shared paths

Freddie n Me

This summer I became an amateur cyclist – I say amateur, because I have started at the very basic level. “Freddie” is a bright pink, non E bike, with a basket. I wear no lycra, and plan to scale no mountains and will generally use her to just get some exercise and see a bit of my neighbourhood. Given that I injured my knee with my over enthusiastic long distance walking, I am trying to keep myself to smaller runs, and just 1 long outing a week. Let’s see how that goes…

Having been a driver and a walker, I have had a mixed relationship with cyclists and so it has been with some trepidation that I have embarked on this venture.. But cycling – for fitness, therapy for the knee and continued work on my MH – seems the only option. So, here I am, giving it a go. So far, so good. And it turns out I’m loving It! Far more than I thought I would. I was really missing getting out and about under my own steam. And revisiting some of my walking haunts has been like catching up with old friends.

Freddie by the Maitai River as it heads to sea

My previous relationship with cyclists has been varied. Most are ok, but there have been a few close calls on shared pathways that have left me very sweary… There is inevitably going to be some strife between motorists, cyclists, and walkers as we juggle to share the same spaces. Having now been all 3 – even if it’s only for a month lol – I feel I am in the best position to comment….

Courtesy and Kindness

Courtesy and kindness is the key to sharing of these spaces.

We all have stories of the car, bike or pedestrian who got in the way; who didn’t signal their intentions; who hogged the space….

Who was too fast or too slow….

And in my month, I have come across all of these…

But to share the path, whichever mode of movement we are using, we need to show courtesy for the other users….

I find if I smile, and have a cheery “gidday”, then 99% of the time I get a smile and a “gidday” back. If I am given way to – a smile and a wave from me, will get a smile in return. If I have to give way, then I always acknowledge the thanks gesture….

And in life we are always asked to share the path with others. In work, socialising, shopping, exercising and recovery. We have to live, accommodating the differences others present.

I look around the world these days with such sadness. The Pandemic seems to have heightened our differences and made us lose sight of our kindness and courtesy. And I am just as guilty for venting as anyone else.

Shared path, beneath the War Memorial for our Tangata whenua

But if we were all to step back, and access how best to share this path with others, maybe we could tone down the rhetoric and start finding a way to ease each other’s anxiety.

Because I truly believe that that anxiety bubble we are all carrying, is fuelling some of the passion with which we go after the people we disagree with.

I find, if I analyse, my anger stems from a place of fear. I fear for my whanau, my country, and the world at large… But when I step back and think, I realise that everyone, especially those that are so convinced their way is right, got there by a different path to mine.

Social upbringings have definitely placed us in which ever camp we find ourselves in. Growing up in a small socialist country that is isolated, means I have grown up in a community that knows it has to rely on each other and  look after our most vulnerable. My government is by and large not corrupt – therefore most of us feel we can trust their decision making and the aim they have for us

In comparison, I know that other countries either by size, or by history; are not run the same way – therefore I can understand how those people got to where they are…

And this has been something I have remembered, a lot lol, which tempers my anger and frustration, and makes me try and be calm…

Sharing the Path

I love a quote that came out during the pandemic from a poem by Damien Barr

“I heard we are all in the same boat; But it’s not that.
We are in the same storm”

I love this analogy. I know it was referring to the fact that we have different means to fight the pandemic – in terms of wealth, access, knowledge etc. But I think it also refers to how we arrived at the storm. What life experience we had growing up… My views, opinion, knowledge come from a different place; than from someone living in a land-locked place with millions of people, and a government based on a different system…. And occasionally I have needed to pause, breathe, and remember this….

However, we got there tho, we are fighting a common foe. And I think sometimes in the rhetoric that foe gets mixed up with the process. The virus is the foe. It is reacting like all viruses do, and eventually it will mutate down to something more manageable. I hope that the human cost, both in lives and continuing health issues – plus interpersonal relationships – is not too heart breakingly great…

We are all on this path – none of us want to be. And certainly, none of us expected to be. But that is life, isn’t it? All we can do is make the journey as easy as we can for our fellow travellers – be they on foot, on a shiny pink bike, or in something bigger and faster. And this has been my lesson for the week. Recovery talks a lot about acceptance. And this week I have had to dig deep and accept that the people I am sharing this path with may just be travelling it differently.

My Bedazzled Helmet

Back to Freddie and my biking. I have learned that to not wobble when passing people, I need to just keep peddling. And as with life this seems to be the best option – keep peddling and the wobble will pass… And one of my greatest joys? When I ping my bell to warn walkers that I am coming their way, I love it when they turn around, expecting to see some lycra clad person on a serious bike… only to see me, pink bike; basket; t-shirt of the day and a sparkly helmet….. and they smile and laugh…. Sometimes THAT is the very best thing to do….

I heard that we are all in the same boat.

But it’s not that.

We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat.

Your ship can be shipwrecked and mine might not be.

Or vice versa.

For some, quarantine is optimal: a moment of reflection, or reconnection.

Easy in flip flops, with whisky or tea.

For others, this is a desperate crisis.

For others, it is facing loneliness.

For some, peace, rest time, vacation.

Yet for others, torture: How am I going to pay my bills?

So, friends, we are not in the same boat.

We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different. And each one will emerge, in his own way, from that storm.

It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance.

Not just looking, more than looking, seeing.

See beyond the political party, beyond biases, beyond the nose on your face. Do not judge the good life of the other, do not condemn the bad life of the other.

We are on different ships looking to survive.

Let everyone navigate their route with respect, empathy, and responsibility. 

Damien Barr
Sunset in Akaroa

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