E-Z Joy (Or, Dancing Around the Kitchen with Maisy)

I’m about to go for a bike ride, but before I do, I thought I'd take a few minutes to write about joy. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been in a bit of a dark spiral for the past month or so. My anxiety’s not so extreme that I can’t leave the house, say, for five days of powder skiing in British Columbia, but it tends to rear its jittery head out of the blue, during particularly mundane moments, like when I’m driving home from an errand and I can’t stop wondering if someone I love is, right that minute, choking on a grape. Huh?

This isn't an especially relaxing way to live, so the other day I went to see a somatics coach who specializes in helping clients overcome trauma. The goal of somatics is to use body awareness to self-regulate anxiety. In my case, the birth of Maisy and diagnosis and subsequent death of my dad were stacked so closely together that I didn’t have time to digest them properly. All the joy and grief are still swirling around inside me, like a traffic jam of emotions, creating bottlenecks of pain in my body: a perpetually stiff neck, a sore wrist, and a ring finger swollen from a six-month-old tennis injury. The tingling I’ve been feeling in my fingers and toes and scalp is all that confused energy looking for an exit. 

Calming the mind by quieting the body is the best way to let this pent-up trauma go. My somatics coach, Sylvie, asked me some questions about my dad, and then interrupted periodically to say, “Notice what you’re feeling in your body.” Tingly ankles and buzzing shins, a weird pinch in my neck, thoughts whirling through my brain like turkey buzzards that were always circling my dad’s Virginia farm. She taught me a few deep-breathing exercises to settle myself. Then she asked me to tell her about a moment of joy from my day. I thought and thought. I couldn’t think of anything. How could this be? I have a nine-month old baby who smiles constantly, laughs without prompting, waves at anyone who so much looks at her, and is butchering a new consonant every day. How could I not have felt joy?

I left her office determined to pay closer attention. The next morning, I sat in the playroom as the sun streaked in the windows and read to Maisy. She sat on my lap through about two pages of What Does Baby Do? and then squirmed off, eager to crawl, an inchworm nosing her way around the room. I finished the book and started Biscuit’s Walk in the Woods. Maisy steamrollered her way up my legs and launched over the other side, lingering on my lap long enough to finger the soft downy clouds on the page, the turtle’s hard shell. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d sat in a quiet room, alone with Maisy, and read to her. I picked up a New Yorker story about the Lightning Fields in southern New Mexico and kept reading aloud. She dove headfirst toward the magazine and began to clumsily gum the pages—a sure sign of approval. "This is the state of your birth," I told her. She gazed at me with saucer eyes and grinned. After a while, I stuck her on the red rocking moose for her maiden voyage. She squealed and flapped her arms. I knew she was happy. I was happy, drunk on simple joy. In the kitchen, I put on the kiddy music CD and spun her around to the music. It was so easy, I couldn’t possibly forget. 


Everyday Meditation

order out of chaos: barrel cactus @ the Getty 
This is going to be a short post because I’m experimenting with something new: finding focus and presence in the little moments that life presents us. I have been scattered and anxious lately, fallout from my father’s death and life on the hamster wheel with two small children, one of whom is a newly mobile nine-month-old. I know I’m too busy when I don’t have time for writing practice or learning to cook, both of which tether me in a reassuring way to the present moment, where I can slow down and breathe and find a stillness that grounds and exhilarates me.

A few days ago, a wise person offered me some advice: Stop depending on peace and quiet to meditate and write and breathe Sure, it’s nice to sit in the deep stillness of the house while two girls sleep and listen to the refrigerator hum and know that the dishes are washed and the surfaces of my brain are neat, wiped clean and open to whatever arises. But, let’s face it, those moments are fleeting and increasingly rare. So instead of wallowing in resentment, wishing for something that no longer is, he suggested in all seriousness that I find stillness in the chaos and meditate in the madness.

I had to laugh, picturing Pippa in the bathtub and me sitting in lotus on the floor, zoned out in a mama trance while she flings her duckies and squeals with laughter and flaps her little legs, splashing water all over me and the floor. Even as I was laughing at the lunacy of it, though, I knew he had a point. It’s easy to write and be mindful when small children aren’t underfoot, but it’s essential to do it when they are. This is the practice of parenting, and if I had to guess, I’d say it will be the biggest challenge of my life.

