Keep calm and pedal on

I’ve just completed five straight days of pedicabbing. That may not seem like a big deal to people who work a five day work weeks every week but for me it’s pretty unique. I haven’t done the same job five days in a row since 1999. Also, I’ve scheduled myself for the next five days as well. That may be a bit crazy but it’s crazy with a purpose.

I’m doing this because it is something that I can do. The parts of my life that are out of control are out of my control. There are many things that I could be stressing about but all that it would give me is stress. So I’m focusing on what I can do. It’s a little bit avoidance, a little bit escape and it’s not a permanent solution. It’s just a way of biding my time while the rest of my world sorts it’s shit out. In the meantime, I’ll continue to get in better shape and save money so that I can survive the winter.

I’m also trying to accomplish one thing each day that will move my life forward. I still have a long to-do list but if I can do one thing each day it will help. Somethings are bigger than others but they all help me carry on. In the past week I have caught up on laundry, changed the sheets on my bed, dyed and trimmed my hair and beard, checked in with my band leader, set up my new phone and gone grocery shopping.

Pretty boring stuff, huh?

I suppose that’s part of why I haven’t been writing as much. I have been working on an economics article. I’m halfway through but I may not be able to finish it until next week when I finally give myself a couple days off. Until then…

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Stress is a part of life

I have four chronic illnesses. All are exacerbated by stress. As a result, I put a premium on reducing the amount of stress in my life. Still, not all stress can be avoided. Not all stress should be avoided. Some stress is actually beneficial. Sometimes a crisis is just what we need to move forward. Picking and choosing what stress to take on and which crises to entertain can be a challenge and is stressful. Today is a day of that kind of stress. I don’t mind that kind of stress because I know if I handle it well it will mean less stress in the long run.

 

What’s in an age

I’m 46 years old. Like a 12 year old reading 17 magazine I look at people in their fifties and sixties with envy. Many of them are so cool!

At the same time I love the exuberance of youth. I have many friends in their twenties and I adore them. One of the greatest pieces of wisdom that my years have taught me is that growing old sucks and is a complete waste of time – don’t fucking do it!

I met a guy last night who was celebrating his 33rd birthday and feeling pretty old. He begged me to tell him that it gets better. I could honestly tell him that it most certainly does. I never felt older than I did when I was in my early thirties.

This guy was dealing with some physical deterioration and that is a normal part of aging which can’t be avoided, but can be mitigated. I still deal with some of the complications of an aging body but I’m also in the best shape of my life. I’m the strongest I’ve ever been, my weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate are perfect. Even my mental health is better than it has been in decades. All of this helps compensate for the fact that I’m not getting any younger.

I recently shaved off all my purple hair to let my natural color and beard grow out. Over the course of two weeks I completely changed my looks. The top of my head is almost completely bald and my hair is fifty to sixty percent gray. I got my first grey hair at twenty-four but that is beside the point.  The point is that for the first time in quite some time I was actually looking my age.

There is nothing wrong with looking your age but it is optional and I certainly don’t mind looking younger. I throw on a hat and a little “Just For Men” hair dye and I look ten years younger. I usually don’t play the “How old do you think I am?” game but it seemed to come up a lot yesterday. Guesses ranged from twenty-seven to thirty-eight (the older the guesser the closer they got).

The truth is I actually feel twenty-four and that is amazing. In my opinion it is the perfect age. It’s that point where you are old enough to know better but young enough not to care. Most people younger than twenty-four want to be older; those older, wish they were younger. I’m perfectly happy with my age but in a way I really am twenty-four. Twenty-four years ago, on Friday the Thirteenth of January, I nearly died. In many ways I started my life over on that day.  This is the year where I feel like I have fully come into my new life. This year has been all about knowing better but not caring and it has served me quite well.

The only thing I don’t understand is why in the hell do I still have acne?!? That just seems totally fucked up!!!

Seeds of peace

Have you missed me?

I’ve been through so much. I’ve had so much on my mind. I spent five days in a peaceful cooperative community in Harmony Park and then five days trying to reacclimate to my life in the city. There is so much that I want to write about but haven’t been able to. Instead I have put my feelings into a letter to my US Congressman, Keith Ellison.

Dear Keith Ellison,

I am writing because I am deeply concerned about your support for a limited military strike in Syria. I too am very troubled by the atrocities committed by the Assad regime and absolutely believe that a response is required. For a while I had resigned myself to the belief that a military strike was the best we could come up with but through much soul searching I am now convinced that we can do better… much better. I’m a huge supporter of yours and I’m counting on you to do better.

I hope that you will continue reading because I want to do more than just add my voice to the mounting opposition to military action; I want to help you regain your voice as an agent for peace.

First, we don’t need to respond with force to prove our strength. No one in their right mind doubts the capabilities of the US Military. To suggest that we need to respond with violence because it is the only language these tyrants understand is to lower ourselves to the level of a tyrant.

