Caught in the Matrix

“Perception is reality.”  I remember when I first graduated college, this was one of the first phrases I was taught by a new boss of mine.  It made so much sense, and it has allowed me to assess many situations in my life.  Today, I don’t want to go into much, but at this moment, I have Baltimore on my mind.  And this phrase crept its way into my consciousness, by way of Neo in The Matrix.

I’ll keep it simple.  One day, while racing for the phone/portal to bring him back to the real world, Neo was confronted by his enemies.  Up to this point, his best defense against them was to fight until there was space to run, and then fight another day.  However, on this particular day, at this particular moment, Neo took a different path.  Initially, his enemies (in their usual fashion) began shooting at him, and succeeded in “killing” him.  Sprinkle a little Hollywood magic and Neo was brought back to life.  At which point his enemies began shooting at him again.  This time, Neo understood what was happening around him.  He understood that these bullets weren’t real.  This world he was standing in, wasn’t real.  It was his perception of a reality created by someone else.  Once he finally realized that, he was able to simply look at the bullets closing in on him and say, “no!”  And they dropped to the ground.  From that point forward, Neo had a lot of control in this world.

I’ll stop there.  My point is, and maybe this only makes sense to me…If we continue to accept what someone else is telling us (largely the media and the government) about the current state of our race relations…if we continue to fight one another about who is right and who is wrong (dodging bullets), and retreat to our corners only to fight about the same issue at a later date, we will never get anywhere.  Those of us who truly want to see a country of equal citizens need to look these enemies in the face and say “no!”  This reality you’ve created by sensationalizing certain stories on the news, is not the reality I choose to live in.  All cops aren’t shooting black citizens.  All black citizens aren’t robbing, raping, and murdering.  And this resistance can be applied to any  “reality” for any race, religion, national origin, or gender that has been portrayed in a certain light.

Certainly, there are people who fit the narrative being highlighted.  But that’s just a part of the human experience.  There’s someone who looks just like you, or who shares your religion, or who shares your gender, who fits into that same narrative.  And I’m sure you’d find it to be unfair if someone judged you based on that person.  I’m just saying, we need to stop letting the media perception (it’s all about ratings anyway) dictate our reality.  I know this little, rarely read, blog won’t do much to change it.  But I needed to express my thoughts.  Stop arguing about who’s right or wrong on social media…stop calling people names, and making sweeping judgments based on what you see on TV, or recorded and posted to the internet (those people have their own agendas).  Let’s get out there and make our own reality.  Let’s create our own shared agenda.  The destruction of inequality, prejudice, and racism by eliminating it from ourselves and our surroundings, and highlighting and ostracizing those who refuse to do the same.

I don’t have all of the answers.  I know the challenges are complex, and in some instances, so woven into the fabric of our society that it will take decades to unravel.  But it has to start somewhere, and the best place for that is…in your mind.  See your reality different.  Exit the matrix, and bring the fight to the real enemies.

What Do You Live For

This is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself when trying to find happiness in life…at least according to me.  What do you live for?  Understand this…there will always be someone who thinks you’re not doing enough “something” in your life.  You don’t work out enough, you don’t eat well enough, you don’t know enough history, you haven’t thought enough about the future, you don’t have enough money, you watch too much TV, etc…

The thing with life is that there are hundreds of billions of things to know and do, and you are never, no matter how much you try, going to know or do each one of those things inside and out.  So never mind what other people say.  Stop reading things in social media where people wax poetic about how knowledgeable they are about politics, or how to stop ISIS, or global warming…and how stupid you are if you aren’t paying attention to your vitamin D intake.  Find what you live for, and live for it.  If you love your family, then do things with your family, and live for that.  If you like to travel, get out there and explore.  If you’re an educator, educate the world.  Or if you like watching TV or movies, sit your happy ass on your couch, and watch what you like.  And I’m not saying only choose one, but find the things you live for, and live for them.  If it changes because your heart wants to do something more, follow it.  But don’t follow another person down the path of what they live for because they tell you that you should.

And if you have no idea what you’re living for, and you have no idea what makes you happy, then try stuff out.  Dip your toe in, or jump in head first, but try new stuff.  Travel, shop, draw, bartend, learn a new language, whatever.  Remember, there’s hundreds of billions of things to know and do, so I’m sure you’ll find something.   I only have two disclaimers…one, this does not include things that are illegal, or harmful (physically or emotionally) to yourself or others.  And two, understand that there are some things you have to learn to live for.  For example, if you have kids, you’re already committed to living (at least) some of your life for them.

