When I died and got to the gate of Heaven I was bewildered by the sign above the Pearly Gates, “Abandon Hope all Ye Who Enter Here!!” It’s the type of sign I expect to see leading to a dungeon or something. I got a chill up the back of my spine and for a minute I panicked and thought I must be in the other place. Perhaps did not lead such a life of virtue after all. But there was Saint Peter standing there. He saw the puzzlement on my face, “Is there a problem?” He asked. “Isn’t this Heaven?” I replied a little sheepishly. “I’m just a little confused by the sign. “Aw, yes,” said Saint Peter, “We do not want anyone to have any hope here in Heaven.” “But I thought Heaven was good?” I said. “Oh, it is,” affirmed Saint Peter.” “But then why do you not want people to have any hope, isn’t hope good?” I asked. “I can understand you puzzlement,” Saint Peter said, “You see a person that has hope is looking to the future for something rather than being in the moment. When a person is not being in the moment, how may not enjoy all the benefits of Heaven, here and now?” Now I understood. He must have seen the light bulb go off over me head. “So, are you ready to abandon all hope?” He asked. I nodded my head, “Then that my son, is Heaven. Welcome!”
(This was written before the event to share with the people at the campout to give a little history about me and the triathlon)
At the community campout, five years ago, I had my tent set up near the river. Early Sunday morning I was awakened by a man on a PA system across the river making announcements, introducing people and shooting off a starting gun. After the starting gun I could hear the splashing in the river. “What is this, a boat race,” I thought to myself. The announcing, introducing and starting was repeated over and over for about an hour before I got up to see what was going on. It was a triathlon.
When I was in high school, I was into endurance sports like running and cycling. Everyone thought that I would get into triathlons as I got older, but instead I went away to college and stopped my endurance athletics.
Here it was, 15 years later. I was overweight by about 40 pounds, sitting across the river from a sport that I never got myself involved in. I was feeling disgusted with myself. “I should be on the other side of the river,” I thought.
It wasn’t for another year that I started to do something about it. “What happened,” I contemplated. “Why did I stop with the sports?” The conclusion that I came to was that when I went away to college I moved away from the friends that I used to bike and run with. I lost my support. I lost my motivation. Upon making that realization I did not waste any time, went straight to the Internet and looked up “Triathlon Club san Francisco.” I found the Golden Gate Triathlon Club and began my journey towards health.
This is my 4th season doing triathlons. The first season I mainly did sprint triathlons. These are about ¼ mile swims, 10 to 18 mile bike rides and 3 or 4 mile runs. It took me awhile to work up to that. I could barely run a mile at first and could not swim at all. At the end of the first season I set my goal to do an Olympic distance. This is a .93 mile swim, 24 mile bike and 6.1 mile run. Completing it was a huge accomplishment. While I was training for it I noticed a group from my triathlon club training together with a coach. I felt a little envious and learned more about the special program, Tri and Give, to help first timers train for an Olympic distance triathlon. OK, I wasn’t a first timer, but I joined up for the next season.
The Tri and Give program was a great experience bonding with others working towards the same goal. I wound up doing 4 Olympic triathlons that year. The next year (last year) I over did it. I signed up for too many events and could not really train for any one of them. I wound up hurting myself and ending my season early.
I decided this year that I would do no triathlons. I had to focus on my business and did not have the time and energy to train. This plan came to a halt when the triathlon club announced a training program for a ½ ironman triathlon, specifically, the ½ Vineman. A ½ ironman is a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run. The ½ Vineman is the very same triathlon that inspired me across the river for the family campout. That fact combined with the fact that I would turn 40 5 days later and that the EBNoM community campout would be on the same weekend, in spite the efforts to not schedule the campout on the same weekend since that year, compelled me to sign up. I’ve been training for 3 months.
I’m not too worried about the swim or the bike. It’s the run that worries me. In my teenage years I ran a ½ marathon (13.1 miles) and did not finish. I’m not nearly the runner that I was then. During our training I ran 10 miles and that was quite a challenge. This weekend I’m going to run … or attempt to run 13.1 miles, farther than I have ever run in my life, and I’m going to attempt it after completing the swim and the bike. Am I insane? We shall see.
It’s Monday. I’ve been feeling incredibly high all day after the completion of the ½ ironman yesterday. Not even learning that I finish about 1,700 out of 1,800 finishers has lessened my mood. Finishing this event feels like one of my biggest accomplishments. I feel great. Legs are sore, but spirits are high.
