Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The stuff that never goes on sale

Most people like free stuff.  We live in a culture that encourages and cultivates the belief that more is better.  One of the problems with this is that nothing is actually free.  I’m not talking about monetary cost here.  This currency is much more valuable than money.  

What if we consider the total time and energy that we have here during our short stint as a physical body on this planet and we create a pie chart graph to represent its distribution?  Let’s call it our life-pie.  A large portion of our life-pie will need to be set aside simply for staying alive.  This section includes the routine necessities such as eating and drinking, gathering food and water, sleeping, shelter or home care and maintenance…   A certain level of formal education is also required by law in Canada so that’s going to take up another portion of the pie.  And what’s left is up for grabs.  

 We spend the rest of our lives, consciously or too often unconsciously deciding how we want to spend the rest.  Our options are technically limitless, but the most popular choices are: parenting, marriage, family, friends, career, travel and sports / hobbies in no particular order.  Again, consciously or too often unconsciously, we then put our choices in order depending on their importance and how much time and energy we want to invest in each.  Some choose to put career first, others family, marriage or parenting.  These choices could be called our loves.  And all of the regrets that we may have lying on our death beds can pretty much be summed up by not having had our loves in the right order.  They basically affect every single thing in the way that we live.  

Adding to this, we’ve seen the emergence of a modern civilisation new way of thinking where the type A personality go-getters figure that they can put more than one love on the top of their list and excel at each one.  They feel entitled and truly believe that they can “have it all”.  The problem with this is that there’s only so much of the pie left and one of the prices that we end up paying for this mistake is half-assing each priority or love.  For some reason, not sure if it’s advertising or societal peer-pressure, but somewhere sometime someone taught us the lie that we could do it all.  And those of us who believed this lie dove in head first pursuing everything.  We can temporarily trick our bodies into achieving this by burning the candle at both ends, but eventually the price is loss of our physical (and emotional) health.  Eventually the body says NO.  I now realize that I have succumbed to this, especially since Adele Type 1 diagnosis over 14 years ago.

I personally believe that as soon as we become a parent a huge part of our life-pie no longer belongs to us.  I believe parenting to be by far the most important and difficult job that we will ever do.  But what does it mean to be a “good parent”?  Working extra hard developing your career so that you can give your kids more stuff and better life experiences?  Showing your kids love and praise by posting as many photos and comments on social media stating how much you love them and how proud you are of them?  Maybe it’s much more than that?  

I believe that our job as a parent can be summarized in one simple sentence.  A good parent is someone who can unconditionally love, support and be there (emotionally and physically) for their children.  That’s it.  Much easier when your child fits the mold created by society, much more difficult when they don’t.  I believe that the most important gift that we can give our kids is our presence.  This gift doesn’t cost a single penny, yet its price in terms of our life-pie is very big.

With kids, especially teenagers, there are opportunities for connection that arise at certain times that cannot be forced or created by sheer will.  If we’re not there as parents during these times, we’re missing the boat and our children are the ones who are losing.  These opportunities cannot be replaced or made, they just happen as part of the unfolding of everyday life.  We cannot expect to squeeze all of these moments in during a few weeks’ vacation to make up for all of the time that we are absent in between.  It simply doesn’t work that way.

Add a chronic illness like Type 1 Diabetes and there isn’t much left of our life-pie.  The amount of ongoing stress involved in being a Type 1 parent is extremely high and there’s no way to truly understand this unless you have lived it.  Our Diabetes care team doesn’t fully understand.  Our family doctor doesn’t fully understand.  Our psychologist doesn’t fully understand.  They have learned the Type1 game rules from books and a certain level of limited experience, but they don’t fully understand because they don’t carry it 24-7.  Now, I’m not saying this to put any of these people down because I really appreciate all that they do.  I’m saying this to make all Type 1 gamers aware, because when you’re in the middle of it you can’t always see it.  From the outside, you may project having it all together while everyone tells you to stay positive and soldier on.  But by realizing how much a Type 1 diagnosis changes everything, then my hope is that you can also find and develop a certain level of self-compassion.  