I tried it the other day. I didn't really have a clue what to do, so I improvised. We were going out on an errand. Maisy was already strapped into her car seat, while Pippa insisted on climbing in on her own. (“I do it!” is her mantra these days.) I was impatient, hurrying her along, when it hit me: This is what he means. I could rush the moment with my own maternal heavy hand, blowing dragon-mama steam out my nose, or just breathe in and out and let her be. So I thought, Who cares? and stood there gazing out at the fattening buds on the elm tree as she went through her little routine, retrieving her pacifier from its net, peering in at Maisy, and then finally swinging her legs in under her and plunking down in her seat. I got in two or three deep breaths. It was shockingly restful—a microscopic oasis in my day. I didn’t write a single word or have a single creative idea or sit cross-legged repeating my mantra with a drowsy half-smile on my face. I just stood there, looking out at the world and letting her be who she was at that moment.

I liked it so much I think I might try it again. And in the meantime, I will shove the Sunday newspaper off the dining room table and prop open my laptop in this brief 20-minute window before doing the dishes and going to bed and write a few words and breathe….

Feathering the Nest

(A writing excercise on the term "Overdue")

Our nest is ready. We wait. We wait some more for our fourth. I am settling into the tension of being asked perpetually by well-wishers and wanting to be in this sacred space of anticipation. It is hard to be the watched pot. The texts, the emails, the phone calls, the random inquisitions about the progress of my cervix, my effacement, the station of the baby in my canal. The obnoxious comments of, “Wow, you look like you haven’t dropped at all,” loudly called out by a neighbor in a crowded restaurant. I wanted to bop her. It interrupts my rhythm of waiting and my baby’s. I feel like I should be further along in this progress of birth by everyone else’s expectations, but I root myself into my reality and wait.

To be in this present moment I savor my last days of squirmy movements, feet in ribs, butt in upper lung area, head in pelvis. When I roll from one side to the other at night and feel my baby reposition himself to either side fingers grasp at lower hip, feet push off my sides, a head that swirls like the hair that swirls on his head in growth. A sage friend of mine reminded me today that the best gift I could give this child now was to allow him to enter this world on his own time and rhythm. This child is gentle, and harmonious, and beautiful, and grounded, and rooted, and spiritual. And the sooner I honor these gifts and his desire to come on his own terms the better able I will to mother his fullness, his gifts, out of his shy nature into brilliance.

I find myself at times already catapulting my kids from the nest as I sit and write this. I see my mom and how she has aged and dealt with the empty nest and I rally against it. She seems sad…and somehow I inhibit this sadness as I think of the inevitable; missing my present. I am not my mother, nor will I be and what fills my time now will shift but my life will remain full and vibrant. Sage wisdom from an older mom I was told when I had Finn, “That as mothers our jobs are to create memories.” To elaborate on her thought, the only way to do this is to be fully alive in the present.

The more tuned in I am to my own rhythm and allow my children the honor to be in tune with their rhythms the healthier and might I venture happier we all will be and become. Such joy and excitement as we await for our number four!


Ripped from the Nest(s)

A few days ago, I rode a snowmobile out of the mountains. It was just after 7 AM and across the valley, the Valhalla Range glowed orange in the new day. After two switchbacks, we left the sun behind and buzzed beneath Western red cedars that smelled moist and alive, like spring. The sky was scraped clear of clouds and a brilliant, unapologetic blue, and as we hurtled through the forest, I felt both fantastically grateful and a little bit sad. 

The ski season was officially over, and so was my stay at Snowwater, a ridiculously gorgeous wilderness lodge at 5,400 feet in the Bonnington Range nine miles outside of Nelson, British Columbia. For the past four days, I’d been holed up in the mountains with some of the raddest adventure women in Canada, skiing untracked powder, doing yoga, practicing silent meditation, and learning the basics of holistic nutrition. This was all part of the inaugural Cat Sass, a women’s-only “empowderment” retreat run by local ski guide and adventure entrepreneur Galena Pal. 

Galena is 27 and has worked at some of the best backcountry ski lodges in British Columbia, where 99.9 percent of the guests are men. Desperate to change that, she invented Cat Sass and enlisted the help of her friends to teach yoga and nutrition, pamper us with spa treatments and massages, and guide us down some of the sickest lines we’d ski all winter (well, in my case, some of the only lines I’d ski all winter). 

loading up Snocat, leaving spring behind 
Crazily enough, I’d been on the fence about going. Driving out of Santa Fe before dawn last Friday, my two girls at home sleeping in their cribs, I’d chanted to myself “You can do this, You can do this.” For 9 months I’d felt trapped and antsy in the baby bubble, desperate for some room to roam. Now that I was finally breaking out—just me and my breast pump!—I felt like I was being torn from my baby, and she from me. I wasn't sure I wanted to go.  

