Friday, September 15, 2017

10 years’ worth of THANK YOUs



Photo by Don Ricker at Skylight Photo

 I believe that our purpose here in this life is to figure what gifts that you have to offer the human species and the universe and then use them to spread love.  It doesn’t have to be something big.  Often the little things are those that count the most.  If everyone did their small part to support each other imagine how better the world could be.  Start at home with your family and from there, if you can, spread love even further.  That love will flourish and grow.  It’s never about what we are owed but what we can contribute.  It’s about making the universe a better place because of your time spent here.  The only sure thing is that one day we are all going to die.  Will your life have made a difference?

When Adele was diagnosed at 2 years old, almost 15 years ago, I remember dreaming of one day organizing some type of fundraising event that involved bikes.  In 2007, our cycling club received an email from a group that called themselves H2V (Halifax to Vancouver) asking for help on the road while they biked relay style across Canada to raise money for JDRF.  I instantly knew that I would join them.  That initial thought became 22 local riders a few weeks later riding with them from Moncton to Fredericton into the night and the craziest ride that I have ever done.  During the ride, one of my friends turned towards me and said: “We should do this every year!”.  The seed had been planted and Cyclebetes was born.

Photo by Don Ricker at Skylight Photo

10 years is a long time.  10 consecutive years for any event is very unlikely.  There always seems to be a reason or something that happens that prevents the event from taking place one year and then the momentum is halted and too often the event just dies.  I now know that for me the intention of organizing such an event was mostly out of panic and fear.  The thought of Adele suffering long term complications was so terrifying for me that my utter distress was what was pushing me to do everything I physically could for a cure before long-term complications set in.  This was good for a while, but it really is a form of running away by keeping busy and because of this eventually exhaustion sets in and you eventually need to stop and feel the feelings associated to the trauma to accept them.  Our event survived because when I reached that point it wasn’t MY event anymore.  My friends really took it over and I just became a small part of the reason why it kept on thriving.  The cause is always mine, but the event now belongs to the Mike’s Bike Shop cycling club.  I feel so very, very blessed to have such good friends.  Thank you Rick Snyder, Pablo Vergara, Luc Belliveau and Gilles Gallant for really making this event so awesome these last few years.  You guys have no idea how at times I just wanted to throw in the towel, but your enthusiasm and energy kept me going.  Thanks guys.

Photo by Don Ricker at Skylight Photo

Over $200,000 raised in the last 10 years is something to be proud of even if it is a very small portion of JDRF’s total budget.  The ride is actually even more than just raising funds for research.  It is a celebration of riding bikes that also raises much needed Type 1 Diabetes awareness.  It also inspires while reminding us that for Type 1 gamers, the trials and tribulations don’t end with the ride.  They are there 24/7, 365 days per year with no vacations whatsoever and that’s why Type 1 Diabetes needs to be talked about and taken seriously.  Insulin is not a cure.  Insulin does not prevent long term complications.  Insulin is but life-support.

At times, we racked our brains trying to find ways to grow our event numbers.  We were one of the first, if not the first, cycling charity event in our area, but now we’re competing with many more, all for very worthwhile and important causes.  But then we decided to concentrate on quality rather than quantity to measure our success.  Our event is more like a locally owned small business, less like Costco.  Our event is more like attending a family reunion, less like being at a stadium concert.  And I am really proud of that.  Our event really comes from and connects with the soul.

Photo by Don Ricker at Skylight Photo

I didn’t ride during our event because the day has really become quite hectic.  I drove my truck as one of the support vehicles.  I had ridden the 75k route a week before.  At times I missed riding, but I also very much enjoyed seeing riders enjoy the day pushing their own boundaries on the bike.  This made me feel inspired.  Thank you.

Photo by Don Ricker at Skylight Photo

Thank you to our main sponsor, Mike’s Bike Shop without which this ride could not exist.  Thank you Rick Snyder for your undying support all of these years.  Your kindness and generosity continue to amaze me.  I really appreciate all that you do for the cycling community and JDRF.  Thank you.

