Bicycling, Relationships

Riding and Relationships

“Love is supposed to be a little scary because it is uncertain,” states Arthur C. Brooks in his New York Times article, Taking Risks in Love.

When you are in a relationship – whether it’s new or not, you have a choice: you can choose to see the obstacles, focus on them, let them hold you back from pursuing something deeper, or you can choose to see the possibilities, fully engage mentally and emotionally and give it your all.

We teach new cyclists that their bikes follow their eyes. If you want to go up a hill, look up the hill, and your bike will follow. If you want to ride into a tree, fixate on it and chances are you will head straight into it. Stare down at the ground and you may soon meet the pavement. Sounds simple, but we often tend to overcomplicate things. On a bike and in a relationship, look and focus on where you want to go – not where you don’t. The choice is yours.

I don’t expect a relationship to be filled with juicy peaches and effervescent roses every day. I know it will be amazing one day and challenging the next. I am ready for that. In fact, I welcome it. I am more afraid of not fully experiencing life than I am of staying out of it – out of something potentially great due to fear of the unknown or fear of failure.

With the use of modern technology, you can plan a ride down to your heartbeat. You can have a GPS computer with you that tells you where to go and alerts you when you get off course. You can have a heart rate monitor beeping at you to let you know when you’re in certain zones. You can plan your nutrition and hydration. You can perfect your bike, components, training, everything down to a science. Hooray. But still, there are risks.

The best of everything that money can buy, precise planning, and thorough training can only go so far. You could flat. Break a spoke, your chain, your derailleur, or a shifter. You could get hit by a car, a deer, another cyclist, or a UFO. You may freeze or overheat. On any given ride, as in any relationship, there are innumerable risks, and factors out of our control. One thing is certain: there is no way of knowing what will happen if you never get on a bike and go. You might have an epic fail or you might have the ride of your life. And just because you hit a pothole once on a road and flatted, does not mean you’ll hit it again and even if you do, I guarantee it’ll be different from the first time. And bless me, you might even learn something new about yourself.

According to the film Bright Star, John Keats compared poetry to swimming in a lake: “The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore; it’s to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out. It is an experience beyond thought.”  The same is true of relationships. What is the point of getting into one, if you’re not going to luxuriate in it for a while and take it in for all its glory and murkiness?

Pro cyclist, Jens Voigt, says not trying means 0% chance of success, yet if you try, make a move, go for a break, you have a 10% chance of success…Going for and sticking with something scary and uncertain in a race, on a ride, or in love offers far greater reward than abstaining from the risk.

You can surround yourself with big, fluffy airbags, might be tough to walk, but you’d be safe and secure and you’d never get hurt. You can protect yourself from feeling pain by staying single, playing the field, not committing, remaining indifferent to others affections, and not getting into a relationship, or by ending one abruptly. But you’re also keeping yourself from the possibility of feeling the greatest love you’ve ever experienced.

Me? I’ll take the risk: Fully present, fully engaged, relishing the ride. Giving the best of our complete selves in a relationship is imperative not only for the other person’s benefit, but also for ourselves.

Taking a chance, falling, getting back up, giving someone my heart and having it broken may hurt a lot for a week, a month, or a year. But our bodies, minds and souls are ever more resilient than we think and are capable of enduring and overcoming seemingly insurmountable pain, especially when you have amazing friends and family to cushion the falls and help make sense of the senselessness.

If friends or family aren’t or can’t be there for you, you can always hold your own hand through painful experiences and pull yourself back up and into a new chapter of life. (Thank you for that tip dear Jennifer N. Miller.)

Let’s be bold and brave like Jens and Mr. Brooks. And “live everything,” as Rainer Marie Rilke encourages. Every experience, every relationship becomes a part of us. They help us learn and grow. It’s all a part of the ride, the journey to ourselves.