Reflections of the Future

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned a lot of things.  One of those things is that nothing in life is guaranteed.  I know, we’ve heard it all before, but whenever I hear that I always think of it in an abstract kind of way.  Recently, I’ve put more thought into it, and I can see it in practice.

When I was younger, I was taught not to view everyone as a friend, and I think I took that advice.  I was under no delusion that the people i knew in high school were actually friends, and would actually be there for me when I needed them.  After high school, there were a handful of those friends who stuck with me, and we began to build upon that relationship.  All throughout my 20’s, these were the people I would ride or die for.  These were my friends.  In my 20’s, I was sure that these were the people I would know for the rest of my life.

Then, in my 30’s, those same friends were still with me, but life began to change.  Those individuals were getting married and having kids, and moving onto another stage in life.  Luckily, the foundation we created during our younger years allows us to still stay close, but what we used to do, no longer was happening.  The every weekend hangouts evolved into seeing them on special occasions.  As this happened, my weekend nights were taken over by new acquaintances.  These new acquaintances showed me new experiences; things I had never really thought I would do and enjoy.  I’ve even gone out of the country with these new acquaintances.  I never saw that coming.

As I approach my late 30’s, I still know these same people and enjoy spending time with them.  I’ve also learned that I enjoy spending time with myself, travelling, and trying new food.  My point is, what I knew about my life when I was younger is not quite what it is now.  It’s all a part of growing up, and anyone older than I could have told me this would happen.

Truth is, I never had anything really planned out, with the exception of a loosely targeted career.  But I had ideas.  Ideas that fell within my, then, current comfort zone.  But, the changes I’ve experienced, though not major, have given me a new outlook.  I don’t expect that things will move too far beyond my comfort zone, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.  And honestly, that unknown is actually exciting, not scary.

I know that in five or ten years, I could be right where I am.  Or I could be living somewhere overseas.  I may be married with two kids (I think two is my max, but who knows), or I could be single (not my preference).  I’m old enough to realize that life is a gift, and whatever happens in it should be embraced.  There’s going to be pain, and hurt (hell, there could be disease and disability in my future) and I’ll have to deal with that, but there will also be opportunity, possibility, and tons of happiness if I allow it.  That’s what I don’t think many could prepare me for.  They couldn’t prepare me for how excited I’d be for what’s ahead, and I find that interesting…how everyone views the future differently.  That’s not to say I’m not embracing my present.  I’m doing much more of that these days as well.  I guess what I’m saying, is that this life thing…it’s pretty neat.  I pray that I have plenty of days ahead of me to embrace it like I’ve never done before.  Just my thoughts.

Flush….

 

Hanging Graves

I should start by saying, I have serious issues.

Recently, I was sitting in my bosses boss’s office having a typical meeting.  I don’t normally let my mind wander while having these conversations but as the conversation was nearing a resolution, my mind began to find other things to notice.

So he’s an avid hiker.  I’m pretty sure he’d rather deal with the woods before dealing with any one of us that report to him, but he gets paid to deal with us, so there he sits.  As an avid hiker, he has pictures of some of the trails he has hiked.  I’ve seen these pictures every day for a few years now.  But, as I sit there on this day, I began to have a very morbid thought.  Likely, due to my brain preoccupied with serious analysis for a few hours and in need of some entertainment.

I began to think about my boss as a serial killer.  He killed along the trails while he hiked.  And the pictures in his office were actually pictures of grave sites.  His way of keeping a trophy of his deeds.  As I thought this, the lights began to go down, and I looked up to find his eyes piercing my soul.  He had noticed my preoccupation with the photos, and knew I was onto him.  As he stared at me, he knew that I would need to be dealt with.  He looked over to an empty spot on the wall, and immediately envisioned a new trophy….another photo of a grave site…and one less employee.

Like I said, I have issues.  My thoughts don’t typically get that weird, especially while at work.  The little man in my head was hard at work that day (I’ll tell you about him some other time).  I may never know the true innocence or horror of those photos, but I’m sure I’ll think about it every time I’m back in that office.  I mean, it’s not impossible, right?

