Thursday, October 30, 2014

the Importance of Balance

As today was potentially the last fine fall day we will have and as I'm still shying away from high-impact activities (cough-running-cough-cough) to give my legs a proper rest, I decided that one 25 mile bike ride this week did not suffice and that I needed another one tonight. Grades were due yesterday and I feel like I've been running non-stop for the past two weeks and early in the week I designated this evening as the one I'd spend finishing the bottle of wine I opened earlier this week and resting my leggies on the recliner.  A few things changed: I went for a ride, and I have much more wine left than I can responsibly drink on a school night.  :)

Although it was fine bike-riding weather, there were very few people out on the trail today.  Biking is a rough sport in the chilly weather: you have to dress like its 10-20 colder than it is.  So, even though it was 53 when I left the house, I probably looked like I was dressed for winter, complete with fleece-lined tights, heavy-duty socks and windproof gloves!  I was perfectly comfortable until about 6:45, when the sun started setting and the temperature dropped fast!

This might be the first legit selfie I've ever taken, but you can see how bundled up I was!

Due to the temps and sparse trail usage today, I was alone for much of the time.  In fact, I was so alone and so immersed in my own thoughts that when I came upon a busy intersection full of rush-hour cars, I nearly forgot that I needed to stop and wait for someone to let me cross.  Luckily I came to senses with a few feet to spare! 

The Loveland/Little Miami bike trail is very flat and general straight, which makes it perfect when you want to go far and not get worn out with hills.  This also makes it perfect for lots of "Look Ma, no hands!" moments, which I had a lot of today.  I rode up straight, with my arms comfortable at my sides for almost a mile today.  I didn't pass a soul aside from the squirrels and minibears (chipmunks) rummaging through the leaves, getting ready for winter.  I started thinking about balance and how important it is.  As kids, Bubba and I rode all the time.  We would ride anywhere, on anything and would push our balance and speed limits often.  That's actually how I wound up in the ER needing stitches on my chin at the age of 8: "dipping" on my cousin's bike.  Bubba is the one who had all the fabulous high-speed crashes, but I'm the one who got stitches--go figure!

When I got my road bike last year, I was so unsure of myself and so afraid that I'd loose my balance on those skinny little tires.  I've never been very good at keeping a bike on the path, so I very quickly realized that when going in a generally straight line, we can use our whole bodies to keep us upright if we get caught in a rut.  Sometimes you can't steer yourself out because you'll crash, so you just have to keep pedaling and fight with your legs, abs, arms and head to keep yourself balanced until you can regain control.  Life is a lot like that: when something tries to throw us off balance, we just have to keep moving forward and fight with every ounce of strength that we have to hold ourselves upright until we get through it. 

View from the handle bars... just leaves, trees, freshly-paved trail and lots of critters rummaging around!

Balance is something I've been trying to work on the past year.  My life felt very out of balance last year and I've made some good changes for myself, but this struggle for balance is an ongoing one: the balance between work and home, social and personal time, sunshine and darkness, exhaustion and relaxation, love and apathy, want and need, head and heart, thrill and comfort, hunger and fullness, sobriety and silliness, rest and laziness, planning and procrastination, organization and chaos, action and distance, and last, but not least: hot and cold.  A balance of all these things is required to make a happy life, healthy relationships, an effective employee, a comfortable home and a peaceful, content heart. 

This balance can come easy to us when we're on a straight, smooth road and we can sit back and let things unfold in front of us, easily dodging small obstacles (like twigs) without ever having to redirect, but it takes a lot more trust to keep this balance when the road is a little rougher.  There is a section of the trail where the tree roots have cracked the pavement and I rode over that part hands-free too.  I had to use my legs a little more and I was a little tenser, but I trusted that my body would keep me balanced and that God wouldn't let me fall on such a pretty day.  I realized that life is a lot like that too.  When we go through rough times, if we listen to our hearts and souls and do what we really feel like doing and skip out on the things that we really don't feel like doing, we maintain that balance.  Maybe we let something fall to the wayside, but our lives maintain their balance, which is the most important thing. 

So tonight, I took a scalding hot shower when I got home to thaw out my hands and feed, tried to eat a dinner to replace the calories I burned today, had a few glasses of wine and about twice as much water, and propped my legs up for a few hours and didn't do a lick of school work, all in the name of balance.  I'm still tired and worn out, but I feel rested and ready to tackle the coming weekend.