I did not coordinate the support efforts very well, so I’m sorry to the men that showed up and missed me. It was great to see the men at the swim and bike start and great to see Nick riding his bike out on the run course.
My day did not start out in the best way as my bike tire was low. I had just filled it up the day before. A low tire is a sign of a slow leak. I figured I’d fill it up again before the race and see what would happen. I had a spare tube and could change it out at any time, but would rather not if I did not have to.
Mark Beam walked over to the start with me. I was feeling nervous in an excited sort of way. After setting up my transition area and pumping up my tire I was ready to go. There was Nick smiling as I headed into the water. I swam across the river to the Parker Resort beach. No one was there. I wound up starting 16 minutes before I had published. Everyone was still sleeping or drinking their coffee. I swam back to the start line and awaited the starting gun.
After an uneventful swim that was a few minutes faster than I had anticipated, I ran up to the transition area. Mark was supposed to be there waiting to grab my gear to take back to the camp. I felt my tire. To my disappointment it was a little low. It was too fast of a slow leak to make it through the bike, but enough for me to ride on for now. I would take my chance. I finish my transition and packed up my gear. I looked one more time for Mark. There he was down at the finish line looking in earnest for me to come out of the water. “Mark” I yelled. “There you are.” He did not see me come in. He ran up to grab my gear. And I was off.
On my way out of the transition, pushing my bike towards the bike mount line I saw the familiar faces of Mike Peck and Lynn Marchand cheering me on. The bike ride began.
My tire was lower that I thought and rather spongy. If I took a turn hard I could feel it slip. My strategy was to make it to the first aid station and pump it up there if they had a pump. I could make from aid station to aid station pumping it up at each station. I had to ride carefully, especially on turns down hill. I reached the aid station. They did not have a pump. I took my time changing the tire and was on my way again. It was nice to have a solid ride.
I wanted to take it easy for the ride. Even so I was moving at a fast pace and by the ½ way point I was very happy with my time. I continued through the hilly second half still taking it easy but still maintain a 17 mile per hour average pace. The last ten miles I really backed off as I began to think about the challenging 13 mile run. The run was the great mystery of event for me. I was nervous about the run for a couple of reasons. First I had never ran 13 miles before. Second, running is twice as hard when place at the end of a triathlon. I did not know what to expect, which led to me with a little apprehension about it.
I rolled into the bike/run transition feeling good. I took my time in transition to procrastinate the run a little. I checked my cell phone to call Nick to let him know where I was. He was supposed to be my contact person for me to call at various landmarks to let people know where I was. This turned out to not be possible as I was not allowed to have my phone on the course. I decided to leave it at the bike/run transition to at least make a call there when I arrived. I did not have a signal. I was completely out of communication. I finished putting on my running gear and headed out.
The first couple of miles of the run after the bike are usually pretty tough. Legs are getting used to one way of working after working hard in another. I usually just have to buckle down and get through it. Perhaps it was the training, but I was not feeling bad this time. This was the first good sign.
I continued on. My sights were set on the 4 mile mark where my triathlon club, the Golden Gate Triathlon Club (GGTC) had an aid station. I missed the first mile marker, but at the second I was at 22 minutes … faster than my desired 12 minute mile pace. I slowed it down a bit. With each aid station every mile I took in lots of water. I had gel packs in my bags and took in energy through those. I continued on through the next two miles at a 12 minute mile pace. If I could keep up this pace I would finish the run in 2 hours and 42 minutes. Combined with my faster bike time I could finish the entire event in 7 hours 15 minutes. 45 minutes faster than I was budgeting. Perhaps it was too early to be thinking of that.
I made the turn onto Mark West Station Road, knowing the GGTC aid station was just up a way. Over the hill, around the bend I could see it a few hundred yards ahead along with another welcoming sight of my coach’s canopy, Tri More Fitness. I expected to see my coach somewhere on the course, but did not know where. “Jay Ligda!” I heard him yell and I drew near. “You rock! Way to go!” “Hey, Jay Ligda is coming through,” he turned to yell to the rest of the people at the aid station. I got lots of cheers from friends as I ran through grabbing up my water. 5 more miles and I will be back to this welcoming crowd. For now I set me sights to my next goal, the turn around point. I ran on.
