Friday, August 11, 2023
These bridges. That I like to go to. In the woods. Made out of wood. One at the back corner of Centennial park. And a newer one erected last year in Mill Creek park. There are many other bridges in both parks. But I am drawn to these two for some reason. Last Sunday. After a brief sojourn at the pavilion, I pedal my way out to Mill Creek. I had fat biked to this bridge on a very cold day last January. I’m not sure if it was the warm forest tea, the simple wooden bench beside it, the freshly fallen dusty snow or the restful solitude in that moment but I fell in love with this spot then and there. The Centennial park bridge has been on my best-loved local whereabouts list for three or four years now. A go-to spot that I have visited numerous times, mostly in autumn. Such an optimized standpoint from which the fall foliage really pops in all directions at that magical time of the year. Falling leaves swaying and dancing to the soothing sounds of the streaming waterway. Many cups of forest tea have been savored in this here location. And then there was the time that I made a new friend with a squirrel when we shared my homemade cookie. Alone. I meditate on the gentle flowing sound of the water below. I feel alive. Recentered. More human. Riding these bikes. Yoga. Meditation. And visiting these sacred bridges. Pursuits that I need to keep practicing. Not as an attempt to become faster, fitter, awakened or better in any way. But simply to bring me back to a certain baseline of normalcy. These proven physical rituals. The daily medicine that I need in order to be able to function like the so called sane people in this world. My edge dulling therapy. A few days without and my mind and body remind me that not practicing simply isn’t an option anymore. For me. At this point in my life. It really is that simple. These bridges. Reconnecting the parts of me that have slipped apart from me.
Friday, June 2, 2023
This subdued underlying ache. This longing. It has lived inside me for so long that I had completely ceased to notice it. This hunger. This unease. With an undertone of grief. And a hint of shame. This subtle yearning for something. Redemption maybe. It tastes more like melancholy than depression even if I have definitely been swept into that dark place from time to time. Do other people also feel it? I’ve often wondered. Younger me actually assumed that everyone did. As every life phase passes, I convince myself that this too shall pass. That it will eventually leave me. Future salvation. After I pay my dues. Peace and happiness just around the next corner. That’s what everyone keeps telling me. One of my initial motivations to ride was to numb this discomfort. My best escape attempt. Giving me much needed temporary relief. But eventually always leading me back to what I was running away from. Yoga is teaching me how to stay put. Sitting with what is. Especially the things that make me feel uncomfortable. Leaning into what I have been trying so hard to avoid for so long. Slowly but surely making me feel more comfortable in this body. Mindful movement. Mindful breath. Guiding me to feel safe enough to let go of what I have been holding onto that is making me ill. Turns out that mindfulness added to my riding also has the same healing effect. Helping me fully feel to finally heal. My happy place. The place where I feel more present. Here. Now. Am I a cyclist who practices yoga? Or am I becoming a yogi who practices cycling? I guess it doesn’t really matter does it. Either way I always win.
Tuesday, April 25, 2023
84 days. The current tally of my ongoing daily yoga streak. I may just have to take a day off. Or stop counting. To avoid turning this into some type of personal competition which defeats the purpose of why I committed to a regular practice in the first place. I have a habit of overdoing things like that. Something good doesn’t seem like it’s enough unless I make it excessive. One of the unconscious strategies that I use to distract myself from this underlying torment. Yoga seems to be the compassionate antidote for my unrestrained striving. Simply showing up. Day after day. Gently flowing from where I am in this moment. Nothing forced. No keeping score. No tracking numbers. No values to indicate progress or forward movement. Simply practicing breath-coordinated mindful movement to guide me to feeling more deeply. In complete harmony with life itself. Working with what my body can give me on this day which is always enough. Yoga doesn’t end when I get off the mat. So much to teach me about myself. So much to teach me about this life. Noticing how my yoga practice gently overflows into my bike practice. Old habits of setting ride objectives or following a written program replaced by a healthier organic approach. Asking myself each and every time I swing my leg over my bike what I have to give today. What do my body and soul need here and now. My brain seems to have a mind of its own. Especially since hitting my head. It calls the shots. Reminding me over and over again that all I can do is play by its own unpredictable rules. There is this bridge inside of me that yoga has started building. A connection. From doing to being. Mindfully guiding me towards what we all really need most. Healing.
