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Feed Your Soul

Many years ago, I took a cycling trip in Ireland. We weren’t riding overwhelming distances, but on the very first day, I had to tap out. I don’t know if it was the rain or the wind or the process of stepping off an airplane and onto a bike, but I simply couldn’t make the distance.

My companions and I dragged ourselves into the nearest pub and called for help.

As we started pedaling the next day, I found myself facing a quantity of anxiety that was unfamiliar to me. What if I couldn’t make it? What if every day of this amazing bike ride across Ireland ended with me giving up?

The idea was horrifying, and even though I had a thousand excuses for why I couldn’t finish that first day, I also had the cold hard truth that I hadn’t made it.

I suppose different people react to that sort of fear differently. I tend to speed up and push harder. I admit it’s not always the best reaction. Responding to exhaustion with a steely determination to ride faster isn’t exactly the smartest move, but it’s what I did.

I put my head down and pedaled. It didn’t take long before my legs were burning. My internal monologue was equally nonsensical.

I will not stop. I will not stop. I will not stop.

Gradually, though, memories started to leak past my labored breathing. I remembered other rides, other challenges. I had a paper route as a child, and as hilly as Ireland may be, it didn’t compare to riding in the snow with thirty to forty pounds of newspapers on the back of the bike. I found my mantra changing to something a bit more positive.

I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.

My speed slowed to something more reasonable and I settled into a regular cadence. As the day rolled past, and my fatigue and pain grew, I started counting miles. I knew that I could ride five miles, so that’s what I started focusing on.

Five miles. You can do five miles.

Each successive five miles felt like a victory, like further proof that I could do the next five miles. I made it the full distance, was able to relax, and had a ton of fun on the rest of the trip.

For me, 2020 felt like the second day of that bike trip. Bad things just kept happening. Over and over again, it seemed like the world was trying to beat us down.

I reacted, predictably, by doubling down. Instead of peddling twice as fast, I went all-in on finding things to do with my family. Every weekend was a new adventure. Every open hour was a chance to find some new way of connecting.

You know what? It worked. As bad news continued to arrive, I was able to lean on the experiences we put together.

The world, at times, can seem to be a depressing and doomed place, where the best we can do is just try to survive. Those are the times when we need to be able to recall our moments of success and beauty and joy, to step away from the anger and upset, to understand that whatever is going on, we can get through it.

The key, for me, is to get ahead of the problem. If we feed our souls ahead of time, we’ll have the strength not just to persevere, but to thrive.

What is beautiful to you? Is it an adventure through some forgotten corner of the world? A quiet dinner with your family? Reading with your kids at night? Volunteering at a church or charity? Delivering meals to the homeless? Waking your kids up to watch a sunrise together?

Whatever your moments of beauty are, take the time to pursue them. If you have kids, help them experience their own.

If 2020 has taught us nothing else, it’s shown us that we have no idea what’s coming next. Feed your soul as often as you can, so you’re ready for what comes next.


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Posted January 13, 2021 in Life