By Kevin Kolodziejski
I don’t think I’ll merit serious consideration for the lead role if they ever remake “Lady Sings the Blues.” Catch me on a bad day, however, and you might think otherwise. But it’s not because my acting and singing reminds you of Diana Ross portraying Billie Holiday circa 1972.
It’s because on a bad day I do indeed sing the blues. I complain. I complain too much. I can sound like the Pro Tour sprinter on the team bus after he had to hit the brakes 15 meters from the finish line because his biggest rival cut him off. And did so subtly enough to win the race and not get DQ’d.
I bet some bad days can make you feel that way, too. And here’s a second wager I’m willing to place. That after you’ve raised a stink about something, you reach a point where you regret that such a bad smell is coming from you.
But it’s not because no one likes a whiner. That cliché simply isn’t true. Complaining can be insightful, entertaining, and amusing — not to mention justifiable.
It’s because you’re wary of the danger inherent in complaining, even when it needs to be done. Complain for too long and the smell becomes a stain that taints you and your point of view.
‘Don’t Swear. But If You Do . . .’
That’s why my advice to you about complaining (albeit advice I’ve already admitted to not always following) is what I used to say to my language arts students about swearing. No, I was not naïve enough to believe anything I said would stop them from doing so. I urged them, though, to swear only on the rarest of occasions, so that when they do it’s out of character. A total eye-opener. A real shock.
Because swearing has little impact if every third word out of your mouth is blanking this or freaking that.
So I used to say something that led to hundreds of I-can’t-believe-he-just-said-that looks, yet never a single what-are-you-teaching-my-child email. “Don’t swear. But if you do, make it count.”
The Blessings That Result Because We Ride
Since it’s Thanksgiving and we’re cyclists, it’s the perfect day not to make our swearing or complaining count, but to actually count as we ride. Count our blessings.
Because traffic is light and get-togethers tend to get started later in the day, Thanksgiving morning is a fine time to ride. I know that’s what I plan to do, weather permitting. Get out early and go hard. Then, as I’m ending with some easy base miles and feeling blessed that I’ve encountered so few cars, I’ll contemplate the many other riding-related blessings, ones true for all days and all rides (not just those on select holidays when you can always stay left of the white line).
Yet I won’t spend any time thinking — that after six broken bones from biking, the dozen or so rods and wires and screws inserted to remedy them, the resultant aching, arthritis, and muscle loss — how very lucky I am to still be pedaling as often and intensely as I do as my age approaches 62. I do that most days before supper. Instead, the one blessing I’ll focus most upon is that I learn something or relearn something on so many rides — and that it’s often important and applicable to more in life than just cycling.
One of those somethings Guns ’N Roses’ Izzy Stradlin wrote a song about back when the band was hotter than the Sahara. It’s a quality we can seemingly never possess enough of. So imitate the song’s early whistling if you want, but be sure to echo Axl Rose’s nasally vocals and sing out:
’A Little Patience — Mm, Yeah’
A different sort of writer, the French novelist Gustave Flaubert, may not have extolled patience as a blessing, but he did sing its praises by penning this oft-quoted observation: “Talent is long patience.” In other words, you don’t have to be a natural at something to become good at it, just patient enough to do it for a long enough period of time.
And that’s exactly the way it works for us, those dyed-in-the-wool cyclists without the DNA to develop into pros. Let’s proudly call ourselves garden-variety bikers. Because if we plant and seed and weed year after year, something grows that’s far more preferable than Mary, Mary’s silver bells and cockle shells. The abilities and qualities that in one way, shape, or form make us better cyclists (and maybe even people) than before.
Learning to be more patient: That’s a biking blessing for sure.
Patience Is Action
Another Frenchman, one who lived well before Guns N’ Roses ever played a chord — one who actually worked with heavy metal — recognized another benefit to patience that we garden-variety exercisers should see as an additional blessing. But it’s far from an obvious one. For if you’re like me, for too long you thought too much patience makes you too passive.
Au contraire, says Auguste Rodin, the previously mentioned sculptor who created the best known man to ever place and elbow upon a knee, a chin about knuckles and be cast in bronze. “The Thinker’s,” creator believes “patience is also a form of action.”
An Additional Upside to Patience
While believing patience is action may be an unconventional belief, there’s certainly an upside to it. It engenders persistence, a quality that’s a blessing in its own right, and one of those many somethings you can learn and relearn while riding. It’s a something, like patience, that serves you well whether you’re on a bicycle seat, a conference call, a service call — or that never-ending quest for enlightenment.
Kevin Kolodziejski began his writing career in earnest in 1989. Since then he’s written a weekly health and fitness column and his articles have appeared in magazines such as “MuscleMag,” “Ironman,” “Vegetarian Times,” and “Bicycle Guide.” He has Bachelor and Masters degrees in English from DeSales and Kutztown Universities.
A competitive cyclist for more than 30 years, Kevin won two Pennsylvania State Time Trial championships in his 30’s, the aptly named Pain Mountain Time Trial 4 out of 5 times in his 40s, two more state TT’s in his 50’s, and the season-long Pennsylvania 40+ BAR championship at 43.