April 30, 2009

How to Be Ubiquitous

The gym I go to is quite noticeably owned by Lance Armstrong. The guy is everywhere. Against one wall is one of his bicycles inside a glass case. Flanking it are blown-up news clippings, from his first childhood foot races to his cancer to his Tour de France victories, and four big signs covered with text narrating his career, their titles ranging from “In the Beginning” to “The Road Ahead.” In the men’s locker room, the first locker you see is covered not by the usual rattly metal door but by thick glass plate through which you can see a pair of Lance’s racing shoes and one of his spandex outfits. On the rear wall a huge picture of Lance in his familiar crewcut challenges you with an unflinching but not actively friendly stare, and a quote from him:

“I don’t have bad days. I have great days and good days.”

It goes on about how he’s on his ass (his word) riding his bike six hours a day: “What are you on?”

Everyone who goes to the gym is supposed to read that and be inspired to do much more than they dreamed they could, and put in their place by knowing they could never do as much as Lance.

As I write this, I’m listening to Pandora Radio on my computer, and what do you think just came up on the screen? An ad with Lance sitting in shorts and T-shirt (same crewcut, same direct quiet don’t-call-me-arrogant look), recommending that I buy an energy supplement.

I am not going to buy it.

However, I have bought a noncommercial part of his message. I don’t have bad days, I have great days and good days. I suppose it isn’t as true of me as of Lance, but I’m not going to spoil my day worrying about it.

It’s amazing that I’ve come to this. By various means, most of which I’ve discussed in this blog, I seem to have boosted my mood curve so that whereas its peaks used to be slightly above average and its troughs well below average, its peaks are now well above average and its troughs slightly below. A simple uplift, maybe a regrooving of some neural paths. I’m the same and not.

Today looks like a good day. (It’s just before noon.) I have no idea what will happen. Maybe it will be a bad day after all. I’m open to it.

Some days I recognize familiar symptoms: waking up with a sweaty sense of dread; feeling dependent on people I’m no longer in a position to be dependent on; playing movies of grievance and hostility in my head. I recognize them at the moment, and being recognized, they leave. I thank them for stopping by, and I thank them for leaving.

I think I’ll go to the gym. I usually tread the elliptical trainer, but when I want to read a book I pedal the exercise bike. Today I’m going to bring—you can’t guess, it’s too weird—the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. The new seventh edition just came out last month, with lots of changes to include electronic media, such as how to cite web pages in your bibliography. It’s for my freelance work, and I’m, yes, I’m excited to read it.

I feel wide and open. The whole visible realm is available to me. I’m here, and to be here is to be ubiquitous.

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