Getting back on the bike – reclaiming a sense of personal power

A little while ago I was out on a Sunday evening ride in the hills with a friend when my bike broke down. The rear derailleur hanger had bent right into the wheel and twisted the derailleur with it. My mate rode back to get his car while I waited by the road. Over the next forty minutes or so at least four cars stopped to offer assistance. One guy asked if I needed any spares and another actually doubled back just to see if I was ok. I was really quite touched by the generosity of all these strangers on a country road.

Ordinarily this would have just been a bike problem, but on this occasion it took on greater significance. After a couple of very stressful weeks, this was the final straw and I felt like something inside me had broken with the bike.

I have been saving for a new bike, but I’m a way off that yet. Riding is very special for me. On the bike I exercise my spirit as much as my body. I relish the exhilaration and freedom on fast descents and the satisfaction of conquering a tough climb. My wings had been clipped.

Well earlier this week I took the bike down to my local bike mechanic to see whether he could fix it without having to spend too much on it. It all depended on whether the frame could be bent back or whether it would snap. This was my first time using this particular shop near us, and I think I might have found a gem. A lot of bike shops are just that. They’ll fix the bike but their main interest is to sell you stuff. This afternoon I picked my bike up. Peter the mechanic managed to put the frame back without breaking it. The derailleur needed to be replaced in part or in full so he put on an old Campagnolo Record derailleur of his own for no charge. All up, it only cost $35.

Getting the bike back was really quite exciting, surprisingly so. This too was packed with significance, but now it was a much more positive kind of metaphor. I felt like I had been given my wings back, and that I could take charge again. Of course I already had at the moment when I decided to act with the resources that were available to me. In truth this is all we can ever do, but sometimes we stop ourselves from doing even that.

We move from a state of powerlessness to power when we accept responsibility – responsibility for what we’re experiencing and the change that we want. Then we have to take action – whatever we can do. I always think of Achilles in Homer’s Iliad. There is a very powerful moment when the gods prompt him to save the body of his best friend Patroklos from falling into the hands of the Trojans. He has to act in spite of the fact that he has no armour – this is lost with Patroklos. Well, he responds to this by standing up and making three great cries that ring out over the clamour of the fighting. As he does so, the gods make him appear to blaze with fire. The sight and sound of this great warrior, even without armour, is enough to stun the Trojans and the Greeks manage to save the body of their fallen comrade.

The thing is, when you do take action you are immediately rewarded, whether it is successful or not is actually a secondary matter. Achilles decides to act and the gods immediately come out to support him – though they don’t tell him that they will, they just tell him to do something. If you are committed and actually taking action, and you keep accessing this state of power, then the odds start stacking up in your favour. Remember, to attempt and not succeed is not the same as failure. Not in my book anyway. Failure is when we don’t even make an attempt. Failure is when we let all our stories and our excuses stop us. We’ll blame inaction on all the things, the resources that we don’t have, and hold others responsible.

What’s one thing you could do this week – one powerful action, that might have been putting off? Maybe you have a vision which you haven’t begun to create. You can do something right now. Carpe deum!

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