Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Checking out and not checking in...

Saturday, a day normally spent having coffee, doing chores and hopefully squeezing in a bike ride. Life was so structured before...well, just before.

This Saturday though, now that I live in the upside down world, things are different. I got up early, had coffee and a bowl of raisin bran to fuel the day, loaded up my bike and headed out. I don't need to tell anyone where I'm going or when I'll be back. I do as I please, when I please and how I please.....and it's weird not checking in with anyone.
I actually emailed the girls just so I feel like I'm still plugged in. (and just in case things go wrong and they have to come get me) It's all very strange but as I'm learning its my new normal.

I met my friend Lynn in Livermore and we rode out Mines Rd to the junction and back. It's about a 50 mile out and back with 4000ft of climbing and is a perfect ride for me as I continue my initiation into this weird place I now live. It's fairly tough, starting off with a long climb and it's lightly traveled which allows me to turn my thoughts inward.

My bike, always a trusty companion, has accepted its new role as full time therapist. It willingly accepts the abuse as I stand and hammer the pedals trying to drown out the thoughts in my head with the pounding of my heart and the loud ragged breath this type of effort produces.

Eventually, realizing there's no way I can keep burning matches at this rate for the entire day, I back off.  I sit, settle into what i hope is a nice smooth spin, letting my heart rate return to normal and dropping back so Lynn and I can chat as we climb.
We take it easy and talk for most of the ride out to the Junction where we sit in the sun and enjoy a gatorade while getting ready for the climb out. It's taken us about 2 hours to get to this point and I haven't fueled as well as I should have. Any nutrients from the raisin bran this morning are burned and gone and as I stood to make the last climb before the descent to the Junction I could feel the twinges of a cramp deep in my hamstring.

From the junction back to the top it's about 5 miles and by now the sun is out and it's pretty warm. Obviously not hot by Livermore standards, but I'm guessing it's almost 90 degrees with no shade and the heat coming off the road asphalt makes it feel much warmer.

As the climb begins both Lynn and I have gotten quiet and are focused on making smooth circles as we sit, sweat and focus on forward movement to the exclusion of all else. It's here that I want to be. Deep into the pain cave, all thoughts and focus directed only at moving my bike forward, thinking of absolutely nothing but making my legs turn and staring at the road ahead.

It's finally quiet now, both inside my head and outside in the empty canyons which surround me. The sound of skinny tires rolling on hot asphalt barely registering on a brain and a heart that has been too tortured and twisted for the past few weeks....this is the place I seek more and more frequently.  A place to hide out from the world...a place I can check out and escape.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Clicking in and checking out....

This is the end of week 3 living in the upside down world. It's all still pretty surreal. I find myself thinking of calling her or sending her a text which is what I normally did at least once per day...every day....for the last 32 years.

I've never been good at sitting still and that has only been exacerbated by the fact that now not only do I not want to sit still, I've been trying to avoid allowing my brain any downtime to sit and dwell. I know that's probably not healthy, and the "experts" all say it's better to let the emotions come and deal with them, but that's not how I'm wired. I stay busy...

One thing I've found that really seems to help is riding. Last Saturday a couple of us did a ride up Diablo to the junction, down the other side, through Concord, Walnut Creek and back to Danville. As we climbed Diablo, I was able to put the brain in neutral and focus on making my legs go around in circles.

It's amazingly therapeutic and as the road climbed I pushed harder and harder on the pedals forcing the pain out of my heart and into my lungs and quads. I focused even deeper pushing out the pain with each ragged breath and letting the tears flow, mixing with the sweat as it ran down my face.
Eventually, we reached the ranger station and as we stopped I could feel the flush leaving my legs as my heart rate settled and the endorphins began to flow into my system like a natural painkiller.

The downhill portion was another escape requiring total focus and balance. Tucking in to turns, avoiding the many bumps and potholes, the wind in my ears harmonizing with the worship music blaring through my ear buds allowing me to avoid any type of thought other than staying upright and on line.

Eventually we reached the canal path that takes us through town and back to Danville Rd where again, I was able to check out, make circles and take my brain offline. As the thoughts would begin to creep in I would push harder on the pedals trying to replace them with the pain and burning of my legs and several times I'd look up only to realize I had dropped the others at which point I'd have to sit up and soft pedal so we could regroup.

Later in the day as I reflected on the ride, I realized I was a less than ideal ride partner for the others since I was so focused on dealing with my own stuff, but that's the best part about riding with friends....they completely understand and don't mind.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Living in the upside down world...

There's no possible way this just happened....right? It must be a bad dream...I'm going to wake up and everything will be normal again.....right? Unfortunately, that's not the case.

So now, how do I move forward in this upside down world where everything I knew has changed so dramatically? Everything I worked for, every goal I had, every plan and dream has been flipped on it's head?

Things that once seemed so important now don't matter, plans and goals that were being worked on now seem trite, dreams that were meant for two suddenly seem empty and unimportant...what do we want has suddenly become what do I want? And to be honest.....I don't have a clue...

I've been told by everyone I talk to not to make any major decisions for a while and I get that. To be honest, making any decision right now is hard...nothing seems important and when I do make a decision, it changes fifteen times before I get there.

The world that once seemed solid and firm has been shaken and turned upside down....but as the psalmist said, The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

As we move forward as a family we'll cling to this. In a world where things shift and move and slip beneath our feet, we'll stand on this rock....and we'll cling to His promises...