Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself
In dark woods, the right road lost. To tell
About those woods is hard – so tangled and rough
And savage that thinking of it now, I feel
The old fear stirring….

Dante’s Inferno Canto One

Happy Groundhog Day! Apparently we are in for 6 more weeks of winter, which is no surprise to me as I stare out my office winter at the low lying clouds and general grey atmosphere. While I would love to be feeling the sun on my face on a lovely bike ride, I am feeling okay. Because January is done.

I have dubbed January my “month of poor decisions”. Every year, that month seems to mark a major and always poor life choice, whether it be an ill advised move to Illinois or a mismatched relationship. Something about the new year and the cold and the short days and long nights puts me in a funk and I often start making knee jerk changes.

This year was a little different. I definitely felt the old pull to change things up, to make some drastic call that would shake up the monotony. But every time I felt the old fear stirring (fear of loneliness, fear of life remaining stagnant, fear of nothing evolving), I got on my bike. I rode in cold temps with freezing headwinds. I rode when my eyes tears and the tears began to freeze in the corner of my eyes. When I couldn’t brave the elements, I hopped on my indoor trainer.

The past month was a trial and a struggle, to be sure. As I entered year 33, I fought hard within my own mind on where my road was taking me, in every sense of the word. And when I lost the right road, I found it over and over again on my bike. There is some sense of perfect clarity during these winter rides. The crispness of the air brings everything into new focus, the edges become defined and the light shines in a way that illuminates the shadows. I am by no means out of the woods, and am absolutely sure I can manage to make poor choices on any given month, but feel there is something different happening in my life now that I have brought cycling into it.

It has brought me a renewed source of strength, not just physically, but in all aspects of my life. I truly see my ability to face a challenge and overcome it, to take myself to the top of life’s steepest hills. And I think that each time I force myself to stay the course, to not turn back when the going gets tough, I am training myself to be a little stronger in life.

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