Am I Lucky?

The sun is finally out in Wilmington and the weather has started to warm. I am in desperate need of Vitamin D (GET THAT D!) so I decided to grab a beer and get some quality hammock time in my front yard. I couldn’t help think about how lucky I am as I stared up at the sky and gently rocked side to side. I live in a kick-ass city, have a job that I do online and I can thrive on without working full-time, my health is in solid shape, an amazing partner who is up for adventures, and friends across the globe that I can visit on on a whim.

Fuck yeah. I’m lucky.

Or am I?

The idea of luck bothers me because it isn’t luck. These things were not dropped into my lap at random. I wasn’t just in the “right place at the right time” to acquire a life I love. No, I am definitely not lucky. It is something else.

Maybe I’m blessed?

Nah, that doesn’t work either. There isn’t a magic force or entity out there rewarding be for obedience. I try to live a good life and treat others well, but I am certainly paying no allegiance to a deity (or even a philosophy).

So, while I lay in my hammock I have no idea how to express thanks. The truth is, I’m thankful for my own actions and my own decisions. There is certainly a level of privilege that came from being a white male that grew up in a family with both parents. But my family was also broke, I’ve had a job since about the age 12, and my upbringing involved a fair amount of emotional brainwashing. I was ill prepared for the real world when I joined the Army in 2001. I guess part of it is luck, but not the last 15 or so years.

But I can’t think of a word that describes “appreciation for my past actions that lead me here”. I chose not to marry the first two people I really loved because we were long-term incompatible. I chose to get a vasectomy to prevent an accidental pregnancy. I chose to quit my job (twice) and leave a stable city to travel to a new place because I wasn’t happy where I was, even though I did not have any job waiting for me in the new place. I chose to live in a city where the cost of living is a fraction of what it was in other places I’ve lived. I chose to live a fairly minimalist life. I chose not to own a car for nearly a decade.

These choices and countless others big and small led me to the point where I can sit in my hammock on a random Tuesday and drink a beer simply because I want to. Or I can spontaneously travel to another city to visit a friend on a whim. Or I can sign up to take classes in massage therapy because it interests me.

But I don’t know the word for that thankfulness and gratitude for my own choices. Whatever the word is, that is what I fell as I look up at the blue sky and lazily watch a red-tailed hawk drift around. That is what I feel when I experience the freedom that comes from making hard and risky choices because the unknown is better than unhappy mediocrity. That is the feeling that glows inside me every day as I look at my life and realize how fucking awesome it is.

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

 

Week 8 (and March) Update

In keeping with my pursuit of deeper conversations and connections with friends (and future friends), here is an update on my week, the intimate and mundane. It all started with this blog post and now I have a half dozen or so people that I regularly exchange emails with. We talk about family, love, struggles, work, small talk, our passions, sex, death, money, and everything else under the sun. Several of my new pen-pals are people I’ve never actually met, but I feel a connection with them and look forward to someday meeting in person.

If you’d like to start a conversation with me using this post as a prompt, or really using anything you want as a prompt, please email me at pjneiger@gmail.com . Or, if you’d like to send me an anonymous message you can message me at pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH. I won’t really be checking Facebook or other social media networks consistently.

The month has been a little rough for me. I fell out of my solid February routine and spent most of the month treading water or taking two steps forward and one step back. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I felt like things were sliding a bit. Mostly, it comes down to both my natural cycle and March being a pretty hectic month. I’m excited for April though, for two reasons. First, my partner and I are committing to an “abstinence April” where we are giving up all food with added sugar, including beer. Second, I have basically nothing on my April schedule except for VegFest in two weeks (and that isn’t a stressor). Though, I think we are going to take a 10-hour break from our “no added sugar” rule for VegFest because we won’t really be in control of the food.

My business for March really came down to some very good reasons, primarily health and friendships. I had eight different medical appointments, including a dentist, therapist, physical therapist, and massage therapist. These appointments were valuable and necessary but they did seriously disrupt my routine. When two days per week have a mid-day appointment it becomes difficult to get into a fitness routine (particularly one that has scheduled classes involved) or even a life routine. But April won’t have those.

Additionally, I had a trip to Myrtle Beach to see the Avett Brothers and friends, two different sets of Couchsurfers/Warmshowers people stay with us, and that kick-ass rucking event that I did last week. All of these were awesome experiences, but it means that my weekends couldn’t really be described as “relaxing”.

So, without a solid weekday or weekend schedule, my ass had trouble finding solid ground to sit on. But, I’m proud of myself because despite the chaos I didn’t really backslide this month. I may not have made the progress I wanted, but I also didn’t regress.

