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.

Graduate School – Transpersonal Psychology

The idea of going back to school has been floating around in my mind for quite some time. I enjoy learning and I find the school environment works pretty well for me, particularly in smaller classes where I can be mentored by a challenging professor. I was lucky enough to have that in undergrad and I think I can find that in grad school as well.

What hasn’t been completely clear is what I want to study in grad school and why I want to study it. Generally, we treat formal education as fulfilling two purposes: research/discover an area of interest or passion and gain the skills necessary for a career. The former can generally be done without school in the modern era. School is often unnecessary for the latter as well, except when there is certification necessary to practice and finding a mentor outside of the academy is difficult. Either way, going to grad school appeals to me, even if it is just an experience that I decide wasn’t right for me, at least I had the experience.

So, what do I want to study? As much as I love Economics I don’t have any interest to pursue it professionally or in any advanced way (sorry Dr. Calcagno!). The only field that has really appealed to me consistently since high school is psychology and the older I get the more that passion grows. I have a couple of interests within the field. If I decide to work on the clinical side I’d like to help individuals who are LGBT, polyamorous and/or in sexually open relationships, and I’d like to use some “non-traditional” methods. If I decide to work on the research side (which would probably involve more schooling but my economic background could provide some assistance) then I want to study sexual diversity within a society, particularly with regard to kinks and paraphilias.

What do I mean by “non-traditional” methods? I mean using things like meditation, psychedelic drugs (including MDMA), spiritual practices, and other altered states of consciousness. This seems to broadly fall under the field of Transpersonal Psychology, which is basically spiritual psychology. I know that my hippy, Burner side is showing with this, but I don’t think spiritual necessarily means pseudoscientific. I tend to take a similar view of spirituality as Sam Harris and think that spiritual practices and altered states can be beneficial to people without resorting to supernatural explanations.

It will be 5 years before I am really ready to enroll in grad school due to my bike ride, prereqs, and this shitty $65,000 student loan Sword of Damocles hanging over my head. That time is probably good though, it will give me time to research transpersonal psychology more and see if it really fits for me. If things do fit I hope to enroll in Naropa University’s fall 2021 MA Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program. They several interesting specializations. At this point Mindfulness Based Transpersonal Counseling is my first choice because of the explicit focus on human sexuality, yoga, and Jungian Dreamwork. I also like the Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy due to the focus on the outdoors and the natural world, as well as the Somatic: Body Psychotherapy because of the focus on touch and connecting the mind, spirit, and body.

I have my work cut out for me. Between the three programs that interest me there are 62 books that are recommended reading, as well as 6 undergrad courses that I will need to get credits for. I can knock out many of the readings on the bike ride, though I’m not sure how many are actually necessary. To be honest, I feel like I will be competing with much younger people out of my league and I need to be really on top of my game to be accepted at my age (though, I’ve heard that some grad programs would look at 20ish years of travel and life experience as a good thing). While on the ride I can also take free online courses to become familiar with the material before enrolling in a course for credit at a community college. There are also tons of YouTube videos by professors and authors on this subject that I can watch. I will also need some real world experience by working or volunteering in a “helping” profession and working directly with clients. Ideally, I will also find a transpersonal therapist to see for my own mental health needs once we stop the bike ride. I’ve got a Excel checklist ready to go.

All in all, I’m excited. It has been a long time since I’ve had any sort of focus. I tend to hop around from subject to subject trying to learn on my own, which is fun but it isn’t necessarily the most efficient way. Now, I feel like I have a path to explore something that I’m interested in and can maybe lead to passion and inspiration.

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.

Sex Nerds

I had a great article from Vice brought to my attention yesterday. The article, which hit home for me in a lot of ways, is about sex nerds. Not nerds having sex, that is a different (but can be overlapping) category. Sex nerds are people who enjoy being nerdy about the subject of sex. We like to read about it, write about it, and ponder it from every angle. It isn’t about having a high sex drive or pursuing personal orgasms (truth be told, my sex drive is probably about average), no, it is about analyzing, questioning, and discussing the different aspects of sex.

Like most nerds (a positive term in my mind), sex nerds like to throw out social norms and see what is left. They aren’t content to just view the world or do things that are popular unless they hold up to greater scrutiny. “That’s the way it has always been done” is blasphemy. Instead, things like gender, relationships, kinks, and fetishes are all open to analysis, experimentation, and confirmation. And what nerds are finding about sex is fascinating.

Sex nerds tend to be open to multi-partner relationships in some form. Whether it is polyamory, monogamish, or a variety of “open” relationships we have found that jealousy and “traditional” relationships are not the only way to happily organize intimacy. Jealousy may be more of a social construct than a natural reaction. We are told that we should be jealous when our partners are flirted with, make out with someone, fantasize about another person, or have hook up… but why? Can’t jealousy, like many other negative emotions be controlled, subdued, and shown for what it is… an unnecessary display of anger towards something that may not happen and is often beyond our control. Jealousy is about possessing another person’s body and mind, it is about controlling them, treating them as an object. It may be “normal” but that doesn’t make it good.

