I remember how sad I was the day I left for California. I had been looking forward to this day for years, and it was finally happening. I was making my dream of moving out West a reality. My father and I had packed up the moving van, put my car on a trailer, and were prepared to set out on a 4 day journey to Mammoth Lakes. Father-daughter outing at it’s best. And there sat my mother, trying to look excited for her little girl, but I could see right through her.
I have a photo of my mother on my dresser, rocking in the chair on the front porch of our house the day I left for Cali. I catch myself staring at it for long periods of time, wishing for things to be different. Sometimes I actually talk to it. I can remember crying all the way to Knoxville that day. I was sad to leave my mother behind, even though I knew life had to go on. I had to chase down my dreams alone, without my mama. This was the last day I saw her before she got sick.
Life is a bitch. We have dreams and goals, with very limited moments to achieve them. What happens when someone or something gets in the way? How do we move on with our own life when a part of us wants to stand still? How can we separate our minds from our hearts, and make the perfect decision for ourselves, without hurting those around us? I don’t know. I didn’t know when I left my mother crying on the front porch, and I most definitely don’t know any better now.
It never gets easier. You just get stronger.
Walking away from something you care about is one of the hardest things in the world. I sure don’t feel strong. Maybe that line is bullshit?
Unless you’re talking about bike racing…
I raced Ring of Fire for the second time tonight. I’ve had so many nagging emotions lately, and I knew this was something I had to do for myself. I was exhausted from multiple nights of insomnia, sore from playing a bunch of high school boys in basketball, and emotionally taxed. In spite of my shitty disposition, I headed to the track after work. It was blazing hot, and I drenched my kit in sweat simply pumping up my tires.
Once my race started, I felt like I was going to hang for the entire race. We were at a cookie ride pace for a few laps, but of course people go APE SHIT over a $10 Pro Gold prime, so those mofos took off. Our field was barely 10 deep, so I had to go with every single break. I guess when the entire field goes, it’s not really a break, but it sure did break my crippled ass. I got dropped and couldn’t get back on.
I sat up for two laps and waited for the group to come back around. I grabbed the last wheel and hung on for dear life. I went with every acceleration, nearly died each time, but always caught back on to the group. I stayed with them for 12 more laps, then got crushed in the last lap. This was probably the best race of my summer.
And I was with a bunch of dudes.
It’s never easy. You can experience it a million times, but you always go back to that feeling. You always feel exactly the same. You try and think back to all those times you suffered and cried and wished for a different outcome. You wonder if you could have done anything different. You feel lost, scared, and broken. You think to yourself, “I’ve been in this place before, so why am I so heart broken now?” It doesn’t matter if it’s the first time or the 239th time…it still stings. Pain is pain is pain. Your soul doesn’t know the difference.
This climb really hurts, but the only way to get to the other side is to suffer. One pedal stroke at a time. One breath at a time. One heartbeat at a time. One tear at a time. I really hope I can make it, because I’m exhausted.
I asked a friend today, “How do you race your bike when your heart’s just not in it?” He replied, “With your legs.” So that’s what I did.
For those 40 minutes I could only think about 3 things:
#1 The physical pain I was in.
#2 How hard it was to breathe.
#3 “When will that fucking clock say 40 minutes?!”
No sense in boring you with the details. Not much to talk about other than how bad I wanted to quit after 12 minutes. I just remember looking at the clock and thinking I was going to pull myself. Something kept me in that race. Maybe it was the Hoffenchard boys on the sidelines, and the fact they would never let me live it down if I had quit. Maybe I wanted to forget how hard things were outside of bike racing, if only for 40 minutes. Maybe I wanted to feel something other than my own heart. All possible. All probable. And I won a prime. Car wash, baby.
Another friendly reminder from a fellow bike racer… “…get your shit together.” So maybe I need to actually take his advice? Maybe I need to pick up my boot straps and keep moving? Maybe I need to funnel all this negative energy into something I can work with…like ‘cross season? It sounds easy and beautiful and perfectly perfect, but can I even do that? I’m fine now, but in five minutes I may not be, and there’s no promises. There’s never any promises. You just have to hold on as tight as you can when it’s good, and do your best not to lose your shit when it goes bad. If I focus on bike racing, I won’t have time to feel just how terrible this feels.
Bike racing needs to win. The Tour de Peanut has started.
Life can be pretty unfair sometimes. For whatever reason, shitty things happen to good people. In fact, shitty things happen to all people, good or bad. I’m beginning to realize being an adult might suck harder than being an awkward teenager. I might even go as far as saying I’d rather be in my early 20s again. Things seemed to hurt a lot less back then, which strikes me as odd. We’re supposed to be older, wiser, and stronger…right?