But then I boarded the plane to Salt Lake City and there were no tiny children clinging to me and I could actually read a magazine—two!—and the fog lifted from my brain and I had six or so creative thoughts in a row, one of which was This is pretty great. And then I got on the next flight to Spokane and I might have actually dozed off, and no one was yammering at me, and I was officially GONE! Outta there. All the anxiety and pointless fretting and gloomy what-ifs had vanished, and in their place: sweet freedom!

Many hours later I was on a SnoCat rumbling up the road to Snowwater, with a bunch of Canadian women. We were still strangers to each other, so I didn’t know that one of them was a former expert downhill mountain biker who’d crashed so many times, and so hard, she now suffered from constant migraines, or one had helped invent a sport called noboarding (that’s snowboarding without bindings) or that one was an avid sport climber and artist and another was a former champion swimmer-turned-holistic nutritionist. All I knew is that they had the exotic look of inveterate mountain women, with their beat-up fur-trimmed Sorels, thick Peruvian sweaters, scuffed Hunter wellies, Quebecois accents, and dark, wild-woman hair that hadn’t seen sun for months. I idolized them immediately. 

The only other time I’d done a women’s only trip was an avalanche course seven years ago. One whole element—men—had been removed from the equation, and in its place bloomed a nurturing sense of girl-power, completely void of competitive machismo. Cat Sass felt the same, right off the bat: uncomplicated, easy. We were here, with each other, and could be exactly who we were, with no pretense or posturing. 

we wore avy beacons to keep us safe
First and foremost, we were skiers, and we dropped steep lines, stacking our tracks in curvy figure 8s next to Maria’s, our lead guide and co-owner of Snowwater. To keep from triggering avalanches, we skied one at a time, so there was no frenzied rushing or trying to be the first to the bottom. Is there anything more annoying than trying to keep up with someone the backcountry, especially when that someone is your husband or boyfriend? Didn’t think so. Hurrying takes you out of your body and into your head, where mental static interrupts the flow and nothing feels quite right. 

We spent one morning in silence, sitting in meditation, eating breakfast, and then snowshoeing to the top of meadow where we gathered in a circle. Earlier, we’d written on small scraps of paper our wishes or intentions, fears and desires, anything that had come to us during sitting meditation that we wanted to send off into the universe. Galena carried a small metal tin, and we lit our papers one at a time and watched them smolder and released them with the smoke into the mountain air. It felt good to let go and say a small prayer to the fearless writer and mother and adventurer I want to be. 


The night before we left, we put on silly wigs and danced like crazy around the dining room. We were celebrating the ahi tuna we'd had for dinner, April's 32nd birthday and the baby boy in her belly, and four perfect days cocooned in the mountains, the deafening racket of real life muted, if only for a little while. That morning in yoga, I'd done a headstand for the first time. I'd forgotten what it feels like to focus so intently on learning something new, undistracted by tiny clinging babies and screeching toddlers and deadlines like thunderheads on the horizon, and just be present. Here and now. 

Snowwater had become my new nest, and I didn’t want to leave, but if I had to go, surely I could figure out ways to bring Cat Sass home with me. I climbed onto the snowmobile and held on for the ride. 


We Wait

Patience Being in the now, that is what I am doing as I wait for our fourth to debut him or herself to us. My first due date has passed yesterday, my second one is imposing on me with it’s inevitable arrival tomorrow, and I wait. I know due dates are only estimations, a best guess as to when to hope your baby will emerge. And, while I have never been one to rush the baby out, knowing that they are easier to care for inside than out, I must admit this go around I am getting a little impatient. Just slightly. Perhaps I wouldn’t be, but my other two girlfriends due the same days as me have already received their babies, a boy and a girl respectively. Perhaps, if I didn’t feel like I might be pregnant for the next five years, I would be more ok with the wait.

