I like my bike. It’s my mode of transportation – in many ways. It gets me to and from work. It also takes me out of my head or it gets me thinking about things that the D-Day din of my mind doesn’t normally allow me to ponder. It whisks me away from the hot air of my brain to the cool breeze of swirling air about me. It’s my little bubble of transcendence that gives me the rush of being around others and yet the peace of solitude…except with honking and the occasional rude gesture thrown in for good measure. It’s not a long ride to work – thirty minutes each way – but I am not a speedster. I gave up the dream of participating in the Giro di Lombardia long ago. I often have middle-aged women with flip flops, droopy hats and one-speeds with flowery baskets whisk past me, smug yoga mats slung to the their backs taunting me as they disappear into the horizon ahead of me. I get it – I am not that fast. But I still enjoy the ride.
Lately, my bike has been showing wear and tear. It recently went through a tune up, but now the back tire is loose. The head light and back light batteries are fading. The once fierce and piercing illuminations now barely cast enough light to read the instruction booklet on how to replace batteries. One pedal is cracked and threatening to fall off, hanging by who knows what pedals hold on by. The bell, once bright and clangy, has caught more rainwater than a frontier town bathing barrel and sounds like a dying cat. The chain is chunky monkey and the tires are getting flat. There is rust creeping around the edge of the frame from repeated exposure to the elements. Changing gears sounds like a machine gun firing into a wind tunnel. People hear me before they see me. A stutterer hiccuping on a jackhammer on a runaway subway train.
Tooling around on a beat up bike isn’t too bad, but it will start to worsen. I can already feel it in the performance and I worry that it’s going to zonk out on me when I need it most – through a snowstorm or when I am in a rush or when trouncing over countless potholes. And for this cat, one who did better in home economics than shop class in Grade 7, even I know it’s a good idea to get a bit of an overhaul on the ol’ bird. Keep the machine lubed up and loaded up and ready to rock the rocky roads of the city. Be the Mad Max of Bad Ass Biking. Siphoning air from other mislaid bikes and shaming couriers with my two-wheeled kung fu. Step up my game and start taking the street hard, now that winter is coming. Get ready for when it turns unexpectedly.
Now, one of the things I have been ruminating about lately on these bicycle rides is the cyclical nature of not only recovery, but of life in general. The idea of budding, sprouting, blossoming, reserving, etc. is something that speaks to me as of late, and was the reason I shared the video of Don Coyhis recently. It just made sense to me, and shifted my recent thinking into a different gear as of late…which is what I needed as of late. The sense that a dormant or rebuilding sort of phase had never entered my consciousness in my short 2+ years of recovery. I held a false ideal that things could only improve steadily over time, with the occasional hard left here and there, but with no real snowbanks in sight. What I have experienced of late is that my view of things have been wrong. And it’s been active in how I have been feeling as of late.
I have been a man of emotional slender means lately. Certain things I have always done in my recovery life have started slide slowly -some of the meat and potatoes kind of stuff, slurping on gruel instead and wondering why I have felt hungry. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, I have been feeling a sense of being off. I have been ignoring the clear signals that my body, mind, emotions and spirit have been transmitting to me. The buds of my existence need and want to close up and bear down for the cold season, and I want to play like it’s summer harvest. Party like it’s 1999. Ego has been playing too long in the sandbox, and my unmentionables (now mentioned) are getting a wee bit sandy. Uncomfortable, indeed.
Like my bike, there are the tell tale signs of neglect in where I sit today. I am not so shiny and illuminating. I am rusty in some of the things I need to do, as they have been exposed to the harshness of pride and fears. Things are out of balance. Stuff rattling around that shouldn’t be rattling around. Finding it difficult to put both feet on the pedals and move forward without stumbling. Flat, all around (I wish I could say the same for my belly). The clanging noise from within – old thoughts getting caught up in gears and ratcheting my mind like some Steampunk novel flying saucer.
So for this hombre, it’s a matter of either prattling away with what I have, and hope for the best, or to pull over to the side of the road, strip down the parts and see what’s there. Or missing. Take some WD40 to some of the pieces. Replace others. Air some of the frame out. Scrape away the rust. Eat a handful of semi-stale trail mix while I watch the sun dry up the moist bits. Chop wood and fetch water. More importantly, it’s a good idea to let others who have been where I am check things over. Make sure all the parts are still there, that I haven’t put the flux capacitor in my lederhosen by accident instead of on the brake lines. Let The Mechanic fine tune what He needs to fine tune. Leave it up to Him.
Why now? Why do I have this internal trembling that is guiding me towards taking the bike into the shop? Taking myself into the unknown and seeing what’s there? My bike is alright still, isn’t it? I’m alright still, aren’t I? Nothing wrong with the framework, just a few things to take care of. Preventative maintenance. I can’t fully say why I am at where I am at. Cycles. Seasons. Ego. Laziness. Seeking validation from the external, and not the internal. All of these things apply in one form or another. I spent a lifetime ignoring the warning signs from within me – what my body needed, what my mind needed, what my soul needed…all ignored because I was too wrapped up in my self to listen to anything else but the cacophony of me. And now I get to hear things loud and clear. And I have been listening to myself yelling for the last month or so.
I realize I am saying a lot and saying nothing. My modus operandi lately, and a result of a muddled mind. I’ve been having a hard time trying to think of what to say as of late, as my mind is scattered. Lots of fuzz and static. Emotionally tapped out. My spirit is flagging. Unnourished…a problem my body doesn’t have, although my diet is making me want to punch myself…if I had the energy to do so. But these are things to be examined, checked over and given proper treatment for. I have the tools at my feet to not only inspect and pick up, but to use. Like a boss. And use them I will.
Recovery isn’t just about not drinking. It sure starts that way, and for me, it was all about not drinking at the beginning. But once I saw that it was in the manner, thinking and experiencing of life and living, and my connection to the Creator that mattered most, then the idea of recovery shifted dramatically. It wasn’t about putting a bandaid on my cravings, it wasn’t about distracting myself or coming up with projects to keep me from thinking about drinking. It was seeing that it was a journey. A journey travelled by millions, but still unique to me. That’s because I am unique to me and me alone. As are you to you. And in this journey I will have my seasons, my cycles of being and being differently.
I have to listen to the voice of conscious contact within me that hasn’t steered me wrong yet (except when I don’t heed it). I know that for the last few months I have not been heeding this body and soul sense, if you will, of what I need to do for myself to move into a new season. And today, this day, I choose to heed what the Creator asks of me. And I am very excited to do whatever it is I need to do to bring that bike back to basics, to get it up and running and where it can shine on. Get me through another season out there, with the hills and rain and roadkill. Put tassels on the handlebars to spruce things up if I want. Tape an old hockey card on the spokes to flick and click around when I ride, like when I was a kid. Turn my face up to the sun and warm myself as I take in the scenery.
Recovery isn’t a one size fits all, fresh-from-the-factory ride. It’s an all-encompassing experience that will test the body, mind and spirit. It will feel like it’s faltering at times, or that it’s not performing as well as it used to, but it’s ok. The ride continues. The true test comes in how I maintain that ride. How I keep an eye for certain things, how I care for it, protect it, and ride it like I stole it. And for me, it was like I stole it – as I received this bike through Grace. Bestowed and undeserved. But still given. So my job is to check my bicycle. See that it’s working even if roughed up a bit. As it often is and should be.
So I’ll be in the shop tomorrow, getting a tune up. Not sure how long it will take. Might take some time. But look for me if you want. My name is Paul.
Just ask for Paul.