Saturday, November 26, 2011

Such a Simple Thing

It is Thanksgiving weekend.  Time when most of us take time to reflect and give thanks. And though it seems a little cliche at the moment to write about what I'm thankful for, I can't resist.  I am grateful for so many things: dear friends, a wonderful family, a loving partner, endlessly supportive colleagues, enough income to pay the bills in full each month, a career I love... so many things. I am also grateful for my bike, for bikeface. My theory is that the bike, that simple little machine, is what has helped me to maintain all of this. It helps keep the balance. I know so many people share this feeling. I know that what I'm saying is nothing new. But allow me to continue anyway.

"Such a simple thing, and yet so complicated," a friend often says about biking. And I have learned, in the past few months especially, this sentiment is very true. As I continue to struggle with the demands of graduate school and an uncertain career future, where I will be next year at this time, etc., I have found that turning to my bike (with the friends who come along) has been my mainstay. But there's more to it than simply its ability to keep me (all of us) sane.

The truth is that lately I've had a hard time finding bikeface. As the winds get stronger, the weather more crappy, and fewer folks showing up for rides, I'm finding it's much more hard to hang with my usual group of friends, who are all more strong than I am. I am discovering that I am more impatient with myself than I thought. I am also finding that my friends cut me much more slack than I do myself, that the community in general is far more forgiving than most. I think this is because we all know what it's like to suffer, to have a bad day, to need others. I just seem to have more than my fair share out there these days. But I am not disappointed. I know this will change. I know something about bikeface now that I didn't know before....

Along with this life of learning and growing into all of what bikeface means, I am finding grace around every corner. I've had friends stay back to pull me back to the group; friends who've let me turn around early during a ride, without judgement, when I knew I couldn't hang; friends who have challenged me to enter and complete several different races this year; friends who are always there when I want to ride, and forgive me when I don't. The bike life has afforded me all sorts of room to grow and stretch and get mad and sad and angry at life. And it is still there when I finally pick myself up again, when I'm feeling on top of the world.

In short, bikeface, as it turns out, is dependable, but not indiscriminate. It does not stick around for just any occasion. It does not squander its opportunities. This is why we must be thankful when we experience it.  For when we do, we know that all is well on the bike, we know that life is easy, good, simple.

But, perhaps even more poignantly, bikeface is not just about when it's going well out there, it's is more complicated and mysterious than we may think.

In an earlier post, I wrote about bikeface as the look on a person's face when things are going well, when we experience joy in cycling. But even on all of the less-joyful days, as I have come to discover, bikeface shows up anyway -- sometimes as a delayed reaction, well after a ride. Sometimes it shows up hours or even a day or more later, when I reflect on what happened, when I retell the story, when I think about what I was feeling or what I learned. Sometimes it shows up when I remember what I would have been doing if I hadn't chosen to ride (which is never more fulfilling, as it turns out). In all of these moments, bikeface never disappoints.

But... as trustworthy and seemingly fleeting as it is, we must be patient with bikeface. It must not be taken for granted. It's not automatic, nor fickle. Simply put, it is a great teacher. And, for that I am thankful.