I’m going to come clean and admit that the last few months have been a struggle. A struggle to understand where I’m going in life. A struggle to know what to do next today. And at times, onlookers would doubtless say too often, a struggle to raise a smile and feel happy. The worst part about it is actually thinking about the position I’m in. Once again I’m in a place where inertia takes over and creativity is suffocated by a seeming futility of what is so often called “life”.
I could put these feelings down to the absence of the medication. I’d told myself before stopping that it would be the next phase in recovery. I thought I’d squared that challenge in my head but I’m not sure I’ve really grasped the enormity of it. Whilst I tell others I have to put into practice what I learnt in counselling, MrsAB with all the best intentions reminds me that this is what I’m failing to do. This undermines my confidence: I feel like I’ve already forgotten what I learnt and I’m not comforted by suggestions in books that you only remember what is important to you. Does this mean my happiness is not important or is it, to use a more heartening analysis, a sign of continued stress? And if it is stress then how do I manage it when I’ve forgotten what to do?
The first step is precisely that, a step. One of the lasting memories of counselling was to approach life as a series of steps. You need to take the first step to reach the fifth. The problem is I’m a big picture kind of person, I need to know where I am going, I want to visualise what the destination is before setting off. And that’s where I’m hitting the buffers. In many ways I’m really not sure what my “life purpose” is at the moment. A few years ago I was going to leave my mark by helping develop better public policy, by adding knowledge to the world that could allow others to improve their communities, by (dare I say it) exposing unjust or just ineffective practice in regeneration. Realising I wasn’t doing this was part of my breakdown. Yet despite deciding to move away from this I am haunted by a need to leave a mark in other ways and that mark somehow has to be big. But the bigger the mark, the further the journey, the greater the fog in setting out on the early trek and the more demoralising it becomes. The path is not to success but to (inevitable) failure. So why bother.
Changing this mindset isn’t easy. It’s a crushing feeling which makes you abandon the first steps because they seem futile. It smothers creativity and robs you of the dreams you had and might still have. It’s been suggested I need a purpose in life, but where do I start especially when I have one foot in the old life and a tip toe in the new.
This post is less a lesson for others, though if they find it useful I suppose this is step, and more an aid memoir for me. I’m not comfortable with taking time to reflect and even worse at acting on the reflections I have. But by putting this down on paper it has helped the process of admission if nothing else. To know where to go needs some thought but also some passion, creativity and time. The passion and creativity have been diminished in part by the frustration of the need to get there. Maybe that is the lesson for me – dreaming a little dream of me is the first step on that road.
Didn’t the Littlest Hobo always say that tomorrow he’d settle down? Well for me, maybe tomorrow I’ll get out on the bike. This just won’t do – and its not the British summer that is to blame (though the doomsayers seem to have forgotten the scorching June and Sweltering July we’ve just had!). No, my particular vice this week is the decorating. Why o ‘why do Mrs AB and I continue with the pretence that we enjoy the decorating. Okay, so Mrs AB does like doing this stuff but I certainly don’t. But, with the rain seemingly persisting in hanging around the Wolverhampton area contrary to the predictions of the UKs finest meteorologists (a profession soon to be twinned with Psychics and Tarot Readers) its not actually been a bad way of keeping me busy. Tomorrow offers better so its hopefully off for a couple of hours to stretch the legs. The big ride is fast approaching and I am now worried about the lack of long distance training.
My mum bought me a mug for my birthday a couple of years ago and this was written on the side. Pretty self-explanatory really but a salient lesson for life.
The last week and a bit I’ve not just been feeling flat, I’ve been feeling pretty fed up. For the most I’ve lacked energy. I think this is partly a physical thing and I’ve had an underlying bug which seems resilient to any shaking off. But then I’ve just reached a point that I’ve been drained of the mental energy that I’ve been devoting to changing my behaviour. All in all I’ve reached some buffers for this service and need to stop. The problem is I can’t.
