Tag Archives: change

Out With The Old Year, In With The Year of Lasts

On Facebook, my friend Jason posted that it’s “The first day. 364 to go.”

I have been so very conscious of this day coming, for so long, like it’d be a countdown clock ticking in the background.

My New Year’s is weird and very anti-climatic. I’m doing as little as I can. Decidedly so. I’ve left the house once in over two days, and that was only so I could walk around the block at midnight with an empty suitcase.

Weird, right? It’s actually a South American New Year’s superstition. Take the empty-case stroll at the stroke of 12 and your upcoming year will feature abundant travel. What the heck, right? So there I was, 11:59, taking a walk around the block with a carry-on case. Maybe I should’ve taken my largest suitcase. I was trying not to be penis-y about it, though.

But in those other 60 or so hours, I haven’t been case-marching around the block; I haven’t even been outdoors.

Now that six days of sun have bled into a week of forecasted rain, I’m feeling a spot of regret I’ve not been out in the world much. You know what, though? I’m having EXACTLY the holiday I wanted when I asked my boss at the start of November if I could have 16 days off. EXACTLY.

Do nothing often? Check. Do something sometimes? Check. Set a new world record for pajama-wearing? You betcha. Watch whole series on Netflix? Yup. Sleep as late as 10? Yep. Get up and then go back to bed for the hell of it EVERY SINGLE DAYYUP.

I have the luxury of knowing that I’ll very likely not be around for, well, five years. I’ve deliberately chosen to stay longer than I want before I leave for my world travels because I decided to savour The Last of Everything. Every season, every holiday, every weather, everything. I wanted to live knowing that this would be The Last Time I have any of these specific experiences for a very long time, maybe ever. Like, seeing the leaves fall in the park. Maybe I’ll never live here again, right?

After all, the only thing I can tell you with any certainty is that I have about nine months left in Victoria. Then, where? I don’t know. I don’t know where I want to start my adventure. I’m not committing to anything.

Except, that is, I’m committing to selling half of what I own, blowing this town, and becoming a citizen of the planet. Hopefully I’ll have it in me to experience five years of rootlessness. If not, so be it.

But when I’m done, my expectation is that I might find a new place on the planet to live. A new tribe. A new culture. A new thing. Newness. My eyes are wide open and my future’s whatever I want it to be — when I know what I want it to be, that is.

Nine months and then all my future is an unknown. Period. Blank slate.

It intimidates the shit out of me. It makes my heart go pitter-patter. And makes me smile a little too.

That’s what awaits me this year. Up to 10 months of redundant routines, and then POW, the complete opposite.

So these days, I don’t want to have any new experiences, or at least I’m not chasing them down. I kind of want to enjoy my life of routine and comforts, because for maybe five years I’ll never have a home longer than maybe two months, but often not even for that long.

I won’t have a favourite blanket. I won’t get to spend a week sitting on my ass watching Netflix because I’ll have too much guilt that (Portugal’s wine country awaits / nearby French markets bustle / Croatia’s seashore entices me / Istanbul lurks beyond the door / Prague beckons…) and that’s only where I might go in the first six months or year.

For five years, I’ll have to be social and rely on the goodness of strangers to get me where I want to be. Recluse? Not a chance. I’ll have to talk a lot, be interested and plugged in. I’ll have to be constantly creative and engaged. I’ll need to write every single day. I’ll never get to have a favourite comfort food because I’ll never be around long enough to get comfortable. I won’t get to have favourite anythings because I’ll always be days or a couple weeks away from somewhere new with more millions of things to experience — which is the whole point of travel.

It’s okay to mourn the end of my mundanity and comfort. Mundane comfort is a beautiful, glorious, wonderful thing. Do-nothing days can be magical.

This, my wonderful spread of boredom, wine-drinking, TV-watching, slack-ass relaxation is possibly the last time I’ll get to do THIS without pressure and anxiety about all the things I should be doing before I leave, let alone for the five years which follow.

That constant whirlwind of stimulation that is proper travel, it daunts me a little because I love the end-of-travel flop-on-my-own-bed feeling, and I won’t even own a bed while I’m abroad. I mean… zoinks. Serious commitment to the cause, that — selling everything before I go.