Thursday, March 30, 2023
In so many ways, I’m very much an unCanadian Canadian. I don’t really care for hockey. I never watch it on TV. Skating was my favorite part when I used to play. But to be honest, I mostly only kept signing up because I couldn’t ride my bike during the winter. In 2010. Tired of the indoor trainer, I tried x-country skiing. I loved the being outdoors part of the sport. But my skate technique sucked. And because of this I never seemed to be able to ski comfortably. Then. In 2016. After my concussion. I bought a fat bike. I had resisted for years. They just seemed too damn slow. But at that point in my life, slow was exactly what I needed. My fat bike saved me during that first winter after hitting my head. Unhurried easy solo rides were my therapy. They still are really. Growing up, I remember spending countless hours ogling over pics in my BMX magazines, dreaming of living in California where I could ride my bike year round. I have always been and will always be a summer soul, but I have come to appreciate that there is something very special about riding a bike in the depths of winter. Something about the arctic snow cover that slows everything down including my thoughts. Something about the wintry stillness that enhances the taste of my forest-tea. In so many ways, my fat bike has literally changed my relationship with our Canadian winters from something to suffer through and endure to something to cherish and enjoy. Bikes are simply authentically me. An unCanadian Canadian. Madly in love. With pedaling outdoors.
Thursday, February 16, 2023
This bike my bolster. This horizon my mantel. This nature my alter. Sunday mornings. They are for riding. It’s just how it’s been for the longest time now. Drawing circles with my legs in this ruminative serenity. Everything slows down. That’s one thing that I love most about deep winter rides in the woods. The unhurried quiet and tranquility. Cresting a short incline, I come face to face with a deer practicing his yoga mountain pose in the center of the trail ahead. I too gently halt. Maybe I should try to get a picture. Naw… That would just ruin this moment. I simply relish in our mutual presence. After a few minutes, another deer joins the party and they both gracefully hop off the trail and disappear into the forest. I start pedaling again. Glancing out into the vast woodland that just swallowed my new friends as I ride by. They’re long gone. I’m on a 36 day meditation streak. Motivated by just finishing a 6 week meditation program at @puravidadieppe. I have been meditating for about 8 years now. Off and on. Mostly off at the end of last year. This course gave me the nudge that I needed to set me back on track. 15 minutes each day. Like brushing my teeth, I wanted to make sitting in silence compulsory. In his book, journalist Dan Harris estimates that daily meditation makes him 10% happier. After my 6 week trial, I can also confidently agree that sitting on my mediation bench daily improves my solo rides by at least the same margin. Not faster. Slower. And stronger. Enhanced presence is one of my favorite meditation presents.
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
Healing. Part 2. Crying into my first breath. How we all emerge into this world. The most natural thing. Our innate ability to embody all emotion. But what happens when we get older? Do our eyes dry up? Why is it so difficult for the adult me to shed tears? I have always been an emotional human. But, growing up I quickly learned that it wasn’t safe to express painful emotions in most situations. It would get you ridiculed. Bullied even. Big boys don’t cry. So in order to fit in, I learned to stiffen my upper lip. To push it all back in. Resourcefully doing what I needed to do in order to gain acceptance. The most common survival mechanism. The problem is that most of us get so good at concealing and burying these emotions that we completely lose contact with them. So very out of touch with how we really feel. Especially men. Maybe that’s why our life expectancy is less than women? All these stuffed, stale and toxic emotions eventually making us physically ill. I really miss that soothing feeling that I used to experience as a young boy after crying it out. The release of this pain through these tears. Blissful exhaustion. Alone in this forest. I feel safe. Nature’s embrace inviting me to fully embody all that I am feeling. No one to judge. No one to fool. Just me and my shit. Stuck emotions coming up as I pedal amongst these meditating snow covered trees. Just step out of the way and let them flow. Maybe that’s the whole purpose of my solo rides in the woods at this point in my life. To gently teach me how to cry again.
