My life is good, really good, and at the same time, really full. My boys both play hockey, which leads to 6-8 hours of ice-related commitment, and they both have reading and homework, which occupies our evenings. On weekends, we try to do something fun as a family that is not hockey and not homework.
Home ownership requires maintenance. Lawns must be mowed. Leaks must be fixed. Garages must be cleaned.
And staying married takes time, too. My wife has as many interests as I do. She needs time to herself, time away.
So where does cycling fit? I ride before work sometimes. I get up at 5 or 5:30 and try to get a few hours in. Sometimes I ride after work, but it’s hard for me to maintain motivation for that. I’m tired by then. And of course, there are weekends when a ride can be had, too. That also usually requires getting up before the sun.
I said to my wife once, “It is hard to be any kind of endurance athlete, when there is no time to endure.” The first hour of any ride, the warm-up, is often the whole ride. At that point, I’ve mostly just endured getting my arm warmers situated the way I want them. I’m only just starting to work at cycling.
Sometimes I dream about a future filled with free time, my retirement, the kids gone and the frenzy of work behind me, but you don’t want to start wishing your days away, not these days, filled as they are with the joy of parenthood and the satisfaction of hard work. To want anything other than exactly what I have is disrespectful to my family and the people I work with. It flies in the face of every decision I’ve made up to this point. That grass isn’t greener. It’s just somewhere else.
So I fit cycling in where I can. It’s not as much as I want, but I’m not interested in displacing any of the other aspects of my life to make more room. There is a see-saw of escape and guilt that goes along with taking long rides, an ever-present feeling of being on borrowed time, of inconveniencing someone else. And rather than seeing that guilt as a bad thing, something to overcome, I choose to see it as a safety valve, the necessary pressure of reality working against the uncheckable wanting of my ego.
Call it homeostasis, call it balance.
This weeks Group Ride asks where the balance is in your life? Are you in the freedom of your youth still, or are you spinning your way happily through retirement? Or are you, like me, fitting it in where you can? How do you manage your commitment to riding against your responsibilities? And are you happy with where you’re at?
My boys start hockey on Saturday. Last night, when I got home, they were cavorting about in the living room with all their pads on, their helmets. My wife had, presciently, forbidden them from bringing the sticks into the house. They were, nonetheless, alight with the prospect of becoming hockey players.
I don’t really know how this happened. I grew up in Alabama, where football is religion, and hockey is something on a channel you don’t pay for. My own father, who is Welsh, only ever played soccer, and I had that from him. The magic of the ball dancing on his foot caught my imagination and lead me to a lifetime love affair with what some call “the beautiful game.”
The bike, an awkward confluence of triangles and circles, performs this trick all on its own. In one moment you are rolling down a paved strip, a parent’s steadying hand gripping the back of your seat, and then you are flying. It’s an epiphany of movement beyond the fragile processing capacity of your young mind, and if you’re here, on RKP, reading these words, you were probably hooked in that moment.
We write about that epiphany a lot, and we glorify it, and it’s a moment and experience worthy of glorification. We ride and ride and chase that feeling of first flight, and even close approximations are worth the chase.
Of course, it’s everything that comes after that’s important. It’s how we fill our lives with the love of motion, either on a bike or on a pair of hockey skates, that leads to fitness and community and experience, the things you learn from and the things that inspire you, the way the movement informs your thinking and shapes your world view.
My boys can hardly skate. They are only just at the wobbly beginning, but as I sat there watching them dismantle the living room, I thought about the lives in front of them and wondered what things would succeed in capturing their burgeoning imaginations. I smiled because I know how good whatever it is will be when it flowers inside them, how much magic can be in that moment, and in everything that comes after.