Nerds also tend to be much more fluid with their gender and sexuality. Why should we view 1/2 of the population as off-limits to intimacy and love simply because of the way they were born? Certainly, we all have a certain level of sexual orientation. We find some things more attractive than others and are turned off by certain attributes, but is that purely biology or has there been immense pressure by churches, governments, and society as a whole to subdue sexuality. Men receive constant pressure to have no attraction to other men while women are often told they must be “pure” for their future spouse. Gender, like sex in general, has been a way to control the actions of others. And nerds, as is often the case, don’t give a fuck about social norms and are going to surround themselves with more accepting people.

Technology and the internet has really created revolutionary opportunities for nerds (and anyone who has interests that aren’t “normal”). There is an ability to connect and discuss things that would normally be off-limits. No matter how strange you are the internet allows you to find similar people… which of course complicates things. As nerds figure out that sex isn’t always just vanilla, that relationships can thrive with multiple people, and as gender is recognized as being non-binary new terms are needed. Polyamory, pansexuality, and all the different types of kink start to be defined and enter mainstream. And I hope it does continue to enter the mainstream.

Being a sex nerd is more nerd than it is sex. It isn’t about putting on a Tidus outfit and finding a cute Yuna to bend over a hotel room bed at a conference. It is about diving deeper into one of our most carnal drives to find a way to do it better, more intimately, and boldly try things that have never been tried before. And isn’t that what we all really want? To be able to explore a vital part of human existence safely, with consenting partners, and without fear of unfair judgement from others?

The Future

Making plans for the long-term is a funny thing. It is almost always out of our control and the universe has a way of throwing us unexpected curveballs, but we humans insist on making plans and pursuing them. This doesn’t seem to be a bad idea as long as you don’t continue down a failed or impossible path because you refuse to reevaluate your plans. I am no different than anyone else in this respect. I make plans… no specifics or expectations but I do try to align myself along a certain path and make preparations for where I think my life is going. This last week was an eye-opener in that respect and I have begun to make more plans for life after the 2-year bicycle ride.

We have all heard the cliche that you should do what you are passionate about. Your career, your life, your happiness can (should?) all be aligned. To be honest, until recently this never really rang true in my life, at least not in a long-term sense. I’ve had jobs in many places but nothing that really kept me passionate or in one place/career for long. I think that may be changing though. I have found what I am passionate about…. sex. Not just having an orgasm (that is awesome too) but about helping people and relationships deal with unhealthy views of sex. Particularly people who don’t fall into traditional orientations. I want to help individuals and couples dealing with the issues that are somewhat unique to LGBT, polyamorous, and sexually open relationships. People who would normally not be able to go to a therapist for fear of being judged, over analyzed, or told they should stop their non-traditional life to find happiness.

Luckily, I have a friend who is interested in going along a similar path. After literally dozens of hours talking we have a little plan… a plan that may shift, alter, and change but it is at least a guideline. While on my bike ride I am going research programs to get into Marriage and Family Therapy with a specialization in sex, I need to study and take the GRE’s, read all the literature we can get our hands on, and also work on getting any necessary prereq’s out of the way via free online programs or community college online courses. I am confident this can be done while on the trail.

After getting into and finishing a program my friend and I would like to set up a practice together. As a male/female team who has overlapping but different interests I think our practice could be incredibly successful. The end goal isn’t simply a practice in a city though. We would also like to round out our education with yoga and massage therapy, and then put together retreats to peaceful locations that people can sign up for. These retreats could have a variety of uses… single people dealing with sex or body issues, couples looking to bring together more intimacy and exploration, or some other random awesomeness we haven’t solidified. In addition, we may also jointly do some research or write a book or three together. 

All in all, I am excited. It has been a long time since I was really passionate or interested in a particular career or skill set. Hopefully following this path will continue to lead me to a happy life. If people have any recommendations, resources, or whatever I am always open to advice. 

Opening Pandora’s Box

Originally posted over at Sex And The State… because Cathy likes to give us amateurs an opportunity once in a while. If you haven’t checked her blog out you probably should, it is fucking awesome. 

When I first heard about Daniel Bergner’s book “What Do Women Want?” I wasn’t really impressed. I knew the premise from hearing an interview between Bergner and Dan Savage, and to be honest it sounded like several books I’ve read about the changing view of sexuality, love, and romantic relationships. While I was skeptical in the beginning that I would encounter anything new I am really glad I read it. In fact, I highly recommend it to everyone interested in the subject of a woman’s sexuality, particularly if they are unsatisfied with the Victorian-era narrative that women are made for monogamy and must act as gate-keepers to keep men’s uncontrollable lust in check.

