While the lessons I learned from the seat of my bike seem endless, I've narrowed the list down to four main reasons why I still ride. I've posted two of them already here at BIKE WITH JACKIE and have two more to share with you this week. In two prior posts, I mentioned how riding a bike can be a challenge and also teach awareness. Today, I explain the importance of time alone with your thoughts and how a bike can provide that time for you.
Reason #3: It will serve as a refuge.
As wives, as mothers, as parents, as friends, as co-workers, as employees, as bosses, as everything that we are and have ever been in life, those of us who have learned to be caretakers frequently forget to take care of the one person who counts the most in our lives--us.
We forget we count, too. Women, especially, seem so willing to give up on taking care of number one in lieu of taking care of everyone else in our world. Everyone else, even the family pet, seem to come first. How can you begin to make time for yourself then, to begin redirecting attention inwardly.
You can start riding a bike. Provided it's not a tandem, pedaling a bicycle along a quiet path is something you can do alone. For as long as possible. For as long as you need. Daily, if you can.
When I first rediscovered the bike in my garage, I don't know exactly why, but I started riding it. In fact, I was drawn to it. There wasn't much thinking involved, thank goodness. Recently separated from my husband of 10 years, I was too numb at the time. When I woke up in the morning, or got out of bed, I would immediately get dressed, put on a pair of tennis shoes, and go for a ride. It became as automatic as making a pot of coffee. It became equally as important to the start of my day. It didn't matter if I'd been up all night crying. It didn't matter if I'd been unable to sleep and watched black & white movies on cable TV all night long. Just as soon as I decided to get up, I knew I'd ride. I was prepared for it.
I literally moved past my divorce from the seat of my bike.
It served as my refuge. It was that one place where I could go and no one followed. It was that one place where I could cry out loud, laugh to myself, or sing if I wanted to, and no one else heard me or judged me.
The time I spent on the seat of my bike provided me with time to ponder, time to consider, time to wonder, time to dream, time to see things from a perspective that was mine and mine alone. It also allowed me to step back from my own thoughts and consider the input I recieved from others. People are always quick to tell you what to do, how to feel, what to say in times of stress or turmoil.
That time alone saved me from later saying or doing things I might have regretted, because, as you know, what works for some doesn't work for all. From the seat of my bike, I learned what would work for me. For one thing, just because my then husband may have said something childish to me, I didn't want to respond to him in the same way. Perhaps ignoring him was the best response. I could think that through from the seat of my bike. My sister would have preferred I use a few choice words, but that isn't my style. I learned to get clear with the message that needed to get out versus the message that might have gotten out had I not taken the time to think it through first. Time alone is good for that.
My bike rides also gave me a safe and healthy place to release my anxiety. As I stretched my body to push past those steep hills I'd confront every few miles, I saw the hill as my soon-to-be (or not soon enough) ex, or his divorce attorney. When I could see that I had left that nasty old hill behind, that symbolized to me that I'd reached another milestone. I'd taken care of myself yet another time. I was going to survive the trauma. In fact, I was going to be all the more stronger because of it.
I may not have recognized that without having the time alone to think through the ordeal for myself. It's easy to be pulled along by others when you're hurting or feeling defeated. But when you turn inward, look inward, and see for yourself what you're really made of, confidence compells you to act in a way that will leave you feeling better not bitter.
If someone wrongs you, no matter who it is or why, it's important to take the time to consider how you will respond so that you don't feel victimized but instead feel victorious. From the seat of my bike, I gave myself that time. The rides were my refuge from other people's thoughts about what I should or shouldn't do. For once, I gave myself time to decide what was best for me.
Isn't that also a good reason to ride?