PLEASE also read my next post OK, so I overdid it…but I learned a lot for a balanced view of this anecdote!
I’m back on my bike and it feels so great! In my teens, 20s and early 30s, I used to cycle everywhere as it was my only mode of transport, including all the many years I had to get to work across town five days a week. Yes, even with my daughter on the back, until she was 2, because I had no car and took her to my office 3 times a week, up the steepest hill in our town, and to collect all my freelance work on all the other days or do all the grocery shopping.
Then fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, myofascial pain and intense neuralgia came along…so, hardly a ride in all those years in between (she’ll be 20 later this year). Yet the desire to cycle again had been creeping up on me for a while to the point I was visualising where I would cycle to, tuning into the very feeling of it, setting a goal of doing just that before the summer was out. Last week, I took a spare bike for a road test, after getting it serviced by a friendly man who gave me lots of tips about cycling meet-ups for women and, today…well, I’ve just been on a fairly challenging circuit for a relative beginner and I am honestly so thrilled with myself, not only for doing it but also for feeling just so great afterwards. I feel so energised and I also know that my neurology is literally rewiring and expanding as a result of the experiences my body had today.
Yes, I’m a little sore…though not as sore as I was before I purchased a special comfort seat designed for women (they’ve invented some great new products since I last took a bike out)…yet I can feel my limbs singing their approval, I’m still upright and I’m not too fatigued to set to work writing this, which I really want to do while its still fresh in my mind. Because I really want to share my enthusiasm and my belief that this very joy of doing something because you want to move the body like you used to, though its not necessarily the easiest thing compared with, say, getting in a car (and not because you have to get somewhere particular or walk the dog) is perhaps the missing thing in your life if your body feels stuck in a rut. I know it was missing from mine…and these kinds of feelings are fuel to the fire of life; they’re what give us reason to heal and to truly LIVE with joy and enthusiasm.
I’m going to say it again PLEASE also read my next post OK, so I overdid it…but I learned a lot for a balanced view of this anecdote!
To be honest, this wasn’t meant to be such a long ride as a first attempt – about 10 miles, with hills, on a pretty hot day – but, having set off in the good faith I could get myself a cuppa and enjoy the excuse for a sit down somewhere different at the next waypoint (a carrot on a stick of sorts), I was dismayed to find that the volunteer-run shop and café at the next village seems to have closed down! Besides, I was beginning to get back the familiar feeling of a bike…like an extension of my body, as it was not so many years ago…and found myself feeling quite disappointed at turning around to go home so soon.
So, after a brief recuperation outside the house of the photographer from our wedding, opposite the manor house where my husband and I tied the knot 12 years ago (when do I ever notice these small details when I pass by in a car?), I decided to keep going to a farm shop, another few miles away, including the deceptively hilly bit (again, when do I ever notice these gradients when I have four wheels?). I also knew that, once started on this route, there was no getting out of it as there were no pavements or pulling in places if I got tired, just narrow country lanes with cars and vans coming up pretty close around the bends; enough to make your hairs stand on end but I went for it anyway, enjoying a degree of physical impulsiveness that seldom comes my way.
Interesting, as first happened to me on my short test ride last week, the two nasty bike accidents of my earlier life (one concussion and arm in a sling from flying over handle bars at downhill speed on a main road as a young adolescent and the day I was run over and thrown over a windscreen, on the way to work, by a driver who cut a red light whilst talking on his mobile phone…my “original” back injury) came vividly to mind during this stretch. I had never really allowed myself to give much thought to either of these accidents before; in fact, most of my cycling years took place after they happened, so it occurred to me the vivid accessibility of these memories now was to do with how much work I have done to release old trauma from the body over the last decade, clearing everything out of me. Nothing much is buried away deep into my cells like it used to be. Having not cycled for such a long time, these particular “traumatic” memories had, apparently, lingered for a little longer than all the rest. That being so, I knew it was time to get them out of deep storage and into daylight to be dealt with properly at last; reclaiming the space for the kind of confidence and everyday courage that has nothing to do with “the past” and everything to do with enjoying life, doing what you want to be doing within reasonable guidelines for practical safety “in the moment”.
So, though I acknowledged them, these old flashbacks really didn’t preoccupy me for very long (the process of acknowledgement and release has become so easy for me now)…and nowhere near as much as the hill that was now between me and my destination; there was a brief moment when I wished I had turned back home. Yet, a relatively short while later, I was enjoying a pot of green tea at the one shady table outside the farm shop (I was very hot!), which just happened to be the one pushed against the wall of what was once going to be the premises of my soon-to-be interior design business, also 12 years ago…now there was a piece of ancient history (I seemed to be embroiled in some sort of impromptu life review today).
In fact, the view of idylic green rolling hills from that bench, stunning as it is, was once the stuff of my daydreams since I went very far down the road of planning that business for several months, and was at the point of promoting the grand opening, taking delivery of stock, when a hitch to do with gaining planning permission for the retail use of what used to be a cow shed came up, causing me to negotiate release from my contract at the 11th hour. Now I think ‘thank goodness’ as my health caved that very year…and all I seemed to notice, looking up at the very small window above my head, were the metal bars across it (yes, I would have been tied to these bricks and mortar for a very long time, 6 days a week…a prison sentence of sorts) and I also found myself wondering how on earth I would have coped with turning vegan right next to a sizeable butchers shop with livestock outside. Would I have even gone vegan or, indeed, along any of this consciousness-expanding, broadly exploratory, deeply philosophical, metaphysical, alternative route, prepared to unpick all my old conditioning and beliefs to rebuild myself from the ground up as a far more aware (if somewhat unconventional) person, had I gone ahead with that business? I guess I will never know yet I always get the strongest sense that this route, health challenges and all, has been the “right” one…and the most rewarding…I could have chosen for this lifetime.
