Friday, May 9, 2014

Mile 540: Overcast Heart

Emotions are like weather forecasts: sometimes they're true, and other times they lie.

It was a cloudy ride to the office this morning in many senses of the word. I was up 'til midnight last night winding down after speaking at a school board meeting to defend public education funding. I am one of those rare weirdos who love public speaking. But afterwards I cannot for the life of me calm down; it wires me like what I hear cocaine does. (Never tried it, by the way, so don't start rumors.)

The ride to work was after about five hours of sleep, which is close to enough for me. But my head is cloudy for reasons that are probably compounded by a lack of shut-eye.

Blame it on emotions.

I have spent most of my adult life building walls, mastering what the western world says a man should be. In plain speak, we men are expected to be emotionally unavailable. While society may not put it in such crass terms, it's the truth.

Don't cry. Don't show empathy. Pretend to be tough.

I am a biker, but I rarely call myself one. No need. I average thousands of miles a year, and I wear leather because it protects you from the elements. In all seriousness, I do not care how it looks, cool, tough, or otherwise. The roads are littered with weekend motorcycle polishers who wear Sons of Anarchy t-shirts, but that's not a biker. A true biker rides most days and resents every moment in a car. (Except when it's pouring down rain. I don't care if you're the most diehard rider in the world, nobody enjoys riding in a bad storm. Still, it happens.)

Living your life on a motorcycle brings with it an expectation to be the tough guy. And though I can pretend to be as rough and tumble as the rest of them, most of us carry around a lot pain on the inside.

Pain. Like bad weather forecasts, that's life. Maybe you had a rough childhood where one of your collection of stepdads used to whip your bare legs with a belt. You move on, make your way into adulthood, but the scars are still there. Bricks in the wall.

Like the refrain in the movie, Magnolia, keeps repeating, "We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us."

So we build walls around our scars, but the pain is still there. It is tempting for me at this particular mile on this long journey to try to make sense of the pain, to explain it, to ease it. But that would be wrong. I say we let it have its day. Don't ignore it. Don't soften it. Don't pretend to be tough.

However, I will say this much: If "good" can come of our pain, it comes when we let pain be our teacher. It also does not hurt to look for those everyday things that are beautiful, that fill us with life. The pain may still be there, but it does not have to overshadow the moments that make us smile, that bring us joy.

Joy and pain, sunshine and rain.

It also helps to take a good long ride, even when the skies are cloudy.

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