Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Knowledge-Anxiety Paradox


A few years ago, I was happily unaware of all of the bad things that could happen to me. I was indestructible, even if other people were not. My favorite daily activity in high school was seeing how fast I could bomb down a steep, residential hill on my mountain bike where the cops had placed a solar-powered speed radar. Cars pulling out of driveways? What was that? If I didn't hit 40 mph, it was a bad day.

Now I am very aware of the damage a vehicle can do to my squishy form. And the damage giant, razor-toothed jaws can do to my sqiushy form. And the damage I seem to do to my squishy form every time I get to the run of an Xterra event. After years of beating myself up, I am massively pissed when any body part retaliates. Just ask my appendix. One uprising from him, and he was permanently exiled.

So now I am anxious thinking about riding my bike around this giant city. It's war. Everything out there is the enemy. Dogs. Squirrels (the former editor of Bicycling caught one in his front wheel and was sent flying over his handlebars). Cars. Joggers. Cops that give tickets for rolling through stop signs when nobody else is there.

I am anxious about swimming in the ocean. My "it'll never happen to me" attitude has been replaced with this logic: mosquitoes prefer me to absolutely every one else around me, so sharks will too.

Paradoxically, these are the exact activities that do away with my anxiety--and the few activities that bring on the wretched feeling in the first place.

On the bike, I am happy. Weightless in the ocean, riding a wave into shore, I am free. Running, well, thanks to Mr. Hambutt, that's not currently an option. But if it were, I'd say it makes me feel powerful and connected to my surroundings.

What is the solution, when swim, bike, run are the only things that engender anxiety in me on a daily basis--and the only things that can take the emotion away?

I could move to a non-urban setting with a lake, thereby doing away with the obstacles that cause anxiety in the first place. Or I can exercise first thing in the morning, before my brain can think of ways my squishy form might be splatted on the road like a can of Jackson Pollock's paint.

It is strange that my actions have stayed the same when the thoughts preceding those actions have changed completely.

I still bomb down hills in an attempt to see how fast I can go, fully knowing that, on a certain road, my bike might somehow vibrate at the exact frequency that will crack the carbon fiber in two and send me flying. Or that someone could whack me with their car.

I still swim in the ocean knowing I could be eaten.

So have I made any progress? Was I worse off before, blissfully ignorant of what might happen? Or am I better off now, totally cognizant of the risks I take, but taking them anyway? The thought process has been altered, but the ultimate outcome in my actions is no different.

And with that, I shall conclude my Tinley-esque rant.


Triathlete Diva

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