For Sue it is a bit scary. For me it is the beginning of another adventure. In Madrid last week I got lost several times, and I deliberately refused to take my iPhone out and switch on Location Services. Who wants to be that independent when it is so much more rewarding to walk up to the nearest person and say “Excuse me, do you speak English? I’m lost!”? Inevitably they seem to say “A little bit. How can I help?”
We need each other.
You may not have noticed how bikers nod to each other riding along the roads. (In France, they put their foot out to the side, or drop their hand from the handlebars.) If you get stuck, and look in distress, In Europe most will stop to help. We are on the road for each other. Bikers are one group of people who travel the roads for the fun of it. Few car drivers do these days. Satnav is great, but it is much more engaging to ask for help.
I am sitting here typing, so clearly, getting lost has never been fatal or even injurious. I’ve even put on the numberplate of my camper “Lost. In wonder, love and praise.” For me, losing myself in the astounding beauty of the mountains, forests and coasts of Europe (I don’t mean off-road, though I do that sometimes too) seems to inspire worship of the Creator. I’m part of it all, as he is.
Tiredness doesn’t just come as a result of a few late nights – or nights disturbed by young children waking up. It can be the culmination of a particularly stressful or demanding six months or two years.
Of course, I don’t mean to say stresses or demands are wrong. They’re normal for most of us, but when I’m tired I am not so likely to make good choices. My perspective slips out of focus, and I see things subtly distorted from what they really are. Better to deal with the weariness than mess up the future with an inadequate decision or an unnecessarily damaging conversation. That’s not what I want at all.
When I’m tired it’s best to be honest with myself, and schedule some rest. Although I’m not ashamed to let my sense of ‘not making it’ be seen by those close to me, there is no need to make a public announcement, or brag about how tired
I am due to the work I do (so proudly). One reason I’m on this earth is to encourage and inspire people and feed them, not demand sympathy strokes. Those close to me know that I know how I am, and kindly pull out a few extra stops and support me (just as I regularly do for them when they are feeling weary) and suggest I take a break!
Elsewhere on this blog I describe my motorbike trips round Europe. On a biking trip, particularly in the early part, I am surprised at how much I sleep. In the first week I climb into my sleeping bag at about 8.30pm and with no alarm providing a false dawn I find I sleep until nine the next morning! It sometimes takes almost a week of going to bed when the sun goes down and allowing myself to wake naturally before I feet properly rested and start to wake to the birds singing, and feel energised for the day.
It is following such weeks that I am able to focus again on the deep simple things of life, and feed from them. As the tiredness is finally assuaged, I automatically begin to look forward to the future again. Riding on a motorbike is a solitary thing for me, and I love the peacefulness of my own company (inside my helmet!) as I ride through the seemingly limitless miles of natural beauty waiting for those who choose to notice it. With the tiredness gone, I notice more – I am more sensitive to the nuances of colour and shape in the countryside around me. Long distance biking means travelling for hundreds – thousands – of miles through new territory, touched by the power of endless unexpected vistas, a constant flow of mountains, fiords, forests, streams, lakesand valleys.
The days become lighter somehow, more worth living, more inspirational. I notice the better bits of life, rather than the less pleasant ones. As each one reminds me that life can be very good, I am again seduced by the hope of tomorrow and what is possible for me if I’m willing to engage. By taking time out for rest and recreation (it is literally re-creation for body and brain as it renews itself in those rest times) I discover a healthier perspective of my place and role in the world, find people that much more appealing, and realise again just how good it is to be alive.
It’s summer. Be kind to yourself. Take a rest and find your future again.
It was just a year ago that a lovely lady pulled her VW Golf across in front of me to enter a petrol station and…in a matter of seconds, my prized blue BMW 1200GS motorbike was no more. Following the thought, “No,no, no, don’t pull across, don’t do it, stop, stop!” and the next resigned thought, “I’m going to hit it” as I contemplated the inevitability of my coming fate, the front of my bike plunged reluctantly into her passenger door, I sailed in a rather ungainly double somersault over the roof of the black Golf thinking (in that split-second eternity that is the slow motion experience of a crash) “So this is what it’s like” and promptly hit the tarmac with a resounding ‘squelch’ … so I’m told.
