There is something about a long bike ride in the wind that pulls the wonder and possibility out of some enigmatic tissue located someplace in one’s gut. Those times when the side-winds buffet vigorously enough to threaten stability, and the head-wind makes every revolution of the crank a studied event. I had such a ride last week and mine was full to bursting with the possibilities I had decided to make part of my life. I ran and re-ran film-clips of decorating happy places in some soft-focused future, and I sweated in the 40 degree wind and drooled with each breath and whiped snot from my nose each time it collected into a sizable drip.
There are breakthrough moments in a person’s life. Things that were psychologically impossible become so real that you feel like a new person. A lot of these things have to do with sharing with another person since we are social animals, but there are some that just resonate with assorted parts of the individual. I did go into the ride like a new person because I had discovered that some impossible daemon was just saying it was so.
The parts of the ride that enjoyed the 35+ MPH tailwind were sublime. Not much thinking, and a rush of superhuman speed. I wore myself down chasing after the tailwind, and would have worn myself to nubs of bone if it had gone on for long enough. A ferocious tailwind is intoxicating.
Part of my amazing plans included the announcement. Balloons and streamers to make a political convention jealous floated through my mind with the sensations of pain from my legs. Laser light shows festooned the back pain as I cramped from trying to sit in the handlebar drops for too long. Rainbow bunting for the pain in my wrists. Flags of every nation and my neck. There was going to be an announcement and the new me would slip off the old skin and become more than just the knowledge in my head.
It rained a little, but not as much as the weather report had warned. It was a shame to call it rain; perhaps “a sprinkle” would be a better fit.
Now I have been having a pretty bad couple of months. Disappointment has outstayed its welcome. I have been reduced at times to trying to just keep moving forward. I think the practice at that helped me to discover the chinks in the armor of the impossible daemons of my mind. I was more than ready to turn things around.
Many of the problems with the week have to do with my screwing up. I have disappointed people and myself. I did not think it was terrible though. Perhaps everyone downplays their own involvement in the off-key notes in the songs they play? I needed to move through some mistakes in order to put the wonderful new me in place. I kept telling myself that everything was almost just about right.
After the ride I went about trying to get some stuff in place. There were still the nagging disappointments, but I felt they were so close to dissolving. Unfortunately it was the focusing on the forward progress with the obvious problems that distracted me from examining the foundation the announcement was built on. Reality can be much less solid than imagination; especially imagination fueled by endorphins.
Needless to say the announcement aborted, and left the familiar taste of failure in my mouth. It is just the time for failure I guess. This one was so profound I developed very real gastric distress. Sitting on the toilet experiencing a week imitation of Cholera is as conducive to amplifying negative feelings as sitting on the bike’s seat is to creating fantastic futures. I minted new film-strips each capturing the moment of my failure in exciting new angles. My heart raced faster with each running; I dicroverd myself abandoning the attempt at sleep with the dawn instead of waking up.
When a failure is profound enough to make you physically ill it is time to leave the playing field to those better able to play. Retreats are generally disorganized though. I multiplied the issues by trying to solve them, but eventually I got to someplace safe.
When I am feeling wretched I like to take opportunities to help people who should be more wretched than me. In this instance I had the opportunity to bring some distraction and snackage to a friend who had a hysterectomy a day or so earlier. She was supposed to be loopy from pain and narcotics, and prone from the effort of doing nothing at all. Instead she was appreciative and cordial. We sat to watch one of the movies I brought, but I started to fall asleep having been awake for 40 hours.
So I decided to do what had put me in the happiest mood I could remember. I took my bike out for a ride. The hysterectomy friend lived near a path I knew of that wound beside a river up through many miles. I took it as far as I could.
The ride was great. Just enough wind to get me there, but not enough to shorten the ride. I pushed as hard as my sleep-deprived body could go. Instead of getting new films running through my mind I kept on seeing places along the trail that reminded me of lost loves and treasured moments I had shared there. The perspiration hid the tears, and the snot looked the same. I was much less relieved than I should have been when I was done. “Maybe a little bit of peace” I convinced myself; there is nothing psychological that a good bike ride cannot make a little bit better.
Reality had different plans. Someone had broken the car window of my parked Corolla. I had parked in the middle of a well-used, but not full, parking lot. But someone had managed to break the window and steal my wallet without being noticed. Since I was already in a state of mind where every step forward required detailed planning and focus I was not swamped by yet more crap, but I’ve had enough crap for a while; really I have.
The thieves had begun charging up stuff at big box retailers while I was waiting for the police. Luckily I had spare underwear and a shirt in the trunk I had picked up that morning as my other ones were covered in glass. I had a pair of pants too thin for the weather in the trunk as well.
When I got enough glass off the seat to sit without lacerations I set about looking around for my pants. Hopefully the thieves had discarded my driver’s license and pants in order to make keeping the credit cards less bulky. I drove around looking in trash cans and other bins. I discovered that I was in the neighborhood of a friend’s relative who had died of cancer a couple years previously. It only took a few blocks out of the way to see the condo of the dead woman. I think I wanted to see if it could make me feel worse; as if not having previously feelt as bad as possible would put things into a cheerier perspective. Her condo was just as uninteresting from the outside as it had always been. A dead old woman’s former undecorated white condo; the main feature was the garage door that mirrored all her neighbors’ in appearance. “Yes” I discovered, I could feel a little more wretched.
Today’s ride was better. Tomorrow’s may be on a trainer, but I will watch a video of France in the summer. The next day I may get outside for a ride, and maybe the day after that. If I just keep moving forward I will get someplace. There is always an event horizon in the future where feelings and temperament are unknown. I think I can get to it faster by bike.