So for now I am enjoying my big, round, full belly. The way this baby moves across my abdomen in waves and then pauses to extend his feet to the upper left, and stretch his fingers to the lower left while his back hammocks to the right like a crescent moon embraced. Or how occasionally I feel the baby bouncing on my waters, almost willing himself to come out like my others did by starting with the breaking of the waters, the seal that separates us. Or how at my touch to his foot he retracts and extends playfully. I release my fears I have of birth, of becoming a mother of four and embrace the amazing-ness that is my good fortune. This pregnancy I am grateful for winter caps and darling scarves that have helped keep my shedding head warm, and me feel somewhat normal when an abnormal thing is occurring. I am grateful for the love and amazing support Peter has been to the boys and myself.…knowing by now when I am having a hormonal shift that can’t be argued only assuaged and making meals, and singing for an hour every night to the boys at bedtime to settle them from Johnny Cash to the Beatles. I imagine his sound track he is creating with them will live with them for their lifetime, classic songs they will come across as they grow and listen to music. I am in deep awe of the wonderful girlfriends I have who support and encourage me. Some physically near and many far, all who call and check in and encourage, others who whisk me out for one last pedicure before baby—I’m donning blue toes at the moment, and text me to invite me over for pancakes. I go to bed in a sea of abundant gratitude, perhaps my last night pregnant, perhaps not, with the fortitude to wait for my baby’s sweet debut.


Nesting Frenzy Notes (accumulated at 39 weeks 1 day pregnant with our fourth child)

Today I raked fall leaves. Yes it is spring. Yes, they should have been raked in the fall except the ones for insulation on the flowerbeds. Yes, if left the snow mold accumulated on them would kill our green grass. And so I raked. I raked like my life depended on it. I raked for my labor to start. I raked for the green to emerge and the molten brown-crusted patches of leaves to disappear. Like a molting of my yards skin, I raked. My winter cap I wear to shield my baldness/regrowth of hair felt hot and cumbersome.

Peter and the boys bagged the manic piles I made, finding it hard to keep up with my pace. The boys and a neighbor boy took dump trucks of leaves from one pile to the next. The sun shone, and I broke a sweat, and it felt good and cleansing and clearing as beneath the leaves emerged the green of summer, of full bloom in my own fullness. And then I tucked my tuckered boys into bed and went off to run errands. More nesting.

This breakneck speed has been my pace. Alternating between I-need-it-done-now to utter exhaustion. I am trying to find balance, but have yet to discover it as I feel like once this baby comes I may not leave my home for four months! I know this is not true. But this feeling is hard to rationalize with. I wish I could bottle my hormones and energy and spread it out over the course of months instead of this intense baby-is-almost-here-get-it-all-done phase.

Below are fragmented glimpses into my energy driven brain and fully pregnant body from the past three weeks of almost written, almost posted posts:

On Birth 

So I am in the three-week countdown before baby four’s debut. And being in this space, and probably our last baby birth this lifetime, I find myself copiously note taking. I am trying to remember little things like the way it feels to be sitting still but have the waves of your belly move as a leg stretches near the top of the uterus or a hand tickles the bottom left quadrant of your pelvis. Absurd, strange, and wondrous, and I have no control over the baby’s movements.

Or how when I try to roll from one side while sleeping to the other an excruciating pain shoots through my pelvis.

Or how I hope post baby all my hair returns to it’s glory and find myself excited for the postpartum phase, not to skip the excitement I am growing for this birth.

I realized the other day while I was riding a hormonal wave that included tears, and birth fears, and worries that once those were released I had a lot of space for the joy of this baby and the thrill of birthing our baby. And, this got me excited. Got me happy even. I am not sure I ever went into a birth feeling this way: happy about the labor, happy about the birth, even though I have always been happy about meeting my babies.

On riding the pre-birth hormonal waves: 

I told Liam, “I am fragile today Liam.”
“You’re breakable?” He responded.
Later in the day he asked, “Are you still fragile?”
“No I am better.”
Then I overhear Finn say to Kie Kie my legos are fragile,” and they are.
But I realize as a mother I am not. And I too can ride the waves and keep my balance with breath and perspective as my guides.

On your return from Mexico: 

Whew I am glad you are back! I am back from my distracted nesting diversions. While I have been taking notes on the process all along they are fragmented glimpses into how I am preparing for baby four, most likely our last, and this being the last few weeks as a pregnant woman I dedicated myself to noting one thing per day for the last 30 days. Here we go, the twigs that make up my nest to date.

Twig Notes leading up to Due Date April 14
Twig Note 1, Monday, March 13, 2011:

Feeling hormonally imbalanced, like I am not sure I can parent well this week if it keeps up. My mind races and I can feel the wave of hormones crashing over me. My baby kicks on my right side, with his spine on my left side. Today the baldness on my head bothers me especially. I realize I am having a hard time being present to my present.