By mile 5 ½ I was still feeling pretty good and I felt good about that. A friend from the GGTC caught up with me. He was not feeling good. He started to tell me what he was feeling wrong with him and I was glad to know the solution. “You need electrolytes,” I said. I did not have any, but knew there was plenty in the Gatoraide that was being served at the aid stations. “Drink Gatoraide,” I said. He slowed down and peeled off to use the pora-potties. I reach mile 6 and began the 1 mile loop through the winery back out to mile 7, the same location as mile 6. That was when it hit me. My legs started to feel fatigue. My same friend passed me. At least he was feeling better. “Drink more Gatoraide,” I yelled as he passed at a fast pace. I was starting to slow down.
It was great to see friends from the club running in the other direction, or passing me. Even if we didn’t know each other we would cheer each other on when we’d see the “GGTC” on our clothing.
By the time I reached the GGTC aid station again, at mile nine I was really hurting. My time was down to about 14 minutes per mile. It was a great pick up to see friends again, but as I passed, what was there to look forward to. The finish? It was still 4 miles a way and would take almost an hour at the pace I was running. I kept plugging away slowly. I rounded the corner off Mark West Station Road and began the windy Starr Road. The sun was getting hot. I was feeling miserable. “Jay” I heard a voice and looked up. There was Nick on his bicycle. “Perfect timing” I said, glad to see him. It was a nice pick up. Nick let me know that Mark and Aerin were out there looking for me too. While I never saw them it was great to know. Nick talked with me for a while and reminded me that everyone back at camp was thinking of me and then he road off. Perhaps I’d see him again, closer to the end. I know he wanted to ride around and check people out.
With each mile I would look at my watch and do calculations in my head. How much time was left? My 14 minute miles were turning to 14 ½ minute miles and then 15 minute miles by the 11th mile. If I can make it 11 miles I can make it 12 and eventually there will be a finish line. I had not stopped to walk yet, except during the aid stations to take in water. That was what I wanted to finish without walking. At the pace I was running, however, some people were walking faster than me.
In the midst of my pain I suddenly thought of a joke. I just needed someone to share it with. As I turned off Starr Road there was a volunteer at the corner to point runners into the correct direction. I looked up at her like I needed help and she engaged me visually to offer support. “Do you know the way to Windsor High School?” I asked, Windsor High School was the finish line. She looked at me at first like it was a strange question to be asking before she realized it was a joke, a joke that she was not expecting from a suffering runner which seemed to make her appreciate it more. She laughed and I smiled. “Well you are heading in the right direction,” she said I inched off in that right direction.
After Starr Road there were two more short streets before turning into the high school. Short roads become long roads plugging away at a 15 minute mile pace, but they get shorter again with each step. I passed the 12 mile mark. Only one more mile to go. I looked at my watch and started counting down. 15 more minutes.
I was keeping my focus towards the road. It was still hot and I did not have any more fluids with me (I carried a belt pack with containers of water). I knew I would finish, but 15 minutes can be a long time when one is suffering. “Jay?” I heard a woman’s voice call out. I looked up and there was an angel up ahead on the other side of the road. She waved and I waved back as I tried to recognize who it was. My mind raced through the people that I expected to see on the course, but it was not coming. “It’s Elisa,” she said. Elisa was a woman from my training program who was training with us, but not doing the event. I had a little crush on her, so was a little awkward around her. She was a little evasive around me. When I realized it was her I started heading across the road towards her. “Don’t come over here, keep going.” But I did not, I kept heading to her. I don’t know what I was doing. I just wanted some contact. As I reached her she held her arms out to offer the hug. As I hugged her I said, “I’m going to finish this” and I got a little emotional as I ran on.
I made the turn onto the main road and looked at my watch, 7 ½ minutes … only ½ mile to go. I made the turn into the high school. I still had to run all the way to the back of the school. I made the turn at the back of the high school and looked for the finish line. It was not there. I kept running and remembered as I saw a runner ahead of me turn onto the field in the back of the school that the finish line was half way down the field. I turned onto the field and into the finish shoot. I had 300 yards to go. A man passed me with “39” on the back of his calf. He was the same age as me. He was going to beat me. There was nothing left in the tank to match his pace and race him to the finish. “Let him go.” It does not make a difference. I just need to finish.
