Everything I Need

Do you get like this? Your brain threatening to liquefy in a stew of stress, ambition, guilt, and the bone-headed decision to amplify and accelerate it all with massive doses of caffeine? I may walk placidly through the rooms of the small suburban home that shelters and renews me, but upstairs, where I plot and plan, all is amok.

Let me be clear in saying that I have no actual problems. This is the great travesty of my life, the rambling farce that balances the drama, an invention of difficulties where none might reasonably abide. I take some comfort, as I mill about my various family and friendships, to understand that most of my fellow travelers feel this same sort of mental/emotional/spiritual straining toward something better for themselves, something necessarily ill-defined and just over the rise, a churning yearning whose only firm tenet is that we are not currently doing what we ought to be.

This morning I entertained the idea of selling all of my non-essential possessions and giving the money away, the quicker to unburden myself of whatever material bondage might be restraining me. My better sense suggested I not mention this to my wife, sitting in the living room, reading a novel on her iPad.

I once had a guy tell me that the only difference between him and the crazy folks you see on the street, mumbling their stream-of-consciousness garbage laced with profanity and the broad outlines of conspiracies visible only to them, was that he had the brute strength to hold closed his jaws, to keep his own weary counsel.

And I sat in the dining room, Sponge Bob Square Pants echoing into my headspace from the kids’ Sunday morning conclave, and tried to gather my thoughts. I folded the laundry and washed the pots and pans from the previous night’s dinner. I thought about the day and the things that still needed done, bits of work that Monday would demand of me. I began to succumb to the fever dream of it all.

And then I looked out the sunny window and imagined myself riding away up the street, bundled to the eyeballs against this clinging, relentless winter, and I knew it would make me feel better, that it would be all the pharmaceutical I needed to relieve the worst of my own thinking.

Because, truth be told, I have no problems. I have everything I need, including a bike, prepped and ready to ride, pointing silently toward the basement door.

Image: Matt O’Keefe

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  1. Jon

    “…a churning yearning whose only firm tenet is that we are not currently doing what we ought to be.”

    Perfectly stated. It is like some version of regret for what you are not doing now and what you may not be doing in the future. Suburban, middle class malaise. At lease I am not the only one who suffers from this.

    And I am also not the only one who receives a daily remidy on the bike. Time in the saddle clears the mind and restores perspective. Great post.

  2. Running Cyclist

    Exactly. Cycling cleanses the toxins of life. Even if most of the toxins are imagined. Thanks for, once again, capturing my thoughts with your words.

  3. Rod Diaz

    Fighting a cold, so I’m about to try to sweat some non-imaginary toxins in the basement at a low burn tonight.

    I found at an early age that exercise its great mental therapy. After many other tries, cycling came out as the ideal exercise (what else can you be doing as exercise for 8 hours?) This long winter is trying to test how much I’m willing to ride indoors in order to wean the demons of boredom and idleness.

  4. Tom in albany

    Back in my single days, the bike probably kept me sober and, quite possibly alive and gainfully employed! Now it keeps me sane and married.

  5. scaredskinnydog

    Thanks for that Robot. The third paragraph summed up how I feel regularly. I think the band Traffic put it best “shouldn’t of took more than you gave”.

  6. Patrick O'Brien

    “When you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.”
    Tao te Ching, translation by Stephen Mitchell

    My problem was that I took too long to realize I had enough.

  7. papogi

    There’s something very Alexis de Tocqueville about your post, Robot, but you take it a step further and show that for you, and me, and for probably most people who read RKP, cycling helps to quell those tensions. Fantastic post.

  8. todd k

    In our family it tends to be my wife that is more prone to stress, ambition, guilt, and balancing difficulties. I’m prone to being terribly simple minded. I have room for only about 3-4 important things at most. I will add to that 1 or 2 things (at most) that I don’t want to be important, but nonetheless must be done. Things like yard work in the spring. Everything else beyond that is ruthlessly shoved aside and demoted to not important status and doesn’t get mindspace.

    I think I sometimes drive my wife nuts with the ease at which I do this and how something like a 2nd birthday party in one day with one of the kid’s friends becomes an “Oh well!” “But, wouldn’t that hurt that kids feelings?” “Maybe, but we can’t do 2 birthday parties in one day. Oh well, these things happen. We will apologize that we cannot go. And people will understand. And if not, oh well, sometimes cirumstances that are not of your doing will cause strange reactions in people. It cannot be helped.”

    In our house, I have to take care, though, that when I am frequently finding myself saying “oh, well”, that I am not inadvertently mistaking it with “oh well, it is all about me and what I want.” Nothing is worse for the family than if I am choosing a 3 our bike ride and essentially sending a message that going to the library to get books, or going to the zoo is an “oh well!” Even though I can demote things easily off the priority list, it has taken me a few years to learn how to do so fairly. And be ok with being a bit slower. And knowing that, hey, that is ok.

    My wife and I are actually a great team in this way in that she balances my tendency to be overly cautious with loading us up, with a bit of a push to make sure our lives are truly balanced for all four of us.

  9. Author

    @Patrick O’Brien – Me too. It took me far too long. Interestingly, understanding that I had everything I needed correlated more or less exactly with a significant uptick in general happiness.

  10. Ryan

    Sometimes having no problems in life can manifest into a big, giant introspective problem that follows one like a giant rain cloud. I think they call it monotony. Not that you are monotonous, but that feeling can creep up and sting quickly. I think that occasionally, some folks do well with a huge up hill battle; ala the Great Depression or a WW or some kind of crazy flu. Yeah, there will be monotony after the fact, but it seems that surviving a harrowing event or accomplishing the storming of an enemy bunker or whatever, sticks around. Come to think of it, sticking on someone’s wheel until all goes black, or descending a chunky hill at night, without lights is a purifying act that slays monotony with brutal efficiency.

  11. Wsquared

    A bout with cancer (or any other illness that threatens imminent demise) has a way of wonderfully concentrating the mind on what really matters. There are times on the bike now when everything comes together – the way I feel, the bike floating beneath me, a tail wind, the light coming in shafts over the mountains, just the right tune playing though the headphones – when I start to giggle uncontrollably with shear joy & the knowledge that I am still doin’ it & lovin’ it.

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