Monday, February 27, 2012

Four monks decided to meditate silently without speaking for two weeks. By nightfall on the first day, the candle began to flicker and then went out. The first monk said, "Oh, no! The candle is out." The second monk said, "Aren't we not suppose to talk?" The third monk said, "Why must you two break the silence?" The fourth monk laughed and said, "Ha! I'm the only one who didn't speak."

The path is always open to failures. It's really up to us to pave the way for success.

So it was that I set out for a training ride on Saturday morning. I was feeling somewhat less than inspired to cycle, and my enthusiasm was further tempered a worsening congestion in my lungs and the sense that I might be teetering on the edge of getting sick yet again. I struggled sluggishly through the first five or six miles, blaming the wind and the cool morning lack of sleep and my tired limbs. The next five or six miles rolled by as I stared at my stats the whole time - watts, cadence, RPMs, speed...
Finally, around mile 15, I stopped to check my blood sugar and grab some carbs...and I looked up from my bike. I realized, suddenly, that my preoccupation with going faster and harder and pushing myself to some predetermined endpoint meant missing an awareness of my surroundings and the messages being delivered by my body. I took the moment to re-set myself both physically and spiritually. I found my balance, resting gently in the drops and leaning back in the saddle. I found my streamline by pulling myself in and down, under the wind. I found my pace by adopting a cadence set not by my computer, but the tempo most comfortable in the moment. Shibumi. The zen of effortless perfection.

If exercise doesn't connect you to the parts of yourself that go beyond the physical, you are likely to throw in the towel.  Comparing my performance to others and cycling just to win can be both frustrating and intimidating...but cycling to gain mastery? To be faster and stronger? To go further? To manage my blood sugar and to keep myself well? That I can do. That will motivate me to keep going, even when I wish to quit.

For me, training is about an inner synergy. I challenge my body and my mind. Needless to say, the  twenty miles thereafter rolled by in better form.

I spent the next afternoon at an event being held by the Rocky Mountain chapter of JDRF, kicking off the Ride for the Cure. I was asked by several people in attendance why I cycle with both Team Type 1 and Team Type 2. There are reasons practical - my own diagnosis sort of straddles the line between the different respective diabetes diagnoses, and it was really a matter of the person with whom I first got in touch - but there is another reason, too. I really like the experience of cycling in a Tour de Cure.

I am known as viciously competitive. My husband and our good friends will tell you that I can frame even the most innocuous of tasks into some brand of blood sport. I have an innate ability to see everything I do in the context of "winning" or "losing." It's why I love to race. It's why the first fifteen miles of my training ride were pure misery.

Cycling in a Tour de Cure is different. It's the antithesis, in many ways, of competition. It's exercise in the context of knowing exactly what it is you want to do, and the process of getting there. When you approach the starting line at a Tour de Cure, and you see a gathering of other people with diabetes, wearing red jerseys and, in many cases, cycling their first century ride, it is an amazing experience. No one wakes up and decides to head out for a 100 mile spin on the bike...and especially not the recreational cyclist. These are men and women who have trained for this day...they have transformed their lives to be able to finish this one event.

Most of us have been raised with certain ideas and expectations of what we can and should do. Most us lead complacent lives. We get stuck in ideas, habits, ways of seeing life, ourselves, the universe, what we do, what we don't do - and these ways of seeing are the path that is always open to failure.

The process of shedding those illusions, of taking agency over one's own life and health is transformative. It's not about competing with another's about self-discovery, pushing back against the perception of limitation, and understanding precisely what it is you wish to do. We're only alive for a certain period of time in any given lifetime and we're moving against the clock. It's a race to see if we can wake up before we go to sleep again. With diabetes, that thought is ever more at the forefront of the mind.

To be there in support of those who have taken control of their diabetes and life, who have stepped outside the expectations they set for themselves to push a little harder than they thought possible, is truly an honor. It's not about the day or the ride, the event or the amount of time elapsed start to finish. It's about the process. It' about getting there...being there...and paving a road to success. It's not about what happens on the bike, but about what it means in the context of a lifetime.

I tell my kids that there will always be an excuse to fail. Diabetes. Autism. Personal loss. Hardship. What makes you better is found in the reasons you push forward to succeed.

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