Monday, July 28, 2014

The Tiny Hammer

I came in like a wrecking ball
I never hit so hard in love
All I wanted was to break your walls
All you ever did was wreck me
Yeah, you, you wreck me

For those first promising 2-3 weeks of mountain biking in State College, it seemed like I was on a nice trajectory out of the disrepair into which my fitness had fallen during the stressful transition into moving here. Then a bunch of stuff happened: work conference, furniture move, crazy junk food fueled working weekend during our software upgrade, the cold from hell and its lingering life-sucking effects, shoulder and hip pain from my not-so-ergonomic desk at work, and various other social obligations. For nearly three months now, I’ve never managed to make more than a week’s worth of forward progress before something happened to set it back again.

It hasn’t really taken much to get off-track, as I haven’t ever gotten the chance to get that solid foundation of seeing real progress that I’m highly-motivated to keep up in the face of adversity. Things always feel incredibly shitty when you’re trying to get back into a positive routine, but I haven’t yet made it to the point where I start to get past the shittiness and start to feel good again. The fact that my ability to physically recover seems to have tanked since moving here doesn’t help; is 33 really that much older than 32 was? It’s just shitty white-knuckling, interruption, regression, repeat.

This summer has been metaphorical exercise in trying to tear down a brick wall with a childrens’ toy hammer. When I first started to see what I was up against, I thought the answer was to maybe walk away and let erosion work on the wall for a while, or hope that maybe someone would leave me a bigger hammer to work with while I wasn’t looking. Instead, every time I come back to the wall, I find that someone has filled in any minor chips that I was able to make before and maybe even added another layer of protective coating. Then I have to just start smacking again with my tiny hammer just to get back to the pathetic place I was before.

One good thing we did do this week is implement the Tuesday Night Mountain Climb, which I only regret not doing sooner. It's a really effective workout for relatively little time or mental effort.

So a couple of weeks ago, I noticed this pattern and started to get pretty pissed about it. I also got pretty pissed at anything that was keeping me from improving it. Hammering away at the wall with my tiny hammer feels terrible, but letting the wall stand is also not an option. For the last couple of years, I’ve been trying really hard to stop being that lame-o person who puts training over social connection, but I started to get stressed out and panicky about how I just wanted to make a noticeable dent in that fucking wall, and that I kept being asked to do other things instead.

I didn’t get that far into resolving those two conflicting desires, but on Thursday I was so anxious and depressed that it seemed like I forgotten to use my tiny hammer and had simply started beating the wall with my head. So I decided that I should stop hammering with my head, and spend the evening focused on cheering myself up and, you know, not being an asshole to my boyfriend. So instead of dragging my exhausted, ragey butt to the gym, we went out to play mini golf, which lead to restaurant food and beer. It also lead to me feeling and acting less like an asshole. So the real task here is to figure out a way to hold on to my tiny hammer tight enough to keep chipping away at the wall, but not so much that it makes me angry at everything. I also need to find a way to cheer myself up that minimizes backsliding on what progress I do make, which was more the point of my last post than anything that actually had to do with cooking.

So after calming myself down a bit, I made what I felt like was the imperfect but best choice under the circumstances for the weekend. The biggest factor in my panic was that Frank’s aunt was coming to visit, and wanted to leave for New York very early Saturday morning, ride the Brooklyn Bridge, and then spend the night in NYC. I’ve obviously turned into a much better traveler than I’ve been the past, but it still takes a lot out of me, and I feel like I’ve gotten not nearly enough home time since moving to State College. I also didn’t want to miss another weekend of mountain biking; since the weekend before had felt so awful, I wanted to give myself a chance to crack the wall a bit more instead of coming back in two weeks to a newly impenetrable surface at which I would once again have to start chipping away.

When I considered skipping the trip, and there was something uniquely upsetting about my first time voluntarily doing something separately from Frank. I guess a little part of me believes that it’s a slippery slope from choosing to do one thing apart from him to regressing to a relationship where carpooling to races together is the closest thing to intimacy. I was also stressed about family politics and whatnot, so even when I made the decision not to go, it didn’t give me much relief.

I learned that if you make it to the top of the Peep Trail and still have the energy to keep going up the road, you land on this nifty trail where you can take a (solo) #scenicvistaselfie while standing right in the middle of #eastcoastrocks.

It’s too soon to say whether I made the right decision or not, as I still don’t really feel that good about it general, but I do feel really good about the ride that I got in at Cooper’s Gap on Saturday instead. I was still ridiculously slow, but at least it felt like I had a little more to give and was merely metering my effort for what I knew was coming on the Peep climb. It paid off, too, as I made to the final rock-covered 25 meters without the soul-crushing exhaustion I felt last weekend. I still didn’t have enough energy to monster-truck the rocks on top of that, but I got closer at least.

So now I’ve made cracks in the wall two weekends in a row. It still feels pretty terrible, but at least I can see them forming. The next couple of weeks should be a little less daunting as far as making progress goes. I think the important thing I need to focus on is to keep hitting away with the tiny hammer even though it’s no fun, but not drive myself to the point of hitting with my head. Hitting with my head is bad, mmmkay? For now, I have to work with what I have and hope for the best, but I’m adding “bigger hammer” to my Amazon wish list just in case.

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