Monday, October 1, 2012

Unstuffing my head

No, I'm not going to blog about decongestants (though, alas, I probably could).  I was out for a long bike ride yesterday (normal sort of Sunday-afternoon thing for me), and had been riding for the better part of an hour when I realized my head was starting to clear.  Not to clear from the congestion my allergies bring, but clear of the congestion my life brings.  Mental congestion.

What caught my attention was that it had taken the first hour to get there.  Normally, stuff falls away almost as soon as I start riding, and my mind remains largely blank for the duration.  I may be thinking, but it's usually about a) how much farther does this hill go up? and/or b) I wonder if I could carve out time for an extended tour.  Would my husband and boys be willing to drive along and set up camp each day?  and wouldn't it be cool if one of the boys wanted to come along?  The longer I ride, the more delusional the thinking: I could ride across the country and I bet my younger son would think it was really fun to go along!  A double century!  Yeah, I could do one of those!  (I can get pretty unrealistic, especially when cruising easily along flat ground with a tailwind).

Yesterday my brain was packed pretty tightly, I guess, because for that first hour I was thinking more about parenting issues and our school bond issue than about riding.  That's all very well.  Those things need some thinking about, and it does distract from the perennial question, "will I die before I reach the top of this hill?"  But part of why I exercise is to turn off my busy brain, before the tension winds me up so tight I break when someone touches me.

If it takes another hour and a bigger hill to shut down the thought processes, well. . . I'll get more fit.  Because shutting down and restarting the brain from time to time is important.  Otherwise, the stress level just grows, while the brain circles impotently around things I can do nothing about.  It usually does the most futile circling at 3 a.m., which is even less productive.

It's like the old Gary Larsen "Far Side" cartoon where the guy raises his hand and asks if he can be excused from class because his brain is full.  Give the kid a bike and tell him not to come back until it's emptied out a bit.

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