Bugger. And perhaps a few (bazzilion) more. Cycling – it is amazing. Cycling is freedom, adventure, friendship, laughs, happiness, nature, challenges. It can also provide crashes, bark off, weight loss through brain cell reduction (alternatively known as concussion), and pain of multiple descriptions. When reading these adjectives, the word ‘adversity’ springs to mind. Also springing to mind is the story of the carrot, egg, and coffee beans…
In a land far away, over the West Gate bridge, a young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.
Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.
In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished out the carrots and eggs and placed them in separate bowls. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.
Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see.”
“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.
Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma the daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?”….
Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. As human beings, we each face adversity in our lives – injury, illness, trauma, disaster, loss, grief, pain, crashes, loss of confidence, death, and taxes… And as human beings, while we cannot necessarily control what happens to us, we can control how we respond to adversity.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.
On the recent trip to Italy and Belgium to compete in the UCI Para Cycling Road World Cups, I faced a number of different adversities. Being a visual – I have provided a timeline for you –
In a nutshell, two crashes, a concussion, loss of confidence, pain, mojo gone. AND two silver and a bronze across the two world cups. Some tools I used to help me during my time in Italy and Belgium included:
- Mindfulness helped me to be aware of my roller coaster emotional state. During times of pain and tears, I was able to have the ability to recognise that it was temporary and will pass. My usual smart ego retort was “I know it will pass, but it bloody sucks when you are in it… Can it be passed now…?”
- This has been important as there has been some beating up of the self. I was the one that crashed and made mistakes. Yes there were circumstances (rain, slippery, cars etc) but at the end of the day the buck stops with me. So I have practiced self-compassion during these times of harshness.
- Healing mantra
- Listening to meditations and mantra’s that encourage healing.
- Applying experiential acceptance
- This fancy smancy term essentially means that I have said: “I am feeling scared AND I am looking through the corner/dropping my shoulder on this turn”. This is in contrast to experiential avoidance, which would be – “I looking through the corner/dropping my shoulder on this turn BUT I am feeling scared”.
- Telling my body it is safe, it is okay. It has been on high alert after the crashes and most definitely in flight/fight mode / sympathetic nervous system. So using affirmations, plus all of the above, to shift in to digest and rest / parasympathetic nervous system.
It is a weird feeling reflecting back on the trip. I think because of using the above tools, I was able to have success in terms of racing and getting the results I did. I think there is also frustration as I was in really good form before the crashes and was excited to see what I could do. I suppose life is still trying to teach me patience and I will now have to wait for trips later in the year…
I am now back home and am on the road to recovery from the fractured and bruised ribs, and concussion. It is healing to be in my own bed, drink my home-made kombucha in the morning, and soak up the love from family and friends.
Cheers to being like coffee, even if I do insist on drinking decaf on non-race days…
Why do I want to be like (Melbourne) coffee? It comes back to the carrot, egg, and coffee beans. Before I rudely interrupted on a tangent to Italy and Belgium, the mum was explaining to her daughter that when faced with adversity –
- The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.
- The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its insides became hardened.
- The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.
Until next time,
Ride with a smile, ride with a purpose, ride in the moment,