Yesterday I rode in my 7thcharity bike ride for the National MS Society. Yesterday was the first time I didn’t finish. I could easily be very upset about this. I am disappointed I didn’t cross the finish line, but I am learning to be at peace no matter what life brings my way.
The day before the ride I had POTS symptoms most of the day. When I don’t feel good I often have a hard time sleeping. Add that to the excitement of the ride, then anxiety about not being able to fall asleep, and it’s a recipe for disaster. Four hours of sleep the night before I planned to ride 100 miles.
Then came the ride. Nearly all of the first 10 miles were rolling hills. There are many things I have to do to manage my POTS. One of those things is to exercise regularly but at a moderate level as much as possible. Biking is good for my POTS but not when hills are involved. I pushed through the hills and I pushed for 50 more miles. The last 35 were painful…literally. I fought for every one of those miles.
Then came the decision. I had to decide whether or not I was going to keep going. When you’re biking long distances on country roads you have a lot of time to think. For miles I thought about whether or not I should stop. What does it mean to me to cross the finish line? Why am I doing this? What is most important?
It was a decision I didn’t think I would make. I didn’t think I would not finish what I started. But it was the right decision. It was unsafe for me to be on the road any more. One wrong decision could have had major consequences. The answer to the question of what mattered most was that both my riding partner and I got home safely. I knew it was the right decision when sitting in Chipotle an hour and a half after I stopped riding and my heart rate was 115. I was short of breath and too fatigued to even eat.
I am disappointed my body didn’t cooperate with me. But POTS is part of who I am. Over the last few years I learned to appreciate my POTS. It has made me stronger than I ever was before. I often don’t feel stronger physically, but in actuality I am stronger both physically and mentally. I am at peace with POTS. I am at peace with 60 hard fought miles despite finishing short of my goal.
Sometimes life does not always go as planned. You feel like you haven’t crossed the finish line. You feel like your race has too many hills — too many obstacles. You feel like someone put a wall in front of you that you can’t get around. You feel like you have heavy weights dragging you down making every step a challenge. You feel like you have made a major wrong turn and are way off course.
Those are the times that you have to dig deep and do your very best. As long as you know you have done your best on any given day, then work on being at peace no matter what the outcome or circumstance. Sometimes you’ll manage to cross the finish line without a drop of sweat. Sometimes you’ll have to kick and scream just to make it one mile down the road. In any case, do your best, focus on what is most important at the time, and be at peace in all circumstances.
Enjoy the ride called life…no matter what comes your way!
A special thank you to Masters Jill Miller & Alan Miller of J.R. Miller Martial Arts in Olmsted Township, Ohio for helping me gain this perspective!