5/5/2022: James Clear Is Killing Me With His Atomic Habits

At the end of last’s month’s post, Blog Post #666: The Blog In Which I Announce My Retirement from Blogging*, was a little-noticed * aka asterisk. Only one astute reader followed that to the denouement and figured out the meaning in these words, hidden in plain view: “Respectfully submitted on 01.04.22*, ADAB.” That’s European formatting, day first, month second. That reader was the ever-sharp Half Fast Cycling Club (say it out loud — it’s a fun pun) up in Wisconsin. Not only has he (I’m deducing that’s his pronoun) ridden his bicycle across most of the US (and he’ll correct me in the comments if I’m wrong about that), he’s fixin’ to do it again — at almost 70 years of age. Oh yeah, to do the trip, he’s resigning his hospital job as a literal lifesaver of COVID patients (mostly the ignorant “I did my own research on Facebook” variety). So kudos to Half Fast, and to the rest of you (except if you are in other countries where this peculiar American prank day is not celebrated), I say this: APRIL FOOLS, suckahs! Strap in, it’s going to be a long post.

Before continuing, if you haven’t already (or want to read it again), I really must INSIST that you check out my April 1, 2020 post MEDIA ALERT: Introducing Strava S.O.F.T. (Yes, it’s also an April Fool’s gag.) I for one thought was fairly brilliant. It spoofs a press release from Strava, the fitness tracking app, saying it was coming out with a product for S.low, O.ld, F.at, and T.ired bicycle riders. Again, only HFCC figured it out, though in typical modesty he didn’t mention it. I chickened out from using the real Strava CEO’s name and email, though. It’s a piece worth reading because it touches on the fatphobia and ageism that is still prevalent in the cycling world. It’s also an amusing post. We tend to try to find the funny amidst all the unfun stuff going on. For example:

Yesterday, 5/4, was Star Wars Day, as in May the Fourth be with you. Today, 5/5, is Cinco de Mayo, a minor Mexican holiday about defeating the French at Puebla that’s an excuse to beber mucha cerveza (drinking alot of beer is not my jam; my actual jam would be my jam). Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that I was actually quite serious about retiring from this blog to work on revising my memoir manuscript for the second time. Plus, earlier this year, as returning readers know, a thief absconded with my Fairdale bike. Read about that in SOPHIE STOLEN! Beloved Bicycle Boosted by Brazen Burglar! (+ How You Can Help!) (And yes, donation$ are still welcome and needed to help me fund a replacement.)

© Strava

So, that decision with the major disappointment caused me to lose a lot of my mojo for riding and writing here. Also, thanks to bicycling 939 days in a row (and still counting), walking 1,587 days (I missed a couple), plus 3,075 days (or nights) of doing yoga, I was a bit tuckered out (and still am). Add to that, getting older and ongoing health challenges (every body’s got something), I was just over biking as much. No offense to Sonnie the GT. I’m behind in my 100 mile a week goal, and that is both OK and not. I hope to pick up the pace, although it’s going to be near 100 degrees this weekend already. For the year, I’m at almost 1,550 miles, averaging 73 miles per week, which is still way better than nothing. The struggle is real.

The thing about blogging is that takes time and effort away from working on the book. Since that April 1 post, I am happy to report that I have worked on revising my memoir every day, sometimes for an hour or two, or even if only 15 minutes and another 15 for journaling… except for the day I began working on this post, proving my point that blogging and book writing don’t go together unless I really plan for it. However, I have now completed the additional dozen chapters that cover 2015, which was pre-Strava until the last 10 days of that year. I owe a big debt of gratitude to my two writing buddies; we are now commenting on each other’s work most weeks as well as getting together to write.

However, like many people who retire when they really just need a break, or like Jack Twist, who couldn’t get over Ennis del Mar in Brokeback Mountain, to my blog I say: “I cain’t quit you!” The comparison ends there because that was a heart-wrenching movie, and although I do enjoy writing this blog and connecting with fellow bloggers, there’s “nothing of a sexual nature, I assure you.” And “not that there’s anything wrong with that,” to quote Fletch and Seinfeld in the same paragraph. I don’t plan on returning to three posts a week; after now 667 blogs, and given my verbosity, I think once a month check-in makes sense. We shall see. Ireland’s Idlecyclist asked me just today if I was coming back; here you go, mate!

