STILL MAROONED AT MILE MARKER ZERO.
If you’re reading this blog post, or essay, or creative nonfiction piece, or e-memoir, or #whatevertheyarecallingitthesedays, this early in the process/odyssey, it’s likely that you know me personally to some degree. (#myshitwillblowuplater #bewarned)
That being the case, you may be aware that I run a wee bit anxious.
(Note: ‘wee’ not as in small but as in “This little piggy cried ‘WEE, WEE, WEE’ all the way home, that is, after going to market, obsessing about what to buy, getting stuff he didn’t need, planning to go the next day but then staying home because what if he went back and bought the wrong thing, they’d know, bingeing on tons of roast beef, then denying himself roast beef from this day forward because of bingeing on Food, Inc. plus 3.5 other depressing documentaries on Netflix – not all of which are about factory farming – and then starting the whole process again. … Dig?)
Predictably, one of the manifestations of this condition is OMIGAD (Obsessive Manifestation of Information Gathering to Avoid Decision-making). When confronted with a decision, whether potentially life-changing or much, much less significant in real-life terms, I often think (out loud) to myself, because others have suggested as much, “You should make a list of pros and cons and then decide based on that.” Then I think not aloud, Ha! You’re not the sort of person who’d sit down and make a list! You’re way too disorganized, you’re too awesome, you’re a piece of caca-doodoo, you’re fine just the way you are and don’t you forget it, but you won’t remember what to write once you sit down to do it, you’re way too organized, you don’t have a pen, you have too many pens, what about paper, use what’s in the printer, that’s wasteful, no! don’t write on that!, you don’t need a pen and paper, you have the Notes app, you hate the Notes app, no you don’t, you use it all the time, go for a 10k run to clear your head, you can decide later, but only after you write the evaluation section of (fill in the blank) grant proposal.
Then I realize (paraphrasing the realization), holy shit, you are absolutely that sort of person because you are constantly making a list of pros and cons, albeit inside your head. Yes, yes. Information gathering. When I was in a drug treatment program (due to a wee drug addiction, Note: ‘wee’ not as in small but as in “This little piggy cried ‘WEE, WEE, WEE’ all the way to rehab”), something a therapist there said in early hazy days clicked for me bigtime: (not a direct quote, caps added for emphasis, not for screaming) PEOPLE WITH ANXIETY CAN’T GET ENOUGH INFORMATION. This therapist, though I haven’t been going regularly for some time now, is technically still my therapist.
So, what’s an example of a decision that currently needs to be made, in real-time. Hmm. Hmmm. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm. …Let’s see… Oh, yes! How about: when do I finally start this cross-country bicycle ride? (Until now, you were like, what does this have to do with a cross-country bicycle ride? And voila! A cycling metaphor! Except that it isn’t a metaphor. IT IS REALITY.)
While all this may be amusing on ‘paper’ (nka [now known as]) ‘screen’), experiencing this anxious indecisiveness is like…hmmmmmmm… pedaling aground. (And now, the cycling metaphor you’ve all been dying for...)
PEDALING AGROUND (caps this time for emphasis, and also for SCREAMING). Aground in the sense that I can still pedal but it’s more or less in place. You watch me pedal, struggle. The hole deepens from the pedaling, or the concrete sets, or the sludge from the oil spill off the coast oozes further onto the beach where you are cycling in place. You make helpful suggestions about how I might progress (way way way too many to list here). In response, the pedaling gets faster, signifying hold on, I got this. The bicycle moves forward ever so slightly. My progress is perceptible to me but not to you. You tap your foot impatiently. The tap is perceptible to me but not to you, because you actually didn’t tap your foot, you just shifted your weight, hoping I wouldn’t notice. (Note: This is akin to when you sigh expansively vs taking a normal breath.) The pedaling gets slower but only as a concession, because you’re still standing there, looming. There’s calorie output, sure, but my stats are lackluster. Am I tired? I don’t know. I can’t ask you if I’m tired, because then you’ll know I’m tired, and you’ll say a) ‘How can I know if you’re tired? You have to decide that for yourself’ (result = chagrined) OR b) ‘Yes, you’re tired. Stop the pedaling.’ (result = scolded). In either case (Note: there is a c, d, e, and f, and maybe even g, but I don’t have time to list them all), your response is moot, because I can’t stop pedaling anyway. Youthink, smugly, ‘Can’t’ or Won’t? Eventually, I stop pedaling – just for a second, mind you – to scratch an itch, or eat a gallon of sugar, or have a poo, or turn on TRMS to find out the latest on the special counsel’s inquiry into Russian election meddling. I cease the pedaling very quietly so you won’t know that I did, because I can’t (or won’t? hah!) bear that. Your ignorance to my break is only possible because you’re no longer there to witness the ceasing of the pedaling in person, as you’ve retired to the other room to complete an archived NY Times acrostic from 2008, which is how far back you’ve gotten while waiting for the decision to be made – and you’re freaking out about that yourself because a) you shouldn’t waste time with such a pastime, you lazy bastard, b) you ‘cheat’ anyway because you look up answers you don’t know, c) well, that’s how you learn!, d) but it’s still cheating!, e) but it’s not like I’m telling anyone I’m good at acrostics because I’m not even admitting that I do them at all!, f) there is no f!, g) unless I think of one before I publish this!, h) infinity!