Twig Note 2, Tuesday, March 14, 2011:

I opened my nightstand drawer to see charts of past cycles where we conceived babies. Sitting next to them is a newborn diaper, so small. I put it there awhile back to remind myself of how much each of my babies have grown and how tiny they enter the world. I have a pang of sadness thinking that this phase of our marriage, the baby-making phase, is probably coming to a close. Peter is in San Francisco on his last work related trip until post baby. The Visitation Sisters offered the baby and me a gracious blessing tonight. It was lovely to be prayed over.

Twig Note 3, Wednesday, March 15, 2011: I still need to type up the rest form my notebook….so my sharing on this strand stops here.

On releasing labor fears: 

I spoke with my hospital midwife, Stephanie, about all my fears that had me in tears undercover last night, and afterward sleeping with the exhaustion only a good cry provides and Stephanie said the following:
1.    Fear of forced vaginal exams: I think you will find birthing here very different we will trust you and honor you in your birth. We will talk through options and possible course if and when we need to, I won’t just do something to you.
2.    My baldness: She agreed to put a note in my ob chart and encouraged me to talk to the intake nurse too.
And then I spoke to Ann Marie, my volunteer doula coordinator, who so graciously offered to come and bring normalcy to my birth should I desire that. And I can’t tell you the wave of relief I felt at hearing her gracious offer.

On postpartum mood disorders: 
I read the article on post partum depression and Jenny’s Light and I clenched and sobbed for the loss of her life, for the misunderstanding about emotions and hormonal imbalances after and before birth. A clench of my heart, a choke of my throat as I read her story. I rally against the perfectionism that plagued her. I noted it before I read the line in the article near the bottom. I recognized it in myself from the early days of motherhood when I was trying to get a grip on the chaos and found the only sure footed way through my fear was to clutch to perfectionism. Unlike Jenny I was able to release this need before it totally killed me, but like Jenny I struggled with it.

On Spring, Breath, and Yoga: 
It snowed again, two days after the spring equinox, and my next door neighbor came by with two bunches of daffodils she held in a plastic bag with the casual caveat that they were left over ones she did not give her mom. It was touching and real and nice, and gave me another moment to take yet a deeper breath.

After dinner I departed and went to yoga. I needed to stretch to release my sadness and fears, to breath. Paul, our yoga teacher gave the opening homily on Spring and the transition of the season and how it brings us out of balance before going back into balance. I’ve noticed this in my skin, it’s recent dryness as I spend more time outdoors. I sat spine fairly straight, and head bent forward and cried as I felt my unbalanced-ness of the day shift slightly. He said we would work with breath, but to do that we have to first release the breath, then breathe without constraint, and then release the breath again. We did chest openers and shoulder relaxers and my observation of how the shoulders and hips are connected was confirmed by his insights and knowledge of the body. Yes indeed they are connected and indeed when one is relaxed and open the other is relaxed and open. Bringing me back to birthing my baby and the need for better posture and spine supple and strength working in concert. Ahhh, deeper breath. My heart releasing. I was further relieved that the home birth midwife, Clare, was not teaching the yoga class tonight I did not need to fully embrace what I had given up just moments before my departure for yoga via email, a home birth. Somehow the universe seemed to be speaking kindly and gently to me that this too will be ok.

I do not want to go back on my decision to give birth in a hospital again, despite my fears of laboring there. I recall what my basketball coach said to me in high school, “Eilers, hesitation will kill you.” And think to how my historic pattern of waffling stems from the emotional mood shifts of my mother, always reading the waters she swam in, willing myself to adjust to the currents even if it was at my own peril just to stay near her. It was a way of life, a way of living in a hyper-hypo concerto, one that now affects my thyroid as I try to take root of my life amongst the chaos of my family…to bring new order to old discouraging patterns to let go. To establish a new pattern I need to make my decisions with the agility of an athlete and the resolve of a confident woman. 

I read about decision making in a New York Times Blog by Gretchen Reynolds entitled How Sports May Focus the Brain. The blog reports a study on student athletes in college verses non student athletes of similar age when watching them cross a simulated road of traffic.:
“The student athletes completed more successful crossings than the nonathletes, by a significant margin, a result that might be expected of those in peak physical condition. But what was surprising — and thought-provoking — was that their success was not a result of their being quicker or more athletic. They walked no faster than the other students. They didn’t dash or weave gracefully between cars. What they did do was glance along the street a few more times than the nonathletes, each time gathering slightly more data and processing it more speedily and accurately than the other students….
“’They didn’t move faster,” said Art Kramer, the director of the Beckman Institute and a leader in the study of exercise and cognition, who oversaw the research. “But it looks like they thought faster.’”

