<![CDATA[RIDERINBLACK.COM - HOME]]>Tue, 08 Nov 2016 00:48:56 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[HAPPY CAT FACTS BMX PODCAST]]>Fri, 04 Mar 2016 16:44:19 GMThttp://riderinblack.com/home/happy-cat-facts-bmx-podcastI have been listening to podcasts consistently since 2009 when Adam Carolla broke off from terrestrial radio. What attracted me to podcasting was
  1. 1) You have no censors
  2. 2) You have creative freedom
  3. 3) Technology is relatively affordable. 
Reed (@happycatbasket) and I came up with the idea of creating a BMX inspired comedy podcast in 2015, but I never made the commitment to purchase the equipment and start it.

I'm happy to say that the podcast is alive and well and is becoming more and more well received. Thank you to all those who are listening and subscribed. Please spread the word!
]]>
<![CDATA[UPLATES - MOAR FREESTYLE,  GETTING SUCKED INTO THE BIKE BUILD VORTEX, AND TEAM SOCIAL PACE IS RIDING TO FUCKING YOSEMITE]]>Fri, 25 Dec 2015 22:30:54 GMThttp://riderinblack.com/home/uplates-moar-freestyle-getting-sucked-into-the-bike-build-vortex-and-team-social-pace-is-riding-to-fucking-yosemite

A video posted by RiderInBlack (@riderinblack) on

Y'all know BMX freestyle is my heart and soul - so I've been really consistent with my riding and trying weirder and weirder shit although my creative flow has gotten a little stale as of late. I really owe it all to my friends here in Santa Cruz for making riding such a good time. While there are only about a handful of us who are consistently riding together, the entire makeup of the Santa Cruz is about 15-20 riders, including the Depot Park groms and the occasional 831 visitor and dabbler. So... it's a sweet scene with a lot of riding styles to boot. This scene rules, and no hate or weird drama or trying to set or follow trends. I'm so happy to live and ride here.

One of the recent highlights was that I won the Freed Bikes Instagram video contest - that was pretty awesome.

A video posted by RiderInBlack (@riderinblack) on

How BIKE BUILDS BECOME RIDICULOUS - BUT NOT REALLY

Picture
I bought myself a $50 bike - a 1996 Giant Nutra: which - the idea - birthed the idea of building my Soma Saga for touring.

I know - the insanity which is bike riding.

The whole point was to have a cheap town bike and something to take me to-and-from the gym. The $50 bike is actually really sweet - chromoly steel 700c frame with 90's graphics. For an unattractive-to-thieves town bike, you really couldn't get any better. The real issue was I started to really like the bike, and soon the idea of making into a potential old tourer was a thing.

The dudes and I started talking about touring. I was going to use my Giant Nutra, but as a commission-paid employee, it is easy to "treat" oneself. Somehow I convinced myself that I needed a "real" touring bike...

...and this is how the Soma Saga came to be...

$50 bike became a 1X7 cheap town bike with a burrito basket up front. I still love this bike, and it really makes a great townie - which I'm hoping thieves would not be interested in.

I'm mountain biking again

Picture
With all these changes in my bikes and now that I have a legit $50 town bike, I decided to throw the MTB gearing and knobbies back on the Gravity 650bSS and put it back on the dirt. Super fun! I forgot how fun MTB'ing is when removing the Strava-inspired, lycra-based dirt road mentality. Best of all, I'm riding flat pedals and 510's on the trails. What a great approach to singlespeed riding...

we gon' tour dis bitch

Picture
Touring seems rad. 

I've only ridden the Soma Saga through town once - and so far it felt great. It's incredibly comfy and you can definitely feel the Tange steel construction over the bumps. It's heavy, but it is a touring bike. I went steel on a lot of things - steel chainrings, steel cassette, steel fenders, Surly steel racks. Overkill? Maybe, but I know shit's gonna last, and for that I'm stoked.

I guess I could've went with the Sugino crankset, but I feel that the prudent Acera M361 cranks with bolt-on steel chainrings will do the job. I went 8-speed, as well. 8-speed chains can be found anywhere and are beefy. Cheap and accessible. Plus, 8-speed shifting is pretty reliable via the Shimano 8-speed cassette with steel cogs. 

