Tuesday, July 27, 2010

bike lesson

Spin – click. Spin – click. Spin – click. 

What the hell?
I dismount my bike and look closely at chain, wheel, pedals. Is something catching? Out of alignment? I can't tell and the deer flies have already found me. They're ruthless and equipped with flesh-seeking fangs, so with a quick leg up, I'm spinning again on this ribbon of pavement curling through the woods. 

Spin – click. Spin – click. Spin – click. 

It's there with every pedal stroke. It distracts me. Annoys me. But like it or not it's coming with me and I'll just have to deal. So I focus on the hill ahead and pulling up not just pushing down and the sound of my breath in my ears. I remind myself to melt my shoulder blades down my back and to draw in my core and fully fill my lungs.

The clicking fades to my periphery, diluted as I open to all the scenery and sensations waiting to be noticed.
Five minutes elapse and suddenly the sound is at center stage again, shooting right through me. But I shove it into the wings as I scan the woods and take a drink and lengthen my neck and blow some snot.

The clicking continues to bubble to the top of my consciousness at random intervals, but I get so good at shifting my awareness that it takes nothing from my ride.

This letting go takes practice, I find. I lack the natural ability to easily refocus my attention once it's gotten snagged and reeled in by some menial irritation. And there are a million little things that can do it, that can seep through my floorboards, flood my mind, and fill me with unnecessary frustration: The particular timbre of whiney voices. Giggling in the bathroom while the baby naps on the other side of that thin wall. Toys on the kitchen table. Car keys misplaced when one foot's already out the door. Can I have more before I've even lifted my fork. Chaos when I'm craving calm. Mouth-open chewing and guzzle-slurp drinking. A rough night punctuated by a premature dawn. Insistent persistence when I've already said no. A slow, slow pace when the endpoint is so near. Tattling. Crabbing and commotion while I'm trying to cook dinner. Kids who still need something after goodnight.

I tune into these insignificant clickings and they sound so loud in my ears. So distracting. So annoying. And suddenly I'm not enjoying right now at all because all my spotlights are trained on the one thing I'm cupping in my palm and the heat is burning my skin. I hate my frustration and fairly short fuse. It's not something I want to model to my children.

So I'm taking this lesson straight off the bike. I'll acknowledge the day's clickings and admit my irritation. But I'll widen my gaze and notice all the other details that make up that moment:

The scent of garlic still on my fingers. Weeds carefully saved in a table-top drinking glass. Somewhere Over the Rainbow sung unselfconsciously off key. A burst of soapy mint when I wash my hands. Big eyes watching me. Sunlight dripping down the wall. Cold kitchen tile under too-warm feet. Onesies flapping on the laundry line. The same breeze fingering the curtains. The moon, visible in the daytime sky. Lungs thick with breath, veins fat with blood.

All this is here, too. All the time. Treefruits mine for the taking. Golden apples bound to sweeten my mood.
And with practice, perhaps I can retrain my mind to hear but not fixate upon whatever it is that's clicking.

[And though I'm grateful for this lesson, I'm still going to ask John to fix whatever is out of whack on my bike…]