After two nights of insomnia, finally 9 hours lost to blessed sleep in which there was plenty of meandering the switchbacks on the crazy quilt ways of dreams. Morpheus, the god of dream-studded sleep, seems to have taken a fancy to my bicycle – preferring to come by my house only after I've been on a bike ride or to a spin class, or whatever other wheels I have set in motion to attract him.
Here in California, we’ve had weeks of sun, dry weather, all perfect for riding the bike, but I have been battling a cold or flu that has been coming and going for weeks now. I have also been slowed down by achy joints, which seemed to get an extra layer of rust as I sat for longer stretches lately at the computer working at a project and learning a few new tricks about old subjects, like layout, design, HTML, CSS … and the list goes on. But yesterday, with the prospect of lighter traffic on account of the Super Bowl, I just had to get on the bike, stuffy nose and achy joints be damned. And ride I did, at times effortlessly, at other times awkwardly. I even fell once (cleats and wardrobe malfunctions), but I pedaled on, lapping up the wind in my face, the scenery to the left and right and undulating before going blurry in my peripheral vision.
I recently read a short reference in the Wall Street Journal to a psychological study that shows how the active pursuit of happiness beats waiting for it to come out from some activity or other. As a born pessimist, because yes, some of us are just born this way, the pursuit of happiness always struck me as odd or, at times, delusional. But not the pursuit of health and fitness; that I could throw myself into whole-hearted, so to speak. That’s because when my workout reaches a point where fatigue sends out the siren call to get me to stop, but I ignore it and keep on righting the keel back to the flow of motion, something magical happens to emotion. I become someone else. An optimist. Eek! Suddenly the problems I thought overwhelming and without a solution, become tasks that are not only manageable but also have a number of easy ways out.Yes, a number. Possibilities galore.
If I learned one thing from my last couple of years of fitness efforts is that my body craves happiness and is my staunchest ally. Not so much my mind, I am realizing. In fact, there have been the times my mind has outright sabotaged my body’s simple and uncomplicated pursuit of happiness. Like a Luddite, pissed about the change in the manufacture of good feelings, it went on strike and let me go on and on with training beyond reason, leaving the joints, already worn by age and predisposition to damage, weakened and in constant pain. I used to thin this was bad judgment, but now I see it for what it is: a pathetic plea to keep the mind in the shade, where it's the most comfortable.
So now, along with a more reasonable training routine, I am also trying to get that old mind to stretch its rusted joints. We are starting with small steps, like getting it to dabble in affirmations. Keeping it focused on learning new things. Having it engage in lots of face-to-face conversations with other minds for which the bright side is the natural habitat. Taking away its sizeable collection of “what ifs” and getting it to prune through its high pile of “worst case scenarios.” This task, at times, is harder than cycling uphill without that granny gear on my bike. But cycling uphill without the granny gear lately helped me devise much of this diversionary plan to get my mind on a happier track. Some of the tactics of this plan are obvious to my mind and it goes along with them for now, to humor me.
The other tactics, well, they might be a little more sly, like the one that’s in place to throw off the wheels of future worries by “canning” little random notes of the good things that happen in the “here and now” in a jar to be opened and enjoyed at some moment in that sad future endlessly foretold by a mind stuck in a muddy track.