So this Christmas holiday, I’m overdosing on domestic bliss. I’ll always be able to remember when I wasn’t sick or injured yet chose not to leave my house for over 72 hours. Except that walk around the block to summon the coming year of travel, of course. And tomorrow I’m only ending the isolation because I’m being bought a fancy meal and get to wear fancy pants (or at least my new jeans).

I like that I’m “mourning” Christmas as much as I’m celebrating it. I’ll miss this apartment and the simplicity of Christmas here. I like that I’m aware of so many “lasts” as I go through this final year. It’s a year of bittersweet savouring. It makes smaller moments seem very poignant.

Because I’m also excited to know my life will be me not knowing what’s next yet believing EVERYTHING is possible. I like knowing I’ll have week after week after week of amazing new experiences in mind-blowing places. I like that I’ll meet new people everywhere I go. I love that I’ll probably never see a sunset in the same place more than two or three times for five years.

It’s so completely opposite of the life I have chosen to live here in Victoria.

That’s the beauty of life. We can be whatever we want, live whatever life we choose. Most people just don’t get creative or risk-taking enough about it. Victoria was always going to be my jumping-off point. For awhile, I was trapped by life as one of those folks who couldn’t take a risk, then I decided to stop all that, and Victoria was step one. This around the world thing was a dream I didn’t have the guts to share, at first, but now I’m confident that I’ll make it happen. Somehow.

Today, I have three quotes I’m trying to live my life by. One of them is relevant to my five-years-around-the-world dream:

It’s not who you are that holds you back. It’s who you think you’re not,” attributed most often to Denis Waitley.

Waitley Quote

Right now, I’m a reclusive writer girl trying to resurrect her mojo (and succeeding at it). I’m still trying to decide what Next Phase Steff’s catchy tagline is. I’ll know it when I see it.

So for nine months, give or take, my life’s all about the Last Time. Comfort food, quiet nights at home, old casual lounging clothes, favourite blankets, sunsets in the boring same places, creature comforts of all kinds — that’s my year ahead.

Until one day it’ll be the complete opposite. Poof! All new! All firsts! All the time! ALL THE PLACES.

When I’m not daydreaming about my future, I’m completely stuck in the moment. It’s a nice, weird dichotomy, and I know what to love and appreciate about both. (And there’s not much to dislike about each of ‘em, either!)

I’m excited about 2015, minions. I’m really stoked.

I hope you are, too. Happy new year, you.

My last sunset of 2014, from one of my "boring old" sunset spots.

My last sunset of 2014, from one of my “boring old” sunset spots.

A “Hello, How Are You?” Kind of Day

I feel like the change I’ve sought is finally starting to happen. The gears are shifting, things are falling nicely into place, money is sorting out, my body’s pain is settling down, and I’m even starting to feel like a “local” here.

It’s a big week for me, always is. Mother’s Day. It always approaches with a sense of dread. It’s different this year. I’ve upped and moved to a place I think my mom would’ve loved to live in. We came here on a “girl’s weekend” when I was in fourth grade, so, that’s odd for me in a way this week.

One of the first things I did here as a new resident was wind up having dinner with my two aunts, both visiting suddenly, who raised a glass of wine, toasted my mom, and said “Who would’ve thought we’d all meet here, now?”

That was back in March and I already feel a million miles away from who I was that week.

I’ve tried to keep my bitching to a minimum in all that time, but my body reacted horribly to the stress of moving, the sudden shift to a “walking” lifestyle, and working from home. Oh, and the small matter of riding my bike straight into a roadsign and getting whiplash. That was helpful. Suffice to say, in the coming weeks, there was a lot of pain, and a lot of worry.

But I kept my chin up and now, this week, finally, everything is settling down and I’m not so sore, and I’m more active, and it’s a good, good thing.

I’m glad I had that unexpected adversity, though. I think it needed to get worse before I would really appreciate it getting better.

Sometimes we can be very stupid humans that way. I know I can be a very stupid human. Sometimes, getting beat upside the head with lessons is the way to grow.

Sometimes, we forget how resilient we are. That too is a great thing to be reminded of.

I think all the little griefs and frustrations that sprung up in my first eight weeks here have served to remind me of why I needed this move in the first place.

I’m 10 weeks in, I have no life, I’ve only seen minimal parts of the city because I’ve been limited to days I feel good, and YET I don’t feel homesick for Vancouver.