So here is to creating healthier patterns, to thinking faster, to a speedy labor and delivery and to I hope a sooner than later welcome to our fourth baby!

Day 2 of raking, this time with K. on my back and five bags later!


Short is the New Long

Once upon a time, in a distant last life I can only sort of foggily remember, I used to go on three-hour mountain bike rides. I would actually sit on my bike and spin the pedals for many hours in a row, as though that were the only possible thing a sane person would choose to do with their Saturday.
She's one of the reasons I run
I had the luxury of time and fitness. Some might say I had nothing better to do. Oh, but I could have weeded the garden or written my novel or learned how to cook or volunteered at the homeless shelter. But I didn’t. I played instead.

Life is different now. Of course it is. Now I go to Sunday morning gospel yoga and sneak out half an hour early because it’s Maisy’s first time at yoga daycare and I'm distracted, wondering if the R&B version of U2’s “One” is drowning out her hysterical wailing (nope). I blitz out on before-dinner bike rides, 40 minutes tops, because I have to get home to nurse the baby. Sometimes after the girls go to sleep, I retreat to the back patio for a 20-minute emergency yoga session in the graying dusk. In a weird way, it’s kind of liberating—being so off your game that a six-mile ride feels like an epic physical feat. Who needs three hours in the saddle when you want to amputate your ass after only 45 minutes? It’s so much more efficient, really.

And it’s actually more worthwhile than I thought. Back in 1996, the Surgeon General issued a report finding that the benefits of exercise are cumulative. At the time, I was kid-less and 24 and too busy riding my bike to pay attention. Plus I’d grown up doing the Jane Fonda workout on the beige wall-to-wall in our den, on a TV so old and boxy it had an on/off switch. My limber, frosty-lipsticked guru, in her striped lavender unitard, beat it into my impressionable head that I had to “feel the burn” in order to see results. I was flat-chested and skinny as a stick. I was 12. What kind of results did I think I was going to get?

I kept upping the ante anyway. Thirty minutes of leg lifts became an hour. I ran 10Ks and did three sports at school. My step-dad irked me by calling me a jock. I preferred “athlete.” I got older, and I went longer and got stronger. I had the luxury of fitness and time, and though I couldn’t put it into words, I’d begun, somewhere in the deep recesses of my cells and bones, to realize that why I exercised had more to do about how I felt while I was doing it than what I might look like when I was done. I just felt better, clearer, brighter, more full of breath and life. I kept going, figuring the longer I went, the better I’d feel until the opposite began to be true: Moving my body became more like an obligation, less like the original, pure joy of shooting hoops in the driveway for hours at a time or riding my bike around the neighborhood, making up elaborate stories in my head, becoming a writer as I played.

Last week, reporting a story for a wellness magazine about the mistakes healthy people make, I interviewed Michelle Segar, an exercise and behavioral scientist at the University of Michigan, who reminded me of this fact: Exercise is cumulative. You don’t have to hammer it out all in one go to reap the heath benefits. Short is the new long. (If you don't believe me, check Tim Ferriss's new book, The Four Minute Body.) Excuse me while my world is rocked.

Michelle intentionally parks a couple miles away from her meetings and walks across campus to squeeze in a 30-minute walk. During the last two weeks, I’ve changed my behavior, too. Instead of wasting time whining about my lack of time to ride, I’ll get on my bike and pedal for as long as I can. For the first time in my life, I finally get it: Something, anything, is better than nothing. And just like that, the old, unencumbered joy returns.

My motivations are changing, too. I used to ride and run to improve stamina, to know that when I did have the time to ride for three hours on a Saturday, I’d be ready. That was always the unspoken benchmark. Why ride long? Because I can! I was multitasking: building endurance and feeding my ego.

Now, if I’m honest with myself, I can see that maybe I’ve outgrown that goal. Letting it go isn’t easy—I miss my 24-year-old self with the freckled nose and no obligations—but life is different now. I’m different. Maybe my real goal these days is to simply stretch my legs, let the fresh air whoosh through my brain and unleash a flood of ideas, and feel strong in my body so I can feel good, and grounded, in my life and my writing.

Goodbye, I'm going out to play!