Let’s get this fucker finished

Words that accidently fell out of my mouth around the 100km mark of ride recently. My two cycling buddies were not helpful when I asked them for motivational words to finish the final 50kms. Admittedly, they might have been literally eating cake. Ravished. Not caring about chatter. They left me no choice than to spit this directive out.

Laughing, they dared me to use this as the title of my next blog.

Challenge accepted.

 

If you read my blogs, you’ll know I have an endurance coach, and now a sports dietician. See cake. I was pretty damn hungry. The dietician put me on Gatorade for my long-distance rides. I know, I know. I have copped a lot of comments. I did protest because I hate the artificial crap. His reply, “Georgina, you do know what you are doing is not normal?”

Pause. Um, yeah. Come to think of it, is anything I do normal?

If you see me slugging down blue drink, don’t criticize, it means I am well on my way to pushing out 100-150kms. And I’m working on going longer. I also get to slam down Turkish Delight as well as the usual protein and carbohydrate fueled foods.

When you are going a long time in the saddle, there is nothing like sugar. There I said it. I was doing Lemonadas in Italy like a kid in a candy store. I no longer judge when I see a cyclist with a coke. I understand.

My trainer writes a monthly program and I follow it. Well mostly. Except when I’m sneaking off to climb Mt Baw Baw. Apparently one of the harder climbs in Australia. And yes, I did not know that until afterwards. Eye roll.  I was led astray by a fellow mountain goat. Easily distracted by her peers was commonly written on my school report card.

I did fess up to the Mt Baw Baw climb. My coach’s reply, “Baw Baw, you’re a naughty girl G!! But I love it!” I suspect his response might have been a little different if I told him about the extra 60 kilometres smashed out later that afternoon. Thankfully he doesn’t follow me on Strava.

If he ever reads this, I am gone. And I’m glad he lives in Perth.

 

Recently, I had to message him to say I had come off my bike. Except I was not meant to be in the bunch that day. I didn’t hear back for hours. Unusual. Okay, this time he is really going to bust my chops. Turns out he was on a 400km training ride. In one day! And you think I might be determined, he’s a whole new level. Phew. Too weary to notice I was not on my training program. I suspect he knows.

Last week I had three flats. This was becoming annoying, until someone asked how many kilometres I had cycled on these wheels. Strava check. Appears to be 9,600kms. Yep. Double eye roll. Tyres are meant to last around 6,000kms. Oops. Rookie error number 86. The tally grows.

My cycling buddies went to town. Bloody love ‘em. One said, “stop riding so much, who the hell does endurance cycling anyway.” Ironically, says he who has contacted my endurance coach to inquire about training. Who will have the last laugh I ask?

More impressively, I have cycled 9,600kms since I started riding at the beginning of this year.

I had to take a moment.

And maybe another.

A small head spin of seriously what are you doing G?

None of this makes sense. Except it does.

 

I have just registered for the 3 Peaks Challenge in March. You have 13 hours to cycle 235kms with 4000 metres of climbing.

Insane.

If you do it, you get the jersey.  I want the jersey.

One of my good friends offered me his jersey after I told him I registered. I am currently questioning our friendship. What kind of a friend does that? I mean after you have paid. Now I have to finish to show him.

My training is going to increase as I reach for these goals. I was poking fun at myself, telling my coach. His reply, “awesome news on the 3 Peaks Challenge, this is so up your alley it’s not funny.”

That stopped me in my tracks. He actually believes I can do it. He sees a much bigger picture. And yet, I do not even really believe I can do it. That is both the truth, and an old internal narrative.

I can easily tell you a list of shortcomings around my cycling, all the reasons why this is a ridiculous idea. Those moments of doubt, the voice questioning why I feel the need to be so driven. If my best friend was writing this she’d just laugh and scribble, “high achiever and A type personality.” Been hearing that for years.