Two issues have arose - 1) toe overlap with the front wheel and 2) BARELY any clearance with the Tektro CR720 brake arms with the Surly front rack. So the Surly rack slightly dips down, and my OCD becomes out of control. 

I'll post future things about this bike the more I ride it. But so far, it's a sweet build.
Questions? Comments? Discussion? Post below and let's hear what you have to say!

#somasaga
#commuterbike
#surlyracks
#topeakhandlebarbag
#biketouring
#gravity650bss
#bikesdirectsinglespeed
]]>
<![CDATA[ADDENDUM TO THE OLD GUY'S GUIDE]]>Fri, 16 Oct 2015 17:37:37 GMThttp://riderinblack.com/home/addendum-to-the-old-guys-guide
Plenty has happened in my life since I originally wrote this. My wife, Kelly, and I are no longer together - we have been separated for over a year and the divorced was finalized in June. The divorce and other financial issues led to me moving back to Santa Cruz, Ca. and living with my parents since the separation. I had a girlfriend for 6 months - that ended in a bad way.

I no longer have the Cult Butter - it has been replaced by a BSD Beverage. My S&M Rasta has been replaced by a Colony Prody. Both bikes are fully loaded with front and rear brakes, locking levers, four pegs and gyro's. I have become a 4-piece handlebar purist. I realized that brakes have opened up freestyle possibilities I just couldn't imagine without brakes. Although I am back to brakes (and sticking with it) I am glad I rode brakeless for some time.

I have received such warm praise from guys looking to this guide for help - so I want to say "Thank You" for looking to this guide for inspiration and help. Some things have already been outdated, but a lot of the stuff still holds true.

Good news, is that after this past year, my life has turned to the positive. I am single and not dating (which is the SMART thing for me to do) - so this has lead to more riding and more creativity. My creative "knack" - and no longer caring/copying to fit into any category of riding by letting freestyle be true "freestyle" - has bumped me to levels I would've never seen possible, and the support I get from the BMX community and their acceptance of my weird style of riding has pushed me toward daily progression. I would consider myself a better rider now than I was in the 80's and 90's. So... there is definitely a BMX life after 40 - and it doesn't spoil just because you're older. My INSTAGRAM account has a great following with the help of the attention from some well respected riders. It feels great that this old dog and his weird tricks is so well received. I owe my deepest gratitude to all the riders who like and comment on my pics and videos.

All my financial woes are at a ZERO(!), and if it weren't for my parent's, friends in Santa Cruz, and family, I don't think I would've been here, today. I am FINALLY in the market for my first home purchase. I know I am somewhat of a late bloomer, but homes in California are extremely expensive. After paying all my debts, I have been able to scrimp away money, and I'm in the position to be a home owner.

I definitely want to give my deepest praise and gratitude to my homies in Santa Cruz - BMX and non-BMX. You guys do not realize the impact you have made on my life for the positive. To my non-BMX homies: Thank you for keeping me centered. To my BMX homies: Thank you for accepting me and pushing my riding. One thing is for certain - I am never leaving Santa Cruz again.

Life takes you to the most unexpected places. When I wrote this, I had no idea I'd be here, in the same tiny room I grew up in, writing this addendum. I am sometimes embarrassed at my situation, but I accept it with the utmost humility. Thankfully, BMX can mimic life in so many ways - and life can mimic BMX in so many ways. You fall and you get up. You can always come back to that set-up and pull that trick. Life does give you second, third, forth and fifth chances. I've lived a dozen lives - in this one life.

I'm gonna keep opening my front door and pedaling out into the world of unexpectedness. Thank you for joining me on my journey.
]]>
<![CDATA[MID-YEAR BIKE CHECK]]>Tue, 30 Jun 2015 22:34:38 GMThttp://riderinblack.com/home/mid-year-bike-check
Here it is, folks... my 2015 bike check. As my friend Trent tells me, I change set-ups more than I change my underwear. And he's right. But you know... I think I found a good place. This current set-up suits what I'm trying to do with my riding, and gives me more opportunity to be creative and thoughtful in my riding.