Okay, enough about a quick month recap. Here are the intimate and mundane details from the last week:

  • I’ve really struggled with my social media blackout this week. I’m still trying to figure out why it has been so difficult but for some reason, I’ve been checking Facebook constantly. It is time to change the password again (once I memorize the password there is no additional barrier) and get back into weekly checking. Hopefully, I can get to the source of my urge to check Facebook and address the root problem.
  • I finished “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and cried. Then I watched the movie and I cried again.
  • I’m having trouble deciding what book to start next. I am reading three books right now but they aren’t exactly “sit down and get lost” books. One is about CBT therapy and is really more of a self-help book, one is a massage therapy textbook, and one is some personal essays from bisexuals around the world. I need some fiction or something intellectually stimulating but my bookshelf is giving me paralysis from all the choices. (I will be starting the next Harry Potter next month when my next Audible selection can be made for free)
  • Work has been a little slow on the deliverables this week and I’ve been focusing on mastering a new work-related skill set (Disaster Relief planning) and being available for spontaneous work
  • Had a great day with the trainer on Wednesday despite still being fucking sore from the ruck weekend.
  • Oh, and I had the 16-hour ruck weekend, I won’t regurgitate it here because I already blogged about it.
  • I got back into regular blogging and put up five blog posts, the goal is daily posts though:
  • During D&D we snuck around a fire giant’s lair, had a rogue join us, confused some goblins, stole a seashell, freed some slaves, and I almost caught a bed on fire
  • Got another filling, only one more dental appointment this year before I’m caught up. To be honest, I’m thrilled that all I needed was three fillings and a crown after going over ten years without seeing a dentist
  • I had a brainstorm/support session with one of my close friends last night on Zoom. These bi-monthly meetings with friends where we support each other and help find solutions to struggles is becoming incredibly helpful
  • I met with my therapist today and it went really well. I’m joining a mindfulness meditation therapy program next week that I’m excited about.

During the next week I really only have two things:

  • A massage on Tuesday
  • Two friends of ours that we met on our cross-country bike ride are coming to visit this weekend
  • Mindfulness therapy group starts next Friday

Alright, on to fitness progress. At first, I really didn’t think I made any progress this month. I was going to be very happy with just maintaining my February gains. But, after looking at the numbers and the photos I see that I’ve actually lost five pounds in March and I can see greater muscle definition in the photos, particularly in the arms. This is why tracking lead and lag indicators is important and beneficial to me, it helps me recognize my achievements when I feel down. Despite the last two weeks really not moving things in the direction I want, the overall trend is still positive. At this point, I am about 10 lbs away from my preferred weight.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Passionate Creativity

“Although creativity is spontaneous in nature, it requires a certain passion for life. A willingness to express, to share, to update, or resolve in some way. Our role in it all is to simply guide this passion.” – Today’s Daily Meditation at Headspace

I have never been a particularly passionate or creative person. Until this morning, I really never hypothesized that the two were related. As I talked about nearly two years ago at my old blog, I have never really had a strong passion for my partner, and I’ve never really had it for a goal or field or whatever. When I discover someone or something new I get the lustful, excited new relationship energy, but I wouldn’t describe that as passion any more than I’d describe a drunken anonymous handjob as sensually making love.

Similarly (apparently), I have never been a particularly creative person. I’ve desired creativity but it never seems to come to me. But, then again, I have never really tried. I give up quickly on writing and music and art. Of course, saying that I’m not a creative person is a nothing but a cop-out. The truth is, I have never created great works of creativity because I haven’t tried. And I haven’t tried because the comfort from apathy has been stronger than the discomfort from shame at a life not fully lived.

What I disagree with about the above quote is that I have a strong willingness to express, share, and update. Probably more so than people are comfortable with in many cases. My sexual orientation, relationship orientation, religious and political views have all caused family and friends to cut me out of their lives. I’ve proudly hoisted my freak flag to the top of the hill and wave it around, but creativity hasn’t seemed to flood my life. Or maybe I just don’t understand the quote properly…

Hmm, as I give this more thought I think maybe I’m not really giving myself enough credit for creativity. In some ways, I think I am pretty creative but the problem comes when I try to articulate that creativity. I have entire fantasy worlds in my head that I’d like to create but when I stare at a blank Word doc I can’t seem to produce anything. Again, this is related more to a lack of really trying than anything.

But how does passion play into this?