Yet, I am surrounded by great people who have already begun barracking for my success. Those riding buddies who poke fun at my rookie expense, and my non-cycling friends have backed me already.

 

Does anyone want to sponsor me, yet?

Well, I will be one of the ambassadors for Cycling Mums Australia in 2019. I get to rock that kit. There was some debate over what to have printed on the back. I thought G force but my awesome trackie friend suggested I can crash. See above. She thinks she’s funny. I settled for Georgina, seems as though my parents named me that, and it’s about time I gave them something back. Even if it’s a middle-aged spirted woman climbing mountains and pushing comfort zones, much to my kids dismay.

There are way too many eye rolls in my life.

I kind of turned up at a party pick up last week in lycra. I had a flat tyre and drank too much coffee. My twelve year old just looked me and up down, silently raising her eyebrows. I see it as my job to embarrass them. Seems I am doing a fine job.

My coach said at the beginning that by six months I will not know myself as a rider. Three months in he’s already right. I have hours of training ahead of me. I am constantly being pressed to ride stronger by the others I surround myself with.

So, fair to predict let’s get this fucker finished will be muttered or shouted many a time into the future on those senseless gradients and long days on the bike. This captures what the heart of endurance is for me, that is to be just turning up and to keep on pedaling, no matter what.

My only problem is there will always be another fucker.

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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

Finding your tribe

“Five types of people you want to surround yourself with: the inspired, the passionate, the motivated, the grateful and the open minded.” Unknown…..And the sixth, the cyclists. 

I leave home thirty minutes earlier to meet the bunch. Some would call this crazy considering I could start closer to home. And yet in spite of the extra time and kilometers, joining this exceptional club has been my foundation into cycling this year.

Easing into this sport gently would be a gross understatement of how my approach has unfolded.

Some of my co-workers, endowed with psychological and behavioral degrees, have jokingly used the word obsessive. I think the better words would be dedicated or steadfast, but here’s the best one, compelled. I know my co-conspirators at the club would side with me.

Always looking to improve, wishing to climb big mountains and ride long, I have just taken on endurance training. My riding buddies do nothing to discourage this, in fact one of them throws up a photo of her finishing a 200km event, awesome. I take that as ENcouragement.

Some pretty gutsy people in this lot, especially the women. They inspire me with their ability, strength and sensational humor. They mountain bike, row, swim, run, hike, race and do many other sports.

For exactly that, these are my people. And seems as though I am on a roll with words, here goes…Posse. Crew. Pack. Gang. Community. Light Bringers (they always have their lights on). Goal getters.

Teaching me skills and etiquette in cycling, their examples have been incredible. There are a few spirited cyclists too, who always get me into trouble by sending psychic messages from the back of the bunch to ride faster when I am on the front.

I get banished to the small chain ring, at first during the ride and now before we even start.

Recently, I started to ride in a faster bunch, the grownups I call it. One morning we are barreling down the road rolling turns past some other cyclists. I hear a male voice shout from behind, “Georgina!” I cannot turn around as we are going too fast.

My Strava feed confirms who it is but you have to ride with a person for that to happen. Suspicious. He might have been quietly hanging off the back yet he never fessed up. Not really. He is a long time and trusted friend.

Same thing happens later as I take on extra kilometres solo, see compelled. I see a pedestrian with her dogs waiting to cross the road. Another good friend and cyclist. I yell out her name, I see her happy eyes and she smiles at me. I do not stop, it is winter and I am in the zone.

Cheekily, my daughter said recently I needed to cut my long hair. There is no way I would chop it, firstly as I like it, and secondly, when I ride Col de Beach Road my cyclist friends recognize me by the lengthy plait. This is the old fashioned way of tagging, I explain. Eye roll from her.

This tribe growing up about me is unexpected. Let me explain why.

In the kinder and primary school years with my four children, there was a group of us mothers who became close friends. I found much support sharing our experiences as women. We almost saw each other daily as we dropped off and picked up.