Despite that, I have a trip home next month. I’m speaking at the 2012 Northern Voice Blogger’s Conference. I’ll be on a panel talking about how to write with authenticity. I’m speaking Saturday if you want to grab a ticket for the day, $40.

I’ll be in town for a few days, crashing at a couple different friends’ places. A foreigner in my hometown. A couchsurfer returns. That’ll be weird. And cool. Mostly weird.

Great blue heron fishing. Shot by me.

And I’ll probably cry on the ferry back to Victoria, and homesickness will likely hit me for the first time then. Because, honestly, Vancouver in the summer? Heaven on earth, man. That’s how ya do it. (But Victoria’s gonna be pretty killer too.)

The impending, inevitable bout of homesickness doesn’t matter in the long run, though, because I know this is the right place for me. It’s that gut-check level of intuition. I can’t explain it in words, how it feels, but I wake up and this place just feels right, for right now. And that’s all I need to know.

Monday, I got up, excited to see a big to-do on the beach road, but that was a bust, so, instead, I took a walk along the beach and spotted a great blue heron fishing. I stood there sinking into shoreline wet sand, snapping photos for an hour. It was fantastic. Then, I came home and worked.

Tuesday, I got up, worked for a couple hours, hopped on my bike for a great eggs Benedict breakfast in town, then cycled around to four different food shops (Chinatown and beyond) for all my favourite cooking stuff, and headed home for more work.

That’s two days in a row with the kind of balance I moved here looking for.

This is the first week where I’ve felt like I’ve had any of that going on. It’s something to aspire for. It’s where I’m headed. If I can have 2–3 workdays a week like that, it’ll be a great lifestyle over here, and I know it.

So, change. It’s like that snowball on the hill. Getting it going is ridiculously frustrating and labourious sometimes, but once you get the foundations, once you start moving it and pushing it, it slowly amasses more, and more, and then it has a momentum of its own. If you’re not from a colder region, here’s a video of making a snowman. All true.

And that’s what I’m imagining for my own change: The Snowball Grows. Now gravity is pitching in and my ball of change has begun to roll with a whole lot less of the grunt-work from yours truly.

It’s an exciting time.

Well, this wasn’t what I’d intended to write about but it’s a great snapshot of my headspace right now, I guess. I’d intended to tell you about my jade plant and how well it’s doing and how much it’s got me being pensive. But that’ll be for another day.

In the meantime, I’m doing well. Living life, working a lot, feeling better, getting my groove on, and thinking I’m getting closer to where I need to be.

That’s your update, kids. And, hey, it’s almost Friday! Happy weekend.

Occupy This, Wall Street

In 2008, my friend bought me an Obama shirt as a New Orleans souvenir. I was definitely an Obama fan but I’ve never been one for political worship.

You show me a politician, I’ll show you someone who makes compromise a lifestyle — Obama or otherwise.

Not that all compromise is bad, but sometimes you gotta fucking stand your ground, only that doesn’t happen in American politics anymore, not in a way that benefits the average person.

I’ve been unhappy with the Obama administration because I’d hoped for more. I’d hoped for someone who would inspire while he led, who’d bring the passion of those campaign-trail speeches to daily life.

And I’d hoped for an American people who demanded more, who got involved, who wanted changed, and who’d be there to make the change.

Then nothing changed.

For 2.5 years, I’ve worn that Obama shirt inside-out, and only while housecleaning. I think that’s my own private way of making a statement. I don’t hate him, I just didn’t get the leader I’d hoped he’d be. Still, ain’t Bush.

For three years I’ve been frustrated at the lack of passion in America, how everything’s been one glib joke after another, but somehow there’s a wall between the reality of people’s homes and jobs evaporating, and the pompous otherworldly life of the 1% that sucks up so much of the airwaves’ time.

Photo by Nancy Edlin, shared publicly on Facebook.

Fuck Kim Kardashian’s wedding, Mr. News Anchor.

For years now, I’ve been angry, frustrated, and felt like I’d been ripped off and oversold. First eight years of Bush, then three years of this tip-toeing through ethical landmines that Washington has become.

In the early days of Occupy Wall Street, I thought “Yeah, nice gesture, but let’s see how long that lasts.”

I’m flabbergasted at the rate at which it’s starting to catch on. Stunned that the Billionaires’ Club is now defending its earnings and politicians are saying “Let’s not acknowledge them.”

