One of the vexing problems with any bike is the optimal function of the drivetrain. That is, the chain and the crank and the hubs and derailleur. That’s a bunch of moving parts that have to function in good relationship in order to have a bike in working order.
This weekend while riding the hills of Wisconsin once again, my shifting left much to be desired. I slipped the chain early in the ride while jumping from the small to the big ring. It flopped off in all its greasy glory. Even after cleaning the thing the other day it was black with dirt already. A ride in the rain will do that, and there was no time to clean it before our trip north. Or so I told myself.
So I stopped to push the chain back onto the big ring and rode back up to meet the mates. The rest of the ride I paid careful attention to my shifting, usually pushing the left shifter gingerly while I watched the chain shift onto the big ring. Ugh, I’m terrible at that. Too hard sometimes, not hard enough at others.
We rode the Ironman loop and traversed the hills known as Three Bitches once again. I’m starting to love those bitches. There’s a side to all of us that rather loves a bit of bitchiness. A ride without a bit of bitchiness to it can be boring. We’d rather ride up a hill and bitch about it than have nothing to talk about it. Plus we rode much bigger hills during the Horribly Hilly 100 and the Three Bitches no longer seemed so bitchy. We didn’t even bitch about them. That’s the good kind of bitchiness. Life can be a bitch. It’s all in how you deal with it that matters.
Bitchiness in both men and women can be a big problem in relationships. It often takes form in one of those couples fights over nothing. It might start with an unspoken complaint about some aspect of daily life and evolve into something entirely different. Stuff like that happens all the time in relationships.
That type of challenge can be really hard for athletes to manage. There are so many nuances to relationships between athletes. Competitiveness. Time and commitment. Jealousy. Disappointment. Victory and loss.
Dealing with it
I know one couple that runs and rides and swims together. One of them recently got injured. She was miffed that she could not run and participate in their mutual program to qualify for Boston. But rather than come out and say it, and risk sounding like a complainer, she secretly harbored a small grudge that he could still run and she could not.
Well, that sank deeper into her emotional pool until it emerged as a full-on hurt. They fought with silence for a day or two before she confessed, “I just want you to miss me when I’m not out there running with you.”
Actually, that’s really sweet. It is also an apt expression of how we often can’t find the right feelings sometimes in our relationships. It’s like our emotional drive train slips a gear and the chain falls off. We go for a day or so hoping the other person will come by and help us put the chain back on. But ultimately we realize that we have to do that dirty work ourselves. So we bend over and tug and pull and lurch the chain back on and start pedaling to catch up to whatever our mates are doing up ahead.
Then it makes us even madder that they never noticed our chain fell off in the first place. Which starts another whole set of revolutions, and the argument can escalate from there. “You don’t miss me” becomes “You don’t pay enough attention to me” to “You don’t care about me.”
At that point the chain is not only falling off the relationship, it is tangled in the spokes as well. That means you both have to slow down and sort things out together. It might even mean standing out in the rain or the heat with water dripping off your forehead and running down your ass crack as you tug and pull on the greasy chain of love or friendship together.
Yet, it tends to be a greasy chain of love and trust upon which we depend to drive our relationships. We wish it could always stay shiny and clean and working like new, but it doesn’t. Like all collaborative relationships, the drivetrain of love accumulates a little dirt and history along the way. Unresolved feelings tug and pull. A collection of hurts or neglect gets jammed in the links. A gritty conversation or two creates noise and wears down the components. The drag of past relationships gets in the way. All need to be maintained and cleaned up with regular purpose and practice, lest we break a chain and have to start all over again.
Digging in the Dirt
It’s not fun all the time. In fact it’s not fun most of the time dealing with the darker side of our personalities in relationship with others. Peter Gabriel so effectively captures the process in his song, Digging in the Dirt:
Something in me, dark and sticky
All the time it’s getting strong
No way of dealing with this feeling
I can’t go on like this too long
He acknowledges that past hurts can contribute to present disappointments and doubts. It’s almost as if the grease itself sinks into our soul.
The more I look, the more I find
As I close on in, I get so blind
I feel it in my head, I feel it in my toes
I feel it in my sex, that’s the place it goes
We wish our the Derailleur of Destiny were forever functioning in our favor. We flick the shifters of faith on hope that they will work. We ride up and down and around listening to the quiet whirr of our chain. Round and round it goes. Any small click makes us jump. A constant noise makes us worry. We are both chained and unchained from this process. That’s because We are human.
But if you recognize that your relationships take maintenance and that love might require a little lube to keep it working smoothly (both materially and spiritually) then you can be prepared for what comes along in life.
As to that effect, there are some basic tools needed to sort your feelings out and get them back in proper order on the drivetrain of life.
1. Trace those feelings in the direction of their true source, not their potential purpose.
Too often we decide the outcome of our desires about hurt feelings before we even know where they’re coming from. We want to exact a pound of flesh for feeling hurt when half the time the drama is principally in our own heads. The other person to whom you are directing your negative emotions may not even know that you are mad or needy or feeling neglected. But if you establish what started your cycle of emotion, you can often get that out in the emotion and deal with it rather than starting a tangle of other emotions that have nothing to do with solving the problem and everything to do with winning a fight.
2. Try forgiveness first.
If you feel hurt or angry toward your lover or your friend, give forgiveness a try first. The power of forgiveness is that you are not proceeding toward blame, but toward resolution. Anger is a both a weapon and a burden. Lay down your arms and take up faith and trust. Likewise ask for forgiveness if you know you are the one that committed a goofup. It’s a great place to start.
3. Think about the long term.
Long time friends, couples and family have a history together. That can dredge up old feelings of hurt and unforgiveness. But if you think about the better parts of your relationships first, it often provides a passageway to discussion. But even beginning couples and associates need to think long term. It does you no good to win in the short term and lose the relationship completely.
4. Be prepared to recognize unfruitful relationships.
At some point all people run into situations where personalities simply don’t mix. This does not mean you have to angrily dump that person from your life. But you can manage the amount of contact and types of interaction you have with them. This is true both in real time and on social media. It’s true in a pace line and on the track, in swim lanes and all the other places athletes interface with teammates and competitors. It’s a competitive world and we have to cut our losses and choose our victories carefully.
5. Think about the power of love.
Love truly is a wonderful thing. But we also have to think about it as well as feel it. That’s the gateway to deeper relationships. When you understand the foundations of feelings for other people, you can accentuate those benefits by acknowledging their value in your life.
And sometimes, you can find yourself riding a shiny, clean bike with an absolutely silent chain. There are no complaints coming up from the drivetrain. Suddenly, that person you love rides up next to you and the silence of riding together is golden. Not a word needs to be said. Just the smile and the turn of the pedals is all you need. It can be uphill, or you can both be suffering and just laugh. “This hill is a bitch,” you whisper to the one you love, or your riding friend. And then you ride up that bitch of a hill together.
These are our summer engagements and they depend upon the drivetrain of love. The process can last forever if you do some maintenance and pay attention to signs of trouble along the way. Then the ride is beautiful.