This has changed since secondary education with our kids taking separate pathways. We are still close but the time spent together has changed significantly. I have missed the day-to-day connection. Life moves on.

This riding gig has a remarkable village feel to it. I met two incredible people in my cycling class which led me to a stop in Annecy recently. We rode in the mountains before I took off solo hiking in Switzerland. I had the privilege of riding with some talented and fierce cyclists.

In Italy, I met an Aussie who is keen to show me the local rides out of town so I can load up my Strava maps for the long jaunts I want to do. And there is the sassy travel agent who is putting a trip together with me for women to cycle in Italy mid next year. Girls  just want to have fun, right!

There always seems to be an invitation to ride with someone, somewhere. I just turn up.

Now I find myself being nominated for the club committee, and recruited for some race in November. They say I will enjoy it. Not sure if they mean the competition or the meetings. Coming up I have been ‘compelled’ to register for a few rides between 120km to 160kms, with the bigger goal of the 200km Alpine Classic early next year.

This is why I need the endurance coach, bunch rides, weekend jaunts, banter, the plait, endless coffee and cycling friendships. Of course, included are multiple messages between rides pretty much resembling a comedy show, keeping me laughing hard.

Back to last weekend, I joined some of the gang after my solo training ride. In the coffee shop, I am ‘compelled’ to tell them about my revelation regarding lycra and using the bathroom, how you do not have to take your top all the way off.

A small miracle really.

Of course, the troublemakers ask for a demonstration. There I am standing peeling off my jersey with a few riders looking slightly aghast. Thankfully we were outside, and it is all women.

And really, I do not care.

After I demonstrate my insight, I have one arm in and one sleeve out hanging down the side of me. I am trying to pull it up so I can get dressed but it is not coming. I tug it a few times until I work out a certain mischief maker is pulling it back down each time.

This is how we roll it seems.

In Zermatt recently, I found a cow bell in the bike store which I was ‘compelled’ to buy for the abovementioned sleeve tugger. She had been threatening the sleep-in cyclists with a cow bell ride by for months. So far this may be the only regret when speaking of compulsions, entrusting her with this. For that, I apologise to everyone in advance.

Sorry. Not sorry.

Truthfully, this tribe has surprised me but also arrived at the perfect time in my life. I feel ‘compelled’ to be a part of it, even if it is to avoid a certain cow bell.

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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

Just turning up

“She realised she had this one. This big, bold and beautiful life. And she realised she didn’t want to live it chasing and crying and apologising. Starving and fearing and regretting. She realised she wanted to live it proudly and freely and creatively. Lovingly and fully and sweetly. She realised she could choose. And so, she chose.” Unknown.

The guide leads the ride out of town, yelling in his heavy Italian accent and broken English, “holes”, “this way”, and my favorite, “bumpy.” His arms are flying to communicate signals of where to go. I have no problem understanding given the terrific hand show.

I laugh and shout to him, “I love listening to your accent.” Immediately, he is somewhat alarmed, and moves to my side to question me, “you say you love me?” Oops. I have to try and explain myself, talk my way out of it.

I finally reach a point of maybe him understanding but that’s when another rider, an Australian troublemaker, yells out from the back, “that’s not what you said before.” Great. Now I just look like an awestruck Aussie girl and it is all wrong.

I remind myself you should never use the word love with an Italian unless it is actually love.

His turn now, he asks if we would like to go to taste the ashes of the bean. We all look perplexed. Another Australian translates the meaning. He wants to stop at a cafe where they roast their own coffee beans. What a relief. I’m for all things coffee except possibly the burnt taste.

The conversation and banter is absolutely entertaining. Just like being in the bunch back home but with more room for misinterpretation.

As I said, I love the Italians, but with this disclaimer, no one in particular.