Pat Fisher called me a "fellow experimentalist" - meaning I "experiment" with my riding outside of the normal stylistic constructs. I really liked that compliment from a rider who I respect very much. I mean, I love to do current tricks as much as the next guy, but I also like to try weird and different things as one would see on my Instagram and edits.

And thus, the current bike set-up prevails.

Outside of the normal four-pegs, two brakes and freecoaster set-up, I've opted for locking levers again, since the last time I had them back in 1989. Although I can only do a few tricks with locking levers (old school stuff), I like the idea that I have them and can use them if I want to.

I've also gone with skinnier tires and no longer trying to squeeze fat 2.35 or 2.4's on my frame and fork. I did this for brake clearance. I'm a huge fan of what DUO offers in tire compounds, although I may go with some funky color (like purple or blue) from Sunday.

The gyro is set up with a London mod, and my rear brake squeezes and locks up just as hard as it did with a straight cable. Because I had to add headset spacers to make for a proper gyro cable pull, I traded in the 10" Charlie Crumlish FUBAR for a more standard 9" rise Crumlish bar. My Madera stem is still holding strong at a 48mm reach. So far, the Cult AK Grips have proven their worth and are wearing really well.

I still love my steel 4.25 Stolen Barrel pegs - they are long enough for botched grinds and flatland, yet not so long that they get in the way. The Sunday Knox Sprocket adds extra protection for my chain, and the Fit MAC sealed alloy pedals keep my feet stuck on when I need to be stuck on.

While my Profile Cranks continue to take a beating, I can't believe they are still alive. The chrome has completely been ground off, and they truly do get whacked around. 

Lastly, I ride a 20.65 BSD Beverage frame and an Odyssey F25 Freestyle fork. 

As it sits, full loaded, my bike weighs in at a hair over 29lbs.

Thanks for looking - questions welcome!
]]>
<![CDATA[JUST BECAUSE.]]>Wed, 03 Jun 2015 16:12:46 GMThttp://riderinblack.com/home/just-because Instagram is still my go to for mini-edits. If you like this kind of stuff and funny BMX farts, check out my feed: @riderinblack. Also, make sure to follow my riding buddies: @happycatbasket @freshdogshirt and @moon_dood

A video posted by dionridesbikes (@riderinblack) on

]]>
<![CDATA[GRAVITY 27FIVESS (BIKESDIRECT) REVIEW PART 2 - "SOME BIKES ARE JUST MEANT TO BE THEMSELVES"]]>Wed, 03 Jun 2015 15:39:04 GMThttp://riderinblack.com/home/gravity-27fivess-bikesdirect-review-part-2-some-bikes-are-just-meant-to-be-themselves
So much for a single-speed mountain bike.

Since my last review, just a mere two weeks ago, I've changed it up. This bike just, well, SUCKED for mountain bike riding. I am either spoiled with my Specialized Crave or just over-romanticized what riding a single-speed rigid MTB was like. I mean, it was okay. But having gone back to modern standards, I don't know... I think rigid single-speed ended up being kinda "meh". And this is coming from a guy who was "that guy" - you know - the guy who used to claim that riding a rigid single speed is "pure"?
Picture
Since moving back to Santa Cruz, I've learned to enjoy the layout. I mean, this is where I grew up, but as an kid, I really didn't appreciate how small and concentrated Santa Cruz is and how the bicycle is truly the best way to get around here. No wonder why you see nothing but old mountain bikes, road bikes, fixed gear bikes, klunkers and hybrids strewn about; haphazard luggage systems strapped on for utility. And given the student vibe from UCSC, it really kicks things up into true bicycleville. This is aside from the massive mountain bike and road bike scene... and yes, me and our band of BMX riders.

It was while riding my klunker when I thought to myself how slow I was going. The klunker is great for farting around and locking up to go for errand runs, but it is slow - and not a very friendly pedal. For down the street? No problem. For downtown? A little inefficient. 