 I used to have a hard time distinguishing between self-pity and self-compassion, but now I am beginning to see the difference.  Self-pity is often one of the first places that you’ll find yourself after a chronic disease diagnosis like Type 1 Diabetes and that’s okay.  But if you stay there, you’ll eventually rot in sickness.  On the other end is what we could call “delusional positivity”.  Here, you’re not acknowledging your wound and if you stay here, you’ll also eventually rot in sickness from within.  Type 1 Diabetes sucks and is so very difficult at times and it is necessary for you to realize and recognize this.  Somewhere in between is self-compassion.  Compassion will allow you to honor your suffering and enable you to keep going.  I believe that self-compassion is as much of an important component of surviving the Type 1 game as administering insulin.  I believe that one of the greatest gifts that we can give our children is to work on ourselves.  To dig deep, heal our wounds becoming a living example of what it really means to strive towards loving ourselves.  This is a lot of work, but such a great investment.  True self-compassion is what comes out of this.  We cannot have self-compassion if we don't first love ourselves

Are you being honest with yourself?  Are your loves in the right order?  Are you living how you want to die?  Living also means suffering.  Are you suffering for the right reasons?  What exactly are you willing to suffer for?

Only you can answer these questions for yourself.

It is that simple.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Where did the finish line go?

I was always a hyper child growing up.  I don’t think that I would have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD if it existed at that time since I could still sit for a certain period when necessary, but it always had to be in balance with physical activity.  I also did eat quite a bit of sugar back then which could explain this, but I mostly think that I am wired to function at a pretty high speed.  I initially thought that this was normal since most of my friends were high-strung also, but now I realize that most function at a slower speed.  

When Adele was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, the adrenaline kicked in and I dove in at an all-out pace.  I didn’t seem to know how to do things any other way.  I understood the Type 1 game to be a marathon and not a sprint but the thing was that I would probably start a marathon the same way.  Full gas until I blow up was how I rolled.  When I raced BMX as a teenager, the start was the most important part of the race.  If you were not in the top 3 out of the gate it was very difficult to be in contention to win.  We used to practice starts for that exact reason.  Looking back, most everything that I did has been accomplished with an element of speed from the get-go.  It seems to be how I approached everything in my life.

For as long as I remember I have always believed that the highest pinnacle of human achievement was pushing the physical body to its extreme limit.  I believed that a super-fit body gained from a lifetime of dedication, sacrifice and physical training was what our time here was all about.  I admired that more than anything else.  I thought that the goal was getting every single ounce of performance out of our physical bodies.  Anything less seemed like such a waste.  I idolized Olympians and World Champions because given my view of what the human experience should be, they had achieved the highest level.  I know that genetically, most of them were the gifted ones, but the maximization of their physical capacities through a lifetime of training was still the most impressive to me.  They were pushing themselves to their limit.  

Growing up, my heroes were the athletes who stood out because of their physical accomplishments, the champions of their game.  I wanted to be like them.  So based on this belief, I pushed myself in that direction.  And like everything else in my life before, there was no pacing myself as I pursued these goals at an unsustainable fast pace.  I believed that the pursuit of exterior growth was what I was meant to strive for in order to live fully.  Society also pushes us in that direction because anything on the outside can be measured and seen.  This makes sense to our logical brain.  And because of this, it is the norm of how society tends to measure success.  But thinking about the following quote by Eckhart Tolle that I recently came across “Nothing that is of real value can be lost, only the false dissolves”, I began to realize that all that is exterior in reality is fleeting.  It is but a temporary illusion that will surely eventually die or dissolve.   This may partly explain why I was pursuing this as fast as possible with an element of urgency.  Maybe, unconsciously I knew that time was running out and that the window of opportunity was slowly closing?  Maybe what I was pursuing wasn't even real?

A term that is often used to describe an athlete is “being physically fit”.  I now know that there is a big difference between being fit and being healthy.  Being able to bike faster than another does not mean that you are healthier.  Being healthy certainly has a physical component, but it also has a very strong emotional element to it as well.  We tend to forget this.  Very often those that we admire because of physical accomplishments are reaching these heights trying to run away from their emotional problems.  The emotional problem becomes the driving force required to keep on pushing your physical limit.  But how often do we hear of Olympic athletes succumbing to a very deep depression right after their medal-winning performance?  Health all comes down to balance between your outside (physical body) and your inside (heart and soul).  This balance will be different for me than it is for you but it is necessary for health.  It cannot be measured completely, it can only be felt.

We are born perfect, unflawed.  Then, as we grow up, the world messes us up and we accumulate baggage.  This process happens to everyone and is simply part of the human experience.  We can spend all of our time ignoring it while keeping busy building our exterior or we can courageously work on digging, purging and healing our wounds thus creating depth.  Its hard work and very messy, but unlike accumulating exterior accolades, accomplishments in this area are permanent.  This work eventually changes our heart and is the only thing that is real.  

