Life Lessons

So here I am sitting down to my blog and once again, it’s a month since the last time I published anything. It’s not that I’ve been lazing the days away, or that my passion for the craft has withered. No! Not in the slightest. The idea for this post actually came to me some time ago. It was that alone, I didn’t think it was substantial enough. You know, I’ve never been a woman of few words, and obviously here, I favor the long-form essay. So, as I often do with early ideas, I put this one to rest for a little bit, and took a step back to let life unfold; to see if something would come to me– in my sleep or in the middle of workweek chaos– that I could add to it, to shape a meatier piece. And after weeks (sure, maybe a few too many), thanks to my open eyes and listening ears, a few things did.

It all started one Saturday a while back, when I took a free class at one of these new all-cycling studios that have popped up across the city. Having never been to one, and wishing I could afford to give up my cut-rate, regular gym membership and join one to be among a higher echelon of the gym-going public, I was pretty psyched for the preview. Well, as I had imagined it would be, it was great— the place was squeaky clean, like teeth after a trip to le dentist; the bikes, brand new, were super smooth to ride; the sound system was booming; the staff was friendly… yada yada.

Then there was the instructor. So, I get it… When it’s your career to work out, you’re going to have an awesome body. Great. Good for you. You deserve it. I mean it. That said, I’m a fan of humility and I never do get why, when you’re sitting on a bike on a platform in front of the class, where everyone can see you anyway (and they’re drooling… either with desire or with jealously), you, the owner of this awesome body, feel the need to flaunt it. Do you really need to get off your bike as we, your average, less-than-hard-bodied students pedal through virtual mud, to dance in front of us in your skimpy bra-top and teensy-tiny shorts like you’re doing a striptease, showing off your washboard abs and your collage of sexy tattoos?

This was the scene playing out in front of me, and by three quarters of the way in, I was over it and had put the kibosh on the idea that I would yes, trade in my discount gym for this place. (Thank God for my brain, because going through with that would have meant going broke, but somehow I had reasoned that it was ok.) So I was over it, but still, I would ride it out, through the one last song. Our little playboy bunny instructed us to crank up the resistance one more notch, and then another, and I did, and then she said to us [these words that I never would’ve expected]:

“I know it’s hard. But you can do it… Be grateful for the fact that you can do it. Be grateful for having this body, and this mind, and this spirit. Be grateful for having been able to wake up today and come here.”

And at hearing this, I closed my eyes… because however annoyed I’d been with her earlier, at that moment she was right; and she was saying this to us with sincerity. I choked up a little bit. But still there on my bike, I pushed through. And though being grateful is something that I am every day, being there in that room, all of us, grateful together for those few minutes, was bigger and stronger and better feeling to me than being grateful alone ever had been.

So a few days go by, and I’m still on this high after bunny’s words of wisdom, and I come across this article that was published last month on NPR. It’s a piece on the recent disheartening report on the increase in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans. And as I always do when this topic comes up, aside from whatever frustration I have that for some people, this is the answer, I felt really sad. And I wished in my heart that I could help find a way to change this reality. I don’t know how to do that of course. Would positive words or thoughts that I have to share sink in to someone flirting with the idea of taking their own life? I kind of think not.

But a few days after reading the article, I happened, coincidentally, to arrive at a page in the book I’m reading, that really felt fitting as I waited to find the last piece to this post. And whether it sinks in or makes any sort of difference, I share it here…from Tinkers by Paul Harding:

“Your cold mornings are filled with the heartache about the fact that although we are not at ease in this world, it is all we have, that it is ours but that it is full of strife, so that all we can call our own is strife; but even that is better than nothing at all, isn’t it? And as you split frost-laced wood with numb hands, rejoice that your uncertainty is God’s will and His grace toward you and that that is beautiful, and part of greater certainty… And as the ax bites into the wood, be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it. And when you resent the ache in your heart, remember: You will be dead and buried soon enough.”

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