It can take several minutes for my new server to boot so whist I yet again see if the tweak I made somewhere has an effect on the disk drives being recognised, I pick up “Express Tales” by Alexander McCall Smith and read a few pages. If you are unfamiliar with these particular McCall Smith books, the “44 Scotland Street” series (this is the second), originally appeared as a daily short story in a Scottish newspaper. They are thus ideal if you only have a few minutes to read. Whilst not a challenging read, there are worst ways of spending time and since I am very familiar with where the book is set, having lived in Edinburgh for over seven years (it all reads true from my knowledge of Scotland Street, the New Town, Morningside, etc), it is a bit like a trip down memory lane.
The chapter I just read was called “Pat and Bruce work it out”. It features two flatmates. Bruce is a narcissist who has just been sacked from work and dumped by his girlfriend. Pat is a student on her second gap year who was briefly infatuated then disgusted with Bruce and now is primarily trying to get along with him. Bruce spins a couple of tales for the reasons of his fortune: of voluntarily leaving his job for something more exciting; and of giving his girlfriend her freedom because she was getting too clingy. Pat see through these remarks and confronts him with the truth explaining that if he said what actually happened then she might feel some compassion for him, say she is sorry which might help him a bit. Bruce breaks down into tears and goes to his room.
This scene got me thinking of glasses being half full or half empty though perhaps I mix my metaphors here because this chapter is more about taking responsibility and being honest. Earlier this morning I met up with my friends for out Monday morning bike ride. It is a pretty blustery day for a ride but the sun is out, the sky is mostly blue and the temperature is mild so a bit of unexpected sideways motion can be tolerated for the other benefits. We did however change one of our standard routes to try and make the most of hedgerow cover from the wind. This meant we met up in a non-standard place much closer to my home and for once I managed to get there on time.
One of my friends was skiing in Austria last week so I knew it was going to be a topic of conversation. As I arrived she was describing her trip to another guy who wasn’t riding so I didn’t pay much attention to what she was saying since I knew we would probably chat as we cycled. As we set off another member of the group asked how the trip went, and my friend beamed happiness at how good the trip was. I thought I had accepted that I wouldn’t be skiing this year, unlike my friend, my partner doesn’t ski and I haven’t found the courage to go for a week somewhere by myself. It isn’t that I wouldn’t enjoy the skiing, I would take lessons and meet people, but the thought of spending nights alone whilst many people around me get drunk really doesn’t appeal. I thought that I thought that was okay, that is just the way it is and next year would be different. When I saw my friend’s happiness though, I felt sorry for myself I guess, my sadness was a bit overwhelming really.
As I cycled, I wondered if I was jealous of my skiing friend, and I am pretty sure I wasn’t but perhaps I did want some of that happiness for myself. Except I am not sure how happy I am when skiing. I love the challenge and feeling my competence when I ski. I love the views and I love the feeling of increased fitness. I love the food and being in a different country. I don’t like the sleeplessness I suffer from, the tiredness on waking up the next morning, the long travel times, or the relentless six days in a row physical demand. A friend recently said that cycling was special because it represented freedom and I suppose skiing is the same for me; it is a freedom to fly in the mountains.
Later as I dug out weeds in the front garden, I thought about whether it was possible to reframe my lack of skiing into something else. In a sense I was lying to myself that I was okay with not going skiing in the same way that the fictional Bruce was lying to himself about losing his job and girlfriend; we transformed our experiences into a form that made us feel okay from the outside, whilst inside we were both upset even if we couldn’t admit it to ourselves.
I am not sure what the answer for Bruce is, but it seems to me that if I could see a benefit in not going skiing then I might have a glass half full viewpoint rather than one half empty. I would have something to look forward to rather than mourn. One solution I think it to save up the money for skiing each year and then if I don’t get to go skiing, I could use that money for something else that may give me a similar positive experience. The one that springs to mind is to buy a bike because of the freedom it too can give but I suppose as long as I appreciated the experience, it won’t really matter.
As for the server, it looks like I am going to read plenty more chapters before I solve that problem.