I guess the one thing I’ve grown passionate about in my life is helping people with sex and death. I can’t see a way in which that has really sparked creativity though. Is there something “wrong” with me? Maybe the bupropian and CBT will show some results in this area as well as help me with my anxiety and productivity (quick update: the last month has been baller for me and I’m excited to talk to my therapist tomorrow). Or maybe I need to get over my ego and fears and do the Deep Work where I guide the spontaneous creativity into something productive.

Who knows? Like everything else in life, I have no damn clue.

 

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

It Starts with a Plan and Principles

“Life without a design is erratic. As soon as one is in place, principles become necessary. I think you’ll concede that nothing is more shameful than uncertain and wavering conduct, and beating a cowardly retreat. This will happen in all our affairs unless we remove the faults that seize and detain our spirits, preventing them from pushing forward and making an all-out effort.”
– 
Seneca, Moral Letters, 95.46

It is pretty rare that I blog about the readings in The Daily Stoic back-to-back, but this one bounced around my head all through my workout today and I feel like flushing out my thoughts on it.

The first two sentences in this seem to summarize about a dozen “self-help” books that are on my shelf. I know that coming up with an actual plan has been incredibly beneficial for me. When I plot out every 30-minutes of my day I am much more likely to be productive and reach my fitness, writing, and work goals.

Without a plan, I wander through my day aimlessly with a to-do list that never quite gets started. I somehow find time to dick around on Facebook, watch another episode of “FaceOff” on Hulu, and masturbate but I can’t find time to roll out my legs, meditate, go for a run, or finish a work project ahead of schedule. I need structure to accomplish my goals and reach my full potential.

There is some danger to structure though if it is held too tightly. There needs to be some flexibility and willingness to adjust plans depending on new and unexpected circumstances. Without flexibility then I ball up into an anxious and guilt-ridden mess because my plan didn’t get accomplished. This, I think, is where the idea of principles comes in.

If you have a solid set of principles that outlines what you value and what tasks are most important then it becomes easier to say no or to shift your schedule around. For example, I have a pretty set morning schedule. I have a two-hour block that includes meditation, rolling out my body, going for a walk, reading for 30-minutes, writing a blog post, and a few other things. I wake up at around 5 am so that I can get most of these things done before Anna wakes up. More recently though, she has been working the opening shift and getting up around the same time as me. Now, the morning is filled with distractions that make my morning routine nearly impossible to finish (and impossible to finish well).

So, my principles come into play. One of my principles is to prioritize my relationship with her and the limited time we see each other. I have now shifted my “morning routine” into two parts when she has an opening shift. It has taken me a little while to get used to this, mostly because I get kind of crazy anxious when things shift out of control (I’m really working on this), but now I can plan for this interruption.

Another example is if my boss sends me an unexpected email about a project that he wants help on. I may have my workday planned and this interruption can send me into a tailspin. But, one of my principles is to thoroughly think through potential problems ahead of time and come up with a contingency plan. To address this interruption I may contact my boss and ask for a specific deadline and then either shift my other work around or simply note the new task in Asana and forget about it until a later day. Also, I think the bupropion is helping a lot with preventing these tailspins of anxiety when plans change.

As Seneca said, in order to prevent a cowardly retreat (giving up on projects, wasting moments of our limited life, not living up to our potential, avoiding difficult passions) you need a flexible plan and clear principles. Which is basically what the following books were kind of getting at and provide tools to address this universal issue. It is amazing how the wisdom from 2,500 years ago is applicable today.

How Does It All Work?

“How does your ruling reason manage itself? For in that is the key to everything.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.33

Yesterday’s morning meditation from “The Daily Stoic” really struck a chord with me. This is one of the first passages I’ve read from the Stoics that mentions the importance of understanding why our mind works the way it does. They often preach about the importance of using reason, but rarely have I seen them ask what brings about reason on a fundamental level.

Biology, society, spirituality, relationships, exercise, nutrition, meditation, reading, artistic endeavors, and a thousand other things impact our ability to think and act rationally. This is really the foundation of my thirst for knowledge. I dive into books about evolutionary biology and psychology and fitness and psychedelic substances and sexuality and philosophy because they are all pieces that help me answer the most important question in my life, “How can I live the best life?”

All things are interrelated in some way. The food I put in my body can change my mood which affects my relationship with my partner which impacts my productivity at work which changes my economic status that impacts my community. My ability to use my rational mind is connected to my actions and the actions of millions of others, what we do ripples across space and time both expanding and limiting the options we (and others) have. So, I think it is important to understand as much as possible about as many things as possible.