Bergner (a journalist by profession) skillfully weaves the most cutting edge scientific research with personal tales of love, lust, and loss. Each chapter introduces new information and characters to convince the reader that the modern view that a women’s sexuality has evolved to be the more monogamous sex is little more than a societal enforced fairy tale. Women, in fact, may have evolved to actually crave more variety and more sex than men and it is centuries worth of social control by churches and governments (which historically have been male-dominated) that have created a puritanical ideal. An ideal that pressures women to fear, hate, and neglect their own passions and feel shame when they desire pleasure.

The research Bergner showcases in his book takes several approaches to remove nature and nurture, at to find out what women really want. Experiment’s include everything from Meredith Chivers’ measuring women’s arousal while watching a sexual and non-sexual movies (and comparing it to the women’s subjective rating of their arousal) to studies of the sexual practices of other animals like rats and rhesus monkeys.

The scientists Bergner interviews sees evidence for women’s sexual drives in biology. Multiple orgasms, quicker orgasms for men, and sexual arousal from observing many situations point to a drive for many sexual partners. Add that to the common decrease in arousal for their partner after a few years and the standard narrative for female sexuality starts to crumble. For generations we have been told that real love means a lifelong sexual attraction to your partner and if that attraction stops there is something wrong that needs to be fixed, usually through a psychologist or medication. To treat lifelong lust and sexual monogamy as the norm is to invite disappointment, causing harm to individuals and relationships.

With scientific research confronting (and often defeating) established social norms we all become more free. Increased knowledge allows for more opportunities, greater happiness, and more healthy relationships than in the past. What we do with this information is a choice each individual must make, but at least it is a more educated choice. As a person who is primarily attracted to  women I hope this information will help me be an understanding, supportive, and responsible partner when the woman I love eventually feels more lust for another. I hope women will read this and realize desire and fantasies are natural and they should not feel shame. These sexual desires and fantasies should not be translated as lacking love. Love and sex have become unnecessarily intertwined in modern cultures, and many of the interviews highlight how much the women love their partners even if they do not lust for them anymore.

Bergner has helped open a door for people to gain knowledge about their bodies and minds. This can revolutionize society. To free women from socially (and often politically) enforced mythological views of sexuality is to encourage self-actualization that is inevitably unique to each individual, and we all benefit when individuals are free to pursue their passions, desires, and dreams. Science is helping us approach a new revolution of individuality but it is all still in it’s infancy, as Bergner states in his closing chapter:

The science and thinking I have brought together in this book are a beginning, only that. None of the researchers I have learned from… would claim to have definitive, fully formed answers about female desire… Eros lies at the heart of who we are as human beings, yet we shun the study of our essential core, shun it perhaps most of all where it is least understood, in women.

Relations I Seek

It is no big secret that I see little value in small talk or networking. I find the whole practice of meeting people to be tiresome, and the games we play as humans are ridiculous. When it comes to meeting other people I am usually hoping for one of three things: friendship, partnerships, or sex. This may sound a little harsh but it is true for me, I just don’t care about meeting people that will help my “career” or just to pass the time on the bus. I want something deeper than that in my human reactions but because time and resources are finite the entire population can’t fit into one of these three categories for me.

Friends: I have a good core network of friends right now but this is in transition. As I have left the beltway liberty movement many of my friends from the east coast are not as prominent in my life. They are still important to me and I love them dearly but email and g-chatting is not the same as having these friends in my life. So, there is room for more friends right now but I tend to get along with women better than men. I’d like to believe I am a true individualist and post-gender but the reality is I generally feel more comfortable around women than men and am able to open up more to them. I don’t know if this is because I view men as competition or what but the friendships just seem harder to forge with guys for me. I actually think it is because women are most likely to fall into the next two categories which means investing in a new relationship with women opens up a lot of potential where men will only be in the friends category.

Partners: This is the ideal for me. To find romantic partners that will be part of an intimate family of love. This is tough to find though, especially when part of a poly relationship that is long distance. It is hard searching for a partner on your own when many people are not familiar with the concept of polyamory and it isn’t something easily broached early on in an encounter. In my experience the one exception is OKCupid where the poly lifestyle is not that unheard of and their matching algorithms do a good job of linking people who are at least open to open/poly relationships.

Sex: Lastly, sometimes other people are a strong sexual connection but not really a potential partner or friend. This is what I probably have the most room for in my life but is also very difficult to find. As an introvert poly it is not easy to approach someone or to explain my relationship as it is so I rely on others to be more aggressive who are familiar with my views. I guess my views are becoming more well known due to my blog and open acceptance of my own lifestyle. I realize I might be rationalizing my own aversion to approaching women now by basically saying, “they know me and what I want, it’s out there, they will approach if interested”.

Hmm, I need to give all of this more thought.