As mentioned in the recent post Car-Free Dude Drives Borrowed Auto, Doesn’t Die, I’m working a lot and having to drive a car to do it. Since I’m in Austin, Texas (at least that’s where everyone keeps telling me I am), and it’s only mid-September, it’s still hitting 100 degrees many days. That’s true even if it’s not actual temperature because of the heat index (aka real feel) or humidity.
Point is, I ain’t biking much at all. It’s either miles or money, and since I’ve done plenty of the latter, it’s high time for the former. And that got me to thinking: What do you do when choice or circumstance keep you from your routine and goals? Come on inside this cozy post and A Dude’ll tell ya how he rolls. Or doesn’t.
Facing Fear of Failure
If you’ve ever been rappelling, you know that feeling when you first start to lean back before walking down the cliff? There’s a sensation like you’re going to plummet to a horrible death. But if you don’t do that lean, you’re not going to be able to walk down that wall; you’re going to slip and slide and it’s gonna suck. So that feeling is sort how I hear the phrase “lean into it.” It’s counter-intuitive, but if you can wrap your head around it, it ultimately makes sense.
In my case, I’m a fathlete attempting to average 5,000 miles per year on the bicycle (and last year and probably this one including about 10% of that walking). Any slow-down in my mileage reduces my chance of hitting that goal pretty swiftly. On top of this recent lull, I’ve had sinus infection, allergies, malaise, fatigue and a bunch of stress from different angles, not to mention I lost the use of my faster bike last year to a fatal crack in the frame. (Rust in Peace, Sookie!)
One time not too long ago my dad used this phrase, “Lean into it, son.” It was about me griping about my job not going anywhere regarding better pay, a promotion or a bigger challenge. So I did, I stuck it out for a while. But returning readers know that said job went away in a restructuring layoff, which in turn allowed me to do some fun stuff like South by Southwest (twice), Moontower Comedy Festival, and oh yeah, write my book. So it’s kind of interesting to have that perspective now from afar. I leaned into it and came out of it alive to rappel down another wall.
What that really was about for me was the idea of failing. The layoff wasn’t my fault, but maybe the choice to stay at the job too long out of loyalty or something was my choice and one that maybe I regretted. So when offered a short-term job that requires a car and that comes with overtime, I had to face some fears, or at least decisions I didn’t think I’d have to, and make another choice. I chose to borrow and drive a car so I could do the job and make some money. In the process, that means biking less. A lot. Like haven’t done so this week at all. But Linda Hamilton’s character Sarah Connor says in the upcoming film Terminator: Dark Fate: “I’ll be back.”
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sighRobert Frost
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Note to millenials: Robert Frost invented FOMO (fear of missing out) in Scotland in 1916. So yes, there’s a downside to choices. The side effects of any choice are that other avenues are forsaken. In economics, it’s called opportunity cost. One thing will take away from another. My example is not that complicated: I spent a good long while not working and working on my memoir of bicycling 10,000 miles in two years. So it was time to get some paid work, or else I’d be choosing homelessness and to be a starving artist, not a thriving one. A no-brainer, right? Maybe, maybe not.
Choices Are Like, Totes Hard, Dude
Do I miss cycling? Less relaxed due to the lack of two-wheeled therapy? Am I gaining a little weight? Losing some fitness? Contributing to pollution and traffic? Maybe losing out on hitting my goal this year. Yes to all that. But is my wallet getting out of the red, so I can afford to keep living in a town where rent shows no signs of going down? Yep. I’m also getting a lot of Vitamin D, doing more walking, and expanding my resume and skills. And if you must know, energy-efficient window sales is a good environmental endeavor.
Good news: leaning into a lull isn’t forever. I’m resting. When I do get back on my bike, it will be with fresh legs, clearer eyes, and a more grateful heart. Longing makes the heart grow fonder. And in the grand scheme of things, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, last I checked, food, clothing and shelter were still ahead of bike riding. But not by much. There’s an art to not doing something we really want to. It’s exercising patience, restraint, and self-control. Our id wants something but our ego won’t let it. We must self-parent and mete out our efforts and finite amount of energy and time in the ways that make the most sense for us in the moment. And look for the next moment.
Storing up energy to propel oneself through life sometimes means detours. We take those less traveled roads. Or maybe it’s a fresh-paved one that everyone’s on. But we know that our goals and plans ultimately will all fall apart. We will have to adjust to a new normal. Maybe we develop an issue and have to switch to a recumbent bike. Or we need — the horrors! — an electric bike (aka motorcycle.). A walker, to take aquatic lessons, to do only floor yoga at home. No body’s body lasts forever.
Everything’s Temporary, Really
So I’ll finish this job, and ride when I’m able, and when it’s over, go back to the car-free lifestyle. It’s challenging, limiting, and difficult, but it’s also fun, affordable, and more connected to the earth, to my own perfectly imperfect body. I’m doing my best with what I’ve got at the time. Just like I believe most other people with good intentions are doing. And to be honest, I need money to fix up Sophie the Fairdale and to eventually get a replacement for Sookie the Fuji. It’s not like I’m going to forget how to ride a bike, because it’s like…. well, you know, riding a bike.
If you’ve got to do something you’d rather be doing but can’t for whatever reason, can you let go a little and see how that feels? Breathe in, be mindful of your thoughts and feelings, your breath and body. Sit with it a while. Maybe even do some yoga or meditation. You might find out that your new normal has its benefits.
But remember: Everything changes; nothing is permanent. This is a core teaching of Buddhism, and that dude may not have ridden a bicycle, but he sure knew all about the wheel of life. In fact, you might even be able to say he invented or at least discovered it. Be like Buddha and A Dude (who is no Buddha!): Lazily learn to lean into the low lulls.
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