Thursday, July 9, 2020

Alone



During one of my rides last week, my settled mind wandering, I started thinking about the people in my life that I truly enjoy spending time with. The people that I can genuinely be myself with. The people that get me. The people that I talk about real stuff with. I had a hard time finding 10 names. And that was counting my dog Zen. I’m not sure if this is supposed to make me feel happy or feel sad? There’s no doubt that I am an introvert. It’s not really that I’m anti-social. It’s just that I’m anti-bullshit, anti-fakeshit. Asking someone how they’re doing even if you don’t want to know the real answer is hypocritical. Small talk. Chitchat. Trivial conversation. So artificial. That’s why it can be so tiring after a while. That’s one thing that I love about working from home because of the current Covid pandemic. I don’t need to politely fake it all day. Long solo rides have always had a hypocrisy cleansing effect for me. Out there, by myself, I can really just be myself. And if I’m completely honest, I find that there are not enough opportunities for this in today’s fast paced, robotic world. I like being alone. And I can’t really remember the last time that I felt lonely. I believe that is one of the things that meditation teaches. It teaches us how to be alone and well simultaneously. I remember hating Saturday nights spent home by myself when I was young. It made me feel so depressed. That’s the thing with youth. Lots and lots of friends, even if they’re not real friends, is what we all want. Security. Popularity. Proof that we’re worthy. But as we grow older, we begin to understand that our worthiness comes from the inside. It’s the only kind of worthiness that is everlasting. How comfortable are you with solitude?

Monday, July 6, 2020

4 years








4 years ago yesterday, I didn’t feel like racing.  The last race in our local short track mountain bike series, I made myself go.  Just push through it.  Fake it till you make it.  4 years ago yesterday, on the last lap, my tired hand slipped off the bar on a rooty downhill.  There was no way to save it.  I tried to roll as I hit the ground.  My head took the brunt of the fall.  I got up, oblivious to the fact that every single thing had just changed in that moment.  4 years later, on Sunday morning, the plan was a solo 50k road loop.  Supposed to turn right, I went the other way to avoid the threatening clouds.  I felt good so I kept riding.  And I kept going the other way chasing bluer skies.  My 50k ride metamorphosed into a 94k adventure.  A latte.  An old graffiti covered bridge.  An expired church monument.  Boundless farm fields.  Quiet country back roads.  Nature park gravel path shortcuts.  I thought about my concussaversary all last week but for some reason didn’t when I woke up yesterday.  Until it came to me about an hour into my ride.  Gratitude overflowing.  Time at a certain standstill.  An overwhelming appreciation for all that my personal purgatory has taught me about life’s truth.  Most people don’t understand how much this invisible injury has affected me both physically and emotionally.  I don’t really talk about it anymore even if I’m still not 100% recovered.  I still get that drunk, dizzy, disconnected feeling now and again.  I look fine, so I just pretend to be.  Besides, unless you’ve experienced it first hand, it’s simply unexplainable.  4 years ago yesterday, one of the hardest things turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to me.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Bravery





Bravery.  Growing up, I remember feeling different than everyone else.  Like an outsider.  Like I was following a different script.  Like I didn’t fit the mold that society had created.  A sensitive kid who identified more with non-conventional pursuits instead of what most everyone else was doing.  A teenager who was drawn more towards the eccentric nonconformists instead of the so-called normal.  Now that I’m older, I’m beginning to realize that maybe everyone else feels the same way to a certain extent.  Even the people who seem to fit the template perfectly.  They are just better at creating the illusion.  We all want to fit in.  We all want acceptance.  One of our basic needs.  To be loved.  So we take on these roles in order to survive.  Not unlike a character played by an actor in a movie, we carefully build our persona, our outside fa├žade.  This front is of utmost importance.  The figurative mask that keeps us alive.  We wear it for so long that we eventually lose touch with who we are underneath.  We forget about the one wearing this disguise.  But we’re still here.  It’s really just a matter of peeling our outer layers, lifting our veil.  We talk about the importance of being brave, of always being courageous.  I am beginning to understand that the ultimate act of bravery is showing up as your authentic self.  Everything else falls into place from there.  Stop hiding.  Be brave. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Numbers





