Andrew Raynor Dover New Hampshire NH

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Regret As Motivation

Andrew Raynor Dover

By Mike Tarrolly for Crushing Iron

Now that I’m signed up for Ironman Louisville, my mind is back in overdrive, and on my ride today, I had a thought . . .

What would I die for?

It crossed my mind because often when I ride by (or through) meandering families on the bike path, occasionally “the dad” gives me the “don’t fuck with my family” eye. Today a “dad glare” made me shiver.

I wasn’t riding fast and slowed down further because his three kids were blocking the entire path. I gave dad a nice smile but he looked at me like he would prefer throwing me and my bike in the river.

Now, maybe I’m projecting, but it’s pretty common. I’m wondering, are these guys really that tough, or are they just willing to die for their kids if some guy in lycra with shaved legs on a bicycle puts the fear of God in them?

Are we only willing to die for others? Or are we willing to die for ourselves?

Our own love? Our own freedom, experiences, or passions?

Last night I was listening to the Joe Rogan podcast and his guest, Christopher Ryan, told a story of getting stung by a scorpion in the jungle. A few minutes later he ran into a local who told him that scorpion was lethal. Ryan recoiled and genuinely thought he was facing his own death . . . soon.

He staggered through the darkness for help, certain he was about to die. A couple hours later he made it to a rundown home in the jungle, and through a conversation in broken English discovered he wasn’t stung by the lethal scorpion, but another kind without the potent dose.

It was during those two hours he claimed to find complete contentment with his life . . . and death. He’d traveled, experienced life, women, and song. He was “okay” with dying, but felt bad for family and friends.

Fortunately, he lived to tell the story of his own death.

Using Fear And Regret

On some level, I think I would have died for Ironman in the beginning. I pushed my body to limits it had never been seen. I “felt” like I was dying a few times, but it was sort of that “manageable death.”

During that Rogan podcast they also mentioned an article Joe had written for Maxim explaining why working out is like building a sand castle.  Essentially, you take time, spend effort, focus and love creating this thing that you know will eventually be gone. And that is the key point. You understand, always, that you will die.

That’s a bit morose, but it’s really a good motivator if you accept it. Death is coming, and nothing is more painful than regret.

Life Without A Phone

So, as someone without kids, am I willing to die for lack of regret?

I can sit here today and say, yes. But the reality is, I am still human and . . . I am afraid.

Sometimes I’m afraid of the simplest things like walking my dog late at night. Why? Because somehow, the idea has gotten into my head that all kinds of bad things can happen out there. People will jump you, cars will run you off the road, starving stray dogs will attack. Where does this shit come from?

Two days ago I ordered a Lyft home from the auto mechanic. I had reservations about getting in the car when it showed up because behind tinted windows was a guy, and the driver photo on my app was of woman. But it was daytime and I only lived 2 miles away, what could go wrong? His car smelled like weed and we almost got side-swiped, but other than that . . .

He dropped me off and everything was fine, until I couldn’t find my phone.

I went to iCloud to “find my phone” and it was halfway across town. I tried communicating with Lyft and had a short email exchange that claimed the driver didn’t have it. It was lighting up on the map in his car, but whatever.

I was a little freaked out at first, but did a quick inventory of everything I’d “lose,” and did a virtual erase before ordering an upgrade.

These two days without a phone have been a wake up call. I can’t tell you how many times I have reached for it or thought about texting someone or engaging my mind in some worthless stimulation.

The first day was flat out bizarre. I felt like a victim, alone, and depressed.

I thought I’d get the phone on Day 2, but Verizon screwed that up and I had no choice but to accept that I was off the grid again.

A funny thing happened that second day without a phone. I was starting to do stuff without thinking. Crazy shit, like taking an old rug into the driveway, pouring soap on it, and scrubbing out stains.

I hauled sticks and limbs out to the curb. Scratched paint spills off floors. Organized my garage.

Occasionally I entered a confusing gray zone. I’d sort of look around for something to do next, then start walking “toward my phone” in the other room. When I remembered it wasn’t there, I would vacuum the stairs instead.

I also noticed I didn’t get tired doing all of these things. Typically I will kick back on the couch or in bed and doodle on my phone, eventually falling asleep for a nap. No nap, or even a thought of a nap happened.