There were no cheers as I crossed the finish line. No one I knew was there. I just stopped and stood there. I didn’t have to move anymore. After 7 ½ hours of strenuous activity I could just stand there and that was what I did for a few minutes. Bad news … I was standing in the sun and the food was a hundred yards across the field. I had to move a little more to get out of the sun and get some food. There were a few friends from the club milling around. “Remind me never to do that again,” was all I could tell them. I was happy I had finished. I was happy I did it the run without walking, and I was happy I did it in ½ hour faster than I thought I would. However the pain I was feeling was not worth thinking I would want to try that again. I got my food and sat down, waiting for more friends from the club to come through the finish shoot.
So here it is the following day. The high that I’m feeling is great and has overpowered the memory of the pain I felt and I’m thinking ahead. “What’s next?” I think I could do one of these in less than 7 hours. I took my time in transitions. I could take 10 minutes off my time there. If I did not get a flat tire I could take 10 minutes off my with that. I have performed much better in the swims in the past and I can probably take 5 or 10 minutes off my time there. I could have gone a little harder on the bike and perhaps taken off another 5 or 10 minutes off with that. I can trim off more than 30 minutes without even addressing my worst of the 3 events, the run. I can do it in less than 7 hours. Not this year. Maybe next year. I look on-line and did signed up for a ½ marathon later this year. Now that I know I can do a ½ marathon, I want to see what it is like without the swim and bike in front of it. I also have a few Bay swims also scheduled this year … another Alcatraz crossing, a swim from Angel Island to Tiburon and one from Treasure Island to the Embarcadero. That will be enough for this year. The ½ ironman was the big goal for the year. Next year I will make plans for next year.
I was 302 of 313 in my age group, 1173 of 1221 men and 1704 of 1817 overall.
My Final Times
The only thing that makes me feel fully alive is West Coast Swing dancing. And, it does not always happen. It tends to go in cycles. The dancing requires full attention to my partner and the music. It requires me to be so alert that I can feel subtle movements in her and react to them without thought. It requires that kind of attention in response to, not just her, but the music and the dance as well. The music and dance can be predictable. It is she that provides the greatest challenge and joy.
The dance is made up of certain movements that have been engrained in my body over the past 10 years. It is those movements that provide the container that is called the dance. It is in this container that everything takes place. The music is like the flowing water. It provides the fluidity inside the container. Shake it or stir it. Once it is in motion it can be predictable, but can be full of surprises as well. She is not predictable. Largely I know what she is going to do as she knows what I’m going to do, but when those patterns are broken in a split second. Perhaps it is something in the music, or something that I did without knowing that caused her to move in a way she has not before that in turn causes me to move in a way that I have not before. We are dancing. We are in attention to each other. We are fully engaged paying each other 100% of our attention.
I wanted to end that article there, but wanted to share some of the cycles that I mentioned above. There are times when I’m fully engaged, dance after dance. Each one is full of surprises. I can see people watching me but I do not care as I’m engaged in the dance. I am ego free. Then the following week I may start to crave the attention. I want people to be watching me. Suddenly I’m not engaged with my partner, but wanting the attention from the people sitting and watching. My ego is involved and I do not enjoy myself or have fun. Then, when I let go of that, I cycle back into becoming fully engaged. It may take a few weeks.
There are other cycles too. Someone that I want to dance with avoids me. This puts me in my head thinking terrible thoughts about myself and my ability. My ego is involved and I do not enjoy myself or have fun. Then, when I let go of that and focus on the partners that do want to dance with me, I cycle back into becoming fully engaged.
On occasions, the environment affects my mood. There are not enough of the partners that I enjoy dancing with. The music is not engaging to me. I wind up spending a lot of time sitting on the sidelines and eating the many snacks that are usually provided. I do not enjoy myself or have fun. I wind up going home awaiting the next dance.
This is just some mental musings that I thought I’d share. My life is a shape. The shape of my life is determined by the people around me, the skills that I have and the way that I use my skills to interact with the people around me and to create with those people. My interactions in turn help me learn and grow. When I learn and grow, the shape of my life will change.
So who determines the shape of my life? Is it me or is it the people around me? Or is it a little of both? I truly believe that there is a greater power in the universe that determines the shape of my life. It’s sort of like imagining what determines the shape of plant will be when the plant grows? Does the plant determine its shape? Does the things surrounding it? In the optimal conditions the plant will grow into the shape that it is meant. In less than optimal conditions it may not. But ultimately the shape of a plant is determines by something greater than it (in this case it’s DNA).