The business world lives by the adage that the numbers don’t lie.  But what if that was really just a lie?  What if the real truth is that the numbers are but lies?  What if we stopped focusing on the quantities and totals?  From a practical perspective, we will always need numbers in order to function in this world.  But what if we let go of our attachment to them?  Most cyclists absolutely love and live by numbers.  Speed.  Power.  Maximal aerobic power (MAP).  Heart rate.  Distance.  Time.  Constantly chasing them.  Using numbers to determine progress and also, very often, indirectly self-worth.  Measurable results slavery.  I remember when I trained and raced how my overall mood and well-being were affected by how I was riding, how I compared to others, how my performance measured up to my set goals.  When I was riding well, life was good.  My happiness dependant on external circumstances.  I’d get on these highs when how I wanted things to be matched how they were.  But since they were not based on something internal, there was always an underlying lingering anxiety.  I could easily get upset when these out of my control, external circumstances didn’t go as planned.  My ride numbers are really not all that impressive right now.  Even if I’ve been having amazing ride feeling days lately.  Fluidity.  Souplesse.  Effortlessness.  A simple and very deep sense of well-being as my cycling body resurfaces.  Feelings of health, focus, creativity and ease that spill into every single thing.  Subtle.  Powerful beyond measure.  Numbers will never redeem you.  Numbers will never be your salvation.  True happiness is an inside job.  Shift your focus inward.  The numbers are but lies.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Summer Feel



I must admit that I really have been loving this hot sunny weather.  Like leaved flora, the rays of light energizing my soul.  The sunshine absorbed by my skin initiating some kind of chemical magic inside of me that invigorates my body and mind.  Maybe it’s the natural vitamin D?   Summer has always been my favorite season.  Childhood memories of that deep relaxed post-bath feeling that I felt as a young child after a day spent outside on a hot day.  The feel of my soft PJs on my clean fresh tanned skin.  The sound of birds chirping right before dusk.  The sweet smelling, light breeze from my open bedroom window.  Falling asleep in pure peacefulness.  Hot summer nights where the heat surprises you when you step outside.  Still evenings spent with my friends endlessly practicing wheelies on our BMX bikes up our dead end street.  Pedaling our bikes into the night day after day.  So many summer memories.  Bona fide freedom.  So light and uncomplicated.  One of the things that I like most about this summer heat is how it makes me unhurried.  Sunday morning started out in a foggy haze, but the warm sun slowly burned through it.  I rode out towards Memramcook, out to Beaumont.  I hadn’t been there since last winter.  And I had forgotten how peaceful that place is.  Magical almost.  Vast sunny blue skies.  Gentle breeze.  The view across the river.  I love how taking in my surroundings from that point and moment made me feel so very small.  Insignificant.  In a good way.  All the bullshit vanishing in an instant.  Man, I love summer.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Summer Solstice





Eckhart Tolle calls it our “pain body”.  Everyone has one.  No exceptions.  Surviving our childhood always means a certain accumulation of stuffed and buried difficult emotions.  Without the maturity to fully understand and express our feelings, our survival mechanism is most often to close, to bottle up, in an attempt to contain and diffuse the uncomfortable emotional energy instead of letting it flow through as it arises.  This negative energy remains inside of us even if we can’t always feel it.  Trapped, it festers over time.  As adults, sometimes even before, we eventually reach a breaking point.  Ultimately, something always gives.  If it doesn’t make us physically sick, it certainly leaves us emotionally unwell.  Feeling buried, immobilized, frozen, we are left with 2 choices.  The only 2 choices.  Either we continue covering our painful wounds or we heal them.  The day before June solstice, the official beginning of summer, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, may your inner existence be as bright, uncovered and serene as a calm summer evening.  Happy summer solstice everyone.  Nature’s yearly gift inviting us to uncover and heal.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Thunder Road




