Why I Run

It took some effort to pull my front door open, it always sticks on cold mornings. That’s just one of the quirks of this weird old house. As I stepped out into the morning air my dog looked up at me from the couch with a look of confusion and disgust. “What the hell are you doing human? If you are going out there at least close the door, I don’t have thick fur.” he seemed to say.

What the hell was I doing? It was bitter cold out, autumn has overtaken summer with a vengeance and the air burns my lungs in the morning hours. My hands immediately start to curl up in search of warmth, reminding me again that I need to buy some gloves. Oh well, I can buy gloves later. Right now I’m going to run in a big circle around a park a few times with the soccer moms and retired folks.

The reasons I run are varied, and I need all of them to keep me moving. Getting out the door usually requires me to focus on the short-term benefits. Running wakes me up and suppresses my appetite to prevent snacking. It also gets the blood flowing through my body and clears my head. Running in the morning has consistently improved my  job performance and my writing, and it keeps me motivated to take care of my body and life. When I don’t run I’m more likely to spend the day on the couch with Oreos and Netflix being a sloth, but when I run in the morning I tend to get my errands done, eat fairly healthy, and get a lot of work done. This first positive action in the morning sets the tone for the day.

But those reasons really only get my out the door and to my first mental wall (usually around mile 2). I need more than that if I’m going to push past the walls and keep running. For that type of motivation, I need to focus on the long term and philosophical reasons I run.

The first reason, as cliche as it sounds, is my partner. My body is kind of a gift to her and I want to take care of it. I want to be healthy enough that our lives can be long and fun together and that means investing a little bit of time now for a big payoff later. An investment in me is an investment in us. I also really like it when my partner tells me she finds me attractive, particularly when she is specific. There is just nothing that boosts my self-esteem like when she wraps her hands around me and says “wow, I can feel your abs”. Is it superficial? Sure. Do I care? Not really. I like feeling sexy to her and myself. It is kind of cool to step out of the shower and see myself in the mirror and be happy with what I see.

The second reason is related to my partner. Well, it is at least related to our relationship. Since we have a “not completely monogamous” relationship I have opportunities to be intimate with others with my partner’s consent. I can’t really fall into the “now that we’re married she’s stuck with me so I can let my body go” trap if I want to keep having the sexual variety and experiences that I’m interested in. I realize that attracting a intimate partner (or to get people to keep sending me sexy snaps @pneiger) is more difficult if you don’t appear healthy, particularly when I can’t offer any type of romantic relationship. When I lack the ability to provide love for a future partner I need to make up for that in other ways, being fit and providing friendship is a way I can do that.

Another reason I run is kind of quasi-spiritual. I see my body as the most amazing gift I’ve ever received. I don’t think there is a god out there that gave me a body, but if there is one then it seems like I should show respect for that gift. I wouldn’t take something my mom gave me and treat it like shit, why would I do that with my body if it is a gift from a loving god? It seems pretty disrespectful to eat junk and neglect your health if your body comes from god. Anyway, I don’t really believe that, but I do think this life and body is a gift of sorts from the universe. As such, I want to treat it well and see just I can do with it. I love self-experimentation and my body is an opportunity to see what my potential really is. I want to try and run 100 miles or be physically fit enough to explore space someday. I want to try and live until the point when death becomes optional.

Running is also tied to my life philosophy of libertarianism and minimalism. I believe in personal responsibility, including self-defense. But self-defense isn’t just owning a well-maintained firearm and practicing your marksmanship because other humans are not the only danger we face. It is very unlikely that I will need to use my gun to save my life, but it is very likely that I will need a healthy heart and immune system to save my life. I exercise because I love my life and I want to increase the quality and quantity of it. Eating junk food and neglecting your health is to commit slow suicide, it is anti-life.  Life starts with the body. As for minimalism, if I want to live a life with few possessions and lots of leisure time, I need to stay healthy. Health expenses add up quickly and I need to take as much responsibility for minimizing those costs as my genetics will allow.

Like all philosophical views, this is just my ideal, one that I fail at regularly. I’m not trying to get on my pulpit and put others down (just last night I ate way too much ice cream and cookies and seriously slacked on my exercise), this is just meant to illustrate what I think about to keep my body moving when I hit walls while running.