Friday, January 13, 2023
Healing. Part 1. Being alive means facing certain situations or events that cause unpleasant, painful feelings to arise inside of us. There is no escaping it. It is simply part of what it means to be human and alive. If we were to touch a burning stove with our bare hand, the pain receptors in our skin would very quickly communicate to our brain to remove our hand from the dangerous scorching heat source. That’s the purpose of pain. Protection. With emotional pain, our inclination is similar in that we instinctively want to distance ourselves from what hurts. Because of this, our tendency is most often to push down unpleasant emotions. Repression. Our best attempt at protection at that moment. It kind of works. But only temporarily. The pain never gets released. It remains inside of us. Eventually buried under layers and layers of suppressed painful feelings. Until we reach a certain breaking point. For some it’s middle age. For some it could be much sooner. These unbearable accumulated emotional anchors immobilizing us. Disguised as anxiety and depression. Can we free ourselves from these shackles? How do we begin to heal back into happiness? Maybe it all starts with locating, identifying and releasing these difficult and painful stuck feelings? Maybe this is why I love my solo rides so much? These pedals. Drawing circles. In nature. Pointing out these emotional anchors. Lifting them up to the surface. Giving me the opportunity to allow them to move through me. Something about the meditative aspect of these rides that just seems to give me the courage that I need. Something about spinning these legs that makes the pain of the release a bit more bearable. Long before psychotherapy. I was unknowingly working on healing my trauma using what I call cyclotherapy.
Sunday, January 1, 2023
2023. A new year. Or maybe it’s really just another meaningless number. Humans are the only living beings on this planet who are counting. I have come to despise numbers. Infinite yet irrelevant. Precise yet deceiving. Chasing them always ends up weighing me down. I much prefer words. Honest. Truthful. Even if we can’t really use them to accurately quantify anything. Focusing onto the infinite potential of these next twelve months. No measurable goals to pursue. No check lists to go through. No set resolutions to follow. Just a simple list of nine words. Themes or intentions that I am putting out there. Seeds that I am planting. Authenticity. Compassion. Forgiveness. Curiosity. Presence. Flow. Meditation. Yoga. And of course, Bicycles. I really feel like I am at a pivotal point in my life right now. Much more comfortable with where I’ve been. Both excited and terrified facing what happens next. The final act before the epilogue. How will the rest of my narrative be written. No one knows for sure. One thing that I do know for sure is that all nine words in my list lead me to a single word. Healing. As 2022 comes to an end, may we all find the courage to finally stop betraying ourselves and either begin or continue our own personal healing journey. Healing into happiness. Everything else will fall into place from there. Happy New Year friends !!
Tuesday, December 13, 2022
December. The darkest month. A reminder of the darkness inside all of us. Everyone around me putting up all these decorative shining lights. Trying to brighten things up I guess. So much hustle and bustle. So much rushing around. So much planning and getting ready. This year-end sprint. Society’s remedy to this dark season. I just find it all so very noisy and loud. If I’m completely honest, I don’t really care for the Christmas holiday season. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, but so much of it just seems forced and insincere. All meaning lost. Ruined by consumerism. Another capitalist casualty. Disconnected. Nature isn’t really bothered by it all. Forests. Laying low. Animals. Cuddled up in their comfortable nests. Understanding that the dark season is really meant for rest. For slowing down. For recovery and healing. Sunday morning. Steady north wind blowing. Temps hovering around minus six Celsius. The wet and muddy ground from a few days ago now frozen solid. I roll down my driveway shortly after nine. And slowly work my way over to the other side of the river. Abandoning myself into this crisp tranquility. A mid-ride snack. Some warm forestea. Life is good. Really good actually. In so many ways, I feel better this time this year than I have past years. Maybe it’s the daily 8000 IU of Vitamin D that I’ve been supplementing with. Or all these years of therapy and working on myself that are finally bearing fruit. It isn’t about my life finally being perfect. I guess it’s simply about being less scared of the dark. Out here. In nature. Reconnected. Comfortably sitting in the silence of my own darkness.
