The anxiety at the thought of taking a phone call last night was borderline crippling.

When: November 2, 2022 | Where: Home

Hey Ricky,

I don’t know how long this is gonna be; I’ll try to keep it interesting.

I’ve struggled for a while now to maintain friendships. It hasn’t been for lack of desire; I value my friends greatly. But, I’ve struggled badly to keep up my end of the communication.

As I’ve learned more about myself in the past 4 years, I believe I’ve come to understand more about why.

As you may remember from the SC game in 2018, I wasn’t drinking. I don’t remember how much I talked about that at the time, but I had quit for good a little over 3 months earlier.

Getting sober is a big deal for anyone, but for me it was important as much for what it finally allowed me to address about my own biology as it was for simply stopping me from drinking myself to death.

I have ADHD. Reflecting back in time, that probably shouldn’t surprise you. You, more than anyone, saw firsthand what it looked like when a smart kid with ADHD tried to tackle life at a big university (along with working to pay for it). Come to think of it, thank you for putting up with my chaos for all those years; it couldn’t have been easy.

Until finally seeking help in 2018, I didn’t really understand what ADHD was. I knew I’d been a classic case as a kid, before it was a “thing.” But, as I understood it, I’d outgrown it.

I thought that was how it worked; that ADHD was a childhood condition, and that you grew out of it. There was definitely a major change in my hyperactivity when I hit adolescence.  Once I got there, I was finally able to control my impulses to the point where I wasn’t the pariah I was in elementary school. I had no concept that ADHD was more than that.

I’d heard the term “adult ADHD” as if that was some different ailment.  And I’d listened (too much) to the opinions of a lot of people who believed “Adult ADHD” was little more than excuse-making by people who were lazy or lacked discipline. The problems that plagued me at UCLA I pinned firmly on what I figured were character flaws.  I continued to blame myself for the next 30 years (give or take).

I honestly hate the term ADHD, because it asserts that there is a deficit of something. The reality of it is the opposite. I characterize it as a surplus of noise or commotion. Like the static and mixture of stations you get when trying to tune an old AM receiver to a faint station late at night. It’s constant, and it’s a battle to be able to focus on a few important things in the midst of the constant chaos.

That’s where alcohol came into it. There’s a huge correlation between people with ADHD and substance abuse. It’s simple self-medication.

Alcohol turns off the noise. Turns off the whole radio. Over the course of a week of struggling to manage my course load, the noise would become more and more of a burden. It felt louder as the week wore on in the way that a crying baby feels louder after 3 hours than he did when he first started.

I distinctly remember having my last class of the day in Young Hall on Thursdays, and knowing that that was an acceptable day to drink. And the relief that I felt when I started walking back to the dorm knowing that I could finally let go of the week. How much of a relief it was to be able to shut it all off (even though I didn’t really have an understanding of what I was quieting at the time). It was like hitting control-alt-delete on an old Windows system.  The reset was worth the hangover.

This is getting long… so I’m gonna gloss over a couple of things and see if I can arrive at my point before you retire.

Fast forward to December, 2018… a month after the SC game, and the shrink finally gave me Adderall (after 4 months of non-stimulants that did nothing). I still wasn’t sure about the whole ADHD thing at that stage, but I knew that 4 months of sobriety hadn’t quieted the cacophony in my head.

Adderall was diagnostic certainty. 30 minutes after taking it for the first time, I felt some approximation of normal for the first time in my life. It was less like shutting off the radio (like alcohol), and more like tuning the station in so you could hear it without static or interference. It’s been life-changing.

But, I’ve also come to understand that brain commotion is only one aspect of ADHD. With the noise quieted, I’ve been able to see myriad ways in which my brain architecture is just different. For instance, while many people tend to think and learn linearly, I tend to form an understanding of things in a way that looks more like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Little segments get worked on here and there, and eventually they connect to other little segments, and the picture slowly comes into focus.

My brain is a free-association factory. Every thought comes with tangential thoughts that my brain wants to follow. And, while I’ve found ways to turn that into a strength at times, much of my life is still spent restraining my mind and forcing myself to focus on the things that I have to focus on in order to lead a productive life.

Forcing-focus (you read the term hyper-focus a lot in ADHD literature) requires a lot of mental energy and a lack of distraction. Neither of these things is conducive to catching up with someone I haven’t talked to in a while by phone. A phone call during a work day can completely derail an entire day.  In the evening, I generally just don’t have anything left and need to zone out to recuperate.

Phone calls are also a bit awkward because my mind is always jumping from topic to topic, and everything that gets said prompts new thoughts. I have to work hard to restrain myself from constantly interrupting, because these thoughts often leave (for good) as quickly as they come; and when one feels important, I don’t want to lose it. 

