I am sitting in a hotel in Boston writing this update while my wife is at a business meeting. We used the excuse of her business trip to get away and celebrate our ten year anniversary. We figured that if she was going to be in Boston on our anniversary we might as well have a long weekend away. It is amazing to me that we have been together so long, yet it seems like we just met yesterday. I can’t really imagine my life without her, although as a man with a crazy imagination that isn’t exactly true. What is exactly true is I don’t want to imagine my life without her because it would be a sad an empty life.
Meeting my wife quite literally save me. I was going through a dark time and I didn’t know how to turn things around. I had broken up with a long term girlfriend a couple of years before and I still couldn’t manage to shake off the depression that I found myself in. I have never been good at meeting people, at least not romantically, and I was beginning to worry if I ever would. That was part of the reason I was still struggling with a breakup that happened that far back. I had always wanted to marry my high school sweetheart because then I wouldn’t have to date. Even though we realized just how wrong we were for each other, there was a part of me that refused to let go. It was unhealthy, but I couldn’t change that part of myself. I had let the memory of my old girlfriend go, but not the idea that I was supposed to marry someone and I had missed my chance.
Once I had convinced myself I wouldn’t meet anyone, I didn’t. Looking back on that time I can see that there were other women who would have probably been interested in me if I gave them a chance. I did date from time to time, but never anything serious. I can also see now that I have always had more of an issue with my self-image and how overweight I was that I let it get in the way of meeting new people.
The night we met I just talked to Katie. She was so interesting that I forgot to question myself. I was so wrapped up in her and her story that I forgot to be a prisoner to my own. There was nothing too dramatic about her story, but she was the one telling it and that was what was captivating me. We talked all night and then spent many more on the phone. We were more like teenagers in love than college students. It took a lot for her to break through my walls of self-doubt and insecurity, but I finally figured out just how much she cared for me. Soon we met each other’s family and everything moved so fast and so easy that I think no one was surprised when we were engaged very quickly. We spent the next five years moving around and finishing our degrees and then we were married in March 2014. I look back on those five years and I can’t believe that we waited that long to get married, but at the same time I think that those same five years made us a better couple. We spent a lot of that time living in separate states and starting our careers so that when we finally did get married we were two adults coming together and each bringing separate experiences to the relationship.
My wife changed my life by forcing me to change my perception of myself. I couldn’t believe that I didn’t have worth if she loved me. Katie dragged me kicking and screaming out of my depression. It is something that I was struggling with then, and it is something that I still struggle with from time to time now.
Years later cycling would do the same thing for me. I was sick of being fat and old. I was struggling with depression and unemployment. My personal life was great, my wife, son, and family all loved and supported me as I dealt with searching for a job and doing what I could to make ends meet. I began coping with depression when I found that I could do something about being fat. I began riding my bike because I couldn’t run. I could barely ride my bike, but it helped clear my head. It gave me something to do with my time and got me away from my job search for a little while.
Gradually I began to stretch out my mileage and that helped me feel better physically. When I felt better physically it gave me some positive progress to look to when other problems seemed insurmountable. I finally found a job and that took a lot of stress off my plate. I kept riding because even now it is as much psychological therapy as it is physical fitness for me. Nothing helps me find balance quite like getting out and putting miles on my bike.
Getting out on the bike for a couple of hours is a mental break from whatever is causing me stress in the rest of my life. There is a certain Zen-like space that cycling creates. You must be in the moment to ride with traffic. You must concentrate on other road users to maintain your safety as you navigate the streets, but you must also let go of worry or you will be consumed by doubt and not be able to ride. You have to be mindful of your body and limits as you ride to avoid bonking, dehydration, or injury; but you can’t lose the focus on your ever changing surroundings or you will find yourself in danger. You can only ride your bike. You can’t worry about work, budgets, schedules, and other stresses as you ride, you can only ride. You can only exist in the moment, and the only tension is the chaos that is cycling.
The curious part to all of this is that as you exist in your Zen-like space, your subconscious mind is busy solving your problems and dealing with your stress. Your conscious mind is dealing with cycling and is fully engaged in the activity leaving your subconscious to wander and analyze problems in a very non-linear way and often times find surprising solutions. There have been many times that I have finished a ride and stumbled upon a solution to a problem at the same time, even though I can’t remember too much about the ride or even once thinking about the problem.
The best part about both my wife and cycling is how both came into my life when I least expected them, but needed them most. I wasn’t looking for anything the night I found my wife. She just walked into my life and instantly made it better, showing me hope when I desperately needed some. She has opened me up to new experiences and supported me as I tackled some of my biggest challenges. I would have never finished college if it wasn’t for her, or believed that I could write a blog every week for a year. I started cycling to work on one problem but ended up finding something that continues to give back to me almost every day in new ways. I have started the blog, made countless new friends, and managed to get a little less fat. Not too bad for something I did to get away from the computerized job search.