The Upside to Anxiety?

Since seeing a therapist and getting on Bupropion my anxiety levels have become much more manageable. I very rarely freak out, enter downward spirals, or procrastinate to the point of panic. Life seems much more manageable and not as overwhelming. I am much more at peace with myself, my relationships, and my future.

But, the results of this healing has not been a Pareto superior move. Sure, parts of my life are better off but there has been a cost and parts of my life are worse of. Specifically, my motivation to excel.

Anxiety, a feeling of doom, lack of satisfaction, catastrophizing… those things all lead to me pushing harder and harder towards whatever goal I became fixated on at the time. It as absolutely no coincidence that my motivation to work out has somewhat peetered out. I am still in fine shape and I am much more emotionally satisfied with my fitness level now than usual, but I am not at my healthiest and I have neglected some practices that I really should be doing to become healthier.

Anxiety pushed me very hard because I felt like I had no choice. It was like an eternal Sword of Damocles hanging over my head and my distorted thinking thought I could outrun it if I just had a six pack, fucked enough people, read 100 books an hour, or made a bazillion dollers. That last one isn’t true, even at my most stressed out I never really concerned myself with money. Coming from a poor family and spending literal years without a house means I am pretty comfortable with being broke and in debt. Weirdly, money almost never stresses me out.

Now, I no longer really feel that inevitable doom but I also have yet to develop a healthy way to motivate myself to a place of reasonable moderation. I am no longer at an extreme but I’ve shifted to the other side of the golden mean. I am struggling to find a healthier way to motivate myself, which really isn’t surprising since I am undoing decades of programming.

I wouldn’t undo my decision to see a therapist and seek help, but it hasn’t been a clear path to my desired goals. Progress is not linear and I am facing new struggles with procrastination, excuses, and motivation. I’ve got about 10 days before Iceland and I’m not nearly in the shape I wanted to be. I can’t do anything about the past but I can get things moving again today. I’m going to go for a short run, hit the gym today, and try to get my diet under control a bit.

I can’t start to fight these new challenges yesterday, but I can today.

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?

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”

Three Dreams

Last week, I had three memorable dreams. I usually don’t remember my dreams but I took some 5-HTP last week and that always helps me remember my dreams. So, these three dreams left me thinking and I decided to ask my therapist what her thoughts were on them.

I started by asking what her thoughts on dreams were and I was happy to hear her response. She said that she thinks individuals are the best at interpretating their own dreams. Books that try to generalize or universalize dream interpretation are unscientific and usually wrong.

I basically agree with her. Personally, I think dreams there are two sources of dream interpretation. First, the dreams are our subconscious working something out. It taps into stuff we have suppressed or struggle with and tries to find purpose and healing. Second, I think some dreams are absolute gibberish but we interpret them using our unconscious perspective, like seeing something in a Rorschach Test.  Regardless of the source, I think there can be value in analyzing our own dreams and running them by a therapist who can provide a somewhat removed perspective.

Okay, on to my three dreams.

Dream 1: I had a dream that Anna and I were at an event (rave? festival? random travel?) and she basically ignored me the entire time. Instead, she spent her time hanging out with friends and left me alone.

Interpretation: I am struggling with working from home and not having much of a social life here in Wilmington. Part of that is because we’ve been travelling so much that scheduling stuff with friends has been difficult. I also have some buried frustration (jealousy? resentment?) that Anna has a friend group through work and I don’t. When she gets home I am antsy to be social, go out, and do things, but she has been surrounded by friends all day and is more interested in relaxing. I definitely don’t want this to metastasize and this dream has reinforced the need for me to be more proactive in being social.

Dream 2: I am laying down with my head on my therapist’s lap. I’m in the fetal position and crying. My therapist is significantly larger than me (which is strange because my therapist is fairly petite and definitely smaller than me), I am basically child-size, and there is some sort of transparent aura that extends out from her body around me.

Interpretation: I increasingly view my therapist as a safe, protective, and maybe even maternal support system. A lot of what my therapist and I have unpacked are things about my past, my childhood, and how I tend to hide the “child” in me. I also still have some very strong subconscious issues when it comes to feeling safe or secure with women because my first two serious relationships ended because I was cheated on and, in one case, abused.