I also end up bouncing from subject to subject, and I’m honestly just a bit self-conscious about it. I try not to be, but after a lifetime of trying to appear “normal,” it’s unnerving to let go of the harness.

All of which kind of makes me a pain in the ass. So, let me abruptly stop the back story, and talk about where that leads.

I was really happy to hear from you. And, I would like nothing more than to connect and catch up. And… the anxiety at the thought of taking a phone call last night was borderline crippling.

So, first, I just wanted you to know that it isn’t personal. It’s my issue. I’m working on finding ways to overcome it, but it’s a work in progress, and I probably need the help of my friends to make it work. A logical first step seemed to be to lower my guard and let you know what was up.

I’ll say that I’m pretty good with Messenger/WhatsApp/Viber etc. communication. I think it’s because I can communicate when on my brain’s schedule… if I think, “hey, Rick would find this funny,” I can send that without investing in a 45 minute conversation. And, if you think, “I should show Lemuel this,” I can look at it when it doesn’t derail me. That’s worked well with some other friends (Rowen is one).

For a call, how would you feel about a weekend call? Some time during the afternoon? I’d really like to know what’s happening in your life, and I get that Messenger conversations have their own limitations… and that not everyone is a fan of them.

I’ve had an eventful year. I cycled from Santa Cruz to Savannah, Georgia for the first four months, and just finished a mountain cycle from Lancaster to Tahoe a couple weeks ago. Surprisingly, I’m still not skinny, but I’m not as gigantic as I was 12 months ago. There was a trip to the Indian Ocean with Hal in between those, and I’ve been seeing a girl for nearly 10 months who was a member of the… (shhh) usc trojan marching band.

Anyhow, thanks for taking the time to listen. Looking forward to catching up in one way or another.

Without fanfare, I glided down the last mile of US 80

When: April 19, 2022 | Where: Tybee Island, Georgia
Miles Cycled: 3,330 | Days on the Road: 120

I finished. On April 19th, I wheeled onto Tybee Island, just south of the mouth of the Savannah River. Without fanfare, I glided down the last mile of US 80, which had been my off-and-on path since I’d first laid wheels on it leaving El Centro California, a month into my “ramble.”

I felt calmly satisfied. I knew I had completed what I’d set out to do. That it had been hard. That I had exceeded the physical envelope in which I’d slowly sealed myself over the years prior. I’d rediscovered parts of myself… and uncovered… or maybe created new parts.

I had left home in the aftermath of much trauma. Trauma that haunted me through many hundreds of miles of solitary endurance. I didn’t bury the trauma, but I had managed to find a place for it in the patchwork of my experience that I could live with.

It was quiet on Tybee, a summer beach destination not yet emerged from hibernation. My thoughts and feelings were shared with no one as I pedaled the last mile and a half to the end of the highway.

Passing the end of US 80 — the Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway — a short trip through a residential neighborhood brought me to the final turn that led to a boardwalk.

Julie had passed me coming over the bridge, and was parked and waiting where the asphalt ended. We each filmed my approach from opposite perspectives.

I’d met Julie more than 3 months earlier, in Palmdale, California, and she had travelled to meet me at several places along the route. Most recently, we had met in Montgomery, Alabama, where we celebrated her birthday, and she had followed me for the final 300 miles. The trek had started in isolation, but had been a shared journey for most of the way. Seeing her there at the finish line, the completion of one journey was inextricably joined with the beginning of another.

We walked Juan Sebastian out over the sand together, and she filmed the ceremonial dipping of the tires in the waters of the Atlantic. We would spend the following week sightseeing and making our way back to Montgomery, where we had booked our flights home.

At some point during the course of the trip, wrestling with whether to post my exploits on social media… perpetually aware that I hadn’t maintained my story through “Lemuel’s Ramble” as I’d intended, I came to realize that I needed this to be a mostly private experience. At least in the short term… while it was happening, I needed to undergo the struggle for myself, without the implied external commitments inherent in sharing it.

Of course I shared it with Julie… and a handful of my closest friends and family tracked my progress. But it was my journey. The things I needed to prove were things I needed to prove to myself and nobody else. I’d lived my trauma alone, and whatever validation I needed was internal.

Nearly 2 months later, typing on my phone from a boat in the Seychelles, I’m beginning to feel like sharing. I’ll save the story of how I end up in the planet’s remote places for another time, but as I rest here, surrounded by beauty, I’m pondering the ways in which my journey might help shine a light for others.

I had a lot of time to think and feel on the road. I think some of those thoughts and feelings may have value for others. I’m going to set about slowly figuring out how best to do that now.

