Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Devil at the crossroads


My old friend Pete (Bog) looked me in the eye as the tears rolled down my face once more and said 'Steph?' Pause for dramatic effect. 'It's time to go home'.  He said it with such concern and love that the sobs came then from the depth of my soul. At that moment I let go of the months of pain, heartache, teary conversations and down right torture. It was time to face the facts! It was time stop beating myself up. I had to come to terms and make peace with my situation.  It was time to go home - or was it?

I was lucky enough as a child to have a Grandmother who was one of those strong 'horsey' people. She had many,  and much of my childhood was spent on her farm riding, mucking out or repairing fences. If I wasn't doing that I was stealing one of her 60 a day supply of Berkeley Red Superkings and sneaking off to the hay barn for a quick puff! One of her horses was called Bonny. She was a horse with spirit and a bit of a handful to say the least! She was my favourite and I was the only person who really got on with her. She would throw others off regularly. She would throw ME off regularly, but between those times we would ride together like we were soul mates. We galloped on the beach together, we rode cross country, we entered many competitions together. If Bonny was having a bad day, she would throw me off. My Grandmother would give me a shot of whiskey from her hip flask (for medicinal purposes) before I'd climb back on with a new found energy and determination. We would be working together as one again.  At the age of 15,  at the end of a successful jumping competition, my Grandmother turned to me and said 'The reason you two get on so well is because there is a bit of the devil in both of you'. She was right! 

That little devil has stayed with me. As a teenager and young adult, I allowed that little devil to control me. He was an angry, mischievous devil who got me in to so much trouble that it's a wonder I survived my younger years! After a few hard falls in life, where a shot of whiskey from Grandmas hip flask no longer cut it, I learned it was time to take control and use that little devil to my advantage. I had to make friends with him and harness his strength, just like with Bonny. I had to drive that energy in the opposite direction. At the age of 41, that drive is still going so hard that sometimes I find it hard to stop. I want to chase my dreams and ideas. I want to keep growing and experiencing. I want to keep moving and trying new things. Sometimes I fall off and I flail around on the floor like a freshly caught fish gasping for air. These are the times, as my friends keep telling me, when I can be my own worst enemy as the internal battle rages. One thing I have learnt though, is that I always jump back on and just like with Bonny, I jump back on with a refreshed drive and passion for life. That's me!

The last few months has seen my toughest challenge yet. Right up until I cried with Pete, I was trying to hold that metaphoric horse back with all my strength whilst simultaneously beating it with a big stick to move forward. At that moment I let go of the big stick AND the rope and let the horse go graze for a while. It really wasn't that important! 

So where does that all leave me in my journey? Am I letting the horse graze and going home or am I catching it again and pushing on in my attempt to to ride to all 7 continents? Does the 'mission' even matter anymore? Have I not done enough? There is certainly no glory seeking here. It's about not giving up on my dream. It's about seeing through what I started to the end. 

My condition has been so bad at times that it has put me in hospital. On several occasions my body has gone in to full shock mode and panic attacks with uncontrollable shaking and surging nerve pain. Episodes that can last an hour at a time as my nerves rage along my spinal cord and send shock waves and surging feelings through my body as my spine shifts and compresses further. The treatment alone has been so aggressive in an attempt to get me back on the road quickly, that my body and mind have felt like they were on the edge of just shutting down. I have so far had Physio, Chiropractors, Massage, Tens, Ultrasound, heat, cold treatment, Plasma injections, Prolotherapy and IMS. A total of 50 injections in my shoulder, neck, spine and groin, with another 20 to go!  I felt there would never be a day without pain again or restless nights. I spent all my money on medical treatment and back home my house sale fell through adding more stress to the situation. It has been pretty intense to say the least! Still I could not accept the idea of going home. To go home would be to accept defeat! It also meant a very long and painful plane ride!

3 days ago I tried to ride. I managed 3 hours before I ended up on my knees on the side of the road and had to be rescued by my wonderful friends and temporary support crew (in every way).  I was twitching rather strangely and breathing like I was about to run out of air. Without fuss, and even throwing in a touch of humour, they congratulated me on managing 3 hours, before lifting me up and putting me in the car. It took 24 hours to recover from that but I did it. Since then I have managed a long car ride without fuss or painkillers. I had maybe 2mm more movement in my shoulder too (which has been frozen for 7 months now).  I had a full day yesterday without having to go lie down, and today - well today I am writing again and that means my old self is returning. The smallest improvements mean the world to me right now. 

