“I’ll admit I picked Ecuador for its symbolic possibilities. I wanted a place where things were reliable: 12 hours of darkness, 12 hours of light. It was the end of the old year, two weeks before my 33rd birthday, the age my Catholic friend Tony said all things would be revealed to me.”
-Pam Houston, 3 Lessons in Amazonian Biology
This December 30th marks year 33 for me. I have been an “adult” for 15 years now, a mother for 10 of those, a single mother for 7, and a cyclist for less than one. For me, the symmetry I have been searching out in year 32 was found in my Trek 2200 road bike (Zelda). In the less than a year that I have embraced the sport, it has made an impact on me and has motivated a number of resolutions I will be making for this upcoming year in my life.
I could make you a simple list of the things I want to accomplish, but my resolutions are more complex than that. I spend this month looking at my life, what makes me happy, what makes me sad or angry, what has brought me joy and what has caused me pain. And each year I try a little harder to make the joy column bigger and the sadness/anger dwindle. I also try to gain a new appreciation of what I have in my life presently, something we often forget.
I obviously want to continue to ride. I love it! I love the strength it has given me, the confidence it has built in me, the clarity I gain when I ride with nothing but clean mountain air rushing against my face. But there is so much more that it has brought to my life.
I have gained encouragement and praise. This may sound shallow, but it is an important thing. In our culture, we often are taught to not seek praise, to be humble and modest. But there is something rewarding to receive praise and something even more amazing in offering praise. In high school, I was a cheerleader (please, no jokes). Our job was to encourage the athletes as they performed, to build them up, to keep their spirits up when things were hard. As adults, we lose the concept of this, we become cynical and closed off. In order to receive praise and encouragement, we have to try, and we have to let our guard down and allow others to be there as we attempt something. It is scary to do this, to allow others to watch you possibly fail. Everyone talks about how lucky professional athletes are, while I can’t imagine ever being put in an arena where my failures could be so publicly viewed. It took a huge leap of faith for me to begin racing, and sharing it with my friends. I was scared I would be viewed as an amateur, possibly even be told I shouldn’t be there. But every rider gave me a “good job” or “keep it up” as they passed me. The spectators cheered words of encouragement as I rode past them. My first race, I came in dead last, was lapped by 10 of the 13 other women in my category. And left feeling like I had won. And when I got back to Ridgway and shared how I had fared in the race, I received nothing but encouragement to continue on. Since then, I have been sharing my adventures via this blog, and the support I have received has been amazing. In my 33rd year, I resolve to keep myself open to sharing both my successes and my failures, because we cannot be given the gift of encouragement if we keep a wall up around ourselves.
Through the encouragement and praise I have received, it has given me an even bigger gift, the gift of gratitude. I am beyond grateful for what cycling has brought into my life. As I talked about in my previous post, Why We Ride, sometimes it takes a tragic circumstance to make you realize what you have. This year has brought a number of tough times for myself and those close to me. Cancer, in its many forms, has wreaked havoc in the lives of some of my closest friends. Our town lost 2 amazing young women this spring within a matter of weeks, leaving a vacant space in all our hearts. But this year has also brought amazing gifts to my life. My daughter is strong and healthy and amazing. Friends have brought new children into the world. Through cycling, I have added another link to my relationship with my dad, and have built memories that will last for my lifetime. I have an amazing job that has brought health and happiness into my life. And I am slowly, every year, learning to be grateful for the gifts in my life. This year marks the first year where I have felt my life has fully been on the right track, that I am physically and emotionally in a healthy place that is leading me in the direction I want to stay in for the duration of my life. In my 33rd year, I resolve to continue to be grateful for the path my life is on, and all those who have helped me get to that point.
One of the best things that these changes in my life has brought to me is friendship. For years I have struggled to make lasting friendships. I have always been very independent, and often come across as guarded or unapproachable. As I have already mentioned, I fear failing in front of others, and what is friendship without the admission of failures and the sharing of dreams? As I have progressed through my other resolutions, I have opened myself up and been able to make true friends. In my 33rd year, I resolve to continue to build and feed these relationships, to not sit back and let them fade away (I see lots of trail rides and road trips to Moab and Phil’s World in this plan!)
And I resolve to be strong. Strong enough to keep my resolve. Strong enough to allow my weaknesses to show, and strong enough to overcome my fears. Strong enough to run barriers at a cross race, strong enough to vie for Queen of the Mountains, strong enough to win a race (not by default). Oh, and I want to be strong enough to kick some @#$ on the 50 mile loop on Gran Fondo Hincapie next year. And maybe even strong enough to take on Dupont Mountain again the following day.
Side note on this post: Pam Houston, who I quoted above, is one of my favorite writers. She is based in Colorado and has won numerous awards for her short stories. The above quote was taken from her compilation, “Waltzing The Cat”, which is a staple on my bookshelf and I highly recommend.