We can do better.

What is going on in Syria is a disaster and requires a response but what if we started thinking of military disasters the way we think of natural disasters? Yes, these disasters are caused by humans but what if we began to accept that people are part of nature? When an earthquake or hurricane strikes we don’t respond by bombing the earth and skies, we respond by caring for the people who have been hurt and displaced. As tragic and destructive as natural disasters are they bring out the best in us. What if we responded to the situation in Syria the way we responded to the earthquake in Haiti? What if we learned from our experience with natural disasters and did even better?

What if we could find millions of people who were so fed up with war that they were willing to leave their homes and everything they own to find peace? Instead of thinking of the Syrian people as victims, what if we thought of them as pioneers for peace? What kind of world would they build if they had our support? I believe that within the refugee camps lie the seeds for a peaceful, cooperative society like nothing we have ever seen before. Granted, this would take a lot of work but we have a lot of people who need work. They just need resources.

We have the resources. As you know, we’re not broke. For the cost of even a limited military assault we could provide billions in humanitarian aid. But that is beside the point. A military strike would not negate the need for humanitarian aid, it would simply be a waste of money and resources.

I’m not under any illusions. I realize that what I am suggesting is a complete paradigm shift that the US Government may not be prepared to make but my concern is not with the US Government as a whole, it is with you as an individual. I want you to be brave, to be strong, to be a voice for something better than war. It’s what the Fifth District expects from you and it’s who I know you to be.

Sincerely, J Evan LeFreak

My time is my own

For the first time in seven years I don’t have to deliver City Pages on Wednesday. All my stops have been covered and it is no longer my responsibility. I received a phone call today from Twin Town pedicab asking when I wanted to work this week.  I told them I was taking the week off. Both of my kids are back in school. I’m single, I don’t have any roommates; I don’t even have a best friend. My time is my own.

I’ve spent most of my life running; running to keep from falling down. When I slow down I stop. Like the shark I have to keep moving or I will die. Well, not die, that is a bit of a dramatisation, but it feels that way sometimes. In 1999 I was struck with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. I am convinced that it was my body telling me that I need to slow down. It did more than slow me down though. It brought my activity to a complete halt. Since then I have been working tirelessly to get back on my feet.

I’m finally at a place where I feel strong enough, healthy enough and capable enough to do anything I want to do. But I’m not cured. I still have to struggle with these illnesses. I can’t keep running. I have to slow down sometimes. I want to move forward but I’m still trying to catch up. I want to be there for other people but taking care of me is a full time job. I’m finding that I do better when left to my own devices; but what is the point of doing better if you have no one to share it with?

I’m taking today to do what I need to do for myself. Tomorrow I head to Shangri-la to share what I have with the bliss junkies of Harmony Park. It’s a balancing act with competing extremes. No one understands what it is like to be me but I see a little bit of me in everybody. It’s like being alone in a carnival funhouse where every mirror has been smashed into a million peices.

It’s okay. I’m doing fine, even if you think I’ve lost my mind.  I’m sure it’s around here somewhere, it’s just now what I want to find. I’m going to follow my heart to the land of lonely souls. I’m going to look without seeing to discover what the blind man knows. I may seem weird to you but I’m no weirder than you to me. Our differences are symmetrical, that’s our commonality. So you be you and I’ll be me. It’s the way it’s all been planned. The missing jigsaw puzzle piece is right there in your hand.

Antmusic

I’m taking today off. Actually I’m taking the next week off. I feel like I’m taking a vacation but what the fuck is a vacation when you don’t have anything that resembles a normal job: no boss, no regular hours, no paycheck, How do you take a vacation when your career is being yourself. I can’t really take time off from that although it does seem tempting at times.

And what the fuck am I doing writing if I am taking the day off given that writing is a big part of what I’m doing for work these days?

I don’t know, I don’t care and I think that’s beautiful.

The only thing I have to do today is see Adam Ant perform live; something I’ve been wanting to do for almost 30 years but really thought would never happen. I was so convinced that it wouldn’t happen that I didn’t even bother to buy a ticket until just a few days ago. The last time he was in Minneapolis was 1995. I was trying to figure out how I missed that and then it dawned on me that I had a one year old child at the time and wasn’t doing much else. I’m not as excited about the venue he is playing this time around but I actually think this will be a better show. After two decades of tabloid turmoil he seems to be on top of the world. His new album is amazing, perhaps the best of his career. It’s everything I love about Adam Ant with a sound worthy of the modern age. Certainly better than his last album, 1995’s Wonderful, the one Adam Ant album I don’t own.

Oh yeah, one other thing that I’m doing today is shaving my head completely bald… but then I’m not letting a razor get anywhere near it for a week. I guess that’s what I consider a vacation – not having to shave!

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