The anonymous thank you, and assuming positive intent

December 15, 2014

“Always assume positive intent.” So a coworker of mine once said to me, in response to my grumbling about some work situation or other. His meaning, of course, was to see the bright side of things. Assume the other person meant well, even if perhaps they didn’t.

This afternoon, I overcame a long period of negativity and dread about getting back on the bike, and finally got on with it. With sustained winds of 15-20 mph, gusting to 30, and my own current bike fitness a shadow of what it was only 2 months ago, I picked a tough day to do so. But I’m glad I did.

About 4 miles into the short 7-mile ride, a guy in the passenger side of a vehicle I passed at a T-intersection – his window was down – started clapping loudly and saying “Thank you”, clearly directed at me. Now, every cyclist knows that we get more than our fair share of harassment from motorists, and it takes all forms. Equally well we know that much of what comes our way isn’t even comprehensible – that is, sometimes the words are but their exact intent is not. Here we go again, I thought.

The car pulled out and passed me in the left lane – I was in the right shoulder – and again the guy was half leaning out the window, looking at me, clapping and saying “thank you”. Seeing him stopping just ahead at a red light, and even though I was intending to go that same direction, I chose to make a “long u-turn” in a nearby parking lot and let him drive on. As I passed him and turned away into the lot, once again he was clapping and thanking me.

He said nothing else, at least that I could hear. What could clapping and “thank you” have meant? It’s likelier than not that he was being sarcastic or mean-spirited, in some way whose meaning isn’t clear. But in that moment, I chose to believe he was thanking me for getting out and riding in these unpleasant conditions. I chose to believe he was thanking me for celebrating life, and effort, and that he was in some mysterious way aware of how, by choosing to ride today, I was purposefully turning my back on willfully bad decisions made and perpetuated by myself, friends, and family. I chose to believe that he was in some mysterious way aware of my now weeks-long hesitation to get back on the bike, as I sank deeper and deeper into bad health, and that I’d only today forgiven myself for past mistakes and allowed myself to move forward FROM WHERE I AM NOW. I chose to believe he was thanking me for taking a very small, yet so-crucial, first step toward my dreams, and maybe in some small way inspiring others who saw me, to do the same.

In choosing to believe this, the reality is that my better self was choosing to thank me for turning the page on a dark chapter and beginning again to improve my own health, when it was becoming frighteningly easy to just “go with the flow” straight into that dark night.

You’re welcome.


2 Responses to “The anonymous thank you, and assuming positive intent”

  1. Jim Bangs said

    Hey, Bill. I admit I stopped checking in on your blog when you took that little break and now when I checked back here was a few days of reading and catching up!
    First let me say I am sorry for the loss of your Mom. I lost my Mom suddenly and I understand some of the personal feeling you shared here.
    Things that have gone on with me since I last checked in here on your site?? I got my Katy ride in this last June. Wow! what a special place the Katy Trail is. I loved it. Here is a link to my blog and the days of riding if you have some interest.

    I also have slipped on the fitness front a bit this late fall. My wife broke her arm the first part of September and I have needed to fill in as the stable boy and take care of her Horses. Thus my lunchtime bike rides (that I love so) had to be replaced by corral cleaning and horse chores for her. I was still able to continue to commute by bike so I did not get “out of the saddle” completely. It was a fantastic mild fall here so I rode until mid-November when basketball season started for my team. My commute is not a big affair like yours is, only about 4.5 miles each way, although all uphill on the way home.
    Maybe you do, but go back and read your entries before your Mom’s Hospital program. They are inspiring and motivating to me and make me want to get going and You were so energized and positive. I am sure you will find that power again and get riding.
    I have good plans again after winter does it thing here in Estes Park. I am planning once again to do the Katy Ride again. Last year it was east to west, this year west to east. I also have a little late summer Colorado tour that I had planned for last year to be lost to the wife broken arm thing. Should be a good summer (aren’t they all??)
    Tailwinds cycling brother!!
    Jim Bangs

    • Jim:

      SO great to hear from you. I lost several regular followers of my blog during my unplanned hiatus, and that saddened me. So I was so happy to see that you are back, thanks very much.

      Thank you also very much for your kind words about my blog writings. What you said means very much to me, and I appreciate it. I can definitely say, today, that I’ve finally turned the corner from the loss of my mom and that I am back in the hunt again. Much ground to make up, but I’ll get there a day at a time.

      The Katy Trail….ahh yes. What a cool thing, eh? Thank you for the link to your blog, I will read it over lunch today!

      Shortly after I returned from Florida, immediately after the situation with mom, myself and something like 10 friends went on a single-day ~50 mile ride of the Katy, on the most scenic portion – Rocheport to McBain and back, then to Boonville and back. Of these 10-12 people (don’t recall precise number) only three of us had ever been on the trail. We made converts of several of them that day! 🙂

      I am sympathetic (obviously) to hear of your struggles with fitness, but glad that you are keeping up with it. I don’t know about you but for me, the key is surviving the winter getting in as much mileage as I CAN get in, continuing to eat healthy, going to gym, and then really turning up the volume in springtime.

      Again, really good to hear from you again, sir, and thanks for not forgetting about me. I will check out your blog. Let us keep in touch!

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