I’m hard on myself. Excessively hard. If I can’t get something right or get it perfect it turns into a downward spiral of frustration, anger and self-loathing. It moves from feeling unaccomplished to a raw fury focused inward. It’s not a pretty character trait, but I’ve been witness to what happens when I let it run amok and have some tools to keep it in check.
Riding today I felt pretty wasted. I was tired, but excited because the air had finally cleaned out. I was upset I missed my early window because of heavy storm but got some extra Z’s. It was a rollercoaster of a day and didn’t know what to make of the prospect of spending a few hours again on my bike.
The route I took left me the option to do a quick and dirty 70km or explore and hit some country roads. As the sun popped out and the silhouette of the mountains that surround Chengdu became clear I was inspired to take the scenic route back.
The South of Chengdu is easily one of the raddest places to ride. It’s like an endless Hobbitsville, with sharp rolling hills dotted with sleepy farm houses and villages, criss-crossed with lazy rivers and canals running red and swollen with fresh run-off. It smells good. You hear birds and cicadas. There’s little traffic and most of the roads have gradually been upgraded and transformed into pristine track with their native twists, dips and bends. There’s cute puppies every which way you look. You can’t lose.
After getting turned around a couple times exploring a new route I finally connected up with a road I knew that would keep me in the countryside heading homeward. After about 45 minutes of pure riding bliss and the excitement of having laid down a fresh track for others to follow I stopped to see what kilometer mark I was at. Strava had pooped the bed and the previous 20km or so of groundwork I’d laid was lost.
And so it’s something so simple as this that like a kid with a magnifying glass, some sunlight and an unwitting ant, I turned my beam inward and started to mentally chew myself out for not checking things were operational, sooner. Then it just hit me:
Forgive and forget.
I started thinking about the phrase itself. To forgive: Make amends with yourself or someone else for intentional or unintentional harm. To forget: Relieve your memory of the burden of placing importance on something unimportant. It was the perfect distraction, because I began to really question its meaning.
Is it really important to forgive? If you forget then the act of forgiving is a foregone cause. If you forget then what is there to be gained in the form of experience?
It was at this moment I wrecked. Hard. This is the big crash I’ve been expecting for a couple years now that I’ve successfully eluded until my hubris caught up to me.
I’d slid out on some chopped up concrete-cum-river that had looked enticing to my “gravel grinding” sensibilities. After sliding to a halt on my side, I loudly shouted, “Man down!” (alone, to myself, I’m still not sure why) and lay there as the water rushed around me, feeling out what had taken the brunt of it and if it was ok. A raspberry, a goose egg, torn bib shorts, some water in the ear and a twisted brake lever was the gist of it. I walked clear of the flowing water to get myself straight. But I was still thinking about forgiveness and forget-ness.
It feels like it was missing something. Then the idea came seeping in like the water that had just been flowing through my shorts: You’ve got to let go. Forgiveness is a luxury of time. Forgetting is too, in a way. The way to unlock the key to open-ended time where you can process? Letting it go. Or the occasional bike crash to knock your head straight.
[TL;DR Practice meditation and crash your bike from time to time.]