Two of the most inspiring books I have read about cycling over the years were Lance Armstrong’s auto biographical volumes; ‘It’s Not About the Bike’, and ‘Every Second Counts’. As we now know, these books have lost their lustre since their author finally came clean and admitted to being a serial drug cheat. I read somewhere that one reader in the USA is suing Armstrong on the basis that his books were a pack of lies.
I can be pretty fictional at times, come to think of it.
‘How are you?’ asks a friend, family member or acquaintance. ‘I’m fine, thanks,’ comes the reply. There are a number of possible translations of this weary phrase. For those of you not fluent in the Orwellian Double Speak dialect that so many of us mentally flaky folk regularly indulge in, let me explain. It can be translated variously as ‘I’m fine, thanks’ – yes sometimes we do say what we mean, and, yes, sometimes, we are just that, fine. However, it is usually translated as ‘Do you really want to know?’ or ‘Well since you ask, I just have not been able to shake of this feelings of despair and hopelessness that has brought me to a grinding halt over the past few weeks.’ Then, depending who’s asking there is a petulant edge – ‘You have no idea.’ There’s the response designed to shock the innocent, well –meaning, or nonchalant questioner into silence: ‘pretty suicidal, actually.’ I once employed this translation to a well-meaning enquiry from a friend. Another way of putting it is: ‘shut up!’
I wonder what lies drug cheats like Armstrong tell themselves to keep up the deceit. Here’s some of the fiction I tell myself.
‘I am beyond help.’ Strange, you may think, given that I have quite a lot of help; a good psychiatrist, drugs that actually work (we’ll come back to what that means another time.) What else? Oh yes, insight, and a recovery – oriented job. But none of these facts stand up to too much scrutiny. I say ‘none’, but my psychiatrist really is good. Insight, people are always telling me I have this important commodity in spades, and as a result I tell people I do – but I really don’t. I can talk about my own diagnosis in an impersonal, detached way, sure. I can even identify triggers, and a list of my own personal signs that things are going awry. All of that on a good day. But the proof that I lack insight about myself is in the fact that which ever way I look at it – every time I need the darn thing – insight that is – it has slunk off to some dark corner of the bike shed behind the discarded inner tubes and dirty rags.
The brain within its groove
Runs evenly and true;
But let a splinter swerve,
‘T were easier for you
To put the water back
When floods have split the hills,
And scooped a turnpike for themselves,
And blotted out the mills!
Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)