It is often easy to talk about the “body” and the “mind” as separate entities, but they are not. The mind and body are different aspects of the same being. Categorizing and compartmentalizing things might make communication and learning easier, but those are just tools and are not the truth. They are convenient and necessary shadows of reality but they shouldn’t be mistaken for reality. The truth may be beyond our comprehension but we get closer to it by learning about the world around us, experiencing as many diverse activities, and sharing love and intimacy with as many people as possible, including ourselves.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

How I Knew My Partner Was “The One”

I was recently asked by an old friend of mine how I knew that my partner was the one I was to marry. It’s an interesting question that I have an answer for but first, let’s discuss the premise that there is a “one and only” out there for people. I realize that my friend may have been speaking more metaphorically than literally, but I wanna chat about it anyway.

“The One” idea seems to suggest that there is a right person to marry. Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t a wrong person to marry. In fact, there are probably MANY wrong people to marry. What I’m saying is that there isn’t just “a” person to marry. I think there are MANY right people to marry. My partner was one of the right people for me to marry considering the life I was living at the time (and continue to live). There may come a day when our lives do not match up anymore and we would rather end our romantic partnership peacefully and with appreciation for each other instead of letting things fester until we hate or loathe each other. We are both undoubtedly going to grow significantly during our lives (at least I hope so) and as much as we hope to grow together that may not be the case. So, we’d rather divorce than suffer. The success of a relationship isn’t determined by whether it lasts until one person dies, it is determined by whether the people in the relationship are better off because it happened.

Shit, I kind of went on a rant there. Sorry.

So, what is it that made me realize was someone that I could be in a successful relationship with? Simple. Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n Roll.

Sex – Sexual compatibility and satisfaction are very important for a relationship. There doesn’t need to be a 100% match, but there should be some solid overlap currently and a willingness to try new things as you grow. I actually don’t think this compatibility is primarily about physical sensations, I think it has more to do with communication and openness. You should never, ever marry a person if you aren’t comfortable sharing your fantasies and interests with them. Get spanking, pegging, role-playing, golden showers, voyeurism, threesomes, clown fetishes on the table before you exchange rings. Hopefully, they will be willing to try and do things with you. If not, then hopefully they will support you exploring your interests elsewhere. If they are against you finding full completeness in your life then it isn’t a good match.

Along with this is what you define as cheating or inappropriate behavior with people someone who isn’t your partner. Is flirting cheating? How about kissing? Are you interested in lifelong monogamy or can things be (or get) a little monogamish? Is a polyamorous or sexually open relationship something you are opposed to, interested in, or require? Do you honestly think you can be completely satisfied with life if you never have intimacy with another person? These can be tough conversations but they should be had openly and explicitly. Don’t go into a marriage assuming you are on the same page with flirting, sex, friendships, kinks, desires, curiosities, etc. Don’t enter into a marriage with secrets that you plan on introducing later and do go into a marriage hoping the other person will someday come around to your way of thinking.

Drugs – A successful partnership means having a similar tastes in drugs. Now, I’m not saying anyone needs to take actual drugs. Y’all don’t need to be a hippy MDMA lover like me (I wish you were… but to each its own), but you and your partner(s) should have something shared that gets the heart pumping and gives you some aspiration in life. Maybe you love to travel or create art or praise Jesus. There should be something that you share and can do together that fills your heart and mind and loins with excitement.

I don’t think you need to have ALL the same passions. In fact, I think it is probably pretty healthy to have some passions that your partner is apathetic about. What is really important is that the things that you value all fall in quarters 1 or 4 on the falling chart (and, obviously, all your partner’s interests fall in 1 or 4 also). Basically, you don’t want someone who will be a hypocrite and/or not support you. Partnerships are not about restricting each other’s opportunities in life, they are about expanding them and growing together.

Rock ‘n Roll – What is your lifestyle going to be like? There are some very important lifestyle questions that don’t really have a middle ground. Things like kids and how you will raise them are obviously big ones, but there are others that should be discussed. We all have a vision for what our lives will be like and the adventures we will have. If you have an interest in living in many different cities or traveling the world or building a cabin in the woods or going back to college then you and your partner should be on the same page. If you pretend to be on your deathbed looking back on your life, is there any adventure that missing out on would fill you with regret? Whether it is traveling to Europe, writing a book, raising kids, or learning a foreign language, these things should be discussed with your partner.

So, that is basically how I knew that my partner was someone that I wanted to marry and not just keep dating. It is generally easy to decide when to stop dating someone, you stop when you aren’t having fun and don’t realistically see the fun returning. Marriage requires looking into the future while things are fun and taking a good, hard look at how compatible your life is indefinitely.

