My cardio playlist was the only thing that kept my legs moving as I contemplated jumping off the treadmill just 20 minutes into my workout, a full 40 minutes less than I planned when I walked in the gym that day. My lungs protested and my thighs rebelled as I rationalized quitting. “I could do 10 more minutes, and then do 1.5 hours tomorrow…”
Just then, I looked two rows ahead of me, where the recumbent bikes were. Two women stared at one of the bikes. They appeared to be sizing it up, much like a hiker would before a daunting climb. They looked at each other, then back at the bike, spoke a few words, and took deep breaths in unison. The woman on the left stood, and the other was seated in a wheelchair. The woman who stood squatted a bit, reached around the other woman’s chest, wrapped her arms tight and clasped her hands, as she prepared to lift her companion from the wheelchair and onto the bike. The woman in the chair reached up and around her friend, fingers locked behind her neck. I could not hear their private exchange, but I could read the lips of the woman who was standing: “One… Two… Three…” My heart pumped harder and I felt my pulse in my jaw, not because of the intensity of the incline or speed, but out of concern for those women. I tried not to stare, but I was captivated, cheering silently as the woman with the disability worked to find a position on the bike seat that felt right, and as her companion placed her feet on the pedals, snug within the stirrups. In that moment, I forgot about the burn in my lungs and my legs and held my breath as I watched a brave woman try with all of her might to move the right pedal. I could see the focus and determination on her face as she called on neurons, muscles, and joints to cooperate. Beads of sweat glistened on her face and neck, wetting and catching her dark hair. Her legs jumped and twitched beyond her control, moving but not in the way she wanted them to. Not in the way required to turn on the console. Her face reddened, perhaps from emotion and frustation and certainly from exertion. She looked up at her companion and shrugged as a toothy grin spread over her face. “I tried,” her lips said as her eyes welled with tears. Once again, her friend reached down as she reached up, this time for a hug, not a lift.
I felt ashamed of myself and my own eyes filled with tears. There I was, able to move, walk, jog, run, bike, dance… and I was going to take the easy road instead. Just because it felt hard in that moment.
How often do we choose the path of least resistance and, as a result, pass up our purpose? Rather than focus on what is uncomfortable in your life, pay more attention to the blessings, gifts and opportunities to create good in your life and in the world. Be grateful for what you have and leave a lasting, positive impact on others in the process. The next time you want to quit something that is good for you and necessary for your journey, think of your blessings and, for perspective, of the people who would love to be where you are. Stay the course and relish the pleasure and the pain, for both are byproducts of growth and possibility.