[These excerpts are from CYCLING in the CITY — How I Got My Confidence Back, Book 2 in the Burnout to Bliss series. Book 2 is about a first step in recovery after intense burnout. (For that story, please see Book 1, BURNOUT — How a Desert Lizard Restored My Faith.)
Book 2, CYCLING in the CITY, was designed to be a guide for anyone wanting to make any kind of change in her life. “Part One: Cycling in the City” is my story, sharing the process of making a huge personal change — healing myself and reclaiming my confidence and self-esteem. “Part Two: Thoughts About Making Changes” explains why making change is so difficult; it addresses the different kinds of changes we make, the mental games we play, and the essential key for success. The book is $.99 for a limited time. Buy it here.]
Excerpt 12 from CYCLING in the CITY:
My first rides were mere blocks.
I rode to a neighborhood park to walk among the trees. I rode to a convenience store for a chocolate bar and to learn what they offered, so I could be of service in case my housemate asked me to “pick up something…” on the spur of the moment. And I rode to a school for the swing set after hours.
Everything seemed normal. Living in the city began to feel somewhat like my small town, only there was so much more of it.
My surveillance of traffic by car had provided safe places to get off the road, and I had noted those on my map. I had no trouble finding my target destinations. Tiny steps with planned rewards equaled success!
As my confidence grew, I reached out a little further, taking on more and more challenging rides. I could almost imagine cruising Carmichael “with no particular destination in mind,” just riding for the joy of riding!
On the day I rode to the Carmichael Library, 3.5 miles from home, I thought I’d be there maybe 10-20 minutes. I had come to learn about something in particular.
As it turned out, I found myself pulling books off the shelf without reading the titles, as if some ethereal person was using my body. There were 12 books in all. I took the stack to a table and speed-read four books cover-to-cover, Evelyn Wood style. I scanned the rest. The central theme of the books was loneliness.
My memory flashed back to a year earlier, when a friend and colleague had missed my performance in a community play, Learned Ladies, because she’d had an “episode” and was not free to attend. I was the one called by her colleagues to help them contain her, to do something about her, because they regarded me as “the one who can do it.”
I was responsible for getting my friend locked up in the clinic. She was mostly manic, as I was mostly depressed. Years earlier, in one of our conversations about our afflictions, I had coined the term, “the loneliness that can’t be fixed,” a symptom we shared.
Somehow, without being consciously aware of selecting that pile of books, their contents had responded to a psychological issue buried deep within my psyche, my very soul!
One of the books I pulled off the shelf, Bittersweet: Surviving and Growing from Loneliness, by Terri Schultz, helped me understand the hardest part of my burnout experience: the loneliness!
I had spent my last academic year “looking for love in all those wrong places,” looking for someone who could “see” me, unsuccessfully. But the truth was, I believed there wasn’t anyone who could possibly comprehend me or what I was feeling – except the psychic and that shaman in Mexico – and I was helpless to explain it if anyone asked.
But Schultz expressed my feelings perfectly. I felt like she had written her book just for me:
For a long time I could not accept myself. I did not like my family and I did not like my friends. When I felt lonely, I did busy work, or found a new lover, or traveled. One day I took a look at what was happening to my life and saw that nothing was happening. I saw how I had let myself be bombarded with trivia, how I had filled my days with useless details that smothered boredom but did not kill it, that let it lie there unnoticed, its flame licking away at my energy.
I began to spend a lot of time doing nothing. I began to struggle to end my isolation from myself… (p. 183).
She reassured me that I was not being lazy when I spent entire days doing nothing.
I began to learn the tremendous healing value of doing nothing. I learned the difference between dull days of inner emptiness and quiet days of inner peace. I spent a lot of time living without melodrama, without plan, without expectations great or small…
Of course, I sometimes had to make excuses to other people, tell them I was doing something (reading, writing) but in truth I was hibernating, recuperating from an illness that began and spread sometime in the last thirty years. I was able, in this way, to invest all my energy in living one day whole and round. I recall those days as the most embattled, yet the most serene, of my life… (p. 183).
She even seemed to understand why, suddenly, I was afraid to ride my bicycle!
I found that a certain part of my brain was more active than ever before, that by the external quietness I permitted hidden fears to rise closer to the surface (p. 184).
And she showed me why I was so engrossed in the inner workings of my mind, why my journal was so important to me, and why this cycling program was so critical to the restoration of my self-esteem and confidence.
Now, I feel for the first time that I am the center of the universe. The feeling comes and goes. It is a slow process, unlearning all the old taboos that isolated me in my loneliness, and I go two steps forward and one step back. But I know the only thing that counts is my experience of myself. I create the world through the way I perceive it, and the way I experience it. I can choose my life (p. 185).
I made a mental note to order my personal copy of that incredible book. Someone else understood! Someone else had been there before!
Till next time, please be kind to everyone you meet, for we all have our hidden sorrows. ~Tzaddi