Any gambler knows the sensation…. “if only I’d just bet on ’19′”; “I was going to…”; “I normally always…”
I have it with my Fantasy League Football Team…. “I was going to put in Aguero…”; “I was just about to make Rooney my captain”….
And there’s that urban legend of the lottery player whose direct debit ran out and no ticket was bought, the week before their regular numbers came up on a Saturday night.
I have just finished listening to Series 2 of the radio-podcast, “Serial” [I highly recommend] which had a whole episode with this name – and spent its 11 hours chewing over the unintended consequences and ramifications of a single action.
Lives can change, of course, based on just one phone-call. One word said and not rescinded. One drink too many. One hug too few.
Life, of course, is made up of – if not infinite – certainly countless decisions or choices. The huge majority are never given even a second thought – which spoon to take from the cutlery drawer; which pair of socks to put on – others some demand more contemplation: our builders are (still!) building an attic extension in our new house; I’ve just started a new contract working in Bristol; and my next bout of chemotherapy is booked in for ~7 weeks time.
The continuous flow of the former do sometimes catch snags and become memorable as a result – if only I had turned left not right; answered that phone-call or left the house a minute later- but you can’t dally on their process: they need to be made continuously and quickly, almost sub-consciously as a by-product of “what we do”. Like the beating of our hearts.
Our bigger, conscious decisions are more likely to be followed by reflection. Sometimes rueful; sometimes with regret. Hopefully, more often than not, your bigger decisions, whatever their details, remain framed with your “worldview” or “moral compass” – so regrets are ones of chance outcome, rather than process.
The line that divides the uncritical ‘acceptance’ of one, versus the conscious review of the other is an interesting one. At one time in my life, my 9-to-5 job had become a daily ‘flow’, but, the recognition that it was in fact a ‘decision’ has led to me being self-employed ever since. In theory, most of life could probably be deconstructed in this way, revisiting the sub-conscious to make them conscious: the house you live in; the town…. even the country, or hemisphere; your marriage; or your friends. You’d feel paralysed if you critiqued all these big decisions every day, so they (have to) become the backdrop to your day-to-day.
Yesterday I chatted to a friend who has just had a baby; and is moving house. And job. And so is his wife. And they’ve recently moved country. He would confirm that his current status-quo is probably unsustainable.
It has struck me this last week that a couple of my recent, really big decisions had got a bit lost in my own “flow” – I had forgotten that they were choices at all:
This year, I’ve cycled.
I’ve cycled because I enjoy it. Love it, in fact.
Because I’ve been struggling to walk.
Because, at times, my head has felt so clogged with stresses, emotions and confusion that I’ve needed to.
Because it’s what I do.
I’ve cycled to work. And have “gone for a cycle” on a weekend. Left foot; right foot; pedal pedal pedal; click click, gear change; pedal pedal.
It’s become a barometer for my MS: at times, buzzing with pins and needles and weakness; at times, feeling so fit and on top of the world that I could laugh out loud. I’ve had tears in my eyes at both extremes.
I’ve been scared of losing it; and desperately keen to make the most of it whilst I still can.
This week, I cycled my 10,000th mile of the year. Boosted by Spring-time ‘audaxing’ and Summer-time ‘touring’, that averages out at over 40miles a day, riding in wind, rain, sleet and hail, as well as in glorious sunshine. Up and down; vale and hill.
I didn’t set out to reach this figure. I set out to ride where I could; when I could – scared by this looming black cloud of a future with MS. A cloud which could, at some random God-given point, bring it all to a close.
This weekend, though, I did not ride my bike.
10,000 miles felt like enough.
I think back to a year or so ago.
I realise now how much adrenalin (or stress) I was cycling with. My MS diagnosis was new and I was cycling with fight. Living with fight, and perhaps with a barely-simmering frustration.
I saw cycling as my offense (and defence); and my means of a comeback.
But, like they all said it would, the confusion and fear of those initial months did fade. My MS is now ‘my MS’, rather than a new diagnosis. I better know what elements of it can be fought and beaten [or maybe I just think I do]; and I’m still seeking to come to terms with those bits which cannot
I do feel as though I’ve cycled away several knots in my mind – and have fewer fears that I need to make peace with. Mulling them, and everything else, over and over whilst out on the bike has helped to smooth away many jagged edges and jarring cuts.
At times, my legs turned the pedals – left foot, right foot – as subconscious a flow as the beating of my heart. A meditation as I felt blood move through my veins, and my lungs empty, then fill, with air.
It now feels like the time to take a deep breath and to reach out anew to the other parts of my life. Most pertinently my family. But also my ‘career’ (what’s left of it!)
Of course, I’m going to continue riding my bike. Of course.
But it’s also time to revisit. Perhaps living the “CyclingWithMS” I always intended, rather than the “CyclingVersusMS” that I was stuck on.
It’s time to make some changes, I can only hope that my hindsight of a year’s time is a happy one, and my new numbers have come up.
And my current hindsight? The one (indirectly ms-related) decision I wish I could go back and change? Like that gambler who bets on red not black, I rue never having invested in any illness cover at work. I rue the days this year I ve been struggling just to earn my beans and, as the main income-earner in my family, I worry about what the future may hold. Mixing the methaphors (and words and cultures), the barn door of this hindsight, of course, was shut long after the horsey-sword of Damacles had bolted (on which eloquent note, I’d better leave you to try and do some verbal untangling…)