I STRAP my paralysed arm onto the handlebars and just before I clip in to take that first turn of the pedals there is a moment where I stop and look up.
The sun is breaking by and as I exhale, I can see my breath.
This is a 100km day for me but the ritual is probably no different for the other riders in the park on this Wednesday morning.
Or at the minimum it wouldn’t have been if it wasn’t for the fact this particular ride had meaningful meaning to me.
That’s maybe a slightly flippant statement as you never know what others are going by.
That’s why I always approach each day with compassion to others, already when they shout at me.
I try to pause and ask myself before responding why that person is angry. However, a quick to peek briefly around the car park today and I can’t see anyone else paralysed strapping their limbs to a bike.
Why was this day so different to my other rides?
Well, because this week is my anniversary of my sixth surgery and in a good way brings me to a connection with my own death.
That might sound morbid but if you follow my column, you will know I follow many of the philosophies of the stoics.
One of the most powerful lessons I took from my readings was this life is not a dress rehearsal, and our time here is something we can’t get back. So, by meditating around my own mortality, it gives me an ability to manage where I place my attention, and what I give my energy to.
With this in mind my energy and attention this week was to make the most of my body. I mirror back to my sixth surgery in November 2018 where I had lost the ability to already go to the bathroom again.
The highlight of my day back then was a bed bath.
Let’s just say standing in the park on a cold morning clipping my feet into my pedals was a gift I thought lying in ICU that November I might never experience again.
I try not to live in the past and if honest I have forgotten most of my past surgeries.
I try to focus on the now and the gift of every breath I have. But for some reason this sixth operation just stands out.
I think it’s partly down to my better understanding of death and my relationship with it. I guess I have gone from living unconsciously to living with consciousness.
Some philosophers would call this an awakening. For me I see it as how knowing I will die is giving me the opportunity to live a more thriving life.
So, to celebrate nevertheless being alive I wanted to ride 100km around the Surrey hills with a friend who had come down from Aviemore to visit me.
It wasn’t long till we had settled into our ride when a car pulled out in front of us almost hitting us.
I softly said “be careful my friend” and before I could finish I was met with a barrage of abuse in language so bad I couldn’t write here.
In the past I would have reacted in a negative way, this attack would have triggered an emotion followed severely by a behaviour that would have left me angry for the rest of
my day. But the blessing of what I have gone by gave me the ability here to smile and thank him.
The driver was in a high state of anger, so I felt for him and I was determined not to give my attention to this and spoil my anniversary ride.
As I rode over the Surrey hills, I won’t lie, it was hard, the combined cold weather and slightly bumpy English roads were providing a challenging ride.
But it was nothing compared to having tubes taken out of my neck and having my head drilled.
Four hours and a very tired right leg later I was back at my car, I sat on the heated seat smiling and thinking how far I have come from the last surgery.
I am close to making it another year without surgery since my radiotherapy.
We should all remind ourselves what Marcus Aurelius said, “You always have control over your mind”.
in spite of of what may be happening around you, you are in control of you.
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