My husband and I spent a long holiday in New Zealand this year. He had been a cyclist since elementary school and this time he expressed interest to go on a 6-day cycling trip in New Zealand. To be honest, it’s been 15 years since I last rode my bike over a long-distance, a 6-day trip like that did sound slightly overwhelming to me. However, I wanted to see the world from his perspective so that I could understand him more, plus he told me this Alps-to-Ocean cycling trip offers a supporting bus ride any time during the trip, that made me feel at ease and so I agreed.
Judging by the information on the brochure, it was a 300-km route open to all levels, except for those with heart issues… I considered myself as an active and healthy individual, so I guessed it would not be too difficult for me.
The first day started with a 40K morning ride, with one stop in between. I am not a number person, so I had no idea what 40K meant to me. “Since I’m here, I might as well just start riding!” I thought to myself. As soon as we started, we encountered numerous uphills. I kept checking the odometer every hundred meters, struggling to keep up with the group, and I thought, “My God… It’s only been 7K?! There’s another 30 something more to go… indeed there’s another 5 days to go! How am I going to survive this?”
As I continued riding (and struggling for most part), other than the sound of my breath and the criticism in my head, I had no capacity to enjoy the beautiful scenery, the touch of the wind, and the freshness of the air! All I heard was my mind saying, “See, you never enjoyed riding long distance, you just wanted to make your husband happy, and see what you got yourself in? How can you make your husband happy when you are suffering so much? When he sees your blank face, he knows for sure that you are resenting this!” Tears started to fall as I continued to judge my stupidity, I was struggling both inside and out.
In the middle of the mental suffering, a thought flashed through my mind that if we neglect ourselves to please others, it only leads to a lose-lose outcome; no one is happy at the end.
Our action is simply a reflection of our life.
I realized besides this cycling trip, there are many situations where I put others before me, and thus this choice of action often leads to resentment as a byproduct. If I neglect myself in the first place, even if the choice leads me to a pleasant outcome, resentment still takes away the joy. And if the choice leads me to an undesired outcome, resentment doesn’t only make us blame others, but also ourselves.
The conclusion is, if one acts without true willingness, no matter how small the unwillingness is, this self-suppressive action only leads to resentment. Once resentment is created, it will take away all the possibility for happiness.
I have learned that, if I want others to be happy, I cannot force myself, because happiness cannot be built upon force.
I decided to offer myself another choice: If there is any unwillingness to bike for another section, no matter how little the unwillingness is, I would take the bus. When I did get on the bus, for the first time I tasted a tremendous sense of relief! Yes, my group continued on, but I realized happiness does not have to come from all the hard effort and achieving the goal; it can actually come from backing off (and looking lazy!)! This was the first time I felt proud from not pushing myself!
After some rest, I joined the group again. This time, we were greeted by strong headwind and uphills. Even though the ride turned out to be one of the most challenging rides, because I was not cycling to make anyone happy; I was there to explore my potential, to test my determination and perseverance, I did not suffer at all. Yes, my body was tired afterwards, but I felt so much joy out of this experience!
What I learned was: no one expected me to finish the 300K journey, it was only the perfectionist in me who pushed me so hard. When I let go of the expectations I think others have on me, I also let go of the burden that I must make others happy. When I let go of the baggage of having to be responsible for others’ happiness, I freed myself. As I freed myself, I had the space to experience and enjoy happiness. When I am happy, others will be touched by my happiness.
When I love myself, others benefit, this is a win-win situation.
So, loving yourself first is not a selfish act, I would say it’s one of the most environmentally-friendly, pollutant-free, mutually benefit thing to do!
Without realizing, I cycled for over 200km… And I’m thankful for this experience.