Mind’s Eye

Somehow, the act of sitting down with yourself with the willingness to simply be with yourself as you are, whether you show up in your most brilliant or puniest form, relaxes the inner critic or whatever stands behind our oppressive self-criticism and incessant efforts to improve ourselves. Meditation says, “I don’t care if you are the most excellent person of all time or the most absurd- I love you. Right now.” This is the love that most of us have never received. Surprisingly, it doesn’t look like affection or approval. It looks like companionship. If you’ve ever wished for a friend who would love you as you are, appreciate your genius, and make space for your foibles, welcome you when you’re funny and shiny and when you’re a complete mess- well, I can introduce you to this person. Rather, your meditation practice can. He or she has been there the whole time. You are the one you’ve been waiting for as they say. ~ Susan Piver “An Open-Hearted Guide to the Path and Practice of Meditation”

I’ve been fighting a battle I’m never going to win. My intentions have been pure, always with my heartsong in mind, but the barriers I face (and always have) are bigger than my greatest efforts. Resistance is futile, as they say, and what goes up eventually crashes to the ground. Looking back, I never even had a chance. So I’m here now, picking up the pieces of what appears to be an endless war. And it is just that- a war. As always, just when I’m about to give up and give in, the intelligence and gifts I’ve been given rise to the occasion. This will be with me until my dying day, and it’s a constant struggle to stay afloat. But I will.

Because I have to.

Getting back to the bike isn’t as simple as I want it to be. There are things that need to rise above pedaling on the list of personal priorities. I need to find the courage to be myself. I need to find that mindful awareness and find new ways to embrace this life I’ve been given and this body my spirit has chosen to live in. You might think all this seems a bit hokey, but when you have two doors and you’re at the end of the line, you have to pick one or the other. My alternative isn’t the greatest place and it’s rather dark and maybe not worth the trouble. Actually, trouble is exactly what lies behind THAT door. The other door isn’t a walk in the park, but I know I deserve everything I will receive when I’ve put in the work. And fuck, there’s so much work to be done.

The thing I used to love the most about bike racing and training was experiencing my mind and body being present at the same place at the same time. This synergy is SO POWERFUL, and a lot of the reason I kept coming back. In learning about meditation and working to make this a part of my life, I’ve realized just how similar the two are. The “white noise” I often made reference to is my own personal form of meditation. My hope is to get back to it soon, but my mind is tired and my body can’t work without my mind. For now, I’m left to break down the walls and build them up in a way that’s more sustainable in all conditions. My wall just couldn’t weather the storm anymore.

Part of getting back to a “normal” existence is accepting that I’m not normal. I process things differently and I really just need to be more compassionate towards myself. Much of my upbringing and life experiences have molded me into this, and a lot of it was passed through conception. In short, I have to choose whether to carry it on my back willingly, or drag it across the earth shackled to my feet. I’ve done both, and I think it would benefit me the most to choose the latter. And I simply cannot allow fear to guide me through the wrong door.

Be kind to yourself. Rest. Recharge. Remember what was positive from the past. Take the good and restructure your future. All is not lost, and the sun will come up tomorrow just as it always does. Whatever you do, don’t give up.

“Sports may be a patient’s entire raison d’être. Don’t just tell somebody, ‘Hey, maybe you’d be better off not being involved in sports.’ Consider the athletic temperament of how they define themselves. Don’t just put sport involvement on the shelf.”~ Dr. Antonia Baum, George Washington University Medical Center Department of Psychiatry

 

 

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January again

I’ve been working on this post for a couple months. I feel a moment of inspiration and just as soon as it arrives, it leaves me with only a few sentences. I have wounded soldiers all throughout my WordPress draft folder. I’ve been searching for motivation on and off the keyboard, and taking refuge in the words of others. I was reminded while reading someone else’s blog tonight…I never write when I’m happy. I used to think that was weird, but now I feel like it is a normal thing and frankly, I’ve just run out of energy to care either way. So I’m here tonight, and who knows when I’ll return.

January 1st, 2015. I was finishing up my most successful ‘cross season to date and preparing to embark on my very first Nationals in Austin, Texas. I spent Christmas with bronchitis and wasn’t sure I could finish out my local series, let alone fight for position at the big dance. I spent the weeks leading up to the new year pawning off my ski and snowboard gear to finance the road trip from Tennessee to Texas. All of a sudden, my decade-long love affair with the ski industry became obsolete, even though I left my first love behind in Mammoth on that sleepy summer morning in 2010. Selling everything was the final stamp in my passport, and I had no regrets. I still don’t.

