Life is always easier if you're in the right gear.

In Gear While Traveling

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catsbike.jpgFive years ago, on October 2, 2010, I purchased my first hybrid bike.  The decision to purchase this bike (at a time when I was completely strapped financially and could only pay cash) came after a bit of a personal epiphany over the 4th of July weekend that same year.  A series of events transpired to bring me to the awareness that I was depending far too much on other people and outside circumstances to define me and my happiness, as well as my direction in life.  It was that day in July that I began to take back control of my life.

You see, I’d let the decision-making for my life slip away over the years.  Or, maybe, in retrospect, I never really controlled the decision-making for my life until that day in July 2010. I look back and there were major decisions all along the way that I made, but I made them because someone else thought I should.  My parents thought I should go to work after graduating from college. I wanted to travel.  I was scared to do that, so I went to work.  My husband wanted to leave the San Francisco Bay Area to return to Oregon. I wasn’t ready to return to Oregon.  I wanted to stay and live in a big city and I loved being so close to San Francisco. We moved anyway. From jobs, to friendships, to how I spent my time and money, these decisions were largely made for me by other people.  Sure, I chose to go along with the decision-makers, but I did this rather than take responsibility for myself and my choices. Clearly, this made for a very unhappy and angry person. It didn’t bode well for relationships or marriages.  I think I began to take responsibility for my choices when I left my second husband, but this day in July 2010 was pivotal.  It was then that I realized I could do life on my own.  I didn’t need to be afraid.  I didn’t need to be in a relationship (though I wanted a good one very much). I didn’t need anything or anyone else to complete my life.  It was on this day that I came to terms with the fact that I am enough.  Imperfect, stubborn, frail, scared and indecisive, loud, abrasive, carrying a past riddled with loss and failure, I was still enough.  It took a long time for me to get to the place where I was able to accept myself as I am for who I am: a very imperfect work in progress.

That day in July was pivotal, though I didn’t realize it at the time.  Five years later, I see how it was the first decision, however casual it appeared to me to be at the time, that truly changed the course of my life. Purchasing the bike and riding it was the first thing. Deciding to take the bike to different locations was the next step.  I learned how to pack a bike, travel with it, find places to ride in unfamiliar locations, and when they closed the bike path for repairs in my own Southern Oregon region, I took to the roads, this time on a real road bike.  On my bike I was free and carefree. I also felt stronger every time I rode and conquered a new hill or added more miles in the same amount of cycling time.  It was my bike that carried me through  and to my cancer treatments. On my bike I was able to work through a lot of my stuff. I was able to make decisions and change my life to one I was much happier with.

Things have changed dramatically since then.  I’m now happily re-married. I’m still riding a bike, but this time it’s in an Eastern European country and it’s not like either of my other two bikes. All the hopes and dreams that just a few years ago I thought were impossible or beyond happening for me, are happening and the first step toward this life I’m now living I can trace back to my decision to follow through on that one commitment I made to myself to get a bike and get back into cycling. Life has a way of being convoluted at times.  It was in 2013, as things were really improving for me and my little family, that things also became very stressful. I took on more responsibilities at work. I was away from home more often. I was cycling less and less.

StAnnes VilniusThis brings me to today. Happier and far more content with my life than I’ve ever been, but also at my worst level of fitness than I’ve ever been. And, while I do have a bike here, and I have made a point of exploring the city I’m living in (currently Vilnius, Lithuania) by bike, it won’t be long until the weather here makes it completely impossible to ride a bike…or so I’m told.

Because of this, I’m changing the focus of this blog and I’m stating it here, today, October 16, 2015, so that one, two, five, ten years from now I can look back and, just as with that day in 2010 I can say, “That was the day I took control and things changed.”  I fully intend to continue exploring new paths on two wheels and to document them, but I’m also going to include other aspects of health and wellness that I’m exploring, experiencing and learning about.  This must include a certain amount of walking and yoga.  Of course, I won’t be approaching this as a health and wellness guru or fitness expert.  I am neither.  Instead, I’ll be sharing the journey, highs and the lows, the achievements and the struggles and the things I’m learning. This is where the road is winding for me at this juncture of the ride.

Vingus Park, Vilnius, LithuaniaThey say it is much harder for women to lose weight after 50.  We shall see. I’m not entirely certain how successful I will be, but I am (at least at this moment) determined, whereas I have not been so much so in the past. This time, I’m also fortunate to have the opportunity to take a leave of absence from work so I have time to focus on my health and fitness.  In many ways, this might be the biggest challenge yet.  We shall also see about that. I’ve said all this before and failed.  I’ve started before and stopped.  I can’t change that. I can only begin with now and move forward.

Whatever the case, it’s becoming clear to me that getting my life in gear is a process, not an end destination. It’s filled with starts, stops, stalls, detours. Just as with cycling, shift happens.  It has to, up and down and back again, depending upon the terrain. I’ve created and encountered some different terrain since starting this blog.  I’m shifting gears a bit because of it. Since I’m living internationally, I’ll be spending time talking about My Life in Gear while traveling, whether it is on foot, in the air or on two wheels.  I hope you’ll consider joining me.  I’d love the company as well as the encouragement.   And…I hope you enjoy the stories.


Blogger on Bike

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Hi, I'm Cat A.Olson, @According2Cat on Twitter, or @TheDigitalCat on Instagram, and I write about my cycling adventures. In 2010, after 25 years off the bike, I decided to get a bike and start riding again. In 2012, I was diagnosed with DCIS, an early and completely curable form of breast cancer. I had five weeks of radiation treatment and I rode my bike to nearly every treatment. In 2013, I decided to get a faster bike. I'm finally getting serious about losing weight, and riding really fast with the cool kids.

I ride every chance I get, as fast as I can, for as long as my body will allow. I'm learning how to embrace challenges like helmet hair, padded pants, clipless shoes, flat tires, bugs in my teeth, and...ugh...hills. I'm learning that both cycling and life are easier and a lot more fun when you're in the right gear.

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