Sunday, July 14, 2013

Radical Acceptance

Early this morning, on my way to meet Aleta and ride with her to her first riding day of the MSF course -- five hours of focused training on a riding range.  Moments like these are quiet, serene and the weight of the world evaporates like smoke.

Too bad a person can't ride all the time.

I need to do something -- life seems like it's spinning out of control. Or maybe I'm just plain stupid and getting worse as time marches on. I've always enjoyed repeating one of my dad's favorite retorts to many of life's crappy situations -- "It's hell to get old." but lately the evidence seems to be gathering to direct support that theorem. All roads lead to the reclining chair in the living room of late, the weight of my ass dragging me down and my brain with it.

That sounded odd.

Kim is on the phone laughing at something Jack Riepe, renowned author, BMW rider, humorist and sage, is telling her. Seems as if they're talking about Cher….

Radical Acceptance.

The title of a book Kim shared with me by Tara Brach, a clinical psychologist and Buddhist teacher, that might help. Help with some of the telltale signs of things going wrong in that strange way that you feel for each step forward you've taken three backwards. The book promises some help in sorting things out.

We'll see.

A few hours ago while doing some last minute trimming on a Forsythia I managed to cut the phone line coming into the house. Nice clean cut. No phone, no DSL, no Netflix, no nothing.

Shit. Damn it. I just want to sit in the reclining chair.

So off I go, tools in hand and a never say die attitude to fix things. That's what I do, it's programmed genetically, I fix things. I'm just not that good at it. So I make an ugly repair using lots of electrical tape and a few sharp instruments and was only shocked once when that 90 volt DC charge appeared as someone was calling the house.

Just the tip of the iceberg.

A couple weeks ago I changed the rear tire on the Vespa and almost immediately it began losing air pressure. Pump it up to 32 psi and two hours later it drops to 20psi. So multiple times a day I'm putting air in the tire.

Relentless. Over and over I'm pushing the boulder up the hill. Until today.

Right after I fixed the phone line I pulled the rear tire off the scooter. Just what I wanted to do, roll around on the driveway, pull the exhaust, the shock, the tire. Ugh.

I deduced the problem had to be a leaky tire valve. My lazy ass didn't install a new one when I put the new tire on. Or the seal around the wheel was faulty because I didn't clean it well and some dirt or grit was letting air escape. Never occurred to me to look for punctures though. After 15 minutes of soapy water exploring and finding nothing I look at the tread and there it is -- a big nail, now all nicely ground down from the 500 or so miles I've ridden in 10 mile increments. That nail must have gone in the tire during the first few miles of riding.  So close to the tire change that I had to think it was my fault.

It's always my fault.

I'm not changing that tire myself. I'm paying someone to do it.

Life hasn't been limited to boneheaded maneuvers. Some of it is just part of a wave of regular responsibilities that at times flood my ability to deal with them.

Like the new toilet project I embarked on -- installed the new one but never managed to get the old one beyond the driveway.

When Kim and I determined it might look a little too avant garde for the neighbor hood we dismantled it and have it in the garden as a potential planter. Won't say how long that took.

Add all that up and the old body isn't responding too well. The Psoriatic Arthritis I battle is worse when stress levels rise. But I shouldn't worry. Last time I saw my rheumatologist I inquired how the disease would affect my life span. "Not at all," he says. "The disease won't shorten your life. But the drugs may kill you." Nice to get a straight answer from a medical professional.

And last week I was in the middle of a "cardiac event" for lack of a better term. One of those moments where you actually weigh "If I ignore this it will probably go away," with "I probably should be smart and go to the hospital before I drop dead.".  Preliminary tests show no heart attack or obvious structural problems with the heart.  But all the test results aren't in yet. My money is on stress. Too many multiple nights of three hours of sleep followed by meals of hot dogs, chocolate donuts and ice cream.

I'm not 25 anymore.

It's hell to get old.

So I'm ready to read this Radical Acceptance book. And trying to push the Vespa back into the daily flow of things. Regardless of what is going on a ride has a calming effect.



RichardM said...

Telephone ring voltage is 40-150 volts AC at a frequency of ~20Hz in the US. Quite a shocking experience when it hits to say the least. I think that I may need to read that book as well.

David Masse said...

Steve, a few things.

1) You let the notorious Mr. Riepe chat with your wife??

2) 99.99% of us would have assumed we screwed up the tire change. Less than 1% would have found the nail.

3) Yes, getting older sucks, but no 25 year old I know could trim a bush, know what the bush's name is, and then repair a severed phone line.

4) 99% of Vespa owners have never seen the rear wheel. Even fewer know it can be removed. Only three non-Piaggio trained people in the world can remove the wheel, remove the tire, re-install the tire, and re-install the wheel; and one of them is you.

So, for a renaissance man in a world full of males desperately trying to make the leap from Neanderthal to Cro-Magnon, I for one think you're doing pretty well.

Anonymous said...


Let me assure you that you are not alone with these feelings and frustrations. On the 60 side of my "middle 50's", I am experiencing many of the same things you are. I am afraid to tackle projects now. When I used to "fix" things, I could pretty much always say that I left things better than I found them. Now, I find I am making mistakes, and often regret my repair attempts.