I was actually somewhat scared to share this dream with my therapist. I was afraid that she would interpret it in a sexual way and decide that it wouldn’t be right for her and I to keep seeing each other. I guess because I tend to view things through a fairly sexual lens then she would as well. I told her about my fears and she reassured me that there was nothing wrong with my dream and that even if I told her that I had a full-on sex dream about her there would be nothing wrong with that and that wouldn’t be cause to stop seeing her. She assured me that she wasn’t going to abandon me or push me away or shame me for my thoughts, feelings, or actions. I cried a little bit.

There is a part of me that is actually a bit surprised that I haven’t had particularly strong sexual thoughts about her. She is very attractive and kind of my “type*”, but I think that is why I’ve been so comfortable opening up with her. I tend to be more open with women I am attracted to. As time has gone on though my sexual attraction to her has diminished and a platonic friendship(?) has come to the front. I think that’s a good thing.

Dream 3: I was sitting at a table gorging myself on food that I’m ethically opposed to eating. I felt like a huge sinner but couldn’t stop shoveling meat into my mouth.

Interpretation: This really goes to the core of some of the things that she and I have been working on. I feel like I am very flawed, guilty, and unlovable. I also catastrophize things where every small mistake, misstep, or “sin” causes incredibly anxiety and I can’t forgive myself (or others). My medication has helped significantly but I still have not completely rooted this out of my system.

I think this all comes from my upbringing. Being raise in an environment where something like masturbation could lead to burning eternally can really fuck with a child’s self-worth and ability to accurately judge reactions. That child then becomes an adult who can logically see the errors in that way of thinking but the ruts have been worn in those neuro-pathways and it is difficult to create new ones.

My therapist gave me some homework, as she usually does, that will challenge these beliefs and work to untangle my mind a bit. The most awkward assignment is that she instructed me to write a daily affirmation that I should say daily out loud, as well as recommended a book with daily readings on this subject, “Daily Affirmations for Forgiving and Moving On”. So, my morning routine has a couple extra steps that I’m going to integrate.

This feels super awkward and vulnerable, but here is my affirmation draft:

I am a good person who deserves to be happy.
My friends value me for my honesty, openness, and loyalty.
I am loved by many and I love myself.
There is nothing wrong with loving myself.
I will continue to be kind and patient with myself.
I am a human being with flaws but there is nothing wrong with that.
My pursuit of self-improvement and education is admirable,
but I am great here and now.
I am a good person who makes the world a better place.

*I don’t really have a “type”, I tend to be attracted to an overall aesthetic that can vary significantly in body type, outfits, attitude, etc.


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?

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”

The Upanishads

As part of my pursuit of personal growth I am spending some time reading spiritual texts. First, I read the Book of Mark and shared my thoughts on it (see earlier blog posts). Now, I am reading through some of the texts that influenced Hinduisms, the Upanishads. Like my exploration of Mark, I am going to share my notes, questions, and random musings in kind of a free-wheeling format. But, unlike Mark, I am completely unfamiliar with the Upanishads and will be viewing this through a lens that is very different than the texts. Namely, my Christian American upbringing will impact my perspective and references. I intentionally did not read the introduction to this translation or anything, I am entering it pretty much blind.

Anyway, on to the Upanishads. First up, Isha Upanishad.

*Okay, these are written in a poetic format. That will make things a little more difficult for me. I tend to work better with story format.*

1: Reminds me a lot of Christianity, to be honest. “The Lord is enshrined in the hearts of all” is a lot like the “god  shaped hole” that I was told everyone has. To me, this points to a united search for answers and spiritual meaning, similar to the Huxley’s Perennial Philosophy.

1-2: “Covet nothing. All belongs to the Lord… Thus alone will you work in real freedom.” Definitely some Stoic vibes… did the Stoics encounter Eastern philosophy? Happiness, satisfaction, joy come from coveting less, not acquiring more.

