I love to ride my bike.  I loved it as a kid, but then got “too cool” for it as a teenager and rode a moped instead.

In college my friend John, a competitive cyclist, convinced me to use part of a small inheritance to buy a road/racing bike.  He wanted company on his long training rides around Santa Barbara where we attended school.  Back on my bike after a ten year hiatus it was like I’d never been gone.  I loved it all over again.

Today (after fourteen weeks off my bike as I rehabbed my knee–my longest cycling hiatus in memory) I got back on my bike.   As we peddled up the South side of the Rose Bowl loop in Pasadena at a very slow ten miles per hour, my husband noted that this was fifty percent slower than we usually ride this route.  I told him that I didn’t care how fast or far we went, I was just happy to be back on my bike…although I didn’t say it that nicely!

After all my body and I have been through over the years, I am so blessed to be here:  alive (in my eighteenth year post breast cancer), strong (rode nine miles comfortably and without knee problems) and more content in my forty-eight year old body than I’ve been at any other time in my life.

I’ve been far more “fit” at other times in my life.  In fact, if I were to ride with John or his wife Susi (my best female cycling buddy over the years), they’d tell me in no uncertain terms that I’m in lousy cycling shape.  Heck, Susi said that the last time we rode together — and that was before my accident.

But true fitness is not measured by body statistics alone. As the stories of professional athletes’ struggles with addiction, violence and marital infidelity remind us, you can be in top physical shape and still be a psychological mess.

Or as my Aunt Margie recently taught me in the last days of her life, you can be living with cancer, preparing to die, yet more truly alive than much of the population. This is a photo of Margie taken at her “Honoring the Flow of Life Ceremony” held eight days before her death.  Over one hundred friends and family came together to celebrate her almost ninety years of remarkable life.  She is one of my sheroes!

My relationship with my body parallels the relationship I have with my life. In my less content years, I was too busy trying to control my body and achieve results to listen.  I was too busy trying to control my life and achieve results than to listen.  In those days fitness setbacks were a source of discouragement, frustration and anxiety.

But when I meet the physical changes and challenges of my embodied life with respect and a willingness to listen, every accident, illness, rosacea outbreak, new creek in my joints, mysterious symptom or discomfort becomes an opportunity to deepen my connection to my good body, to my self,  just as I am.

So, whether I ride my bike one hundred miles over steep hills and in unfriendly weather (as I did six years ago in the Solvang Century ride) or nine miles on the flats in perfect Southern California Memorial Day weather, I’m grateful to be alive, healthy, and growing through the changes and challenges each day offers.