“we forge the chains we wear in life”
or so says Charles Dickens. Sometimes I ride to remember, sometimes to forget, sometimes to escape and sometimes to immerse myself in myself. Once my legs are warmed up and I have settled into my tempo, I let my mind wander, through memories, present concerns and future plans. Slowly, as the miles build, I allow myself to venture into the furthest reaches, the darkest corners, to where I store the chains I have forged in my life. I unwind them link by link, examine the steps that have brought me to where I am today, to who I am today.
I can trace back to the times I was close to breaking, those links fragile and worn and warped, echoing the worst that my mind pushes aside: abuse, abandonment, rejection, loss, failure. And fear, so much fear. Some still glow red hot with anger and rage of betrayal I have yet to fully let go of. Some sit brittle and ready to snap with the coldness of regret and remorse. I see some so fragile I am amazed they held strong. Woven between are beautiful gleaming links, shining bright with live of my daughter, my family, my best friends, held strong with the bonds I have built, a single link made unbreakable through my love for my daughter Hailey.
I examine the bonds still being forged, still malleable, and it helps me focus clearly on the present and pushes me to look to the future. I see the overall strength I have created in my life, while still acknowledging my weaknesses.
I do this not as an act of self pity or to wallow in “what-ifs” and “should haves” but to allow myself the moments I need to delve deeply into all that rests in my mind so that I can be ready to race, to focus, to have my eyes on the prize. I grant myself this reprieve, this escape into my mind, so that I can shut that door when needed. So many people sit on the fence, steeping in regret and unable to move forward. So many people let their pasts define them, their mistakes and losses become their story, instead of turning a new leaf and starting a new chapter. I was that person for far too long, scared to embrace who I could be, held back by fear of failure. Cycling, and my time on the bike surrounded by nature and beauty, has become my therapy, my release, as close to a church as an agnostic girl like me will ever attend. I allow myself to be immersed in the best and worst of my life for 15 miles or so, before returning home, feeling the sun shining on my face, as I release my handlebars and raise my arms in a power pose worthy of a tiger, a lioness, a huntress, a warrior…..the old fear I often feel stirring (see: The Old Fear Stirring) is left behind for the day and the time, giving way to a freeing lightness that I will take with me through my race next weekend.
I arrive home, covered in head to toe mud, and with the dirt, I rinse away all that I was able to let go during my ride. I wash away some fear, a little regret, lots of sadness, and join my daughter for lunch, stronger in body and spirit.