Day 17, Gualala Point to Bodega Dunes Campground, 48 miles
I’m waking later on this trip than usual. Harder to rise before dawn, even when long rides beckon. Must be I’m yielding to my need for sleep, for rest.
Today, however, I do set out early, after making breakfast and sharing coffee with some of the others. And just before I leave, Gabriella tells us she is making a video collage of cyclists dancing, so I pick out ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky. I dance wildly with Pablo, feeling foolish, and hoping they don’t turn me into an internet nerd meme.
Farewell, I’m off, up the long camp road, rejoining Route 1. The sky is dreary, hung low with fog or clouds, I can’t really tell. Mr. Blue hasn’t shown today. I notice the hills immediately, straining and sweating. And I really feel the cold. A light headwind doesn’t help, as well as the anticipation of the large climbs ahead past Fort Ross.
My mood matches the overcast vistas. Grey sky, grey ocean, grey Ocean. I can’t shake this. Of course, I’m ruminating again. Thinking of how much damage I’ve done in my relationships over the years. How little I’ve seemed to learn, despite the heartbreak. How far I am from the man I want to be.
This is the hard work of self reflection, facing this inner critical voice. How this part of the ego can be so cruel. Yet I remember my call to nonviolence, to respond with kindness, compassion, empathy, to others and especially to myself, even this painful voice which seems to want to hurt me.
Kill the ego, the purpose of relationship. I remember this thought from yesterday’s ride, and how I blithely proclaimed this statement at the campfire. Now, I see a deeper truth. Not kill it. But help the ego. Help the ego to let go. That is one of the purposes of a transformative relationship, to help me let go of the things I want to change. So I can grow, so I can evolve, so I can become.
With compassion, with empathy, I see how the ego has always been trying to protect me. Even the harsh inner critic is trying to save me from heartbreak, the breaking my own or others. Yet David Whyte is correct when he says there is no relationship that will not break your heart. Whether lover, or spouse, or parent, or child, eventually we will have our hearts broken, by the ones we love. Whether by commission or omission, just fate or the eventual visit of the Reaper, every relationship will know disappointment, loss and death.
With compassion, with empathy, with gratitude, I thank my ego, all my voices, for working so hard to create my life. I whisper a prayer to thank my beloved, for all she has shared with me, the beautiful blessings and joy, and also the things that most challenge me. Perhaps, especially for these, as they have been opportunities to grow in ways I have as yet been unable to move myself, to love myself.
One of the most difficult lessons has been the evolution of my understanding of the astonishing amount of space needed in this relationship. Space apart. Room for self reflection, for healing, for learning, for resting, for creating, and sometimes just doing nothing at all. I’ve resisted this space, being the anxious lover who wonders why, who projects my own rejection, interprets time alone to be alienation or withholding.
The guidance has been heavy, as my father would have noted. I’m learning hard life lessons here. Not only does my beloved need space, room, independence, sovereignty. But so do I. And so do I. To face myself, to find myself, to encounter the ways I make myself unhappy, make myself lonely, make myself depressed. To turn aloneness into a sacred space, to learn how to allow myself comfort, happiness, self love, compassion.
These thoughts blossom as I ride under the now blue skies, climbing the long hills, drinking in the now bluer than blue vistas, flying down through hairpin turns. I stop at Cafe Aquatica in Jenner, devour one of their overstuffed veggie sandwiches and a soothing pour over coffee. Just ten more miles to camp. I roll on, over the Russian River, on to the dunes.
I arrive early, walk through the empty hiker biker site. I realize it will soon be filled with other cyclists, and I’m torn. I don’t like this loneliness, yet I’m also feeling anxious about their arrival, at having to socialize. I set up my tent, find myself suddenly crying in the shower, not wanting to talk to anyone, except my beloved, who is so far away. I return to camp and sit through an awkward shared dinner with Pablo and Gabriella. They are both so kind and friendly, but I’m feeling lost and vulnerable.
Eventually, I retire to my tent, well before dark, to take a furtive nap. More tears are flowing, as I cuddle myself in my sleeping bag. I so miss holding my beloved, wish for her protection, for that bubble we might share, lost in togetherness. Yet I also see the risk, the danger of too much togetherness. And how traveling alone is the very challenge to my ego which is so painful right now.
I get up and from my tent, join Alden and Claire at the table. They ask my about the ride today, I share some of my discomfort and sadness. This vulnerability, it does help lift my mood. Who cannot relate? Yet in everyday life, we withhold so much from each other, thinking no one will understand. Claire asks me to tell them the story of my name, Ocean. I spin the tale, enjoying the retelling.
It’s getting late, we are all anticipating the hard ride out of Bodega Bay tomorrow. We retire to our tents, to fall asleep to the distant surf and even more distant foghorn. I think again about the space between me and my beloved, how much really is needed. Astonishing. Not just the time apart, or room apart, or these hundreds of miles. Fact is there exists an infinite space between each person, as we are each an entire universe of potentiality. Astonishing then, that we are able to bridge this void, to discover each other through commonality and connection.
What makes this possible? Compassion, empathy, love. Yes, I whisper to my beloved, I send these all to you, as we both head to sleep, universes apart, and yet so very very close.