Monday, August 26, 2013

Living in the Present (in thanks of a bicycle)

Most of my life, I have struggled with being in the moment - with living in the now. Whether this was a learned behavior or something I was born with, I'm not entirely sure, but some of my earliest recollections are in regard to thoughts about the future. As a child, I frequently found myself daydreaming about what my life would be like at 16 (I would finally be able to drive - wahoo!), 18 (I would be an "adult" and could "do whatever I wanted"), 25 (I would be through school and have a fabulous career that I loved), 30s (I would be old, "like my parents" and probably have a spouse and kids), and even my 80s (when I would be sitting in a rocking chair, knitting for my grandchildren). I should note that almost none of those thoughts were a reality when the time came (Well, I can't speak for my 80's just yet, but I suspect very little is as we dream it as children).

I have a theory that part of my reasons for wanting the future to hurry up and happen was that the present wasn't as great as I would have liked it to be. Perhaps daydreaming about an idealistic future is what kept me somewhat sane as a child and teenager? I have no doubt I could be analyzed for years by professionals who would have various thoughts on the matter, but what I have learned about myself is that as an individual who grew up living in the future, shifting to a life in the present moment is a mightier task than it might seem on the surface. It's not that I have a terrible or torturous present life, nor that I don't enjoy the people, places and things that surround me, but to this day I find myself living for some future, pick-of-the-day moment.
It never ceases to amaze me, however, that riding a bicycle can somehow turn an individual who almost exclusively lives in the future into one who can actually focus on the very moment I'm in. Something about the effort, time, distance, or sometimes strain keeps my mind from wandering into the future, and actually holds me in the present. There are times when I wonder why I want to continue to pursue longer distances on my bike, and I find myself questioning if it has something to do with being able to just enjoy (or loathe, struggle through, etc) the moments while riding. When I set out on a ride, I have no plans to take me in a particular direction. I don't know what challenges await me until they are just there in front of me and I have to tackle and deal with them head on, in that moment. I have choices to make. I can climb the hill or not. I can take a different path or not. I can stop completely and rest on the side of the road or not.  It's a lot more difficult to plan what I intend to do when I have no idea what is in store for a particular ride.
Through the distances on my bike, I learn that I am able to live in the immediate moment and am capable of making perfectly sound, reasonable, normal decisions. I don't start thinking about a ride next Tuesday when I'm riding now, and I certainly don't ponder an upcoming hill that's 10 miles away because I don't know what is coming until it's within sight. I also don't arrive at a climb and say, "Gee, I should turn around so I don't have to ascend this hill at all." Sure, I may think it sometimes when I'm having a rough day, but I power through it nonetheless. After all, how else would I complete the ride?

Although I hadn't really considered it until recently, I am certain that transformation takes place in those brief instances. Those moments of pain, fear, self-doubt and eventual victory that take place as I struggle (at times) to make it; the last few pedal strokes as I reach the top of something I never thought I could or would attempt; the instant I decide that I am strong and able to do anything I chose to do; those nanoseconds when I, without contemplation, commit fully to moving forward, onward, upward... these are the moments that are changing me, perhaps even helping me shift (pun intended) into the person I always wanted to be.

I am so grateful for these experiences on a bike - and even more so for the extra challenging and grueling ones - because they are showing me exactly what I am made of and that I am able to live, breathe, and thrive with life in the present moment... even when those moments seem insurmountable.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing this. Though I'm not able to ride nearly as long or as far as you are, I find that if I focus on what I *can* do instead of where I'm not/where I'd like to be, I'm able to push myself to go farther than I thought possible.

    I agree that moments of transformation happen during those instances. Our brains try to convince us that they're just small things, unimportant things. They may not matter much on a global scale, but they're hugely important on a personal level.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that's a great point, Cecily. Definitely focusing on what we can do rather than what we can't is so important.

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