first of all, I know that I am technically not a girl. I am well beyond girlhood. but ever since I was small, the word "woman" has meant to me serious, matronly, and older-than-I-ever-want-to-be. therefore I find it difficult to call myself a woman. ugh. so forgive me this quirk, if you will. I am thrilled to be female, and don't have a bit of a problem being 47, but the terms "woman" and "ma'am" just don't sit well with me.
second, I know that I've explained much of this before. if you've read my little intro to myself, I give a pretty good overview of how it happened. but I still catch myself by surprise sometimes, as I did this morning, taking my bike off the car and putting it on its stand. how did I come to be this person?
given those caveats, I don't want to so much explain it again; I more want to muse about the process and its impact on the fabric of who I am.
because it has become a significant part of who I am, and 3 years ago it was barely a handful of threads that draped themselves around me. through it all I have gained physical strength, both physical and mental endurance, courage, wisdom, patience, and an increased sense of capacity and resilience.
I have made new friends, and redefined "leisure activity" for myself.
I have watched the subtle changes in my musculature, and I have given up the need to always look good.
it began so simply: this is what I find fascinating. from simple exercise to a desire to reach every rideable peak around . . . it certainly didn't remain as simple exercise. it touched some core piece of me that latched onto the challenge, and the desire to achieve.
john was explaining to me the other day that he just didn't see what was fun about grinding away, riding up a steep hill, mile after mile.
it's not fun, I replied.
but there are aspects of it similar to any challenging workout, when you know your muscles are giving it their all and it's hard but they are capable and willing and it's almost a head game, all coming down to mind over matter.
and then you reach the top, and the sense of accomplishment overwhelms all pain and suffering. the reward is the peak, the summit, the knowledge that you got there through hard work, extreme efforts and, at times, sheer will. you and your body worked hand in hand, foot by foot, to reach a magnificent goal.
this feeling cannot be duplicated.
a few decades back one of the big phrases was to get a "natural high," as opposed to a drug-induced one. I know endorphins kick in at certain points during exercise, but the joy of being on top of a mountain pass that you have climbed to on your bicycle is an all-encompassing, long-lasting high that will never, ever be captured and cloned and made available in pill form.
you have to just go do it yourself.
live the actual experience.
and perhaps this is one of the greatest rewards I've earned through the biking process in my life: the lesson that I can choose my own pleasures and reap great joy from my own accomplishments.
I will never be the fastest, the strongest, the best at anything on a bicycle.
but I can be the fastest, strongest, best me on a bicycle, whenever I choose.
and I am darn pleased and mighty comfortable being this girl.