The tide is turning. It’s an immovable force. It seems like the anger I wanted people to feel is finally there, that they’ve finally attained a sense of entitlement to a good life and a slice of the vaunted American Dream Pie.

There are so many sayings going around behind the #OSW protests. Like, “I believe in the separation of corporation and state,” and “I’m not opposed to capitalism; I’m opposed to corporate greed.” Yet so many seem to just not get it.

But they will.

The media has begun to realize #OccupyWallStreet might be the verge of a bold new era of an involved electorate, an angry populace, and the beginning of the end to this neo-feudal society that has arisen.

There’s one area in which the 1% are our equals: They only get one vote.

So, then. Who gets that vote?

Not a clue. Give it time. Hello, Darkness– do ya got a voice crying out in there? Who?

Remember, the French Revolution only took three years for the peasantry to overthrow the monarchy and the bourgeois. It took three years to plant the seeds for a way of life we’ve enjoyed for 220 years.

220 years? Democracy needs a facelift. She’s looking a little punchy. And now we have social media. Think of soc-med, like Twitter and Facebook, as the microwave-cooking of revolutions: Gets cooked faster than you ever hoped!

And business? Time for an overhaul, but mostly in the financial sector. I don’t give a fuck about Coca-Cola, I care about Goldman-Sachs.

Last week, when Steve Jobs died, even people I’ve long respected made ignorant comments like “If the the Occupy Wall Street protestors had their way, there’d be no Steve Jobs.”

What the fuck you talkin’ ’bout, Willis? I choose to own an iPhone, I don’t choose to have the economic world collapse due to speculators. I’m fine with Apple being Apple, Jobs having been Jobs. That’s business, not personal.

What I’m not fine with is executives like John Paulson taking a half-billion-dollar bonus because he THINKS he speculated well on finances (but then loses 40% value the next year). Steve Jobs took ONE DOLLAR A YEAR in pay, so don’t tell me he’s in the same class as the Wall Street Fat Cat Assholes who seem to think $500,000,000 is a good year-end bonus.

Their mistakes crash the world. Their successes have been few and far between for years. A little objectivity might help.

I’m lucky if I get a $500 Christmas Bonus, because I live in the real world and work for a small company, like most average joes/janes.

Between the stupidity of the finance industry in the United States — which is a world different than Canada’s, where we’ve never softened legislation, banking is healthy, and people still get loans — and the broken electoral system, it’s gonna take a big, long, noisy protest to wake the entire country up to just how stupid things have become down south.

There are massive issues in countries all around the world, because we’ve watched the relaxing of ethics in power in America and it spreads like a fungus, because America’s influence on the world is unparalleled.

Within their own borders, I find Americans don’t understand why it’s so important to the rest of us what happens there, and why we get so invested in their inability to demand true change from their leaders.

But it’s really, really simple. America is the house of cards we’re all built upon. They come tumbling down and the whole world’s financial network goes boom. Even Canada, where it’s sort of a healthy economy due to our regulations, has felt the pain from America’s missteps in recent years.

These are dark, difficult days. Change is needed urgently, globally: fairness in finance, representation in politics, equality in legislation, and people’s voices being truly heard.

What we need is a government with balls, a government who realizes there’s opportunity in saying, “Hey, you, hedge fund — go fuck yourself. The public want what we got.”

As for Obama, I’d seen a speech he did on the early days in the Iraq war, and he was so prescient that I thought “A man with this kind of future vision, he needs to be leader.”

And every day since his administration began, I’ve had one West Wing/Aaron Sorkin-inspired wish: “Let Obama be Obama.” I’ve wished he’d raise the level of debate in America.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. After all the partisan bickering, the forgetting that there are real people who depend daily on issues politicians are supposed to resolve, after all the water under the economical/political bridge, Obama’s a guy that’s a faint shade of who he promised he’d be.

Well, that oversold dream and those glossed-over half-truths, they’re old, and we need something new, Obama & Co.

PS: Let’s remember, too, that a Vancouver, Canada company kickstarted the whole Occupy Wall Street Movement — Adbusters announced the Occupy Wall Street event back in July and tried to drum up support. I wonder what their editorial office is like these days, as the movement takes hold globally.

Why are Western Riots Happening?

Russell Brand has been surprising me of late, specifically in his writings about Amy Winehouse and now his opinion piece in The Guardian about the London Riots. I feel I have to take him much more seriously than I have been.