It was then I decided to turn the Gravity 27.5/650b into an "urban" MTB. Simple changes like flat pedals, gearing change (38 X 16; 63.9 gear inches), and most importantly a tire swap. Also, a bell and a light were added.

What I ended up with is a very fast, very efficient, and very FUN urban bike. The Schwalbe Big Ben's are amazing tires. Being a big proponent of the Big Apples (which I still roll on my klunker), I knew the Big Ben tire was going to be a winner, and I was right. Although Schwalbe says you can keep them at low PSI (like 35 psi), for this bike I actually like 60psi. On my klunker, I like 40psi. So one will have to experiment with what feels good.

The biggest issue I've had with 700c urban single speed bikes are the skinny options. While I do have 700 X 45c on my Pake C'Mute, still, just not enough beef for the bunnyhops.

Picture
As you can see, the tread on the Big Ben's is the same pattern as the Big Apples, just cut deeper for dirt paths and off-road adventures. I did take these tires through sand, and they held well. On the dirt path - no problems, whatsoever. 

With the high puncture resistance, you do get a weight penalty. But for urban riding, I'd prefer a little weight over sliced tires. I did accidentally ride over a broken bottle, and all was well. I wouldn't make that a habit, but it was confidence building.

And because I hate flats so much, I filled my inner tubes with sealant (Stan's works best). If you've never done that hack, it's a great way to protect yourself against flats from thorns, pins, staples and any other small puncture.

The other day, I set out in my cargo shorts, t-shirt and Vans. Strapped on my Bell Super 2 helmet and started mashing. It was then I realized that some bikes are just meant to be themselves. As a BMX rider, I hate it when people compare urban MTB's to "big BMX bikes" because BMX riding is pretty unique and in a niche in itself - very different than riding a MTB with street tires. However, sometimes, I want to mash around the city, jump curbs, bunnyhop, wheelie down driveway wedges, endos... or just cruise. And sometimes (here comes the blasphemy) the BMX bike isn't the best for that. Especially long rides. 15 miles and 500 feet of climbing in 1:08 time through the city, this bike killed.

I'm happy I found the right place for this bike, even though it resulted in me dumping a bunch of money into it to make it right. While it's not bad as a MTB, to me, as a gravel grinder/urban bike, this is the bike to do it on. #gravity27fivess, #27fivess #650b, #bikesdirect, #650bsinglespeed, #commuter, #urbanbike, #urbanmountainbike 
]]>
<![CDATA[I'M LAGGING. HERE'S MY LAST EDIT.]]>Thu, 21 May 2015 19:34:56 GMThttp://riderinblack.com/home/im-lagging-heres-my-last-edit

Well, it's March and I'm turning the big 4-0 this month. Never thought I'd be this age and still riding a little kid's bike, but it's what I do. I thought by this time I'd be wearing khakis, a polo shirt and a cellphone belt clip talking about my kids. Listening to Dave Matthews band and drinking wine coolers. But instead I'm wearing skinny jeans, BMX t-shirts and trying to be STREET AS FUCK. I don't have kids, but I have a couple of dogs. I listen to rap music as loud as I can... and I drink PBR.

Some of these clips were used in other edits... but FUCK IT, VATO...

Thing about being 40 is I still love BMX to my core. It's one of the rare things in my life that make me feel like myself. For me it's a creative endeavor - a way to connect to that part that of me that doesn't get to come out often in the world of 40-yr. old, daily bullshit.

Anyway, this is my freestyle BMX riding. I hope y'all enjoy my little edit. Thank you to my friends and my family. I love you all for supporting what I must do.

]]>
<![CDATA[REVIEW - GRAVITY  27FIVESS (BIKESDIRECT)]]>Thu, 21 May 2015 19:32:05 GMThttp://riderinblack.com/home/review-gravity-27fivess-bikesdirect
All I wanted was a reasonable review...

Not a "This-bike-is-awesome" review, or "I-love-this-bike-review", but a reasonable review with to-the-point pros and cons of going with a budget singlespeed from our friends at BikesDirect.