Physically, on my good days, I seem to feel like I have turned the corner towards wellness in regards to my post-concussion syndrome symptoms.  Last week my symptoms were much better, but after a very short fat bike ride on the weekend, I’m feeling the symptoms again.  My progress seems like 2 steps forward and one step back.  Bowen therapy continues to have the most positive effect on my healing. 

Emotionally, in so many ways, my concussion has felt like a spilling of all of my life baggage.  It’s like the container holding all of my issues, wounds, worries and experiences got knocked over and all of its contents have been scattered all over when my head hit the ground.  They were all there before, neatly organized to ensure my survival so far and now they feel exposed, very disorganized and raw.  The task of putting them back in the same order seems overwhelming.  But the reason for the spill is likely that they needed to be rearranged or dealt with and discarded.   It’s a messy job, but it’s time.  What an unfixable “problem” like a chronic disease such as Type 1 Diabetes has started has now been intensified by the concussion.  It is one of its hidden gifts.

The pursuit of exterior accolades is the calling of the ego while interior growth is your soul’s curriculum and in the end, the only thing that is your truth.  One of the hardest parts for me personally in this quest is that much of the required effort for gaining depth is through stillness, not very easy for a person hard-wired to race through or away from life’s hardships.  They say that life’s challenges can either make you hard or soft, bitter or better.  Once you realize this, you get to choose.  That said, I think that it is now time for me to re-balance my outside with my inside by facing my truth, slowing down and softening in order to make room for something better...

Monday, October 31, 2016

Faking it

It does have a name.  It is called “Post-Concussion Syndrome”, but to me it feels more like a condition I would call “Personality Fraud”.  On the inside, I have been feeling like I am not really here, while on the outside, I have been faking it in order to try to still be able to function in the world.  A new buzzword that I have been very interested in the last few years is “mindfulness”, but lately, all I can say is that I feel rather like the complete opposite, I feel “mindless”.  “In a fog” and “out of touch” are other ways of describing it.  My symptoms include dizziness, extreme fatigue, inability to concentrate and focus, anxiety and depression.  This injury has been unlike any other injury that I have had to deal with.

At the time of my Pericarditis health crisis in April 2015, my doctor told me that she saw it coming long ago.  It was “diabetes burnout” disguised as viral Pericarditis.  She said that I managed to last much longer than she expected.  I felt like death at the time, but my ego liked the comment.  It was the epitome of what bike racers strive for, to be “hard men”.   A part of me was proud of it.  Now looking back, it surely wasn’t a compliment because the longer I had been ignoring the warning signs and simply putting my head down and continuing to push harder like if managing Adele’s Type 1 was a bike race, the deeper I was digging myself into the dark hole that I eventually found myself in.  Looking at it that way, it surely isn’t commendable, but rather very, very stupid.  Then again, if I had a do-over, I think things would have to unfold the same way again.  It just seems to be the only way that I learn.  And to be honest, I was just dealing with the stress of being Adele’s Type 1 caregiver the only way that I knew how.  I was doing the best that I could at the time. 

I am not a doctor, but I have a theory that this physical collapse last year was setting me up for the struggles that I have been facing the last few months.  I believe that chronic stress and burnout cause biochemical changes in the brain not unlike mental illness which rendered me more susceptible to injury.  Not only did it affect my ability to focus but also made the concussion symptoms worse since my brain was already struggling with burn-out and exhaustion.  Again, I am not a doctor, but I just know in my gut that this is true in my case.  Looking back, I could feel it happening last year when recovering from Pericarditis.  I could feel that my brain was different.  Understanding this doesn’t really change anything except that it alleviates the suffering a tiny bit.  I have no regret giving up what I lost while trying to be the best pseudo-pancreas possible for Adele for the past 14 years.  The only regret that I have is that I did feel “off” on the day that I crashed and smashed my helmet in July.   I regret not listening to my intuition and either stopping or backing off.  Again, nothing is gained going there, except trying to learn what I need to from the experience.