(Revealing note: the ‘you’ in this elaborate, clunky metaphor, sprinkled with a couple true-to-life details, is also me. Except when it’s You, Dear Reader (aka, Someone Who Has Been Personally and/or Professionally Directly Impacted by This Internal/External Mania/Monologue).
And so on. … Dig?
Hey, at least I can provide options and multiple scenarios (sometimes including catastrophic ones) for just about any situation! That’s a trapping. Right?
All this to say, I was supposed to leave on my bike trip on 5/18. Ooh, 18 is a good number, divisible by so many other numbers.
But the rain was incessant. Seriously, records were broken. Then it was 5/19. Yes! That’s perfect because 19 was my favorite number when I was a kid, don’t know whym maybe because it’s divisible by nother. My sister Natalie’s was 13, also divisible by nothing. Primes are stone cold survivors, like me and my sister!
But I’d come down with something. A cold? I had a fever, the first time in ages. Can’t even remember the last time. I hate being sick, because it chips away at my I never get sick trope. I’m way happier to talk about how crazy I am than acknowledge a chip in the physical armor, bleh and creaky as it is having barely moved my body in like 2 weeks. … Ok, so 5/20. Good number. Twenty. Very manly and capable. Two kings or two jacks. Or one of each – sexy! Or queens, I guess.
The weather is okay on god’s rest day, but I am not. Monday, secular start-of-the-week, 5/21 it is! Blackjack!
Feeling lucky. But poorly. Ok, then Tuesday is my final offer. 5/22. I’m born on a 22nd– so that is ideal!
But the rain has come again. Major thunderstorms battering this house as we speak. And to be honest, I wasn’t feeling it, despite being packed and ready to load the bike. I’d even stripped the bed. Am I tired? Am I sick? Am I afraid? AM I LAZY? …So how about 5/23? (No thoughts about 23. … Okay, I’m lying. It is prime and I do like a good prime.)
So, what’s the BFD about waiting another day? On the phone yesterday, my friend Samm helped me work through it, asked me, “Well, what’s the worst that can happen [if you wait]?”
When someone, especially someone like Samm who never lets me get away with anything, asks that sort of question, one knows that one’s answers will be insufficient. I had wanted to get to my cousins’ in Cleveland during the upcoming holiday weekend, but they apparently aren’t stressing about it. I’m here at Natalie’s (who I must ask if she still loves 13 and the color green as much as she used to), my sister who’s a doctor for god sake and is feeding me, in her lovely home with a guest bedroom, with my brother-in-law who’s helpful during any conversation (demonstrated by his willingness to produce his phone to Wikipedia any gap in our knowledge and read aloud the answer, donning often deftly performed accents peppered with clever editorializing), my 15-year-old niece who’s as happy to have me here as any 15-year-old is demonstrably happy about anything, and two tiny kitten-nephews who arrived here the other day. I would have missed them had I gone off without a hitch.
Disappointing people or making them angry at me, burdening them with a reason to have even one bad thought about me, is the worst that can happen. And try as I might to prevent this (boy, do I try! …though I’m working on letting go of all that bullshit), it does happen, and I survive it every time. My family isn’t angry that I’m waylaid in their abode. It’s thundering and lightening out like a motherfucker right now. So…then who? Who is disappointed and angry? (Don’t say, “You are, Danny. It’s you, Daniel!” I say, “Because we aren’t going there, that’s why!”)
Sheepishly, because I know Samm will roll her eyes so hard on the phone that I’ll hear her optic nerve stretch, I suggest flaking on the bike hosts from warmshowers.org who I’ve been planning to stay with on the first night and have been giving the play-by-play (not today but tomorrow, no not tomorrow but…and so on) is the worst that can happen. It’s them who I’ve disappointed. They think I’m a total LA flake. They know for sure that I am feigning illness, or that I am just plain lazy. Or maybe they think I am gaslighting them, posing as an American traveler in need! Or maybe they don’t even believe I am human: they think I’m a bot texting them about a homeshare! Damn those Russians!
So this morning, when I ‘called it’ for another day of rest/not-rest, I cringed as I texted the warmshowers.org couple, knowing that the jig was up this time, despite Samm’s oh, please, Daniel! response to me yesterday.
Here’s the text convo from today:
Then, at 10:01AM:
Kidding. Their response was sure, it’s a good idea because the weather will be better tomorrow. They said they’ll be on a bike ride with a group, to make myself at home, gave me the Wi-Fi info, and told me that the outdoor shower temperature is backwards (cold = hot).
It’s all in my head.
Unless I burn my ass in that shower tomorrow evening!