Another source of inspiration is my nieces and nephews. I want to be alive and healthy throughout as much of their lives as I can. I want to celebrate victories with them and be there to comfort them when they are hurting. I want to provide guidance, support, and my perspective on life (if my siblings are foolish enough to let them). I’ve seen first hand with family and friends how being unhealthy can shorten the quality and quantity of your life. there are plenty of people my age (35) who can’t walk up stairs, play with their children, or travel because of their health. I want to postpone that as long as I can. I imagine this drive to be healthy and see their children grow up is even stronger in parents. I know how much I care for my nieces and nephews, but I’m sure that pales in comparison for the love parents feel. Maintaining a healthy body and being a good example seems like it would come hand-in-hand with parenting.

I don’t love running, but I don’t loathe it anymore either. It takes effort every day to get out and pound the pavement, but it is slowly getting easier and I keep finding more reasons to run. Hopefully, that continues and I’ll be in my 70’s running 8-minute miles around the park still.

 

Post-Script: I forgot one thing, I’m kind of a hedonist. I enjoy pleasurable experiences such as recreational drug use and ice cream. In order to balance the damage those experiences do to my body I need to exercise. A long life is boring if it doesn’t include pleasure.

Try 30

A while back a short TED Talk video crossed my newsfeed on Facebook about trying something new for 30 days. Like normal, it sat open as a tab for about a week before I got around to actually watching it. I’m glad I did actually watch it though, it kind of reinspired me to us this time in Missoula wisely. I’m only here until May and it would be unfortunate if this down time was spent watching the same shit on Netflix and just kind of drudging through my job. So, I decided to use this time to try new things and develop some healthier habits.

I started with a relatively easy one. About two weeks ago I decided to cut back my coffee consumption to 2 cups in the morning (as opposed to probably a dozen cups throughout the day). It has gone really well and I haven’t messed up yet. My afternoon and evening coffee has been replaced with tea mostly and I have found that I really enjoy Earl Grey (thanks Jean-Luc for the recommendation). Thanks to my change I am sleeping a lot better at night and my digestion is doing better.

This last week I added a couple new habits, including brushing my teeth at night and taking my multi-vitamin each day. I know it is gross that I never really brush my teeth in the evening, but hopefully this will turn into a lifelong habit. I knew ahead of time that just trying to remember wouldn’t work, so on the advice of one of my friends I put a calendar in my bathroom and I check off whenever I brush my teeth. It has worked like a charm.

Well, it is time to add some more difficult things. My next task will be more in line with the “try new things” instead of “develop good habits”, so I will probably need some new tools at my disposal. I think maybe setting a daily alarm on my phone for a time when I know I am always available could help, or maybe try to punish/reward myself when I accomplish my task. After giving it some thought I think I am going to try and blog every day for 30 days. These posts may be about current events, what I’m reading, random stuff I think about while stocking shelves at work, or maybe some fiction or poetry. I have no idea. I do know that remembering and motivating myself to do it will be tough so I am carrying a notepad around with me and am going to jot down blog ideas as they come up throughout the day, as Tom Clancy said in The Sum of All Fears, “If you don’t write it down then the idea never existed”… or something like that.

After I get into a good writing routine (or maybe after the 30 days) I have some other things on my list to try and improve about myself:

  • 100% Vegan – Right now I am at about 95%, I need to find good habits to replace my work meals which are usually vegetarian instead of vegan
  • Minimize My Trash – Based off of this post, I’d like to get to the point where I am creating as little trash as possible.
  • Meditate – There are so many benefits to meditation, I really need to stop being lazy and start scheduling 15 minutes a day or so for a still mind.
  • Music – I have a harmonica gathering dust on a shelf and should try to put in some practice. Music, like meditation, has incredible medical benefits and allows for a more creative mind.
  • Art – I have never been good at artistic endeavors but I’d love to start drawing, coloring, painting, taking pictures, or something to see if anything clicks.
  • Read – I do love to read but I don’t make much time for it. I should set aside an hour a day or so just to dive into a the written word
  • Education – The internet is filled with free education and I should take advantage of it. I do Khan Academy regularly but I want to start using more formal classes provided for free via MIT, Harvard, Yale, etc.
  • Coding – Learning to code seems like a wonderful skill to have, now and in the future. There are also a ton of free opportunities to get the basics down,

So, instead of watching The Office on Netflix for the thousandth time or scrolling my Facebook feed and engaging in worthless arguments I am going to try to develop some habits and learn some shit.

Self Reflection – Introduction

The nature of my lifestyle means I have a lot of time to think. 4-6 hours of constant bike riding daily kind of demands it, your mind tends to wander and you can only focus on podcasts for so long before you ignore them outright. I guess most of my adult life I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I believe and why I believe it. The stability of my Christian, conservative, white middle-class view on the world was another tower that fell on 9/11. After that attack I joined the military, saw some of the world, met lots of people, and realized my upbringing was not the “end all, be all” of the good life. In fact, I found it quite wanting.

