Thoughts on freedom, control, loving myself, and sharing the ride

I have been getting sick a lot.  I’ve missed a lot of work.  But I can still ride my bike, just not too fast and not too far. I am learning, quickly, how to refocus attention on myself.  I’m learning how to love myself by action in addition to thought, and that means slowing way down even when I don’t want to because otherwise I’ll find myself in bed for days with full-body spasms.  I’m learning to appreciate the view each morning before I carry my bike downstairs to head to work, or when I’m flat on my back.  I’m learning how to enjoy any bike ride because it’s the most active I can be much of the time.  Every painful time I swing my leg over my bike I know I’m about to feel much more comfortable as soon as I have my first down-stroke and am gliding smoothly on two wheels.  My bike gives me freedom even in the midst of my daily, mind-numbing pain. 

Photo by Allan Crawford, Oakland, CA. 2013

Photo by Allan Crawford, Oakland, CA. 2013

Sometimes more than others I feel more in control of my body and life. Though the past several months have had me sick more often than not, with cancelled plans and all my energy focused on accomplishing daily activities, I do feel more in control now - simply because I’m allowing myself the               space               to be aware of my needs.  That’s right, my needs – strikingly different from my wants.  Comparatively speaking, though, being and feeling in control, in my book, can still look a bit hectic.

I’m realizing I can’t take my body for granted anymore. If I don’t listen to my non-self-imposed limits (my body doesn’t get to make 'energy limit' decisions anymore), my quality of life drastically drops.  I get sick. I miss work. All my energy is forcibly focused on the things that need to get done: work, eat, shower, rest, go to the doctor, take care of the bills. What’s missing? A social life, mainly, which, if you don’t have one it becomes quickly depressing. For people battling serious chronic illnesses, so much of our energy is focused on survival we don’t count on having fun or doing activities that bring us joy when we choose. I appreciate my bike because being on it allows me to be in control of something in my life, and since it is my main transportation it allows me to be active and to be around people who also ride bicycles - sometimes the only socializing I have the energy for. I’ve learned recently that the love of my bike is not just about my bike and me. It’s about the people who are riding beside me, too.     

My good friend, Cyd, and me at the Sacramento Ride of Silence this May. Photo courtesy of Phoebe Hillclimber

My good friend, Cyd, and me at the Sacramento Ride of Silence this May. Photo courtesy of Phoebe Hillclimber

Charis Hill

Charis is a car-free bicycle advocate, healthcare advocate, and fashion model living in Sacramento, CA. A native North Carolinian and graduate of Meredith College in Raleigh, NC with a B.A. in Sociology (minors in Psychology and Women's Studies), she has lived in Sacramento since late 2011. Charis lives with a severe, progressive, autoimmune disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis; her bike keeps her moving which is crucial to maintaining her current quality of life.