Thank you Luc Belliveau and Pablo Vergara, key players in this event.  Thank you for all of the incredible work that you do year after year.  Thank you Gilles Gallant, NB and PEI JDRF engagement coordinator.  You always go above and beyond your role with JDRF in helping ensure that our ride is as amazing as it is.  Thank you.

Photo by Don Ricker at Skylight Photo

Thank you Zoe Robichaud, our JDRF kids ambassador for your speech to the riders before the afternoon loop.  You really put a sweet and innocent face to Type 1 Diabetes and showed us why everyone was riding.  Thank you.

Thank you all that rode and fundraised.  We really appreciate your support and hope that you enjoyed the ride and our event.  Thank you.

Thank you to all of our sponsors:  Sobey’s in Dieppe, MacDonald Buick GMC, Giant bikes / Guy Pellerin of Pellerin Sports, City of Dieppe, Molson brewery, Cape Bald Packers, Terry Tomlin of Tomlin Sports Marketing, Starbucks, Kevin Noiles of Lambert, Pat Bolduc of Big Ring Sports, Nomad Supply Co., Dieppe IGA / Coop, Adrien Lesvesque at Falstaff Media, Long and McQuade, Brigitte Dionne of Cyclechicks, Chris Mitton and Jim Currie.  Thank you.

Thank you to all of our other dedicated volunteers:  Jeff Currie, Bill Goobie, Martin Pelletier, Melissa Bordage, Christian Charette, Don Ricker, Michelle Chase, Charles Cormier, Diane Duguay, Janice Evers, Gerry Allain, Elmer Wade, Christian Jasper, Erica Griffith, Steve Kikkert, Serge Noel, Jennifer Boyd, Cindy Guitard, Jeremy Leger, Vanessa Ferguson, Rhonda Currie, Sarah Quintin, Brigitte Dionne and Michele LeBlanc.  Thank you.

Photo by Don Ricker at Skylight Photo

If I have forgotten anyone, I apologize and want to thank you as well. I hope to see you again next year at the 11th anniversary Mike’s Bike Shop Cyclebetes ride !

All online fundraising pages will still work until the end of the year so you can still donate here...  2017 Mike’s Bike Shop Cyclebetes Ride to Cure Type 1 Diabetes.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Unracing


I spectated a few of the Tuesday night mountain bike races at Rotary Park this spring and for the first time in my life, I was watching a race as a spectator and didn’t feel like I wanted to be IN the race.  For the first time, I didn’t MISS racing.  After noticing this, I began to wonder why?  It would seem like the more that I work on myself, the more reading I do, the more that I ponder about my life, the more that I write and work with my psychologist, the less that I feel the need or drive to push myself and to be a bike racer.  

I am not talking about being a “cyclist”.  That part of me will only die when I physically can no longer ride.  A few weeks ago, while mountain biking single track in Rotary Park, I physically felt the cyclist in me.  I felt it embedded in each and every one of my cells.  It didn’t have anything to do with my ego, it was more a simple feeling of what it means to be alive, of flying effortlessly.  I was carving a trail, riding at my own pace, my physical self completely fluid as my body and bike became one as I streamed my way through the forest.  I wasn’t “thinking” about how I was riding, I was just riding.  It wasn't about going faster.  I was fully in the now.  I hadn’t felt that zen feeling in such a long time.  The moment was such pure bliss that it brought up many emotions.  That feeling is why I fell in love with riding in the first place.  That pure feeling IS cycling.  And I cherish it so much more now….

