Learning To Love The Downhill

As I have mentioned before, I grew up biking. When I was five I got my first real bike. Today, it’s what is referred to as a Lowrider; back than it was called a Stingray. I didn’t have any gears but I could go up any hill, and though I probably never took on any mountains, I imagined I was good at the hills, even back then.

I wouldn’t really call myself a biker. Over the years I have used my bike to commute to work. I’ve enjoyed mountain biking, road riding and just cruising around beach towns. I currently have three bikes: a road bike, a mountain bike, and a hybrid (that one is staying on Gabriola for now). Still, I am not as serious about biking as my Dad.

This summer I have learned some interesting things about myself while biking. The most interesting thing has been my relationship to climbing. I love going uphill. Apparently I smile when I start up a major incline. When I first heard this, I thought it was more of a grimace than a smile, but after getting feedback from a number of folks, I realize I enjoy taking on a mountain.

</p> <h1>Always A Smile</h1> </p> <p><a href="www.veeple.com" alt="Veeple Interactive Video">Veeple Interactive Video</a>

I have learned over the years how to shift gears and position myself for good climbing. I like enough tension so I can rise up off my seat for some good leg work and then to sit back down, keeping a good steady accent.

I’m not particularly fast; however, I am consistent. I like breathing hard and feeling a bit of strain in my legs. I love reaching the top and feeling that sense of accomplishment when the climb has been significant.

Oddly though, I don’t like going down. It’s okay. I am generally not fearful but just don’t seem to get the same joy cruising down as I do pedaling up.

Being in Montana with many great climbs close to home, I have had the chance to give this lots of thought. Since I believe; ‘how you do anything is how you do everything’—I am curious about my relationship to mountains and how that might apply to my life.

It’s true, I do my best when facing difficult odds. There have been many examples of this throughout my life. Back when I took tennis, I excelled naturally and was quite good. I could coast and generally win with ease. However, I found myself much more interested in basketball. I wasn’t very good at basketball, but I was determined. Tennis, like riding a bike downhill, was okay, even fun. But basketball, I loved, though it was far from natural. I probably was working harder than anyone else, surprised everyone by making the team, and was best known for my scrappy, not graceful defense. I attacked basketball just like riding up a mountain. Not great, but very consistent, tenacious and always smiling.

Then there’s the whole cancer challenge. In many ways I found life easier facing down chemo, or radiation than dealing with colds and flu.

There are many other examples, like our work. I, for years, enjoyed working with the hardest, most dysfunctional teams. I always found that easier than a team that was doing okay but not great. Related to work, I started to get rethink this approach, and a while back and put a lot of effort into not doing crisis work, and finding the joy and challenge in making a good team, great.

Still I wonder. I imagine life is more like coasting downhill, and yet I’m not sure I would be satisfied with that. Maybe the Croatia coastline was the perfect blend of up and down. No mountains but some great climbs. And while there, I did let myself love the downhill, mainly because the views were awesome.

I am definitely comfortable when climbing. I know what to do, how to pace myself. I am not so good at coasting. I feel sort awkward, not pedaling or not doing anything but steering. It’s so easy to lose control on the downhill. Maybe I am just a touch afraid of letting go. Still, when I turned fifty, many people said, “It’s all downhill from here”.

I have faced and climbed enough mountains. I do believe it’s time to enjoy coasting downhill or at least riding the perfect coastline, letting myself enjoy the views!

This summer in Croatia there were a few major climbs.

Good-bye My Friend!!

Today my good friend Dianne passed away. I got a call about her death just after finishing a yoga class. I cried, laughed, cried and laughed. I wondered about my response, judging myself for feeling such joy and laughter just after hearing she had died. But as I sat and started thinking about Dianne and our many moments together I knew that really the tears were just for me knowing I would miss my friend and the laughter was my joy that she was free at last.

Of course I am sad that Dianne is gone and I will miss her laughter and physical presence the next time I am at The Haven for a Come Alive or any other program. However, Dianne has been struggling in her physical body for a long time and today I had a moment when I thought for sure I could hear her laughing and playing somewhere out there; as light as a feather and without a care in the world.

For me, Dianne was such an interesting person. She in many ways was one of the most grounded, direct and straight-shooting people I have known. I could call her up and start telling her some saga in my life and she could quickly call me on all the many blocks and screens I might toss out there to avoid looking at my own stuff. She could do that with me and she could do that with pretty much anyone who showed up in a group, defended, resistant or overly self-involved. There she was this over-weight, quite unhealthy woman; who was brilliant with group process and making contact with those folks who most would have given up on. Even the last time I saw her and she wasn’t even able to get out of her chair, I found myself just loving talking with her. It was easy to connect.

Sure I was annoyed that she never took care of her own health and that she loved reading much more than walking. I was furious that she would eat cake and too much food yet I still loved Dianne. Her body was always a paradox for me. There she was doing just about everything she could to kill herself and yet her inner world, her spirit was something truly special, a gift for all who were willing to deal with the paradox and get to know Dianne in spite of the war- zone that represented her body.

Even as I write this I feel badly saying negative things about her body. However, that’s just it – she was such a paradox. I loved her deeply and over the years wrestled with how to stay connected even though I had judgments and didn’t like the way she took care of herself. Still I loved it when she was in a group with me either as a participant, an assistant or a leader. I loved working with her. She could be brilliant and many, many times she reminded me why I loved The Haven, the work and what really mattered. Dianne was the essence of the Velveteen Rabbit – she was worn and torn, the stuffing was coming out but she was REAL and she was LOVED!!

Today I imagine much like the story of The Velveteen Rabbit – Dianne is able to jump, leap and let her spirit soar!!