Here’s an infomercial before the post. The Authenticity Experiment: Lessons From the Best & Worst Year of My Life is available for pre-sale. It helps me if you order early and order often. The book launches September 12th. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
The Authenticity Experiment, the trust edition. I am in a straw bale house on the edge of a canyon at the end of a road. Literally on the edge of a canyon. Look at my view. I’m sequestered away here to write a book proposal for the next book—what we in my “family” dreadfully and morosely call, “the Alzheimer’s Book.” I’ve been dragging my feet on the proposal because if it goes the way I think it’s going to go, then I’m going to have to write the damn book.
The Country Music Singing Femme says, “It’s an important book. It will help people. It will help you.” I know what she means about the former, and I wish I didn’t know what she meant about the latter, but I do. She means that getting this grief, this guilt, this shame, this belief that I could have done something differently or better, getting all these emotions out of my system, out into the light where I can see that they really aren’t as scary as I believe, well that heals. I have to trust her on this.
And I do. Because I’ve seen time and again that shining a light into the dark corners of my psyche illuminates monsters that are nowhere near as big as they seem. The Opera Singer used to call it blowing some air into a stagnant room. And it’s all about trust, isn’t it? Trust that when you pull the Band-Aid off it won’t hurt as much as you are anticipating, that the wound underneath isn’t really festering.
I thought about this as I took my mountain bike (MTB) out for some nontechnical riding—just zipping through the duff and jumping over a few tiny rocks (pebbles to real MTB riders) before heading out onto the three miles of cinder gravel that leads to this place. I have a great mountain bike. It’s old school and heavy and hell, but it’s a real Gary Fisher—you know before Gary Fisher sold out to Trek. This excites serious MTB riders and to those of us who grew up in Marin County where mountain biking originated. And the bike’s metallic orange, so I mean, come on, really.
I attended a women’s mountain bike camp to learn to ride better, but the reality is I’m a chicken. Or, perhaps, “realistic” is a nicer way to put it. I’m self-employed, I don’t have disability insurance or a partner. I have a huge circle of loving friends, but I’m not sure they’d pay my mortgage if I couldn’t work because I was in traction for six months after a bike injury.
Yet, ironically, my one and only bike accident occurred on gravel. I slid, my blue Raleigh and I, across gravel and asphalt on Novato Boulevard on the bridge over Miwok creek. I ripped my shirt open and got some serious road rash on my right shoulder, but the thing that really scared me was that I drove gravel into the skin on the right side of my calf and my knee. My knee which a year earlier had been reconfigured in what—at the time—was an experimental surgery.
In the days when we didn’t wear helmets, I managed not to smack my head, but still I remember lying by the side of the road crying, listening to the rushing creek and wondering how I was going to get home—and I can’t remember how that happened. But I know once I got there my ICU nurse mother methodically and unsentimentally cleaned me up and used tweezers to pull out all the shards of gravel ignoring my protests and wails (like the trained professional she was), and I walked with a limp for a few weeks, but I don’t have any grey spots where gravel encapsulated itself.
No lasting scars, either, except when I see gravel now. Luckily, I don’t clip into my MTB pedals and my tires are fat. I mean how bad could it be? Climbing up and out wasn’t bad at all and it was nice to move my body after sitting at a table and typing all day. But coming back, going maybe only 13 miles per hour, damn, I felt scared and so alive at the same time.
I remembered the advice the boys at Weir’s Cyclery gave me when I took the bike in for an inspection. After trying to buy the bike out from under me, they said, “Take it out and trust your tires. You’ll want to brake. You’ll want to correct. Don’t. Trust your tires.”
Trust your tires, I said out loud on the gravel road. Over and over again. At each corner, each time the back tire slid a little, every time I caught an edge of deeper gravel. Trust your tires, trust your tires, trust your tires. And don’t brake—it changes your momentum and you can fall.
Which I suppose is what I’m doing here—trusting that I have something valuable to say, trusting that it won’t kill me to write this book, trusting that even if no publisher picks it up, the process has been valuable. And so has the quiet. I’m out of cell range. I haven’t heard NPR in three days and I’m playing whole albums, listening to music from long ago that seems so right for this straw bale house on the edge of a canyon at the end of a road. That seems right for trusting the process, for trusting life, for trusting the healing of so much more than a fear of gravel roads.
“Things are never gonna be like they used to be, so don’t lie to me…Inside out better hold on tight, hang on to your hat it’s a long ride upside down.”—Patty Larkin
#DarkAndLight #AuthenticityExperiment #KateCarrolldeGutes