I have been going through constant ups and downs since my brain injury close to 4 months ago now.  I have had good days when I feel close to normal but most of the time I feel like my body is going through the motions, but nobody’s home.  What seemed like a minor concussion initially seems to be quite adamant at staying longer than expected.  I thought that I was doing well in August and started riding more, but to be honest, Cyclebetes really set me back.  The stress in organizing the event along with too much riding too soon worsened my symptoms.  A few days after our annual ride in support of JDRF, I finally got in to the SportMed concussion clinic at the Université de Moncton and the doctor told me that I was indeed doing too much too soon which was lengthening my recovery.  I was really a mess, but in total denial.  I committed to healing and promised that I would only think about the bike after becoming healthy again.  This has proven to be easier said than done.  It is very difficult for me to forgo all exercise after being so active for so long.  Physio has helped a lot with regaining my balance and some focus, but the fatigue and inability to push myself whatsoever will still take some time.  On the good days, I feel like I can do more only to feel the symptoms return with a vengeance the next day and linger for days afterwards.  It has certainly been an exercise in patience.  I have started Bowen therapy and am finding that it is helping a lot.

I messed myself up really good.  Sometimes I get angry for letting it get to this point.  Other times I just look at it as the path that the universe has set for me.  Like I didn’t have a say in the way things have unfolded, that it simply had to be this way.  It is my soul’s curriculum.  And my job is to learn the lessons that I need to learn.  True knowledge and wisdom are gained through suffering.

I always feel the utmost sadness when I hear of children diagnosed with Type 1 as babies because I know what the parents will be going through.  Looking back, I still don’t know how we managed.  As a parent, you do what you need to do, but the stress of caring for a Type 1 baby / child is one of the most stressful things that a parent can go through.  The required effort is constant and inhuman.  

To my friends who see me and ask how things are going, that’s the longish answer that I never bother to explain instead of the simple “I’m doing pretty good, getting better”.  I apologize if I can’t seem to commit to anything lately.  It’s just how things have been, up and down.  I only know as I go.  Working full-time, I am quite tired at the end of the day so I can’t really do much during the evenings except rest.  Looking at the big picture, I can see progress being made.  It just hasn’t been linear like most people assume.  And as much as I look “normal” on the outside, this is what’s been going on inside. 

I’m happy that we’re now entering the “dark” season.  I don’t feel like I’m missing out as much.  This is when wild animals prepare to hibernate for the winter.  I’m going to follow their cue and keep on relaxing, recovering and healing also…  The bikes will still be waiting for me next spring.  Now if I can just stay away from social media with all of the cyclocross photos !

Friday, September 16, 2016

Thank You

The older I get, the more that I realize and believe that it isn’t about me.  I believe that it isn’t about checking things off a bucket list.  I believe that it isn’t about accumulating external accolades.  I believe that it actually never was about me and it is not about you either.  So who or what is it all about?  I have come to believe that it is about the collective.  I believe that it is about everyone as a whole.  I believe that we are all one and that we are all part of this collective.  I believe that it is about working together to help the collective to thrive and survive.  I believe that it is about helping and making a difference however we can.  I believe that it is about finding what we’re good at and how we can contribute to making things better.  I believe that our job or purpose here on earth is to figure that out what that is for ourselves.  If everyone did their share, the planet would be such a better place.   It doesn’t have to be much because it all adds up.  Even a positive thought will spread and create good karma…

I feel very grateful and blessed that one of the things that I can offer to the collective is to use my passion for cycling to help raise funds for research and awareness for Type 1 Diabetes.  I believe that this is what the universe expects of me.  And the universe has provided me with amazing friends that make awesome things possible…  What else could a guy ask for?

We had set a lofty goal of raising $30,000 for JDRF this year.  I hate goal setting.  Sure, they give us something to aim for, but they also create a stressful expectation given the potential failure if we fall short.  I prefer to set an intention.  But we had to set a goal.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure we were going to reach it this year.  Fundraising is getting more and more difficult.  Or maybe it was my health issues the past few years or my brain preparing to deal with the failure to meet our set goal even if deep down the true intention was to create SOME Type 1 Diabetes awareness and to raise SOME funds for JDRF that wouldn’t exist without our efforts.

In the end, I was blown away by everyone’s generosity and effort !!!  We surpassed our goal by writing a cheque for $30,500 to JDRF which brings the total raised by the Mike’s Bike Shop cycling club since 2007 to over $180,000 !!!  I am speechless…

Too many people believe that this ride is about me since it was born from my dream, but really it isn’t about me at all.  It’s about all the volunteers who step up and put in so much effort, many of which have no personal connection to Type 1 Diabetes other than being my friends.  

