Sometimes you just have to smile at your feet. Stop, look down at the happy, crazy socks, marvel at the fact those little plastic things on your cycling shoes make a cool clicking sound at light changes, or perhaps contemplate changing your shoe laces to something loud and fun with bobbles on them. Whatever you do, stop and celebrate the small things.
Over this last week I have faced a whirl of varied emotions that have consumed me and plagued me daily. Brought on by a nagging post-Japan chest infection that won’t disappear, an argument with a teenage son over some dumb mother-son disagreements, frustration at the asthma that rears it’s ugly head every winter and realizing plans I was planning are not going to be. I guess you could say, it was a crap week.
But strangely, yesterday that crap week turned around. What should have been the low point of the week, became unquestionably the high point. You see, this week, I along with a large group of privileged people said goodbye to a very beautiful, funny, outrageous and flamboyant friend who touched all our lives in different but treasured ways. In a eulogy like no other, I was privileged to hear a beautiful reminder of what really is important.
Struck down by an aggressive brain tumour, his beautiful life that infiltrated so many others with his passion and vivacity was cut short. In the eulogy, his younger sister reminded us of our friends’ incredible ability to marvel at the smallest things in life…the ‘oh yes’ when he worked out how to do something on the iPad, or his amazement at a recipe that worked a treat, or even the thrill of finding a great recipe in a magazine destined to be cut-up as a classroom craft activity.
I stopped and thought about this for a long time, and it is probably the most powerful message I take away from the moving service held in the serenity of the riverside location. The juxtaposition of hearing this at the moment the parrots chattered and argued above, the kayakers paddled by and children nearby laughed, were poignant and reminded me of how we forget to just marvel at the smallest of things.
So yesterday I made a vow to stop and smile at the small things. Because they are what keeps us moving when life around us gets through. We had lost a friend and were devastated. But I thought about the small things…the time he commandeered a pink feather boa I had taken into his classroom for a craft day. He proceeded to wear it with pzazz and sing at the top of his voice. Then ensued hilarious conversations of pink flamingos and collective nouns: a flamboyance of flamingos I will never forget. The feather boa is long gone, but his flamboyance not forgotten.
So what the hell does all this have to do with riding bikes? Well I think it has a lot to do with riding bikes. As a person who runs a cycling group I often see the escalation of sometimes unrealistic goals, I see riders pushing themselves beyond what they need and I hear stories of riders feeling the need to ‘do more’. Sometimes, it seems, whatever we do is not good enough. We all like challenges. But at what cost.
We are riding bikes for god’s sake…we are not saving the world! I think we need to stop and remind ourselves to lighten up. That sometimes the challenges set for us, be it on the bike, or in life, simply take the fun away from what we do. When you sit at that coffee shop and hear the tales of the epic ride somebody else has done, don’t beat yourself up that you have nothing to compare. If you see a rider pass you at twice the speed and feel that jealousy creeping in, remember they probably missed the parrots tweeting overhead.
For those on our morning ride today, they heard me screaming squeals of glee as we rounded a corner, yelling ‘Waahoo’ as we tore like kids through the neighbourhood and they maybe even saw me take a photo of my happy, happy socks. They were small things…yells of child-like exhilaration, a laugh about the silly socks I was told looked like a 5 year olds…I was smiling because it was the small things that made my morning fun. I was remembering a sad week, but I was oh so terribly happy.
In hindsight, I now look back on our ride through Japan just 2 weeks ago and wonder what defined it as a ‘lifetime experience’ etched so firmly in my brain. No Garmin, no computer. Just the bike and me – I don’t know how fast I went, or how far we rode. But I do know I laughed at the fogging of my glasses on a rainy day, marveled at the line up of coloured pencils in the lobby of a hotel, was intrigued there was a vending machine at the top of a hill in the middle of nowhere and humbled by the ability of passing cyclists to bow as they passed. Yes, it was the small things that made my ride so unforgettable.
It’s not easy to forget what life struggles or problems we may face beyond a bike ride, or what drives us to push ourselves to the point of exhaustion, or to compete in unspoken rivalry with the rider next to us, and it’s even hard to give up the Garmin! But what is easy, is to stop and think about what small things, tiny things, make us smile. For me, I know a sure bet will always be flamingoes and feather boas…and cheery, sparkly socks! Oh, and a ride without a Garmin! Next ride…try it!
Thank you to Trish Pollard for such wonderful words…taking note of the small things!