Why do I want to share this? Using the plant analogy, the plant does not have to create its own shape. It just has to grow and trust that the ultimate shape it will take is the shape that it is intended. That is, if the plant could trust, it would have to trust the universe the greater powers of the universe. On the other hand, if the plant could trust and did not trust it may try to determine its own shape. It may try to force itself into another shape that it thinks it should be. It may fight its natural shape and twist and contort itself into a different shape. The shape it wants to be. And the shape that it wants to be may have an affect on the natural shape of the beings around it.
I trust God and the universe to determine the shape of my life. I do not need to force the shape of my life. I do not need to contort myself into what I think I should be based on some ideas or definitions as that may have an affect on the natural shape of the lives around me. I trust the universe to provide the shape of my life for me.
This is a follow up article to my “I Hate Swimming” article last year. To recap, I got involved in swimming as a necessary evil. It was a part of the triathlon that I committed to do in order to get and stay in shape. I put off swimming until the first triathlon event. I got about 2 yards into the swim and began suffering so much. My arms were not used to pulling my body through the water and did not want me to go any further. I swore after that that I would not do it again … I did.
So I took a class last year to learn how to swim more efficiently, I did an open water mile swim in the Delta, and I completed the .93 mile swim in the Bay as a part of the Treasure Island Triathlon last year. But I still experienced swimming as a necessary evil and I struggled with it.
Well, that all changed this year. I did a 10 week triathlon training program this year. The coach took us out in the Bay several times (with a wetsuit) and I began to enjoy it. I found my ability to swim without stopping increase. Soon I was swimming ½ hour straight. In addition to the Bay swimming I was in the pool at the YMCA 3 times a week … just swimming laps. The training program concluded with another .93 mile swim as a part of a triathlon. I finished that swim without stopping, 6 ½ minutes faster than I thought I would. I was very happy.
After the training program I continued to swim. I was loving it. In addition to swimming in the Bay once a week on my own, I found a Bay swim workout group one night a week. I also continued my 3 days at the YMCA. My weight started dropping fast. In my training last year I lost about 8 lbs. This year, so far, I’ve lost close to 20. I think it’s the swimming. On top of that my upper body is bulking up from the working out. It feels good.
So this year I set the goal to swim from Alcatraz. The leader of the Thursday night swim group holds the world’s record in Alcatraz crossings with 245 at the time of this article. He & I are becoming good friends and it inspired me. I signed up for the Alcatraz Challenge which I completed last Sunday. It took me about an hour to swim from the South East corner of Alcatraz, one and a half miles to Crissy Field. An hour is a lot of swimming without stopping or resting … without an edge of a pool to hold on to every once in a while … just straight swimming. I finished feeling like I had a lot more left in me. Mostly swimming that long just gets boring. I think I could go much further.
Sadly I’ve now been neglecting the biking and running portions of the triathlon. I’m beginning to believe that I may no longer be a triathlete. I may just be a swimmer instead. I still have triathlon goals this year and next. I’m sure this swimming obsession will pass and I will balance out with the other two sports. In the mean time I’m going to go for longer and more challenging distance swims. Stay tuned. In a few weeks I’ll be in Hawaii. I look forward to hooking up with some open water swim groups there in the warm clear waters. I’ll leave my wetsuit at home.
What follows is a part of a simple formula that came to me for achieving dreams. It’s called, “Dreams, Goals, Commitments and Consequences.”
Dreams are a big picture of what we wish to accomplish in our lives. They are large and almost out of reach. Dreams keep us moving forward and give us a reason to get up and out of bed each morning. They are what motivates action forward and provides growth. Without dreams, life may become mundane. A couple of good exercises to help build awareness of dreams: first ask the question, “What would I do if I absolutely knew that I could not fail?” Next, practice dieing. That’s right. Lie down in bed and pretend that you are about to take your last breath and pass away. Look back on your life and ask yourself, “What do I wish that I had accomplished?”
An important note: dreams are not set in stone. They may change as life progresses. Remember the purpose of dreams is to move us forward. Attaining your dreams is secondary to being propelled forward and learning by them.
I have a few dreams: to be healthy, to teach, learn to play the piano, and to realize a few projects (Internet related) that will allow me to use my skills for the upliftment of humanity.
