And then there was the elephant in the room. My grieving had barely begun when the tour started and I really didn't understand some of the effects it would have on me. It didn't take long before everyone on the tour knew of my loss and I was surrounded by care and concern. But because I am an intensely introverted person, that in itself was sometimes hard to deal with - and though it helped me enormously in ways big and small, it didn't give me much privacy for dealing with my grief inside my own head.
I've mentioned in previous posts how totally unexpected it was to find that my brain had changed in ways that become rather important when riding a bicycle over many miles of new terrain. I thought I was managing ok, with help from my friends. My riding companions knew I was having trouble with the cue sheets and they made sure I made all the right turns, either by calling them out, being close enough for me to follow or waiting at the turn for me to catch up. I slowed way down on the rough roads because I knew my reaction times were slower. I used the van, sag stops and rest days to manage my energy. And then one day I almost turned myself into road kill.
I'm still not sure exactly what the problem was, impaired depth perception, time distortion or just poor judgement, but the clear shot I thought I had into the SAG stop was very close to being the last decision I ever made. It shook my confidence, it made me feel even more vulnerable than I had before and made me wonder if I was endangering anyone else and whether I should be on the tour at all. I became hyper-vigilant and even more concerned with the kinds of challenges that each day's ride posed. I withdrew into myself even more as I tried to make sense of things and as a result rode even fewer days/miles. I distanced myself from others both physically and psychologically as I tried harder and harder to be "normal".
I tried so hard not to burden my companions with the depths of my struggle that I was unable to share their triumphs as much as I would have liked. I moved between being numb and being totally overwhelmed.
And of course I was being "normal". All of my feelings, all of my struggles, all of my reactions were and are "normal". At least that's what I hear from friends, relatives, counselors. But it isn't my normal and I don't like it one single bit.
Now that I am home I can measure my reactions and perceptions against familiar backgrounds and that is helping me realize just exactly how far "off" I am in time and distance and adjust for it. Here I have more control over how much solitude and how much social interaction I have and it's easier to manage my energy levels. But I don't have the same sense of direction and purpose that I had on the tour - I miss that and I miss the women I shared it with.
I am moving forward though and right now, that's good enough.