Day Three: Self-Esteem

It started at breakfast this morning. Four of us sat outside at a café. My personal choice was pesto pasta. The others talked about their cycling lives … and I was overwhelmed by fear. “What am I doing here? Bruce, you’re so out of your league.” Depression came to visit but I tried to put on a neutral face. I didn’t want my fellow cyclists to have to deal with my angst.

In general, my self-esteem is high, but this was not general. This was piercingly specific. My Buddhist training has taught me to be curious about my thoughts and there was no shortage of material to work with today:

You’ll never finish this tour

These folks are so fast and confident

You’ll be so slow and so alone all the way across Canada

Your balance is abysmal
You can’t even get the water bottle out of its cage

I’ve learned in life to abide by the truth. Today’s truth was dominated by fear and at some points I chose to express that to my new friends. “Don’t do that, Bruce. Don’t bother them.” I chose to ignore that advice, risking that they’d reject me for being so wimpy. Somehow, it seemed that this personal nakedness was an act of courage.

Tonight eight of us went out to dinner. The flood of “not okay” swept over me again as several folks recounted past bike tours or bike club adventures.

Now was the moment: either wallow in despair or pull myself up into sweeter air. And rise I did, thrusting myself into a few conversations when all I wanted to do was curl into a ball and sink beneath the tablecloth.

Time and again the battle raged, most likely unnoticed by my companions. There was no clear winner.

But still … I’m left with a freshness of spirit. The seven human beings I’ve met so far will be worthy recipients of my gifts and I’m a worthy recipient of theirs. Together we will create something new, despite my terrors and the woes they hold inside.

We are bigger than this

The Masters

I like watching my mind. And there are certain stimuli that make my head spin. The Masters golf tournament qualifies.

I’ve loved golf since I was 12 and I’ve watched the Masters on TV for nearly that long. It’s a love affair. But today it’s troubling my mind and I’m curious about that. I’m curious when the events of the world prompt me into a state of deficiency while I know a sweet sufficiency is always available to me.

Part of what I love is the beauty of the golf course – Augusta National. And I know the back nine of Augusta very well. The beauty of the fairways, the beds of azaleas, the severe slopes of the greens, the ever-menacing sweep of Rae’s Creek. The course tantalizes and frustrates the golfers. Usually I’m entranced with the land and there’s some appreciation today but I’m surprisingly flat about the sense of place.

And then there are the golfers. Why am I cheering for Tiger Woods, who despite possibly being recent history’s best golfer is also a blatant adulterer? I abhor that poorness of spirit but I also worship sports heroes. Plus Patrick Reed is leading the tournament right now. Actually he just sank a birdie putt while I was typing. And I was disappointed. Patrick has the reputation of being a grumpy guy and I watch myself not wanting him to win.

Then there’s how difficult the golf course is. I want the winds to blow hard and have par be the leading score after today’s round. Instead Patrick is 8 under par. I need the golf course to win, to be a supreme challenge, so that the players struggle … heroically. Apparently not to be. Update: the announcer just told us that gale force winds are predicted for Saturday and Sunday, and suddenly I’m happy.

How strange it all is. Maybe I’m upset because I haven’t exercised today and this summer’s bicycle ride across Canada is looming. Perhaps I’m “positively addicted” to the elliptical, so that I get antsy during a day of rest.

And my self-talk continues: “You’re lazy, Bruce – just a Masters couch potato. And why can’t you access the spacious consciousness that’s usually been with you recently? Haven’t you moved beyond being upset by the ripples of life?” Well, good luck on that.

Marc Leishman is in second place right now. The announcer just mentioned his wife’s illness but I didn’t catch the gist of it. So I Googled. Audrey Leishman was overcome by toxic shock syndrome a week before the 2015 Masters. Marc was at Augusta, practicing, and rushed home. Audrey was induced into a coma and was given a 5% chance of surviving. Marc saw his future as a single parent and resolved to quit golf to be a fulltime dad. One hundred hours later, Audrey awoke. She told Marc “I love you. I’m sorry about the Masters.” She continues to recover.

And so I cry
And so I’m back
And so I learn

Just Some Extra Skin

I have a flap of skin hanging out between my neck and right shoulder.  I think it’s been there for a few months.  What I know is that every day, several times a day, I reach over with my left hand and flibble it, pull it, or otherwise bother it.  After some vigorous pulling, the flap usually ends up red and sore.  Doesn’t seem to stop me, though.

I figure there’s a teaching here for me.  I guess it’s not all right that I have this projection sticking out from the surface of my body.  Sometimes I feel the smoothness of my inner arm and like it a lot.  That’s what my physical being should be, so I say – smooth and beautiful.  Like the runway models. Except I’m a guy.

Clearly, my brain tells me that I should do something about my tag of tissue, such as get rid of it.  That interruption of sleekness makes me deficient.  So … why not splurge for a commercial product?

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Clearly a popular item, and just what I need to be a whole human being.


I could make this tiny fleck of matter an object of meditation.  In the vipassana tradition of Buddhism, when thoughts come, we just observe the passing display without judgment.  I could simply watch my need to touch the spot, and watch my hand reach over to feel it.  I can have the aspiration to touch not, as a way to experience the perfection of all parts of my body, just as they are.  And the compassion for myself when I do grab hold.

That’s what I’ll do.  Starting now.