Cycling Stories

Self-Conscious as F#ck

November 21, 2019


Self-Conscious as F#ck

It’s not recent.

For at least a month, the front mesh screen on my right AirPod has become increasingly clogged.

All I needed to do was take a few minutes and search for a cleaning solution that didn’t damage them. Or, result in forking over $160 for replacements.

I don’t have time, though,” my ego imagined.

Now, the mesh allows zero noise through.

Fortunately, the side vent’s still clear.

I have to wedge the AirPod unnaturally in my ear, though, and crank the volume. Even then, the sound’s tinny and easily overwhelmed by traffic noise.

In a last-ditch effort to make something work, I conformed my left AirPod to fit inside my right EarBuddyz sleeve, upside down.

Surprisingly, it fits snugly and comfortably and delivers much-improved sound quality.

The one problem? I feel like an idiot. The AirPod’s microphone now points toward the sky, like a dorky surrender flag at full mast.

“What happens when a driver sees this hot mess of an eargasm?” I wondered, half-aloud.

Will they think, ‘Does this jackass not know that his EarPod’s upside down? Is he really that clueless?’

Will they whip out their phones? Hastily snap pictures? Post blurry versions online? Share them with loved ones? Create memes that remain my only worldly contribution after I’m dead and gone?

Pause. Breathe. Rebalance.

I wrap my ego in love and compassion.

“Plus, if I’m being realistic,” I think, “most traffic won’t even notice it.”

My ego wants to be liked. Envied, if possible.

It yearns to imagine that when drivers pass, they think I’m the epitome of coolness. So radiant, that my glory compels them to begin cycling.

“Hey, look at that guy with the sweet-ass bike!” they exclaim. “I want those legs of steel! Let’s ditch the car and go ride.”

Another recurring favorite: ‘He looks like he’s ridden a lot of miles! I bet he has some great stories. I wonder what it would be like to be him.’

Oh, these ego-splattered canvases. Viewed mindfully, they’re a pleasure to gaze upon—an opportunity to study the lines of my psyche—like a well-lit work of art.

On the flip side, my ego doesn’t want to look like a moron. Lesser than. Inferior. And to avoid any potential injustice, it perpetually asks—demands—that I acknowledge its artwork as reality.

If indulged, these ego-driven stories might cause me to abandon today’s ride, lest I risk appearing stupid in front of strangers. Worst-case scenario? I buy a new pair of AirPods I can’t afford.

Viewed from this perspective, I compassionately understand that my ego’s self-conscious stories are saccharin—they’re maximally sweet. They’re short-lived sugar rushes, tasty distractions that offer no sustenance.

In mindful moderation, they’re perfectly fine. When indulged, though—mutating them into world-shaping perspectives—they cripple us; leave us malnourished and prevent us from uncovering and addressing our self-imposed obstacles to lasting fulfillment.

And with time, like an unfilled cavity, these stories will eventually rot us from the inside.

Self-consciousness is a necessity. It helps me distinguish between “myself” and “the world.” Therefore, it plays a crucial role in shaping my identity and sense of being.

Coddled, though, my ego wants to convince me these fictional stories represent the real state of affairs. And that I must live accordingly.

Through this lens, life is an endless cycle of suffering. Samsara embodied.

On the other hand, self-awareness is a choice that takes real—and always uncomfortable—effort and humility. If you embark on the journey, working your ass off is a requirement. Therefore, most of us shy away.

It’s worthwhile, my dear detective.

Whereas self-consciousness provides us a sense of being, seeking self-awareness gifts us a sense of purpose.

Derek has more than two decades of experience as a cyclist, and is the founder of TreadBikely. He currently travels full-time with his family via RV, enjoying the country's best biking destinations. A secular Buddhist, Derek frequently explores the intersection of cycling, mindfulness, and compassion in his writing. #rolloutblissout
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