I am getting old.
I know this because there isn't enough time to do all the things I want to do. If this sounds a bit too much like some Jim Croce lyrics, sorry. It was completely unintentional, although it did sound somewhat familiar as I wrote it.
So I am either a plagiarist, or the lack of time as you grow older is a universal truth, one that Jim and I and every other aging guy realizes at some point in his life.
I started this BLOG almost four months ago with every intention of posting to it with some regularity. Time, that slippery commodity--or more precisely, the lack of it--has prevented this.
OK, that isn't entirely true. There was time. Lots of it. I just chose to spend my limited time doing other things. Time is like money: it's all in how you spend it.
Unlike money, though, with time we all live on the same fixed budget. Every day you are given a meager 24-hour stipend to spend as you see fit. You will never get a promotion, a cost-of-living increase, or win the lottery. You get 24 hours, every day, week after week, year after year, until you punch out. How much time you are allotted after that is open to debate. I'm hoping for 100-hour days.
A younger guy, he might try four hours of sleep, eight hours of work, a couple hours for maintenance (showering, eating, ironing a dirty shirt) and a full 10 hours of fun. I did that for a time, while my young body could handle it, and it was great. Those were the days.
Now, at 37, with a family, you shoot for an hour of fun per day. If that.
Now before you get offended, especially if you're female--and REALLY especially if you're my wife--let me explain. There are many, many aspects of day-to-day family life that are enjoyable and fun. The trips to the park, the music in the car, the movies, the milk-out-the-nose hilarity at dinner, your toddler's developing personality, that hug when you get home from work, spending $700 on groceries at Costco, etc. All those things are great, and you wouldn't give them back for all the free time in the world.
Still, you ARE a guy, and as prepared as you thought you were for this new life, you wonder: Where the hell did my 10 hours of fun go?
Starting a family is like having a free-time garage sale. You haul all the contents of your garage out onto the driveway, pick up each item, and say, "Do I really need this?"
- Seinfeld reruns - out
- Fishing - out
- Drinking/pool/darts with the guys - severely limited
- Recreational reading - limited
- Watching or listening to 162 three-hour San Francisco Giants baseball games - out (I actually did this one year--all 162 of them)
- Watching 82 Sacramento Kings games on TV - in
- General garage tinkering - limited
- Weight lifting - out
- Riding bicycles - slightly limited
- Maintenance of bicycles - severely limited
- Racing bicycles - severely limited
So you trade in your Giants games, the ones that break your heart more often than not, for more meaningful things like changing diapers; both are entertaining in their own unique ways, and both often end with shit.
I'm better off without those losers anyway.
If this sounds like whining and complaining, so be it. But the truth is all these time restrictions are self-imposed, and I know that. Above all you want to be a DEVOTED HUSBAND and GOOD FATHER. I have no idea how to actually BE these things. I don't know that any man does right out of the gate. So far I'm about as good at these things as I am at juggling hamsters. I'm getting better, sure, but the pile of dead hamsters is getting frighteningly large.
The secret, I'm finding, is to not give anything up, but to keep at least a sliver of everything. Watch Seinfeld once in a while, go hang out with the guys once a month, and include your kids in your fishing and bike riding. Simple in theory, but it takes effort.
I used to ride my bike quite a bit. I've been riding my bike quite a bit for the better part of 20 years. The bike is an old friend, one I have known and loved since age four. As recently as two years ago, I was riding as much as 650 miles a month--pretty good for a guy who works full-time. And going back even further, when I was young and had those ten hours of free time, 1000 miles a month wasn't unheard of. This year my high month is 357 miles.
To a casual observer, that may seem like a lot of miles on a bicycle, and I guess it is. It's just not what I'm used to. It's not even the lack of mileage that I miss, it's the fitness level; I miss the speed, power and endurance I once had.
Cycling is a sport that only gets more enjoyable as your fitness improves. The feeling that comes from slicing through the air at a high rate of speed, the power generated with your own legs, is intoxicating. Cresting a tough climb without even breathing hard is a great feeling. Completing a long ride, and still feeling fresh at the end, is always satisfying. Those things come with lots of miles and time. Miles and time.
Every cyclist has at least a little racer in him. I have a little more than most, and that's what makes getting older that much tougher. I used to be very serious about racing, and I've even won a few races here and there. I still race a little, when the mood strikes me, in the VETERAN'S class. Yes, at 35 you are an old man as far as cycling goes, and banished to the vet class.
Whether they will admit to it or not, most cyclists imagine they are racing at some point during a ride. Sometimes you chase imaginary racers up a climb, other times powering away from ghostly pursuers on a long, flat road. Young and old, thin and fat, we all do it. It's just a hell of a lot easier for me to pretend I'm Lance Armstrong if my body looks more like his than John Goodman's.
Lately, more and more, I participate in those races of the imaginary kind. And, more and more, I'm feeling OK with it. I must say, even with my lack of training time, I win a lot. My invisible rivals are surprisingly slow and out of shape. If they expect to beat a guy like me, they really need to ride more. If they did 357 miles a month, like I do, they might just have a chance.