GUS (Gave Up Smoking) is a community support series for Kossacks in the midst of quitting smoking. Any supportive comments, suggestions or positive distractions are appreciated. We avoid discussion of political issues. If you are quitting or even thinking about quitting, please -- join us! You can add GUS to your stream by clicking on the ♥ next to the GUS tag. The GUS Library at dKosopedia is organically evolving, and stocked with free-range information: quit-smoking links, and helpful GUS writing tips."A message to all quitters: you don't have to avoid GUS if your latest attempt to quit didn't work out. We won't give you a bad time and we consider the attempted quits as practice for the real quit." (h/t to FG)
So, about the title I've chosen. I did indeed buy a bicycle almost two years ago, and although it's an inanimate object, a machine that only does what I make it do, life has flowed forth from it. I want you to come on a ride with me. Don't worry, I've got this trip mapped out. And I'll do all the
I started out riding a stationary bike a little more than two years ago. I really thought I could knock an easy 20 lbs off before my godson's wedding in June 2011. Haha. Initially doing just ten miles a day, or about 30 - 40 minutes. Bought an actual bike in August 2011. I used a pic of it as my profile thumb for a long time. Now I generally do 25 - 30 miles (or more) either outside, or on the stationary almost every day. Seriously, I went for almost two years without a single day missed. I have a number of options on which way to go outside, but I've definitely gotten to prefer some routes more than others. If I go generally south there are two comm towers that serve as guides, both coming and going.
The first one is the local county electric co-op, and its about 4.5 miles out. The red and white one is about 7.5 miles out, sits on a high spot on the bluff, and I can see it from a long way away. More than 10 miles in some spots.
I really can't convey to you how much fun I'm having out there. I've said it so many times, but I wish I'd never stopped riding all those years ago. Like so many of us, I was thrilled to get my driver's license and a car and our culture was / is so focused towards that mode of transportation. I'd forgotten it's so much more than a bike ride. So much more than just getting from point "A" to point "B" and back.
To begin with, I've vastly changed and expanded the way I view my neighborhood. I've lived in my current location for 15 years and had no idea of the world around me but I'm pushing 20 miles (or more) in all directions, viewing things much more intimately than any auto ride can bestow. It's suburban and small townish here, with a lot of the surrounding region as farm and uncultivated wooded areas. This county is on the Illinois side of the STL metro area, and I'm at the southern edge of where most people are generally willing (or financially able) to commute. 45 minutes to an hour+ for most trips, even if you speed, although southiest south STL County and Belleville/O'Fallon/Scott AFB IL can be reached, each, in about 30 minutes on a good travel day. The bridges across the Mississippi River also play a factor. There's only one down here, and I refer you to my diary from last year regarding that bridge. The next one, approximately 70 miles farther south, is at Chester, IL, a narrow two lane truss built in the early 1940's and to tell the truth, it's a little unnerving to go across. In a car. Of the other bridges farther north that feed directly into downtown St. Louis, only one is a part of the Interstate system, one of only two triple-route concurrencies of interstate highways in existence in the country. Even with the other 3 downtown (McKinley, MacArthur, and Eads) plus the Chain of Rocks Bridge ten miles north of that combined, it's insufficient for today's use and work is progressing on a new interstate bridge just north of downtown, essentially 20 years behind need. Blame MO. Seriously.
The roads I travel are essentially 1½ lanes, designed with farm equipment in mind. And one of the coolest aspects of using those roads the farther out I go from town is I have them all to myself. That's not to say there isn't any traffic. There is. And that's not to diminish the potential danger involved in any blind curve or incline out here. There are risks riding anywhere, I wear a helmet, have my lights flashing all the time and try my best to be careful and choose the risks I'm most comfortable with.
