I quit bikes for a bit this week. It was on Monday, and I quit for about half an hour. I’m not sure why, but this off-season I have found it very challenging to find motivation to do the same thing (pedaling) over and over again. So I did what all good bike fanatics do—I tricked myself into getting back onto my bike again. I mentally allowed myself the relief of quitting.
On Monday, I did no riding—I didn’t even consider it. Was my life drastically changed? Not particularly. I went about my day working, husbanding, parenting and rocking (I do that occasionally—slowly), and there were no drastic changes. As cyclists, we set up a complicated system of motivation and guilt to get ourselves outdoors (some even go as far as writing books about this subject or making up programs with capitalized alphabetic monikers like "ACT" or "MOVE" or "BUNK" that explain the program’s motivation), and that got me to wondering—how long would it take to wean me off that mindset? How long would it take for me to miss the guilt?
I am a person that tends to turn every activity into work. I do this not because I enjoy toiling away, but I do it because I like the feeling of finishing something. Sandwich made, mission accomplished! Sandcastle completed, time for 9 beers. I’m not sure if this is because I am genetically predisposed to this way of thinking or if it’s because I’ve been trained to think this way. I’ve had a job of one form or another since the age of 8. My childhood home was attached to the front of my father’s two-employee concrete factory (known to us as the "shop"), I began my work career by shoveling the spilled sand that was left behind by dump trucks as they dropped off the sand for mixing the concrete. The amount of sand would vary, depending upon the accuracy or sobriety of the truck driver. I earned one dollar for each batch of sand shoveled. I eventually saved enough of these dollars to purchase a bicycle for myself, cementing (nice near pun, eh?) for myself the relationship between bikes and drudgery.
I have had a job ever since, as a kid I enjoyed the money to spend on superfluous items, and as an adult I enjoy using money on eating and being non-destitute. My jobs since my sand shoveling days have been as follows: concrete laborer, pizza delivery person, telemarketer, bar back, lifeguard, screen printer, doorman, construction laborer, production artist and finally design kingpin, which is my job today. Note I do not mention "writer" anywhere in that list, as I have never been to paid to write, that’s right, you’re reading the words of an amateur. My long employment record has left a permanent imprint upon my mind, if I don’t feel like I’m getting things done; I get anxious. Perhaps that’s why I chose cycling as a recreational activity. There are ample opportunities to endlessly grind away, in fact, the more you can grind the better you become. Cycling is a godsend for lunatics.
My retirement on Monday lasted until Tuesday, when I decided to employ the motivational mind trick of the cycling maniac—the rest week. Yes, I decided the best way to renew my compulsion for bikes was to ride bikes less. This is, like I’ve said before, like drinking light beer to sober up; but it is how my mind works. If I am left without a job to finish or a sand pile to dispose of, I get antsy. And when work is not satisfying my need to accomplish something, I turn to my bike, as it’s an easy way to fill a box on my check list of madness. One day, I will retire from riding bikes, either through infirmity or lethargy, but as of today, I have sipped the light beer of renewed compulsion and I shall ride again. I will not, however be sharing any ride data, because I took the week off from being an obsessed numbers nutcase. I’m going to let that sand pile sit there.