Just 2 days ago I was standing under the lighthouse that marked my final destination at the end of a three day journey along the coast line of Lake Ontario. I’m uncertain that I have ever lived my life with so much presence, immediacy and simple joy as I did for those three days. Untethered, total freedom from worries or concerns. Most of the time, much of my mental space is filled with worry about how my body looks, am I eating the right food, calorie counting, how much money I am making or not making, bills I remember, bills I have forgotten and then suddenly remember, family ties, my closest relationships, am I “showing up” properly with the people around me, am I in my integrity… am I doing this right? Mostly I can either ignore the chatter or observe it. Sometimes I am carried away. But traveling by bike for 3 days brought all my attention to the exact moment I was in. More of the thoughts were quite simply weeeeeeeeee! as I rolled along the waterfront. Sometimes a burst of wow as a truly beautiful view emerged from around a bend. The very rare this is so hard usually followed by this is so fun! Day two saw a lot of my crotch is uncomfortable but even that was fleeting (if not frequently reoccurring) and unable to detract from the wow and the weeeee.
My mind, body, spirit, time and purpose all felt exactly mine. No demands placed on any of these vessels of experience other than my own. I don’t think I have ever been so liberated in all my life. I was free to determine my pace, when to stop, what views I wanted to pause at, how hard my body worked, and where my thoughts would roam. Slave to my mind no more, to be honest, I mostly thought about nothing. Even the monkey in my head was content to just enjoy the view and taste the wind.
Day one, passing through Oakville, we came across a dead woodpecker. I stopped beside it’s body and wished I’d brought my bone collecting tools but, then again, didn’t want to travel 3 days with a dead animal in a plastic bag. So I satisfied myself by plucking some of it’s feathers. Symbolically, woodpeckers carry the meaning of going to the beat of your own drum. Finding your own rhythm. What better omen for a self powered trip? We were truly existing out of time, moving to the rhythms our hearts chose without much regard for the thoughts, feelings or concerns of others. Toronto came and went with some beautiful bike lanes and interesting views. The Scarborough Bluffs happened upon us rather suddenly with a very steep climb we had to walk up and then… were gone. Pickering was brief. Petticoat Creek was brimming with nostalgia and I wish we could have lingered a bit but the open path called and the trumpet to adventure was ringing in my ears. Petticoat Creek is a day trip all on it’s own.
The trail from Scarborough to Port Hope is a cyclists dream. Pickering, Ajax, Whitby and Oshawa have all done a fantastic job of manicuring their water front trail, with beautiful cycling lanes. I don’t remember ever really having to ride with traffic until we left Oshawa and then it was merely on some country roads. The views of the lake were stunning; in Hamilton and Toronto, for the most part the water is considered disgusting, unsafe and the lake as a whole gains this reputation as being a sewer pit. Granted, in the GHA, and likely much of the GTA, the water is unsuitable for swimming due to the contaminants that have been dumped into it. But away from the GTA, the water is beautiful. I have wonderful memories of swimming in Lake Ontario at the old cottage in Brighton, one of the stops we made on day three.
The road from Port Hope to Brighton saw us climb many hills, pass through some beautiful, small town city centers at which I could have spent an entire day, and detour to The Big Apple. An apple product lovers dream. We ate pie, had coffee and took some goofy pictures. I bought some silly memorabilia and then… on the road again.
We detoured through Brighton down to where my family used to have a cottage. Nostalgia rose with a wave of grief. I had not been to that land in… A long time. I can’t really remember, perhaps 8 years. Much of it has changed. The view is still the same. The sound of the lake on the rocks below is still the same. The water level is still as high as usual this time of year. The quiet was still the same. The trees in the woods behind the lot… the same. Scattered around the property were wild turkey feathers. I had never seen a wild turkey there before though there must have been some. These were collected and stowed away in my pack, with the woodpecker’s gift and a pair of Grouse feathers I found before reaching the Big Apple.
And then a short spin to Presqu’Ile. Up until this point it hadn’t really hit me how far we had traveled, where I was, where I was going, where I had been. Everything was so present moment that crossing this threshold rather surprised me. I became emotional as I kept repeating to myself… I did it. I actually did it. Me. I can’t think of many times in my life I have felt any great pride in an accomplishment. This was comparable to finishing college and receiving my final grade. This is the second time in my life that I have made a very clear statement to what I can truly accomplish if I just determine to do it, no holds barred. As we passed the first sign indicating that Presqu’Ile was just ahead, I wept, my eyes brimming with tears. I looked around at the marsh as it looked back at me and heaved several big sighs. When I looked down at my Garmin, we had just covered 300.5km. I did it. I rode more than I had planned to. For longer than I had thought. And I felt great. A lovely woman on a bicycle saw us arrive at the gates and offered to take our photo. A great moment of pride captured by a kind passerby. We rode into the park, and to the lighthouse where I walked the last few meters with the Garmin in my hand right out to the very edge. I did it. The ride was over, the moment passing, marching into history as I rolled into the future on the vehicle of a transient point in time.
This is my greatest take away from this whole thing. We can only accomplish what we tell ourselves we can accomplish. The story we tell ourselves about who we are determines how we are in the world. And that is an important distinction. How you are in the world is not the sum of your character, it does not define who you are. Your actions are choices bred by the thoughts you have. Strung together they create the arc of your story. I do not believe in fate; I do not believe that there is such a thing as a predetermined destiny. Our only destiny is choice. Do you choose to act truly as who you are, or do you choose to act as who you think you are?
For most of my life my story was this; a fat, weak bodied female who had been raped. Broken home statistic. Depressive and anxious, mistrustful and suspicious. Incapable of accomplishing big things. Unimportant. Untalented. Would never be impressive in any capacity. Unworthy of pleasure, desire of having needs met.
My story has been changing. I have been coming to truly see and believe that what we set our minds to become our destinies. What we believe ourselves to be is how we end up being in the world. I am worthy of having needs and desires, and worthy of seeing them met. I am the instrument to my own ends and what I set my mind to will be done if I keep my focus and direction unwavering. I am more than a woman who has been raped. Rape is hardly a footnote in my life story. I am capable of dreaming big things, devising plans to achieving them and doing the work, however hard, to seeing those plans fulfilled. I am important because I matter to myself. I am talented by the simple fact that no being can be without a purpose at all and purpose is grown of talent. My emotional state does not dictate who I am and though I may encounter depression and fear, I am big enough to interpret their meanings, manage them and move forward with or without them. I can learn to trust and place suspicion where it belongs, in my tool kit for decision making alongside information gathering, analysis and intuition. I’m a powerful creature capable of things I have not yet even dreamed of.
Life is an open road on which you may travel however you wish, to where ever you want. So get your story straight and ride.