I know how important a paved road is, but that knowledge has been reinforced with rebar like strength. It really is a representation of the level of civilization attained (and I can see first hand what years of ever growing populations and ever shrinking tax revenues produces) Concrete and asphalt are the most common types. Anyone needing an idea of what the Tar Sands product looks like, look no further than the blacktop surface of countless roads. I "... could hear the highway breathing" takes on a unique and no less accurate meaning to me (DB has said the inspiration for that song was a "blissed out hippie chick" he knew who would take acid and then go out in the field next to the Yoo-Hoo factory and trip. I thought you should know that. for added layers of meanings. and as useless trivia) That intimate, up close view of my surroundings means on my regular routes I know pretty much every crack, bump, rise, ridge, hole, gravel pit, warp, tractor tire pattern, debris field, and decaying road kill. I've seen roads crack, chip, break, bubble, and melt. I know what I prefer to ride on. Asphalt worn smooth by years of use, maintenance, and some hilliness. Hey, I like to coast once in a while :-)
I have a greater appreciation for how much effort it takes to run a family farm. You have to know a little bit about everything essentially. I've learned about the massive amounts of chemicals being used on the crops being grown. And I've gleamed a small sense of what it's like to see your world wilt, parch and then fry away in the heat of an unrelenting and unforgiving summer. I've developed a certain affinity to taking photos of structures in a state of disrepair and I've shared a number of them here at GUS. Yes, it's the inevitable outcome of gravity, weather, and the passage of time, but there are huge, life changing, and remarkable stories whispering inside them.
I've become an amateur observer of the natural world around me. I'm much more attuned with the weather, probably more than I've ever been. Wind speed & direction, temperature, humidity, cloud cover all directly affect my choice of route on any given day, and have the power to change my mind depending on how those conditions present themselves and develop. The weather can vary greatly in a very short distance or amount of time. I've been re-reminded of the properties of wind especially. It's not a fixed material thing traveling at a reported speed like a man on a bike, or a car. It swirls with eddys and currents throughout my ride(s).
There's an abundance of life, both plant and animal, natural and domesticated, bursting out everywhere. Birds are especially plentiful and varied. My crappy camera and my crappy skills generally aren't able to capture them accurately. I really had no idea how big hawks and turkey vultures are. Huge, big birds. Wingspans as much as the bike I'm on in some cases. I've seen cows, pigs, horses, buffalo, deer, snakes, llama, turtles, camels, peacocks, frogs, goats, donkeys, raccoon, skunks & possums crossing the road or next to it. I offer a small sample.
One of the most rewarding aspects of being out there on the bike, besides the exercise and sunshine I'm treating myself to (and both those things are treats) is the opportunity of escape (really like this one, especially the ending. of course there's a bike ride) from the pressures and worries of... everything. All problems fade from the forefront and I'm focused on my surroundings and my body's responses.
My senses are alive when I'm riding.
The glint of a vehicle up ahead, the way the leaves cast a speckled dancing shadow on the road, the vivid plumage of a bluebird or finch.
The sounds of bird calls, the wind whistling through a stand of trees, distinguishing traffic from the road I'm on or the one I'm riding parallel to.
Diesel exhaust. manure. sweat. the asphalt and oil of the road. earth. a skunk.
honeysuckle. That one really sparks childhood memories.
The taste of water, sweat, and dust.
Sunshine so warm, air moving across me, a rock or bump in the road struck by the tires and resonating on my middle aged frame.
I've had a great deal of change occur in the past 5 years or so. Some of it has been voluntary. As I initially mentioned, I have more than 4 years of a nicotine free life. I'm also coming up on 3 years of sobriety. Exercising regularly for more than 2 years. Some change has just simply occurred, or been inevitable. The kids are grown and on their own. My last surviving parent passed away. My marriage... has been radically altered. I really don't know what the hell I'm doing in that regard, but at least it's something based on respect for each other. I don't think I could have said that honestly before. I know none of these things are revelations to most of you here. Just reiterations and reaffirmations of what I'm capable of.
It does seem like I have all this change, jangling around like coins in my pocket, and I don't know how or where to spend it. Am I happy? Sometimes. Is that what life is about? I don't know. How does this sound? Happiness and truth are illusions, relative to one's perspective. And I'm still not satisfied. So now what? What do I want? What do I want to be, where do I want to be, and where do I want my life to go? I think I should start with something basic, and something I've failed at many times in the past.