In 1975, my parents bought me a Huffy Thunder Road.  I vividly remember my dad assembling the bike in our kitchen as soon as we got home.  Mesmerized by the new bike smell and the adventure potential of my new machine.  Flat black painted frame.  Fat knobby tires.  A number plate.  Gray with yellow pinstriped plastic fenders.  And a thick long spongy black seat.  It looked like a dirt bike.  And it felt like one too every time I rode it.  I was soooo stoked.  I literally rode that bike into the ground.  45 years later, I wasn’t supposed to get a new bike.  Then, I realized that I had only ridden my aero road bike a handful of times last year.  It’s a thoroughbred race bike, and well, I don’t race anymore.  Gravel has become my new road.  Like a dog chained to a tree, it deserved a better life.  It was time to let it go to a new owner who could bring out its full potential.  And replace it with something more comfortable and versatile for the type of riding that I now do.  Exploring roads less travelled.  A bike with road geometry that can still handle dirt and even gravel roads comfortably.  An endurance road bike.  Clearance for wider tires, up to 35 mm.  Meet Giant Defy Advanced Pro 2.  Mechanical Ultegra.  32 mm gravel tires.  Road pedals.  We hit it off on the very first ride.  To this day, every single time that I crack open a new bike box, that smell brings me back to our old kitchen and my dad building my new Huffy.  I totally feel the beginning of a deep, long lasting relationship like I had with my Huffy Thunder Road.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The way we were before



The way we were before.  Before we started looking at what everyone else was doing.  Before we started following someone else’s agenda.  Before we started blindly being carried by the most popular script.  Before we started trying to be normal.  Before we started ignoring our intuition.  Before we started trying to impress.  Before we started losing ourselves trying to fit into society’s template.  Before our view of the world became tarnished by what we heard and witnessed.  As a straight white male, I feel like the last person to have an accurate opinion on prejudice, injustice and racism.  I can’t begin to understand what it feels like to be treated differently simply because of who I am.  White privilege is my everyday reality.  I can’t change that.  But I can speak up.  I can show my support for equality.  I can be part of the solution instead of the problem.  Discrimination and hate are not innate.  They are learned.  Born innocent, we become what we are taught.  Even if you can’t force others to change and unlearn hateful conceptualizations, you can certainly change your own self.  Choose love.  Every time.  In every situation.  Choose love not in an attempt to change the world.  Choose love to change you.  Because, the thing is that, you are the world.  And once you let your light within shine bright, it will also shine on others.  The revolution that needs to happen is within yourself.  Black Lives Matter.  Indigenous Lives Matter.  Human Beings.  Equals.  The way forward is by going back.  Back to the way we were before.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Sunday morning




I had forgotten how peaceful Sunday morning rides can be.  Lifeless flags hanging.  Empty streets.  So quiet.  So serene.  I used to ride early in the morning when my daughter was young.  Now, my sleep requirements seems to have superseded my need to get out early.  Or maybe I just like sleeping in now that I finally can?  Sundays are almost always ride days, but I have usually only been getting out right before noon.  This Sunday, awake around 7 am, feeling rested, I decide to head out early as the rest of the house slept.  The snap of my cleats clicking into my pedals cuts through the early morning silence.  Pedalling through the morning fog, the cold humidity makes my eyes water.  Or maybe it’s tears of joy and appreciation being out there on my bike in that moment?  About 20 minutes in, the sun dissolves the airborne smoky mist.  My arm and leg warmers come off.  In and out of the valley.  The covered bridge.  Rivers and wide open roads.  Up to the empty church on the other side.  The thinning cloud unwrapping the view around me.  I used to ride to forget.  Now I ride to remember.  For some weird, unexplainable reason, remembering seems to help me forget.  Purgative.  Cathartic.  The wind picks up after a few hours.  Riding through clouds of expired dandelions, it already looks and feels like summer.  It smells like summer too.  100k in before lunch.  No wonder Sundays are my favorite day of the week.  Happy World Bicycle Day !