Since I have been on the racing sidelines, I have been beginning to notice that maybe all competitive bike racers are really but troubled souls looking for salvation?  Maybe that’s why the more that I heal the less I feel the need to race?  Strangely, after thinking this, I began to see competitive bike racers in this new light.  Something flipped and I didn’t really look up to them as much as I used to.  They didn’t seem as strong as they once did, their brokenness starting to show through the cracks.  I now felt bad for the kid killing himself during a local weekly youth race to live up to his parents expectations.  I felt bad for the middle-aged masters’ amateur racer spending thousands of dollars on faster equipment and sweating buckets all winter on his trainer in his basement getting ready for the upcoming season.  I felt bad for the Cat 3 racing starving himself in order to lose enough weight to be able to hang on to the pack till the last lap of the Provincial Road Championship race.  I felt bad for the guy who is never home in the evenings with his kids because he needs to squeeze in his interval workouts to get ready for that Ironman that he’s training for in 6 months.  I felt bad for these guys because deep down I know that I will probably always be like them to a certain extent.  I have spent my whole life cultivating these behaviors and now I need to mindfully cultivate more sustainable healthy behaviors instead.  It really is that simple. 

No one comes out of life unwounded emotionally and cycling (and all other endurance sports really) are a great way to help alleviate the pain of these wounds.  And the deeper the wounds, the stronger the pursuit to punish oneself and try to escape what we are feeling.  The underlying wounds are what created and continue to sustain the drive to keep pushing.  Most will say that cycling in this sense is a very healthy outlet to burn off some steam and get over our brokenness.  I’m not so sure?

Photo credit Gilles Gautreau

If someone is doing anything in excess (ie Type A personality types), I believe that it is ALWAYS in response to unresolved emotional issues from their past.  Everyone has unresolved issues, experiences that cause unpleasant emotions to arise that we don’t know what to do with so we just stuff them inside.  Some people will become workaholics, others will try to eat their pain away, others will turn to drugs and people with an affinity towards bikes will become bike racers.  Technically there isn’t much difference between each way of coping, except that society has told us that certain behaviors are OK, even admirable and others are not.  Overeating is seen as weak, whereas completing an Ironman is seen as being strong.  Both individuals are doing what they are doing to avoid feeling what they are feeling and I believe that neither is healthy in the sense that health should equal balance.  All too often society makes us believe that being fit equals being healthy, but I don’t think it does.  Exercising for health means moderate exercise, listening to our body and as soon as you cross over to the competitive side of the game, the health benefits quickly begin to diminish.  Have you ever noticed how heroin addicts and extreme endurance athletes have very similar body types:  ridiculously lean, emaciated and veiny?  At what point did we start believing that this is what healthy looks like?

So you may now be wondering what my point is?  My point is not to bash endurance events like Ironman and even our Cyclebetes 200 kilometer fundraising ride.  I still totally get why one would want to sign up and complete these challenges.  But if you do, I really think that you owe it to yourself to try to figure out why.  It’s not for fun at this point, the physical pain required to push through is surely not what I would call enjoyable.  What underlying emotional issue is behind your drive to do this?  There always is one and it’s up to you to dig deep and pinpoint out what it is.  The thing with those wounds is that they don’t heal themselves.  They don’t get better with time.  They just get buried deeper and deeper.  And they will eventually wreak havoc on your health and make you physically sick if they are not dealt with.  So how do you heal such wounds?  By living the stuffed emotions attached to them.  By sitting down with your shit and feeling it.  As you dig and work through it all, only then will you begin to heal.  So sign up for that Ironman, but remember that you need to figure out where the urge to do so is coming from and that eventually you need to deal with it.  You can’t keep running (or riding) away from it forever.  That is your purpose: to heal and soften.

Looking back at how I reacted to Adele’s Type 1 diagnosis nearly 15 years ago, I think that it is certainly time for me to sit down with my shit and work on trying to get rid of it and beginning to heal.  That is one of the gifts of the concussion last year, to force me to slow down.  It would have been much easier if I would have slowed down before being forced to but with me it seems like it had to be this way.  Our issues will ALWAYS eventually catch up to us.  I am just very grateful that in my case it still isn’t too late.

