Today is Thanksgiving Day. My day officially started around 7:15am, when my dad, Aidan and I rolled out of the house to do the Turkey Day mountain bike ride.
The turkey day ride is a Thanksgiving tradition for the large mountain biking community here. It’s a long, hard 3 hour mountain bike ride through Marin.
I have been in good cycling shape before. This year, I am not in good shape for cycling, and the turkey day ride is not an easy ride. Two weeks ago when my dad asked if I was planning on doing it, and told me Aidan was in, my heart sank and I became doubtful. I haven’t been riding that much… I thought. But damn! Aidan’s doing it? I can’t wimp out! A couple days later I decided I could prime my legs with a week and a half of riding and I’d be okay. At least I hoped.
In hindsight, I can say I’d been almost entirely dreading this ride. It must have been a small part of me that momentarily saw value in the challenge of it, had a vision of a fun, hard ride with my dad and brother.
Til the end, shamefully, part of me held out hope for an easy out. It’s been rainy here. Maybe it would be so rainy we wouldn’t go!
6am this morning: Rain was still coming down hard. Half-asleep, I felt a little wave of hopefulness.
6:30am: I snoozed my alarm. Let them wake me up if we’re really doing this thing.
6:40am: Aidan walked in and asked a question. I could hear my dad making coffee. The rain was inexplicably gone, and all was clear. It appeared the show would indeed go on, and I would be there for it.
Damn. Okay. Here goes nothing.
The ride was not fun. It was as bad as I expected, and worse. If I knew how much I would struggle I wouldn’t have done it.
From the very beginning, being the last up the first hill, I knew I was in trouble.
Why is this so hard? Why is everything so hard lately? How can I try so hard and still be the one struggling the most?
Uh oh, internal drama. And the tears were already coming. Oh, Emma.
Dad and Aidan found a good place to wait til I caught up. Things were off to a bad start for me, but I don’t think they noticed the emotional side of it yet. We’ll stick together, Aidan said.
In my head: They’re going to keep having to wait for me. I don’t know if I even want to be here. Maybe I should turn back. But that would be giving up. The only real way out of this is through it. I hate this. I hate everything about this.
On I went. One thing I do know is there’s value in being able to just put one foot in front of another sometimes. So, grudgingly and with heavy emotional energy, I kept pedaling.
I caught one good break today, which was that the normal route was so muddy we had to re-route, and Dad came up with an alternate route for us on the fly. The ride we ended up doing was probably 30% less difficult than the ride we would have done. And that was plenty.
I spent this whole ride struggling and crying. Crying led to more crying. Just about life, whatever’s been bottled up just spilling over uncontrollably. How hard I’ve been trying to continue to be a multi-sport athlete on my own time in addition to acclimating to working as a software engineer full-time. How afraid I am to lose my ability to do the things I love that require a certain level of fitness. How unfair it feels that I can try so hard and still feel so out of shape. How pinched the time in my life feels sometimes. How hard it can be for me to get in touch with what I really want. That maybe I didn’t want to be on this ride but just made myself do it. Do I just make myself do things all the time? What of the things I want to do but don’t make plans for? And where is the love in this way of being? Where am I going?
I literally wrote this already yesterday, but thank God for my dad. How many people do you know who can just listen to you when you cry without getting uncomfortable? And I was sobbing, grossly, on a bike, very slowly (and without joy) climbing up a hill.
Aidan, too. He’s a great guy, a great brother. I did get angry at him because of how easy he made the ride look. But that was my poor wounded ego.
Well, the short version is that it’s over now. I’m home and safe. I finished the ride. The three of us rode together on our off-track route. They slowed down for me, and I don’t think I ruined the day, just had to go through a process and hopefully took a lesson from it.
I’m beginning to see that I didn’t have to make myself do the ride today. I didn’t have to put that on my plate. I could have asked myself what I wanted for the week instead of acting on the feeling of obligation, or of competition. I could have been honest with my dad and brother, told them I want to ride with them but don’t think I’m ready for the full turkey ride. They probably would have been hip to make different plans, or else I would have been fine doing my own thing while they did the ride. Maybe a badass little trail run.
Funny that I wrote about shadow work this week. I think that came from my shadow! From a place of ‘I have to do this ride with Dad for him to be proud of me’ or ‘If I don’t do rides with Dad this week I’ll feel like a failure’. Maybe when something sounds hard, I feel like I have to make the choice to do it because I need to be pushing myself that much. Or maybe I fear I have to be pushing myself hard or I’ll fall off the boat. Really, who knows. There was some subconscious energy driving that choice.
It’s really hard to sit with decisions when we have internal resistance. I don’t have a good process for this. How do you tell when your resistance is coming up from a pattern, and it’s something to push through? And how do you tell when your resistance is coming up because you really don’t want to do something? Or your intuition is telling you not to?
Differentiating between the voices inside of you is probably one of the benefits of self-awareness work. And self-trust. And nonreactivity. And being able to sit with confusing feelings without freaking out. Body awareness helps, too. If you’re in your head, you’re just arguing about different stories. If you’re in your body, you can feel the energy of different thoughts. You can feel if something comes from your gut or not.
I’m not there yet. I can only dream of that level of self-mastery. In the meantime, I toil too often over choices that don’t matter and clutter the process by tying into it my level of self-acceptance and inherent worthiness.
I read an article today about perfectionism. Apparently someone thinks this is the disease of the millennials, which isn’t really news to me. As I’ve been writing more lately I feel like I come back to perfectionism a lot, and not in a ‘this is just my thing’ kind of way.
Part of me wonders if we use the word ‘perfectionism’ to describe something that’s just a side-effect of materialism. With social media and whatnot we’ve never been so image-focused before. We’ve never made so many models out of pure imagery. We think we know all about what a good life is supposed to look like, and we chase the replication of the image – whatever form it’s taken in our minds, based off what we’ve seen in others. More often, and worse still, our idea of a perfect life is based off of the false facades that have been projected by other people and the media.
The wonderful and tragic truth is that life is perfect when you’re… just living it. I think we can see the perfection that is expressed through others when they’re in the zone in whatever they are doing, and we (consciously or unconsciously) seek to emulate. But ‘perfect’ is not something you can create by trying, or even do on purpose. It’s something that happens when you let go of your ego and really get involved in something external to you. It’s when you work with what’s in front of you without wondering where it’s going to get you. ‘Perfect’ is a union between you and the moment you’re living in.
There have been countless perfect moments in my life. They look like… laughing with my family. Falling in love. Saying just the right thing at the right time. Being a part of a big crowd at a great show and getting lost in the music. Figuring out a problem I’ve been puzzling over at work. Getting in a groove rolling with someone at jiu jitsu. Coming up with a piece of writing I really like. Dancing when I really let go and feel it.
If I tried to re-create any of those moments, they would fall bluntly short. Because I can’t create perfection by trying to replicate anything. I can only discover it by walking through my life openly, and by being willing to lose myself a little along the way.