Thank you to our main sponsor, Mike’s Bike Shop who is the backbone of this ride.  Thank you Rick Snyder for your continued support even after all these years.  Your kindness and generosity continue to amaze me and are beyond words.  I am constantly blown away with everything that you continue to do in support of JDRF.  Thank you for all of your hard work and very generous financial support.  I am forever indebted for all that you do.  Thank you.

Thank you to Luc Belliveau and Pablo Vergara who have put in so many hours in meetings, finding sponsors, setting up the website, running around getting food and setting everything up.  You are both key players of our Cyclebetes organizing committee.  Without you, the ride could simply not exist.  I am very proud to call you true friends.  I owe you big time.  Thank you.

Thank you Jeff Currie for the maps, your help with event insurance and leading morning and afternoon rides.  Thank you Martin Pelletier for signing all the routes and leading morning and afternoon rides.  Thank you Charles Cormier for removing all signs and leading an afternoon ride.  Thank you Christian Charette for helping with setup on Friday evening, leading the morning ride and managing an afternoon feed station.  Thank you Melissa Bordage for helping with registration on Friday evening, leading the morning ride and managing an afternoon feed station.  Thank you Andre Landry for leading rides and for the ice and BBQ pick-up and delivery.  Thank you Philippe Theriault for the photocopies and flags and signs from the Atlantic Cycling Centre.  Thank you Don Ricker for working your camera magic in capturing the true essence of the whole event in pictures.  Your talent behind the lens is crazy and one of the things that riders appreciate the most about Cyclebetes.   Thank you.

Thank you Bill Goobie and Rachel Parkins for driving the last mechanical support vehicle all day.  Your job is quite stressful and makes for a very long day.  Thanks for doing such a good job in keeping our riders safe.  Thank you Janice Lirette-Evers for taking care of registration Friday evening and Saturday morning.  Merci beaucoup pour ton support et d’avoir accepté de revenir nous aider cette année Janice.  Thank you Gerry Allain for driving the first support vehicle and Elmer Wade for navigating.  Gerry, you have officially become a PRO Cyclebetes support vehicle driver after so many years of experience.  Thank you for the help and continued support.  Thank you Christian Jasper for managing the morning feed station and support vehicle driver in the afternoon.  Thank you Erica Griffith for your help with registration and for managing a feed station in the afternoon.  We are very lucky to have such trustworthy volunteers year after year.  Thank you Gilles Gallant for generously offering to help by representing JDRF, accepting our cheque and managing an afternoon feed station.  Thank you Steve Kikkert for directing traffic in the morning and leading an afternoon ride.  Thank you Serge Noel for directing traffic in the afternoon.  Thank you Johannah Bubar for all of your help including keeping food on the tables for all volunteers and riders.  Thank you Jacob Button for giving up your entire day to volunteer and help.  Thank you Dan Hachey for setting us up with Molson.  Thank you Caroline Belliveau, Jenn Boyd, Cindy Guitard and Rhonda Currie for taking care of all of the food and beverages.  Thank you Bruce and Audrey Thorne for driving support in the afternoon.  Thank you Ben Thorne for speaking to the riders before leaving for the afternoon ride.  Your message was very heartfelt and reminded everyone of why we were there.   Thank you.

Thank you to all our sponsors:  Mike’s Bike Shop, Sobey’s Dieppe, MacDonald Buick GMC, Giant Bikes / Guy Pellerin of Pellerin Sports,  Papa John’s Pizza, Clif Bars, City of Dieppe, Molson brewery, Cape Bald Packers, Terry Tomlin of Tomlin Sports Marketing / Oakley, Maritime Propane Services, Starbucks, Kevin Noiles of Lambert, GoodLife fitness, Pat Bolduc of Shimano / Pearl Izumi, IGA Dieppe, Joanne Phillips for the reefer truck, Philippe Theriault of Cadillac Fairview, Adrien Lesvesque at Falstaff Media, Atlantic Cat for the BBQ, Long and McQuade for the PA system, Chris Mitton, Jim Currie.  Thank you to all that donated, participated and fundraised.

And last but certainly not least, thank you to my wife Michele and Adele who drove a support vehicle and who continue to put up with me and support me year after year. I love you.

If I have forgotten anyone, I apologize and want to thank you as well. I feel very blessed and grateful to be surrounded by so many incredibly generous friends. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And I hope to see you again next year at the 10th anniversary Mike’s Bike Shop Cyclebetes ride !

All online fundraising pages will still work until December 31st, 2016 so you can still donate here...  2016 Mike's Bike Shop Cyclebetes