Just one thing

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Yep. I would add my cats and books, but essentially this is it for me, especially lately. Not even the beer that much anymore, and I’d say I’m down to 2 people…but the riding

Bicycles. Bike stuff.

It’s what makes me happy. Always. Starting as a little kid on a sparkly green Schwinn Stingray, through the years and many bikes, cycling has literally kept me moving through life. Doesn’t matter what’s going on in my life or my head, if I can get out on my bike, hear the wind in my ears, feel the burn in my legs, and the sun on my face, I’m good.

This has been a fairly crappy week at work, but I’ve come in early and left early the past two days so I can get a ride in after work before dinner, and that has made all the difference. It doesn’t change what’s going on at work, or with my mother, but it changes me – my head – and that’s what matters.

I’ve been following the Tour de France online in the mornings at my desk, and listening to Lance Armstrong’s podcasts in the afternoons. On my breaks I look at bikes and bike kits online, dreaming about something new and shiny. At 4:30 I go home and get changed, fill a water bottle, strap on my helmet, climb on my pretty purple bike and go.

Freedom.

That moment when I roll out of the driveway and turn onto the street is golden. Whatever is bugging me floats away and for at least an hour I don’t have to think about anything but keeping my legs moving, my eyes on the road, and how fast and how far I want to go. When I come back I stretch for a while, change out of my sweaty kit and into something comfortable for the evening, and I feel like a different person.

I can breathe. The endorphins are coursing through my brain, telling me that everything’s okay, life is beautiful, and it is.

When I’m riding I’m totally in the moment, totally in my body, not worried about the future or the past. There is just the moment and the road and my legs and turning the pedals. I think about things, but it all seems so far away, and my attention turns quickly  to the trees, the water, and the rabbits, deer, geese and ducks I see all along the way.

What’s here now.

That’s all that matters. That’s true all the time, but it’s easier for me to remember when I’m on my bike. It’s fun and it’s only me doing what I want – what I love – like when I was a little girl flying down the sidewalk on that Stingray.

So, yeah, riding, cats, books, friends, and beer. Simple really. Why does it seem so hard sometimes, so impossible? Life is hard and I get all caught up in what I don’t have and all the crap that drives me nuts. As long as I have those 5 things, though, it’s mostly okay.

Especially that one thing.

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The Great Pretender

I’m having trouble coming up with my “5 Things That Aren’t Wrong” list today. Every time I try to focus and think of something good, my brain shouts, “BUT…what about this?”  “And this?” “And…” My mind is trying to convince me that everything is wrong, and while at times lately it truly does feel that way, it’s not accurate, of course. The reality is just that my life right now is not the way I would like it to be, which is quite a bit different.

The list of “Not the Way I Want It to Be” things is pretty long, granted. I’m not sure I would say that it includes everything, nor would I call any of it “wrong.” It’s just not what I want. I have a lot of what I don’t want and not enough – almost none – of what I do want, and that’s making life a challenge lately.

It’s a challenge to get up in the morning knowing that the day will be long and full of things I don’t want, but have to deal with, pretending that I’m okay with all of it.

Pretending that I’m not exhausted and completely discouraged and not really knowing how long I can keep it all going.

Pretending that I can think of 5 things that aren’t wrong easily, because there are just so many wonderful things in my life that the only trouble I have is choosing the 5 that are going to be on today’s list!

Pretending that I love my job and it’s no problem taking care of my mom.

Pretending that missing out on all the fun things about summer is NO PROBLEM. And that not having any friends is my choice, and rarely being able to do anything I want to do because there is so much to do and no time left over, is A-OK with me.

Thumbs up, baby! I got this!

The alarm goes off in the morning and I hit the Snooze button over and over cuz I don’t want to get out of bed and face whatever unpleasantness the day has to offer today.  Chances are it will be different than yesterday, but just as challenging, just as uncomfortable, just as exhausting.

Last night I was awakened by my gall bladder in the middle of the night, and for the minute or so I thought I was having a heart attack, I was so relieved. When I realized it was just my gall bladder again – another problem to be dealt with at some point – I cried. On the one hand, relieved that I wasn’t dying after all, on the other disappointed that I wasn’t dying after all. Because dying would at least be a way out.

An end, finally.

Not the end I want, for sure, and this morning I’m glad I survived the night. I had trouble getting out of bed this morning, but I made it to work and I’m getting through the day. I will go home from work and I’ll get through the evening. At some point, I’ll get to go to bed. I’ll set the alarm and dread its din in the morning. At some point in the night I’ll wake up and lay in bed unable to go back to sleep while my brain runs through the inventory of ALL THAT IS WRONG.