As for what I’ve been up to, well, I’ll tell you. I spent four nights volunteering and six attending the Moontower Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, and I just completed nine days doing a paid gig. So my bicycle mileage definitely suffered in April. Both things were important, although I didn’t make a ton of money nor did I decide to go into stand-up. I did get to see, hang out, and even meet a number of comedians, from locals to the nationally famous. Drop some names, you ask? Alright, if you insist:

  • Henry Winkler (yes, THE FONZ!) and Stephen Root (Milton in Office Space), who did a Q & A after the premiere of Season 3 of Barry on HBO; it was enough I was just in the same theater with them
  • Jeremy Piven (Entourage) was standing next to me for a good while; I missed a big opportunity when a group of people I was with decided to have a group hug and I didn’t think to say “Let’s Hug It Out, Bitch!”, a line which he improvised on that show and became a catch phrase
  • Aristotle Athari, a new cast member on a little show called Saturday Night Live, who for my money did the funniest bit of the whole show; a very nice man who chatted a bit and even allowed a photo
  • Neal Brennan, writer for Dave Chappelle’s show, to whom I goofily said in passing, “It’s an honor to meet you, sir!” I caught his show the last night and it was very funny although I was comedied out
  • Jessica Kirson, who I saw a lot last year and literally bumped into at one of the after-parties; she was super sweet (despite being one of the filthiest and yet funniest comics I’ve seen)
  • Marc Evan Jackson (loved him in Brooklyn 99) and Paul F. Tompkins, wearing full tuxedos whom I passed on 6th Street and said “Break a leg” to which the former smiled, waved, and said “Thanks!”
  • The Sklar Brothers, the hilarious twins I saw a perform a few times including at the Godamn Comedy Jam; they are nice and hilarious; after shaking both their hands the night before, I shook Randy’s and said to Jason “I need to even it out,” so Randy said to Jason “Shake his hand,” which he did
  • Local Arielle Isaac Norman, who I chatted with before I knew who she was, and whose piercing light green eyes I commented on and she did the same for mine, though she ignored me after that
  • And many others — good times!

Regarding all my other activities, I continue them. Which brings me to the title of this post (finally, right?). James Clear wrote a book called Atomic Habits, to which I’ve alluded before. My brother told me about him years before, though, and I’ve been getting his weekly newsletter for a while. I largely adopted his approach to building habits, and it’s been a big part of how I wrote a book, have done yoga daily for over eight years, and so on. The problem comes from doing too much, every single day. So yeah, I think he’s trying to kill me. Literally. As in Millennials’ version of that word, which they actually mean figuratively. Sometimes, kids these days — y’all dumb. James, don’t sue me; you’re awesome. Even if you do “slay.”

Individually, it’s a good thing to say, read for half an hour. I finished all three of Mary Karr’s influential memoirs, The Liar’s Club, Cherry, and Lit. Really amazing works. Now I’m reading Bicycle/Race: Transportation, Culture, & Resistance by Adonia E. Lugo, Ph.D., although it’s a little academic and I got distracted by a free little library book I found, The University of Success, a 40-year old self-help collection edited by Og Mandino. I also have a collection of creative nonfiction edited by Lee Gutkin, and I started Albert Samaha’s Concepcion: An Immigrant Family’s Fortunes, an interesting tale of his Filipino family’s migration to America along with a history of his homeland’s occupation. But when I get on the internet to doom scroll the day’s (mostly bad) news, check out the goings on in the neighborhood with that dumpster fire called Next Door, give kudos to everyone I follow on Strava, try to see what my blogger friends are up to via WordPress Reader, and go down Google Discover’s many black holes, that adds up to a lot of time out of my day, aka doubleplus ungood (George Orwell, 1984 — which it seems we’re living through more and more; a rant on that below).

