Every night I make a list of the things I’m grateful for and send it to some friends of mine. I understand that, to skeptics and cynics, this sounds like some kind of feel good, new age craziness, as it did to me when I was asked to do it initially. But continuing on from Padraig’s own Thanksgiving theme of learning to say yes to things, I took on the daily gratitude list with as an open a mind as I could manage.
At first, I found it easy to name things, my wife, my kids, my job, my friends, my health, etc. Eventually, you find yourself panning for gold, sifting the mundane for positive effect, and there are days, certainly, when it is hard to summon the necessary sincerity for this. However, I am finding, the older I get, that all the good things I have going on are cumulative. Very few of them come to me by surprise, but rather by consistency, by doing good things over and over and over again. Fitness comes this way, work success. And the gains that come from gratitude are the same. They build up over time, seep into other parts of your life, arrest the slides that a bad day can begin.
I am a born cynic and depressive, but daily gratitude practice has worked for me. Some robot I am.
Padraig had no reason to publish my work however many years ago. I had followed him to RKP from Belgium Knee Warmers, and I happened to be at a crossroads in my life and in my writing. As a younger man I wrote about soccer, edited a regional soccer magazine, and dabbled as a freelancer across a panoply of topics, many of which I had no reason writing about. RKP arrived in my mind at a time, just after the births of my two boys, when I needed an outlet, a reason to run my fingers over the keyboard, and I was crazy about cycling. Our collaboration, and eventually our friendship, was born of a blind correspondence. In fact, we worked together on RKP for some years before we finally met at Interbike in a Vegas casino lobby.
When I think back on it, it all seems so random and strange, a movie I saw once, rather than a life I lived, but then my phone buzzes and it’s Padraig texting me some new idea he’s had or even just checking in. I am grateful for this, not just the friendship, not just the opportunity to write for one of the web’s best cycling blogs, but for all of it, the randomness and mess of it. Like an iceberg, the writing is only the visible part. There has been so much more beneath the surface, each of us sticking by the other through hard times (a few of his injuries, the birth of the Deuce, my career change, etc.), getting to ride together on occasion, getting to design a bike together, working on his book, having each other as a filter for the more difficult posts that have seen light here. It’s a big thing, larger no doubt than I’m even aware now. But I’ll get it all in time, eventually.
This week’s Group Ride is about gratitude, yes, but big picture gratitude. For example, I am grateful for cycling’s doping era. Of course, I have been angry, sad, and indifferent by turns, but I’ve also been fascinated, not only by the moral case study cheating at sports conjures, but also by the body chemistry I had to learn in order to understand how it all worked. I am grateful for the characters of Armstrong, Ulrich, Riis, Pantani and others, pantomime villains in a way, who inhabited the drama. I am grateful that we learned what we don’t want from cycling, and I am grateful that we learned not to put cyclists on pedestals.
I find myself sometimes revisiting books like David Herlihy’s Bicycle: The History, wondering at the humans who committed themselves to getting us onto two wheels in the first place, or the adventurous early riders who heaved themselves high onto the seats of penny farthings and hoped not to come back down too quickly. There are a lot of pedal strokes between them and me. A lot of technical challenges have been solved. The ride has smoothed considerably. And I’m grateful for all that.
It’s a holiday, and I have coffee, a keyboard and a nice place to sit. I could go on and on, but I’ll leave it to you now. Big picture. What are you grateful for?