At the moment, my son is driving his toy cars off an old board onto the frozen lawn. The sun is shining. His down jacket is unzipped. His pant cuffs are soaked through. He is, although not consciously, supremely happy. Watching him makes me so as well.
Today I had a meeting in town. I rode my bike to get there. I should ride my bike more often, or so I have told myself many times. Doing so today made me realize that I have been right. I rode only about three miles each way–not far–but I felt great. On the way in, the temperature was in the twenties. Leavensworth Road, my route to avoid traffic, was frozen. It was so frozen in a couple of spots that I had to walk. I felt the cold, the wind, my muscles moving. I felt alive.
It seems so simple: I take a little more time to ride rather than drive and I feel so much better. The only disadvantage to biking is that it takes more time. Most of the time that isn’t even a disadvantage. As long as I have the time to take, it is worth it. The ride home was muddy. Leavensworth Road had thawed out. I got a little splattered but I had fun, I got a bit tired and I smelled the world rather than just zipped by it. I need to do that more often.
On Saturday I stood in front of 400 people and presented a bunch of information about paying for college. I had planned for it and I had been looking forward to it. Five minutes before start time I realized that I felt a little nervous; not much, but enough that I forgot to introduce myself. Other than that it went well. I think I provided enough information in a way that worked for most people. Driving home (too far to bike that day), I felt great.
I realized that the positive feeling came from my pushing myself. That was the largest crowd to which I had presented, and the topic is one that those present feel is important, even have anxiety over, so I took some risks. I took a risk even volunteering to do it. Because I took risks, however, because I stepped outside my comfort zone, the reward was high enough to make me feel pretty good.
I need to take on these challenges more frequently. I need to take risks, to push myself, to try new things. A lesson for me, one I have learned more than a few times, is that I need to simply step forward and try. When opportunites come my way that seem intimidating, I need to say yes. It is easy to stay within my comfort zone. It is easy to do more of what I already know. But if I want to feel alive, I need to make things a little harder for myself.
On my ride this morning, my biggest fear was not that I would be late or that I would forget how to ride, but that I would get stuck in my peddle clips. I have a tough time getting out of them sometimes. I practiced on the driveway on my way out, in fact. Nonetheless, when I had to stop to cross a big patch of ice, I could not get my left foot out, leaned that way, and hit the dirt, literally. It made me grumpy for a moment, but then I remembered how fortunate I was to be where I was, doing something so amazing. I took a fall, but I got up and kept going.
That’s the thing. I can’t be afraid to take a fall. So I get a little dirty and my ego gets bruised. So what? No one but me even had to know it happened. So often we are afraid to let others know we have made a mistake, and that makes us afraid to take a risk where we might make a mistake. But I don’t want to sit with friends and tell them how I almost tried something but didn’t. I want to give them a good story, and often the best stories are ones where we fall down but then get up and keep going and, ultimately, are rewarded. That is the kind of story I want to tell.
If we take risks enough, we feel comfortable, given some time. We can get in the groove. Before long, we can be happy without even knowing why. If we are lucky, we are happy without even being aware of it. And if we take the time to pick up our pile of toy cars from the grass, we might even get the chance to try it again.