On another ride, we are steadily on a climb. The day is getting hotter as we reach midday and every part of me in drenched in sweat. The guide stops to take photos and as I ride past I puff, “so much for the Italian flat.”  He lets out a mighty shriek of laughter, “this no Italian flat, this is fuckin bastaard climb.” My turn to giggle, seriously, what can you say to that!

Yet another day, my feet were burning from hours of heat and ill-fitting inner soles. The Italian solution, shoes off and feet under the cool of the water fountain. I was a little shy at this suggestion, I mean it is Italy and all about style, but I was assured it would be instant pain relief. Turns out it is true.

With that said, the Italians have got both decorum and practicality. I mean my cycling kit was pretty stylish, and pink, even if I was barefoot in the fountain with my companions chuckling at me.

These are the moments you remember and look back upon.

I’ve become a seasoned solo traveler, and yet with each trip it increasingly becomes about connection. I continue to meet amazing people living incredible lives, opening up my mind and heart to possibilities.

I long to live in Italy, even just for a portion of the year, and I have been haunted by this for some time now. My past three overseas adventures have landed me there, for part, or the whole trip. The fact my great nona was Sicilian might explain a few things!

Although I never knew her, my father’s recollection of how she explained the Italian Mafia when he was a young boy made me instantly love her. Rather succinctly she stated, “they’re only there to shoot the pigeons son.” I cannot look at those birds now without thinking of her.

If only my great nona didn’t donate everything, land included, to the church to immigrate. I’m sure there is an avenue to obtain an Italian passport in there somewhere. I just cannot imagine the paperwork involved, nor the navigation required to do so. Tourist it is.

I do wonder how this will unfold. My life always seems far from boring. I have four teenage children happily settled where we live with a few years of high school left. Sometimes I just feel divided. I have been mothering for eighteen years now, and whilst it is an absolute honor and joy, there is a part of me who is edging beyond the everyday responsibilities of child rearing.

I don’t know the answer…yet. I am curious. I trust the opening in me.

In the meantime, as I explore and look out into the world, beyond mothering, I am continually connected with people who live a little differently, I guess outside the norm. And what is normal anyway? People keep turning up linking me to my next directed step, which allows me to trust a bit more in what is developing.

Speaking of trust, there are many skills to learn as a cyclist, and one of my favorites at the moment is sitting on a wheel. This means you ride close to the wheel in front of you, just centimetres apart. You have to know the rider in front is reliable, consistent and safe. I choose carefully.

Back to Italy, I was always going back there, as I sat on both Italian and Australian wheel of some incredible cyclists, I contemplated often how much you have to trust the rider and the process. Although it is a team effort, I have found it is about surrendering control to the leader for the ride, otherwise it just will not work.

Sometimes you cannot see past them in front, and yet you have to believe they have got you. As I sat on the back of one wheel, pushing 45kms per hour, the fastest I have ever ridden on the flat for a good period of time, I felt this again. Just doing my part, pedaling, judging distance and speed, then letting go and trusting that it will all work.

With that arrives the pure enjoyment of the ride unfolding as it needs to, with speed and ease. Very much like my longing to be on the move and living in Italy, I have my part to do for sure but there is a point at which I hand over what it might look like, and even how it will materialize. As I have always said about cycling, I just turn up, and extraordinary events and connections have transpired.

Remarkably, I also have that same trust in life. Bellissimo.

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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

About love

I have learned someone can love you with their whole heart, and still break yours.

And that hurt they carry has nothing to do with you, but everything about the relationship they have with themselves.

I have learned no amount of love can heal another’s pain.

They have to love themselves enough to find their own way. I can only walk calmly beside them in their distress.

I have learned that is enough.

And that, this is love.

I have learned if someone wants to wreck something incredible I cannot stand in their way.

I have felt the pain of stepping aside, to take care of my own heart. At times, this has meant walking away.

Shattered.

And that, you can never predict this moment of truth, and its delivery is a ruthless, harsh blow.

Because of this, I understand the wretchedness of leaving someone, or being left, even though you would give anything for it not to happen.

