I try not to pass people on my commute anymore. There are two reasons. First, I need to slow down. Why am I sprinting home? How is that helping me? Second, we are coming to a light. You are always coming to a light in the city, and so why get into the I-pass-you-you-pass-me game with someone who is also just trying to get home.
So I was riding behind this guy, and it was one of the first decently warm, sunny days of the spring, and we came to the inevitable light and he stopped and put a foot down and I did, too. Just then he turned and smiled and said, “Sure is a nice night for it,” a friendly opening for 30 seconds of chit-chat. And I said, “Yeah, I guess, but I’m really looking forward to riding without gloves again.”
He smiled politely. I’d rained on the parade, and I knew it. Why on this first nice day would I express disappointment with the gift of warmth and light we’d been given?
The light changed. I said, “Have a great night,” and then I blasted past him and didn’t look back. I was embarrassed, and disappointed in myself. It was a small thing. He won’t remember it. There’s no reason to dwell, but I see these moments, these ad hoc situations, as the canaries in the mine of my frame of mind. And that canary died.
For me, dissatisfaction has its own gravity, its own inertia. If I’m not vigilant, I slip into a perfectionist fugue state that is neither productive nor particularly enjoyable to endure. In this state, I take things for granted. I become ungrateful.
And yet, I have so much, so much.
I woke yesterday to the sound of my 9-year-old barfing in the hallway. I had a ride planned with some guys from work, and my alarm had been set for just about that time anyway. But, instead of getting up, making some coffee and some breakfast, before rolling casually to the meet up, I spent the intervening time cleaning vomit and getting my boy situated back in bed. Then I hiked up my bibs and hauled ass to the ride, leaving my wife to attend to any further digestive reversals.
At first, I was irritated. Why did he have to be sick the one morning of the week I had a ride planned? There I was choking down a banana, slugging gulps of too hot coffee. I made the cafe parking lot just as the church bell finished ringing 7am, and immediately launched into a put-upon rant, at which point the guys said, “Huh, that sucks,” and rolled out onto the ride.
The sun shone bright through the trees, and we quickly sorted ourselves into our pairs. Small talk ensued. I forgot how my son’s illness had been an inconvenience to me (real Father-of-the-Year stuff there). It was a great ride.
I am grateful I even got to ride. I am grateful I have friends willing to ride with me. I am grateful my wife was there to tend my son, so I could follow through with my plan. I am grateful the boy felt better almost immediately, and that we spent some of the sunny afternoon playing catch out front, the ball popping in the pockets of our gloves, that he still wants to spend time with me. I am grateful that I have a good and easy life, even though I screw it up and complicate it as much as I possibly can.
This week’s Group Ride asks a question that deserves a daily answer, what are you grateful for? I could make a list as long as my arm when I’m in my right mind. I could make a list about my family. I could make a list about my job. I could make a list about the bikes I get to ride and the places I get to ride them. I hope you can, too.