Tuesday, December 31, 2013

stories on the eve of a new year

every morning on my way to class I pass a cyclist on the road.
he wears a backpack, has a bright headlight and a flashing rear light, and is out there at 4:55 a.m.
snow, ice, cold, fair weather:  he's there.
after we pass I watch him, in my rear view mirror, turn up a road that leads to the university of utah medical school, so I've made up a story that he's a dedicated student, a starving student, a student too poor to handle the expenses of a car.
I may be completely wrong:  he could just be a conservationist, all about keeping a small carbon footprint.
or maybe he's recovering from a devastating illness and believes the cycling is an important part of his healing process.
or maybe he just loves fresh air, knowing he'll be trapped in a building for the next ten hours.

probably, his story is nowhere near anything I've just written.

people have stories.  and behind them are the motivations, desires, dreams, compulsions, inspirations, incentives, all the forces that determine behavior.
the fifteen of us sitting on spin bikes this morning at 5:15 all walked in for different reasons and approached our efforts in different ways.
I might say I ride hard so I can eat more, but it's also about self-esteem, self-belief, a physical connection with my body, self-empowerment, adrenaline.  and likely, other motivations I myself might not even recognize.  I can only guess at the motivations behind the actions of the others in that room.

I love people's stories.  there's a local man who rides a bike on many of the same roads I do ~ I've seen him numerous times over the past 18 months or so.  the first time, he was coming down Big Mountain, quickly, as I was laboriously pedaling up, slowly.  I gave a finger wave and he returned it, and as soon as he was past me the picture in my brain told me he only had one leg.
yeah, right.
it's difficult to see someone who's passing you at 38 mph, and easy to assume you saw something you didn't.
the next time I saw him I realized the picture in my brain was accurate:  he has but one leg.
I've seen him a few dozen times now, and each time I am both awed and empowered.  this man is large-as-life proof that we have within us what's needed to overcome anything.  anything.
I don't know him at all, but he is a man with a story.
I want to know his story; I want to write his story.
not the details, not the surface of it, but the guts, the innerworkings.  the things that made him get on a bike and teach himself to pedal with only half of the team most of us have working for us.  to learn to stop and dismount, to get back on and go.
to push up steep hills, to risk fast descents.
something within this man has helped him be stronger and tougher than most anyone I know.

I don't know his motivations, and I'm not going to make them up, other than to acknowledge that something deeply powerful helped this man learn to ride when he had the option to not.

everyone has a story.
and the best stories aren't those that conclude in haste or with nothing but smiles all around.  the best stories have some grit, some pain, a bit of loss, a bunch of growth.
as we move into a new year, I wish for us all a deepening of our own stories, an appreciation of the stories that belong to others, and a continued curiosity of what's around the next bend.

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