Then more pain than a brave man like me should be called upon to admit to, let alone endure, assailed my tender torso. Before long, the emergency services were on the scene and I was being looked after by an understanding paramedic – and told to “stand up and blow into this tube” by a less than understanding member of the Government’s ‘special forces’. Eventually it dawned on the young policewoman that I couldn’t stand up as I had just had a slightly traumatic few minutes lying on tarmac and she let me blow into her little alcohol machine sitting down. It was green of course.
Fortunately, I had ‘only’ a broken elbow, pain everywhere, two sprained wrists, “soft tissue damage” to my ankle, (read ‘knackered’) and bruises in places I never knew existed. Nothing much then. In informal discussion with the paramedic, I turned down the kind offer of a blue-light ride to hospital (no, I didn’t fancy six hours in the company of the intoxicated-and-falling-over wounded at Epsom Hospital A & E on a Sunday night) but there followed what can only be described as a substantially ‘bracing’ few weeks. A visit to Worthing hospital at a more civilised hour (and no drunks) the following day revealed the full damage, and before the week was out I was covered in a glorious array of autumn colours. They lasted for the rest of the winter with most of the sunset-tinted ones spreading to bits of me that I would rather not mention. Ah, well…
Everyone confirmed that it was the dear lady’s fault (including the protagonist: “I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you, I’m so sorry”) and the guys at BMW Motorrad took one look at the crumpled wreck and wondered how long the bloke would be in hospital – with the distinct possibility that he would never come out. Sobering thought. Needless to say, its write-off status was confirmed by the assessor, and another shiny 1200GS arrived within a few weeks for me to continue my GS adventures, albeit a little more tentatively.
It’s always good to have a kind and loving wife at these times. Sue took what was left of me home to Sussex and was very sweet, kindly pointing out that I wouldn’t have to clean a bike for a few weeks. It also meant she had to soap me in the bath for a while. (Not altogether bad then?!) Within a week or two my BMW insurance coughed up and a 2008 GS arrived – a Promo bike with 7K on the clock and new tyres, how kind. And with it arrived the compelling desire to get past the fear and plan the next trip…
I have to report a certain success in this department. In the last year I’ve done another 16,000 miles on it, from Spain, to Scotland, to Scandinavia, to Snowdon, sleeping each night beside the bike, wherever I could discretely pitch my little one-man tent. I absolutely love the GS (now with its two extra driving lights so people can see me coming) and I love the utter freedom of seeing the world from the saddle of my silver steed – and yes, she does have a name.
Sadly, the accident has meant my limbs no longer work quite as they used to – a few of the previously working joints have been permanently knackered. Their malfunctioning can be frustrating – and a lot of other things – but let’s keep the GS wheels turning. As a personal and executive coach who works with people who live inhibited lives, I know how freedom-threatening fear can be and, just for the record, I’m determined not to make defeat my final destination. I think it will be Finland instead.
Look out, Europe, I’m on the road again. (Cue Willie Nelson on guitar.)
If there was one thing we are truly short of in this world, it is people being kind, and not least, kind to themselves. “Kind to Self” is an essential ingredient to healthy living – and in case there are one or two who think “Selfish!”, that is not what I mean. Being selfish in that negative sense is a result of trying to compensate for an absence of true kindness.
When you know kindness, you do not need selfishness. Kindness is the perfect antidote. Kindness brings strength and authority to your life. It is not the same as pampering. A kind parent isn’t one who lets a child run rampant and buys whatever they demand, but rather gives that child security, and provides flexible boundaries sufficient to explore risk and still enjoy a sense of conditional safety. “Kind to Self” means taking responsibility for your own happiness and not hoping everyone else in the world might make you happy. “Kind to Self” results in inner freedom.
When it comes to being (or is it ‘doing’?) “Kind to Self”, I plan to be the expert and I’m keen to learn how to do it better. When the container that is my life is filled and overflowing with kindness, the people around me are going to well-and-truly benefit from that overflow.
That’s the reason I’m off on my motorbike in a minute. I need a short break from the delights of Powerchange to be alone with my thoughts for a morning. (Roy will get a break from me too!) In my case “Kind to Self” is to honour the need I know I have to recharge. I’ll give myself some individual attention, some positive solitude and come back refreshed.