After verse(?) 2 the discussion moves from the Lord to the Self. I’m not sure exactly what the interaction between the two is. They seem separate, but both can be denied with tragic consequences. To deny the Self is to be enveloped in darkness and devoid of love for the Lord.

The Self has a shitton of attributes… it is swifter than thought and senses, motionless but outruns pursuit, and is necessary for Life. It seems to move but is still, seems far away but is near, within all, transcends all… umm, okay.

6-7: Here there is a lot of talk about seeing yourself in other living creatures and all living creatures in themselves. Here is a pretty stark difference between Christianity and this reading. This seems to say humans really aren’t as special as we think and that seeing ourselves in nature (instead of above it) prevents fear and grief.

8: Back to the Self… indivisible, untouched by sin, wise, immanent, transcendent, and holds the cosmos together. This sounds a lot like the Lord. So maybe the Self and Lord are one?

9-11: I don’t really get this part. For people where the world is without alone there is darkness but it leads to action. For people where the world is with alone there is greater darkness but it leads to meditation. With action and meditation we get immortality. Is this sort of a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” thing? Is darkness inevitable, necessary, good?

Does this mean “time alone” or “loneliness”? I can kind of see that. When I am alone I am not alone I am encouraged to act and when I am alone I am encouraged to meditate. Maybe I should read the introduction to this…

12-14: Here the Lord is given two attributes, the same two attributes attributed to Self.

  1. Transcendent: beyond or above the range of normal or merely physical human experience.
  2. Immanent: existing or operating within, inherent

So the Lord and the Self are spiritual and inside us all. I’m guessing that isn’t self-evident for many people and even those that know it may not believe it. It seems necessary to recognize both of these attributes. We cross the sea of death with immanence and enter into immortality with transcendence.

Shit. I need to reflect on that more.

15: “The face of truth is hidden by your orb of gold, o sun. May you remove your orb so that I, who adore the true, may see the glory of truth.”

Alright, now we are talking to the sun and its orb of gold. This isn’t really clear to me. I get how individuals may have an “orb of gold” that blocks the truth but how does the sun have one? Isn’t the sun an orb of gold?

16: The sun is the solitary source of life. But so is the Self. Are the sun and the Self the same? That actually makes more sense. Self is the sun but we are distracted by the orb of gold that blocks the truth. Alright, some of these things are coming together for me.

18: “You know all our deeds. Deliver us from evil, we who bow and pray again and again.” Sounds a lot like the Lord’s Prayer.

Alright, that is a lot of question marks. Clearly, this is kind of confusing for me and open to a lot of interpretation. My basic summary of this Upanishad is “To reach immortality we need to recognize that the Self and Lord (which may or may not be the same thing) are both transcendent and immanent. Also, picking one or the other to believe alone leads to darkness.”

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?

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”

A Virgin’s RAGBRAI – A Reflection

Last week my partner and I participated in our first RAGBRAI. On the surface, RAGBRAI is a week-long bike ride across Iowa with around 20,000 people. But, like most things, the surface only tells part of the story. There is more to RAGBRAI than riding. The human element ended up impacting me significantly more than the hills, occasional headwind, and boredom from staring at corn for 8 hours a day. Before I get to that, here are some basic stats for you.

46th Annual RAGBRAI (2018)
Scheduled Miles – 464.8 miles
Actual Miles – ~500 miles
Scheduled Elevation Gain –  12,576 feet (or a little more than climbing Mt. Fuji)
Estimated Calories Burnt – 32,000 kcal (or over 700 Oreos)

So, those are the stats. Here is how an average day went.

0530 – Wake up
0600 – Actually get out of the tent and begin morning routine
0700 – Load camping gear onto the truck that will take it to our final city for the day
0710 – Refill water and start cycling
0815 – Arrive at first town and have breakfast/coffee, stand in line at porta-potties (or “kybos”, as people from Iowa call them… WTF?).
0845 – Cycle
0945 – Arrive at second town, drink beer and stand in line at the porta-potties.
1015 – Cycle
1130 – Arrive at the beer tent, drink beer and eat from food trucks, and stand in line at the porta-potties.
1200 – Cycle
1205 – Poop in the corn fields
1210 – Cycle
1330 – Arrive in the fourth town and eat more food or take a nap under a water tower. Drink beer.
1530 – Realize what time it is and start cycling again
1630 – Arrive in final town, set up camp, drink beer, go into town for food
2000 – Start yawning, drink beer, head to bed

Pretty dull, huh? Ride around just to drink beer? Why the fuck would you do that?

