RAGBRAI COUNTDOWN: 46 days, 11 hours, 32 minutes, and 14 seconds…
Yesterday riding my road bike on the Alpine/Portola Valley loop and trailing behind Ed, I sifted through my thoughts to find good ones. Positive, inspiring thoughts that would keep me company as I labored against a headwind, and a cross wind that almost knocked me over. Crappy thoughts don’t help with perseverance.
I grew up in a hotbed of negative thinking. According to my parents, the rich were always getting richer, most if not all politicians are crooks, my dad’s colleagues at Caterpillar didn’t value his work. No one, except my dad, appreciated my mother’s intellectual aptitude. Their list of complaints about the world was endless. It left no room for conversation between us. Their negativity rendered me speechless. Rebuttals were pointless. When I left home for college, I fled their negativity. But the negativity I fled attached itself to my back like a cape. Yesterday it was flapping hard in the wind with doozies like: God, that Father yesterday was stupid letting his kids clutter the entire right lane of Cañada Road. What if I’d run one over? Grrr! And that guy walking along side the road yapping loudly on his cell phone; why wasn’t he listening to the chirping birds, the rush of the wind, or soaking up the sun and scenery? Stupid.
I knew this wasn’t a productive way to spend a bike ride and all the upcoming miles to train for and ride in RAGBRAI—at least 1000 miles of thinking time. Egads! I’d better shift my thoughts quick or die a death of negative thinking on a country road in Iowa.
In Norman Vincent Peale’s book The Power of Positive Thinking, he spent an entire chapter about people like me who spend their lives “fuming and fretting.” According to Norman: The word “fume” means to boil up, to blow off, to emit vapor, to be agitated, to be distraught, to seethe. It is reminiscent of a sick child in the night, a petulant half-cry, half whine. It ceases, only to begin again. It has an irritating, annoying, penetrating quality. It produces fatigue and a sense of frustration…
Peddling along at a low of 8.9 mph, I recollected a conversation I’d had with author and friend, Paul Goldstein. Something along the lines of:
“What do you spend your time thinking about, Ana,” Paul asked me?
“Ummm, why my dad refuses to update his 30-year will and create an advanced health care directive, my brother’s volatile behavior towards me, why sending thank you notes is a dying art, and too many people in the world with not enough water to feed them. Those sorts of things.”
“Why don’t you think about your memoir?”
“Sure, why not. That’s what I do. In my free time, I noodle ideas about my novel. I keep a pen and paper on my nightstand. As I drift off to sleep, I mull issues about character development and problematic situations. Invariably when I wake the next morning, I write something down. Problem solved. Wouldn’t that be a more productive way to spend your time,” Paul asked?
Focusing on the dot of Ed on the horizon, I started writing this blog in my head. Then my mind flitted to ideas for future RAGBRAI blog titles, and suddenly an idea for a story to submit to the NYT Modern Love column popped into my head. Oh Joy! And I pondered the chapters I would submit to Laura Munson for the Haven Retreat in September.
When I finally caught up to Ed at the Robert’s Market parking lot I was exhausted, but my mind energized. “I can’t make it up that hill on Sand Hill, so I’m turning back. Go on without me,” I said neglecting to add that I had to get home quick in order to write down my ideas. Note to self: figure out a way to carry along a pen and notebook on my road bike.
For now, I raise my glass to baby steps towards focusing my thoughts on positive ones.