Like most women on the shit end of that five word phrase, I've come to fear and resent it. So often unexplained, I've been forced to interpret it to mean not what it states, but that "it most certainly is you, but to accelerate this break up, I'll just take the blame for it. Oh, and there's the door." That phrase, towards which any action seems helpless, has an effect much like the Lehman Brothers' announcement of bankruptcy: my presentability to the general public drops like the Dow, while the economy and I commence a general plunge into the sweatpants phase of "totally letting myself go." Anguished self-interrogation is often involved.
It would be nice to say, here, that it's for these reasons that I've avoided using this phrase when breaking up with someone. You know, tell a white lie, get me some humanitarian points, give off the impression that I've had opportunities to initiate breaking it off with significant others...unfortunately, though I'm prone to general pessimism, past boyfriends will be hard pressed to say that I wasn't at least adamantly optimistic about our quickly deteriorating relationships. So much so that I've ignored clear red flags like a total lack of a sense of humor, or the inability to comprehend simple grammatical rules. Somehow, my generosity failed to be appreciated…and…well, you get the idea.
So it wasn't until my last weekend as a 28 year old that I learned exactly what it feels like to say, "really babe, it's not you, it's me."
Okay, maybe I didn't actually say those words. And maybe the decision was forced on me. And maybe I only came to the conclusion that it wasn't working out after I spent a weekend weeping in frustration, anguish, and self-loathing. But a weekend is still less than weeks/a month/several months/a year; significant enough to consider it progress.
And though I was the one initiating the break up, even if it was with a training program, it still hurt. A lot more than I expected.
Since my first race in June, the disappointment of disappointing others had lingered, ensuring that I would throw myself into training for the next one. I had four weeks to drop weight, get stronger, and build up my endurance. Undaunted by the near impossibility of accomplishing all three simultaneously, I picked up a copy of Chris Carmichael’s “Time Crunched Cyclist,” and proceeded to hammer out intervals three times a week on an empty stomach. On Sundays I would do longer rides with hill repeats thrown in. I bonked at work but figured that generally feeling like you just got T-boned by a semi was normal and medicated with copious amounts of coffee.
It [obviously] didn’t work. Two Saturdays ago I couldn’t finish my last set of intervals; the next day I tried to ride outside, only to come home within 20 minutes, sobbing. An attempt to get on the rollers afterwards escalated into bawling my eyes out for the rest of the day. This level of complete and utter depression – one that wasn’t alleviated by a little outdoor riding – was unusual even for someone who was once christened “Doom and Gloom” by a previous boyfriend. I finally took the hint, stopped riding altogether, tried to fix up that “cheese grater in my kneecap” feeling, had an embarrassing meltdown in the shop, and ended up spending race day at home. I would have been in sweatpants if it hadn’t been 33C/91F.
The time off the bike was probably much needed, but that didn’t make it any less upsetting. What was more alarming though was that after a full week off – something I hadn’t done in months – a general apathy began to settle in. At first, like the random guy who grabs your wheel and won’t let go, any thoughts of riding were followed closely by some lame [yet in my mind, justifiable] excuse. After a few days, I stopped trying to reason with myself and nixed ideas of a quick spin or a slow ride with a simple, lazy, “…nahhh.”
I suppose this is called “burn out,” but knowing that cycling is something that I should want to do makes it harder to accept. A few days ago, after passing my parked bike without so much as a glance, I caught myself wondering if this wasn’t just a prolonged death knell for my cycling in general. Whether the move to Tokyo, the inability to communicate, the lack of friends, and the consequent mixture of anxiety, frustration, and depression aren’t the same red flags I tend to ignore in otherwise totally compatible boyfriends. That perhaps I am once again ignoring the obvious, in the hope that the impossible might, if I just try hard enough, work out.
In response to my wailing, well-versed friends did the virtual equivalent of picking me up, dusting me off, changing my flat, and handing me back my bike. Just as they’ve done every time I’ve eaten shit on that unstable bicycle of Dating and Relationships. And like those post-boyfriend-endo moments, I’m still sort of standing there, unable to clip back in out of fear, guilt, and those occasional moments of bitter rage. The expected liberation of being on the other side of an “it’s not you, it’s me,” never panned out, but I've realized that maybe [hopefully] I've been wrong this whole time. Those five words aren’t always a disingenuous attempt to rid your life of an unwanted other, but can be a concession that sometimes, no matter how hard you might try, right now, at this point in life, you just can’t keep up. It hurts to admit due to it’s simple honesty; because it wasn’t Chris Carmichael, or the bike. It really was all me.
There is, however, one freedom that results from that concession. Assuming an interest in not being a repeat offender/abuser of the phrase, it's one that points to obligations and a personal responsibility to work towards a better version of yourself. It might not save you from overtraining [that's all you], but there's the hope that you just might be on the receiving end of those five words, next time.