Guilt is anger directed at ourselves*

Porn (not his real name), an eminent doctor of veterinary medicine (and a pretty good rugby winger), once said, “Animals do it and don’t think it wrong.”

When sleep escapes me in the night and fretting takes its place, I think about Porn’s words and wonder why every human activity holds the potential for thinking it was wrong, it wasn’t good enough — and finds a way to twist itself into feelings of guilt.

We all set ourselves up for guilt by setting standards. Some of them get codified: the Ten Commandments. Never tell a lie (not much leadership from the top on that one lately). Drive the speed limit and pay the tolls in Illinois (or they fine you $80). Do unto others . . .

We keep to ourselves other rules to live by, but they remain standards and expectations we think we should live up to as well as by. Write a blog post every day (not much leadership here on that one lately). Never a lender or a borrower be. Ride the Chilly Hilly.

There it is. The truth will out. All these words to admit I said I would ride the Chilly Hilly and got up this morning to a sky full of rain and snow and fell back into bed.

All day I have fretted over how I would live with this, how admit that I had not the mettle to pedal 33 miles through cold, wet air or brave the chili at the end of the ride.

Exercise is a wonderful thing. If you do it. Not so good if you said you would and then you don’t. That’s a perfect setup for guilt.

In the guilt department, you’d be better off being that 400-pound hacker who never had a notion to set himself in motion.

I applaud those who ventured out for the ride around Bainbridge Island today. And I promise to be faithful to all the other things I said I would do this year (STP, RAGBRAI, OATBRAN, cut back on carbs, RESIST and many other Madcap Schemes).

And I promise to perform penance suggested by a Catholic friend: A polar plunge next year on the day of the Chilly Hilly (all faiths welcome).

And now, before I get back to fretting over the really, really rotten things I have done and should be worried about, I come before you to confess – in words I never thought I would say:

I have become a fair-weather bike rider.

The utter shame.

*Peter McWilliams