The peleton is not for me.
Don’t get me wrong, it is an awe inspiring sight to watch a group of riders – rivals – cycling in time with each other in stage races. To watch the group roll past fields, along the cobbles, through alpine villages, past lines of locals and tourists cheering the riders on their way. For me the best part is the aerial shots of the peleton as it splits and glides past a traffic circle only to merge again into one body moments later.
But still, the peleton is not for me. I ride alone, content to acknowledge fellow riders as we pass each other on country lanes with a flick of the fingers on the handle bars, or an almost imperceptible nod. These things alone suffice. It’s true that I have been on no fewer than 3 cycling holidays with my son (who doesn’t seem to mind being seen with his Dad wearing lycra in public – at least until now.) But those were welcome exceptions.
Last time out I shared with you a shattering revelation, a new insight that has had me rattled and, at times, gasping for breath. No one is coming. That ultimately, it’s down to me. So, now what?
There’s no way of showing this on the page, but there was a long and uneasy pause between the end of the previous paragraph and the beginning of this one. I’ve had a few weeks to think about this, plan changes. And still I wait. I enlisted a counsellor to help me to explore the issue of my newly discovered poor self esteem. It’s 6 sessions, through the Employee Assistance Programme, and they’re paying. The sessions (3 so far) take place during my work time. I’m clear about what I need to get to grips with – improving my assertiveness. I don’t like the counsellor that the folks at the E.A.P. have picked out for me. He is a man in a hurry. He says things like: ‘Just do it!’ In my line of work my boss would haul me into her office with that ominous phrase so beloved of managers, worn smooth by me over the years: ‘Can I have a word.’ And, yes, that’s right, it’s not a question. I have been looking for opportunities to practice being assertive. I am keen to change. But he was making me more and more annoyed. He was going to fast. He kept butting in. I could hear his frustration. And, while we’re at it, his sofa is uncomfortable and he’s overweight. But I did keep saying that I am a process – driven person, which means that in order for me to learn, I need to go at my own pace for things to stick. As the 3rd session approached I decided that this was going to be make or break for me. A repetition of the dynamic of the previous sessions would mean I’d call it a day. Aha! How’s that for assertiveness, Mr Counsellor! He read my mind. But that’s what therapists are meant to do, right? I turned up for the 3rd session ready for battle only to find that he acknowledged my need to go at a slower pace, and that the process is a gradual one, that there would be diversions, that change would be halting, that past dynamics would stubbornly reappear. So, I’m going to see it through. The sofa’s still needs replacing and, like me, he really does need to lose some weight.
Perversely, it occurs to me now that maybe he has been trying to show me that he can’t make these changes for me. Has he has been mirroring the exasperation that others feel that my consent is not always genuine? That sometimes my ‘yes’ is really ‘O.K. I agree, now will you just leave me alone and let (whatever it is that I don’t want to do) disappear?’