Friday, 20 March 2015

good fortune, donkeys and Karl Marx

It's been an inexorably long time since I wrote something for this page. No shortage of flights, rest days and thesis procrastination opportunities have gone unused . I could probably make excuses about AYUDA work, finishing my Phd or even writing down my thoughts in RIDE. But realistically there's still time, I just spend it working on my perfect cappuccino and seeing how many things I can balance on my Roomba whilst it clatters around my tiny home. 

Rather than boring you with the mundane details of what I've been up to, I wanted to take your time and use it to reflect on something we don't think about enough : luck. This applies to both the possible reasons you've come here: cycling and diabetes (if you've come here because you're one of my parents, your luck has run out, sorry to be the bearer of bad news). I'm both cases I think most of us are incredibly blind to our good fortune . 

I've read quite a few cyclist's autobiographies this year for the magazine and, if there's one trend, it's the consistent narrative of sacrifice , hard work and desire. Nearly every athlete claims that's what got them to the top. They fail to mention that they were already pretty close to the top when they still had stabilizers on their bikes. When you're born with a v02 max of 78, the sacrifices you make are always going to be rewarded. And that's fine, you're very fortunate. I do think thT as athletes we owe those who don't excel a little more respect than to suggest that we just "wanted it more". Realistically, anyone who gets paid to race a bike is very fortunate. And the sacrifices we make to do it (or made in many cases) are, in the grand scheme of things , minor. Even the amateur guys getting up at 5 am have to give up more than most pros in terms of sleep , social life and spending money. And even then getting up early to partake in your hobby is hardly a day down the mines is it? 

Whilst this narrative isn't intended to be dismissive or dangerous we should apply some caution to it. I see an increasing number of young cyclists making frankly irresponsible decisions based in the notion that anyone can achieve lofty goals if they are willing to give up other things. It's sad, but that's not true. I work with athletes as a coach and I think it's important to be clear with them that all i can make them is the best version of themselves they can be . And that that is a great thing to be. No amount of gluten free food , massage and foam rolling will turn a donkey into a race horse, but sometimes , there's a place for a damn fine donkey. 

The same is true in the world of diabetes , it's very easy for us to make our condition all about ourselves , to speak a narrative of sickness and suffering. In reality , we don't suffer from diabetes in the developed world , I don't suffer from diabetes. I just get pissed off by it sometimes. People do suffer from
Diabetes , people die from diabetes . I understand that some people, sometimes, in the USA, have died from hypos. But as someone living with diabetes you're still way more likely to die in your car. So instead, we should do those less fortunate than is the courtesy of acknowledging out own good fortune. None of us worked out way into being born rich. I'm always happy when young people I work with choose to test more and take a more active role i. Their blood glucose management , but I am as happy when they acknowledge the great good fortune they have to be able to make that choice. In general , I find that acknowledging the latter helps with the former. We realize that we didn't earn our right to be privileged , but that it would be asinine to waste such great good fortune.

Marx said that "Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past."  I agree , I think the amongst the most empowering things we can Do is be hike enough to step back from the narrative of agency and acknowledge the role of fortune . We dont have to allot everything to luck, there's a lot we can change still. But the fact that we get the chance to change our lives and those of others is, in itself, a great stroke of luck .