Friday, April 01, 2005

The Post Trip Blues [Wednesday's post, revised and reinserted here]

In 1976, the day after I graduated from high school, I flew from DFW to Eugene, Oregon, to join a group of 14 to ride my bicycle across the U.S. from Reedsport, Oregon, to Yorktown, Virginia, the inaugural year of the Trans America Bicycle Trail - well over 4000 miles. The 14 of us stuck it out all together for 82 days. At the end, in Yorktown, my mom sent me a postal gram that said something like, 'Congratulations on accomplishing such an amazing feat - and on being married to 13 other people for such a long tour. This is a very large thing, and sometimes, in life, it is very difficult after something so big to figure out what to do next. It may take some time, but I am sure you will think of something."

I led my first tour ten years later and since then have led over 130 bicycle tours, ranging from three days to three weeks in length, with as many as 62 participants and as few as four. It seems at some point after every tour I've led, there comes a time for what I call the "post trip blues." Yes, sort of like the post partum blues, since birthing and raising a tour group from beginning to end has some real sense of deep and intense dedication and responsibility - and emotional repercussions.

Some tours, I can get the PT blues even before the trip has ended, others the PT blues around about as soon as it ends. And with others there's a delay. The blues are delayed if there is something nearly as exciting (or distracting) happening right after the tour - a trip, guests stay over for more, whatever.

I'd burned out on this roller coaster ride over the 20 years since I started. The last few years, I've led very few tours and, sorrowfully been "out of pocket" and wayward, even withdrawn, frustrating some very loyal fans of my tours. Until last week, it had been ten months since my last tour....

We need positive strokes and special salves to protect what we love, whether a thing, a person, an ideal, a project, a passion, or life's work. Even what we call "callings" can confound us so. As I said in "The fall from Sky High" (below), we sometimes (even often, it seems) come to feel as if our greatest loves are our bitterest pills. The labors of love, the labor pains of love can ache and groan and eat at us, last so long and even increase over time. Then come the blues, then comes burnout, something even the truest of loves can have a hard time avoiding.

The blues hit hardest when the gut gets punched by real life, punched by internal or external causes, your own moods, abilities, feelings of being stuck, the missing of the group dynamics and the insuing loneliness (especially from the socially "high" events where marvelous bonding and good times take place). But another way the blues can creep in is through the drift of life after an intense event - whether it's having a child or birthing a tour.

Fortunately, this round, the blues aren't too bad - spring has sprung a very springy spring-like thing, I've already ridden my bike more to boost those endorphins, done some outdoor work, and felt good about how things went, ready to look ahead. But the specter of the post trip blues is never entirely shakable, and I feel the downside behind the sun.


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