Once dreams are active, goals can be set as milestones to the attainment of dreams. Goals are more readily attainable than dreams and can give a sense of accomplishment. Once a goal is reached, the next one can be set. My suggestion is that goals be set anywhere from two months to five years. Like dreams, goals may change as we move towards them. Remember, they are just milestones on the way to dreams. They are means to an end and not an end in themselves. The movement towards a goal may reveal a different path towards the dream. Changing the path is OK, just as long as there is still movement towards the dream, and it is not just running around is circles. Knowing the difference is the real trick. A men’s team can help with that.
My goals, to accomplish the above dreams: run Olympic distance triathlons, look into tutoring (me the tutor), and get my home ready for my piano (which is currently at my father’s). Note, I have not set any goals towards the realization of my projects and interestingly enough, I have not been moving forward with that very important dream.
Commitments are sizable, measurable action items that can be completed towards achievement your goals. Unlike dreams and goals, commitments are solid. If you make a commitment, keep it. For this reason, the time-line for accomplishing commitments should be short, perhaps a week to a year. It really depends on the individual and their life’s stability. I have a simple statement, “I do not have a right to make a commitment for the person that I will be in the future.” For this reason I keep my commitments short so they will not interfere with the person that I will become. Anything longer than what that may be I call a goal.
Goals are not commitments. We are committed to the progress towards the goals and not the goals themselves. We need a little flexibility or we run the risk of living a false, unhealthy life or living from our heads as we grow and change. An example of this is my triathlon goal; it turns out my leg is injured and I can not run on it now. I do not know the extent of this injury or if it will be overcome, but if it cannot I will need to set another goal towards the accomplishment of my dream of being healthy. If I treated this goal like a commitment or like the end rather than a means to an end, I could get myself in trouble.
I do have a few commitments towards my goals. I’ve committed to exercising (bike riding or running) every day of the week. I had a commitment to have my bathroom complete by a certain date as a part of getting my home ready for my piano. Interesting, I did not make any commitments towards my goal of looking into tutoring and that is the one that I have not been moving forward with.
Consequences are a part of our culture in EBNoM that I have resisted for a long time. They felt to me like something being imposed upon me. The result was that I did not take my commitments very seriously. Consequences are a tool for keeping us accountable for our commitments. A consequence is some action that will have a sting to it that we do as a result of not keeping our word and fulfilling our commitment. They provide the extra motivation towards the fulfillment of the commitment. There can also be positive consequences, a reward for fulfilling your commitment. It really depends on the commitment and the individual but I’ve found that positive consequences are not as affective with me as the ones that give a sting.
Consequences need to come from within and they should only be applied when really dedicated to commitments. If not dedicated to the commitments, best not to make them at all. Call them a goal, but without solid commitments and solid consequences, goals and dreams may not have any fuel. If that’s the case, all they will accomplish in life is feelings of guilt and low self esteem as they sit off in the distance, unattainable. When dedicated to commitments using consequences as additional motivation becomes easy. Chances are there will not be any suffering with the consequence if the dedication is there.
Regarding my consequences above, if I do not exercise every day, I buy my team dinner. I did not set a consequence for finishing my bathroom project by a certain date. Is it odd that I did not meet that commitment?
In conclusion, I’ll add one more piece to the formula. I’ll call it the glue … the glue that holds it all together. This glue is love. Dreams, goals consequences and commitments that stem out of our love seem to me to be the most worthy. In contrast to this would be dreams, goals commitments and consequences that come from ego (trying to prove oneself worthy), or an outside source (trying to live up to other’s expectations). When coming from our ego or an outside source, dreams, goals, commitments and consequences, will still provide movement forward and growth, but towards what? That really is the question.
By the time this article is published I will have revised some of my goals and commitments mentions above. I will have set goals with my team towards the fulfillment of my Internet project dreams. I will have set commitments with consequences for those goals. My bathroom project has been completed. So has the closet project. Now the last project I have to complete before my home is ready for my piano is to redo the wooden floors. I will have set goals towards that. The teaching? I may put that on hold for a while.
An issue came up on my team the other night and I tried to express something that I believed. It came out miserably and I left the meeting with a feeling that I did not represent myself … or at least my beliefs very well. This is about what it means to be an adult. Am I grown up yet?