Still Pedaling

When: Match 28, 2022 | Where: Natchitoches, Louisiana
Miles Cycled: 2,473 | Days on the Road: 98

In early February, I spent a few nights in Scottsdale, Arizona. I was stressed out because I hadn’t been finding time to post to Lemuel’s Ramble. I was also having difficulty managing all the gear (especially the camping gear) and packing on a day-to-day basis.

A friend suggested that cycling across a continent might be enough for the moment. Maybe the blog needed to wait. Maybe the rigors of camping on top of the straightforward difficulty of the cyldle were more than I needed to take on at once.

I’d been thinking a lot about my adhd, and how it truly has impacted me… how I’d forced my way through life by pounding my head against it.

After some time to consider it, I took the advice. I sent the camping gear home, and resolved to document my journey and thoughts after I’d accomplished what I’d set out to do.

A lot has happened since I last wrote, starting with 2000+ miles I’ve cycled. I will write about it all at length in the months ahead. For now, as I was sitting here having hotel room coffee for the umpteenth time, just a quick hello to anyone still listening to let you know I’m still going, and that things are going well.

It’s less than 900 miles from here to Savannah, Georgia, where I intend to wrap things up. I’m much stronger, and a bit lighter than I was when I last updated. And I’m feeling positive about the journey so far, and about what remains of it.

More to come… but maybe not for a few weeks. 🙂

You probably wouldn’t take me for someone who gets hurt easily

When: January 17 , 2022 | Where: Palmdale, California
Miles Cycled: 382 | Days on the Road: 28

***Writing this on my second night in Palmdale, after summiting the highest climb (3,237 feet) I’m likely to see on this side of the Mississippi.***

I’m probably the biggest guy you’ve ever seen on a bike.  I’m without a doubt the slowest guy on the road (at least I haven’t passed anyone yet). I am very likely the most sincere and genuine person you will ever meet. I’m kind and compassionate.

I’m smarter than most.  But, I often get out of the shower, having forgotten to rinse the soap off.   ADHD often makes me scattered.  I can be talking to someone, start a sentence, veer into a series of tangents, and find myself still talking several minutes later, completely unaware of what my point was. I think the people who know me well think it’s endearing.

My sense of empathy is sometimes a burden; sometimes I feel what others feel so strongly it hurts. 

I’m a pleaser, and seek approval.  I wouldn’t have really believed that about myself prior to getting sober.  Or even for some lengthy period of time after that. I remember coming to the realization around Thanksgiving of 2020, and still taking a couple of months to actually believe it.  I saw a meme recently that said,

“A child who can sense that they’re not living up to their parents’ expectations becomes the adult who betrays themselves for validation.”

Reading it, I felt like I got hit in the solar plexus. It seemed to explain too much about me.

I’m big (as noted), and I have a booming voice.  You probably wouldn’t take me for someone who gets hurt easily, but I am.  I got hurt deeply before I left.  That’s too big a topic for this post. Suffice that it’s made me question my most deeply-held beliefs and principles.

By the time I left, my voyage of physical health and self-discovery had become as much about escaping and forgetting. I left 5 days before Christmas, because the idea of Christmas… the idea of celebrating anything felt like a giant and cruel practical joke to me.  I wanted no part of it.

Rejection hypersensitivity is a common trait among those with ADHD. The first time I read that, I burst into tears.  For the truth of it, and for the myriad ways rejection has seemed to seek me out over the course of my life, from the extreme bullying I endured in elementary school and my parents’ apathy about it, to the machinations my father’s fifth wife went through to exclude me from his funeral.

My Ramble is not a feel-good story right now. Maybe it will become one, but I’ve always sought what’s real, and that’s what I’ll strive to give you as this progresses 

At the moment, I’m taking refuge in the business of undertaking this excursion. The actual cycling and the logistics of being on the road and navigating across a continent have added up to a lot of work. After managing that, creating “Lemuel’s Ramble,” and trying to build it into something worthwhile has taken up what time remains.

I will say that my state of mind has generally improved over the past 4 weeks of cycling.  I was feeling thoroughly alienated from most things when I rolled out of my driveway alone.  Much of that has worn away as I’ve used some of my time to reconnect with friends, and to make new connections

My physical strength has improved a lot, and with accomplishment… even accomplishment that’s still largely unshared… has come some positive energy. 

A friend asked if there had been any moments where I wanted to quit, or felt like this was crazy.  Oddly, that sounded like a foreign concept to me. 

When I left, there wasn’t much for me at all at home.  I felt compelled to be gone from there, and to get on with the business of this quest as soon as was possible.  Nobody would confuse me with Tony Robbins at this point, but I can say that I’m exactly where I want and need to be. The idea of going “home” sounds terrible.