My partner passes the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll test for me (and I do for her). Our emotionally monogamous but physically more open life filled with travel, molly, and spontaneity works great for us. When I have a new idea for an adventure or a passion then she either shares that passion or is willing and able to support me while I explore it alone. Being with her has opened up so many new doors in all three categories.

Now, I don’t know if this relationship will forever, but after five years we continue to be excited about each other, we try new things, and we support each other. And I hope that five becomes 105.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Stranded: Survival – dirt, sweat, rain, tears, anger, friendship, and growth

This last weekend I participated in a pretty amazing endurance event called “Stranded: Survivor” that still has my body aching and my mind stewing. It is pretty difficult to categorize and explain this 16ish hour adventure. In fact, when I sent out a Snap Sunday morning to some of my friends that said “Just rucked all night and I smell terrible” I got a lot of confused responses. They mostly said things like “Rucking? What’s that?” or “Rucking? Did you mean ‘fucking’?”.

To quickly respond to that latter one… no, I did not mean fucking. As much as I wish it were true, there is not enough Viagra and MDMA on the planet to get me to fuck for 16-hours straight. And even if there was, I don’t know if I’d want to. That sounds exhausting. While I certainly have an interest in becoming multi-orgasmic and tantric sex, 16-hours is just too much. No, rucking is different. The smells that develop and muscle-soreness that comes from long rucking is similar to long fucking, but they also have a lot of differences.

The simplest way to define rucking is to call it “walking around with a bunch of weight in a backpack”, but that makes it sound really dumb and pointless (though, I’m sure some people would call it that even if they have experienced it). What rucking really is is an opportunity to test your mental and physical strength and bond with people over a difficult experience. We spent hours walking in the cold rain with 60ish lbs on our back. It sucked in the best possible way.

Stranded was much more than rucking though. Yes, we ended up putting down about 20ish miles during the night, but the event was more than just grunting along in the dark. We had 8+ foot walls to help each other over, dirt to low-crawl through, a telephone pole to carry, and much more. It was certainly a physical event, but the physical work was just a means to an end. The true end was to strengthen the mind and spirit, and to provide an opportunity for us to reflect on who we are and to refocus our lives if they aren’t going the direction we wish… at least that is what I got out of it.

Maybe the best way to explain the event is simply chronologically. So, here is what we did with rough times attached and my thoughts and reflections during that time. I’m not particularly proud of my thoughts in all cases, but I think it is valuable for me to share things I’m not proud of as well. And, obviously, this is only a reflection of my experience. I have no idea what the other 8 participants felt about it.

Signing Up for the Event: I receive a very basic packing list and no real description of what the event will include. I know I need a rucksack with 35lbs of weights and I was told that my huge mountain climbing pack would be too large. This frustrates me because I have no idea if I should wear running shoes or boots, whether I’ll need cold weather gear, how much food I’ll need, etc. This lack of knowledge is incredibly frustrating for me because the thing that triggers my anxiety the most is not having a basic idea of what I’m walking into.

Like I’ve mentioned before in this blog, this anxiety can be nearly petrifying. I have missed out on tons of experience and procrastinated a lot of things because I didn’t know where the exits were in a building or what the social norms in a situation were. I also didn’t want to ask because I was afraid I would be seen as a fool. To be honest, if I hadn’t started taking Buproprian this month I probably would have dropped out of the event due to lack of information. I don’t know if this lack of information was intentional and part of learning experience or what, but I know that it might deter some people from events like this.

A couple of weeks before the event: I receive two “assignments” that must be completed before the event. The first is basically to Facebook stalk the other participants and write down a sentence or two that describes my first impression. Most of the participants have very private profiles and I can only use a couple of pictures to figure out the first impression. I got two things out of this exercise. First, I realize that I have some pretty negative and superficial initial thoughts when I can only see a picture. I see people as pretty one-dimensional and vain, and I quickly attribute judgments if they seem similar to groups who I haven’t gotten along with in the past (conservative, fitness-focused, etc.). This is shitty of me, I’m not proud of these initial thoughts, but they are true. I was happy that my judgments were pretty much all inaccurate and I was able to get to know the participants a little better.

The second thing that stuck with me is how important a first impression can be. It made me wonder what people thought of me on a first impression and how I could work to improve that image (not in a fake way, but in a way that would better reflect who I am and who I want to be). We are all mutli-layered and it is a shame to lose out on future friends because of how I present myself in a superficial way online.

