Monday, December 30, 2013

Week #52: What Have We Learned?

So we have finally reached Week #52 of this experiment, as well as the point of December in which my old lady strength is kicking in enough to get me through New Year's Eve. The Christmasiness has reached it's end, and I finally got to come home to my kitties on Saturday. I even found the strength to get up and kick off my 2014 Death March training on Sunday, despite travel fatigue and blown hamstrings from rolling Frank's niece and nephew around his parents' basement in a very large bucket on Friday night. Apparently I found some effective way to interact with children, which is something that doesn't come very naturally to me.

My first ride was rough due to the conditions mentioned above, and the fact that the weather went from 42 and sunny to very cold, windy, and overcast by the end of the ride. I was very slow, but I was glad that I was able to put in nearly 50 miles in the first go, a task that took several weeks to work up to last year. I also already have the navigation part on lock already, unless some new checkpoints are added. I sort of hope that there are, as I need the strategy part of the race on my side. If nothing changes strategy-wise, the competition will inevitably smarter, which means that I will have to be faster. I'm doing my best to account for that with training early and often, but I still welcome any changes that might swing the odds in my favor.

My not-flat gravel ride in Oklahoma last week
I'm already facing my first challenge of the new season as Frank is being called back to State College by work two days earlier than planned, which will leave me training solo next weekend as well as robbing me of two precious days with him when I wasn't going to get very many this month to begin with. I'm trying my best not to be too pouty about this, but it is a huge bummer. During my mental complaining about this during Sunday's solo ride, I came to the conclusion that The Hopshop is the pink-haired hootchie of 2014.

For some reason it seems like I should tell this story now as it is funny many months and intervening events removed. At the time I wasn't in full brutal honesty stage yet and there was a definite element of "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all". The deal is that last year my partner fell in love with a pink-haired hootchie in Chicago that pretty much rendered him useless as training partner during the month of February. Now don't get up in arms about this statement; this was just the title that was bestowed on her, and I can't actually comment on anything positive or negative regarding her personality or any other attributes only that she inadvertently caused me disappointment and inconvenience and thus I was happy to propagate the title. Mature, I know.

I kept this out of my blogging except for a couple of vague references to being mad about having to ride alone, but since I knew I was being somewhat unreasonable in my expectations, I kept the public bitching to a minimum. I was just disappointed that I was left to deal with things on my own during what we all now know was a much more rough period of my life than I'd admit at the time and didn't like being deprived of one of the few things that I had to look forward to during those months. However, it turned out to be a very formative experience for me because it was the first significant time in my life when I dealt with disappointment in a constructive rather than a destructive manner. It forced me to be creative in keeping up my motivation and to seek out help from sources that I wouldn't have otherwise, which lead to several great friendships and a greater sense of self-sufficiency. Also, I can't really be mad looking back now, because I now know have first-hand experience with what long-distance love can do to a person, so I'm much more sympathetic. I don't expect that I could have received nominations for any super awesome dependable friend awards in the last six months, either.

So what does this random snippet of unblogged material from 2013 have to do with year-end review? Everything, really. It contains all of the elements related to my 2013 resolutions, as well as the things that I would like to improve in 2014. To review, my 2013 resolutions were the following:

1) To increase both the quantity and quality of my friendships.

 2) To cultivate interests outside of cycling so that I have other things to talk about with all of these awesome new friends.

This experience was the real turning point at which I started to make headway on these resolutions, and I probably wouldn't have made the successful trajectory that I did this year without being forced out of my comfort zone. I feel like I was very successful in achieving the first goal, although it is an ongoing process, and this year I want to continue to improve in this area. As I mention above, I have let one very special new social connection take precedence over the others the last few months, and I want to work harder to give more time and energy to my other relationships without giving any less to my relationship with Frank. This won't necessarily be easy, finding more to give, but I think that's part of the growing path that I am on, and I will find a way.

As for the second resolution, I'm not sure that I achieved it in letter, but I think I achieved it in spirit. Part of this was really just about doing things with other people besides cycling. I got a lot better at this. I didn't really take up any huge new hobbies or anything, but I made my prior interests more social. For example, cooking is a lot more exciting when it's for other people, rather than just fueling yourself. I still don't really have any close non-bike friends, which I feel would be an asset, but I think I've been pretty successful overall.

Finally, my new goals for 2014 are woven throughout my anecdote, although they've really only become clear to me lately. Those are to be less self-absorbed and also to love/care for people on their own level.

I'm hoping the first will help with generating more time and energy for friends if I'm not so wrapped up in my own stuff. Although I consider myself to be pretty empathetic in general, I do have a way of just forgetting to think about other people. It's not even being purposely selfish or asshole-like, although I'm not innocent of those either, but that I just don't know how to behave correctly towards people that I care about because I've been disconnected from normal functioning society for too long. The whole realization that I should have sent out Christmas cards is an example of this. I hate fake pleasantries, and I'm not used to having people that care about me and that I care about them, so the fact that I should engage in genuine expressions of my appreciation and affection slipped my mind. So basically, I want people to actually benefit from having a relationship with me rather just having them like me. There really is a difference.

As for love/care for people on their own level, this is more complicated. What I mean by this is the emotional bargaining that goes on between people. You like someone and want them to like you back, so you give them something physically, emotionally, or socially. However, what you have to offer and what they truly want are not necessarily the same thing, so is the relationship worthwhile? Can you like someone based on the fact that they like you, even if it's not in the way you want?

This mostly has to do with my relationship with my mother, as we have come to an impasse where I've realized that we will never really be able to give the other one what they want. She is very religious, and her religion simply does not compute with me. We really, truly cannot see things from each other's point of view. She is my mother and I love her for loving me and doing so many things for me, but I will never really have her approval as long as I stay true to myself. So resolving this is the biggest example of this phenomenon is my life, but it's true with everyone on some micro level.

So there is my plan for the upcoming year. I have one more tough semester away from Frank that will include a lot more three-weeks breaks than the mostly two week breaks we had through the fall, but it's what has to happen so that we can be together full-time in a few months. Hopefully, I can once again turn my free time into something constructive, and handle my disappointment in a positive manner.

Here's to 2014!

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