Thursday, June 30, 2011

Weekly Beatdown

Today's beatdown was all about weakness. Every kind. Skip this one unless you enjoy long, drawn out, potentially depressing, amateur psychiatry.

Sometimes you get a song stuck in your head...

"The whole world is my enemy - and I'm a walking target.
Two times the devil with all the significance...
...They're closing in, I can't escape.

Awesome song. Melodramatic for sure, but that's where my head is at the moment. How many times did somebody hate you today? I mean real, pure, determined hate - the kind you can't just write off? Riding on the road, you get it a lot. Sometimes it's just people yanking your chain, but sometimes it's that raw, deep, dead serious hate. I got more than my share of that today, and I was either on the shoulder, or in an empty lane, every time. I wasn't in anybody's way. It wasn't what I was doing that anyone hated. It was that I was there at all.

I'm pretty sure I know why it bothers me, though unfortunately knowing doesn't seem to make it not bother me. When I was a short little nerd kid, everyone was bigger than me, no fear checked their anger, and every conflict escalated in three sentences: statement, disagreement, threat of violence. I then had the choice to fight or cower. But the choice was really just whether I wanted to suffer physically or mentally. This was routine until late in high school. I was fairly tough, especially later when I became a skateboarder. I'd hurt myself all the time, way more than any bully could, but that just left a string of unsatisfied bullies, waiting for an excuse to try again. Sometimes somebody would get clever and I'd take some damage.

So, whenever it seems like somebody is truly angry with me, that's where my mind goes. By the time I rationalize that the other guy is wrong, or that he's an adult who probably won't actually attack me, the fear has long since set in. Maybe fear isn't the right word. It's more like: "Damn, I might be about to get injured, again." There's adrenaline in there, disappointment, betrayal, some amount of determination... It's hard to articulate.

I know plenty of people that this doesn't really happen to, for a variety of reasons. Many were bigger than me, rarely got bullied and never built the association. Some are so convinced that they're right about everything that they can instantly dismiss all negativity: "Ha, f' that guy!" and that's literally the end of it for them. Some can't differentiate between what somebody says and how they say it, so they dismiss anything spoken discourteously: "How rude!" Some are rebellious and are actually looking for conflict. Some are bullies and looking for conflict. Some have relatively poor memories; last year is a blur, their childhood is a fog and nothing reminds them of anything else unless it happened recently. Some people are affected, but they keep themselves distracted with alcohol or whatever. Etc. None of those solutions really apply to me. I'm not sure I'd want some of them to.

People have told me: "don't let things bother you" but I'm not letting anything do anything. There's no voluntary thought involved. It's like if you know some subject really well and somebody asks you a question about it, you don't think up the answer, it's just top of mind. Is there some mechanism through which that can be turned off? Somebody says something threatening or sufficiently negative and I immediately remember similar encounters, including that pseudo-fear thing I was trying to describe earlier. It's instantaneous.

I know there's desensitization. If enough conflicts turn out differently, I'll ultimately build a different association. As an adult, you don't run into nearly enough conflict for that to happen unless you go looking for it, really hard. Maybe by the time I'm 70 I'll have run into enough.

The real drag is that everything I do for fun has some amount of this wrapped up in it now. My mind wanders, especially when my blood sugar gets low. On the road, even if nobody's yelling at me, I'll eventually remember that someone did. In the woods, even on foot, I'll eventually remember being held at gunpoint over a border dispute or GAFW's heavy handed rhetoric or the shaking rage of one of their board members, barely able to control the tone of his voice as he explained to me all the reasons that I should be banned from the forest.

And so on.

Again, I can rationalize that these people are wrong, but by the time I've done that, the fear has long since set in. I guess that's the idea though: scare somebody enough and they'll quit whatever it is you don't like them doing.

I try really, really hard to be objective, tolerant, unselfish, non-judgemental, and all that. "I could always be wrong." I live by that. So, there's always that nagging internal conflict when somebody judges me: "This guy is being an ass, but is he actually wrong? I should evaluate this." Sometimes it's simple but so often there is no definitive right or wrong, just a long list of subjective pros and cons or insufficient evidence to clearly go one way or the other. The brain can consume innumerable, precious calories engaged in such analysis.

I've made a lot of friends over the years, and sometimes doing stuff with them tricks my brain. "If we're all doing it, it must be OK." Sometimes being around company occupies my mind and no negative thoughts even occur. Ideally, I'm having so much fun that the fun itself is thoroughly distracting. It doesn't always work though, and besides, I do a lot of stuff by myself, a long way from home, low on blood sugar, alone with my thoughts.

And so it was today. I got out of the house around 5, spun my little Dave's Creek/Melody Mizer/Gilbert loop, got harassed substantially more times and more heavy-handedly than usual, and showed up to the shop too late to roll out with the B1 group, already shell-shocked and feeling sorry for myself like a weak little example of one of the names I was called earlier. It started with a B.

I tried to hang with the A group.

Some dudes derided us on the roll out, and there may have been a grain of real anger in it, but it was so creatively executed that I have to give them credit. The guy in the passengers seat got both arms an his entire upper torso out of the window, gave us both fingers and yelled "Everybody hates every f'ing one of you!" as they drove by slowly. What was disappointing was that the car was very recognizable. I've seen it around town; a gold mid-nineties Taurus or Sable with some kind of bumper sticker about some "real pizza" place. I've eaten at Atlanta Bread Company when it was parked in the lot. These people are part of my community, my neighbors. Which of the rest of my neighbors have the same opinion?

My A group attempt failed on the second major climb. I have become disgustingly weak. I have zero depth. My weight is in the right range, but looking in the mirror I appear fluffier than I should for this weight. Have I actually lost muscle? I feel like I've suddenly gotten old, this year. Part of it was in my head too. When you're on the rivet, any little distraction will break you and I was mentally weak today. Like I said, today's beatdown was all about weakness. All around.

Also, I got more of the same treatment by drivers on the way home.

This kind of thing comes and goes though. Today it was here, maybe tomorrow it will have gone. It's hard to say.

One day at a time.


  1. Haters gonna hate. Sorry to hear it for your sake though... maybe this will help cheer you up?


  2. Ha! Yeah, that about sums it up. Haters gonna hate.

  3. buck up, Dave. They are not hating you in particular, they don't even hate bikes, they just need an outlet for their frustrations at their sad lives.

    Go ride some gravel! there are a few idiots driving on the gravel too, but they are generally spaced pretty far apart.

  4. Thanks Emily. I know you're right, it's just a drag sometimes. It comes and goes. I feel fine today.