2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for my blog. I was really active while I was on the road on my bicycle. I’ve been pretty sporadic since. I intend to write more frequently in 2015. Perhaps I can fill the Phoenix a few more times.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Livia & Steve Russell upper stage at the Phoenix Theatre holds 135 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a play at the Phoenix, it would take over 81 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

You Can Only Find it if You Look

Susie and I went to see Wild today. It’s the new movie starring Reese Witherspoon as Carol Slayed in the true story of her solo hike of the Pacific Coast Trail. The story resonated with me because I kept relating her experiences with similar experiences I had while cycling cross country. I loved the movie but realize I’m biased by my recent adventure. Susie liked it too, so I guess it is a good movie.

An experience like this definitely changes a person. I believe each one of us has some experience that we can benefit from having. For me it was the bike ride. For others it’s a long hike, or a meditation retreat, or an Ironman. I don’t know how many experiences qualify. It has to force you to be alone with yourself for an extended period of time. You’ll be forced to use some of that time to get to know yourself, and then you’ll be forced to wrestle with things about yourself that you try to ignore most of the time. And finally, if it’s the right experience, you’ll have to forgive yourself (and others). From that moment on, you’ll be a noticeably different person.

I have a great neice, Vivian. She’s about two years old. She has never liked me. If I’m in the same room, she runs to hide behind someone else. If I talk to her she starts to frown. If I touch her, she screams inconsolably. On Christmas, I was sitting at the table when Vivian and her mother arrived at my sister’s. I called out to her from across the room so she would be sure to notice I was there and could maintain enough distance for her own comfort. Vivian ran acros the room with her arms wide open and jumped into my lap. She gave me a kiss and began to babble at me in her two year old language. The room went completely silent, which is a neat trick with my family. Vivian and I get along swimmingly now.

The next day, I went with Susie to feed Nike, the Helmuth’s rather anti-social cat. In the entire time they’ve had Nike, he’s never stayed in the same room with me. In fact, he wouldn’t even stay on the same floor of the house. This time, he ignored Susie and came over to rub against my leg. He let me reach down to pet him for a moment.

These two events reminded me of something my Big Mama used to tell me: Babies and animals are excellent judges of character. I don’t know if I ever believed that statement, but the response I got from Vivian and Nike made me feel like whatever changed in me when I was on the road has become permanent to some degree. A big enough degree that the babies and animals can tell.

I enjoy the world so much more now. It was during the movie that I realized what it is. I have been telling people that I discovered during my ride that I liked me. Actually it was during my ride that I found the strength to forgive myself, and that allowed me to forgive others. Now instead of collecting and cataloging grievances, I spend more time noticing good and beauty all around me. You can only find it if you look.

My Search for a Path

PathGrowing up I was always one of those people who had a plan. I never realized it until recently. My plans were the kind that consultants call “100,000 Foot Plans.” In the Air Force they described these as “Commander’s Intent.” I think most of you would define them as dreams rather than plans. They didn’t have specific steps as much as they had general outcomes. But nonetheless I had them, and over the years many of them came to pass without me ever getting to the specific steps. I like to think that I handed them off to my subconscious and it went to work while I did other things.

In the past 16 months since I quit working, I haven’t really had any semblance of a plan. I have greeted each day with wonder about what might happen. I’ve given a speech in Maui. I’ve ridden across the country. I’ve done some coaching. I’ve read and written a lot. I’ve shared my experiences with a lot of people.

Recently I’ve been reading heavier books. A year of fiction novels gave me a desire for something meatier. The last couple of books I read have been rather philosophical. In the most recent, Waking Up by Sam Harris, a phrase caught my attention:

We need not come to the end of the path to experience the benefits of walking it.

That captured what’s been going on with me lately. I’m just experiencing the benefits of walking my path. I don’t know where it’s leading me, but I’m enjoying the stroll, and the people with whom I’m strolling.