Two years ago today, I found myself riding a motorcycle extremely nervously down a gravel road in Serbia.
Gravel roads are a motorcyclist’s nightmare – especially the deep ones. Even more so for a motorcyclist with short legs and riding with some heavy panniers! I had arrived there by accident, following a sat nav system that wasn’t too familiar with Serbian backroads.
I rode into the gravel quite by accident. I’d been enjoying the scenery and observing a crowd of people picnicking in a park, when a gradual peacefulness set in as people were left behind and the road continued, stretched out bare in front like a motorcyclist’s dream.
Suddenly, the road was no longer, and I had been cruising at too high a speed to slow down enough to stop. I rode straight into the gravel, which was deep with very loose, large stones, obviously the whole thing was a road was waiting to be replaced.
I spotted a turning point with a concrete pad off to the right, but in that split second, I decided to keep going – thinking that perhaps the loose stones wouldn’t continue for too long and I’d soon reach the new (or old) road (any road !!). I soon regretted that decision – the gravel continued around one corner, then another, and another. I began resenting the gravel and getting fearful. What if I fell off and damaged my bike? Who would find me? Where was I anyway? How foolish would I look to the local farmers when they came across me sprawled out on the floor? Would I be strong enough to pick up my bike if I dropped it?
I could feel the wheels slipping and skidding around underneath me and I gripped the handlebars tightly as I rattled about, dodging places where the stones were even less even, as well as simultaneously avoiding stray branches, and the odd tractor coming the other way but taking up most of the narrow lane. I had no idea where I was now heading (sat nav had lost itself) nor how long I’d be in the gravel, and there were no more lovely concrete turning places. All I knew was that I couldn’t handle the bike properly anymore, so I would just have to hold on, and my faith would get me to the other end.
After a while, there was no point in turning back and repeating the same stretch of road again. My body couldn’t have taken the stress of it! I believed that the journey would be shorter and easier now if I just held my breath, focused, and concentrated on what I was doing. Once that decision was made, something in me relaxed a little. I was going to carry on, and I was going to stay on the bike.. I could navigate the road without slipping off, falling down too many potholes or being knocked out by any tree branches jutting out into the road. When I finally reached tarmac again, it felt WONDERFUL!!
Why write about this? Perhaps because it will resonate with people just embarking on the journey of therapy, or considering it. Plus, I have often had moments of being struck by the parallels between motorcycling and the therapeutic process – strangely enough! Perhaps because I am passionate about both.
In this case, the gravel path is Psychotherapy itself. It’s the journey you go through with your therapist, in order to get to a destination – one that is as yet unknown, but certainly more appealing. Once you embark on a therapeutic journey, you can of course make the choice to stop right away – and you should do so if something does not feel right with your therapist.
Once you’ve committed to going a certain distance however, it will be much more inviting to carry on forwards, than to turn back again. After all, you can’t UNdo the healing that has already taken place, nor can you UNdo any difficult feelings along the way, nor the distances you have already travelled emotionally.
As time goes on and as an element of healing begins to emerge, it will be easier to avoid the things that try to stand in your way. You’ll become more and more aware of how to avoid the roadblocks, as well as where and when you can expect to be challenged again. The more you commit to staying on the path, the clearer you’ll become about where it leads…you’ll trust that one day, the path WILL run smoother…things do get easier, your grip can loosen and you yourself can decide on which turns to take when you get there.
At the end of the therapeutic journey, you have taken back the control, you can steer your bike, and you’re not stuck in gravel worried about whether or not to turn around and go back. Your past is your past – but you’re now proud of how you navigated it. In your present, you’re able to hold both joy and sadness, fear and elation, together in your body, because you know that life contains them all and will continue to give you opportunities to feel them all alive inside of you. For the future, you find yourself curious…curious about where the road leads and what surprises the future has in store.
More than likely, the future holds smoother roads – newer roads – that you feel able and willing to navigate.