In my therapy session this afternoon, we kept coming back to the subject of walls.
As in, I have them put up everywhere.
I had explained my friends’ visualization suggestions to my therapist, and she suggested we might try walking through a hypothetical pregnancy announcement right then and there, in the safety of her office, and “see what comes up.” The idea of which was okay, until I told her that some hypothetical pregnancies freak me out more than others.
“So let’s try one of the ones that would freak you out the most.”
I thought of Erin – unmarried, intelligent, admittedly-not-ready-for-babies-just-yet Erin – and immediately, the walls shot up.
“What do the walls look like?” my therapist asked. “What are they made of?”
“They’re made of the word ‘No.’ As in, ‘No, that can’t happen,’ ‘No, that’s not logical,’ ‘No, I am not going through this again.'” And then I derailed into a story about Monica.
Because that’s what I do when confronted with something uncomfortable. I put up the walls, and then I find a way to talk my way around them, rather than trying to break them down.
So of course, my therapist wants me to figure out how to get through the walls, so that I can spend some time in “the sad place.” She says I can’t heal until I’ve sat with my grief, felt it, expressed it – rather than just covering it up and rerouting myself around it. She used some fancy word for what soldiers do when trying to overcome their own frozen traumas: go back to the war, come back to the present, go back to the war, come back to the present – so that the trauma thaws slowly, instead of bursting open.
I told her I do not want to hang out in the sad place.
I don’t like to cry. I don’t want to cry in front of Doug, because he will try to “fix” whatever I’m crying about. I don’t want to cry in public, or even in therapy, because it’s embarrassing. And I can’t very well go there when I’m by myself, because when I’m by myself, I don’t cry either; I just get stuck in a depressed little ball on my couch, feeling sorry for myself and forgetting to eat.
In order to get through the walls, I need to express myself out loud, which sometimes means talking in circles until I tap into the grief and choke on my tears. I need to push myself to a physical limit, so that my body is too exhausted to fight what’s inside it.
The best way that I know to do this is on my bicycle. As much as I hate it, my bike forces me to confront my limitations head-on. In the gym, in an exercise class, if the exertion is getting to be too much, I can leave, or let up a little. On the bike, out on the road, I have no choice but to keep going – because even if I try to give up early, I have to get back to the house/car I started at somehow – and if I let up too much, the bike will slow down and fall over.
And so, perseverance. Sometimes this means “giving up” and walking up a hill, but I promise that if your legs are already tired, walking up a big hill while pushing a bike sucks almost as much as riding up the big hill on the bike.
I’ve already told the story once here, about the time I sat down on the curb and cried, because cycling was “just another thing I’ve failed at.” This is what the sad place looks like, and this is how I get there.
Basically, in order to break down the walls, I have to hit one.
In an unrelated but relevant bicycle story, Doug and I went for a ride today. What was meant to be easy and enjoyable (from Carmel Valley to Camino Del Sur on the 56 bike trail), turned out to be kind of a bitch, since a section of the trail was closed and the detour took us up and over some pretty big hills out by my old high school.
By the time we got to our destination, Peet’s Coffee, I was tired and hurting. I sat at a table and watched the bikes while Doug went inside and ordered for us. I should mention here that Peet’s decorates its coffee cups with artwork/symbols from ancient civilizations. This was the cup from which I drank my pumpkin spice latte, the drawing attributed to Central America:
Today I am thankful for my bike. For all that I resist it, it has provided me with companionship, via the old dudes on Wednesdays; with empowerment, as I rode in the Tour de Cure to fight diabetes last spring; with insight, as it forces me to face what’s behind my walls; and with reminders of healing and hope, in the form of overpriced coffee in paper cups.