My life, I’ve realized, is like a bank of windows opened at various heights. This is not my preference. I’d like each window to be either fully opened, fully closed or decidedly in the middle. But that’s rarely, if ever, the case. Except for cycling class.
After one of my classes last week, I asked a rider how she liked the ride. “I loved it,” she said. “You told us what we were going to do, how long we were going to do it and sometimes reminded us how.” Then she added: “And now I’m finished. Ready for the rest of my day.” Window opened, window closed. Ready for the next window to rise. Heaven, in my book.
When an event, a task, a thing that needs to happen, begins and ends and needs no further thought I feel energized and motivated to move on to the next thing even if it’s something mundane. There is no nagging voice looping in the background reminding me that something isn’t finished, something still needs to be done. How do I stay present when that voice is about the future? How do I gracefully embrace fluidity when I crave closure?
Beyond yoga, breath awareness, practicing “The Power of Now”, knowing my Myers-Briggs Type (INTJ) and the countless other things I’ve read, learned and practiced for decades, I still get relentlessly anxious when the rest of my life is not like a cycle class – start, do, finish, next.
In class, I coach riders to avoid judging their efforts. Tackling a big climb? Focus on pedal power and the energy of the music. One negative judgment, I remind them, can suck the wind right out of your lungs, legs and heart.
As so often happens, the other day cycling lit yet another ‘life light bulb’ in me. I realized I look at my window bank, expect each one to be at a given height and make deflating judgments when they are not.
Case in point. A few days ago, an error code appeared on my heating thermostat. I looked up the code hoping for a homeowner fix, but no such luck. I scheduled service hoping it would be a quick, inexpensive fix. That didn’t happen either. Parts had to be ordered and another visit had to be scheduled. Parts arrived, new visit scheduled. I hoped that would be that. It wasn’t. New system required, the price astronomical.
With each event, beginning with the code, my brain encouraged rational action – look up code, schedule service, call for a second opinion, evaluate options, make decision. But threaded between, that same brain kept firing anger and frustration.
Why? Because with all that I know and all that I teach, I have a deep-rooted habit to negatively judge situations that I want to be closed vs. expect and accept that my bank of windows will almost always look like the teeth of a carved Halloween pumpkin, uneven and unsettling; expect and accept that I will rarely have control over when each will reach the state I want them to be in.
My riders expect to be uncomfortable between the start and finish of each ride. They accept the challenge and yes, celebrate the start and the finish. Open window. Closed window. But they know that the ride – the challenge, the thing they roll out of bed on dark mornings for – is the thing between the start and the finish.
I have never been under any illusions that life is easy. I know that things are mostly messy, unpredictable, and fluid. It’s my reactions to and my judgments about that messiness that I will always need to work on. To look at that uneven bank of windows, those crooked pumpkin teeth, and accept them as my beautiful life.