His piece on the London Riots is bang-on. More so than most erudite intellectuals in the press will ever grasp. Here is just a portion of his spot-on commentary:

Politicians don’t represent the interests of people who don’t vote. They barely care about the people who do vote. They look after the corporations who get them elected. Cameron only spoke out against News International when it became evident to us, US, the people, not to him (like Rose West, “He must’ve known”) that the newspapers Murdoch controlled were happy to desecrate the dead in the pursuit of another exploitative, distracting story.

Why am I surprised that these young people behave destructively, “mindlessly”, motivated only by self-interest? How should we describe the actions of the city bankers who brought our economy to its knees in 2010? Altruistic? Mindful? Kind? But then again, they do wear suits, so they deserve to be bailed out, perhaps that’s why not one of them has been imprisoned. And they got away with a lot more than a few fucking pairs of trainers.

These young people have no sense of community because they haven’t been given one. They have no stake in society because Cameron’s mentor Margaret Thatcher told us there’s no such thing.

If we don’t want our young people to tear apart our communities then don’t let people in power tear apart the values that hold our communities together.

–Russell Brand, The Guardian

I’m braced for a future in which riots are more common, and more violent, than they’ve ever been.

We’re at a turning point in this world of ours. We’re on the verge of Alvin Toffler’s fanciful future, and we’re not receiving what we were sold.

Technology hasn’t made our lives easier. It hasn’t increased employment opportunities, it’s doing the opposite. We have economic upheaval the world over. Food shortages are everywhere. There’s no sense of community in the western world anymore.

There’s a haves/have-nots divide greater than ever, and with more media around us than any point in history, that reality is being driven home, hard, in every newscast and throughout the web.

The real news stories about real people leading troubled lives and feeling disenfranchised, where are those? There are none. If you’re not eating $25 plates in the restaurants, gallivanting through the social scene to be seen, then you might as well be invisible. The media sure as fuck doesn’t want to write or talk about you.

After much of a decade lived with reduced income — as often by choice as by necessity — I can tell you the anger and jealousy one feels at seeing all the pretty people with all the pretty toys isn’t reserved only for Angry Young Men. The feeling of being excluded is also not only their lot.

The divide is growing, and politicians today seem to encourage that divide.

The anger is not dissipating. The community is not healing. It will not.

This world is locked in a losing battle against spirituality, community, and togetherness. It isn’t THERE anymore. There’s a declining sense of ethical responsibility for our fellow humans.

Add to that the changing economies, the losses on the jobs fronts, the increase in retail jobs that underpay people, and escalating costs of living, ever-increasing taxes with less to show for them, and it’s a wonder we don’t see more rage in the populace.

The London Riots are a harrowing potential turning point.

Politicians of the world need to wake the fuck up.

Corporations have no soul, and to continue pandering to the millionaires and the upper classes will leave politicians gasping as the Forgotten Citizens start realizing we have more power than we’ve been led to believe.

And god help us if those realizing it are devoid of ethics and don’t give a shit about the law.

Remember the French Revolution? Everything changed in three years. The monarchy fell and it spread across Europe. It only took three years because they didn’t have Twitter, Facebook, et al. Those revolutions changed the known world for the following two centuries.

And times are ripe for change again.

I don’t agree with the riots. I’m radically opposed to them. I loathe the destruction, violence, and crass behaviour.

But maybe the day is coming when it’s the only way those in power will listen.

When every politician is barely a change on the last, what’s the point of putting faith in ballot boxes?

London is the canary in the societal coalmine. The change-train is a-comin’. You better get onboard.

I know I’m fed up. I’m angry. And I’m pushing 40, smart, have everything I theoretically need in life… but I’m angry, too. My “fuck that” schtick on Twitter isn’t actually a schtick. I’m really that bitter about much of life today.

It’s a simmering pot of discontent, this big ol’ world of ours, and I fear the day it boils over.

What’s the solution? It’s not on Wall Street. That much, I know.

Anticipating Autumn

Fall has landed.

It’s the first night I’ve had to close my windows all but a crack. Soon I expect the radiator will be turned on and will spend the next several weeks climbing in temperatures as the climate closes in on winter.

Photo by me, on Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, under the Cambie bridge, I think?

It’s the first day I’ve been funny in the morning in a few weeks. I’ve got my mojo rising and my body’s starting to feel like I’m in control of it again. Pneumonia has been a shitty ride, but my prescription finishes today, and I’m turning some good corners.