Quick Update

Where are my manners…It’s been months since my last post and I throw up a random post without filling in the gaps. Ha.  There was Thanksgiving, a trip to Dominican Republic…with 18 other people…that was actually quite amazing.  A Christmas party (where I witnessed an affair), another Christmas party (there were 40 people there…so I stayed out of sight…must be my introversion), a Christmas eve dinner (by the P.I.C’s youngest brother…guess it’s time for me to grow up), a Christmas dinner, and a pretty laid back New Year’s Eve party.  I think that about covers it.  Oh, and a marathon watching of season 1 of The Wire on New Year’s Day.  I’ve seen it, but the P.I.C hasn’t (I’ve pulled her from underneath that rock).

Oh wait…I adop20141024_212411ted a little needy, sometimes squeaky, all black furry thing that as we speak is trying to devise a plan to sit on my keyboard.  And she’s looking at me with those green eyes that convinced me to adopt her.  She’s your perfect witch cat.  Honestly, she’s not all that bad.  She doesn’t really go wild on the furniture, and doesn’t do sprints in the middle of the night, like I’ve heard many cats do.  She is an alarm clock that likes to go off about an hour early, and is need of almost constant attention.  It’s only been about two months, and I don’t understand what she wants half the time and I’m amazed out how she can entertain herself for 20 minutes at a time, with a toy mouse.

A clear clue of me not really used to her yet is that the other morning, I was laying in bed before putting my work clothes, and I was under the covers because it was cold.  As I watched the days news, I began to scratch my thigh (yes, it was my thigh)…not necessarily because of an itch, but just because.  Well, it must have appeared as if a dangerous critter was attacking me because out of nowhere, I hand was being attacked by her.  I don’t even know where she came from, but it scared the hell out of me.  It may have also been her revenge for me rolling over on her in the middle of the night…who knows.  But yeah, I’ve adopted a cat.  I hear they can live up to 15-20 years.  This shall be interesting.

Iran??

It’s not very often I read something that completely shocks me.  I mean, I live in today’s world, and I try to educate myself on an many things as possible…I’m not necessarily book smart, just…observant I guess.  Anyway, I like to travel, and when I came upon a link in Facebook titled “the best places to travel in 2015,” I naturally clicked the link.  The article highlighted places like Cleveland, Houston, Norway, and Japan.  These places made sense.  I didn’t even flinch when I saw Cuba on the list.   With the few things in the news about Cuba, it made sense.  But then I stumbled upon a listing…Iran.  My mouth dropped.

Iran!!!  The same place with their hostile, unpredictable, and sometimes seemingly delusional leader.  Why would anyone want to travel there?  I initially laughed it off.  Even shared it with the P.I.C and dismissed the preposterous thought.  American’s probably can’t even travel there (like Cuba).  But then I thought for a second.  Do Americans travel there?  I began to do Google searches, and went onto TripAdvisor to see what types of things were being said.

My goodness…most comments or articles highlighted a friendly place that had a lot to offer, from a historical standpoint.  Sure, you are advised to travel with a guide, but getting in and out of the country seems to be an uneventful process.  I read multiple stories of how friendly the people are…going out of there way to be courteous to foreigners.  Even more, it seems that visitors from the Western world are rare, but Europeans visit without hesitation (that may be a slight exaggeration).

I know there is a lot of propaganda in our news, and I do my best to see beyond what they want us to know versus what’s actually true, but I never really thought that Iran could be a desirable place to visit.  I’m not saying I want to go there.  I like to travel for food, and I hear their food isn’t particularly appealing, but still.  My eyes have been opened.  Yes, tonight,  a post on Facebook taught me something.  Well done internet…well done.

55 miles to satisfaction

This past weekend I did a 55 mile bike tour with the P.I.C.  For “real” bikers, I guess that’s not a whole heck of a lot, but I’m not a “real” biker.  I ride to work a couple of times a week (4 miles) and maybe do some riding on the weekend, but leading up to this tour, we had done 10 miles at most in one ride.  Not nearly enough to properly prepare for a 55 mile ride.  But having done the five borough tour (40 miles) I thought, we should be fine.

Miles 1-20

As in the five borough bike tour, this was the best part of the tour.  It wasn’t easy, but the adrenaline of doing the tour made it seem relatively easy.  I was taking in the sights, and enjoying the day.  It was sunny, and there was a good amount of other people doing the tour with us.  If I had to guess, there were 1500-2000 people.  My body felt good, and we had a good rhythm.  This wasn’t a closed course, so we had to stop at lights and mind traffic, but outside of some major cross streets, it really wasn’t bad.  Also, for this tour, there were 30, 55, 75, and 100 mile options.  We signed up for the 55 mile, but kept 30 as an option in case we were struggling.  By the time we were near 20, I was confident we were going to do the 55.  I had to be sure though because the 30 mile track was going to break off soon.  If we were going to continue, we need to be sure because there was no turning back.

