Moving Meditations

I’ve been riding my bike a lot in the past week and a half. Well, okay, so it’s not my bike — it’s a loaner from my step mom, who never rides it but keeps it propped up in the garage just in case. My car’s AC compressor went south on me, so while it was in the auto shop, I was zipping around town on my step mom’s amazing bike.It’s really my favorite bike ever — rides like a dream, the crank and chain sound like a little cat purring with each revolution, and it’s light enough to lift with one hand.

Ridingย is like a meditation for me. It helps keep my eyes forward and my body focused on the narrow lane ahead of me. Even when my thighs are scream up a steep hill and my shoulders start to weep under the pressure of holding my torso at a 45-degree angle over the handlebars, I love it.

Riding was a big source of serenity for me last summer, early in my sobriety. It started as a necessity at first, again because my car was being a brat and was in the repair shop for nearly 2 weeks. This was about 3 weeks before I finally got sober. Without another source of transportation, I asked my step mom if I could borrow her road bike to make the 8.5-mile trek from their house out in the suburbs to my office downtown. She obliged, and my obsession with bike commuting began.

The first few rides were kind of excruciating on my poor quads and painful for my butt. I remember ending the first week completely and totally exhausted. But the second week, I jumped back on and found a little bit of extra strength with each day I rode. Eventually, I got my car back, but I kept riding a few days a week. And then, when I got sober, the bike became a lifeline for me.

I remember a few rides home, the July afternoons hot, humid and brutal in a way only the midwest can be. Sweat was dripping from beneath my helmet and all down my back as I pedaled myself up hills and through forested trails back home. I would cry to myself behind my sunglasses, being so freshly sober and raw, my whole core feeling as jagged as an exposed nerve. I biked through the streets of downtown, past my favorite bar, and up the huge hill leading to my dad and step mom’s home, where I was living at the time. Exhausted as I was, there were a few times when I jumped right back on the bike and rode for another hour, just to get my shaky energy out. I needed a tangible way to expel all of the intensities I was feeling, and riding was it. As I rode, I repeated to myself: if I can get through this physical pain and exertion, I can get through anything. If I can get through this one last ride, I can get through being sober tonight. If I can just get through this, I can get through tonight and last until tomorrow morning.

I rode and rode and rode. I rode my bike to and from work all the way through October, until the mornings became frosty and the weather threatened snow. Winter came, the roads slicked over and the bike went into hiding. I moved out in March and had to leave the bike behind.

It wasn’t until a week ago that I managed to convince my step mom to part with it again, as my car went back into the shop. The tires were deflated and the brakes unhooked. But after some tuning and truing, I had the sweet thing back.

It feels nice to ride. I’ve ridden at night a few times, after the streets have fallen quiet and the nighttime alley cats come out to play. I’ve ridden up and down the city’s cross-town trails, to work in the mornings and back home in the afternoons, 8 miles out to my boyfriend’s apartment, and 8 miles back. Tonight I rode 15 miles, down the greenway trail to the lake, ’round the lake and back home. I rewarded myself with a slice of french silk pie and a LaCroix.

Riding is a meditation for me. It was a rock that helped keep me sober earliest days, and continues to be a centering force for me this summer as I rediscover riding as a city-dweller. It makes me feel more empowered than a car and more independent than walking. If I were brave enough to withstand a midwest winter on a bike, I would.

I’m thankful for this continued rock of sobriety, 1+ year into my journey. I hope each and every one of my sober friends here find something similarly grounding and centering to hold you through your rough patches and lift you higher during your successes.

โค Em, day 387

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