Tire-less Efforts


You should see my skateboard.

It starts with the slowdown.

Then the heaviness follows. It feels like I’m wearing bricks for boots. The wobbling then ensues.

Then a look downwards confirms it—a flat tire. Damn.

I was riding back home from work a few days ago, backpack filled to capacity with groceries. Winter early blackness and bleakness tarred the sky. It was misty raining. There’s never a perfect time for a flat, but I wasn’t keen on stopping then and there.

Flats are nothing new to me, having been riding daily to work for years now. It’s part of doing business. It’s like greasing the palms of the maître d’ at Chez Grande Pamplemousse for a quiet corner table to conduct business. It is what it is. I learned to fix flats a while ago, as I was tired of wasting time and money taking it to the shops. So that means I lug my kit around.

I repaired my bike like Cooter fixin’ the General Lee for the Duke boys and off I was. Five hundred meters later, the slowdown started again. The heaviness followed.

Flat again. Damn again.

I didn’t have time (nor another spare tube) to fix it all up again. I was late picking up my boys. So I did the pump-and-ride dance over and over again until I relented and did the walk of shame to the caregiver’s house.

In the morning I replaced the tube. On the way to work it got flat again. After work I hobbled to the local bike shop and had them replace the tube. The pros would take care of business. A smile and a nod and off I went. About five minutes from home it went flat again. I was past frustrated and into the land of grenades-as-flowers and Molotov cocktails-as-juice-boxes. It seemed the universe was speaking to me, as subtle as a quarterback sack. After an exhausting search, I found the source my frustration—a shard of glass the size of my patience up until then. Small enough to reflect my ire and also to carve tiny holes in inner tubes.

My grief. It’s all about being right-sized.

I patched up my tube, inflated and in the morning, I found it flat. Again.

I replaced that one, which worked fine and it got me to work. After my shift, I found that my tire had held up while I was away!

But the rear tire was now flat.

Five flats in two days.

It’s laughable now, even though at the time I was dropping enough F bombs to make Glengarry Glen Ross look like a children’s school play. But there was a point in the midst of it all where I made a release. It wasn’t about pressing the rage button over and over again. Experience has shown me that it doesn’t work very well. Getting apoplectic has rarely paid dividends for me. Having seen this scene play out many times in the past, I decided that when it came to my bike situation, it was best to switch gears (pun intended).

As I rode home last night, I began to think about the connection between my bike dilemma and my emotional one. More specifically, I thought about one thing: air. Obviously the inner tube is filled with air to keep the tires up and to keep the bike in motion. Uncomplicated, Fisher Price mechanics there. I find it astounding that just a little bit of air is capable of keeping the weight of all that steel and me (who isn’t exactly built like a horse jockey—more like horse) while I am coasting at 40 km/hr or faster. That air is the only thing between me being able to fly down the streets and avenues of my bustling city and me taking the walk of shame to the nearest shop or subway station. It is the foundation for motion and being. It is simple and yet profound.

I see the correlation between air and breath in a larger context. I find that when I take meaningful and mindful breaths, through my nose and out my mouth, I am more grounded. When I take pause to just breathe and exhale out negative energy and to halt knee-jerk reactions, I am more buoyant of spirit. The ride is free from a dulled and deflated journey and as smooth as the skin as one of those handsome dudes on triple-action razor TV commercial.. I can navigate the treacherous stuff easier than if I am flattened and grinding into the dirt. When choose to take in deep, nourishing air, I am girding myself for the sharp items which will eventually pop up and potentially pop me down to size.

Smooth, baby. Just smooth.

Pema Chödrön talks about taking three deep breaths when the pang of shenpa strikes us. Shenpa is the Tibetan Buddhist term for attachment and craving, but more along the lines of triggered response to something that irritates us. Shenpa is what gets me in trouble. It is my ego getting inflated and telling me that how dare someone talk to me like that or don’t they know who you are? It’s what provokes me to delve into arguments and into other self-serving acts. I try to fold this practice of deep breathing into my day, and when I feel the sharpness of shenpa jabbing me on the side like a shard on my tires, I try to remember to take those three breaths. They move me away from the surface tension of pride and into a deeper place of serenity. Breath serves to keep me moving in a positive direction, and away from my lower self.