January 1st, 2016. I was frantically putting together the final pieces for the 2016 Cyclocross Nationals after party, while prepping myself for a week of spectator debauchery. I felt a little gloomy because I wasn’t racing nationals in my own backyard, but I knew hosting out of town guests and throwing a huge party would take most, if not all of my energy. That gloominess quickly faded as soon as Asheville began to swell with bike racers, and I never looked back. The week was a total success and the fundraiser was the perfect way to end a fabulous week. I was overwhelmed with all the good feels, and my motivation to train for the upcoming mountain bike season was on fire.

January 1st, 2017. It was a day of reflection. I spent the morning skiing the worst lines imaginable with my roommate, which allowed me to shift my focus from the burden of the past 365 days to the art of not dying on the hard-packed moguls. This holiday season has been one of the hardest in quite a while, and coming down with the flu days before Christmas was basically a nail in the coffin of anxiety and frustration. Christmas day was the crescendo of 2016, and a day of silent suffering of mind, body, and spirit. In my 36 years of living on this planet, I don’t remember a day I’ve felt more alone.

My heart turned her back on bike racing this ‘cross season. In hindsight it was probably for the best, as I was in no shape to handle the mental demands of my physical shortcomings, and the financial burden was too much. I crawled backwards into a hermit-like existence. My body wasn’t happy and hadn’t been for a long time, so it was only fitting my mind followed. It’s funny how unimportant bike racing actually is when everything around you feels foreign and askew. Life happens.

I haven’t ridden my bike since the middle of November, and I’ve spent a lot of time beating myself into the ground over it. I’ve been struggling to survive in the big scary world, and my less than adequate ability to afford a normal existence has taken a toll on me. I think I just got tired of fighting for bike racing in the midst of everything else in my life that I couldn’t get right. I’ve managed to keep the stoke alive for the last couple seasons, but this year I just couldn’t muster up the courage.

I’m not sure if everyone experiences a physical melt down in their mid-thirties, but I sure have spent a lot of time in the panic room this last year. Hearing loss. Tinnitus. The $20,000 jaw surgery I can’t afford. Doctors appointments and tests and food elimination and medication trials and fuck are you serious? I wanted to buy a new mountain bike this year because YOLO, but now I have to entertain a $3,000 hearing aid. Do I really want to hear out of both ears again? Do I just have bad luck or is everyone fucking up these days? I’m really good at freaking out for a minute, then stuffing it down in a place I never talk about. I’m not sure if I can keep doing that. I’m literally falling apart from the inside out.

I’ve learned a few things, though, and sometimes the silver linings are terrific.

I still miss my mom terribly, and that pain comes and goes like the wind.

I fell back in love with winter, and have reignited the flame for skiing.

It mostly doesn’t bother me that I’m not in New England this week with all my favorite people, racing my bike in the mud and snow. I think if I still loved bike racing for myself as much as I once did, I would be more upset about missing it. But let’s be honest, I’m missing it.

I want to feel safe again so I can sleep at night, and I WANT to want to ride my bike. I know I’ll get back there, but sometimes you have to take care of yourself first. I’m working on it.

Fate sounds like a made up word to describe something that you will never actually obtain.

Until you obtain it.

I spent the entirety of last night tossing and turning in my bed, twisting my sheets up into a sweaty knot and allowing my mind to take the wheel. I’ve never been good at sleeping, and I’m no stranger to cold sweats and nightmares. But are they really nightmares if you’re not actually dreaming? And did my mind manifest my physical condition? I don’t know how to answer either of these questions, but I do know that I’m swimming without a life jacket. Please God, don’t let me drown.

This blog won’t be shared on social media, and I’m writing it more as a coping mechanism than an entertainment piece. Aside from the dizziness and overall shitty health I’ve been experiencing lately, the devastation left over from the election has really affected my life. Even as someone who is LITERALLY an open book, I fear that making some of my comments public in the social media eye is dangerous for a lot of reasons. This election is splitting up families, taking away jobs, and causing ungodly pain for so many. I think I have a grip, but soon realize I don’t. And now I’m isolating myself because of it.

My own father voted for Donald Trump. As a man born in the 40s, I get his thought process. He’s tired of the shit. He wants to see a change. I get it. But he also agrees with building a wall, and his vote basically tells me he’s okay with the physical abuse of his own fucking daughter. I’ve known this man for 36 years. I’ve trusted him over anyone else. I have a love for this guy that only daughters can understand. Hearing him talk about why he voted for Trump makes me feel as empty as I did when they thought I had cancer. How is it possible to live in a world that hurts this much? I feel betrayed and alone and I can’t escape this fucking horrible feeling. I just can’t. And please stop telling me it’s okay. It’s not okay and I’m never going to be okay and he’s never going to be my president.