Even if it is for the best.

Loss and rejection has made my heart tender when once it was hardened by fear.

I have learned you have to save yourself when someone is destructively unravelling.

It is down to you or them.

For in my past, I also have been that person grappling and trying to find my way in love, and failing.

Beautifully, this has somehow gifted me the grace to not be cruel even when I have felt rage beyond my understanding.

For the broken deserve the most love.

However, this does not mean I stand willingly in harms way, or that I will not be fierce in protecting myself.

I understand betrayal is not a story about what is wrong with me, but rather where a person is in profound struggle.

I have cultivated compassion, born in despair, both towards myself and others, welcoming healing rather than remaining bitter.

This is freedom and creates heart space to eventually move on.

I have learned you can love someone with your whole being long after they’ve gone.

And that is okay, it is the way it is meant to be.

I have discovered a gentle space within where you do not have to disconnect from your heart. No matter what you, or they have done.

Rather the more you wish them well, the happier you become. I also know reaching this place takes time and emotional fortitude.

I have learned the art of both enormous love and letting go. And eventually being okay with both.

I can live in that contradiction.

For when you open your heart to love, you risk hurt. I have found it is worth the gamble.

I have experienced the opposite too, where I have padlocked my heart. This has meant I closed myself to everything, not just love.

I do not wish to live that lonely way.

There are no guarantees and I have stopped looking.

However, I am learning the way of discernment, for not everyone who stops by is worthy of my heart.

Reaching a place of strength, I would rather allow love to break me open than break me apart. This is within my power.

I have learned a person can only meet you as deeply as they have met themselves.

These days I am able to stand in the invitation of loving someone whilst I take care of myself.

To be fully and humanly present in the ecstasy, mess, joy, and darkness of loving.

And if I find myself bleeding and broken over love leaving, I will hold myself in the grief of these callings.

From loves departures, I am finally in the place where I feel imperfectly whole on my own.

And ultimately, what I have learned is from this space, where I am already complete, only more love can arrive.

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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

Her Time

“She has been feeling it for awhile now — that sense of awakening. There is a gentle rage simmering inside her, and it is getting stronger by the day. She will hold it close to her — she will nurture it and let it grow. She won’t let anyone else take it away from her. It is her rocket fuel and finally, she is going places. She can feel it down to her very core — this is her time. She will not only climb mountains — she will move them too.” Lang Leav

You know that mother who sacrifices her own wellbeing for the sake of all others? The one who is tirelessly (but is really tired) giving of her time to the family and community. She bakes herself silly, attends infinite amounts of committee meetings, helps out in the classroom, runs the household and the kids around, juggling babies, toddlers and routines.

Somehow, she keeps it all ticking along in some of kind order. She smiles when asked how she is, there is no time to be sick or flat. She just keeps going.  This was me.

I’ve driven my kids to ballet, soccer, basketball, football, book signings, art classes, meditation, softball, karate, the list is long. I’ve taken them camping and hiking, introduced them to the wilderness. I’ve lost count of the concerts and sports finals. I’ve made playdough for what feels like a thousand times, read endless books out loud, built mud pits and mowed cricket pitches in the backyard. The fairies even lived in our garden for years, and you know someone had to orchestrate that too. You get the drift.

No one directly asked me to do this, nor did I think I ever made a conscious decision to do so. I did it because that’s what I thought a good mother was. I didn’t question it. Then one day I tried to peer past what my life might look like after raising children, it was bleak. Nothing in fact. I felt innately unsettled. Is this all there is?

Then everything changed.

Don’t get me wrong. Being with my children has been wonderful, messy, hard, awesome, dull, rewarding, downright hilarious, and challenging. There is so much I’m grateful for. There are moments of pure joy, discovery, fun, horror, struggle, pain and grief. What a mix it has been. I love them with a fierce and full heart.

But I had to get cracking on building something for me. I needed me. Beyond mothering.

