My cycling journey met a momentous breakthrough in northwestern Ontario. A confluence of seemingly disconnected moments guided my trip into a new and unpredictable chapter. A chapter I’d felt I wasn’t yet ready for along the Prairies. A chapter I’d felt ready to begin since Falcon Lake. A chapter that finally sparked on the along the outskirts of Thunder Bay.
Finally, my world outside began to align with my world within, revealing an unprecedented resonance. Progress inside and all around. This proved a clear marker between my struggles to begin exploring the meanings of this ride and the explorations that resounded unexpectedly and repeatedly thereafter. They’re all stories, no doubt. Foolishly, though, I sought control over every one. And that became the essence of this breakthrough:
Stories is all we are. And we’re never the only one holding the pen.
I biked to the Terry Fox Memorial in the early morning, under crystal clear skies. I’d arrived early enough to be the only visitor at the site. I took advantage, walking every path and reading every sign. A view of Lake Superior and the Sleeping Giant offered a particularly memorable sight. At the end of my personal tour, I stood aside the statue of Terry Fox, the sun gleaming behind.
I looked up at the monument to a young man who had intentions of running across Canada to raise awareness and donations for cancer research. The courageous hero who had run till nearly Thunder Bay before his body betrayed his passion and determination for the final, decisive time. The unforgettable leader who inspired others to carry on his mission long after his death, resulting in a massive and ever-accumulating amount of support for his cause ever since.
The runner whose statue was admired by a lone cyclist on an early spring morning. A cyclist who had started biking across Canada because he wanted to.
Took a lifetime to reach the Terry Fox Memorial. But, man, I felt I reached that monument at the perfect moment. Cleared, humbled, and simplified my mind. I realized my trip was a trip. A collection of stories rooted in a choice. A choice rooted in entitlements and privileges, fuelled by my desire for control over my life.
We all strive for that feeling of writing our stories, for that elusive feeling of control.
Inevitably, though, in every moment, we are crucially exposed to the unpredictable forces of this world; to the people, relationships, environments, and all other connections binding each of us. As we live, we connect. Exposing our lives and our stories to the world around us. And, as we connect, our stories are interwoven within countless others. All we can do is choose how we react to these forces.
This world can feel exceedingly complicated and overwhelming and terrifying. Within every lived moment, we may feel vulnerable to losing control of our stories. We may feel vulnerable to losing direction. We may feel vulnerable to enduring fear, conflict, pain, and sadness.
Yet, this world can also feel wonderfully simple and welcoming and beautiful. Within every lived moment, we may afford ourselves the gift of meaning in our story. We may afford ourselves the gift of discovering an exciting new path. We may afford ourselves the gift of experiencing love, peace, resonance, and joy.
Our worlds are endless webs of connections, upon which all forces on the vast spectrums of love and fear, from peaceful extreme to violent extreme, can be embraced, empowered, nurtured, neglected, starved, and rejected.
With every lived moment, we expose our stories to all possibilities; we can strive to open ourselves to the forces of the world or close ourselves from them. In every moment, we can expose our stories to the world outside or protect our stories within. We can strive to seek control over ourselves and our connections, or graciously admit we never truly had it.
And, those are key choices in every moment of our story. Control. Connections. Openness.
Strive to shine light to our story, and risk exposing our story to darkness. But, refuse to connect ourselves to this world at all, and there is no story.
Without connection, there is no love, no peace, no resonance, no joy.
Without connection, there is no meaning.
I am a collection of stories, bound to my world, like any other. Gifted with a unique blend of strengths, weaknesses, privileges, burdens, talents, and shortcomings.
Every person narrates an ever-changing narrative of stories within. Fortunate are those that feel in control of their stories. To feel authority over a narrative necessitates some measure of power.
But, feeling something doesn’t mean you have it.
Though we may feel in control of our story, we do not have control. And, though we may feel in control of writing our own story, we are never the only one holding the pen.
Still, we strive. Till our final breaths. Still, we focus far too often on feeling for control when, all the while, our connections fuel the moments of greatest resonance. Till Thunder Bay, the prevailing narrative of my cycling stories had been seeking control, feeling control for brief moments, losing control inevitably, and ever-wanting it again. Rarely did I simply open myself to the world all around. Rarely did I simply connect.
Looking up at the Terry Fox monument, my cycling stories were placed into a new perspective within. Reverberated my stories with different roots.
I compared our respective journeys, and, immediately, felt compelled to cease struggling for control so desperately. I was cycling across Canada because it felt right. Because I wanted a challenge. Terry Fox ran from St. John’s to the fringes of Thunder Bay for his life and for the lives of others suffering from the same plight. Because he wanted to raise awareness and money for a worthy cause.
Why struggle so incessantly? Every pedal is a privilege. Every moment is a miracle. Stop yearning. Just start riding.
Standing aside the Terry Fox monument, I began to embrace a new choice: Accept the meanings that were already there, waiting to be unveiled in every moment. Embrace the many stories that are written with every breath; stop searching for control over a particular one.
I resolved to stop searching so desperately for meaning on this modest journey of mine. I stopped searching so desperately for answers. After all, there were no solutions along these roads; only paths. Paths of stories and experiences. Choices, man.
And, so, I stopped trying to write my own stories with every pedal. At the very least, I tried to stop trying. Instead, I started to flow with the stories that I was opening myself to ride along the way. Stories is all we are, after all. Took a lifetime to lean into the choice of cycling solo across Canada. Took another three thousand kilometres or so of cycling to begin recognizing the rare gift of being willing and able to make that choice at all. Nevertheless, I felt this feeling. I’ll hold onto that minor feat.
Get over yourself. This trip is a trip.
A simple epiphany that felt way overdue. I returned to the roots of this journey and embraced them. This feels right. Follow that flow. I stopped trying to figure it all out and just start riding. And, so, with a heartfelt lovetap to the base of the monument, I took a deep breath and rolled on.
Riding away from the memorial, I floated for awhile. For the first time, I felt my mind willingly shift my place decisively away from the centre, connecting myself to the world around in a different way. Still couldn’t place this new place away. Just knew I’d wandered lovingly into a new chapter, boundlessly excited to keep exploring, start connecting more intently. Little did I comprehend how profoundly my new perspective would be rewarded later that same day.