I've been thinking a lot lately about something a friend wrote to me recently while on my bike tour in Corsica. "Change," he said, " is inevitable, but growth is optional. I admire your decision to grow."
I deeply appreciated the support implicit in his comment, but the word "decision" gave me pause and has prompted considerable reflection over the past couple of weeks. I found myself thinking about my "decision" to come out almost seven years ago. People used to tell me that they admired my courage in doing so. My response was always that I didn't see myself as courageous at all; I felt I had no choice - that events had propelled me to do what I did. I really felt like I wasn't making conscious decisions during that tumultuous period - I was simply riding a wave that had picked me up and propelled me into an unknown future.
Similarly, I didn't "choose" to meet Mark. I did choose to ride the wave that scooped me up on an unforgettable August day in 2011 when I first met him. I did choose, I suppose, to surrender myself to what life was offering me. And I rode the wave.
I certainly didn't choose for Mark to be diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer. That wave was tumultuous, tossing, sucking, carrying out to sea, throwing me/us back toward shore, ultimately depositing me alone on the beach, Mark carried out to the sea of an unknowable universe.
Since Mark's death, I suppose I have made choices. But I really don't know if I consciously chose to "grow." I guess in some ways I did/have. But it has felt more like when I came out in that I felt I really had no choice *but* to grow, to move forward, to process, to experience.
I was texting with another friend this morning, and I was reminded of a sign I saw in a cafe at the top of Alpe d'Huez - an iconic Tour de France ride in the French Alps southeast of Grenoble - when Mark and I were there in 2014:
I have had to keep moving. I have had to make goals for myself, to embark yet once again on a journey of self-discovery. In some ways, I have analogized this process to being locked into my bike pedals: as long as I keep moving, I'll be okay. But if I stop without releasing my shoes from the pedals, I'll fall over.
I was reminded of this same 2014 bike tour as I expressed some feelings to my friend this morning. Some days I feel, as I continue my journey into my life post-Mark, as though I have clear days that offer amazing vistas of my life ahead - such as the day we rode the Alpe d'Huez:
Other days, I am reminded of another day of cycling that year when we were completely fogged in and couldn't see six feet in front of us at some points, such as on a shelf road where we knew that a stunning valley vista lay below us, but all we could see was this:
There are days when I feel this way. But I know, on those days as well as others, that I have to keep peddling. If I don't, I fall over and I'll never reach the next destination on the journey that is my life. I can't see those destinations, but I am sincerely grateful that I have learned - through what I have experienced these past seven years - to trust more in the Universe, to trust the path. I literally have no idea what lies in my future, but I believe that as long as I keep peddling - or, I suppose, choosing to open myself to growth - I'll be okay.