Before my great awakening, I recall my brother generously offering me a ticket to Europe after my marriage ended. I was shattered into a million tiny pieces, and I still said no. Can you believe that? A quality problem I realise. I could not imagine taking 4-6 weeks out of my life to just take care of myself. I opted for a quick jaunt to Hawaii instead. You know in case they all needed me back home. Hello girl!

A part of my unraveling was a statement I came across, it simply said here’s to all women who say no to be of service to themselves. I was struck by its simplicity, and wisdom.

My how things have changed. I saw how depleted I was, the juggling as a solo mother of four children, and I started to say no.  Not to everything, my kids still have very active and engaged lives, but I stopped the superfluous busy. Remarkably, this opened up spaces in all of lives to be doing what we all really love, and time in-between to be.

As I’m about to take off for another four-week adventure holiday in Europe, ahem my second one in two years without kids, I am no longer worried that they ‘might’ need me. If they genuinely do, I am two flights from home. Fancy that, they can get by without me for a bit. And these days, I will always say yes to adventure first then logistics later.

I had to sit with the question a few years back about what would make me come alive, and I found it incredibly difficult to answer.

As a result of even pondering that question, new worlds started to open up, and it’s taken some mighty courage to push myself outside of those comfort zones. Letting go of that internalized story of who I should be, and becoming who I really am.

Turns out, I am not that mother. The one who will be cesslessly taking care of her children’s needs. I will always, always be there for them but as they are all in their teens now I am handing more responsibility to them. They can cook, make their own lunches, clean their own rooms, get themselves to and from school, one works casually, they understand how to manage their money and time. They are responsible for their own homework and schedules, and everything that entails. If they forget something for school, so be it. I only help out when genuinely needed.

Recently I added the washing program in, that is they take care of their pile of clothes, or not. This has been comical to watch, and they have now successfully negotiated teams to share the load. One less thing I have to do, and one more thing they are extremely capable of.

All of this has opened up time for me to create a vision in the empty space I saw when I looked beyond my children.

Now, on most days Mumma has gone cycling or hiking and has left the house at dawn.

And I always come back, happy.

And the kids are great.

What made me come alive? That would be the time created by doing less for others. This time is where I am Georgina, not mum, not the trauma counsellor, or the daughter, or sister or whatever to anyone else for anything.

And I find my heart is full. I feel empowered and strong. I’m living a life I love.

This flows back into everything, and ultimately my family have a whole, calm and shall we say, an adrenaline filled mother.

The kids continue to call it my mid-life crisis.

I call this my mid-life.

And I found me in her time.

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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

Her heart knows the way

“You have seen my descent, now watch my rising.” Rumi.

My 11-year old daughter swings the car door open, leaps in and greets me with “hello adventure Mum!” She makes me laugh. She has been at her Dad’s house all weekend and we catch up on what’s been happening for her. She asks after my weekend, I tell her about my 7-hour solo hike across the Cathedral Ranges, the 60kms of riding in the hills and a 30km recovery ride afterwards. And then there’s a work day thrown in, and before picking her up I smashed out 100kms on the bike.

Just because it was my day off. Who wants to do housework right?

She turns her head towards me, her beautiful eyes wide open and she exclaims, “Oh mum, I feel like I don’t know who you are anymore!” I look at my baby girl, trusting me wholeheartedly as only a child does with their mother, and respond with a big smile, “oh bella, but I sure do.”

Yep, it’s taken me many years and so much life experience to bring me to the place where I know and trust who I am. And I like that person, a lot. This is my mid-life and Mumma is playing hard. And my daughter, I can see her rolling her eyes, but at the same time I’m aware she’s observing how I live my life. This is the paradox for her, she knows me as her mother but who is this wild woman emerging? You’re not going to fit that into a box anytime soon.

