Gabrielle Daleman

Gabrielle is a Canadian figure skater who has done well at home and internationally. As with most elite athletes, she has devoted much of her life to her craft.

At the Canadian Figure Skating Championships this week, Gabrielle was leading after the short program. Then it was time for the long skate, which would decide who gets the gold medal:

But the 21-year-old from Newmarket, Ontario, a bronze medallist at the 2017 world championships, fell twice in her free skate, and nearly fell twice more, plummeting to fifth place. She burst into tears after her marks were shown.

I saw her face fall to her hands, and she wept deeply. My eyes moistened. There was a human being in agony on the other side of the TV screen, and she was me. We’ve all been beaten up by life at times and we simply need to know that others care. Both of her coaches put their arm around her when the scores came up.

We’d like to do well whenever we enter the arena of life but there are times when it all falls apart. Strangely, I heard today about the exact opposite: my nephew scored with a few seconds left to win his high school basketball game. The gym erupted in joy. Ecstasy and despair – strange bedfellows, but they show up for each of us.

Gabby was interviewed on TV after the competition. First of all, she showed up. No hiding under a pillow. Tears rimmed her eyes as she spoke, and her gaze was strong as she looked at many thousands of us. Head up … speaking the truth. I was blown away.

This athlete has mental health problems and has admitted so publicly. What an example for each of us – nothing hidden, the warts exposed as clearly as the shining smile. Wow.

“Athletes who are attracted to figure skating are perfectionists, which is about being concerned with the achievement of perfection,” said Rebekah Dixon, who holds a Master’s degree in developmental psychology.

“This leads to being more focused on other people seeing you as perfect, which in itself is a problem, because you’re focusing on something that is unattainable.”

Gabrielle sunk low for awhile, and spent months away from skating, dealing with her demons. How many of us face similar gargoyles every day, but no one else knows? It might be physical problems, relationships, money – all most likely under the umbrella of self-esteem. How important is it for me to see every person I meet as probably in the middle of a life problem that’s very tough? Very important. A kind word, a smile, a hand on the shoulder … can heal.

The rink was a great place for Daleman. She experienced success and accomplishment – satisfactions that were far harder to come by at school. Daleman has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a learning disability. The challenges she faced in the classroom led to teasing and bullying by the other students.

Even with acid comments and demeaning looks coming her way, Gabby skated. She trained. She persevered. And she will continue to do so.

I’m glad you’re on the planet, Gabrielle Daleman
You inspire me to be great
Thank you

Day Nine: The End

I left the Tour du Canada this morning. I’m exhausted and have been terrified. I’m so sad to be disappointing you folks who have been cheering me on. I’ve failed as a cyclist, at least as far as what it takes to ride across the country. I know, though, that I haven’t failed as a person.

I went to bed last night extremely tired. Before I dropped myself into the tent, I managed to leave my mess kit’s cutlery somewhere and my next day’s clothes piled in some unknown location. In the morning, I was just as exhausted and couldn’t conceive of riding 90 k today. I’d tossed and turned since the wee hours and went to breakfast depressed. My body was making the decision for me: I’m simply not strong enough to do this right now.

I’m so afraid of the fast traffic that’s been whizzing by me a couple of metres away. And when there’s a drop off to the right, I worry about falling down the slope. So I’ve been riding too close to the white line. The bottom line – I’ve been riding too close to the cars. I’m not a safe cyclist.

I don’t know how to control my bicycle at low speeds on angled slopes. Yesterday I missed one of these downward ramps, lowered my head and started crying. “I don’t know how to do this,” I told my companions. And then I blasted myself: “Bruce, you should be far stronger mentally.”

I should be this, I should be that. I’m quite a mess right now. I want to find a hole and crawl into it. I don’t want to be with people, which is so unlike me. But strangely … I’m writing you.

It was so hard to say goodbye to everyone this morning. So many people to thank for helping me. I started crying again … and I’m doing it again right now. I tell myself that with my Buddhist training I should be better than this, but it’s not working out.

So now … the rest of my life. I know I can’t wallow in this. There is much I need to contribute to this world. But right here and right now, at the Travelodge in Abbotsford, B.C., I’m deeply down.

