I borrowed the title for this post from American Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön. Her book, Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion, is described as “short, stand-alone readings designed to help us cultivate awareness and compassion amid the challenges of daily living.” I turned to this little gem today in search of a coping strategy; uncomfortable and uncertain are just a couple of words that capture how I’m feeling right now. Being familiar with Pema’s work, I knew deep down she would ultimately leave me with more questions than answers, but on the edge of desperation, I jumped in anyway.
Four weeks ago tonight, I got off my bike, sweaty and spent from a grueling 90-minute trainer class. I felt good after the workout. I had been focused, worked hard and still managed to have some fun. Best of all, I was bringing home my new bike! That was the last time I was in the saddle, the last time my legs pedaled even one stroke. Each time I pull into the garage, I am reminded of my hiatus. Flanked on the passenger side by my loyal ride of 12 years and on the driver side by my new ride, I sigh and say to myself, “Soon.” Then, “But how soon?”
Despite a month of treatment and absolutely no riding, I’m still not seeing much improvement in terms of pain and tightness in my knees, upper legs, hips and glutes. I can’t really give you much detail about my condition because there isn’t really much to tell except that my muscles are bound in scattered hard knots, I hurt mostly when sitting and none of this seemed to bother me while riding. If I’d broken a collar bone, or were recovering from some sort of surgery, I’d have a target date for getting back on the road. But at this point, there is no certainty to what I have, no diagnosis, no defined treatment protocol; and there is no date, nothing to shoot for. Frustrated – another adjective that’s annoyingly permeated my vocabulary. I’ve resisted seeing my primary care physician knowing she’ll probably just throw anti-inflammatory meds at the symptoms, but I have to start there to see about some tests and possibly physical therapy. Sigh.
As we get closer to the ride in June, I feel a mounting sense of urgency. With each passing week, the mileage builds and the intensity increases. I watch enthusiastically as my friends and teammates post their rides on facebook, but I can’t help feeling left out. I’m happy training is going well for them, some reaching milestones with every ride, but still, I’m anxious. According to the training schedule, this week we should ride 30-40 miles with some moderate hill climbing. Before the injury, that’s just about what I was doing. I was on track early.
By the middle of February, I had hoped to be feeling good about my training – and maybe even be down a few pounds from all those miles on the bike. Instead, my training is indefinitely on hold, and with the inactivity, I’m battling to keep the numbers on the scale from heading in the other direction. By this time, I figured I’d be blogging weekly about new training routes and adventures with cycling friends old and new. Now, I’m scouring the internet, pouring over books in search of answers for a condition that doesn’t seem to exist, except in my body (or maybe in my mind). Ice and heat are my new teammates, the foam roller and stretching mat, my new equipment.
When I picked up the book this morning, the pages fell open to reading 47 – Recognizing Suffering. It spoke to me even before I read a word because of my 47 years. Then the first paragraph: “Disappointment, embarrassment, and all the places where we cannot feel good are a sort of death. We’ve just lost our ground completely; we are unable to hold it together and feel that we are on top of things. Rather than realizing that it takes death for there to be birth, we just fight against the fear of death.” Oy. Seems I didn’t pick this reading – it picked me. Having previously trained for long days on the road means I am acutely aware of what it takes, what I should be doing right now to be on top of things. Yeah, I’ve lost my ground. Completely. Of that I am certain.
I do fear the death of my dream of doing AIDS/LifeCycle and I am fighting against this fear. In my last post, I talked about adjusting my expectations. The longer this condition keeps me off the bike, the more that becomes reality rather than just paying lip service to acceptance and surrender. Pema concludes this reading with, “Everything that ends is also the beginning of something else. Pain is not a punishment; pleasure is not a reward.” I guess that’s her way of saying, “It is what it is,” and, “It’s not personal.” So I’ll work on taking it one day at a time, tending to my physical and mental health, trying not to need answers, striving to be awake to everything that is being born around me. And I’ll focus on what the ride is really about: bringing awareness to HIV and AIDS and raising funds for those bravely living with this disease. In the end, it’s not about me, and to borrow the title of Lance Armstrong’s book, it’s not about the bike.