The next day, my daughter was playing her basketball game, and a mother whom I had only met once before sat next me. She seemed a little nervous. As I was wondering what I was sensing, in her broken English she tells me she found out last week I have four children. I chuckle and confirm. What else can you say? This is a common query always coupled with disbelief.

Next thing I know she is reaching into her hand bag and pulling out a trinket, it’s from China, and represents peace and happiness for women. She offers it to me. Maybe she thinks four kids means less tranquility, but I know differently. My inner life is usually still. The most used word to describe me is calm, but rest assured the adventure mum reputation is a current work in progress. And those four kids, my family, are some of my greatest spiritual teachers in that journey. I thanked her for her thoughtful gesture and felt grateful for her random act of kindness.

As we continued to watch the game together, my daughter made a pretty bold move, intercepting the ball. Again, this mother turns to me, clapping her hands and cries, “Your daughter…. fearless.” That makes me so happy. I love hearing people describe my three daughters, and it’s a constant wherever I go. Words defining gutsy young women, including brave, determined, independent, strong and my favorite, feisty.

One man even described my oldest daughter as having some strong feminist views, and I know when he said this, by the way he said it, it was terribly confronting for him. Of course, I asked what his point was? I wish for them a powerful voice and a self-belief where they stand in their own lives knowing they are valued, supported and loved for who they are. So far, so good.

The day after basketball, I arrived at work to a gift and a card from a colleague. Reading it made me laugh out loud. The card said, “congratulations on raising four children, getting the word ‘lycra’ into your bio and riding the most kilometres.” And yes, I did manage to get both cycling and hiking mentioned in my professional biography. This must of been the week for small gifts and women lifting me up. I’ll take it.

The other irony is I never set out to be this woman in her forties who is compelled to be way outside her comfort zone. Yet the more I do, the more I know I am home. The societal rules about how a solo mother with four kids should be are unravelling for me. And yes, sometimes I wonder when enough is enough. The answer isn’t forthcoming so I just keep turning up.

Mostly, what I am called to do cannot be explained in words. I just have to go. My next adventure is in four weeks where I’m taking on a 180 kilometre hike in some big European mountains. I know this is what makes me come alive, like I am breathing deeply into this precious life, really living. This is uncharted, letting go of a life expected of me, and being here instead.  With that, I feel this mantra resonating through me as my constant guide: her heart knows the way. And so she does

FB_YGT
A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

Smashing it out

“They won’t tell you fairytales of how girls can be dangerous and still win. They will only tell you stories where girls are sweet and kind and reject all sin. I guess to them it’s a terrifying thought, a red riding hood who knew exactly what she was doing when she invited the wild in.” Nikita Gill – Girls of the Wild

With my inherent love for the mountains, how could I say no to our friends asking us to leave town a week before Christmas and camp. Get away from the lead up and the madness? Hell yes. The alternative of staying in the city felt untenable for many reasons. And who could knock back days of swimming in the lake? I was enormously grateful for the invitation as we packed up and left. I had no idea when we booked I would soon be holding a heart laden with grief. This kind of heartache in me belongs in the wilderness, where her tenderness soothes more than any other place I have ever known.

If you’ve read my previous blogs, you’ll know I’m a girl who honors the call to be somewhere out in the wild, and sometimes that shout out requires some serious logistics to pull it off.  In recent years, I’ve woken up to how vital it is for me to put my oxygen mask on first. I spent years putting myself second, and um, very last, with everything. Turns out those airline safety announcements have actually come in handy!

I borrowed an old road bike for this camp to decide if I would take on this cycling gig back home. From our site, I watched my lycra-loving friend take off to ride and up down the mountain. I was filled with both curiosity and envy about what it would be like to do this kind of climb on a bike. The thought was enticing and incredibly overwhelming, it had my attention. I already felt its pull.

