Fanning the Flames of Well-Being

I’m back at my haunt, with my candle and my iPad, waiting on some pizza. For some inexplicable reason, the 20-something bartenders in here are playing Nitzer Ebb. Not just one song, they’re playing That Total Age in its entirety, a cassette tape I played until it literally shredded in my hands…in 1987. I’m learning not to underestimate the musical tastes of the young. Possibly they’re influenced by their parents, in part, but a good music lover delves deeper, and just because they’re 20-something doesn’t mean they’re not adults with refined sensibilities. And Spotify. I’m just pleasantly surprised and impressed.

So, what’s new. I’m so sick of the roller coaster analogy. I don’t really know what else to use, but looking over the last few blog posts I see that there’s a regularity in them. One up, one down, one up, one down (wasn’t that a drinking game back in the day? Who the hell knows). Today’s post is cautiously optimistic. I’m still having all the issues with concentration and work, but today I was invited to do something that makes my heart beat faster and, for a couple of hours, makes everything right. I got to ride my BMX bike.

The photographer at my track in New Mexico often caught pictures of me on my bike, at races and at practice, and I’m often smiling broadly in those pics. I used to think I looked so happy because I was on that particular track, having the time of my life. But I’ve ridden a bunch of tracks and nothing is different. The smile is always there, though it’s sometimes on the inside while things get intense and focused during a race, but it’s plastered across my heart all the time.

The common denominator is the bike.

When I’m on that teal Supercross cruiser, I can clearly imagine the spirit of my lifeblood twining around her frame, twisting through her spokes and bars. She listens to me, advises me, corrects me, though sometimes she fails to convey the message because she is quicker than I am, but I learn from her. I feel her delicate balance and her immediate snap when I get a good gate. Her coasting buzz raises my heart rate. She is an extension of my limbs and weight, a teacher and a machine. She’s a tendril of my purpose, reaching ahead to test the terrain. She fits me to perfection. I have never felt so familiar with, and confident on, any other bike.

That contact, that meshing and self-assuredness, is something I’ve only felt before with my snowboards. Not all of them, certainly, but many, including my current ride.

Anthropomorphizing inanimate (and animate) objects is an ancient human predilection. I felt that way about my car when I saw “her” condition after she was stolen and recovered. I was genuinely sad that “she” had been so badly treated. On an even more profound level, I’ve had deep connections to my snowboards and bikes. Of course it’s silly, but it’s also my truth. People have always tried to explain the universe by giving things within it human aspects and emotions. Things that give me joy rule my tiny universe and become imbued with my spirit. My BMX cruiser is no exception.

Now they’re playing My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult. These kids are the greatest. Oh my God, I just called 20-somethings “kids”. Christ. It’s true what they say: one does turn into one’s mother.

IN ANY CASE, back to the subject at hand, which I almost always spectacularly fail to address despite the best of intentions: riding my BMX bike makes me happy. Snowboarding makes me happy. Running long distances makes me happy. Pushing my muscles to their limits in barre class makes me happy. All of these things serve to bolster my flagging spirits and gently lift my head from the mud, at least for a little while. That’s worth keeping at the front of my mind these days because sometimes the motivation to get out the door simply isn’t there. My running, in particular, has suffered.

And it’s not just about the exercise. That, of course, has been shown to improve mood time and again in psychological and medical studies. For me, at a point in my life when my self-esteem and threshold for shame and guilt are at an all-time low, doing these kinds of things boosts my confidence. I was nervous about getting on my bike today in an unfamiliar setting, but that bike is such a part of me now that self-assuredness flooded back in a matter of minutes. Am I good on that bike, or any bike? No. But it’s familiar and comfortable, and I feel able to tackle new challenges from that secure place. New challenges mean stretching my skills and abilities, which, in a lovely positive feedback loop, further improve self-esteem and confidence.

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