The pièce de résistance of my reverie over tea was that a tall white haired woman suddenly walked right up to my table to say “Me and my friends saw you cycle up that hill…we just wanted to say, well done!” Our five minute chat made my morning. Not only was I feeling quite pleased with myself but these women had cheered me on, without even knowing me or any of my back story, which only added to my feeling of celebration. The return route was a little easier than the one that got me there and, just as I was pondering how lovely it was to be so close to nature that I got to hear the birds in song in the hedgerow and appreciate all the full glory of the dappled river from the hump-back bridge, a deer went across the road in front of me, pausing for just a second in what must be one of the closest encounters I’ve ever had. I was, unsurprisingly, ravenous for my lunch when I got back!
The thing is, yes I still have a lot of pain, fatigue, oddly behaving nerve spasms, etc…in fact I’ve developed a new one over the last few weeks, which sends my whole leg vibrating from hip down to my spontaneously twitching and waving foot. One trip to the doctors and I’m sure I would be subjected to cat scans, prescription drugs and quite terrifying speculations while I waited for diagnosis; a full-scale manufacturing plant of the chemicals of fear in the body. Rather, I choose to focus on the excitement, joy and freedom of a life very far from over and the thrill of seeing how much more I can do today. In my mind’s eye, I clearly see myself cycling until I’m a very old lady (and, if I’m honest, I’ve always had that visual of myself, even when I was flat on my back).
In fact, it saddens and bewilders me when I hear or read other people pronounce (as I only read today) that their lives are over now, their dreams shelved forever, because of fibromyalgia or other chronic illness. Doctors and other professionals who make the statement “there is no recovery” are not a big help in this regard but there’s no need for us to join in with their wild speculation (which is all it is). Saying you are going to be that limited for the rest of your life creates the limited state as surely as signing the dotted line of a contract to that effect. Across all the years I have dealt with these complicated and often quite demoralising health challenges of mine, I have never once said “I’m finished” or “I will never be able to do x from my bucket list now”. Through thick and thin, and there have been some very thin patches, I have always maintained that any state of limitation was only temporary, that (in the meantime) it had something wonderful to tell me about myself that would help me to grow in awareness and that everything I really wanted, including a long and fulfilling life, was still more than possible.
Today demonstrated to me, so aptly, the old-adage that some things are like riding a bicycle; once learned, we never forget how. Somewhere not so deep inside all of us is the feeling of a joyful, liberated, unlimited physical state and once we even get close to it, even with the mind, those feelings come flooding back, creating brand new chemistry…the healing chemistry of our potential future self…in our cells. These are the kind of health turnarounds, spontaneous recoveries and sudden remissions that have us all jaw dropped yet we are all capable of reaching out for them when we want that future self more than we are prepared to fixate on the past.
If one person has really helped me to maintain and GROW this attitude of late, and he really has, its Dr Joe (Dispenza). Doing his meditations daily, sometimes twice, is really starting to get into the cells of my body and the mindset of my days; in fact, I know from his books that I am literally rewriting the cells of my body with the feelings and chemistry of my future life…an unlimited life…not “what’s happened before”. Human beings are the most astonishingly neuroplastic species; and we manifest exactly what we focus on, which we can either use to our detriment or to our unlimited advantage. I heartily, heartily recommend doing the latter, by embracing what you really want to be doing again, or for the first time, not only seeing yourself doing it but repeating to yourself (in a meditative state, which bypasses the analytical mind) the very feelings of what that will be like, as if you are already having them …until you get there.
To learn how to do that very thing…
Read “Becoming Supernatural by Dr Joe Dispenza and use the meditation techniques
…and to find a women’s cycling meet-up in the UK, for all abilities…
Check-out Breeze Let’s Ride for local groups.
In the meantime, whatever your thing happens to be for re-finding the joy of living in a body, take it in small steps, listen to your body, know when its had enough and take care of yourself afterward (such as epsom salt baths and lots of rest). Only do it when it feels right, not because you have said you would to somebody else or to yourself. If you join a class or a group, be prepared to step out when you have had enough or if it isn’t a fit. Celebrate even the smallest successes with yourself; as you should, given the extra challenges you face. Make up your own rules for your own unique body (no comparing) and be kind to yourself…always. Mostly, IN-JOY!
Once again PLEASE also read my next post OK, so I overdid it…but I learned a lot for a balanced view of this anecdote!
This blog, its content and any material linked to it are presented for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or prescribing. The material and opinions shared are anecdotal and should not be considered to be medical advice or diagnosis. This article does not constitute a recommendation for the treatment or choices described and the effects related are my own anecdotes, not a prediction of how anyone else might respond. Please consult with a licensed healthcare professional if you have or suspect you might have a health condition that requires medical attention or before embarking on a new type of exercise or physical activity.