The event begins: I show up about 10 minutes early for the event. There are three other people who show up around the same time as me or earlier. Being late is a HUGE pet peeve for me and I always show up early when possible. Those of us who are early are punished. This was the first of three times when I almost quit the event. I found the whole punishment thing bullshit and seriously almost called an uber at that point. The idea of punishing people who acted responsibly just because they didn’t follow orders to the letter goes against everything I am. I do not (and hopefully never will) view obedience as a virtue. I will not just “follow orders” and I won’t feel comfortable in a situation where I am treated like a child that isn’t worthy of having the reasons for an action explained to them. There were moments in the military where I endured a lot of stuff because I was young and didn’t see a way out, but I’m not that person anymore. I could have just stood up, grabbed my shit, said good-bye to everyone, and walked out the door. I didn’t do that though, and I’m glad I didn’t, but I still don’t understand the reasoning behind punishing people like this.

The warm-up: The first two hours was a warm-up that included about five miles of rucking and some exercise. One round of exercise was just a bunch of sucking that didn’t seem to serve a purpose other than our own misery and, again, force us to follow orders (this was the second time I almost quit). Some of it was great, though. We helped each other over walls, along monkey bars, and flipping tires. We listened as our leader explained some of the psychological reasoning behind the event and we got to know each other a little bit. I wish we would have had an opportunity early on to get to know each other better. There was not really any formal time early on to find out about each other, our lives outside of Stranded, and such. We had opportunities to talk while walking but I felt super introverted and had a hard time initiating conversation. I fucking suck at small talk and many of the participants knew each other already. So, I ended up walking mostly in silence kind of longing for a conversation about deeper issues.

The long haul: After the warm-up, we went on our longest ruck of the night. I think it was only 5-6 miles but it certainly felt like more. The 60lbs was starting to weigh pretty heavily on my body but I was in good spirits. I really love rucking, my body is built for it. I’m kind of stocky with strong hips, thighs, and legs that are built for endurance. I’m not much of a sprinter, but I can go on forever. I was able to have a few good conversations during this march but I still felt a bit in my head and kind of an outcast. I know this is all my internal anxiety and such, but I couldn’t figure a good way out of it. I was also kind of anxious because I had no idea where we were or how long the march would last, there is something about the unknown that makes everything feel longer and larger than it really is. I could have swore we marched 10+ miles, but it was much shorter than that. It seemed long because of the cold rain, heavy weight, and unknown terrain.

Oh, we also got pulled over by the cops during this march. I guess 9 people walking down a busy road in the middle of the night with back packs and 2 foot long pieces of PVC pipe that resemble giant pipe bombs is kind of suspicious.

The meat: After we finished the march we arrived at a new destination where we would spend most of the event. We had some coffee, food, water, and changed out our cold/wet clothes. After a break, we participated in more activities to stress our bodies and minds, and to build our teamwork.

One of the events was a simple puzzle. We divided into two teams and tried to put together a 550-piece puzzle. Technically, my team won the challenge but personally, I think we kind of failed. We didn’t really operate well as a team, instead we just kind of did our own parts of the puzzle and occasionally reminded each other of colors we were looking for. I think there is a time an place for specialization but we might have had more success if we actively worked together. A second event was building a castle out of playing cards with our teams. This one we handled much more cohesively and kicked ass. The other team did really well too, but our castle stood up to the paper ball and straw assault that came later on.

This time was also when we did more physical stuff like helping each other over high walls and carrying the telephone pole around. I actually think we did really well here. There were no real leaders in our group, instead, we all seemed to intuitively know how to help each other and shared responsibility. Despite my aching muscles and the weird bruises that are appearing all over my body, this was a lot of fun.

We also spent some time explicitly sharing more intimate details about our life. We talked about the things we are passionate about, struggles we face, and finding the balance between helping others and taking care of our own health. I really enjoyed hearing about and sharing these parts of life and I would have loved more of this. I know not everyone feels this way, but I enjoy diving into the taboo and sheltered areas of our existence and get a lot out of hearing people’s thoughts on philosophy, spirituality, sexuality, passion, religion, death, the purpose of life, etc.

The Final Push: After we finished the meat of our journey together we put our rucksacks back on and pushed towards the final goal. Instead of heading straight back to the starting point we headed in a new direction through the woods. I was under the impression that this was leading us back to where we started… I’m not sure where I got that impression though. My memory is a bit fuzzy on details, maybe our leader explicitly said that or maybe my sleep-deprived mind (this was about 7 am) made it up. Anyway, we were heading in the opposite direction. I noticed the direction the sun was and realized we were heading roughly northeast instead of southwest. This killed my motivation and quickly descended into a bad mood.

