The Distance Diaries: Part Five
The Other Side
Long-distance riding offers more time for reflection than any other discipline in the sport. ‘The Distance Diaries’ is a series of journals penned anonymously by a randonneur who, now on the other side of corrective hip surgery, is battling with re-entry into the sport he loves.
Lately I feel I’m on the other side of something. Something dark and infectious, that multiplied and multiplied, until it had grown from a droplet of doubt into a river of worry. I feel I’ve waded through a year of my life, by all previous definitions living less than before, and yet I know that I have grown. Now I feel I’ve gotten to the very centre of myself – what it is that propels me into the world.
I was once so scared of this otherness – the other side and opposite of everything. Where do we all go at the deepest darkest reaches of ourselves? I feared some kind of tug from reality, to be held in a mute nightmare. But there is no going anywhere. If you want, you can lay down like a dying dog in the dark – but you will get up again and the world will still be there. There are always ways of gaining control.
It seems it’s not always so easy to shrug off our past selves. Mental imbalances have developed, like the muscle imbalances that preceded. Now despite my willingness I’m having to reestablish my boundaries. Each day of rehab is a conversation with my body, asking for trust and permission. Trusting that although stretching may feel like my leg is hanging over a precipice, my knee is only inches from the ground. Permission to truly push on the pedals, to spend more time on the bike, to think past the present and plan for the future. To think that I might start something new. The idea of it alone has saved me, that I might one day return to the person I was and was becoming. From this I’ve learned, in the most positive of ways, that a strong sense of the future can make the present seem so temporary.
Taking something apart is easy – putting it back together is hard. There’s a cruel satisfaction in breaking something down, removing all of its mystery until it’s just its bare bones laying there. Regardless if it was understood before, it is understood simply as opposites now, and there is clarity in the negative space it generates. To believe that you are not happy, not great, not capable of being loved will always be easier than to define these things fully. There is weakness in the dismissal of your own talents – a habit I’ve indulged in for too long.
So often during my injury I found myself living in that negative space – composed purely of the absence of everything else. Thinking more on what I’m not and less on what I am. Scared to take a step in any direction in case it’s a step away from who I’m supposed to be. I suppose I am afraid of change, or letting go of somehow designing or owning my own future. There is so much uncertainty in the world, I can only hope to pin a few things down for myself and let the rest roll by. I want to let go of this obsession with finality and permanence, the shame that I have of my undefined dreams.
And yet, some thoughts are like an open wound, both grotesque and fascinating, it’s hard to leave them alone. In this time I’ve been something other than myself, purposefully separated from my suffering and because of that, in many ways helpless. I never wanted to hurt myself, it was just something that happened. It seems that without riding there will always be a hole in my life, an excess of energy that I’m willing to spend on anything – be it misery or mastery, whichever takes hold of me first. All I ever want is something I can pour myself into indefinitely. Something that will grow and change in response. For those who consumption of thought is remedy, cycling offers a seeming lifetime of relief.
It took me a long time to learn how to relax – to stop holding onto the world so tightly. I know now, to be who I want to be, I have to manage who I already am. But none of this is linear. I have regressed from and surpassed this point many times over and will continue to do so. These writings are my attempts to place stakes in the ground, to anchor myself from them. I’m thankful for their reminders so that I may stop making endless lists of who I was and will become, trying to memorise my character, as if I will one day forget all the secrets to myself.
It seems so often that happiness can be a shy guest in our lives, one who is best not disturbed with questions of their comings and goings. In this time spent dealing with myself I’ve learned that of all the questions to ask, ‘why’ can be the most fruitless and destructive. I’ve come to know that reasons will continue to forever emerge and evolve, that to capture the essence of everything would be to bottle up all the joy in my world. In one way, my insistence to piece these things together, after having instinctively pulled them apart, is my way of expressing my love and commitment to them. But for this and all things alike that I love, I’ve found that true peace of mind and enjoyment comes not from providing all the answers, but from choosing to forget the question.