Thursday, November 10, 2022
Timekeepers. Last weekend was the end of daylight savings. Clocks turned back one hour. The one and only 25 hour day of the year. Before clocks and calendars, foregone human civilizations used the position of the sun to measure days, the lunar cycle to measure months and the seasons to measure years. When we were babies, time as we now know it didn’t exist. We slept when tired. Ate when hungry. And cried when physically uncomfortable. Animals also have no concept of time. Unconcerned by how old they are. Simply always in the now. Humans are the only beings on this planet who measure and worry about time. By the time we’re young adults, teenagers even, we’ve pretty much become slaves to it. Constantly looking at our clocks and calendars. Rushing around to meetings and appointments. Setting alarms to make sure we stay on track. Deadlines. Expiry dates. Such a crazy way to live. No wonder so many are exhausted and unhappy. If only I had more time. It always seems to be the answer to so many questions. I’m not sure what time I left the house. Nothing to be done. Nowhere to be. My route decided as I was pedaling. A temporary taste of timelessness. One of the things that I cherish most as I get older are days without timekeeping. Even if we need clocks in order to be able to function in this world, happiness is definitely enhanced whenever we give ourselves even mini vacations from being timekeepers.
Tuesday, November 1, 2022
There are moments in life when time literally stops. Pivotal points in our timeline where there’s a distinct before and a distinct after. Unable to go back. Life as we once knew it forever changed. Twenty years ago today, our family clock paused for what seemed like an eternity. The words that came out of our pediatrician’s mouth forever etched in my distraught brain. Crystal clear and so very blurry all at the same time. Not unlike a very bad dream. Type 1 Diabetes. Insulin therapy for life. Or until a cure is found. I didn’t take the news very well. Even if on the outside it looked like I did. I didn’t cry. So many emotions. Frozen solid. Overwhelmed by this groundless feeling. Intense anger over infinite sadness. In this surreal standstill, my fight instinct immediately kicked in. Flight wasn’t an option. The father in me desperately trying to rescue my beloved two year old baby daughter from this imminent aggressor. The bike racer in me literally sprinting against this uninvited chronic life-threatening condition. I didn’t sleep. For years. I just kept stomping on these pedals and attacking relentlessly. Truly believing that I could beat it. My entire existence consumed by these numbers. My sole mission to fix this. During my first breakdown in 2015, my doctor told me that I’d lasted longer than she thought I would. The endurance athlete in me at the time taking it as a compliment. Not realizing that all I had accomplished was bury myself in a much deeper hole. I did some damage. To my body. To my psyche. No doubt about it. Maybe twenty years is long enough to be holding my breath in denial. Inhale. Exhale. Sit up. Soft pedal. And enjoy the rest of the ride. This will all be over soon.
Thursday, September 29, 2022
One of the ways that my trauma has molded me is that I am somewhat of a control freak. Ok, let’s be honest, the word “somewhat” should have been omitted. My relationship with control is better described as an obsession. An extreme unconscious belief that if I’m careful enough, vigilant enough and go over all possible scenarios enough that I can prevent future hurtful events or trauma from occurring. My analytical brain’s best attempt at keeping me safe. All-consuming. Utterly exhausting. And simply impossible. My control obsession also presents itself as perfectionism. A learned behavior fueled by my anxiety. An egoic endeavor. A disease of the mind maybe. A type of neurosis even. Constantly looking for faults. Incessantly terrified of making mistakes. An all-consuming, never ending, impossible effort. And such a hindrance to happiness. Being alive means being imperfect. Only dead things can be perfect. Only when I am no longer breathing will I no longer make mistakes. Living happily can only happen when I allow and expect imperfection. All in my head. In this undisciplined brain. This problem-solving organ. Its mission to look for problems and find solutions. My heart on the other hand isn’t as logical. This feeling organ. Its eyes able to see beauty hidden in the flaws. Maybe that’s what true love is all about. In our ability to cherish the imperfections. The blemishes actually making us love even more. My traumas certainly run deep. Understanding them is how I heal them. And in case you needed to be reminded. I am and you are already perfectly imperfect.
