I’m way out of shape, two chain slips and over halfway into a 10-mile bike ride that’s mostly hills, when I remember some advice I got for my birthday.
Joe was walking about his kitchen, fixing up some curried mushrooms that he picked himself from Central Park, when suddenly he stopped, leaned on the counter and said to me plainly:
I had confessed that having to push back my New York move again was really bumming me out. I’d even entertained the notion for a few minutes that it wouldn’t be possible; that I just wasn’t cut out for the big city struggle. I felt a little like a fraud. It wasn’t the first time.
“Enjoy it,” he said. “If I could tell myself one thing, that would be it. I moved here at that age, and I drove myself miserable. Most people do. You become so focused on getting everything in order that you forget to enjoy what it is you’re working so hard for.”
I’m on the back stretch of my 20s, and I still don’t know what I’m doing with myself nor what I am going to do, but when I discovered my father’s 1970-something Holland-made Raleigh Grand Prix 10-speed in the garage, I realized that enjoying life sometimes only requires two things: air in the tires and a direction to go. So, after a few test-runs on the lightest, most balanced piece of titanium I’ve ever sat on, I picked out a fairly easy (I thought) course: five miles to a clear halfway point, then five miles back the upper leg.
Right at the halfway point, the course goes uphill, fast. It might be engineered like a beauty and light enough to lift with practically two fingers, but the little Raleigh gets difficult to pedal after the first half mile uphill. I stop, grab some water and breathe. My mind is too tired to form good metaphors for how similar this is to life.
We have this grand notion that everything happens for a reason. This is true, but the great big conspiracy of the universe is only half of the equation. Coincidences happen more frequently than we imagine. It’s up to us to take what occurs and make something of it—yes, this is the essence of “When life hands you lemons…” But life does not just bestow lemons upon its friends, so much as they just happen to wind up there in your way. To believe that life has an intention is, at this stage, naive.
When I first began studying yoga, I read about how one of the early modern-generation yogis (I want to say B.K.S. Iyengar, but I could be wrong) went to a jail. He spoke to inmates there about perception. “What makes this a prison?” he asked. The prisoners replied that it was a prison because they could not leave when they desired. “Is this not true of the guards as well?” he asked. “They may not want to be here either, but they cannot leave.” For the time being, even at our most free, are we not ultimately bound by this atmosphere?
Yes, not being able to move out has been a bummer. It’s been downright stressful, when it hasn’t been an utter disappointment. But I’ve gotten to relate to my father in a way that may become important down the road. The countryside here is absolutely gorgeous in summer, and I’d totally forgotten that. Once I accepted that I’d be here for a while, I figured out that I’d have to start learning how to enjoy my time here. And that’s when I found the bike.
Am I trapped? Sure.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not free.
This week, may you find enjoyment in a struggle and freedom within a bind.
May someone/something from your past come back to assist you.
And may you, by exploring, discover something new around where you live.
P.S. Thanks, Joe
Photo: Randy Son Of Robert/Flickr