As I laid in a puddle of sweat and twisted sheets in the wee hours of the night, I passed the time by flipping through social media. I know- not the best decision. I ran across an anti-Hillary meme shared by one of my most trusted and adored friends, and soon realized the support for this man betrayed me more than I ever thought possible. I never thought of myself as a feminist, but fucking Christ, ladies!? I am more of a feminist than I thought, and I vow to spend the rest of my life making sure I help break the mold that some of you were created from. I want to free you from this oppression. I want to make you aware of how beautiful your own thoughts really are. You’re better than this. You are fucking better than this.

Sometimes I feel like my chest is going to explode. I am in true disaster mode. And I know this because I can’t even muster up the energy to race my bike this weekend. Even if I felt up to it physically, it just seems so trivial right now. Bikes are everything to me, and always the right choice, but racing takes a special feeling that doesn’t exist for me right now. I am not waiving the white flag and running away, but I am taking some time to pull myself together. I generally love people and being in the midst of a crowd, but right now I hate people and want to be alone. I’m so fucking conflicted that sometimes I don’t recognize myself.

I begin my journey to Europe on Obama’s last day in office. This trip is fairly emotionally loaded for a million reasons, but this particular detail is a tough one to digest. Aside from the fact that I have always considered expatriation for positive personal and professional reasons, I now wonder if I will be forced to seek refuge in another country as a result of this election. Donald Trump’s reign will touch more than the lives of Americans, so would I really be safe in another country? Then I think about all the other countries and their struggles with the politics of dictators, hate, and silencing oppression. We have been so fortunate to live the way we’ve been living, so are we now just catching up to the rest of the world? Is it our turn (again)? Is history repeating itself? I cannot make sense of any of this to save my life. I just want to pack a bag and run. I’m really, really good at that.

 

 

 

13

I tried desperately to keep my eyes open long enough to see the United States come crumbling down in real time, but multiple sleepless nights and an endless glass of wine rendered me helpless. I slept like a baby for a few hours, then awoke in a panic around 3:30 this morning as I fumbled to find my phone in a stack of fluffy pillows. The sensation I experienced after learning the news was similar to how I felt when I got the phone call that my mother had passed away. I was overcome with a profound heaviness and the immense darkness of the night was no match for the gaping black hole that opened up in my heart.

Tears streamed down my face as I attempted to wrap my brain around the evolution of the human race. As an open-minded liberal growing up in a fundamentally conservative Southern state, I wasn’t totally shocked at the result, but I surely hoped the good would shine through. The South was actually rising, it seemed, and I quickly realized just how far we had gone into the rabbit hole. It became impossible to see the good. My hope disappeared. What the fuck have we done? How is it possible to be so advanced, yet revert back to the beginning of time in just a few short hours? I still don’t understand how we got here.

Minorities are grieving today. Opportunities for freedom are fading. The beauty of choice has been tainted. Fathers are having to tell their young children that rape and physical abuse are acceptable forms of treatment. And those of us who’ve experienced physical abuse first hand are being told we deserved it, and we’re nothing more than sexual objects to the almighty man. It took me a very long time to get to a place where I could forgive him for putting his hands on me, but how will I come to forgive the millions of people who support someone like Donald Trump? Well, this is most certainly unforgivable. And I’m not sorry that I don’t forgive you. I will, however, move forward just as I’ve always done.

I am physically, emotionally, and spiritually fearful. I don’t know how I will rebuild the hope I once had for humanity, and I can’t be sure I’ll ever fully recover from this enormous blow. People I once respected and held high have shown me their heart, and I’m not going to pretend I’m Mother Theresa on this one. Betrayal is rampant. Hate is the enemy. And we’re living in a pseudo democracy being run by thieves. So, today… today I will be demolished.

Tomorrow, I fight back.

Cue the Guitar Solo

Where were you in 1991? It still blows my mind to think about how long ago that was. Remember when the 90s were just a few years ago? I was 11 years-old and experiencing some of the best and worst times in music history. I was very much an MTV kid, and spent hours recording the sound on my tape player for my radio station. Yes, I recorded my own radio station. On tape. Let that sink in.

One of my most vivid music video memories was the Guns N’ Roses classic, November Rain. I remember feeling my heart pound out of my chest every time I watched Slash step up on the piano to deliver THE MOST AMAZING GUITAR SOLO OF ALL TIME. As I child, I felt an intense connection with this song because of my November birthday. To be honest, I still do. The raw emotion that comes through his fingers gets deep down in places you don’t talk about. You can feel it reach in and grab your soul. It’s simultaneously the most amazing and terrifying feeling in the world. Do you ever listen to a song and think, “Man, I could have written that”?

Me too.