If you’ve been following this blog recently, you’ll know that these last few weeks have been rough for Hobgoblin and me. I’m not going to write about that now, but I do want to write about how my stress levels and moods affect and are affected by my subjects here — my riding and my reading.
I’m struck by the way riding my bike is one of the best ways to improve my mood, but it’s also often the last thing I want to do when I’m feeling badly. I haven’t ridden much over the last couple weeks, a couple times, maybe, but I’d planned on riding much more; part of this is because of things happening in my life and part of it has been the weather. But the longer I go on without riding much, the harder it gets to get back on the bike. I start to feel as though I’ve screwed up all my training, I’ve lost my momentum, I’ve ruined my racing season, and so what’s the point? I get listless and lazy and I just don’t feel like riding.
But riding is exactly what I need — there’s really nothing better than a good long ride or even a good long walk to make me feel so, so much better. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as an adult about what makes me happy, it’s that some kind of outdoor exercise (I don’t like the word “exercise” as it sounds no fun at all, but I’m not thinking of a word I like better) will make all the difference.
So, this afternoon I finally got on my bike; I didn’t want to ride, feeling that laziness coming over me, but the day was just too beautiful to stay indoors. After last week’s epic storm, the weather is finally improving — it was 70 degrees today, without a cloud in the sky.
I set out thinking I’d take it easy, kind of ease into riding again, loosen my muscles up a bit, but mostly just enjoy the day. But my muscles seem to have a mind of their own, because the first hill I came to, I found myself accelerating up it. And I did that on the second hill and the one after that and pretty much every hill until I got home 1 1/2 hours later. Sometimes my body dictates what it will do, and my mind has absolutely no say in it, and today my body insisted that I would work hard. I guess I needed it. Truthfully, I’m not sure I could have ridden slowly if I had tried.
And, no surprise, I felt much, much better during and after the ride than I did before I left. I hear of people talking about being addicted to exercise, and I’ve never quite known what that was like, but perhaps this is what they mean?
Unfortunately, my reading lately has not helped me as much as today’s riding did. I’m feeling a tiny bit restless with Wives and Daughters. I think this is fully my fault and not the book’s. It gets my interest for a chapter, and then it will shift to a different set of characters, and I’ll feel boredom creeping up. I’m noticing interesting things about it — there’s a post on it I’ve been meaning to do for a while — but what I want is pure enjoyment, and I’m not finding it. I’m liking A Sentimental Murder, but I have trouble paying attention to the details at times.
Last night, in an effort to find a new book that would get me out of this slump, I picked up Alberto Manguel’s A Reading Diary, which I felt sure I would like because I often enjoy that sort of book and because I liked his History of Reading so much. But after reading a few pages, I felt nothing but intense loathing. The idea of the book is to combine Manguel’s re-reading of old favorites with observations on his personal experiences. Usually I like this sort of thing, but last night I just couldn’t figure out why I should care. So the book is going back on the shelf for a time I am more likely to appreciate it, and maybe I’ll give another book a try this evening. Or maybe I’ll just stick with Gaskell.
I’m sorry to say it, but I’m finding that books generally don’t help me cope with hard times. I wish I were the kind of reader who could easily lose herself in a book and forget the world, but I don’t think I am. It’s too hard for me to shake my usual awareness of what’s going on around me. I’m happiest reading when things are calm and I don’t have to work to forget my worries. To get myself out of dwelling obsessively in my mind, I need to be doing something active, something physical.