Marking time by counting the trips around the sun may seem arbitrary, as if counting off every 100 days or every 500 days would make more sense, but anniversaries resonate because marking 365 days gives us a chance to think back on what we were doing under similar circumstances. The fact that it may be frozen yet snowless where you are can help recall previous years and the events that unfolded under similar weather. The short days and that orange light that blooms in the afternoons can summon recollections as disparate as falling in love and breaking up.
I am looking forward to the new year more than usual because this time, it really does feel like a chance to hit the reset button. The way I’ve been marking time, this year has been longer than most. I suspect that I’m not alone in noting October, 10, 2012, as a day when life changed. While I remember it as the day I almost killed myself, it’s also the day that USADA issued its Reasoned Decision. One thing died for sure that day. So while my crash didn’t actually occur in 2013, I spent much of this year recovering from and processing the literal and metaphoric impact on my life that one wayward second meant.
There are times when I want to inventory all the questions that event begged. Why was I going so damn fast? Could I have pulled it out if I’d been willing to recommit to my line? How bad would that crash have been if I had tried but failed? Why has this crash been such a monumental event in my life? Other crashes were just things that happened, but this was an event—why? What does this mean for my family? I don’t mean just in terms of my presence as a parent, but how does this affect my values and what I should teach, not to mention how I teach my sons? What does it mean for my life if I stop chasing adventure, pushing myself? Is there a point at which any reasonable, responsible person shuts down the adventure? How much adventure is enough to keep you alive? How much is the ego of not letting go of youth? Does chasing adventure as a parent necessarily mean you’re being selfish, or is it a way to show your children what living is all about? For how long are we obliged to lead by example?
It may be that having faced mortality less than six months prior to the birth of a baby that wasn’t really meant to survive gave that previous crisis fresh weight. I know that I began to see my family as a far more delicate and frail structure than I did previously. What had once been concrete and rebar was suddenly little more than icicles hanging from a rickety rain gutter.
It seems clichéd to call this a crisis of faith, but that’s how this played out. Basic assumptions about cycling, my relative youth, the grip of bicycle tires, my ability to see down the road, again both literally and metaphorically, even what I thought of as my routines—it all went flying, like so many shards of a dropped glass. It’s made the writing harder, slower. Some advertisers have been more supportive than others.
Robot’s recent musings about how my life events intersected and altered what RKP was this year did two things for me. First, it gave me a chuckle because of the things he left out, like my Memorial Day trip to the ER that resulted in a bigger break from the bike than even my October crash was. He and I shared a lot with each other, behind the scenes. Second, in acknowledging that it was a weird year for the blog/site/media entity, that we’re allowed to admit we didn’t deliver all the content we wanted to, all the content perhaps you expected, he made it possible for me to take a slightly different look back.
I suppose if what we delivered was a bit more formulaic, a bit more commoditized, a bit more processed, hell, a bit more Cheez Whiz, we might have been able to conceal the acne a bit better. So it goes. The deeper truth is that in attempting to go deep, you don’t always pull up what you expect, or want. It’s only been in the last few weeks that I’ve really begun to see this year as a blessing. As much as we love the Deuce, being present for his journey shell shocked us. It was every bit as traumatic as my crash, but it took billions of times longer to unfold.
My purpose isn’t to beg sympathy or prey upon vulnerable emotions, but simply to acknowledge the way I’ve been looking at the world for the last 15 or so months. It has made me tentative in ways where I was once more bold; I still can’t descend on the road the way I did even though my descending off road is every bit what it once was. That strikes me as an irony Thomas Hardy might appreciate. The guy who doesn’t trust the grip of his tires on the road is okay with sliding around off road. Insert 24-pt. WTF.
There’s a line, one that I admit is fuzzy, the way colors fade into one another. When does red become orange and when does orange become yellow? Somewhere in the middle is a life I can chase with purpose, a way I can show my boys how to chase bliss without simultaneously turning myself into a gravity jockey that will get my life insurance policy canceled. It’s a place that fulfills me, allows me to continue to grow as a person, or if not grow, at least not grow stale. That medium may be happy, but it’s not obvious, or easy.
Isn’t that the nature of cycling?