Posts Tagged ‘Guest Post’

Guest Post: Overcoming Inertia

Here’s a post from my husband on his bike commute to work yesterday:

As part of our commitment to a month with only one car, I knew I wanted to do something that I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, but never had the courage to try–bike to work. As far as commutes go, I have one of the easiest in Los Angeles. In a town where people regularly sit in one to two hours of traffic, I am blessed to get in my car, and drive less than 10 minutes. Furthermore, the route that I take is also one of the easiest to bike: it is almost entirely flat, near the ocean, with a dedicated bike lane the entire way. LA is definitely not known as a bike-friendly town, which makes this all the more remarkable.

So why did it take me so long to start biking in to work? Mostly convenience, partly inertia, and a little bit of trepidation starting out on an unknown adventure. Even with the one-car commitment, I was more than happy to be driven in to work rather than go to the trouble of filling my tires, packing a change of clothes, getting up a half hour early, and rolling out the door on my bike.

But one of the great blessings of married life is that you are never alone on an adventure into the unknown. My wife, somehow sensing my reluctance, suggested last weekend that we take a ride together to a place that’s in the general vicinity of work. Once I saw that the ride was manageable, I knew I could summon the courage to face it on a workday.

I headed out on the road this morning and discovered that not only was there nothing to fear, but that it was downright enjoyable. It’s funny how a change in context brings things into focus that we formerly ignored. I was conscious of every crack in the road, every conspicuous stone, every bump and rise of the road in a way that I never am in a car. Also, without the distraction of the radio, I was alone with my thoughts, my exertions, my sensations. How often do we turn on the radios in our cars without even thinking about it, not really embracing the possibility of a small moment of solitude?

As I made my way along the route, I came to a red light where another biker was also waiting. He was dressed in racing gear and had a professional looking bike. He was a Serious Biker. This is the kind of guy you see traveling in a flock of multicolored bike riders on a Saturday morning; but he was traveling alone today on his own commute. I said good morning, but he did not acknowledge my presence. Perhaps, he was still mentally in his car, shut off from the other commuters, safe behind close windows and air conditioning. Or perhaps this was a meet-not. In romantic comedies, there’s always the meet-cute, that first memorable time the two main characters encounter one another. Los Angelenos have mastered a whole new technique: avoiding actual connections with people by pretending that they just don’t hear them, or see them. The typical reaction one gets walking past someone on the sidewalk is no eye-contact, no words spoken, no acknowledgment when you say hello. They do not want to meet you, even at the most cursory level.

After my meet-not with the Pro, he took off at a faster pace than me. That was fine with me, since we were coming up on a small rise. Even a small hill still poses a challenge for one of my modest abilities, so I was happy not to have someone stuck grumbling behind me. Yet once I crested the rise, I saw that he had stopped and was drinking some water. Was he catching his breath? Maybe he was showing off and ended up over-exerting himself. As I passed him, I felt a small tug of pride–I had overtaken the Pro. I rolled down the other side of the rise and came to a stop at the traffic light, waiting for it to change. When it went green, I started pedaling, picking up speed, when I felt the whoosh of air beside me as the Pro flew by. He had been waiting at the top, timing his descent for the change of the light. All my pride was deflated in that moment, which was probably the best thing the Pro could have done for me.

At the end of my ride, I had spent 30 minutes on a bike instead of 10 minutes in my car, and every bit of it was worth it. Instead of the misplaced pride of my earlier episode, I felt the pride of work truly earned. I also felt a deep gratitude for the gift of being able to choose this for myself and not by circumstance. For those who cannot afford a vehicle, a bike is often also a luxury item. They must commute by bus, which may mean a significant amount of extra travel time. For example, the same 10 minute car commute would take at least 45 minutes with a transfer in between. I also felt gratitude for being able to face my day with the health required to make this ride, and joy in being able to share the experience with my wife, who was with me in spirit the entire way.

As my wife would remind me, we always have a choice about how we can approach something. Today, I chose to approach my commute with joyfulness, gratitude, and an open heart. I can only pray for the grace to live thus everyday.

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