A few weeks ago, I received an email from a friend who moved to England about five years ago. Before she moved, we were running partners and shared a general love of being outdoors and moving our bodies. On summer days where our workload at the local college wasn’t quite so intense and strident, we’d meet up for runs or to go horseback riding. Good times.
As our emails went back and forth, we reminisced about our days together covering miles either on pavement or through woods. I asked what she enjoyed doing outdoors there, and she shared that she really hadn’t spent nearly as much time outdoors as she did when she lived here.
“I wish I lived somewhere where I could rollerblade,” she shared. “It was my favorite thing to do outside. I’d do it everyday if I could.”
“What keeps you from doing it,” I asked, and, in her next email, she shared all the challenges and roadblocks- very real challenges and roadblocks; one of the most significant ones being that in her town ( a relatively new one to her), the terrain didn’t seem to suit rollerblading; she just didn’t know where she could do it for any stretch of distance. I shared with her what I missed doing now that my active outdoorsy friends weren’t just around the corner, able to meet up at 6:30 am for a pre-work run or ride, and I was now a mom whose time and responsibilties had shifted.
“Step by step,” we told ourselves and each other.
Then, just over a week ago, she emailed again. She had found a rollerblading group in her town, and they meet every Saturday morning. She was going to join them. She had felt compelled to find a way to rollerblade, she said, because I asked her why she wasn’t doing it.
And here’s the thing I have found about me. Sometimes- most times- the question I am asking someone else is the question I most need to ask myself.
My friend’s affection for rollerblading matches my affection for cycling, horseback riding, kayaking, and surfing. Seriously, four of the most funs things I’ve ever done. Four of the things that most make my heart sing. Four things that most make time and space and responsibilities and the world fade away, and I just can be, just enjoy, while I am doing them. And let me tell you how often I’ve done any of these things since Happy came home.
One time, last spring, we took the Circle de Luz girls horseback riding and I went along for the- wait for it- ride.
So, here was the question I was staring at after hearing from my friend. Why hadn’t I done these things? And my answers were just like hers– very real challenges and roadblocks like I don’t exactly live on or near the coast. I don’t own a horse or kayak and can’t really afford to shell out big bucks every time I want to ride (and my friend who moved to England was my horse link before) or paddle. So those are very real answers that I can sometimes but not always work around in my daily life. And, yet, there’s one of those things that I love that I just don’t have a reason not to experience on a regular basis.
Cycling. I own a bike, the shoes, a helmet, the wicking clothing, and live near rural roads that I can get to within 15 minutes. I have friends who cycle on a regular basis who would welcome me on their rides. And I live walking distance from a gym with its plethora of spinning classes which I also always really loved. But the spinning classes started harboring Mean Girls and Mean Boys (who were in their 40s and 50s) who got so into the classes so quickly that they would taunt away new people who joined in after they did (“Oh, someone doesn’t know that’s where Sally sits,” they’d say when they walked in and saw someone sitting on a bike they wanted. “Wonder how long these newbies will last?” They’d ask during January 2nd’s spinning class). It was 6 am, I don’t like to speak that early in the morning- it’s all I could do to get to spin class in the pitch black- but I would seethe on my bike for that hour, so mad that they were bullying people who were trying a new sport, so frustrated that the instructors didn’t say something, so mad that I didn’t know what to say to people who were 20 years my senior and behaving so poorly. Finally, those workouts became so stressful to me because of the meanness that I witnessed that I quit going. I have a bike, I told myself. And I increased my outdoor cycling sessions. Soon, though, Happy arrived, and, for a year, most anything felt impossible- most especially pumping up bike tires, finding my gear, and getting on the road and out of town. My workouts focused on things that took little effort- a yoga or Pilates class, an elliptical work out or run. I like those all, but, sometimes, I just want to go the distance over stretches of country roads or trails or surf. A year turned into two years and is slowly turning into three. Unless I stop it.
And so when my friend emailed me about her success with the rollerblading group and shared her rollerblading plans for the next week, I couldn’t help but issue the same challenge for myself. What if I got back on the bike? At this point, I don’t care what bike it is- one that actually moves or doesn’t.
And so I wrote my friend back and celebrated with her. And then I asked her to be my virtual “getting back into the things we love” buddy. What if we told each other our weekly plan for including these things we love back into our life? I asked. Then, we could share with each other how our efforts go. We could be each other’s outdoor buddies again- just from a distance. She’s in, and, this week, we’re starting our virtual cheerleading. I imagine that just by beginning to do what seems like too much to organize, it will soon feel effortless again. That the bike will soon become a board, a boat, a horse.
But, first things first, I’ll start by getting back on the bike. Probably in a spin class (a little secret here: not long after I quit spin, a friend of mine started teaching spin at the same gym. I told him why I quit. The first time it happened in his class, he said, “Not in my class.” Quickly, the culture changed. I couldn’t find my voice while I was in the class, but he had no trouble using his to fix the problem. No one deserves to feel belittled at any time, most of all when they are trying something new that is likely to intimidate them anyway).
Just over a month from now, a fundraising bike ride for a cause I really believe in will run through town. If life doesn’t interfere, I’d love to be on my bike again for that ride. But even if life does get in the way for that particular Saturday ride, it doesn’t mean it has to be in the way in general.
Sometimes, the question we most need to ask is the one we’re asking of others. What question have you asked of others lately that you also need to ask yourself?
And is the thing that most makes your heart sing a part of your life right now? If not, why not? What can you do to incorporate it into your life in some way right now?
Begin already. Before three years- or more- pass you by.