Friday, May 29, 2020

Atari



I got an Atari home video console for Christmas in the early 80s.  The Atari 2600.  With the fake wood finish and red button joy sticks.  The best games also.  Pac Man.  Donkey Kong.  All the cool kids were into it.  A family in my neighborhood even burned out their TV after playing non stop for over 15 hours.  That wasn’t my problem.  I may have played with mine a total of 3 or 4 hours.  Max.  Maybe?  I liked hanging out in arcades as a teenager, but I never played the games.  Not once.  For some reason a Snickers bar seemed like a better way to spend any change that I had in my pocket.  I’ve just never been into video games.  I mean, I find them cool, but I just can’t seem to lose myself in them like everyone else.  The video game world seems to have collided with the cycling world these last few years with the introduction of Zwift, an online cycling platform that enables riders to ride and compete with each other virtually.  The concept is brilliant.  The graphics and avatars are amazing.  Most of my cycling friends are into it.  It certainly is the next big thing.  But, for some reason, I remain unmoved.  Maybe it’s the competitive aspect?  Maybe it’s the stationary pedaling?  I used to ride indoors all winter, 3 – 4 hours at a time when I trained to race.  But the truth is that I have not ridden on a stationary trainer once in about 5 years.  I just can’t anymore.  I try to let myself be excited by the whole Zwift movement.  I really do.  The technology.  The practicality.  The potential to get faster.  But if I’m honest, I would be faking it.  Maybe my reason is the same as why I never really played with my Atari 2600?  Maybe my problem is really just that I never really was into video games?  Forward movement, going somewhere, outside, exploring the natural world I live in is too big of a part of why I ride.  The crunchy feel of my tires floating on top of the gravel.  The breeze brushing the skin on my face.  The smells.  The sounds.  The sceneries.  Like the way that the flora on the edge of this lake shelters the water on the side making the periphery surface smooth instead of choppy and rippled like the wind blown center.  Sorry Zwift, you really are amazing.  It isn’t you.  It’s me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

That gut feeling





Life is short.  Why do we keep rushing through it?  So much to do.  So little time.  Maybe it’s not that we have too much to do?  Maybe it’s that we’re not doing the right stuff?  In the simplest terms, that’s exactly what life really is.  Doing stuff.  For a while.  We take it so seriously, but in reality that’s all it is.  Time to do stuff.  We get to choose.  And in the end, our regrets are simply having done the wrong stuff.  So, how do we know what stuff that we should be doing?  The answer is always in the gut.  Our gut knows.  Listen to your gut.  It’s always right.  It always knows.  Last Friday was a gorgeous day.  Sunny and unseasonably warm.  Perfect for a ride out to the coast taking the long road less travelled.  Chip seal, gravel, some dirt, near zero traffic and road side couches.  I had mapped the loop last year, but had never gotten to ride it.  This was the day.  My longest ride of the year.  Unhurried, and powered by eggs and bacon, my legs felt fluid.  Not fast, but strong.  It’s a strange, but very pleasant, feeling.  A deep sense of comfort and well-being, my butt comfortably perched on my saddle, my legs spinning smooth circles.  Familiar.  Like a baby being rocked in his cradle.  Revealing.  Knowing.  A pathway to my gut.  That’s one of the best gifts that riding always gives me.  That intuitive internal gut connection.  The day capped off with Kombucha, supper with family and an evening walk with our dog Zen.  Simple.  Blessed.  Happy.  A day that ended, knowing in my gut, that I had done the right stuff.

Friday, May 22, 2020

This too shall pass




This too shall pass.  Covid-19.  This too shall pass.  Unchartered territory.  This too shall pass.  Global pandemic.  This too shall pass.  Physical distancing.  This too shall pass.  Early May snowstorms.  This too shall pass.  Late May heatwaves.  This too shall pass.  Long rainy days.  This too shall pass.  Infinite deep blue cloudless skies.   This too shall pass.  Early sunrises and late sunsets.  This too shall pass.  Morning meditation and yoga.  This too shall pass.  Working from home.  This too shall pass.  Quality time with family.  This too shall pass.  Simple schedules.  This too shall pass.  Stress and fatigue.  This too shall pass.  Health.  This too shall pass.  Sickness.  This too shall pass.  Long rides on wide open roads.  This too shall pass.  The Corona virus has definitely shown us how fickle life really is, how quickly everything can change, what’s really important.  This too shall pass is a Persian adage about the ephemerality of the human condition, or what we simply call life.  Temporary.  Ever changing.  All we can do really is show up for it.  Be there.  Wholly.  Entirely.  No matter if it’s pleasant, difficult, easy or unwanted.  Show up.  Show up for our family.  Show up for the weak and vulnerable.  Show up for the seemingly unremarkable things.  Show up even when we’re afraid.  Show up in the present moment.  Some days, showing up is pretty easy.  Other days, not so much.  In the end, it’s all that we can do.  Show up.  Every single day.  This too shall pass.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Rockport