I've bought a handful of bikes from BikesDirect... most all required some tinkering and making it my own, but really - no complaints about the company. Decent customer service, fast shipping... and you have to understand what you're getting into when getting a box bike. You have to put it together, make sure everything is there, understand that these are mass produced bikes and you're not going to get that local bike shop value of free tune-ups/adjustments nor possible store discounts on future purchases. It's a bike-in-a-box.

I've ridden both 26" and 29'er single speeds over the years, and I've always been skeptical of the alluring 27.5 - or 650b - wheel size. For the most part, I've read how the 27.5 wheel is a great "in-betweener" and how you get "the best of both worlds". And I'm here to say - I call bullshit.

I'm not saying that these folks are liars, I'm saying that the 27.5 wheel size is quite disappointing compared to what the online enthusiasts make it out to be. I thought, with this wheel size, I was going to dominate my trails... roll over everything as easily as my 29'er does... but fling it around with razor sharp precision like I did with my old 26" wheeled bikes. Not quite.

What I experienced was a very confused wheel size. The 27.5 disappointed me when compared to the benefits of the 29'er, and disappointed me when compared to the benefits of the 26" wheel size. To me, the 27.5 wheel size just kinda feels meh. It does what the 29'er does, but shitty, and it does what the 26" does, but shitty as well.

I'm sure if I bought a $2,000 27.5 bike, I'd be singing a song of a different tune. But remove the make-up, fake eye-lashes and boob job from a smoking hot porn star, and you got a 6 at best.

So, let's talk about the bike...

Since selling my beloved On-One Inbred 29'er singlespeed, I swore to the heavens that someday I'd be back on one-gear. I fucking love singlespeed. Makes me want to eat steak.

I had $400 burning in my pocket, and approached this in a weird way: Ever build a bike because you have a component you want to use? That was my deal. I had this rad, anodized blue, 780mm Race Face Atlas bar that needed to shred the gnar. 

After deliberating over another 29'er singlespeed (nah... already did that), then looking for a used 26" Redline MonoCog (had that, too... should've never sold it. That's what we all say, though) and a BikesDirect Fat Bike (too shitty of components to consider), I went with the 27.5 - because remember, I drank the 27.5 Kool-Aid at that point.
Picture
The bike came and I assembled it without issue. Note the components it comes with - loose ball bearing hubs, low budget components, shitty wire bead Small Block-8 tires, and that 33X18 gearing... I'll talk about that later. Out of the box, not bad for $350. But you do get a $350 bike.

I slapped the components I had waiting for it (the bar, seat post clamp, 70mm stem, Oury lock-on grips, orange KMC 410 chain, Crank Bro. Mallet pedals), and went on my way towards Wilder Ranch Loop.

Fun... but weird. Really weird. First, I had to get back to the feeling of a rigid fork. Second, I hate those fucking tires. But, all in all, the bike did what it is supposed to do: ride.

After a couple of rides, I started to feel this bike was lacking. Lacking in geometry, kinda fucked gearing... just lacking. So, I proceeded to dump more money into my "budget" bike.

Picture
Dat fork tho...

BikesDirect uses the same frame for the Gravity 27fiveFS (which has a 100mm suspension fork) and the Gravity 27fiveSS (which has a rigid fork). So, one of the major problems with this bike-in-a-box is the rigid fork is NOT suspension corrected. BikesDirect should equip this bike with a 29'er rigid fork to mimic the geometry that of a bike with a 100mm suspension fork.

What the bike comes with is a fork that has a short crown-to-axle length and the bike rides more like a flat bar road bike or commuter than a MTB. The rider position is more forward and the steering is sharp, which lends itself to lessened high speed stability. Sure, it steers well at low speed, but feels sketchy at bombing fire roads.

In this picture, you can see the huge difference between what the bike came stock with and the Salsa Chromoto fork, which is suspension corrected for a 1) 27.5 bike with 100mm of front end travel or 2) 29'er bike with 80mm of front end travel.

Ugh. Small Block-8's (in 1.95)...

I hate these tires. Some people like them, but for a MTB application, I cannot stand them. Don't worry, if you like these tires, I give them application props at the end of this review.

