I have a problem…I love an epic adventure. I love a new challenge…a physically-draining, heart-wrenching challenge where you have to dig down to the deepest bit of your soul to finish. I love the grit, the determination, the despair, and eventual victory over myself, my body, and my mind. I’m just not normal.
Let’s Do Something Crazy!
My dear husband (who regularly hits saint status) let me talk him into an epic bicycle ride for our 25th wedding anniversary. A little bike ride across a Midwestern state that is called RAGBRAI (the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) became our week-long anniversary celebration. In short, we (and 15,000 of our closest friends) biked from the Missouri River to the Mississippi River) in seven days, camping along the way.
I could blog for a whole year (and I may) about the lessons I learned during those 450+ miles, but one big roadblock kept popping up over and over again that lead to hours of contemplation while keeping my feet ever moving forward.
HILLS….Iowa is Very, Very Hilly.
True. Iowa is a very hilly state. We road up 14,735 feet of elevation in 7 days. That’s riding up a 14’er. During the week, I conquered a lot of hills and I observed others do the same. And I realized something…we all have hills on a daily basis. We have to get up them eventually. I never did find a hill that came to my aid or shortened itself because I was tired. I had to find a way to the top usually to find another hill just behind it. Doesn’t that sound like life?
Find Another Gear.
I’ll be honest…I went into this week knowing only three of my 27 gears. I quickly learned about my other gears. When my legs couldn’t pedal any further, I’d gear down and pray there would be another lower gear. My legs could move a little easier until I needed to gear down again. When troubles hit, we need to find our lower gears to cope. Gears, such as bubble baths, long walks, and talks with good friends, help clear our head and help us to find a new way to address our pressing concern. Just as I wasn’t prepared at first to conquer more challenging terrain, we have to often expand our ways of dealing with issues and learning about ourselves is a great way to start.
I love powering up a hill, passing all the other bikers, and feeling my legs and lungs burn. I adore the eagle-eye focus I get as I soar to the top and I don’t quit until I’m up there. I take hills as a personal challenge in my way. The problem with this philosophy is that it eats up all your energy fairly quickly and your legs can quickly turn to lead stumps. If we charge at every tough situation with eagle focus and full of adrenaline, we will just as quickly lose perspective, tire ourselves out, and burn up all our daily energy.
Take a Walk Break.
Yes, I decided to walk up a hill…actually my heart did. On the last day, I was emotionally and physically exhausted, plus I was a bit homesick and ready to be done. We came around a corner and BOOM! out of nowhere arose a huge monster that just dared me to climb her. I didn’t have it in me to do it. I wanted to cry…so I got off my bike and started hiking up that hill. We eventually arrived at the summit of that mountainous hill and started pedaling. I needed that break…for my spirit. We all need breaks from this world. A time to slow down, take a breathe, and restore our soul to fight and live again…it’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to move ahead slowly…forward motion is still motion.
Strength is Gained Little by Little.
The difference between the first day’s ride and the last day’s ride were incredible. I gained strength, knowledge, and perspective that gave me the confidence to face any hill that was thrown in our way. I hardly noticed them. Life is like that too. As I grow older and wiser, things that rattled me before rarely even bother me. Experience and perspective go a long way in helping us strengthen our resolve. Sometimes it’s good to look behind and see how far you have come and how much strength you have gained.
Life’s hills are all around us. A gorgeous landscape and a fulfilling life wouldn’t be the same without them. Take time to strengthen yourself, care for yourself, and remind yourself that each hill is a fantastic new adventure to climb. And the view from the top isn’t bad either.