Monday, September 12, 2022
Nothing’s the same. Everything’s the same. Outside versus inside. Another lap around the sun. One year older. I can feel it. But only on the outside. That’s what makes aging so weird. The body is constantly changing. Slowly falling apart once we reach a certain age. But the part within us that moves through each of these body versions stays the same. My outer form. It definitely has a middle aged feel to it. Even though I’m not quite sure what this age should feel like. Sitting still. Eyes closed. I’m still the young boy in all of my childhood memories. It’s almost like this is all just a dream. Maybe that’s really all it is. Feeling very grateful to still be breathing and able to feel it all. So very fortunate to be able to witness me actually becoming more me. Contemplating my existence on my birthday, I can’t really explain it any other way. This is simply my truth. My 54 year old truth.
Tuesday, September 6, 2022
Once you drop
beyond the edge of darkness, even after you pull yourself back up, it leaves a
trench. And because of this, it’s so
much easier to slip back down. Even if I
felt great on the bike last month, I had been riding too much. Unconsciously caught up in the numbers. Fueled by a certain sense of desperation. My pedaling out of balance with being. When riding is your medicine, the dosage is of
the essence. Not enough surely isn’t
good. But too much isn’t good
either. Deep down I knew that I wasn’t
well. Whenever I hyper focus on bikes it
usually means that my riding has become but a distraction to avoid feeling something
else. During my last session with my
psychologist, the term depression comes up numerous times. The label doesn’t offend or frighten me. In so many ways, I find it rather comforting.
What I feel is not “I no longer want to live”
depressed. But rather “I really need a
deep rest” depressed. Living in denial
for such a long time can be so very exhausting like that. The thing with breakdowns is that they’re
invitations that can eventually lead to breakthroughs. If we’re paying attention. And if we’re willing to take a deep look at
that which is. Their purpose to slow everything
down enough to enable us to get even a tiny glimpse of the truth hidden behind
the darkness. In this silent
standstill. As this fuzzy dimension
slowly starts to lift. As this new school
year begins. My own personal emotional homework
right in front of me. It’s time.
Monday, August 22, 2022
Speak up. A trivial slip and fall on my backside two weeks ago. A sudden collision with a small deer as we were driving home from the beach a few days later. Minor bumps that the old me would have brushed off without thinking twice. But with this delicate brain, my concussion symptoms reawakened. This old familiar fuzzy dimension. Dizzy. Disconnected. Undone. This body and mind that don’t feel like mine. Are these sensations post-concussion syndrome or depression? I’m not sure. The nuances between the two are just too damn close. I do recognize this dark gloomy place though. I’ve lived here before. I don’t really feel like staying. But I don’t get to decide when I can leave. Invisible injuries and illnesses are bitches like that. No one wants to talk about them. But that’s how they lose their power. Dismantling associated stigmas by speaking up. I can’t just suck it up. I can’t fake it. I can’t keep telling myself those lies. All I can do is listen to my body. Follow my own rules. Be patient. And I can also speak up. Its manifestations are physical. It’s not just in my head even if it really is. If I seem indecisive these days. If I cancel plans last minute. If I seem withdrawn. If I isolate myself. It’s not you. It’s me. I’m not apologizing. I’m not looking for pity or sympathy. I’m simply speaking up. If you’re going through something similar, please know that you’re not alone. If you want to talk about it, I’m here. Speak up.