I spent the $120 to upgrade to Specialized Ground Control's in 2.3. Which, in turn, changed the overall wheel diameter. Which fucked up my gearing, so now comes my major beef...
There it is, folks. It's basically a 29'er...

The 27.5 with the larger, real, MTB tires, is essentially the same overall diameter as my 29'er wheel. The stock 33X18 gearing the 27fiveSS came with was fine with the Small Block-8's in 1.95, however, changing the tire size significantly affected the gearing. I had to revert back to the gearing I had on my On-One Inbred 29'er SS - and that is 32X20. Also, you can see the Salsa Chromoto 29'er fork installed which is 100mm suspension corrected for a 27.5 wheeled bike. I'm using a shit load of headset spacers to make up for that steep headtube angle, even with the suspension corrected fork. Notice the difference in rake on my Specialized Crave and the Gravity 27fiveSS.
Picture
Final words...

Well, what was supposed to be a "budget" purchase ended up being an expensive endeavor - this shit always turns out this way and I should've known better. If you are not super serious about MTB'ing, or looking for a gravel commuter (there are rack mounts), out of the box with a possible gear change, the 27FiveSS is pretty cool. It's cheap, durable, and only $350, a steel cog to gear it down for commuting is less than $10. Keep the Small-Block 8's on there for that. But, if you're like me and want to actually MTB with it, either 1) expect to dump money into it or 2) save and get that $2,000 27.5 I talked about earlier.

I still stand firm on the 27.5 Kool Aid. I'm going to keep this bike and ride it as long as I can before I want something else or get bored. But really, consider the 29'er SS before the 27.5 wheel size. Having ridden all three wheel sizes in SS  I still believe the 29'er single speed truly has the biggest benefits for one-gear riding.

That... or get a BMX bike and fuck all. #bmxnotspandex

#bikesdirect, #gravityfiveSS, #650b

]]>
<![CDATA[HOW TO DEAL WITH THAT BMX RIDING SIGNIFICANT OTHER]]>Tue, 16 Dec 2014 22:14:14 GMThttp://riderinblack.com/home/how-to-deal-with-that-bmx-riding-significant-otherPicture
BMX riders can be some of the most complex individuals around. We are passionate about riding that may seem unreasonable to outsiders of the sport. We don't love BMX. We need BMX.

There's a deep, profound need to do what we do - to continue to try tricks over and over and over again, despite the painful crashes, opened shins and bloody elbows. And we don't do it to conquer somebody else, or to be dominant over another person (unlike other sports). We do it for ourselves - which is why a rider can pursue his passion on a clunky, mis-shapened ramp in a field, in the middle of nowhere. By himself, lost in his world.

So, you take these qualities which are inherent in people driven in an individual sport, and you attempt to have a relationship with them. The initial thought will be admiration for what he/she does. But once that wears off, the reality of it all begins to set in. And this is where the the potential problems can come up.

BMX riders need to ride, and for each one of us, it varies. Personally, I need to session twice a week. Any more after that is just gravy, but a minimum of twice a week is what I need to stay sane. Otherwise, I start to lose my mind a little. Some folks need to ride more. And depending on where you live, this can be really shitty in during the winter months.

BMX riders are better people when they are given this session time. All the pressure of the work week, family stress and all around bullshit is washed away with a good BMX session. We are not going out for the whole day in spite of you, we are doing it because riding makes us better - and easier to deal with - people. We are also not doing it necessarily to get away from you. If your significant other is emotionally mature, they aren't putting their friends ahead of you - even though it may feel like that at times. Be happy that he/she has friends, because nothing is creepier than a person without friends.

BMX riders can also have the tendency to obsess over things. Or "put on blinders" as what best describes me. This is why we will try over and over and over to land a trick. Sometimes that can take years, and yet we will do it over and over and over. It becomes an obsession to land that one trick.

You, as that rider's significant other, must step in when the obsession starts to devour him/her. Personally, I can use a "Snap out of it!" when I start to obsess over something - like dialing in my bike or riding too much to the detriment of the other facets of my life. YOU must tell him/her to spend time with you. We want to, but it takes a nudge sometimes.