So many people have listened to me, given their support, a place to stay or just been a friend since all this started. Being on the road, even amongst friends, when you feel this bad is hard. Sometimes you feel so weak mentally and physically that you have nothing to give back - barely even a smile let alone conversation! They have given me this time without question or demands. Back home my parents have bought a caravan so I have some space if I decide I need to be in Wales. My sister offered to help towards the costs of flying me back, my friends Skyped and one even drank a shit load of beer and turned the cans in to a new top yolk with built in anti-vibration technology in case I made it back on the road (seriously)! Honda Canada have even stepped in with a budget to make some improvements to the bike that might just make my ride a little smoother. I cannot thank you all enough. These friendships will be the only thing that remain of this chapter before long. With their help I HAVE accepted that whatever will be will be.  Going home for a month or two may just be what I need to fully recover once my treatment is over. This may be what I need to avoid further damage down the line. It doesn't mean the end of the road! It just gives my body time to catch up so I can continue where I left off later on.  I have  finally come to terms with this. I'm OK with it at long last! IT DOESN'T MEAN THE END! 

It doesn't mean I actually HAVE to go home either of course! Come on! Did you think it was that easy?  I'm still that driven person and the horse is still waiting for me to get back on. I'm itching to get back on! Acceptance has given me strength and control - as backwards as that may sound.

With an inner calm, a few tiny signs of improvement and a new improved Rhonda in the pipeline, I will either ride or fly out of here in 2 weeks time. I will do it with a smile on my face. 

Watch this space. 


31 comments:

  1. Don't be hard on yourself steph give yourself as much time as you need.the world will wait.

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  2. Good Luck Steph!!! I have been following your journey. It is something truly remarkable what you have done already! I hope that a little rest and recovery will help you regain your health.

    Dave... Utah, USA

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  3. A difficult situation, no doubt. Completing what you have started is important, to be able to enjoy many years after your adventure importanter :) You will make the right decision, Steph, and have my support either way.

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  4. You have been the bravest woman I have ever known who took a little Honda called Rhonda and took her around the world. I don't know of any one as brave as you. I never knew of your old injuries, all those falls. You must have had pre existing pains in your back. Despite that you made this journey. I have followed u through most of it. I have this to say to you..all of us, your fans will happily accept whatever decision you make. Whether you get on a plane or come back home or whether you take a break and get back on the bike and go for uncertainty.
    I wouldn't want you to subject yourself to further injuries or hurt that may make your back worse in the long run. As a tall squinty man said in Dirty Harry movies , "Riggs, a good man knows his limitations."
    A brave person knows when to carry on and when to stop. Think of the stakes- this one challange vs your health. As always we will be cheering you, whatever decision you make, but don't forget to come back to Sunny North Wales! You crazy Welsh Canadian Red Indian!!

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  5. to carry on and risk further damage to yourself could result in never being able to complete your dream. no one would say you have failed. what you have achieved so far is beyond amazing. you have lived the dream for so many of us. return home or stay where you are, either way RECOVER FIRST, then make your decision. good luck xxx

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  6. I'm sure you'll make the right choice Steph - and you WILL finish what you started, even if there's a little hiccup in the middle. All the best, chicky! Yvette

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  7. steph have some r&r let the body heal then Faugh-A-Ballagh (Clear the Way)and saddle up ,nice middleton waiting for you when you finish and me meet again after ya boogalloo with the secret boogaloo drink we know so well

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  8. Look after your health and you'll be rewarded with decades of motorcycle adventures in the future and we'll be rewarded by reading about them :)

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  9. Look after your health and you'll be rewarded with decades of motorcycle adventures in the future and we'll be rewarded by reading about them :)

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  10. It took Grant and Susan Johnson something like eight years to make their first trip around the world and they had each other (+ and -, I'd guess). You have us and every damn one of the people following your blog. Take care of your body and we will still be here when you get back on the road .

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  11. I have follow you since the start what an amazing ride, take care of your health first you only get one shot at a mobile life.


