Count the blessings exercise endows upon you, especially on Thanksgiving
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 worse than the professional bicyclist on the team bus after he had to hit the brakes 15 meters from the finish line because his rival who won the race cut him off. And did so subtly enough not to 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.
A proper complaint can be insightful, entertaining, and amusing - not to mention justifiable.
It’s because you know of the danger inherent in any complaint that lingers too long. The smell of it transforms into the sort of stain that taints you and your point of view.
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 so it’s out of character. A total eye-opener. A real shock.
Because whether you’re a teen, triathlete, or truck driver, swearing has little impact if every third word out of your mouth is blanking this or freaking that.
You’re hearing all this from me since it’s soon Thanksgiving, the perfect day not to swear or complain but count your blessings. And not just before the family meal - but also before it as you exercise.
Because traffic is light and get-togethers tend to get started later in the day, Thanksgiving morning is a fine time to get outside and ride the bike. That’s what I plan to do, weather permitting.
Get out early and go hard. Then as I’m ending the ride with some easy base miles and feeling blessed that I’ve encountered so few cars, I’ll contemplate the many other riding-related blessings, especially the ones true for all times of day and any form of exercise.
I won’t spend any time thinking - that after six broken bones, the 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 exactly that most days before supper.
Instead, the blessing I’ll focus most upon is that I learn or relearn something important on so many rides. One of those somethings Izzy Stradlin wrote a song about in the late 80s when his band, Guns ’N Roses, was hotter than the Sahara.
That something is a quality you can never possess enough of. Sing it, Axl: “A little patience - mm, yeah.”
A far different sort of writer, the French novelist Gustave Flaubert, may not have extolled patience as a blessing, but he did sing its praises on paper. He wrote: “Talent is long patience.”
In other words, you don’t have to be a natural to become good at something, just patient enough to do it for a long enough period of time.
And that’s exactly the way it works for you, me, and everyone else who exercises ambitiously but lacks the DNA to develop into a professional athlete. Let’s call ourselves garden-variety exercisers because if we plant and seed and weed year after year, something grows besides Mary, Mary’s silver bells and cockle shells.
The abilities and qualities that in one way, shape, or form make us healthier and happier than before.
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 a 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 an elbow upon a knee, a chin atop knuckles, and be cast in bronze.
The creator of “The Thinker” believes “patience is also a form of action.”
While believing patience is action may be unconventional, there’s certainly an upside to it. The belief engenders persistence, a quality that’s blessing in its own right.
Another one to be learned and relearned while exercising.