This penchant for self-analysis and a recent post on the app “Secret”* inspired this upcoming series of blog posts. I think it is important to constantly question what you believe, why you believe it, and how people perceive you. There are many labels that people apply to themselves (myself included) but rarely can a person’s perspective and history be defined by a few grunted syllables. In addition, I think it will be fun to provide a permanent record of what I believe for future me to look back on. It is likely that 5, 10, 15, 20 years from now I will not have the same points of view. I actually hope I don’t, because that means I have likely stopped growing and learning.

So, in no particular order, here are the subjects, roles, and views I plan on exploring in the coming months, both my current views and how I got to them. I hope to get 1-2 out per week but that depends on logistics for my ride.

  • Libertarian Anarchist
  • Pansexual
  • Nudity and Body Positivity
  • Pagan Atheist
  • Transhumanist
  • Sex Positive
  • Open Relationships and My Current Monogamish Relationship
  • Veganism
  • Minimalist
  • BDSM and Kink
  • Drug Use

*Recently someone posted on “Secret” that my life is basically childish, hedonistic, and that I’m afraid of adulthood. I responded on Facebook and it doesn’t need to be rehashed here, but that perception of me did get my brain moving and was part of the catalyst for this series.

Expectations of Others

I’ve gone back and forth for a while about writing this blog but after a conversation I had today I think it is worth writing. Too many people have vented to me or asked how I deal with this topic that it makes me believe there might be others out there with this struggle. I certainly don’t have all the answers (or really any answers) but maybe sharing my experiences and thoughts can be of some help to others. So, these are my thoughts about dealing people who have expectations for how you should live your life and pressure you to abandon what makes you happy to do what they wish. In my life this was my mother so it will be from that point of view but it could really be any family member, friend, or mentor. (Spoiler: Things between my  mother and I are awesome right now).

Obviously I don’t know what it is like to be a parent but here is a quick run of my background so we are all on the same page. I am the oldest of six children and grew up mostly in a suburb of Portland, Oregon. I never planned on leaving Gresham until I joined the army and saw some of the world. After the military I started college in South Carolina where my ex-fiance lived. She lived within a few miles of her parents, grandparents, and all her aunts… basically generation after generation stayed in the same area. Because I started college when I was 22 I had a little bit different perspective on it. After college I moved to Washington DC where I worked in a couple non-profits for a few years and then headed out west to Los Angeles where I live now. Currently, I am living with my partner and her best friend, and the three of us are leaving in April for a 18 month bicycle ride around the continent.

So… that’s me. During my life (particularly when I was in DC and now in LA) many people have come to me expressing frustration about the way they interact with their parents. I guess they come to me because I live my life so vocally and openly, and clearly did not stay in the traditional, Christian, conservative life that I thought I was going to.

The tension between my mother and I really started when it became clear that I wasn’t going to be moving back to Oregon. My mother had a vision of all of her children growing up in the same area, getting married, and all of our kids being best friends. She had expectations, unfair ones that involved other people that were not consulted. Even if you don’t have kids it is important to realize that you do not have control over other people, only yourself. Your emotions are yours and if you base your happiness on the lifestyle of someone else (particularly someone who you haven’t discussed things with) you will end up hurt almost every time.

Tension continued to mount between my mother and I. It seemed she took every decision I made as a personal attack on her. Sex before marriage, not moving back to Oregon, not being religious, deciding not to have kids… these were taken as an assault on her motherhood. She viewed herself as a bad mother (and thought I viewed her as a bad mother) because my life choices didn’t match up to her expectations. In truth, she was a wonderful and loving mother. I cannot imagine having anyone else raise me.

Sadly, the tension, anger, and resentment led to us rarely talking and I dreaded returning back to Oregon to visit. We both felt attacked by the other, we both couldn’t find a way to resolve the differences in our life. Even the act of visiting seemed to make things worse, no matter how long I visited (2 days, 5 days, a week, etc) it was never enough, she always wanted me around more and thought my desire to leave was because I didn’t want to be around them. In truth, the real reason was much simpler. I didn’t want to be back in Oregon because I didn’t really have friends there, the only activity going on at my home was watching tv, and missing work was incredibly costly for someone just starting out.

As time progressed it got to the point where any real communication that was happening would be through my sister or one of my brothers. The conversations my mother and I had were superficial at best and rarely broached any subjects of importance. It didn’t help matters that I was openly blogging about my “sinful” life at this time. (Lesson: Parents have a right not to know things about their adult children, but they also have a duty not to look for things… so if you have a blog don’t tell your parents or if you do give them fair warning of the content and encourage them not to follow it. My mother no longer follows my Facebook or blog). Neither one of us wanted the distance between us that we had but we didn’t know how to fix it.

