I’d had a couple of long days away from home, and I had promised myself a day off. Although I felt physically tired I decided to ride my bike over to Neston. I knew I could rest on the way if I needed to. I thought about inviting a friend, but I wanted quietness and solitude, so I ventured out alone. Exercise, being outdoors, solitude – for me, a perfect and powerful combination for a day of restoration.
Solitude is something I don’t have enough of. I know it refreshes me physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually – but I still neglect the part of me that needs time alone. I also don’t spend as much time as I would like outdoors. When I stay inside too much I begin to feel weighed down and constrained. After a day on my bike I had a strong sense of the sky above – of openness, spaciousness.
I explored roads I’d not been down before. I passed an old steelworks site and saw that new businesses had cropped up. My attention was drawn by an army rifle range and I trundled across a boarded track over marshland. I noticed. And it brought life to my curiosity. I sat on a bench and wrote. I listened to the sound of the birds and gazed at the north Wales hills. The colours of autumn were everywhere. I was in the moment.
It was a good time to remember, and my thoughts turned to my childhood when I would play out and sometimes cycled alone. My bicycle brought me freedom; I could go further, explore and have adventures. I recalled the gratitude I felt when I was given my first bike for Christmas, and a strong memory I have is of removing the mud guards – I don’t know why. An intense sense of my past and the present absorbed me, and my childhood reminiscences put me in touch with my deeper self.
As a child, on my bike, alone in the big outdoors I was free of responsibility. It was a powerful feeling, and I wonder if it’s possible to regain it in adulthood? Maybe it is. Perhaps we can escape the bonds of responsibility in moments and concentrate on ourselves. When I did that on my cycle ride I began to notice stuff about myself, not just my environment. I noticed my hands, my feet, my tiredness, my temperature, my pace. I set aside my responsibilities temporarily and I gave myself attention. It was healthy and it was restoring, healing even.
Perhaps if we allow ourselves to let go of responsibility occasionally, it makes us better prepared for responsibility. By caring for ourselves are we not better able to care for others? To be truly responsible we need moments without any responsibility. And maybe we should build opportunities to slip the ties of duty and spend time recapturing the freedom of our childhoods into our work routines. We need to play out more. It’s an attractive philosophy. What do you think?
By Andy Howie