It’s a short sample, but it is natural confirmation for something I have suspected for years. Phones can literally suck the life out of you.

When you don’t have a phone for idle entertainment, you have to create something to do and this action gives you energy. Even something as simple as checking Facebook on an actual computer feels different. You are chained to a location and your natural instinct is to get up and move after a while. But with a phone, you are ALWAYS ON.

I can’t tell you how fucked up (and embarrassing) it is to say that when I lost my phone it felt like a part of me had died. A streak of hopelessness flooded my brain. Ironically, it wasn’t as bad as I would have imagined it because I think my phone has helped create a certain level of numbness in my brain and body which helped me get past the panic.

Building Our Sand Castle

People will criticize you for training for an Ironman. They will say you are crazy.

But we have to keep building our sand castle.

I’m now looking at my phone as water and wind. External elements trying to destroy my work in progress. Squashing the art. Doing its best to leave me with regret.

This may seem dramatic, but just think about how much time we waste on our phones. Think about all the dreams and goals washing away as we surf through endless streams of thoughts distracting us from our missions.

I am not giving up my phone, but I am taking action against its powers of seduction. My new phone won’t be used for activity, but to find activity. My new phone won’t be used to idly communicate but to find real communication. It will be used for its best qualities, not to suppress my path.

Filling A Void

As I was writing this, my new phone showed up and I’m walking through the set up process. I feel that attachment and don’t like it. What have I missed? What can I explore? Where is all the information on my old phone?

Does any of this matter? Is my phone really a source of exploration?

Opening that phone box gave me this strange feeling of relief. It was like I’d been starving for two days and finally found food. But I hadn’t hunted or worked for anything. I simply pushed a few buttons on my laptop and it was delivered.

The First Big Test

I am now writing post trip to Ironman 70.3 Texas. Robbie and I drove down for the race and stayed with one of our athletes who was also doing the race. My phone experience was mainly for work, but I felt this bizarre sense of paranoia the whole time. Like I was going to lose my phone.

Somewhere on the trip it occurred to me that phone’s add an entire new dimension to our existence. Like another limb or head on our body that we could lose at any time because it isn’t attached. Panic driven moments when you pat your pocket and it’s not there. Where did it go!?!

It’s really kind of pathetic and has me leaning even more into simplicity. I wanted to put the phone in my luggage and forget about it for the entire 12 hour drive, but it was not even an option. It felt impossible, but as Ironman likes to say, Anything is Possible, so maybe, just maybe, I will be able to lessen my attachment to the phone.

I’d hate to regret it.


Update: It’s been a couple months since I wrote this piece and things have slowly returned to normal. I’m re-connected to my phone and it’s distracting me like it always has.

Last night I listened to an interview with Sam Harris and he was talking about this same dilemma and how social media literally creates an alternative universe in our minds. I can tell you as an older gentleman, there is not enough real estate for another universe in this brain.

It has me thinking about this concept of “back in my day things were different.” How that has always been the case with life. Everyone’s father had it different and harder, etc. And while it was true on some level, I wonder if today is the first time this case may have a real argument?

The internet has only been around about 20 years. It has changed things in a massive way. I feel like the last big change was the early 1900’s with the popularization of mass production. The internet is far more invasive and in its infancy. We don’t even realize how much technology, phones, and apps have or will impact us.

Everyone talks about how Steve Jobs changed the world. How he did all these great things for humanity, but as someone put it in simple terms, “Steve Jobs has created a whole generation of phone starers.”

I realize this is a me problem, but how do you get out of this cycle? How do I get back to the basics of tactile living? Touching the earth, looking in people’s eyes, having real conversation that matters.

We all just plod along like sheep and download the next app, the next source of distraction. Some do it with grace and the best intentions. I’m not sure that’s me. I genuinely hate when I sit around and randomly open apps to “see what’s going on.” One after another I click to stimulate, often when I should be shutting down to sleep.

It’s definitely not the old days when entertainment meant putting on a football helmet in the living room as an 8 year old kid and dad holding up a couch cushion while I slammed into him like a blocking sled.

Happy Father’s Day. Give me a call sometime.


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