I’m a bad night dreamer. Bizarre anxiety comedies play out from my subconscious. Some outright nightmares too. Any time a dream looks like it might be headed in a vaguely good direction, my deep, inner self swerves it off course. The saving grace is that I am a heroic daydreamer.
It doesn’t take much to send me there, the thousand yard stare, the quiet nothingness of a daydream. Instantly I’m on a steep dirt road, out of the pedals, sawing back and forth. Legs go heavy but never give up. In these bits of reverie I am capable of great things. I surpass my very real limits.
Some people would call this mind over matter, but I think it’s actually mind over mind, and it bears saying that I have no climbing legs to speak of at the moment. I don’t remember when I last felt really strong on a hill. I mean, not in real life.
It was seventh grade, Ms. Strachan’s English class, where we read The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Thurber wrote that story in 1939, the first year of WWII, and though it’s often read as an ennobling paean to the anonymous everyman, I can imagine Thurber was just explicating the only avenues of escape open to people of a certain type, the put upon and stalwart, the dutiful and diligent. This is what I tell myself as I slip away into another imaginary paceline.
Real life is difficult. We have limits and shortcomings. I’m out there on my bike poking and prodding at the edges of what I can do. I feel the acid flood my muscles. I feel my center of balance give way. And yet somehow I convince myself I can do more. Be more. To be sure, some of this is psychological. We can hurt more than we think. Our bodies will recover sometimes quite unexpectedly. We think we know what we’re capable of, but we don’t really.
Another part of this is ambition. I usually plan a ride that is more than I can realistically do. I commit to returning at times I can’t possibly make. That ambition comes from daydreams, I think. Or stupidity.
This week’s Group Ride asks, do you daydream about riding? And are you more heroic in those visualizations? Do you dream about riding when you’re asleep? What is the best ride fantasy you’ve had? And how close has it ever come to being real?