Barbara was telling me about a recent tandem biking trip in Croatia. One ride, with her spouse and another couple, was up a very steep mountain grade toward a quaint village several miles away. The other pair was outpacing them and kept stopping to wait while Barbara and Joe tried to catch up. Eventually, the faster couple went ahead. At the end of the ride, the woman on the other bike approached the trip leader to ask about tandem bike etiquette in such situations: “Do you leave them? Do you wait?” Billl, the leader, said unequivocally, “Everybody’s gotta ride their own ride.”
We all need to ride our own ride in life. I think of this in terms of pacing – of career, of relationships, of child-rearing or empty-nesting, and especially of finding our sense of Self. There is no predetermined pace for us to get to the end of our ride, to the top of our mountain. But this is easier said than done.
So quickly, it seems, we can forget to check in with ourselves and see what feels right and possible for us at the moment. It is so easy to “compare our insides with others’ outsides,” as they say in the Twelve Step community. In the ride up the mountain, it could have been so easy for Barbara to feel like she wasn’t as good as the other riders, or to begin to judge herself and Joe for trying this difficult ride, or to feel badly about how difficult it was and to wish she had made another choice that day. In fact, she shared that she definitely felt these things to varying degrees. And they didn’t make it to the quaint village. They turned around, exhausted, and returned to the home base to rest.
What’s your metaphorical ride in your life now? Mine happens to be a renovation project that has not gone as I had hoped. It has taken much longer “than it should have,” it has been more challenging to come to decisions with my partner “than it should have,” and I have not been as clear about my needs as quickly or clearly “as I should have.” Listen to me “shoulding” on myself! I am not riding up this mountain with very much self-compassion, am I?
Here’s a truth, as we ride our own rides: many of these rides in life are just plain hard. The path is steeper, longer, more challenging that we anticipated or feel that we can handle. And here is the opportunity: to ride our own ride. To accept where we are, to focus on what we need to do to make it around the next bend, to stop and take a break when we need to, and sometimes to go back to home base and re-group. And – I believe this is so important and so tender – to forgive ourselves when we do not “ride” as well as we would like.
This week, I am going to use this metaphor to “ride my own ride” with my challenging project. I will be taking a lot of deep breaths, because I already know this ride is a difficult one for me. How about you? What ride are you on today?