And tomorrow I’ll do it all again.

Is this depression? No. In some ways it’s worse than that.

This is Unhappiness. I’m unhappy in my job, unhappy in my private life, unhappy with where I live. I don’t want the life I have. I want the life I want – the life I had – and I can’t convince myself any longer that I’ll have it again someday.

I have to work 5 1/2 more years, and it would be ridiculous after 18 years to start somewhere new all over again, even if I could find a job in this small town that pays as well as my current job and has insurance. 5 1/2 years seems like an eternity to me right now. And I don’t think my mother is ever going to die. She seems to be getting better and stronger everyday. That shouldn’t make me unhappy – what kind of a ghoul am I? – but it does. There’s no solution. There’s no way out or around, there is only through, and that is so discouraging.

It’s simple: I’m done.

But it’s not over and won’t be for a long time, maybe never. I’m trapped, and I have to pretend that I’m not. I’ve reached the point where I can fool everyone around me, but I can no longer fool myself.

The Great Pretender isn’t so great after all.

 

Summer madness

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This greeted me this morning on Instagram, and I realized that the reason I’ve been feeling so cranky lately is because I’m wanting something other than what I have.

Duh.

I know better than this, right? Live in the moment, accept what is. But here I am again, wishing and hoping, looking to the future to save me from the present. Oh well, I’m not perfect. Surprise, surprise.

Summer is my favorite time of year, and where I live it’s short. Three glorious months of sunshine and warm weather. The list of things I like to do in the summer is long, and almost all of them involve being outside. In my present living and working situation my time is limited and by necessity I spend most of my time indoors.

Not what I want.

I really enjoyed my 5-day mini-vacation before the 4th. The weather was fabulous and I took long bike rides every afternoon, spent most mornings reading on the patio, and had campfires (s’mores!) a couple of evenings. This past weekend was nice, too, and I enjoyed a couple of nice rides, which really is my priority in the summer, so I was a happy girl.

Now today I’m back at work, freezing in my ridiculously over-air conditioned office, trying to keep up with today’s Tour de France stage via live feed from Cycling News, and feeling sorry for myself that I’m not retired and free to enjoy this lovely summer day doing something fun outside.

Not what I want.

Tonight when I get home I may have time for a short ride, but the bulk of the evening will be spent cooking dinner, doing dishes, and hanging out with mom inside watching TV. Tomorrow night groceries, cooking, dishes, TV. Rinse, repeat. Everyday until the weekend, when I’m freer to be outside more because I’m not working and mom hasn’t been alone all day. If the weather holds I can have a nice long ride each afternoon, as I did this weekend.

Not horrible, but not what I want.

I want to be free. I want to ride for a couple of hours after work every night like I used to. I want to walk home for lunch and sit at my table outside in the backyard and eat while reading. I want to go out with friends and sit at a table outside and drink a beer and laugh and have fun. I want to go down to the park and enjoy whatever band is playing on Thursday night and look at the boats and people in the marina while I listen. I want to go to the beach and spend all day there soaking up the sun and swimming in the lake and reading.

I don’t want to sit in this cold office and do work I don’t like for difficult people. I don’t want to cover the front office at noon and deal with all the questions I don’t know the answers to that people come in or call with. I don’t want to hear about all the fun things my co-workers did last weekend or last night. I don’t want to deal with the tourist traffic to get home to make lunch for mom and scarf my lunch so I can get back in time.

I don’t want to have every minute of everyday scheduled with things I do for other people and don’t enjoy. I want to be free.

But I’m not. I’m not free, and I’m not having a lot of fun. Wishing and hoping and thinking about the future (when I’m retired and my mother is gone) doesn’t change that. And in the big scheme of things it’s not even that important. Lots of people work in jobs they don’t like and have family responsibilities. Most people, in fact. I have always worked and there seemed to be enough time for other things. I was lucky to have the freedom I did before.

And I totally get how lucky I am that my biggest complaint right now is that I’m not having fun.

So, poor me. I need to gently remind myself to just be here now. This is how it is, and until it changes (and it will, for better or worse) I need to find contentment in the moment right now, cuz really that’s all there is. The future is not guaranteed. Anything can happen.

Eckhart Tolle says, “Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.”

Exactly. I’m driving myself mad for no reason. I can’t leave my mother or my job, and changing anything right now would be counterproductive. So acceptance is the only way. It works the way it is, and that’s what matters. The rest is gravy and that just makes you fat.

On with the day, and the summer, and the year. one minute at a time. Appreciating what is.

Got it. Whew!