Spin class has been getting pretty deep lately. Even when she's dishing out 90's themed playlists to ride to, my spin instructor isn't afraid of life's big questions. "Why are you here?" she asks, almost rhetorically, as 26 strangers peddle in tandem. "What are you doing this for?”” The class is about sweating your face off—but it’s also about you.
Last week, after a particularly hard class, she put on Get What You Give and turned the lights out for what she called a meditation ride. “This is your time,” she announced. “Give yourself what you need.”
It felt more like a challenge than encouragement. Because damn it, at any given moment I have no idea what I need.
But the song is good, so I follow the beat with my feet. There’s an underlying pulse in all that I do—some might describe it as an urgency, others as anxiety—but for me, it’s music. A tick-tock. It’s what pushes me forward, a way to time my life.
But I keep wondering if that pulse is serving me.
Sure, there are upsides to it. In the past year, I traveled Europe alone for two weeks, learned to ski across many excursions north (hat tip to my personal instructor and co-driver, my boyfriend), took Maizie floating down a river, celebrated friends and strangers alike, gaped at the Northern Lights, microdosed on mushrooms with a best friend, recorded and edited my first piece of audio, held another best friend’s baby, fell in love with Mexico City, tried botox, devoured YA fiction by way of audio books, started officially managing both a person and a project at work, witnessed the sort of friend who bursts your heart open get married, said goodbye to a family friend I’ve never not known, laughed so hard with my family as we had at the sandwich debate (and discussed Reddit, and sang our version of Happy Birthday to each other, and tried a new style of Christmas-celebration, and and and), finally saw both Interstellar and The Matrix, spent countless hours on the phone with Tami talking about life, and fell in love with a gorgeous (inside and out!) human who can make being stuck at an airport or moving a too-big dresser fun.
There’s a flip side, though (isn’t there always?).
My body, and the people around my body, keep giving me a message.
My microscopic colitis continues to flare. My low back started hurting, then my foot, then my tailbone, and my upper back. My gums are receding. My work has asked me to regulate my stress. My boyfriend has encouraged me to stop feeling like I have to do things. My best friend has told me it will be okay if I fuck up. My PT wants me to set aside time for genuine self-care: PT exercises. My chiro wants me to pay attention to how I carry myself. And so many friends and I have talked about all of this, and I can feel the concern in their voices.
And…while I’m more centered than I’ve been to date, it feels like everything is wildly spinning out of control. I am assured of who I am, but that person remains closely related to 15-year-old Angela Chase’s constant perplexity in My So-Called Life. I am simultaneously more certain of what I want to be doing with my life, and farther away from doing it based on the immense doing of other things. I’m back-pattingly proud of what I’ve accomplished to date, and feel like I haven’t begun to come into my own in terms of “achievement” (not to mention it seems like everyone else is moving farther ahead, faster). I understand the world better than any other time in my life, yet experience perpetual confoundment at the poverty, eco-degradation, and apathy settled around me. I’m more content, and more restless.
If you only get what you give, like the song says, then that means that what you give and how you give it matters. I’m being asked, in a thousand different ways, to give something else.
I didn't figure it all out in that class, unfortunately. What giving something else looks like in practice is TBD. But 37 feels ripe for finding a new pulse. For stepping outside of what I know and into the great discomfort of revamping how I approach the world, and what I fundamentally believe about what makes me, me.
There’s a lot of change ahead, a lot of growing yet to come.
*Ira Glass. Yes, I go to spin class and pretend that I'm going to be high-fived by Ira Glass at the end of it, and that's what makes me keep my legs spinning.