Take the cycling for example, I’ve talked about recovery rides, about pacing and about keeping going. Really what I need is a complete rest and even though I’ve not been on the bike this last week and a bit I’m mentally beating myself up for not having been out on several rides piling up the miles. Yes, pretty counterproductive as I may have given the legs a rest but the mind is on overdrive.
I need some focus. Anyone who follows my twitter feed will see what a scatter gun it is, firing off thoughts and reactions seemingly at random. It’s not by happenstance, it’s a reflection of me. And so trying to develop anything new is suffering from the same problem – no focus on the priorities, no priority on focus. That’s what I need to do – I know it, I just need to act on it.
But in gathering some focus I think I also need a bit of realism. Rome wasn’t built in a day and as Mrs AB and I found out last year on our honeymoon they haven’t finished it yet! I’m trying to take on too much, solve the problems of the world in one go, be a success overnight. Again take the cycling – repeat after me: I am not a professional cyclist. Riding around like a blue arsed fly grinding out high gears and pushing on isn’t getting me anywhere. I’m not going to cover 25-30 miles in an hour. But I can cover a greater distance if I devote a bit more time. I’ll never make it at a pro level but what is it I cycle for? Enjoyment. There’s the focus for that one and now its time to put into practice properly.
So, time to get life back in focus.
I feel a bit neglectful over the last couple of weeks. Not only have I let the training be taken over by holiday but I’ve also neglected this blog. To those who have been following to date I can only apologise and hope you are still there. But hey, I’m back.
I’m currently sat in my favourite armchair watching my equivalent of the football season. Its Tour de France season and I have my hour of pleasure each night watching the highlights. And usually it gives me some inspiration. But so far this year I’ve been disappointed by the petulance of the peloton, particularly on yesterday’s stage 2 where wet weather and oil on the road led to so called carnage. But this was really brought home to me today.
Today I finally fulfilled my long term promise – to commute to work on the bike. You may remember my post about train problems last month. One of the helpful responses I received on Facebook from a certain pro team mechanic was that I should get on my bike. So today was the day a 31 mile round trip and thanks to my new virtual cycling buddy all logged on RunKeeper. And not the lanes of Staffordshire and Shropshire today but the potholed roads and petulant drivers of the Black Country. And this put the Tour Peloton’s petulance yesterday in perspective: they talk about dnagerous routes yet most of us have to deal with poor road conditions, parked cars, bad drivers, buses pulling out (the list could go on) every time we go out. Closed roads are a luxury few of us have. Today’s rides were no exceptions and Travel West Midlands suffered my wrath for reasons other than late running buses.
But equally it was good to get out and fit the training around the must do tasks – one colleague even thought I wasn’t mad and that I was demonstrating men can multi-task. I can’t say it was a pleasant ride and it hurt like hell. I couldn’t get the right cadence and each pimple of a hill seemed like my own Alps. But I did it, and I’ve now vowed to do this every Tuesday for the rest of the summer.
So I’m home – home from holiday and feeling the benefits in some ways but the costs in terms of fitness, but also home for the night after contemplating each rise in the road with fear. Here’s to getting back on track.
This is not meant to sound like a lonely hearts ad (I am very happily married to Mrs AB before anyone asks or reads anything into this!), more a lonely cyclist ad. Following up my post, Riding with the Breaks On, I got some encouraging comments about joining a cycling club. Needless to say, I’ve not done anything yet though still have great intentions to do so. However, I’ve decided to take a 2 pronged attack. Therefore here is my plea:
30-something male cyclist seeks other cyclists for long bike rides from Wolverhampton to help with riding further and (maybe) faster. Must not be too fast but shouldn’t be too slow. GSOH and interesting converstation a definite prerequisite. Must be in the Wolverhampton area as I want the travel to be the ride.
If you fit this description then get in touch. If you know of someone else who might be interested then pass it on and tell them to get in touch. I thank you all in advance for your help, support and (hopefully) responses.