We’re all messed up.  The first step is to try to figure out why…

Friday, June 23, 2017

Zen



Dear Zen,

You came home to us one year ago on Canada Day.  After many years of Adele begging for a dog, we finally gave in after a friendly reminder that there are no guarantees whatsoever while playing the Type 1 game for so many years.  Our human nature makes us tend to forget this about life.  We were so excited to bring you home.  We couldn’t wait.  And you were soooooo cute !!


And who knew that 4 days later that I would fall and hit my head?  We initially decided to become dog owners to help Adele, but in the end the universe brought you into our lives to save me.  Last fall, when I was feeling so very unwell, the highlight of my day was taking you for a walk after work.  At a certain point, it was the only time of the day that I felt at peace.


Adele being our only child and because she was diagnosed as a baby, Type 1 Diabetes literally robbed us of the normal experience and magic of parenting a young child.  Especially when your Type 1 child is too young to talk and tell you how he/she is feeling, you need to be hyper vigilant trying to stay on top of things.  After a while you get lost in it all and don’t see your child anymore.  You just see numbers.  You think about how many carbs that your child ate and when.  You think about how much insulin you gave him/her and how much of that insulin is still active in his/her system.  And because you get so caught up in this as a responsible parent you miss all of the good stuff about being a parent.  You miss the moments that make you smile and feel so much LOVE deep inside of you for the human being that you brought into this world.  You miss these moments because being a pseudo pancreas for your Type 1 child is ever-consuming.  In this sense, I appreciate being able to look at things through your clear eyes as a parent not wearing Type 1 glasses.  You are constantly curious and amazed with everything that is so new to you.  I remember the first days feeding you when I caught myself about to weigh and calculate the amount of carbs in your food.  That way of thinking has sadly become so ingrained in my brain through the many years of Type 1 gaming that it has now become an automated response.

 

I knew that you would have much to teach us, but I am constantly blown away by your wisdom.  You don’t have any pre-conceived notion of wanting things to be a certain way.  As long as you’re with us you’re happy.  I love the way you exhale to completely empty your lungs of all that “stale” air every time you lay and settle down.  We should practice this release much more often.  Thanks for reminding me of the importance of being patient, trusting the process and slowing down.  There is no rush.  All that we have is the present moment.  You embody this and are my constant reminder.


I will always remember last fall when we were hiking singletrack along Humphrey Brook and I noticed the awakening of your true nature being out in the woods.  Your ears perked up and you became so alert checking everything out around you.  It was so beautiful.  You made me notice the stillness around us in that moment.


You have no expectations and remind me that all of my problems are self-created.  You play and work when you have the energy and rest when you don’t.  You are an expert at listening to your body and giving it what it needs.

Thank you for your unconditional love, companionship, presence and for making me laugh every single day.  

I owe you Zen.
Papa

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Unclosable



Minimalism is a new trend that has been surfacing the last few years.  The idea is to get rid of and not accumulate too many things to free up your time, energy and budget to live a lighter more centered life.    Minimalists and our younger generation seem to prefer experiences over things.   The older generations seemed to think that more stuff was the answer, but this way of thinking is beginning to shift.  The tiny house movement is an example of how this movement is taking shape.

I’m not sure that “experiences” is the best word to use to describe what humans are longing for?  Is the whole point of us being here on this planet to create the longest “experiences” list as possible?  I think of it more as the “feelings” that those experiences bring.  Remembering a positive experience will bring back feelings through memories.  And this is what I think humans cherish.  In the end all that will be left are these feelings.  These are the most powerful thing that this life here has to offer us.  In reality, these feelings ARE life.  These feelings will be what people will talk about at your funeral and when they remember you after you pass on.  To fully embrace these feelings while we’re alive is the way to live fully.  I believe that it is that simple.

The problem is that we can’t pick and choose which feelings that we want to feel.  By opening ourselves to feel the positive feelings more deeply we also open ourselves up to the not so pleasant feelings.  I purposely didn’t use the term “negative” because even if these feelings are not pleasant, there still isn’t anything wrong with them.  They are a normal part of what it means to be alive.  Like I said, to open is to open to all feelings.  There is no other way.

