Sometimes we will make mistakes and, whilst others may find it possible to forgive us, perhaps the real challenge comes in forgiving ourselves.
Less than 50kms away from Bhutan and “something” happened that rendered my bicycle unrideable – and seemingly unfixable. It seems I may not be riding to Bhutan after all. So close, yet still so far. There is some part of me that would really like to cry, yet I am overwhelmed by the part of me that cannot help but smile. A giggle even seems to be rising up from time to time. Oh life, the wonderful play, how could it be any other way?
Perhaps the most amusing thing about the “something” that happened is that it was no incident that one might be able to classify as just plain unlucky – say like a bite from a random dog or an accident. No, the “something” was just plain foolishness on my part. Actually I am cringingly embarrassed to share it (I will at the end of this post). But it happened, and I am human, I make mistakes, and happiness comes in finding acceptance of who I am in my completeness.
This is the ultimate happiness lesson – when we observe ourselves fully, do we love all that we see. I am surprised at the ease at which I seem to have accepted where I am. Perhaps this may be the product of many months on a bicycle – all the ups and downs, the challenge and the heartache – what comes to pass, regardless of how it came to pass, has to, at some point, be accepted for what it is if we want to stand a chance of coming through the other side.
It is not that I don’t care, of course I care, I am actually quite gutted. But this has always been a journey about happiness, and it feels to me like there is something magical in what has come to pass. A deep learning, a profound unveiling.
When I’ve not been sitting in bike shops trying to find a solution to this I have been writing this. As the day has progressed possible solutions are manifesting. There is still some hope. I am not attached to how I am getting to Bhutan but I know that I am getting to Bhutan. And Gulliver, my bicycle, is certainly coming with me.
Last night I considered renting a bicycle or even buying a new one, because it sure would be nice to end this trip in a blaze of glory. I sure have been fantasising about doing so these past weeks and months, since I began even. Yet as I carted Gulliver around today and watched him be looked over and inspected I felt like I was in a doctor’s waiting room waiting anxiously to hear the prognosis of a dearly loved one. I felt sad for my bicycle. I felt the fullest sense of gratitude for how far we have come together. I saw my bicycle in a different light and I am glad I have seen him in this way. If this is as far as we ride then this is as far as we ride, but we will get to Bhutan together somehow – on the back of a truck if it has to be.
In some sense it feels a little ridiculous. The bicycle is just a thing, a material object, and oh how much I’ve spurned the idea of possessions being a key to happiness. Indeed, they most often are not. Yet when the things we posses serve important universal human needs – bringing for example a way of life that brings a deep connection to self, others and the environment, keeps one mentally and physically healthy, are integral to our sense of meaning and purpose – then happiness inducing they will become. My bicycle has helped me find happiness and somehow leaving him behind would feel to me like a great disservice. I would feel less complete. My bicycle, including all the people that designed, built, and worked on him, is the real hero of this not quite complete story. In some ways it IS about the bike.
Since lunch Gulliver has been in surgery. I am hopeful, though not expectant, of at least a partial recovery. Even if we can get back on the road there is still quite a bit to do – I had to head back on myself to the nearest city to stand a chance of sorting this – and it will have to be tentative riding. It may be possible to cycle, yet it might not, I am not attached to either outcome.
***This is what happened. A week ago I had some problems with one of my pedals. They needed changing so I bought some new ones for 150 rupees, which is about £1.50 – not the best but I thought they would do. When I came round to fitting them I noticed that rather than requiring an allen key they needed spanner. Not a problem, except I didn’t have a spanner. I decided to fit them using a pair of plyers to tighten them but I couldn’t get them tight. Actually not even close to being tight but I thought they would be OK, and that they would probably tighten up as I rode given how they are threaded. And in any case, of course, I’d stop somewhere at some point and get them tightened up properly. I never did stop to do that tightening. Rather than tightening as I rode one of the pedals stripped the thread of the crank. I even read this as a possibility when I googled it as I fitted them. So there you go. It’s embarrassing. I am a human, I make mistakes, I get embarrassed, and all of that is OK, it is just OK.
***I have since written and published a book about the journey to Bhutan on a bicycle. If you like what you’ve read here then consider buying A Journey For Happiness: The Man Who Cycled to Bhutan today.