The Cathartic side of Cycling

As athletes and enthusiasts, so many times we see memes and other interesting quotations about cycling or training. “I cycle to burn off the crazy.” “I don’t need therapy, all I need is my bike.” We laugh at them. We post them on our social media pages. We buy shirts, coasters, and glasses with these, now famous, quotations.

Recently, in my life, these memes and quotes about the cycling mindset were put to the ultimate test. As difficult as it is, it requires some background information about me.

When I was four years old, my mother told me that I was adopted. Now, 48 years later, I still remember that conversation like it was yesterday. I remember the feelings. It was something I never forgot and lived my life trying to make myself “locally famous” in hopes that one day, a woman would step out of the shadows and reveal herself as my mom.

Life moves at a rapid pace and years become decades. We grow up, get jobs, start families and move on. Still, this was something that stuck with me all this time. At the age of 52, I learned that Pennsylvania adoptees could now get identifying birth certificates. I availed myself of the opportunity. I filed the required paperwork, and within weeks, I had the name of my birth mother. It also took some internet research to find out more about her–living or not, where she lived, etc.

Rapidly moving forward to June 8, 2018, I met my birth mother for the first time. Needless to say, it was a lifelong dream come true. The best part was that she also wanted a relationship with me, along with sisters, aunts, and other family members I hadn’t met or known. It was, perhaps, the happiest and most fulfilling time of my life. Sadly, my mom’s health was poor and I made another trip from Maryland a few weeks later. Then, I was called back just days after my second trip. Immediately, I made the 6.5-hour drive to be by my mother’s bedside. As I was driving, all I could think about was how unfair this was. After years of searching, I had just recently found my mother. Only a very small handful of people know what that is like. Now, I was confronted with the fact that I may lose her. Not only that, but I may not even make it back in time. Fortunately, I did make it back. We shared two lucid moments that I will never forget. The first was when she opened her eyes shortly after I arrived. She gasped and held her arms out to hug me. The second moment was about two hours later. Again, she opened her eyes. She saw me standing above her and I leaned down. She told me, “I thought I was dreaming.” I hugged her and told her she wasn’t dreaming. I was right there, and I love her so. She passed on July 21, 2018. I had known my mother for exactly six weeks.

The profound sense of loss, sadness, and anger that I feel is still indescribable. How does one lean on friends and family who do what they can, but it’s just not enough? So, what does one do? I turned to my bikes. I’m lucky in that I have a few bikes for different purposes. While grieving the loss of my mother, my bikes provide an escape for me.

Getting out on the bike helped me escape social media. Friends and family mean well and I appreciate their comments, but there are times that I just need solitude. I need time to shut my brain off. My bikes give me some time to be alone in thought, with my mother. They give me time, away from well-meaning people. They give me time to cry when there is no one else around. I can ride out, into the middle of nowhere, and scream my head off at the universe for taking away from me the one person that I spent my entire life searching for.

Riding my bike has been cathartic in helping me cope with this loss. In my view, no one, professional or otherwise, can prepare for a situation like this. Nobody can really say the right things–myself included. But, my bikes are just. There. They expect nothing. They say nothing. They are just poised and ready for whenever I am ready. And, when I am, we go. I ride, I scream, I cry, I laugh. I am me again with the memory of the most beautiful soul I have ever known.

I realize that I still have a long road ahead. This process is far from over. There are times, when I ride, that the breeze brushes across my face, and it feels like her hands. I still need to cry. I still need to scream at the universe. I’m still demanding an explanation as to why we would be reunited, only to be separated again, forever. It still angers, confuses, and saddens me. Fortunately, I have my bikes and endless miles of roads and trails to help me try and figure it out.