Miles 21-40

Things tend to get serious when you hit that 21st mile.  Fully committed to going 55 miles at this point.  You are no longer out there just to have a good time.  This is the point where your body realizes you’re actually asking it to push itself.  It understands that this is not a regular workout, but something where you are going to need to dig a little deeper.  It’s no time to panic, but the chatty banter with whomever you’re riding with or around tends to stop.  It’s a little quieter, and you’re a little more focused on how you feel.  You have to remember to drink before you get thirsty.  Why are my lips so dry?  Should I stop at this rest stop and grab a banana.  It’s still fun, but you feel a bit more of a burn.  On this particular leg of the tour, the roads were small, and the cars were scarce.  On more than one occasion, I realized we were actually by ourselves.  Our only guide was the little pink arrows on the pavement at most intersections.   For me, this is where I began to wonder if not training was a bad idea….yes, it was, but nothing we can do about that now.  Toward that 40th mile, I felt some relief knowing that this was the distance for the five borough tour.  So, what’s another 15 miles??

Miles 41-55

On my handlebars I had a speedometer.  This also showed the average mph, and the total miles.  Throughout the entire race, I tried my hardest not to see the mileage.  I wanted to make sure our mph average was above 10 (we are around 12.1), which is the only reason I continued to check it.  But for some reason, each time I looked, I saw the mileage.  And during this stretch, the numbers moved like they were stuck in quick sand.  A half a mile felt like three.  My hands started to ache, and the soreness on my butt was becoming more of a problem.  My bike felt much heavier.  I also began to get a cramp in my thigh.  And though a few sips of water helped make it go away, my bottle seemed to empty out as quickly as I filled it.  The exhilaration of going down a hill, was quickly lost to an uphill grade, no matter how slight it was.  This route was the definition of rolling hills, or so that’s how I remember it.  Oh, did I say we did all this on mountain bikes?  The saving grace was hybrid tires, and though the difference seems minimal, it’s appreciated.

I will tell you, I’ve never worked my thighs to such exhaustion before.  I was begging them to do something, and shortly before mile 50, they started telling me no. I pushed, and with each push, I could feel them wanting to give up on me.  It seems like these tours all tend to have a steep incline near the end.  I was ready, mentally, for it.  Hell, I rode up the Verrazano Bridge on a windy day, which was a much steeper incline than the hill this tour presented.  But, I couldn’t…I tried, I continued begging, but they just wouldn’t do it.  I conceded to the defeat.  Sadly, I walked it.  Afterwards, slightly dejected, I rode on.  There was still a few miles to go, and I was certain that I had seen the worst of it.  After a quick rest stop, we were back on our way, and on the horizon…another tough hill.  The only comfort was that numerous people around me also hated the sight of this, and a lot of  them “looked” like pros.  I stopped at the foot of the hill, and was joined by a handful of others.  More people approached, more people stopped.  I heard the groans of those who decided not to lose their momentum, and pedaled on.  The cheer of one of the volunteers was urging people along.  To myself I said, I have to do this.  No walking this one.  The P.I.C had been a monster on the course all day, so I knew she’d have no issue.  Let’s do it….I jumped on the bike, and pedaled my way to a little more pride.  I made it to the top of that hill, slowly…one cycle followed by the next.  Getting every little bit out of these thighs.  The rest, was a downhill roll toward the finish line.

Finish

I know people who have run marathons, and that is one major accomplishment.  This is the closest I’ll get to that feeling, unless I decide to do a century ride…maybe one day, but if I do, I’ll definitely train.  And though I could have done better, it was a great moment of accomplishment.  A moment of self satisfaction.  To some extent, a sense of belonging as you celebrate silently, with the others that took that trek  Slightly sore, I ate a lobster roll, took in the scene, and took my behind home.  I needed a nap.  I love that I am blessed enough to be able to do these things.  If it were easy, everyone would be doing it, right?  And I’m getting older, so I need to be somewhat active.  And, riding a bike, in my opinion, is still better than running.  LOL  Till next time.