"Let go of expectations palm up"
by Amy Grumprecht
Day 50, Suwannee River State Park to Olena State Park, north of High Springs, FL, 70 miles of uninspired cycling.
I have a friend with whom I once rode 150 miles up in the foothills and height of land of Western ME. She appeared to be moving along fine all day yet was missing her spark. At mile 100, she announced that she "felt better now." After 100 miles. After turning over the pedals and not feeling that great. For 100 miles. Some people wouldn't drive 100 miles if they didn't "feel great." She taught me the basic tenet that if I can turn the pedals over, everything else would eventually change. I just had to hold out and keep going at a steady pace. Drop a piece of wood in the stream, eventually it will float downstream, different but the same.
Perhaps it was poor sleep last night or not finding my breakfast granola at first or not having caffeine until 10 AM. The fact is that I felt weary mentally today- my legs and lungs on auto-pilot could do the miles, the rest was lagging behind. At one point, I felt like I just wanted to sleep on the grass on the side of the road. It looked inviting and cool in the shade. I pushed on, letting go of expectations, made my gearing easier to allow my legs to spin. Who cares about mph? I had all day. If I went 10 mph, I'd be there in 7-8 hours, I told myself. The bargaining began until I settled on less mental chatter and more breathing. I rested on the idea of impermanence that if I kept going it would all change.
It didn't. I watched it not really change, just shift slightly. All day. All 70 miles. I rolled into camp, set up my tent for the last time of this journey and felt a sliver of gratitude that I was here and that I had slept outside for 2 months. Then the gates opened and the gratitude flooded in or out, not sure which direction. It hit me -2 months of sleeping in a tent. I love that! If I let go with a clenched fist, palm down, I drop all parts of the experience that exist, not just the parts that I don't want to feel. If I let go of expectations palm up, I can unfold each finger individually, and what is left behind- like gratitude and compassion- remain in spite of the other discomfort or weariness. Or, as some would say,"Don't throw the baby out with the bath water." Allow it all to co-exist. It reminds me of a line in Mary Oliver's poem "Landscape"-
"If the doors of my heart ever close, I am as good as dead."
Visions of farmland and moon-faced cattle with jet black bodies and PB & J sandwiches and iced tea and endless rows of planted pines and clear-cuts and aqua-colored spring water ponds will roll across the backsides of my eyelids tonight when I close them. And if I am lucky, tomorrow I get 24 brand new hours.