Being away from home and my bike for a day has put me in a contemplative mood. Mysterious recent health challenges have made bicycling harder than it should be. It’s already hard enough, in 100 degrees, being a fathlete, trying to not get dead by distracted drivers, not having a light bike with 27 gears anymore. For 19 months I’ve had the luxury to do daily walking, writing in my book or this blog, and doing yoga every day (the latter for much longer). And on most of the days of my life for the last 14+ years, but especially since 2015, I have ridden my bike. Over 20,000 miles since 2005, by my count. What if it all came to an end tomorrow?
Blogging and Biking: Good, But Exhausting
If I’ve learned one thing from all these miles it is that life is extremely fragile, so we should take better care of it and ourselves. Sometimes I think I need a rest week, but what if that turned into a rest month? Or I got a car and just kind of forgot to ride my bike? Maybe the health stuff is worse than it seems and I really should be taking a break…. “Dammit, Jim, I’m just a doctor!,” as Bones McCoy would say to Captain Kirk on Star Trek. I haven’t even played a doctor on TV.
A doctor might tell me to stop. One did say to dial it back, but I couldn’t and still live my life, so I didn’t. Though the heat sure is sure trying and often succeeding at slowing me down. A lot. Night riding helps but isn’t always an option. So what if all my efforts really did come crashing down? What if the house of cards that we each erect that is our life gets blown over and crashed into the ground, blown by the winds of change? How is it we’re supposed to continue “being awesome” and “staying positive,” when we feel nothing of the sort? Or that when it seems few people truly believe in us, and sometimes we may not even ourselves? I don’t know the answers.
I was speaking with a fellow blogger I happened to meet. Her blog is called Country Newspaper.com, and it’s really pretty darn good, what little I’ve looked at. She said she only writes once a week. Also, she keeps it to 400-600 words. A former journalist, she knows all about the brevity – wit thing. So why am I publishing 1,000-word (and often much longer) treatises on whatever bicycling or other thing comes to mind — and three times a week, no less? Because I can and have the time and feel the need, I guess. It’s there. Like those 100+ miles most weeks.
Well, I do have stories to tell and things to say. Some of them I think are pretty cool, or useful, or at least interesting. The blog started as a way for me to practice writing so I could have a better handle on writing my book. I’m also trying to share my knowledge about bicycling in Austin and in general. I try to inspire others to bike, especially older, newer, or other people with challenges, like being overweight. Maybe in the process I’ve worked out some thoughts and ideas, built a body of work, and made some blog friends. (I wish I were a better one who read every single thing everyone who followed, liked or commented on wrote.)
Sometimes I wonder if I’m a bit too much into the biking life. On top of averaging 111 miles per week (currently), there’s my volunteering for bike advocacy with Bike Austin. I also may be doing more charity fundraising in what would be my fourth Mamma Jamma Ride to Beat Breast Cancer. Let’s not forget my own neighborhood bike gang that I started, although isn’t going very far or fast yet. Finishing writing my book probably ought to be my focus of my spare time. As much as I enjoy blogging, like most blogs it’s not bringing in any money. And the time it takes to do a good one is far more than the 500 words, 30 minutes goal I have on the book days. Hours sometimes, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Rewrites, links, photos, research. Time is not on our side.
There’s no easy answer, but things change for all of us. We may lose a leg, like David Walker did, but recover and still ride a bike. Or we could be like Dena Kinate, who at a low point in her life found bicycling was part of her path to salvation. Then there are those bicyclists who don’t make it that I’ve written about – Andrew Tilin, Leonel Hernandez, Anthony John Diaz, and Jessica Saathoff. Good people with presumably decent lives that became sad stories with tragic endings. “No one gets out of life alive,” my brother often says.
Too Much Biking, A Dude? Pshaw!
Maybe I will have to let go of my mileage goal to take care of other things, or because I can’t even continue. If so, I’ll have to deal with that at the sports psychology level somehow. Do what I can. Maybe use an indoor trainer to avoid the heat (boring!). Really do my physical therapy exercises. Earn money to afford acupuncture, massage, herbs and the like. My middle-aged crisis was to start biking a lot when I turned 50. But to what end? Perhaps I need to read the memo that nothing lasts forever. I sure as heck ain’t gettin’ any younger, how about you?
For a long time I’ve been aware that biking itself is rather frivolous and meaningless without some context. That’s why I mention the importance of community, making the miles matter, thank those who’ve supported me (and probably not nearly enough), and also try to be a cheerleader for bicycles. That’s because I think they’re fun and freeing. Plus they may have a role to play if we have any hope of saving our planet from global warming. And yet, I still I have not met Ms. A Dude Abikes. Sigh. Priorities.
Where is any of this biking and blogging going? We may think we know what is down the road and around the next horizon, but we really don’t. Life can be pretty random, absurd and cruel. We have to roll with the changes, up to and including the biggest change of all: death. And whatever you may imagine that big bike shop in the sky to be (whether it’s heaven on earth, somewhere slightly hotter, or nothing at all), we all have a one-way ticket to Mortalityville. May as well try to enjoy the ride, even the bumpy pavais parts (cobblestones). When you crash, hopefully you can get back up again and come back, maybe even stronger. Or maybe you don’t and you can’t bike again. That would suck, but it happens.
If you’re feel you’re really out of it for good, down for the count, and all hope is lost remember these words of wisdom:
“I began to feel that myself plus the bicycle equaled myself plus the world, upon whose spinning wheel we must all earn to ride or fall into the sluiceways of oblivion and despair. That which made me succeed with the bicycle was precisely what had gained me a measure of success in life — it was the hardihood of spirit that led me to begin, the persistence of will that held me to my task, and the patience that was willing to begin again when the last stroke had failed. And so I found high moral uses in the bicycle and can commend it as a teacher without pulpit or creed. She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life.”Frances E. Willard, ‘How I Learned To Ride The Bicycle’, 1895
Buddha’s The Five Remembrances
Someone else recently reminded me of this, a version of the Buddha’s Five Remembrances. It was written by the famous monk and author Thich Nhat Hanh in his The Plum Village Chanting Book.
I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.
I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.
All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.Yoga Journal article by Frank Jude Boccio
Kind of a bummer, right? Rather than interpret this to be a depressing end of things, we can embrace reality. This can remind us of the fragility of life. It can serve to keep in our awareness in he moment and the great needs we humans have to take better care of ourselves, our families (birth and chosen), our communities, our countries, and our planet. It’s called compassion. And to find perspective on whatever is maybe taking up some space or preventing balance. But as long as I’m able to bike, I want to keep doing it for all those reasons. If I can. And I think I can. I think, therefore I am. “I yam what I yam,” said the philosopher Popeye.
How about you? What do you do that you may overdo? How do you keep perspective and find balance?
May all beings be happy.
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