One of my personal pet peeves are all of those meme’s that you see on social media that tell you to “look within yourself” or “only you can know what is best for you.” Things along those
lies lines. Here is why I believe that you cannot look within yourself (aka your mind) to find the truth.
Many years ago my dear grandmother passed away. At the time my son was 8 years old and he struggled in a really big way with his grief. He is, and was, a very physical child and emotion is a very physical emotion that comes from a very non-physical source. We realized that it would be helpful to give him a BIG physical challenge so that he would have a very immediate place to channel the turmoil that he found otherwise overwhelming.
It was early spring and I was made aware that in the summer the MS Society of Canada was hosting a bike ride from Grand Bend, ON to London, ON and back to Grand Bend, ON. In two days the cyclists would ride 160 km. I was told that the route was particularly good for beginner distance riders and the road crew support was phenomenal.
My son and I had already completed a lot of cycling. At age 5 he and I rode 30 km to town and back, and he was on a bike with tiny wheels. Being that my husband is well over 6 ft and I’m pretty close to 6 ft, at 8 years old he towered over his classmates and rode a bike with 24″ wheels. I presented the challenge to him and he decided that together he and I would train for this event.
Upon registration and connecting with a seasoned group of riders, we learned that if we followed a training routine and completed two challenge weekends, we’d be able to complete this ride. Basically, by the time of the ride, we’d have to complete two back to back rides, each of at least 70% of the total distance of one day’s ride.
Together he and I trained and trained and trained. What I noticed was that he had a very interesting phenomena. Each ride, at about the 20 km mark, he would give up – mentally. And by give up, I mean give up. If I let him, he would be off the bike in full rage telling me why he couldn’t do it, how exhausted he was, and that I had the most horrible parenting skills. The problem was, I knew that just a few years before he had happily rode much, much further with no problems. So I came up with the strategy of ignoring his rage and frustration. I’d sing silly songs, I’d tell jokes, I’d chant “push, push, push” meaning “pedal, pedal, pedal.” And about two kilometers down the road, he’d be out of the rage, laughing and joking and teasing me about something. And then we’d be good for at least another 15 to 20 kilometers with no further issues.
Yet, emotionally and mentally, he had completely given up. If he listened to himself, he would never have completed a distance further than 20 kilometers, even though he had already done that at a significantly younger age!
This story isn’t done yet.
By the day of the ride, he and I had not quite managed to complete the double weekend back to back 70% rides. The first of the two weekends we had significant bike repairs, and had made a 65 and 30 km pair of dates. The second one we did 50 and 50 km, as we were out of time and it was just before the ride weekend and I didn’t want to risk exhausting his eight year old body too much. But we had a date of close to 70 km riding and the rides were to be 82 and 79 km each, so I thought we’d be fine.
The morning of the ride we were in the column of riders when the announcement came. There was a significant detour and the routes were changed. The rides would be 92 and 84 km each. Being the “encouraging Mom” I didn’t have the chance to meltdown as my son’s meltdown took precedence. But let me tell you that in my mind I was full out loosing control and I had yet to ride a single kilometer!
But I was surrounded by my team and almost 1,600 other riders, excellent road crews, and the knowledge that I could back out at any point. It was pedals down and off we went.
My son’s initial mental fatigue set in a bit later this time. I think the energy of the group and the excitement of the event kept him going. But around the 35th km he started what I call “borking.” It was bad, loud and quite rude. I was ready to loose it myself. My mental game had already been thrown a big curveball and I had not slept well the night before. Still, I pulled together what I could and tried to distract him. It didn’t work.
Then a lycra clad serious rider swooped up and settled in beside my son. I dropped back. The rider got my son’s attention. We were pretty sure that my son was one of the youngest on that ride, and he had already received a lot of encouragement. Which was great considering how much more my son actually had to pedal – given his 24″ wheel diameter! Yet this rider was different. My son told him what a cruddy mother I was for forcing him to do this ride. The cyclist asked my son if I was the only reason he was riding. My son talked about my grandmother and the challenge that we gave ourselves to complete this ride. The rider gave my son some of his technical food. He told him jokes. He kept him going all the way to the next rest stop. And then, with my son’s blessing, kept on going while we stopped.
This rider’s gentle yet persistent encouragement got my son past his mental and emotional wall.
After that rest stop, I hit my wall. We passed the furthest point I had ridden and I lost it. All I could think about was the extra kilometers we were going to have to finish. I thought about what a cruddy bike I was riding – it wasn’t all trim and nice like most of the bikes I was seeing. My son asked and received permission to ride ahead with members of the group.
By this point in the day most of the good cyclists had already completed the tour and so encouraging shouts and comradery was starting to thin out considerably. I nearly pulled myself over into a ditch when it started to rain. Instead I started to weep. And chant “push, push, push.” The combination of the release of emotion with the considerable cooling rain worked a magic in me and I found that I had physical strength and endurance that far exceeded my mental and emotional strength and endurance.
It was not that my mental and emotional endurance grew but my reliance on them decreased. I was still mentally beat. I had zero belief that I could complete the ride.
I caught up with my son at the last scheduled rest stop. From there we were getting into the city and to our beds. He was done; I was done. We discussed getting on the bus, but decided to keep going. He was emotionally and physically black and numb. But he trusted me and we got back on our bikes.
It was brutal. But… we did it. Then we had to get through registration, find our bags and trudge our way up to our room. I got him through the shower and into bed. Then I think I did the same. We both slept for several hours. After which we woke up and made it to the big dinner celebration. We were sunburnt, elated and on a huge high. We had made it through Day One.
Then… we made it through Day Two.
Since that time, I’ve ridden that tour twice more, completed a different far more challenging tour from Acton to Waterloo, and for my university graduation, completed a Toronto to Barrie and back in one weekend tour.
What is consistent with all of them is that I’ve learned that my mind and emotion quit long before my physical ability does. AND, after a horrendous injury of tearing through both of my Achilles Tendons, I’ve learned that relying on my mind to override my physical exhaustion and screams is also a bad thing. I’m still recuperating from secondary injury from that and unable to really ride any distance today because I ignored those signs.
My point is I’ve learned that I can and should doubt myself. I’ve also learned that I can and should trust myself too. In other words, what I am thinking or believing should not be my best source of truth about myself. Because when it is, I’m likely to be either limiting or extending myself too far.
The answer, for me, does come through my faith. Through my faith I’ve learned to “lean not on my own understanding.” I’ve found that life has been so much better because of it! Which is why I am so continuously frustrated when I read those memes. All I can think about is potential waste, hurt and pain that can come from those statements!
That’s my opinion, what are your thoughts?