Eyes open.  Quiet.  The first day in a very long while that the wind cannot be heard.  A faint bird chitter chatter.  Dust dancing in the beam of sunlight peaking through bedroom blinds.  Refreshed after the restless darkness.  A new day.  A great day.  Laying there, I can just feel it.  I used to have a hard time sleeping the night before races because of nervousness.  Now, with my solo ride adventures, pure excitement makes me toss and turn.  The forecast is sun and 17 degrees but we aren’t there yet.  The first layer shed at the top of the climb.  The tattered pavement replaced by well worn gravel.  My stoke growing as I approach Johnson’s Mills.  Glancing out towards Hopewell and Shepody across the bay, I feel so very small.  Not in a bad way.  Simply insignificant and at the same time part of something infinitely greater, highlighted by the carefully painted vast landscape surrounding me.  Nova Scotia, clearly visible across the water from Rockport.  So very close.  Yet, still, so very far.  Literally another world during these pandemic times.  The dirt road endlessly narrowing, I finally reach Slack’s Cove.  Such a picturesque spot.  No words.  Just panoramic seascape.  My bike resting against this monument, I sit there for a bit.  Sublime.  Majestic.  Alone.  In silence.  Taking in the energy of the scene I am immersed in.  Contemplating how the explorers had felt when they landed here over 250 years ago.  I wondered if they appreciated their surroundings as much as I did in this moment.  Legs rekindled, I made my way towards Sackville.  Chai tea and a cupcake at Cackling Goose to top it all off.  How was your weekend? 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Change




Change.  Always there.  A lifelong constant.  Why do we resist it so much?  Our minds struggling to find something solid to grab onto.  Always looking for an anchor.  We panic as we feel ourselves drift.  Nothing  remains the same as it once was.  Everything constantly changing.  Life is so very dynamic this way.  Being alive means living in a persistent shift.  We all wish that things would stay the same.  That we wouldn’t grow old.  That our children wouldn’t grow up.  That our happiness would be everlasting.  But this ceaseless metamorphosis is what makes everything beautiful.  A real flower is so much more beautiful than a fake plastic one even if the latter lasts forever.  It’s beauty fleeting, momentary.  And that briefness is exactly why it is so perfectly pretty.  A life without change is a plastic life.  A much cheaper simulation.  As the season changes, I am also beginning to feel my body change.  Mostly when I ride.  Fluidity.  Souplesse.  A very deep sense of happiness as the summer cycling pieces of me slowly fall into place.  I realize that there will come a day when I won’t be able to ride anymore.  It’s inevitable.  All part of life’s essence of constant change.  And that makes me appreciate still being able to ride today even more.  This moment.  Constantly slipping away.  Health.  Focus.  Creativity.  Change.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Colour






Colour.  Flowers and rainbows.  Spring reminding us that colourful things are almost always beautiful things.  A rich diversity in tones certainly makes the world a better place.  Like all ecosystems that thrive when chock-full of a boundless mix of various species, each having a specific role in keeping the whole naturally in balance.  The cycle of life in perfect harmony.  Nature flourishes and rises in a vast diversity of colour.  Why does human society’s mold want us all to be monochromatic, all the same?  Our vibrant beauty hidden as we all try to fit in.  Our distinct inner and outer shades make each and everyone of us wonderfully unique even if we are also all interconnected, all part of the same rainbow.  Break out of the old mold.  Be you.  Show the world your colours, the brilliant colours that live inside of your heart.  Everything is so much better in living colour.  The emerging new earth.  In full.  Colour.