She is slow. Her legs don’t move fast. She bikes like a sloth climbs. She’s no fox, no gazelle, no panther. On turns, she tightens her body and is scared. On sprints, she can’t quite make it. She’s outrun by the third minute.
She is me and I am her and you are me. In some small way you are me and one day, one day, I’ll be you.
There is not as much separation as we think. I learned this when I was studying Islam at my old job. A professor used to talk with me at the end of the day. He used to say something like, “Alexis, we aren’t separate. You. Me. Humans. There are all these things connecting us. Molecules of space are between us—we do not just stop flat.” I even heard it today at my café job. The chef said to a manager, “I am God,” and she replied, “Oh really?” and he said, “Yeah. But so are you.”
So things can’t always be qualified in some hierarchy. There is not as much good and bad as we think. Things just are. There are no Kings and Queens, only hearts beating, yearning, yearning, yearning. I’ve never road raced before but my heart wants it. I want to climb up hills, to move as fast as I can, to be liquid energy propelling forward.
January marks the start of my intensive training for Nickel City Racing. I know I won’t be the best, but I hope improve. I haven’t had an official team since I played lacrosse (I play soccer in the summer, but it’s not the same). The women on Nickel City are truly athletic. For the most part, they are older than me and in terms of sports, they are who I want to be. They push their bodies to the limits.
So why compete then if there is no hierarchy—no fast sprint to the end to say “I am better than you?” Isn’t the fundamental idea of competition to see who is the best? My high school self never would have played lacrosse if she wasn’t trying to be a top player. I was on varsity. I was a captain. I won awards. The news interviewed me and gave me an award. I talked to college coaches. They wanted me to play for them. But, then I didn’t do any of that. I gave it up. My heart wasn’t in it.
But, my heart is in this and maybe precisely because I constantly fail at it.
With cycling, I am the one struggling. I am the one who doesn’t do it smoothly, who doesn’t win, who it doesn’t come easily to. I am the one who falls. Back in my lacrosse days I had ego but not strength. I had hubris but not confidence. I lacked depth, compassion, patience. Now, I see I am here for the journey. This is the same reason Buddhism appeals to me. It is walking the path. It is the small moments. It is riding your bike and clearing your mind. It is nothingness and everything-ness at the same time. It is your legs moving, churning, churning, pushing through moments of space and then you realize you haven’t thought about anything else but how that willow tree looks as you approach it or how the wind feels on your face or the rain drops melting on your hot skin. You realize you are that tree. You are those raindrops. You are forward motion, potential and then kinetic energy.
I am you. You are me. I am her. I am my past self and my future self. I am two states of being. And, January is Janus’ month. She is looking forward and looking back. Two directions at the same time.