What cycling taught me

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In the beginning

I have a vivid memory of being a child, walking past the stove and noticing the burner was red. The fascination stopped me in my tracks. That red light. My mom, ever the disciplined helicopter parent warned me not to go near and as she did my dad, with an entirely different approach to parenting, said 'go ahead and touch it'. And so I did. Ever to be etched in my memory. We were on our way out the door to go for an evening walk, and I was to take my tricycle. That burning feeling of my hand, so vivid and still real. Trying to maneuver those red handlebars with one hand and holding up my right hand in the hopes that some wind would cool it. Today, I'm sure child services would be called if my dad made the same suggestion he make that day, however, it was a memory which shaped my continued learning to be able to trust my own judgment, to create my own assessment on the dangers and risk of a particular action. My dads' approach was one that served me well. My moms' was one I appreciated after I had my own children.

My Father Believed In Me

My father certainly was not a neglectful parent, he and I spent as much time as we could together. His approach sent me a message. The message was, that he believed in and trusted my judgment that I was capable of using my intellect and my wits to navigate this thing called life. 

Fast forward to teenage years, when I took a backseat to new experiences. I felt I wasn't intellectual enough, athletic enough, pretty enough, cool enough. So I supported others. Friends, boyfriends...whoever. 

Later, I went to University. Met the man who would become my husband. Ran a household, had 4 children over the course of 9 years, immersed myself in school council, book clubs, family trips, endless dinners and packing lunches. I did remain active physically, going to the gym and keeping healthy. The year before my youngest was born I completed my holistic nutrition degree which was largely an extension of a life I was already leading. 

And then it happened

I take complete responsibility for what happened next, slowly, like a frog in a pot, who is unable to detect the slowly rising temperature. I didn't speak up, I went along the path of least resistance. I compromised a lot. So much so that I could no longer tell the difference between what was a compromise and what was not. What do I want? I'd forgotten. All I knew was that I was entirely unhappy and could not stay in my marriage. It became toxic for me and clouded the judgment I needed to make those decisions for myself again. 

Months before I decided to leave my marriage, I began spinning at my local gym

As A Child

undefinedAs I child, I was a natural swimmer and was many years ahead in terms of ability. I needed to be of a certain age to advance to the next level and it became a bit of a joke. The coach would instruct me to do laps continuously while teaching the other students. There were so many things I loved about swimming. The quiet, along with the water sounds when underneath. It felt like home down there. The rhythm of the stroke, a cadence that put me into a meditative state. It felt like therapy, escape and personal development all in one. It was my happy place. Then, my parents divorced, family split and all of this became unimportant.

Fast forward, and back to spinning. It was the same feeling, the cadence, the rhythm and I was really good at it. Naturally, my body wanted to spin. One instructor was different, and over time I realized what it was. He was a cyclist. His classes didn't have a fitness, exhaust yourself approach but rather a building your strengths approach with a respect for the body.

A month before I left, I bought my first road bike, which was met with much resistance. For years, my interest in road biking was met with articles and studies on the sheer danger people put themselves in by being on the road. Poetically written stories about couples who had lost their true love while on a biking trip, others who were maimed beyond former recognition, who now had to live the rest of their lives, a fragmented version of themselves. These constant reminders were no deterrent for me. Intellectually, I asked myself, should I be afraid? But there was a strong desire beyond words, beyond the physical form.

First Day On the Road Bike

undefinedI'll never forget the day I took that road bike for a spin. My husband at the time insisted he 'come along' to the bike shop. My spinning instructor worked at the bike shop and I trusted him with what I needed and took his guidance on what was a good fit for me. When I got on, sat, figured out the feel of the pedals, the first time I used my legs to propel me forward, I knew. I knew this was not something I could not deny myself any longer. It was imperative for my life moving forward. So, that day I bought my Cannondale CAD 12. I rode with a small group on weekends. The odd time I would get out for a short ride with a girlfriend who lived doors away on the same street. And when we were done. I wanted more. When they saw my disappointment, they suggested I join a bike club. Maybe next year.

The next year came, and by then I was separated, and he, in a fit of I don't know what had sold my bike. Maybe it was the last attempt at control, or just to inflict hurt. But I knew I had to fix this. I was not going to waste energy on the sheer injustice of it all. So, without the means to buy something, I sold all my jewelry including my wedding ring. My mom who had saved some of her old jewelry was kind enough to give me her jewelry to add to the pot at the pon shop. I shared my plight with my spin instructor who took pity on me and sold me a beautiful bike he had. 

In my former life, I had little time for such things, but now I had a schedule that allowed for such activities and I held regular hours at work. There I began. I am no longer the girl who drives past the weekend warriors wondering what that feels like. 

And Now

undefinedOn the saddle, I've developed relationships, learned that no matter how hard, this too shall pass. That planning your ascent and decent are critical. Most importantly, I feel like a child, in the present moment, losing track of time and surrendering to what is. On the bike I am not my past or my future, I am in the moment because that is all there is. The message my father taught, to trust one's self and create your own reality, the pace, and rhythm of swimming and the discipline my mom showed, all came back. On the bike I heal hurts from the past, and grow for the future. Who knew such a little place to sit would have such a transformative impact.

If my story about What Cycling Taught Me resonates with you, I'd like to invite you to comment on what you have learned about yourself and the world around you.

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