I think we grow up believing that once we become “adults”, things get easier. As adults, we are faced with so many challenges…many of which we don’t get a chance to face as kids. Obviously this is a blanket statement, but I’m speaking in general terms here. Adults deal with financial burdens, sick children, relationship woes, and the passing of our very own parents. Being an adult is a total mind fuck and I don’t wanna play big girl anymore.
Another part of growing up is realizing certain things about ourselves. Some of these things are good, while some are devastatingly horrible. Our lives mold us into the adults we are today, and there isn’t a whole lot that can change some of our little quirks. We are what we are. This, too, can be a blow to the head at times.
I don’t regret much in my life. The choices I’ve made, good or bad, have been made for a reason. In the midst of something good, it’s hard to rationalize letting something go that may not be in my best interest. When things are bad, I tend to reflect on those very same choices in a much different light. When things are bad, I put on my tough exterior and fight off the negativity. When things are bad, I say and do things to protect myself. When things are bad, I regret all the choices I made up until that point. So I guess I lied. I actually regret a lot of things in my life.
My tongue can be pretty sharp. When I’ve been hurt, I do my best to inflict the same pain on those who’ve hurt me. It’s a knee-jerk reaction and probably not the best course of action, but that’s me. The old saying, “You always hurt the ones you love the most”, as stupid as it sounds, is true. For whatever reason, we hurt those closest to us. When my heart is sad, I want someone to know how I feel…and I can be pretty ruthless sometimes.
Today’s race stands for recent decisions I’ve made for myself. Yes, it was impulsive. Yes, it was probably not the best decision I’ve ever had. And YES, it’s going to hurt me immensely. While signing up for this race may have been last-minute, I’ve definitely been thinking about doing it for a while.
But I was scared.
What’s been done cannot be reversed, and I have to live with the choice I made. So life goes on. And I have to race, regardless of how I feel this morning.
I promised myself I wouldn’t cry today, but we all know that’s impossible. I simply feel too hard for that to happen. I hope I can muster up the courage to keep pedaling, even when I know it’s a losing battle.
I hope I can find a way to keep moving without the things I held close to me.
As the day continued, I found myself in an array of head spaces. I was angry, sad, happy, numb, angry, confused, sad, lonely, happy, and then maybe a little regretful. That’s just too many things to feel in one day.
So I rode my bike.
It’s been a while since I’ve been on the mountain bike. As hot and humid as it was, I took on the climb with a purpose. I wanted to hurt it all out. I felt like I might puke, but I managed to keep it under wraps. My sweat was sweating. The only noise I could hear was my breathing…like a dog who just chased a rabbit. Like every single suffer fest, I couldn’t feel anything else. If only it could take me all the way to my slumber, because I can’t shut my mind off enough to fall asleep in the traditional ways you normal people do.
I got to come home to my dog for the second day in a row. No matter what, he’s pretty stoked to see me…EVERY SINGLE TIME. I tend to forget this guy has been with me through it all. From Tennessee to North Carolina. From North Carolina to California. From California to Tennessee, and back to North Carolina. Chico has seen the faces of many relationships, but stood right by me when no one else would. He loves me even after I scold him. He knows when I’m sad, because he always wants to snuggle. He is the ultimate companion…except he can’t talk. I still talk to him, though.
I don’t know if I made the right choices up until now. I definitely don’t know if I’m even walking the right path as I sit here and write this. At this point, the risks are starting to add up, and the outcome doesn’t feel worth it. Then, just like that, something happens out of the blue. And it seems worth it.
But is it, really?
As I approach my mid-thirties, I keep looking around for that person to tell me what move to make next. I’m always hoping decisions will be made for me, life lessons will get less painful, and I might actually get thrown a bone every now and then.
I still think Morrissey wrote most of his songs for me. I think parents should get smacked for reading Cinderella to their little girls. I think we should spend more time discussing “plan B” when your glorious post high school plans fail you. I think we need to raise our daughters to love themselves. I think we need to spend more time loving our sons so they don’t grow up to be assholes. I think we are raising our kids to depend on others. I think we need to spend more time listening and less time talking. I think we all need to be honest with ourselves before we claim to know someone else’s honesty.
I keep waiting for patience. I keep waiting for peace. I keep waiting for the ability to stand tall on the inside, without crumbling to pieces. I keep waiting for stability. I keep waiting…but sometimes I feel like I’m going backwards.
I think I should ride my bike tomorrow.