Earlier I mentioned "admiration" for what he/she does. BMX riders need that positive reinforcement, so pay attention to the pictures and videos and progression your significant other makes in their riding. Congratulate them and cheer them on. Share the pictures of him/her with your friends and brag about them. We want to feel like the crashes, falls and pain is worth it to ourselves and the ones we love. Admire that BMX rider in your life, because there aren't many of us. And as athletes, we are very unique.

BMX riders aren't difficult people - we are just complex. We are difficult to understand by many because that passion for riding runs deep. I don't know one BMX rider who rides for "exercise". We do it because it is that time that makes us feel golden; when we can shine. We want to share that passion with the world, and if he/she loves you, we want most to share it with you.

Pull us in, but let us go ride, too. We will always come back.

]]>
<![CDATA[LEARNING HOW TO SUFFER AND STILL RIDE A BIKE - ABANDONING COPING DEVICES]]>Wed, 05 Nov 2014 21:31:06 GMThttp://riderinblack.com/home/learning-how-to-suffer-and-still-ride-a-bike-abandoning-coping-devicesPicture
Sometimes I wonder how I am able to ride - and maintain the drive to ride - through the recent  dark days of my human existence. Through my recent pain of a pending divorce, which immediately followed significant deaths in my in-law'd family, I have talked to a lot of people. Some have been extremely helpful and others not at all - and, in fact, some of their comments exacerbated the pain. I know those people mean well, but they said (and say) things that cause further pain - most likely unknowingly.

I have come to realize that we are very ill-equipped to manage pain and suffering - especially mental pain and suffering. Mine happens to be mental anguish, anxiety and depression. Our culture and society has crafted "medications" to ease our pain: technology to escape, books, posters and memes to uplift and inspire us, religion to give us reason and hope; the "grass is greener" attitude of escapism and "this will pass" attitude. Often times people will apply the most stinging medicine on pain: "You know... people are going through way worse things that what you're going through." or "It can be worse." or "Just be grateful for what you have".

And while graciousness and being thankful for the blessing one does have is definitely a positive attribute... it doesn't quite diminish the pain entirely when you are drowning in the thick of it. Applying pick-me-ups, or a rebellious attitude, like, "I'm gonna fight through this!" sometimes makes it worse - all in an attempt to diminish pain. And those who seem to lean on "People have it way worse than you..." are also buying into the resistance to feel pain.

I've learned, however, through the last four months of feeling the most pain I've ever felt in a long time... that pain just may be required to be felt. Quite possibly, the constructs of "things will get better" and "this is all for the good" and other prayers we tell ourselves may just be our way of coping with the thing we refuse to feel - true pain.

A few months ago, I did a painting that read "I eat my sins everyday, and chew on them until my gums bleed".

I wasn't sure, at the time, what I meant by it - but I felt I was getting somewhere in my journey. Now, in reflection, I've come to find that I have faced my imperfections, my faults, my "sins"; my depression, my anxiety, and my pain - and I feel it all. I "eat" them and reflect on these negative feelings as much as I would reflect on my positive feelings.

I accept my pain as part of my human experience; I will live through it and feel it until it subsides and not give that a time frame. No technology, no money, no physical transformation (like weight loss), no books, memes, posters, dating women or trying to foster a new relationship... none of that will take away the pain. The pain MUST be felt and accepted. It must be worked into my daily life... as if I was plagued with a long term disability.

Our society and culture has developed so many ways to mask pain - and I am not exactly sure if masking it is the answer. Sometimes medication is needed and therapy - but these are not devices to mask it. Escapism into technology, running away, hurting others and rejection of feeling pain does immense long-term damage.

So, just like I ride through some physical injuries, I ride through this pain, as well. I live my life as normally as possible, allowing myself to feel hurt and anguish. Making people aware that this is what I am feeling and what I am doing. Not getting trapped into coping devices to mask my pain, not trying to develop new romantic relationships in an attempt at a "grass is greener" mask. I live with my pain and it's okay to.

Pain is part of life. I've learned to accept mine. It feels awful, but allowing myself to accept my pain keeps me from making mistakes that will hurt myself - and others.
]]>