So while I have some good habits, I also have plenty of bad ones. Will power is a muscle that is in short supply and a part of the brain that literally gets tired as the day goes on. So when it’s time to switch off the boob tube and put down the popcorn (a whole grain), mustering the force to do so is way harder than it should be. Beyond that, I’m just a night owl. Sorry, not sorry. Like everyone, I’m a work in progress. I have a long way to go to improve myself. I’m not sure there’s any one answer for life’s challenge except taking it easy with ourselves, day by day, and hopefully making more skillful choices where we can, and accepting when we can’t. Or as Frank Costanza said, “SERENITY NOW!”

Until then, James, if you’re reading this, maybe you can stop killing me. Of course I’m joking — the actual worry is the real atomic weapons in the hands of that crazy Russian dick-tator who has illegally and brutally invaded Ukraine, killing thousands. Let’s hope he keeps his powder dry; meanwhile, the West continue to flood Ukraine with weapons, funding and fueling the conflict for the foreseeable future.

Then there is that metaphorical bomb dropped by the U.S. Supreme Court leak about the ending of Roe v. Wade, which will set progress — for women keeping autonomy over their own bodies, health, and thus their jobs, dignity, and agency over their lives — back 50 years. Polls show that a majority of Americans want some form of access to safe and legal abortion, so it’s going to be a long, hot summer leading up to the mid-terms. I wouldn’t rule out a Trump second term, either, because this will only embolden his base, which has a large lunatic fringe of fascists who worship his every word and move. False idols, anyone?

Even if you do not believe as I do — that life begins at birth, not conception — can we at least agree that that no one is actually pro-abortion, but they are for the choice? It should be a pregnant woman’s choice, not that of out of touch, sanctimonious, patronizing male politicians or judges. The same liars who lied about their intent to support Roe v. Wade when interviewing for the highest court in the land, for fuck’s sake! Here in Texas it is already illegal to end a pregnancy that endangers the life of the mother, rape and incest. And that is just punitive and wrong. Are Republicans going to adopt all the unwanted, unaffordable, drug-addicted, severely disabled, or even still born babies? No, of course not. You may disagree, and to that I would say:

“Yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”

–The Dude in The Big Lebowski

Pundits and activists are warning that it will not stop there: this anti-progress, Trumpian Supreme Court and the radical right, white supremacist arm (and other arm, torso, legs, and head) of the GOP will keep trying to take the US back to the 50’s. It was a backwards time where women were treated like property, contraception was forbidden, interracial marriage was outlawed, and gay people got harassed, hated, beaten, and killed just for being who they are and loving differently than the so-called majority. It’s sickening, and I’m embarrassed for and ashamed of my country.

Let’s hope science and reason prevail and some compromise is reached where protection for women is provided in the law of the land. What’s next, giving fetuses the right to vote? OMG, GOP, WTF? Give me a fucking break. By the way, if you were truly “pro-life,” you would be opposing war, gun violence, the death penalty, poverty, and homelessness with all your might. But you’re not, because you’re hypocrites. And what’s worse, most of you know it and don’t care. How Machiavellian and “let’s speed up global warming to get to the rapture” of you.

poster seen at the University of Texas on my bike ride

It’s time we break some bad habits we have on this planet, like using war as a way to solve conflicts (because they don’t), or putting sexist, misogynist, and controlling men in charge (because women create life and raise up half the world). The good news is that many people will rise up and fight these onerous, draconian, and hateful policies. We shall resist A Handmaid’s Tale becoming reality. Until then, this dude will be doing his daily self-care: walking, biking, yoga-ing, reading, writing, eating a salad, and watching some non-scary TV. I definitely need more comedy to lighten all the tragedy. And mostly, I have to find more work to pay the ever-rising cost of living in America. Ugh.

One bright spot of a potential World War III (if James Clear doesn’t kill me first with his Atomic Habits). Should Dick-tator Putin nuke us, at least I won’t have to pay any more of that ridiculously unaffordable fucking Austin rent.

And now I’ve got to put protesting back on the list. The sad truth is that it should never have come off.

“I have to believe that the long arc of history bends toward justice.”

–attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.

As always, you may find me on Strava and GoodReads and connect via email (link in the About section).

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