Monday, September 26, 2011

Cowlicks and Hair Direction

For most of my life I have had a cowlick on the back of my head. That swirl of hair that is largely uncontrollable, but that has been conveniently located out of sight. For most of my adult life I have also parted my hair on the same side--which happens to run against the cowlick. For decades I have parted and brushed my hair in the direction that I wanted it to go. But since the last time that I cut my hair very short, the cowlick has been winning. About two weeks after a haircut, the cowlick now pushes up from underneath and makes my hair stick up like a duck's tail feathers unless I part and brush it on the other side. I have decided that it is no longer worth the effort to fight the cowlick (not to mention looking like a duck).

You might think that changing the direction that you brush your hair would be an easy task. After all, it is just hair. But after spending most of my life running my hair back from right to left, the change from left to right is not easy. More than once I have found myself not thinking about what I am doing and running my hair back right to left--with the result that I look like I just woke up from a nap.

Now hair direction is not a big deal, but change certainly is.

Sometimes I am surprised at how hard it is to change. People seem to be hardwired for stasis--or decline. Think about it. No one ever became fit by sitting around, or smarter by not studying, or more holy by a lack of moral discipline. Change requires effort and attention. Attention alone is not sufficient because attention without effort is merely noticing. (Like all of those years when I could walk right past the overflowing wastebasket without taking it to the trash can--sorry Mom.) Effort alone is not sufficient because it ends up being sporadic at best and frenetic at worst. Real change requires consistent (attention) work (effort) over time.

Whether the change we seek is physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual; it will require consistent work over time. That also says that change generally does not occur overnight. So if you are in progress, then stay the course and be encouraged. You may not be finished changing yet, but you are one day closer--one day that cannot be skipped.

Pressing on,

Friday, September 2, 2011

Acacia Hill

My local bike shop--Broadway Cycle in Monticello--hosts a Thursday night social ride for anyone who wants to come. Last night was the first that I have been able to join this summer because the NSC velodrome also has racing on Thursday nights. It was a great ride. My friend Jeff was also riding, as were a number of people whom I know from around town. The group spread out a bit over the course of the ride, but you were never out of sight of the other riders.

I had heard rumors about the hill up Acacia off of County Road 106--steep and curving--but had never ridden the hill. Until last night. Wow, what a hill! It is steep and has a deceptive curve halfway up. I have never ridden a steeper hill and all of us in the group that I was with were struggling a bit. It was one of those hills where it would be easy for a lone rider to stop and walk the rest of the way up. But when you are riding with a group, it feels better to push hard and labor up to the top.

It was the group that was riding together that made the difference on the Acacia hill. It was nice to have others around while riding on the flats and the rolling hills before and after. But on the toughest part of the ride it was VERY good to have the rest of the group struggling together. And no one had to wonder, "Am I the only one this is hard for?"

Other parts of life are not as transparent as the Acacia hill. We rarely see others battling up the same hills that we are climbing. And it can become disheartening to look around and feel like I am climbing a mountain while everyone around me appears to be cruising on the flats. While I would generally agree that much of life is just plain difficult, the difficulty does not need to be crushing. But, how do we make the rest of life's hills as transparent as the Acacia hill?

It requires trust and a confidence that the people we are showing our "hills" to will not slow us down, but will climb with us. It probably starts with engaging with others. My Acacia hill experience would have been negatively different had I been riding alone. Then it requires honesty on our parts--just calling it what it is. No one climbing Acacia hill in my group was pretending that the hill was no big deal--we were all struggling. And it calls for us to actively encourage each other. Even in the midst of the challenge of Acacia hill, those of us on the climb were calling out encouragement to each other--"Good climb;" "Keep at it;" "Downhill on the other side."

Struggling up Acacia hill was not a sign that any of us were weak or didn't belong on the ride. It was simply part of the reality that hills are steep and require more effort than riding on the flats. In the same way, struggling with parts of the rest of life does not necessarily indicate weakness or that something is "wrong with me." Some parts of life are just more of an uphill struggle than others.

Pressing on,