Many years ago, I was sitting in a college classroom. It must have been a psychology class of some sorts, but I do not remember ever taking any. Anyway, the instructor posed the question, “What does it mean to be an adult?” As the students answered he would write their replies down on the black board. Answers ranged from simplistic, such as, “When you turn 18,” to more complex with spiritual/emotional criteria. I did not venture a guess. I had never contemplated such a question before and did not have an answer. I remembered that question for many years until one day I realized the answer; we become an adult when we take full responsibility for ourselves.
OK, now what does that mean? It’s simple. It means that we do not blame anyone else for who we are, what we feel, what we think and our situation. This does not mean that we blame ourselves. In fact, why don’t we just take the concept of blame and throw it out the window. It’s a silly notion invented by humans for who knows what reason … perhaps to control others … keep them in adolescence.
I waded out into the water at Shadows Regional Park in Pleasanton. This would be my first triathlon. I’d been biking and running regularly for the past 6 months, however I’ve been procrastinating any swim practice. There I was, in a lake with a goofy looking swim cap and swim goggles. I could see the 400 yard course, out around one red buoy, across to another, and then straight back to the beach to where my bicycle was awaiting me. There were several life guards out in the water on surf boards. The starting gun went off. I paused for a few seconds and let some of the crowd go by and then headed out into the depth of the lake. When I was deep enough I lifted my legs and began the swim.
It wasn’t as much as 20 yards; I was swallowing water and gasping for air. “What did I get myself into,” I thought and was tempted to raise my arm in the air, the sign for one of the life guards to come rescue me and bring me back to shore. They would not have far to bring me back. I continued on. The first red buoy seemed too far away, but I eventually reached it. I think I was doing a back stroke at the time. Imagine, laying back on you back relaxing, except I was pulling myself forward with my arms in a position of surrender. There were other swimmers all around me, bumping into me, making it difficult to swim straight. I continued on. A few more yards, with each huff and puff, swallowing water, I thought to myself, “Well, I’m never doing this again.” All my dreams of using the triathlon to get in and maintain a good physical shape was drowning in that lake if it were not me that would drown. I imagined that I could still stay in the triathlon club and join their running and riding work outs, but somehow that seemed to be missing something. I was disappointed with myself about my failure, however I continued on. I could see the second red buoy and put my head down in the water to focus on reaching it. I reached it surprisingly fast which was encouraging and turned the corner for the home stretch into the beach. The realization that I would soon be at the shore kept me moving forward.
After all was said and done … or more likely after all was swum, rode and ran, my painful memories of the swim faded (perhaps that is why they have the swim first). I was psyched to sign up for my next triathlon. I have plenty of support and resources from the triathlon club available to me. I just have to use them. There is a swim clinic with a coach every Monday night and an open water swim practice every Thursday night. My next triathlon is August 16th. I love the riding. The running is fun, but tough after the swim and the ride. I have a lot of work to do to improve my relationship with swimming.
I had a great Thanksgiving this year. I spite of my car breaking down in Yreka (on my way to Oregon), I was in great company for the Thanksgiving Holiday. I was at my sister’s new Oregon house with my siblings, some of my sister’s friends and their two daughters (7 and 14). There were 8 of us all together. We played games most of the time – many games. Something happened during one of the games that made me go, “Hmmm.” I got wiped out by the 14 year old. I was cruising along, doing quite well collecting the treasure that I needed to win the game, and the 14 year old just walloped me, took all my treasure and left me cold. She went on to win the game. I was very upset. “Come on Jay, it’s just a game,” I’d tell myself. I got cranky anyway.
Later that night, after everyone went home and I was drifting off to sleep – in that state of half awake and half asleep, you know that state where ideas come? Something came to me. All these games we play, the goal is to win. We win and all our friends lose. We try to win the game at our friend’s expense. Doesn’t that suck? Can’t there be another way? That’s not the way I’m in relationship with these people in life, my family and friends. Yet when we sit down to play a game the dynamics of the relationship change. It’s us against them. Friends become enemies. Any other time I’d be there to support that person, have fun with them and be apart of their life. In the game, however, they are there to win over me and I’m there to win over them. I’d like a game that can reflect real life and mirror my real life relationships. So, I started inventing, in my mind, a different kind of game. The goal of the game would be to support others in winning as well as winning ourselves. Rather than the game being over when the first player wins, the game wouldn’t be over until everyone won. Imagine that, sitting around a table, playing a game supporting and empowering each other to win. A game like that would be just as fun and challenging. That sounds like the kind of game I’d like to play.