Such a hard lesson. One of the hardest. One that I've struggled with forever. From it much positive energy flows. The Boss: "you've got to learn to live with what you can't rise above". So true. Without self respect and love for ones's self (not vanity or arrogant pride, but honor, satisfaction and that sense of fulfillment with the human experience I'm creating in me) I've tortured and blinded myself with fear, anger, guilt, self doubt, resentment, loathing, crushing despair, loneliness, & desperation. On a path where I believed life had broken me and beaten me so far down that I couldn't even raise my eyes for long enough off the "road" I'd been on to see the exits and turns I'd been passing. A "road" essentially of my own making (someone else had to of said that before)
I've been out on the ledge. Even jumped a couple times, so to speak. I've been extremely candid here about the mental health challenges I've faced and, as John Waite depicts, I'm just as guilty of wishing for money and fame, and despairing over the lack of either. But those things aren't what I'm looking for. Not really.
One area of my life that hasn't seen a lot of change has been my job. I've been at my current employer for almost 14 years, doing the same thing I started doing there. It was great to start with. It got me going again, and out of the house, but ... now it's now. ::sigh::
I could say so many things but ... I can't. Not really. I never, ever intended or envisioned myself being there for 14 years. But inertia sets in, like it does in so many lives.
I generally cringe when diaries get posted that reference the company I work at, for a number of different reasons. Yes it's easy enough to figure out where if you talk with me for any length of time. No, I've rarely confirmed or denied anything in the past, nor will I now. If you were here in my house, talking with me in person, things would be different. But here, no. I can say this. My experience has been unique and atypical, for the most part. I don't know why. I'm a white guy, and I know that buys me something, although I'm anything but straight. I don't know. Maybe it's just a reflection of ... the uniqueness in me. maybe. There will come a time when I can write about what's transpired there. Anyway ...
I really like the psychiatrist and therapist I'm seeing now and one of the homework assignments my therapist and I agreed I should work on last session was pulling out my 7 year old copy of What Color Is Your Parachute and just reading it for the first time by my appointment on 7/18. Mission accomplished. Wow. It's quite a guide. And very revealing. I've actually gone further and started working on some of the exercises. I've picked that book up 7 times (or more) in the 7 years it was first recommended to me, and pretty much promptly put it back down. Because when I looked at myself all those times
there wasn't I couldn't see anything of value in me. The Flower Exercise is involved and detailed, and I'm on my own schedule for completion. I know I'm travelling with the weight and gravity of a lifetime's worth of baggage. Life is much more simple when you're young. But all I need, ideally, is enough time and effort to affect small changes, like I've been doing, to knock me out of my current trajectory and onto the path I deserve to be on. I can at this point say my talents have always been there, and I've been using, refining and improving them, whether I recognized it or not, my entire life.
Such an easy lesson to forget and such a key component in my recovery program. Those small every day baby step changes seem imperceptible on a given day. But little by little, pedal by pedal, petal by petal, step by step, minute by minute, day by day, week by week, I'm affecting positive change in my life. Even if it takes me the rest of my fucking life. I have a goal. I can see the comm towers near my "home." They're sending out a signal to my heart and soul and I'm listening. again. finally.
I'm going to close with Aretha Franklin and hopefully you'll allow me some latitude when I envision what my ride looks like and does. And the Flower Exercise comes into play again here, because I love listening to, reading, talking, and writing about music, artists and their releases (lol, yeah like that's news)
This Grammy Award winning song is from 1985, and the disc it comes from, Who's Zooming Who?, was her first platinum seller. Pretty amazing, huh? With high powered star appearances from Clarence Clemons, Carlos Santana, Peter Wolf, Dave Stewart & Annie Lennox, Sylvester, Randy Jackson, Dizzy Gillespie, and Steve Khan just to name a few. Narada Michael Walden wrote or co-wrote 5 of the 9 tracks, and it has that good kind of 80's vibe, but she makes it all her own, with an unmistakable gospel bred voice, underlying spirituality, and self assured swagger. She definitely asserts her role and rule as Queen on this.
To "cruise on into It's Better Than Ever Street."
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