After the cyclists left this morning, I knocked on the door of the campground manager, looking for advice about how to get my bike and me home. Judy and Bernie were so kind as they helped this rattled tourist find solutions. They listened without judgment. They gave me coffee. And throughout the hour I sat in the living room, their dog C.C. licked my legs. Judy said she’d never seen him do that before so that’s a very welcome plus.

I suppose this post sounds too dreary. Oh well. It’s what I have right now. I arrive home late Monday night. It’s up to me to push myself out into the world on Tuesday. I will do that.

Falling Short and Standing Tall

Part A

Today was the morning that I was going to change the flat tire on my bike.  I cleared some space in the garage and started getting nervous.  “You can Google it, Bruce.”  Except I didn’t want to.  I had vague memories about how to do the deed.  Years ago, I’d even done it successfully, but maybe not on the more difficult rear wheel.

I turned ta-pocketa upside down.  Check.  I moved the gear shifter so that the chain was on the smallest sprocket.  (See!  I can remember things.)  I squeezed the gear shift lever and pressed the little button, moving the brake pads away from the rear wheel.  I put on gloves, to cope with the chain grease.  Oh, what a good boy am I!  And then …

I loosened the bolt (?) that holds the wheel on the bike.  I grabbed the chain and yanked this way and that, lifting the little gears to various elevations.  (That’s what I’m supposed to do, isn’t it?)  Nothing.  Just a bunch of black goop on orange gloves.  I stared at the contraption … and couldn’t remember what to do.  I’d done well so far but my mind created a dead end.  “See what a bad cyclist you are?  Good luck on crossing the country.  You can’t even get out of your driveway.”  (Good grief.  Will someone please tell that voice to shut up?)

Trusting that no neighbours were training binoculars on me, I jerked the wheel some more.  The chain teeth became a series of devilish smiles, and the goop continueth.  And then finally, the darn thing came apart.  What exactly did I do to create that result?  I don’t know but at least now I had the wheel on my lap.

Okay … grab the tire levers so you can pry the tire away from the rim, exposing the damaged inner tube, which you can then skillfully pluck out of its prison.  I pried.  The lever flew through the air, with the tire still firmly in place.  I repried and the lever reflew.

I gouged.  I grunted.  And approximately ten minutes later the tire lever was zipping off the tire like a knife through butter.  Was I approaching the world’s slow record for changing a flat?  No, there had to be other all-thumbsers on the roads of the world.

So the offending inner tube now lay on the grass.  From a place deeply dark in my biking soul, I remembered that good cyclists pump a little air into the new tube, to make it easier to push under the tire and against the rim.  Open little nozzle on the inner tube valve.  Pick the right hole on my bicycle pump for said nozzle.  Pump.  I said “Pump!”  Nothing.  No air entereth the tube.  Remove pump head from tube.  Try again … and again … and once more.  Pick up old and useless inner tube.  Pump.  Air enters.  So what am I doing wrong?!  I have no idea.  Back to the new tube.  Pump.  Nyet.  Head down between my legs.  Buddhist insights about how all of this isn’t important?  Nowhere to be seen.

Rest for five minutes.  Try again.  Air enters tube.  Can’t figure out why now and why not then.  Oh well.

I get the new inner tube pushed under the tire and use a lever to reseat the tire on the rim, being careful not to pinch the inner tube.  Gosh, what a pro!  And it worked.  Soon I was pumping happily until the tire reached 110 psi.

Then it was at least twenty minutes of greasy fiddling to get the wheel reattached to the bike.  (Please, no cyclists are allowed to read this part.)  And then … Ta da!  My bike was ready to fly.

I danced inside to put on my quirky blue jersey, heart rate monitor, sexy spandex shorts, groovy red socks, headband, helmet, yellow cycling gloves and shoes with metal pieces on the bottom (for attaching to the pedals).  Glowing with success, I returned to the garage, looking like the epitome of Joe Fitness, not to mention Joe Mechanic.  I squeezed the front tire lovingly … hard as a rock.  Then the back … … flat!  I stared once again.

So repeat the whole darn thing, with a new inner tube.  I probably cut my time in half, but I was low in the soul.

Part B

In the end, I had done it.  The tire remained hard.  I flew slowly over the landscape and returned to my home 75 minutes later breathing hard.  Just like my tire still was.  Perhaps I am a good boy after all.