Good thing, too. Gettin’ busy — after all, a week from today, I’ll hit the ripe old age of 37.

September has been a long, hard month. Every year I seem to face some kind of adversity as I head into the autumn. A couple times I’ve cheated death on Labour Day weekend. Once I blew out my back a couple days after my birthday. Yeah, it’s always been a rocky time for me, one that suggests much change is ahead for me.

This year’s no different when you get down to the basics: Change is necessary, positives abound, opportunity knocks, et cetera.

But I suppose that’s autumn for most of us.

I think we all go a little off-track in the summer. From the time of childhood on, summer suggests two months of free-for-alls — a time when hedonism makes sense to just about everyone, days when abdicating your responsibilities are too tantalizing to pass up. Nothing like wind in the hair and sand in the toes, as the saying goes.

Then fall rolls around, and like it did when we were kids, it means life is coming back to the working cycle.

Harvest time. For tens of thousands of years, autumn has been a time of preparation and planning, a time to get working in order to ensure survival over the coming cold months of hardship.

Biologically, I think we’re still hardwired there. Summer’s that time when survival’s easier. We don’t even need shelter — sleeping under the stars isn’t just nice, but essential to the human experience.

Winter? Heh, not so much — especially here in the so-called Great White North. (Ironic, of course, since Vancouver, Canada gets far less snow than NYC, or even Vancouver, Washington, but, hey, whatever stereotypes rock your boat, man.)

As the days get shorter, my mind turns to the months ahead, planning and scheming for all I feel I need to accomplish. Thrown into cold, rainy, dreary, windy Wet Coast days, I’ll find myself methodically productive and compulsively accomplished.

Unlike summertime Steff.

It was at this point, three years ago this very week, I reached my self-esteem rock-bottom, had just quit the job making me miserable, returned to a job that allowed me to put myself first, and started on my path toward losing 70 pounds and being able to say I Am Not That Girl Anymore.

The fall has always been a powerful catalyst in my life.

You might think that, coming off a month of back problems and pneumonia, I carry dread and fear about the months that loom… but you’d be woefully mistaken, friend.

I’m stoked. For every step backward I’ve taken this year, there’s been two steps forward. You can choose to focus on the backwards steps, but I’d rather believe it was just practice, and practice makes perfect.

Big picture” is always more rewarding than a nano-focus. Don’t think about the steps backward this year; think of how much forward you were able to move.

I know the possibility that can come from this bubbling anticipation and dogged desire to capitalize on it. I’ve been there before, I’ve seen what it can do to me. Hell, I know what *I* can do with it.

All this “stuff” in my way right now… it’s just stuff. It’s a bug, a sickness, and it’ll go away. It happens. It’s not “bad luck” or misfortune. It’s just my turn. It’s a reminder of the things I said were important to me — my health, my future, my soul. It’s a reminder of how much I could have controlled more aspects of my life, and an inspiration to do better in the coming months.

Your adversity is what you decide it to be. Make your conclusions carefully.

It’s autumn. A time for things to die and begin their cycle of rebirth. A time to reap what you’ve sown and account for it. Mostly, it’s just a time.

Today, I lament the loss of warmth and long days, the frivolity and fun, the recklessness and hedonism. I mourn that my inner kid’s gonna have a harder time coming out to play for a while.

But I’m truly thrilled to lose the seasonal distractions, gain some focus, and launch future plans for taking over the world.

I’m looking forward to chillier nights, leaves falling, storms that remind me just how fragile our place in the world is, bundling up, excuses for sleeping in, and cradling mugs of hot beverages in frozen hands. I’m longing for the crisp, clean smell, the quieter streets, the oft-patter of rain and splashing of tires, and the fuzzy comfort of wearing warm slippers.

By the year’s end, I’ll have begun growing tired of it all and will dread the next four months, but that’s how the weather cookie crumbles here in the proverbial Great White North.

And, today, none of that matters. Today, summer’s gone, fall is here, and survivalism kicks in — just like it ought to after tens of thousands of years of biological programming.

Happy autumn, everyone. Enjoy everything about it.

And please, for the love of god, don’t put ornamental gourds on your table.

Ratcheting It Up After a Slow Afternoon

Yesterday I cycled 42 kilometres.

