After my post touching on my concerns for the emotional well-being of cyclists last week, a few people contacted me: some sharing their own experiences of how they used training and competition to numb feelings or deal with distress; others questioned if it really was as bad as I saw it. I was particularly grateful for getting to know about this write up in The Washington Post: It details the heart breaking story of Kelly Caitlin, a young American cyclist who won multiple world track team pursuit titles and the silver medal at the 2016 Olympics.
I’ve little more to add this week. I read the article at a time I was already in touch with a deep sadness: client stories, and my own experiences with close friends and family have me thinking about our mortality, the fragility of life. It can lead to despondency, or as a client recently asked me “what’s the point?”. I totally get this position - yet when I read words like in Kelly Caitlin’s suicide letter, I fully understand how important it is to do what I can to support others in their pain...
“I cry,” Kelly wrote, “because I only ever truly desired Love. Kindness. Understanding. Warmth. Touch. And these things shall be denied, for eternity.”
...this gives ME a point, a purpose. But that doesn’t make it easy to bear sometimes.
Having spent some time recently putting in place a structure to create (and protect) space for my book project, today was the first of several whole days I had planned for dedicated, intensive writing. Ordinarily, this project will be based upon consistent ‘bite sized chunks’: a rate of 500 - 700 words per week and these short posts coming together after a two year period in to a book format. However, I am making a head start over the summer months - to gain some momentum and create a foundation upon which I can build over the coming weeks and months.
On a practical level, as I put the metaphorical pen down for the day, it has also been useful to gauge how long it takes to write a certain word count. I have written enough for several weeks of ‘posts’; and its been good to write some of the opening sections of the book in a series of 2h blocks over the day. I am in the flow and feel confident from where I am writing, and to whom.
Within the opening chapters I am giving some of the background story as to how I have arrived here: the career changes, the consequences of those changes and how the Buddhist dharma, meditation and psychotherapy have brought about (and helped me hold) a great deal of change - who Helen is and also how she relates to life and others. The writing allowed me to reflect upon my beginnings as a sport scientist and physiologist rooted in the body and the shift toward working with the mind within coaching and then psychotherapy. I found myself writing about the competitive and ego-orientated world of sport and how unhappy I found my athletes could be in their performance world. I felt a deep sadness as I wrote and I pondered “does it really have to be that way?”. It is some 10 years ago I was working in elite sport and I don’t sense much has changed since.
“Why do we make it so complicated?” This is the question asked by Jon Jandai, a man living in a small village in northeastern Thailand. I came to be watching his TED talk as part of my explorations around ‘simplifying’. It is worth a watch.
I share it with you as I shared it with a client this morning: After recognising how “crammed my life is” the client started to realise how (on some level) they were choosing to cram it. Their process, one I know myself personally, is to become curious as to the choices made between taking on more work at the expense of living. I shared the video because it speaks to that question “why do WE make it more complicated?”; how we (many of us) have fallen for the false truth that success = happiness. Most of us have an inkling this isn’t true...but we go along with the group think just in case we are the (only) ones left behind.
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