It’s not always easy to take those breaths when the exhilaration and self-righteousness of a good tongue lashing is perched on the edge of my lips, but it saves me from making amends later. Or lashing myself with guilt. Taking the time to take the time brings me closer to a more meaningful place of existence. One of less friction. It’s what keeps me afloat when the path is littered with potential landmines. Even the smallest amount of debris can sideline me.

I told a few people about my bike woes, and they all said that I had the patience of Job. I don’t. I was at a point of rage-tossing my bike into the nearest river at some point, but I needed to see that it wasn’t the reaction which would help or serve me. I kept breathing, I kept the air in motion, I kept expanding my lungs and my emotional growth as I moved towards the setting sun, knowing that tomorrow was another day of change and discovery.

As long as I have breath in me, I will keep moving towards the light.






24 Comments Add yours

  1. Nothing like a pebble-size share of glass to get you thinking about Buddha and breathing! Haha.

    You do have some incredible patience my friend. But what’s more the will to get shot done. Which I admire. Paul, this post is the call to something for me. I don’t know what it is, but it’s calling me.

    I think it might be because I am frustrated with life, well, with anything that stands in the way of this new “writer life” I am attempting. Everything gets in the way of it, really. It’s choking me slowly. Not life, but how I perceive the things in my life. It took me reading about your breaths to make me see it.

    I don’t know he last time I was in a really solid prayer or meditation or exercise routine. But, I’m thinking I need one. Thank you for this generous reflection. It caused me to do more of the same.

    1. Paul S says:

      Thanks Mark – and you know, I am actually in the same boat as you, in terms of not having had a solid prayer / meditation / exercise routine. My biking is my transportation, so in some ways I don’t count it as my “meditation” type exercise – that’s my running. And I haven’t run in a few weeks, and it’s catching up to me, mentally and spiritually. After I type these words, I am headed down into my man cave to do a VERY much needed meditation and quiet time. I have a ton of stuff I need to do (prep for work seminar, finish taking down tree, make dinner, etc.) but I am going to allow myself this time to reconnect.

      I am excited for your writer life, Mark! I can’t imagine it’s easy. I think I fear that leap of faith like you are doing, so I applaud you for that. Not many go for the jugular in their lives.

      Hope you’ve been well man – been a while since we’ve “chatted”!


  2. Abbie says:

    Right on. I feel the same way re: people saying I have patience. Just because I don’t act on all of the (aggressive) “solutions” that come to mind, doesn’t mean I haven’t already got a place picked out for hiding the bodies.
    5 flats in 2 days? I hope you remember the lesson, cos that happening again might put you over the endge.

    Great stuff, Paul.

    1. Paul S says:

      Thanks Abbie for this! Yes, I think people don’t see the inner monologue and revenge fantasies going on upstairs in our heads! But it’s something that needs working on, like a muscle. Believe me, patience isn’t my forte, and to be honest, I think the Creator likes to see how I react to these life situations! At a few points, I looked up and said “so what’s the lesson here eh Big Guy?” ha ha.

      Thank you for being here Abbie and the comments!

      1. Abbie says:

        Did I ever tell you about the ex who didn’t like what someone said on TV & shot it? lol true story.

        1. Paul S says:

          Oh my…no! That’s terrible…ha ha. (hence the ex part there)

  3. Yay, he’s back! Well, he tried…but for the flats. If you can manage almost 6 yrs of sobriety and those ambitious projects (book!!!) you can handle flats. The thing is, it wasn’t fixing them that was really the problem but getting through them with enough air in your lungs and without the rage, wasn’t it? A SoBeRing reminder for Yours Truly, who in her Korean Impatience, does not take interruptions to her many plans well. As to your last post, you don’t do anything lightly, Paul.

    Welcome back.

    1. Paul S says:

      Thank you for the wonderful and kind words, D. Yes, the mechanical part of repairing was the easy part. The internal mechanics was the challenging part – clutch and release. The rage flows easily when it comes to these little interruptions, as you put it so well. I can’t say I’m going to write the next Zen and the Art of Bicycle Repair, but I am starting to see the bigger picture.