Society doesn’t do a very good job of teaching us this and our self-protection human nature kicks in trying to protect us from harm and we start unconsciously learning to avoid difficult and painful feelings.  And society thinks of those who get really good at this as the “strong” ones.  They are the ones who show no emotion, or show fake ones, going through life with very thick armor surrounding them.  First of all this is not true strength.  And this armor also isolates us from our ability to feel the positive feelings which are the best part of being alive.

When Adele was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes close to 15 years ago, the unpleasant feelings that arose were overwhelming for me.  I imagine that if I spoke with other Type 1 parents that they would surely agree that they also had a similar experience.  Adele was only 2 years old and it killed me to have to shove needles into her many times every single day while she kicked and screamed.  It was all happening so fast.  There was no time to grieve.  There was no time to deal with or feel these unpleasant feelings.  Looking back, I now realize that I mostly became numb and just put up a happy front.  I just stuffed these feelings inside and moved on.  That’s what society expects.  Nobody wants to be dealing with a basket case so I reacted by stiffening my upper lip.

I only cried once when the doctor gave us Adele’s diagnosis.  After that it was all business.  Everyone kept telling me that things would get better with time.  So I went with that.  One thing about Type 1 gaming is that even if insulin doses are spot on one day, the next they can be dangerously way off.  And it doesn’t matter if you’ve just been diagnosed or if you’ve been playing the Type 1 game for decades, the truth is that nothing really changes with time.  It’s a chronic life-long disease that needs to be dealt with 24-7 with no vacation whatsoever.  Insulin is not a cure.  It is life-support.


What did happen in time is that I became more and more shielded from all feelings thus all of life.  Now I had never been very open to expressing my feelings to begin with, but this got even worse after Adele’s Type 1 diagnosis.  It even got to the point where it affected my relationship with my wife.  She used to say that I would always be “in my own little bubble” and she was right.  We became more and more disconnected.  The concussion last summer broke me open.  And now I can become teary eyed listening to music.  Just like that, sitting at work listening to tunes and I feel water welling up in the corner of my eye.  I feel it build from my heart and move up and out to my eyes.  In those times I kindof wished that I had not popped my bubble or protective shield, but the depth of my relationships have increased so much that I would never want to go back.  Actually, once you are open I believe that there is no going back.

I believe that to live fully is to feel fully.  Opening is a lot of conscious work but totally worth the effort.  To be open is to be real, authentic and in the end the only way to truly live.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

12 years old



 

The best thing about cycling is that it makes me feel like I’m 12 years old again as soon as I get on my bike.  The worse thing about cycling is that it makes me feel like 12 years old again as soon as I get on my bike. 
 
The 12 year old me is all about having fun.  He doesn’t have the aches and pains of a middle aged grown-up.  He just loves the thrill of the ride, the funny feeling he gets in his stomach when he’s riding, the euphoria… 

But the 12 year old me is also not very smart and often doesn’t make the best choices.  He is impulsive and feels indestructible.  He just wants to have fun and doesn’t really dwell on the possible consequences.  He hasn’t fallen hard enough yet to know any better.  He just wants to go go go…

Can these 2 versions of the 12 year old me co-exist sustainably?

11 months since hitting my head, my symptoms are still ever-changing.  I’m kindof feeling better riding on my good days.  A few weeks ago I went to Rotary Park to spectate the first Tuesday night Hub City Challenge mountain bike race of the season.  One thing that I noticed was that for the first time in as long as I can remember I didn’t feel like or miss racing.  That urge that was once ever present wasn’t there anymore.  I also felt completely done and exhausted afterwards when I got home.  The many conversations and noises around me seemed so overwhelming.  I felt dizzy and so very tired.  The last few weeks I have been feeling worse when I start riding, but better afterwards (this is new).  Social situations were fine in the past, but they seem to have now become too much to handle especially if I am already tired.  Again, symptoms continue to be ever-changing and I don’t really know what to expect except to simply accept (wow, that's a tongue twister).

