This year has been a hilly ride with tough slopes, broad roads, and annoying speed bumps. Before 2020, people would look both ways before running a red light. They also used to stop at crosswalks, but by springtime, when the streets narrowed, our patience for indignant pedestrians went right out the window.
When you look around—online or in public—the tension is overpowering. Last week, while running errands, I drove past three separate incidents that made my skin quiver. In the decades I have lived in Atlanta, I cannot recall ever locking my doors while driving until now, and frankly, that breaks my heart.
These are scary times, indeed, particularly for those who struggle with anxiety. For me, the only thing that keeps my mind from wandering into dark corners is working out, which is something I stopped doing when my life turned upside-down. It was right around my tenth court hearing that I started gaining weight and losing my hair, which is not uncommon for women in their fifties. Even so, something didn't feel right, and I'm not referring to ill-fitted pants.
Scoffing at the notion that drowning insomnia with Lunesta would solve all my problems, my doctor suggested that I exercise to relieve some of the stress. On top of everything else, my cholesterol was now dangerously high. I spent the next four months at the gym, doing every workout imaginable, including cycling for an hour on a stationary bike. It was lovely, and eventually, I lost the weight.
When COVID struck, and the gyms closed, I nearly lost my mind. Still reeling after battling injustice, the pressure of not knowing how long Coronavirus would last quickly mounted. And since our house was not big enough for an exercise studio, my only choice was to slide the bed across the room and get on a mat or blow the dust off my 23-year-old bike—a used gift from my best friend who passed away suddenly at the height of my downward spiral—and start pumping those legs. Guess which one I chose?
I was already clocking six miles a day when the rioting started, peddling up monstrous hills, through the quiet and winding roads of a nearby cemetery. While I admit that may sound ominous and peculiar, you do as you must when you live in a big city over-populated with shitty drivers. Whenever the news got to be more than my brain could handle, I would hop on my two-wheeled freedom rider and get lost in thought. One morning, while coasting down a serpentine peak toward a pond where a family of Canadian Geese lived, I remembered what it felt like to be a kid again. Spoiler: those days were unpleasant.
Children who get bullied and don't tell anyone can suffer lifelong consequences. In many cases (mine), they keep quiet to avoid another run-in with a fist. They think (I thought) that silence is a "get out of jail free card." In truth, it only gives the bully power. No one ever told me to get on a bike and burn off my rage back then, but I remember doing so for hours on end—days, weeks, months, and years.
I stopped riding when my daughter was born, replacing the fresh air with a poorly ventilated sweat lodge because it seemed easier than pulling the bike out of the shed. It wasn't until that day at the graveyard, sitting high atop a hill that overlooks a city riddled with anger, that the significance of rage-peddling made sense. Unfortunately, I blew out my knee two months later and had to get creative, backing up the old English proverb: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
The world is undergoing an apocalyptic rebirth. People who have never experienced anxiety are feeling the scorch of my youth. They are hopeful but pessimistic, sensitive yet hostile, and utterly shell-shocked by the misinformation coming at them from all angles. Now more than ever, society needs emotional support. What we don't need is another bully. Never let someone guilt you into saying or doing anything that feels wrong. Don't apologize for being a decent human being; own that shit and drop the mic. In the meantime, find a better way to slaughter that inner angst because arguing on social media will only end up hurting you.