I used to blame all of this on my job stress, which I certainly had, but now that I have been retired for over a year, I can't do that anymore.

I miss riding. I sold my Vespas several years ago. But, I live in a congested urban area, and I don't trust myself to "make it out of town" to the countryside.

In any event, I will pick up a copy of Radical Acceptance. The book looks promising.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve,
I remember Pop saying, Its hell getting old but better than the alternative. Hope that you and your week is much better!

Orin said...

This whole business of not being able to get a scooter/MC tire patched in the U.S. is total bullshit. Scooter and motorcycle tires are made by the same companies, in the same factories, from the same materials, by the same process, as car and truck tires.

One of the Escort's tires picked up a nail the other day, so I went to the tire store. They fixed it. FOR FREE (they do that for everyone who buys tires from them), and sent me on my way an hour or so later.

That some idiot couldn't do a patch job and got sued by a bigger idiot really doesn't make this situation any easier to take. It is one of the things that pretty much cancels out the monetary savings in fuel and insurance that are most peoples' reason for getting a scooter in the first place.

Sorry for the rant. I put a hold on the book at the library...

Scootin' Old Skool is still alive! : )

maestro said...

Dear Steve,

One of the things I love most about Scooter in the Sticks is your unflinching honesty and courage in addressing with readers some of the really tough issues that everybody faces, but most people are afraid to discuss. You are absolutely right, the lethargy seems to encroach more and more as each year passes, and it becomes harder and harder, and takes more and more energy, to get up and do things. Weren't you the person who recommended "Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance"? Well, I am reminded of the discussion there of what Pirsig called "gumption". And I say, don't let these annoying setbacks steal your gumption! Best of luck and thanks again for an awesome blog.

Joe said...

Ouch! I could have written this myself but far less eloquently. Getting old's a bitch, but it beats the alternative hands down.

- Joe, back from a long hiatus at Scootin' da Valley

Dar said...


Radical acceptance - almost seems like giving in? I have the same sort of life 3 steps forward 3 steps back and it gets very frustrating. As for the aging part I constantly remind myself I am not 25 anymore, but the aches and pains are part of me now and I just find different ways to deal with them. If I go out for a long moto ramble ultimately the next day my hip hurts like hell, but it was usually worth it. Hang in there and let me know how the Radical Acceptance book works for ya, I might just have to read it myself. rtt

ms. scooter in the sticks said...

one place that doesn't show in your toiletry photo is the porcelain tank lid, turned upside down and filled with gravel and water and rooted with mint sprigs. at this moment, it's a busy little pond. the baby crows and grackles are all hanging out around it in the minty shade. i say that part's a definite keeper.

Coop a.k.a. Coopdway said...

I saw a friend at the rally last weekend I'd not seen since last year. When asked how things were going, he responded "well, I'm still able to sit in front with the guy Driving the hearse."

So far, I am as well and I fully intend to chat him up and enjoy the ride.

Keep on pluggin'

Charlie6 said...

Normally Steve, I would prescribe more riding, especially now that you've determined the problem......

However, I am finding that solution "wanting" or no longer sufficient. Perhaps I need to read that book as well....oh, and your cable fix was fine, truly a WWID moment.


Steve Williams said...

RichardM: It's not as bad as one of the modern electric fences. I've had a few run ins with those and I'll take the phone wire every time.

Steve Williams said...

David Masse: Kim likes takings risks I guess and what could be more challenging than a conversation with Mr. Riepe?? She did seem to enjoy it -- a LOT.

As far as the phone line repair goes, I have gained some handy skills over the years. But most of the time I wish I didn't have to apply them to anything.

Neanderthal to Cro-Magnon? I think I am trying to be more like a monkey.... Thanks for the kind words though.

Steve Williams said...

Anonymous: Just when I think retirement would solve all my problems you go and upset the apple cart.

Seriously though, making sense of a life is a full time job....

Steve Williams said...

Orin: I had the tire patched and so far it's fine. I lived with the nail so the patch has to be better right? Things must be very different in your part of the world -- no motorcycle parking spaces, no tire patching...

What gives in the Pacific Northwest?

Steve Williams said...

Gumption. I need more gumption. Thanks for that reminder. Almost bought another copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance the other evening at Barnes and Noble. They had a beautifully produced volume. Maybe it's time to read it again.

Thanks for your kind words about the blog. I have realized for awhile that I have lost my way as a blogger. It was the personal stuff that I needed to write for myself that had value to me and as it turned out was more interesting to other riders.

Maybe I'll step back and regroup here...

Steve Williams said...

Joe: Good to hear from you. I keep telling myself I need to ride up your way sometime...

Orin said...

Steve, who patched the tire for you? Please give me their address... if I end up getting a modern Vespa once I rejoin the middle class I will send any punctured tires to them to be patched. Yes, a patch is better than a nail, especially if the patch is properly Vulcanized, as it would be if done on a car tire.

Where I live, people at tire stores for cars will act like you've brought an explosive device if you bring in a motorcycle or scooter tire; people at stores that sell motorcycle/scooter tires will look at you like you're speaking Swahili if you ask to have a tire patched.

I have no idea why this is the case. Relative isolation? Too much oxygen? I dunno. But given this state of affairs, a 4-stroke Stella starts looking pretty good...