I rode my mountain bike for the first time since my crash last week and was surprised to feel pretty good.  I have been having a hard time with movement while riding on the gravel trail and on the road but riding the singletrack was better.  Maybe it was the slower speed or the narrow trail?  I didn’t ride for long and didn’t push it whatsoever but I still felt like coming back home after being away for so long.  I felt more focused while the bike kept disappearing under me.  I felt like one with my bike again.  I forgot for a brief moment about the concussion.  And that scared the hell out of me…

Watching the latest BMX YouTube videos, I always cringe how some of today’s young riders have this “GO BIG” attitude attempting crazy stunts where if you miss the results are catastrophic.  Social media has created a generation that puts so much importance on getting likes and views that these two-wheeled daredevils have completely lost touch with fear.   Everyone dreams of becoming a hero, a legend and they’re willing to risk life and limb literally in the process.  Growing up I wasn’t like that.  It may have been a different way of thinking of my generation or just me, but I like to think that I had a very healthy fear that saved my ass oh so many times.  I did some dangerous stuff on my bike, but the lead-up to it was very, very gradual and achieved in baby steps.  It was a gradual progression guided by what this healthy fear.

In time, through this progression, a certain confidence set in and I felt very comfortable on my bike.  I could almost say that I eventually felt the most comfortable when on my bike.  And that confidence followed me as I grew older until I crashed and smacked my head.  Before the accident, I was never really afraid of crashing when mountain biking.  I mean, there was definitely a line that I wasn’t willing to cross, especially on the downhills, but in general I was never afraid.  I always rode with confidence thinking that the skills developed over a lifetime of riding could get me out of big trouble and save my ass.  This all changed last July.  And it really scared me when I forgot about my crash while mountain biking last week.  I felt afraid of not being afraid.

In so many ways I feel like I am relearning how to do the stuff that I did again, especially activities involving balance.  My physio says that my brain still knows how to do it all, but the messages that it needs to send to the rest of my body get screwed up because the pathways that it uses are still not 100% healed yet.  

I feel like many of the people that I know think that I am overthinking and over-analyzing all of this, that I am being paranoid, that I simply need to face my fears head on and begin living the rest of my life.  The thing is that no one truly understands how much this injury has affected me.  It’s very hard to explain.  In many ways it’s kindof like depression and other mental illnesses.  It’s invisible and unless you’ve lived through it yourself, you don’t really get it and tend to think that the sufferer should simply snap out of it.  At times, I felt so disconnected with outside reality and my physical environment that I didn’t really feel part of this world anymore.  Everything felt like a very lucid dream.  My symptoms affected every single thing that I did in an ever so subtle way but with such depth that not even simply 'being' felt real anymore.  Given the way my physical symptoms have literally changed my life and that they have persisted for so long I feel that I would be missing the whole point by dismissing them.  I need to listen to my body.  There is no way to just push through this.

Yesterday, as soon as I started my ride, the dizziness came and it’s like I lost the sense of what was underneath me.  I felt like the physical foundation on which I was riding wasn’t there anymore.  It’s very weird, but when this happens I can either turn around and go home or keep going while being extra careful.  Last night I chose the 2nd option.  In this case I was very happy to be riding alone because then all of my focus and energy can be put on riding my bike.  When I feel like this I can only do 1 thing at a time.  And when I’m alone that thing is riding.  I can’t really socialize and ride when I feel like this.  It just makes the symptoms worse.  And that’s why I’m still riding alone for now.  Like I mentioned in the last post, it’s not because I don’t want to ride with anyone else, it’s just because my brain is telling me that it isn’t ready for it just yet. 


Like Type 1 gaming, injuries are so very humbling.  But I do think that their purpose is as a reminder of life’s fragility and an opportunity to develop compassion.  And that’s another reason why they must not be dismissed.  I believe that they are meant to soften and mold us into better humans.  It isn’t easy, but it has to be that way in order to really make an impression.