Yes, I am one of those people who continued riding bicycles beyond high school. Although there were phases when bicycling has not been a part of my life, it was always there in the back of my mind like a burning ember just ready to catch fire if only given a chance.
The last ten years have been difficult ones, as they have been for many people. And, like many others, somewhere along the way I lost bits and pieces of myself as hobbies, interests, and dreams were set aside as though they were meaningless and unimportant.
But, they are very valuable. Waiting patiently between the responsibilities and the mature decisions that are required to make up our days are the laughter and joy that make those days into a life. That laughter and joy comes from the activities we enjoy doing, the treasured dreams we seek to find.
I’d forgotten that. Some of you may have, too. We listen, sometimes, too much to an inner voice that tells us that if our responsibilities are not being fulfilled easily and without effort, if there is any hardship in our life or in the communities around us then having fun becomes irresponsible. We may laugh superficially at someone’s joke or at a movie, but we fail to actually experience any depth of joy from it.
For years, I had contemplated returning to cycling. Few things could relax me more, help me to focus, and help me to reach a new perspective about one situation or another then a long bike ride through the quiet countryside, listening to the breeze teasing the leaves and the birds singing their songs. Cycling is a lot like life, really. Hills, valleys, struggles, and then….ahhh, coasting!
I have never, ever been remotely close to being at a professional level, but it brought me joy, a sense of accomplishment in meeting a mileage goal, and it was a fun way to get some exercise and see some beautiful scenery simultaneously.
It took me about three years this time to talk to myself into going for a ride. Then, it required another few months to actually follow-through on it. I would, after all, have to buy a bike. I read the books. I researched the internet. I compared prices and made lists and decided that my short-term goals on the bike would be exercise and a general sense of enjoyment while my long-term goals would be to finally take a bicycle tour of some part of the world. I’d always wanted to take a bicycle tour of Europe, stopping along the way to see the great castles; the Napa Valley in California with stops to learn about (and taste) various wines; and the Natchez Trace through Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi, complete with good ole fashioned southern comfort food. None of these tours were ever taken because it required too much time away from work and other responsibilities. But, then, I will get to retire someday. (I hope.)
With my little list of the features I would need from a bike, I walked to a nearby bike shop with every intention of riding a bike back to my humble abode. And, that is exactly what I did. Then, I spent most of the rest of the day staring at it, anxious about my first ride as I went about the other necessary weekend errands. The following morning, awakened early by anticipation, I fastened my helmet and set off for the nearby bike trail.
And, I remembered…
And, I smiled…
And, I wished passersby Good Morning…
And I meant it….
Twenty miles later, I returned home. No thoughts of wasted time. No, too much time has already been wasted on that. Just peacefulness, planning the time for the next ride, and inspired to, once again, put two words together on a page.
I remembered something that I had forgotten during those morning miles: Responsibilities are important, but living is important, too. Enjoyment makes the responsibilities a bit easier to bear. It builds a life out of something more than just obligations. It turns the kaleidoscope just enough to allow us to see things in a different, perhaps healthier, way. Pleasure, which is a reward within itself, reminds us that we are worthy of joy, regardless of any outer circumstances. It’s what makes life worth living.
I remembered. I hope you remember, too.