Today was a rough day. “Life” and all that…
But 20 miles on a beautiful, warm night with a friend helped… a lot.
The Definition of Retreat is…
(v.) “to withdraw or retire in the face of or from action with an enemy, either due to defeat or in order to adopt a more favourable position”
(n.) “a place to which one may retire for refuge, quiet, or a period of seclusion, esp for contemplation”
Some days life is just overwhelming. You muddle through, you struggle on, you do all you can to “keep calm and carry on.” At some point you know you need to do something productive, to accomplish something on your own terms, to demonstrate that no matter the adversity you have the moxie to make it through in grand style. You want to raise your hands in triumph and yell, “I…HAVE… CONQUERED!”
Tuesday night I had to just step back. To find my retreat, my place of refuge and quiet. I needed that time of seclusion and contemplation. But the weather was less than ideal; rainy and overcast with a chill breeze so it was off to the gym for me. I haven’t been to the gym in a while (still paying) so I slowly… who am I kidding, the proper word would be, “reluctantly,” made my way there after work. In the parking lot it hit me, I don’t need to do something, I need to ACCOMPLISH something! I don’t want to get this done, I want to full on CONQUER! I pulled straight through the parking lot, donned my riding apparel and headed out for a 20 mile ride into the sunset over downtown Fort Wayne.
The pace was leisurely and I just loved the knowledge that I was one of only a handful of riders in all of Fort Wayne making the effort. I was cold. I was wet. I was getting dirt all over the bike and up my back, but I was loving it. By the time I hit downtown Fort Wayne the tunes were on and the lyrics were resonating through my mind…
And all I can taste is this moment
And all I can breathe is your life
And sooner or later it’s over
I just don’t wanna miss you tonight
And I don’t want the world to see me
‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand
When everything’s meant to be broken
I just want you to know who I am
(name that tune and that band)
At that moment, slowly cruising East on Wayne Street, I began to recognize that this was a special ride. I could feel the freedom seeping into my bones. From there it was the most enjoyable ride I’ve had in a long time (and if you read this blog at all you know that I really do love to ride). By mile 15 I was beginning to sing quietly…
So much craziness surroundin’ me
So much goin’ on, it gets hard to breathe
When all my faith has gone, you bring it back to me
You make it real for me
When I’m not sure about my priorities
When I’ve lost site of where I’m meant to be
Like holy water washin’ over me
You make it real for me
(again, name that tune and that artist)
I could feel my stress melting away, each downstroke shedding it onto the sidewalk, each revolution of the wheels leaving it behind me. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so physically relaxed on a ride, and I was beginning to wish I could ride on and on and on. When you find your freedom it is so very hard to relinquish.
I am alive in this moment
In this moment I am found
I am alive in this moment
In this moment I belong
(c’mon, one last time. name that tune and band)
Sometimes the best thing you can do is retreat. I don’t know that retreating is ever glorious. To retreat you have to admit that in your own power you don’t have what it takes to be victorious. You have to back off, lick your wounds a bit, consolidate your strength and recuperate. Yeah, when the bike was back in the garage and the shoes in the closet again life came back with a vengeance. It wasn’t shocking. But I was stronger to face it because of my retreat.
Slow down the pace of your riding for a day and just enjoy the rhythm. Shut off the texts and e-mail. Find your best tunes and either turn them up or turn them down. Take a camera and notice all the great pictures around you. More than anything allow yourself to be free, even for just a little while. Trust me, you WILL dream something and it will be glorious! If nothing else, and above all…
I found the most intriguing picture on Lance Armstrong’s Facebook page today.
I find it to be an interesting commentary on his life right now; a man riding alone, no crowds of adoring fans, no media motorcycles zipping past, no peloton of riders hoping in some way to be seen riding with the champion. Instead we now see a lone man riding a seemingly endless road in a world devoid of color. Is it a purposeful statement? I don’t know, but it says a lot doesn’t it?
It will be lonely. It will be long. It will lack color and beauty. He will learn a lot about himself…whether he wants to or not. Some of it (maybe most of it) he isn’t going to like. He has greater decisions ahead than he has left behind. It will be the most precarious road he has ever ridden… but necessary.
My prayer for him is that a few miles down the road he will find that he is not alone. Lance Armstrong is about to discover what true and lasting friendship is all about. He will learn the value of a handful over the masses. Not all of his friends are gone. In fact, none of his true friends ever left. What a powerful lesson this will be for a man who has spent so much of his life using others for his own victories and decimating those who stood in his way (necessary virtues for a world-class cyclist by the way).
My prayer for him is that the sun will peek over the horizon and the richness of life will return. He will find new dreams, new aspirations, and hope. He will compete again at something, for Lance Armstrong is nothing if not a competitor. (You don’t climb the Pyrenees on legs alone.) As any rider knows, a goodly portion of distance riding and climbing is MENTAL. Intestinal fortitude and mental toughness don’t come in a syringe. His battle with cancer proved that it was not all “doping” that gave him strength. I hope his dreams are in some way connected with the LiveStrong campaign and organization. Defeating cancer is a finish line worth pursuit.
My prayer for Lance Armstrong is that in all of this he keeps riding. (This should be an easy answer for God. I mean, really… Lance Armstrong NOT riding a bike? That would be like Noah without a boat! I believe God rolled His eyes at me just then.) The element of competition is gone. It has been “stripped” from him, as those doing the “stripping” seemingly like to say. BUT… perhaps this greatest punishment is, in reality, the greatest blessing. For now Lance Armstrong is an amateur again. Just like me! Ok, well maybe not JUST like me, but he is back to riding only for himself, for his passion, for the fun of it!
In his interview with Oprah Winfrey tonight Lance said it best, “I lost myself in all that.” Well Lance, my friend, I believe you just might find yourself again! All those who sought to shackle you for life have (accidentally) given you the greatest freedom of all! You are free to find that kid inside who loved to ride his bike for the fun of it!