  4. Hearon (HD) says:

    Paul, I read this early this morning and couldn’t really process it. (So instead I f’ed around on twitter for a few hours). I finally just read it again: man, down here we call this “making chicken salad out of chicken shit.” In a way, I feel like I lived those episodes with you. For you to use those to construct this post is remarkable. I mean that. The first time I ever went to yoga was nearly a life changing moment: “breathe in all your positive thoughts about the new year; exhale all negativity from last year.” It’s really amazing that you were able to turn your issues with the flats into those metaphors about air and breath. Don’t underestimate your talent as a writer!

    1. Paul S says:

      Hearon! Thanks for this – my apologies in replying late. I laughed at the chicken salad reference. As you saw, I wasn’t feeling all too spiritual at the beginning of my issues. Hell, even when I got the LAST flat, after I wrote this, I was all about f*ck it I’m done…but of course I went back that same night and fixed it, quite happy and content to do so. Just had to remember what the hell I wrote here! Short term memory!
      Yoga breathing like that is amazing – there is a reason why even in yoga it’s all about the breath…how about that??
      Thanks for the kind words, Hearon – you know how much I truly appreciate them and your friendship.

  5. Well, I of course love this and love seeing you back in the old hood, as it were. We were just talking about this the other day at a meeting how being overwhelmed and having a bunch of shit happened is actually kind of a blessing. Sure it all sucks but now we can actually breathe and deal with life. As opposed to before when we didn’t deal at all. Holding onto serenity ain’t easy and it’s not guaranteed. We’re gonna fail at it– A LOT but as your beautiful post proves, the point is to keep on ridin’, no matter what.

    1. Paul S says:

      Back in Da Hood, homie! And glad to be back, and seeing you here also brings me the warm and fuzzies. You are bang on about holding onto serenity not being easy or guaranteed – just because I’m sober doesn’t’ mean crap won’t find its way onto my shoes. I am always adjusting the sails to find the smoothest sailing but it doesn’t always work. But at least we are taking the actions.

      Thanks for the comments, Sean. Nice to see that smiling face!

  6. HighOnHugs says:

    😂😂😂😂 Oh man I’ve missed this. Oh perspective! Your writing always has me laughing with you. Note I said with you and not at you. I always relate to your stories. So glad you’re back at it! Thanks for the reminder as well. In with God’s will out with Clairey’s will. The most simplistic breathing meditation I know. Hugs to you my horselike friend! 😉

    1. Paul S says:

      Clairey! I was just on your blog reading your wonderful stuff and remembering just how much energy and joy you bring to our universe. Thanks for being here (and there) and for reminding me to keep things simple (for my own sake!!)


      1. HighOnHugs says:

        Awww, thanks my friend!

  7. I loved this so much. How you effortlessly took a crappy (and frustrating) situation and molded it into learning and enlightenment…and then shared it with us. As I read, I kept thinking how frustrated and angry I would have been. How I wouldn’t have thought to be mindful – how any gratitude for the day(s) would have dashed from my brain.
    Not you. You found the lesson, the meaning, the metaphor. I just finished reading, “Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday and was struck by how much I could see myself in those pages. Reading your words helps carry the message’ home. Thank you, Paul.

    1. Paul S says:

      Michelle! Thanks for the warm and kind words as always. I wasn’t *that* enlightened when a day after I wrote this I got two more flats…ha ha. I was using another four-letter word that began with F and it wasn’t Flat! But I just took some time away, relaxed, and finally fixed the other one (an even smaller piece of glass found!) Anyways, the point is that I need constant reminders about finding the right mental and emotional response and place.
      I like the sound of that book – I will seek it out. Ego is such a huge part of what I explore and talk about and that sounds right up my alley. Thanks for mentioning it!
      Blessings to you my friend!

  8. Amy says:

    The idea of Shenpa is one of my favorites- the hook, where is the hook? Thanks for writing about it! What a pleasure to read your blog. 🙂

  9. Georgina19 says:

    Get over it Paul; it’s kind if like when I walk my dog and the heaves open. But guess what? It’s only rain and only water.

    1. Paul S says:

      ha ha sage advise. I had trouble with the vid link for some reason.

    2. Paul S says:

      okay I got it to work – perfect!

  10. Georgina19 says:
  11. Georgina19 says:

    Yes, only Yoda could do that …….. Guv 🙂

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