I have but one closet in my new apartment. It’s long and narrow so storage has to be strategically organized, with the things I use most easily accessible. Since it also houses Measha’s lavatory, the door has to stay open, which means I’m looking at the closet’s contents often. While I may not have a lot of stuff, what I have is diverse.
Invariably what catches my eye is the riding gear and everything that was to be my home away from home for the next year—tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag. It’s hung up high, because that’s the stuff I won’t be using for a while. I can’t help but notice it, but oddly enough, I become aware of a sense of disconnection. Like those things belong to someone other than me.
That person on that trip, is not someone I identify with right now. That person was fit, intact, and independent, traveling solo by motorcycle, camping, meeting up with fellow travelers and having a wonderful time. An accident broke my shoulder and totaled my motorcycle.
At that moment, everything changed.
I’ve gratefully accepted support and positive energy from friends and community. I’m relatively self-sufficient now, but I needed a lot of help.
Three months ago I lived and worked in a country cottage where I’d been for seven years, had a car, and a motorcycle. I divested of the first two, along with other possessions in preparation for a year or more on the road. Three weeks down the road, I wasn’t even settled in the role of a nomad when I had an accident in Western Canada, spent six days in hospital and recuperated at the home of new friends. Just over a month ago, I ended up geographically back where I started, moving into town, with no car or motorcycle and few clothes, other than my travel clothes. I walk a lot and I ask for help when I need it. This is who I identify with now. This person cannot ride a motorcycle, camp, or even contemplate travel right now. She’s still resourceful, confident, and spirited.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not feeling sorry for myself for even a second and I know that there are many in far worse circumstances. Loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or a grim diagnosis can feel devastating. All I’m saying is that there have been significant changes in rapid succession and they’ve messed with my head. Which one is Liz?
This week during my meditations and journaling, an “aha” moment brought it all together. I’m not either of those people. Those are merely several of the many roles that I’ve had in my lifetime. Underneath those characters and circumstances, I’m the same person; the same spirit. It’s not news and I’ve even written about this before. It’s just come home in a very tangible and meaningful way.
Whatever roles we have, whether they’re defined by motorcycle gear, education, title, physical condition, status, or whatever external garb you choose, do not define who we are. What they do however, is teach us lessons that we only learn by accepting and living those roles. For that reason, it’s important not to get caught up in them because without question, they’ll change many times during our lifetime, some lasting longer than others. If you are wrapped up in a role, who are you when it changes?
Besides our spirit, the other thing that remains consistent across roles are our behavior patterns. I habitually overcommit my time so I spend too much time working and not enough on body and spirit. It’s something I work on and have made a great deal of progress with. You’d think getting out on the open road would change that pattern but no. I recognized the same pattern after filling up my work schedule during a 2013 road trip. I’d pictured lots of free time to decompress, but left myself little room for that. Perhaps it’s why we need to experience diverse roles—it takes multiple perspectives before we learn the lesson.
Change, particularly when it’s unexpected and dramatic, messes with your head. But it doesn’t have to be in a bad way, no matter how much you want to go back and undo the change. Don’t be too hard on yourself, accept support, and allow time for the change to process. The important thing is how you respond and the lessons you learn.
Even if you take on what appears to be the same role again, you’ll be doing so with a new consciousness, awareness, and appreciation for others. That’s what I’ll be doing when I resume riding.