That’s the fifth time I’ve ever bested 40km in a day. It felt pretty awesome, because it’s the first time out of all those times that I managed to Finish Strong.

Fitness, for me, isn’t just about health. It’s about proving things to myself. It’s about saying now that “That can’t beat me anymore.”

It’s about saying “I Win.”

There was a time when cycling a round trip of 7 km to my bookstore job would add about 40 minutes to my day. It once took me 74 minutes to cycle 12km home from downtown (with about 4-5km uphill), not including “catching my breath” breaks.

Now I can do it in about 34 minutes.

Being athletic isn’t about where you start, it’s about where you make it go. It’s a mindset, a way of life, a credo, and a pursuit. It’s about taking control of your health and dominating something, ANYTHING, in life.

Me? It’s been a long, long time of slowly improving and constantly setting new goals. “Okay, I did that. Now what?”

The only problem I run into, though, is who I was versus who I am.

I wrote once about how Malcolm Gladwell’s theory of The Tipping Point applied to me, personally, with my weight issues. Gladwell asserts it takes 10,000 hours to gain expert proficiency at any one thing.

Well, I spent 218,000-plus hours chasing the “expert” status in Being Fat. I mastered that shit. I came pretty close to being The Funny Forever-300-Pounds Friend.

Now, with all my weight-loss efforts, I’m probably over the 10,000-hour mark for Kicking Ass and Taking Names, but the 218,000-plus of fatty-school hours did some pretty intense conditioning to this Bear of Little Brain, I tell ya.

This week, though, I measure myself and learn I’ve lost 2 more inches off my hips and 2 more off my waist. Somehow, there’s this band in between that isn’t yet giving, but hey, movement in the other areas is fantastic. I’m closing in!

Today I’m learning about diabetes, and I’m reminded just how preventable that disease is.

I’m loving that exercise is such a major factor in how likely you are to prevent or reverse its occurence.

I’m loving that I can now describe myself, most weeks, as being “active”.

I can’t tell you the satisfaction of yesterday doing a ride that killed me years ago — when I used to do a 20km shorter version of it, and tackling on an extra 10km on an already-50%-longer route for the hell of it because I had “more left in me”.

It’s with a great deal of smugness I can casually state what I’m capable of doing these days, when the opportunity to talk about it comes up — only because I know how hard I’ve tried to get here. I’m the one on the other side of painkillers, ice bags, chiropractor appointments, and everything else I’ve had to learn to use to my advantage as I suffer through the acrimony of Becoming UnFat. I’m the one on the other side of asthma.

I don’t know.

I don’t know what I want you to take from this, why I’m writing it. I guess I ultimately hope that anyone who’s out there who’s not fit or active can learn what it’s taken me a long time to work through — that you don’t need to remain who you are today, that exercise does hurt but it’s supposed to, and it’s in that struggle and pain and recovery that we become new, better, more confident people.

Even if you’re “skinny-fat”, inactivity kills people every day, and the lack of self-esteem from being inactive cripples people every single minute of every day.

My athletic accomplishments make me stronger in every single life experience I face, because I know the mental fatigue I can overcome, and the physical strength I’ve shown. I KNOW it now. I’ve proven it to myself.

It’s not about filling 30 minutes with walking because the doctor says to do so. It’s your opportunity to set a goal and kill it.

If you’re not huffing, puffing, sweating, and wheezing, then you’re simply not exercising hard enough — whether you’ve got 10 minutes to do it or an hour.

Leave everything on the floor, and you’ll know it.

And a few hours later, then a few weeks later, and then a few months later, you’re gonna increasingly love it.

Today, I’m recuperating a little. Soon, after a healthy meal, a healthy snack packed, and hydrating a little more, I’m off to ratchet up at least another 25 km today.

Come Tuesday morning, I want to feel like I won the Weekend Warrior challenge.

It’s the athletic version of the old saying “Why do I keep hitting myself in the head with a hammer? Well, ‘cos it feels so good when I stop.”

If you don’t know that feeling, isn’t it time you started?*

*The first 3 weeks will suck. The best antidote to stiffness and sore worked-out muscles is to do it all over again. Ice. Advil. Whatever the common prescriptions are for overcoming training, go for it. In a few weeks, they’ll not be necessary anymore. You, too, will be a fitness machine, grasshopper. If I could do it? SERIOUSLY, you can.