Well, my inquisitive friend, the answer is “because of the people”. I was absolutely shocked at the number and type of people that were present. I mistakenly expected to be riding with a bunch of fit people who obsessed over cycling, but that wasn’t the case. There were people from all different backgrounds with different physical abilities. I saw people who were missing limbs, were 90 years old, had nicotine addictions, and appeared very unathletic. To watch people push their bikes up hills over and over and over again was fucking inspiring.

While the event had a lot of diversity of age, economic status, ability, and gender, it was pretty much an event that can be classified as “shit white people do”. There were some people of color present but I’d guess it was far less than 1% of the population. I’m not sure why this is the case but I’m sure someone could write a dissertation about the demographics of RAGBRAI. There were more men than women (I’d guess about 75%/25% split) but the younger group of riders seemed to see more gender equality.

There were basically two age groups that were present: Millennials and men over the age of 50. There were exceptions and I saw parents riding with their children of all ages. I saw parents with infants in a trailer and some riding with their teenagers. I met a 14-year old girl who had ridden in 4 RAGBRAI’s before this one. It seemed that if this experience was something that a person wanted then there were no real barriers to entry… well, except for finances. Even being somewhat frugal RAGBRAI can be an expensive endeavor. If you didn’t have a bike and camping equipment already this could turn into a multi-thousand dollar week.

Hmm, I’m having a lot of trouble articulating what I loved about it. I can say “the people” until my voice (fingers?) give out but it really can’t be explained well. It actually reminded me a lot of Burning Man, a point I articulated an annoyingly large number of times. The people were kind, loving, friendly, and helpful. There was no real judgment or criticism. It was a culture very different than the one we generally live in.

One of the major differences was the interaction between men and women, particularly how men act around women. Despite the fact that most women were wearing tight clothing I never heard a single cat-call or witness any derogatory comments. It is almost like the men present viewed the women as equal participants in the event instead of something that is present for their own entertainment. There were camel-toes and moose-knuckles everywhere, women wore sports bras and men went shirtless, people changed clothes in public, but it wasn’t sexual at all. Like Burning Man, the exposed bodies became very normal quickly and lacked the sexuality that we currently attribute to tight pants or an exposed midriff.

I mistakenly thought that the event wouldn’t lend itself to much creativity, but that wasn’t the case at all. There were more than just bicycles riding. There was a guy who rollerbladed the whole thing, someone on a bike made of 2x4s, some elliptical cycles, many recumbent bikes, at least two unicycles, and at least one old-timey bike with a front wheel that was at least five feet tall. People wore costumes and outfits that served a practical purpose, it made them stand out.

I’m not one for bright colors or jerseys that advertise my views, but I think when I go next time I will adopt some of the habits of veteran riders. When you are all cycling it is difficult to stand out, difficult to find a way to relate beyond “Hey, where are you from? How many times have your done RAGBRAI?”. So a shirt that has your home state, favorite beer, or a clever quip can make conversations a bit easier.

The actual riding time was similar to what I expected, lots of corn fields and a handful of Trump stickers. Traveling through a red state is always interesting. There was an unbelievable number of not-so-subtle sex and drug jokes that the towns put forth. The one that stands out to me is “Grab me by the ears and shuck me” (a reference to shucking corn). These people who would support throwing people in cages based on possession of weed feel free to make jokes and laugh about references to drugs. There is just something about that weirds me out.

Overall though, it was an amazing experience. I hope to have more to write later (I should have taken fucking notes) but if you have any specific questions please feel free to write. RAGBRAI, again like Burning Man, is something that I unequivocally recommend people do if they are remotely interested in it. If you don’t have a good time, then that is your fault. It is an unforgettable experience that allows for growth and experimentation.

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?

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”