It didn’t help that after a mile or two we again ended up doing shitty exercises that seemed to serve no purpose except to punish us. We low-crawled in the dirt, did burpees and such… this was the third time that I almost quit. I still don’t get the purpose of suffering for no reason. I can think of some pseudo-lessons about pushing through touch circumstances, realizing that we are going to encounter situations outside of our control, etc. but without an explicit reason behind the exercises, they just feel like an excuse to demonstrate authority and make us miserable. Again, I loathe authority and I think these deeper lessons can either be articulated more clearly or conveyed in a different way. (And, again, I think this is more a reflection of my own internal wiring that warrants further analysis)

Eventually, we got to a Wal-Mart parking lot for our final exercise. We played a round of “poker” between the nine of us where we bet with exercises. I got dealt a shit hand and tried to fold in the first round but was encouraged (told) to stay in the hand. So, I decided to hold and see what new cards I got. After two new cards, I still had a shit hand but decided to just stick with it because I didn’t have a real choice. One the third round of betting myself and two others actually folded and our “punishment” was pretty mild. This was another case where our activity did not have clearly defined rules and my anxiety shot through the roof. I hate not knowing the environment I’m in and could almost feel a PTSD attack coming on. In the end, the “winner” had to do all the exercises that were bet… which I guess kind of makes sense. The exercises were in the pot and the winner gets the pot, and I guess in some perverted sadomasochist sense it is a prize to do more exercise when sleep-deprived and physically exhausted. In the end, our teamwork actually showed itself again and we all took ownership of the exercises so that the winner wasn’t stuck with them.

Victory Lap: After poker, we walked our stinky asses into a smoothing shop and got some free smoothie samples. Our support staff was there and drove the first round of people back to the starting point. The vehicle could only fit three people so the ones who had to get back home the most went first. While the vehicle transported that round of people the rest of us started marching back home. We were given the option of leaving our rucks in the vehicle, but none of us took that offer. We started with the weight and we were going to end with the weight.

When the vehicle came back to pick up the second round of people I volunteered to go. Part of my pride wanted to be with the final group to arrive, but I was sucking hardcore. My body ached and I felt on the verge of injury, so I put my ego aside and got in the truck.

Home and The Future: After nearly 16-hours of physical and mental activity I arrived back at home. My plan was to eat a little food, take a shower, and then take a nap. The reality was different. I fell asleep within minutes of getting home and didn’t wake for three hours. After my unexpected nap, I hobbled my way into the kitchen, ate some food, grabbed a beer, and sunk into a hot bath. I tried to stay awake for most of the day but I failed. I was in bed by 8:30 pm and slept over 11 hours. As I sit here with a sore body but calm mind I can’t help but get excited about the next Stranded event, even if it is six months away. It is going to be difficult, but with that difficulty comes growth. I’m a better and stronger person today than I was on Saturday before this event.

I met some amazing people at this event and I hope I stay in touch with them. My greatest fear is that I will let my introversion, anxiety, and such prevent me from reaching out to them to grab a beer, ruck some miles, play board games, or just text from time-to-time. I hope I can overcome that fear.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

 

Week 7 Update

In keeping with my pursuit of deeper conversations and connections with friends (and future friends), here is an update on my week, the intimate and mundane. If you’d like to start a conversation with me using this post as a prompt, or really using anything you want as a prompt, please email me at pjneiger@gmail.com . Or, if you’d like to send me an anonymous message or question to respond to you can message me at pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH. I won’t really be checking Facebook or other social media networks consistently.

I really didn’t want to do this post this morning. I knew that when I stepped on the scale I would see that I’d gained weight over the last week and that my progress photos would really be status quo photos. As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m kind of in a low point when it comes to motivation. There is some good news though, I think I am handling it much better than I used to.

The social media blackout is working really well, still. I’m not as “productive” as I was previously, but I am still a bit happier and I find my time with friends and alone is more satisfying. There is something nice about walking along the beach with a friend and not checking my phone, it really is an addiction for me that is difficult to break.