Already climbing on foot with hiking, I knew the joy and exertion in reaching a summit. As I watched my buddy ride off, I recognized a glint of excitement in in his eyes, and I vowed I’d be back to ride up this mountain as my first serious cycling goal. I hadn’t even brought my bike yet. You’ve got to be careful what you wish for. You might just get it. Another wild call.

The next directed step just appeared. Why am I not surprised? I registered for the women’s supported ride up the very mountain I set my intention to climb. Yep it just came up in my newsfeed. Three months into my cycling life I found myself standing listening to the briefing, softly sinking into the muddy autumn earth filled with the same sense of adventure that draws me out hiking.

Nothing is ever straight forward when you’re a beginner, there seems to be so many small fine-tune ups to this cycling. My very next lesson involved having so much mud in my shoe I couldn’t clip in. I didn’t discover this until I was in the bunch riding. Oops. I had to drop off once I realized what the problem was. Did I mention rookie? Yep.

As I stood on the side of the road trying to fix my problem, more bunches rode past asking if I was okay. Internal groan. There is so much humility in cycling. I needed help. And then he appeared. A very loud and Irish ride marshal ringing his cow bell at me. Couldn’t we just do this quietly? Apparently not. Mr. Charming handed me the bell and instructed me to shake it at the bunches coming. You know I smashed that out. Cool, so that’s now off my bucket list.

As my shoe was inspected, he decided we needed a pointy object to service it. He reached for his pocket and said, “the pen is mightier than the sword”, I giggled as he got to work.  As the next bunch came along the now Mr. Swordfighter yelled out, “I’m just seeing if the glass slipper fits.” What a dude. With my problem solved, I declared him my hero for the day, and took off to smash out my first real mountain.

As I cycled up, I called out to another rider to let her know I was passing. Spinning her legs, she puffed, “yep, another person going by me, I think I’m close to last now.” This is where all that math came in handy from high school, I churned the numbers in my head, we were probably in the middle, not the fastest, not the slowest. There was a heap behind us. She seemed relieved.

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Fascinated, she told me about a serious bike accident she had just two weeks ago. I told her she was pretty awesome and gutsy. She immediately tried to rebuff it with negativity. I wasn’t having that. I had also come off my bike a week before on the tram tracks. We were both doing our thing climbing that god damn mountain. That’s worth celebrating. And so is reaching the top.

Taking a quiet moment, I acknowledged my efforts to get to this day, and how I am no longer that person who allows fear to tell me what I can’t do. Interestingly, I quickly label fear but I’m starting to see it’s actually excitement. My inner commitment is to find and do what makes me come alive. The strong hold gripping me for years caring about what others might think has all but gone. Now I am motivated by what I believe of myself. This keeps my life continually opening up to more adventure. Bring it on. My part is allowing myself to be a beginner and learner, and that makes me one hell of a happy girl doing her thing.

After rocking that first mountain climb, there was an optional much longer ride the next day so some of us took off early morning. To say it wasn’t daunting or I was very ginger on the huge descent is understatement (think tram tracks) but I still did it. As I pushed myself way out of my comfort zone, I had to trust in the training coupled with the enthusiastic voices I carry within me of my loving friends, and of my own heart knowing I’m doing what I love. The magic for me is in the turning up. Not just with cycling, but everything in my life.

Going back to the top of the first day climb, another cyclist wanted to ride beyond to see what was there. I knew already. I jumped at the chance to ride a few extra kilometers, actually I always do, and yes there were a few eye rolls when I declared a recovery ride for myself later that afternoon. The sun was shining, we were coming down at a cracking pace and there it was, the lake, I almost squealed. I was returning to a place that knew me well. A few months ago, my tears had softly fallen upon this earth and the lake met me exactly as I was.

And here she was again, holding me in another time where my heart was whole and opening to love. This time she received my happiness. I was on my own bike and was reflecting on how I can never know what will unfold at any moment. Through turning up in the messiness, I knew I was finding my way back to trusting in life. I thanked her silently for I suspect she already knew how the timing of my life is always, always perfect.

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