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    1. Mend yourself first and take as long as you need to mend completely. You've accomplished so much. Rethink your goals, celebrate your accomplishments. Who knows what tomorrow will bring❤️

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  12. Hi Steph
    NO pressure gal! take a big big break. mend yourself. the brain can't absorb what the body can't endure. your journey has been amazing and will be again when you are ready. as one door closes another will open. I will stay tuned. Vic

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  13. The moment you start following the dreams that you believe other people have for you they are no longer your dreams. There is no need to explain, to apologise, to excuse, all you have to do is have a happy and healthy life now and in the future. If that means riding Rhonda then so be it, if it means walking Welsh hills with your dog then that's just as good. Throughout your journey you have inspired me to do what I enjoy much more often. Take care, Stuart

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    1. Thanks Stuart but as I explain above, this is really not about what other people think or want for me. This is about wanting to finish what I started. Sometimes though, you just have to role with the punches and accept that you have to let go for a while. The desire to finish is all about me because I am loving what I am doing. Its hard to let go of something you love and have worked hard for. There are certainly no excuses here either. None needed.

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  14. If there is that much pain associated with riding, it may be a good time to take a break. After all, adventure shouldn't be something you have to endure but enjoy.

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  15. I have looked on with amazement at what you have accomplished and your success, to this point, is enchanting and as I told You "it's surreal" I would wish that somehow your body would be miraculously healed and that pain could no more touch You the... Queen of all riders. My best wishes and that with all my heart.

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  16. I have no doubt that whatever path you choose your life will continue bring a great adventure.The road will always be there.Cheers Luv!

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  17. I've read pretty much everything you've written about your journey, and I've enjoyed every moment of it.
    Get yourself better so you can really enjoy your ride.
    If you go home to recover you could always leave RHonda here, then you'd have to come back and finish.

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  18. Steph, it only makes sense to continue if you can enjoy the ride, the people you meet, and have a clear mind to record and share it all. You've had more needles than a pin cushion. Not a good recipe. I am virtually certain Honda will store that bike (maybe in a Museum or traveling exhibit) while you recover. You should pick a place where you can truly relax. Use the time to start writing your book. You were thinking of writing a book weren't you? When the time is right, you will get the remaining legs done in style.

    I promise to buy the book.

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  19. Wishing you a speedy recovery, Steph. The road will be waiting for you when the time comes. You have more than earned a bit of downtime, so just enjoy it and take care of yourself.

    Adventure is out there!

    Best wishes,
    Craig and Azadeh
    San Jose CA

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  20. Steph,

    This isn't the end its just a tiny respite gap in your journey. Sometimes our soul and spirit is more willing than our bodies. Determination, strength, courage, perseverence, you have it all and have ventured far and wide. I think youjust need some time to let your body catch up and rest and that might be the most courageous part of your incredible journey that you find a comfortable warm place to recoup. Rhonda will be eagerly awaiting your return. Heal up and take it from there.

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  21. Steph, can only echo the sentiments of above. Look the horse in the eyes and see whether she wants a break. I'm sure she'll tell you if you look closely enough.
    Ian x

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  22. You are my hero!! Allow your heart to speak. Let your soul do the singing. Let your body heal..... This is just a part of the adventure, you will finish your dream, just maybe not at the pace you or everyone else wants it. Your journey just started. Good luck with the recovery.
    XoXoXo

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  23. life is what happens after we make our plans. Sometimes the path changes, sometimes we change and sometimes our desires change. The thing is being able to roll with the changes. Stay mentally flexable and find the path and way through. The correct path has peace of soul as a compass. Find it and find life. It has been a good journey and the journey continues just need to find how. peace be with you

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  24. Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday. It’s always exciting to read articles from other authors and practice something from other websites. visit this page

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  25. Good luck Steph! I'm sorry you've gone through so much pain lately, and no matter how the journey ends, 6 continents or 7, you have done something incredible!!! The road has been hard, literally, but the destination isn't what really matters, it's the journey you have had along the way, and you've seen some amazing things, seen beautiful people, and broken down boarders and stereotypes of all kinds! Your journey has inspired me in so many ways, and even though we only met once, I believe in you and support you not matter what comes next. Go Steph!!!

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  26. Life is not about Doing or Having, it's about 'Seeing'.

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  27. Steph you are amazing try to keep smiling and laugh as much as you can, you will make the right choice for you.
    Dave a fellow crf rider. GOOD LUCK

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  28. Steph you are amazing try to keep smiling and laugh as much as you can, you will make the right choice for you.
    Dave a fellow crf rider. GOOD LUCK

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  29. Hi Steph... the road will be always be there when/if you (your body) decide it time. It's another chapter in an amazing journey. x

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