was riding down a 90-degree incline. Well, maybe. Still, the highest speed I’ve ever gotten was something in the range of 42mph on Bellus Road in Hinckley. (I usually brake a lot, but that’s one of the few roads I actually let go on.)

This same odd behavior with the wireless computer occurred with my friend Bruce last year on the infamous Two Rivers Tour. We went under some rather large and buzzing power lines and the next thing Bruce knew, he was apparently clipping along at 55 mph.

While entertaining to see your max speed hit impossible rates, these kind of incidents can be a little irritating. It’s messing around with my overall average! I think next time I buy a computer, I’m going to go back to the good old fashioned wires. Yeah, they distract from the beauty of your bicycle (especially if it’s a Giant), but then, you know your average speed is calculated correctly.