I don’t know exactly when but things eventually started to get better. I think part of it was I stood my ground and got to the point where I had to be very forceful, even issuing an ultimatum that basically said “this is my life, if you want to be a part of it you can’t be trying to guilt me into things or use emotional blackmail to control my actions. You have one year to be angry, upset, and to question me about why I view things the way I do but after that year is up if you can’t accept who I am then our relationship is over.” Through the year we had fights and great discussions and we came out stronger in the end. Now we both respect that the paths our lives took are very different but we are both happy and there is not just one way to happiness. Our relationship isn’t perfect but it is healthier, happier, and for the first time in a while I look forward to visiting my family in Oregon.

I’m not sure why this tension seems to exist between parents and kids. Maybe it is compounded by the changes society is going through. Our generation is very comfortable communicating primarily through email, skype, and cell phones. We have seen pictures and videos of people all over the world and we want to visit. We have had study abroad opportunities and can connect with people from around the globe with the click of a button. We also seem less interested in committing to a life time of kids in a single relationship until we have explored the world more. We see an opportunity to have it all and see no reason to settle down until our 30′s or later (or ever). Life is to be lived, and for me that means new experiences instead of the path so many have already been… and I don’t think I’m alone in that.

PS: I will probably add more to this. I had a lot more ideas running through my head when I was biking today but some seem to have slipped away.

Hiring Hippies Is Dangerous

** First off, welcome to my blog all the new followers. My post yesterday had my highest view count and brought in many new followers (most of whom even seem like real people). This is probably due to two titans of social media (Jennifer and Cathy) sharing my post on Facebook… by the way, if we aren’t Facebook friends we should be. I use FB as a way to aggregate news, thoughts, cool stuff… it is pretty awesome in my opinion. I also accept all friend requests (though slut-shaming, misogyny, racism, and general assholery will get you unfriended). You can follow me also but that still seems a little weird to me, no judgement though. So, my blog is mostly my personal thoughts and journey, particularly on issues close to my heart like libertarianism, sex-positivity, body-positivity, Burning Man, Ke$ha, the drug war, my upcoming cross country bicycle adventure, polyamory, and human enhancement. I do this writing for myself but if you get something out of it that would be fucking amazing to me 🙂  **

Well, I finally talked to my boss about my upcoming bike ride and how that would effect my job. I basically informed him that there is an end date for my employment. He was surprisingly understanding and supportive of teaching me as much as he can before I leave. I think he has realized for a while that I’m not cut out for the office life. My boss and coworkers are fantastic but warming a seat in an office for hours determined by tradition and not need feels like a noose around my neck.

Maybe something is “wrong” with me and I can’t just “fall in line” or “play the game”. I just have a hard time dealing with activities that can’t be logically explained to me. Wearing dress clothes, commuting through the city, and working a 9-5 shift doesn’t make sense when my job is done completely on a computer. I could be just as effective sitting on Redondo Beach with a Corona in my hand as I am here in the office. Add my commute to that and I just feel like I am nearly wasting moments of my life that I will never get back, all for a paycheck and job-security. Security is worthless when protecting nothing of value and I feel like my life is diminishing in value every day.

While I recognize I need a paycheck to pay the bills, and I am willing to “play the game” to some extent, my needs in life are small. I don’t have kids or a car, I live with my partner, I don’t have a TV, pay for cable, or desire any possessions beyond books. I could quite literally maintain my lifestyle for about $25k per year (I did the math). That includes paying off my student loans, going to Burning Man each year, buying several books a month, rent, food, 1-2 raves or party nights a month, maxing my Roth IRA, and additional investments. Of course it means I shop at Goodwill and Ross for my clothes and furniture, but I just don’t care. I would rather work minimally and have time to write and adventure than have nice things.

So, my boss knows I’m quitting. I feel good that I gave him over 6 months notice and he will be able to find a replacement. Working in an office for a couple years like this was certainly good for me to figure out who I was and what type of environment I can thrive in, just like living in DC was good even though I hated that city. I believe each person should try new things and follow their passion, even if that road isn’t down a popular one or isn’t socially normal. There is a huge spectrum of potential lifestyles when it comes to jobs, families, lovers, homes, etc. and I don’t think anyone can know which one is “right” for them until they experiment, take changes, get their asses kicked, and come out more confident.

I’ve shared this before but I just love this XKCD:

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