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Cheating the Rain

Yesterday it felt we cheated the rain for the first time since setting out. And it felt good! We woke and I once again felt tired after a good night’s sleep. Even the frustration takes too much energy now. A migraine threatened as a blurred spot in my vision and I prayed it wouldn’t go further. Not for the first time I sighed at my feeble body. I’m tired of being tired. And the rain was threatening again. So internally I shrugged it off. It’s not like I can do anything about it anyway so let it go. What the hell. I’m tired of caring. I’m tired of not enjoying it. And so I chose not to care. Or that’s what someone selling a certain line of thinking would have you believe. But I’m not here to sell that, because I don’t believe in it.

The thing is I didn’t choose not to care. I just had myself backed into a place where I no longer had the resources to care. We have this illusion of autonomy that I’ve seen bandied about as a weapon to chastise people with. “You’re in control of your thinking. If you think negatively it’s your own doing.” The motivational posters and the smug faces telling you that you’re in control of what you think. What bull. At its worst I’ve seen the damage this thinking does. I’ve seen this trite little message delivered to people in the throes of grief. Turning a perfectly natural but terribly confusing array of emotions against the person forced to deal with them whilst the person handing them the baton to beat themselves with gets to walk smugly away scot free. I could cheerfully throttle those people.

For myself, this was a weapon I used against myself routinely when depressed. I obviously didn’t want to be rid of it enough if it was still here. People told me I should just get on with it and choose a different way. Surely if it was that simple for them then there was something wrong and deficient with me. But it’s just never been the case that I control how I feel. And those smug faces only ever drove me deeper into the quicksand I was trying in vain to haul myself out of. Convincing me that somehow I was responsible for how I was feeling.

The fact is that the only choice I’ve ever had in the battlefield of my mind is whether to face my emotions or run from them.

I could have run by now.

There are times when running is appropriate and healthy. And there are times when it’s not. I could have called it a day by now and come home. But I know what the outcome of that will be for my mind, I’m not done here yet and I know without doubt that I’d regret running.

So, I chose to face the discomfort and doing so it has worn me down to a place where I can’t care anymore. It sounds bad but it’s not. I allowed it to wear me down. Sometimes you have to, it’s not always a bad thing. Oceans wear rocks into sand, something totally new and different. Because in that process, that wearing, you’re changed. And for the change, you need the process and you come through it finding you care less about the unimportant things. Sometimes all you need is to stand and face, endure, quietly. Not fight and rail and scream, just face. Weather the storm (how apt!).

Yesterday I found the benefits of my endurance. I enjoyed it, yes, but I’ve enjoyed other bits before yesterday too. Yesterday had a different quality. The other enjoyment felt temporary, a transient peak before the inevitable decline. This feels different, settled, deeper, slightly removed almost. Today we’re facing rain again for the next few days. It won’t enhance my enjoyment but it’s just a part of it all. I’ve found my way into what the smug thinkers are trying to convey but have never had to live through. I know the truth that they don’t though. It’s not a simple choice to change how you think. You have to be willing to face the discomfort, walk into the fire and be forged by it to get there.

We set out under black and threatening skies after a night of rain. I shed a few more clothes I haven’t used and rearranged the bags. The navigating went seamlessly – another boon. We fully expected to be drenched, it was forecast, but it never came. The roads were empty and those cars we did see seemed in jovial spirits, a classic car being passed by us and then passing us in turn giving us a smile and a thumbs up.

We were nearly to our destination – Munich – to collect our Carnets. We’d decided to detour to Fussen, tempted by the castle that inspired Disney. Just outside, I took a last minute left which took us right down to the shores of Foggensee, a beautiful turquoise lake framed by the spectacular Alpine backdrop. A woman appeared from behind a cabin, grinning as she plunged into what were clearly cold waters.

We stopped for a time, a group of German walkers passing us and stopping at the bikes to look. We smiled, on seeing the plates the older guy turned around, spread his arms and shouted “Welcome to F***ing Germany!” at us. Laughing, we thanked him, not quite knowing what to make of it all.

We rode on into Fussen, the crowds gathering. But even the tourists didn’t bother me today. We stopped at the foot of the hill that housed Kingschlossen and ate, hoards of Japanese tourists milling around as an endless stream of coaches shipped batch after batch in and out. It was a hellish place but for today I could see through it all. The Schloss was beautiful and that along with the scenery more than made up for the tourism.

We rode out, taking a different route back, quieter roads, good riding, lots of bikers. We hit town after town on the map until we arrived in Gautin just outside Munich. Too tired to hunt for camping, of which we’d seen no sign for the last 30 km we asked a local who happened to be English. No camping but hotels that way or back that way came the response. We quickly located one and a bed was welcome. 187 km today a small success, we’re getting better at this and having a little fun in the mix too it seems. Perhaps we’re slowly finding our rhythm at last.

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