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  • Jeremy Raeszler

Boundaries for the soul

Standing in the dimly lit parking lot, I knew I should be happy to be here but all I could think about was my shoes. If I have no intention of actually racing… do I still have to wear cycling shoes? If I don’t, will everyone think there is something wrong with me?

I was in Beaver, UT for a bike race called the Crusher in the Tushar by LifeTime. When I first signed up for this race I knew nothing about it other than it was only 35 minutes from my home in Panguitch, UT and LifeTime made kayaks and swingsets. As an introvert, I sometimes get lost in the idea and then I get overwhelmed in bigger groups, but I was glad to be here early in the morning, this is what I had set my mind I wanted to do. After just a couple months of riding a bike or, in my case, pretending to know how to ride a bike I was starting to feel a creeping dread that had nothing to do with the shoes.

The morning of the race, I had woken up extra early with a sense of relief. I had planned and prepared all my gear the night before and I was going to be able to relax before the anxiety of being in a crowd inevitably took over as I neared the time to leave for Beaver. I was at peace with the adventure I had built up hype around, and I was still unaware of what I was actually getting into. I really hate it when I get lots of attention, it makes me uncomfortable. I had received a couple calls and a few text messages that morning wishing me good luck which was all the celebration I wanted. I was happy that I didn’t have to deal with that part of it anymore.

I found a parking lot near the start line where no one else had parked. I was able to waddle around and unload my bike, get my gear on, and prepare for the start alone, without fear of being judged. I was close enough that I wasn’t even going to ride to the start line, I was going to watch from a distance and as the last group was preparing to leave I would just ride around the block and cross the start alone, behind everyone. But during my preparation someone drove by and called out, “You better hurry, you are going to miss the start!” As I thanked them with a nervous smile and a nod of the head, my stomach went into a tight knot. How did they know what I was there for, I hadn’t even put my bib number on the bike yet? Now, as I sat on the curb to try put my shoes on, I was on edge and on the lookout for surprises.

I hate being surprised. I don’t mean gentle surprises, like a text message or card in the mail. Those are cool! But I can’t stand surprises that are loud, shocking or come with a song or candles … no thank you. It’s not that I hate celebrations; well yeah, I guess I kinda do when it is pointed at me. I mean I am grateful, I just feel uncomfortable being the focus of attention. Ultimately, it took me almost 50 years to be more understanding about it not just being about me, but those involved enjoyed the celebration.

With my five ten mountain bike shoes still in my hand, I looked up to see if anyone has parked around me, I got out of my thoughts and came back to getting ready for the race. Suddenly, a feeling of sheepish nervousness came over me. It was quickly followed by a collective inhale, the one I can feel in my bones every time I know something uncomfortable was about to happen and I had no control over it. I feel sick. Behind me, someone says, “Are you racing today, good luck if you are!” Nooooo. Seriously!? In the middle of the street? I am mortified. I think that the whole entire world is staring at me. Or at least the whole entire cycling world is staring at me. All because I have the wrong shoes and someone just pointed out I was there, hiding on the curb trying to put on my shoes.

Because of my spinal cord injury I can’t get up and run so I slap a big smile on my face and try not to cry as I turn around to say thank you. Logically, I know it all came from a place of love and celebration. Still, I want to run back and crawl into my truck, drive home, get under the covers and pretend I never got out of bed in the first place.

Perhaps my aversion to being 'celebrated' strikes you as odd, but from what I’ve learned, I’m not alone.

But through my cycling journey I have learned that it is okay to be different. Because of cycling I have learned that it is okay to set boundaries without fear of upsetting your new friends. Boundaries are how we show each other who we are. Your boundaries are a map of you. They show others who you are and how to love you. Set boundaries so you can tell people …

· I like this.

· I don’t like this.

· This makes me uncomfortable.

· This makes me feel loved.

· I won’t tolerate this.

· This matters to me.

· That sounds good.

· This is what I want.

· This is who I am.

The way I see it, we’ve got our fence up long before we set boundaries. We are protecting ourselves from things we may not have to endure at all. I encourage you to share the map of you or simply express what works best for you.

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