With that all in mind, here is an update of the intimate and mundane from my life:

  • I didn’t finish any books this week, but I did start reading some of the massage therapy textbooks for the program I’m probably going to enter next fall. I don’t know what form that will all take, but I have a vision of opening up a center where people can die in a healthier, more peaceful way than the commercialized way we do things in the States. I’d like to have massage therapists, counselors, etc on hand that specializes in end-of-life care.
  • Wrote three blog posts:
  • Got a massage on Wednesday that was wonderful
  • Saw the Avett Brothers in Myrtle Beach over the weekend and had a great time. I am definitely old now and would rather pay extra for a seat instead of saving money and standing crushed into drunk people for four hours.
  • I met with a representative from the College of Wilmington to see if their massage therapy program would be a good match for me, I think it will be.
  • I applied for TSA Pre-Check
  • Played D&D: got blessed by some elves, leveled up, fought a Salamander, found a gnome guide
  • We hosted two awesome bike tourists on Tuesday. They are two women in their 20’s from Canada who are spending two months bike touring around the east coast

For the next week I have a handful of things on the schedule already.

  • Tomorrow (Saturday) I’m doing an overnight rucking obstacle course thing that I know almost nothing about. I just know that my gear weighs about 50 lbs, there is barbed wire involved, and it is supposed to be cold and rainy all night.
  • I’ve got another dental appointment for a filling on Thursday
  • I’m meeting with my therapist on Friday
  • Today my partner and I are meeting with a friend to have food and drinks
  • We will probably go see Black Panther on Monday

Alright, now on to my fitness progress. I don’t have any real “progress” but one of the practices that I’m trying to adopt is measuring progress even during the hard times. I shouldn’t stop just because I had a bad week and, in the grand scheme of the last two months, I am still on the right track, even if this week was rough.

Progress isn’t linear, but it does have a trend.

As a way to kind of motivate myself and recognize the progress I’ve made I took a few pictures flexing too. I wish I would have done this week’s ago to see the progress more clearly, but I’ll probably take similar pics every week along with the unflexed ones.

Alright, that’s all for this week. Hope to talk to you soon.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Pursue What You Want, Not What You “Should”

A few weeks ago I had an hour-long conversation with my career/life/whatever coach. She had some great insight into how I talk about myself and the pressure I put on myself. She also had a little guidance for me and told me to think about spending more time just doing what I want and not doing things because I “should” do them… even when I am the one defining “should”.

I want to be a writer but writing has felt like a chore lately. So, I’m taking a break from trying to write books. I put a lot of pressure on myself and the fruits of that pressure is basically nothing but stress. Instead of writing I’m just diving into my interest in massage therapy. I ordered the textbooks and am reading up on them. I’m excited for this opportunity, even though I’m not sure what direction I will go once I am a certified massage therapist. I have a few ideas though…

Since getting on bupropion and doing some CBT exercises I’ve found it easier to let go of things that no longer serve me. I used to feel guilt and anxiety about not finishing a book or not listening to new episodes of podcasts that I used to like. I felt like I was betraying the people who created them and I felt like I had some moral obligation to stick with them, even when it wasn’t the best use of my time.

That has been less of a problem recently and I’ve grown comfortable putting books away, deleting podcasts that I know I won’t listen to, and being comfortable with the fact that my interests aren’t as “high brow” at this point in my life. Maybe in the future I’ll return to philosophy and economics and such, but for now, I’m trading Rothbard for Rowling and Sam Harris for the McElroy brothers. And I’m really happy that I am. I’m sure my tastes and preferences will fluctuate in the coming months and years, and I hope I continue to feel comfortable bouncing around between them without guilt.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Unplugged

Part of my unplugging from social media involved deleting apps and stuff off my phone. I took down Instagram, Facebook, and Facebook Messenger. I never had Twitter. I have even taken email off my phone. The only social network I have left is SnapChat, but I actually log out of that each time so that I don’t receive notifications or anything.

So, this is all going to sound kind of cliche, but I have found myself really connecting with people and my environment now. My partner and I went down to Myrtle Beach over the weekend to see some friends and go to the Avett Brothers show. The whole weekend, whether we were watching the concert or walking on the beach with friends, I was more focused and attentive to my surroundings. Checking my phone didn’t really appeal to me because I knew there was nothing on there to distract me.

It felt good. Really good.

I certainly miss my apps when I’m standing in line at the grocery store or something, but I’ve got podcasts and Audible to provide me with stimulation. I still find myself checking Facebook more than I should, but I’m down to about two days a week where I open up that website. Hopefully, I can keep transitioning it out of my life and I can continue to reconnect via text, email, and phone calls. I have about eight friends that I email with now and I get together with two of my friends from elementary school twice a month via Skype.

The only time I actually know what is going on in the world is when I go to the gym because they have CNN and FoxNews. And really, there is nothing valuable about being informed right now. Every headline about Trump or Mueller or whatever looks the same as it did a month ago. I’m really glad that I cut that all out of my life, ignorance is bliss and maybe that isn’t always a bad thing.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”