You can find my cycling blog here.
I really, REALLY struggle to deal with things I see around me which are wrong. This is especially a problem for me when I’m in traffic. Being on a bicycle, realising how severe the consequences can be for me if a driver’s actions cause me to crash, I can get very worked up. This leads, sometimes, to me completely losing my nut and scfreaming or gesturing at people. And this in turn leads to me beating myself up about acting like that for days, weeks sometimes.
This week, I remembered a piece of advice from Fred Luskin’s Forgiveness methods: you cannot enforce your rules on others. Even if your rule is to obey rules we as society have decided we need in order to function for the maximum good for us as a group, such as stopping at a traffic light when it is red, you cannot enforce your rule of abiding by rules.
And I started repeating the mantra: “Nothing to do with me.” Cars parked in a space reserved for bicycles to be able to enter the cycle lane and, you know, GET OUT OF THE WAY OF CARS? Nothing to do with me. What has got something to do with me is figuring out how to get past them, so really that’s all I should focus on. Why they’re there is none of my business. It is especially not something I can influence or change, so no amount of anger or frustration on my side is going to be helpful.
Instead, I can raise the issue of lack of enforcement with someone who can do something about it. I can raise the issue when a politician comes to look for my vote. I can help with whatever efforts are being made to increase cycling numbers in my town – the more of us there are, the more provision and consideration becomes important.
But shouting and swearing? Pointless. At best, counterproductive, creating a negative image of cyclists in general, and of me in particular.
That’s everything to do with me.
The sight of high heels often sends my thoughts into unexpected territories. It blows a storm of yes-buts through the tendrils of my mind. Yes, we should all be left alone to wear what we want, but why would you want to wear high heels? Yes, you may feel sexy in them, but why? Why do you feel something which makes you less able makes you more desirable? Why do we, as a society, look on something which can permanently damage someone else, as beautiful?
I can’t help but think of a world where women are no longer considered second-class humans, possessions even, as one where high heels will be looked on with the same horror now reserved for corsets and foot-binding. I can’t help but think of a world where heels are still considered sexy, as a world with a very big problem indeed.
If you have a strong stomach, click here or on the photo on the right for more on deformities to feet by modern, everyday women’s shoes (right at the end of the article, which is about the now [thank gods] mostly abandoned practice of foot binding).
I am doing a thing: I am looking at those around me, and I am making an effort to not judge. That guy with the clothes: you know, the one that makes you roll your eyes? I am putting brakes on that eye-roll. That girl with the stuff, you know what I’m talking about, the one that makes you smirk. I am giving that smirk a glare and making it scuttle back into its cave.
I am doing this thing because I have learned that someone, somewhere, is going to do the same about me. They are going to look at my face, and if they want, they will have grounds for nudging a friend with an elbow and waggle an eyebrow in my direction. They are going to spot my shoes, my shirt, my hair, my socks, and I guarantee you “they” will have among their ranks members who will find reason for disapproval.No matter what you wear, how you cut your hair, what makeup you do or don’t wear, you look awful to someone somewhere.
And I am they, to someone else, and I decide to rather realise everytime I feel that impulse to disapprove that among “them” there are also those who think what I disapprove of is great, is desirable, is to be emulated. In that way, I hope to become more and more the “they” who respects everyone’s right to tell the story of who they are through what they look like. I want to become part of the “them” that is a safe space where that story is not ripped to shreds with looks, and giggles, and nasty little bladed comments.
Can I hold on to this moment?
Can I captivate the new-born chill,
the knowing we decided we’ll
leave sleepy warmth and dark behind
and footfall through the early quiet?
We don’t mind the misty sky:
beneath our feet, the path is dry.
Across the street, by old stone wall,
some old, big trees drape over all
who join them, briefly, wear the crown
of thousands green leaves looking down
with whispered curiosity
and musings on the world they see.
We step beneath the leafy host
and stop, for this is truly close
to magic. Every leaf above us
gathered every drop of mist
within its reach, rolled it together
for a private, separate weather.
Captured by their wet applause
you and I look up, and pause.
We hear rain fall all around.
Not a drop spills on the ground.
When a man does something admirable, he is a word that evokes thoughts of rescue, overcoming odds, perseverance, and riding off into the sunset. When a woman does something admirable, she is a word that is one letter different from – and sounds exactly the same as – a word that evokes images of hollowed eyes, sallow skin, stick-thin arms, needle tracks and nights in gutters. I know this is not intentional, but everytime it crosses my path, I am horrified. I can’t get myself to picture someone I admire no end, and use… that word.
So I won’t. I will never use the word “heroine” again. An admirable man is a hero. An admirable woman is a hero.
That is all.
This blog post follows on from one I wrote to reflect on the experience of being “the angry cyclist” about a year ago, which I posted on my cycling blog. I should declare upfront that I rewrote this to more clearly stick to the topic, on 4 September 2014.
One fine day, a textbook troll, more specifically, a kind of non-anonymous concern troll, with whom I’d had dealings during the Angry Cyclist episode, posted a photo to the Dundalk Cycling Alliance page. Note the comment that he’d posted it to another page, where it was removed, then posted it to his own and several other pages – classic trolling:
Let’s analyse what happened next.
One of my deep interests is human wellbeing. I did not have much opportunity to study it formally, but devoted an enormous amount of time to study the subject on my own steam. In addition, I obtained certificates in life coaching and stress management. I was quite passionate about the issue, deeply moved by the plight of those struggling to be happy, and keen to help people discover how much more control we have over how we feel, than we often realise. To spread the word, I started a business: Koru Consulting, with the aim of teaching happiness.
Alas, my business venture failed. It was a good experience because it taught me a lot about myself. Notably, I realised I’m an introvert, and do very badly when I have to put myself out there. I went through a period of very careful examination of my life and the things I am naturally drawn to. At the tail end of it, I decided to turn my attention to my creative side, my interest in web design. I enrolled for a Level 5 FETAC course in computing, after a month moving up to Level 6 Networks and Software Systems as my existing knowledge was broader than I had realised. I passed the course with distinctions in most of my subjects, and am at the time of writing about to start a degree course in Media Arts and Technologies at our local college.
I’ve done many jobs in my life. I’ve tried many things, some were successful, others failed. Yet I’ve come to a place of being really, really content. I was prepared to try, and sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. I’m elated I can say that, rather than: “I never failed! Because I never tried.”