Thursday, September 3, 2009

Don't be Gene

I took my mountain bike out for a walk this afternoon. I tried to look on the bright side--it wasn't a dog, so there was no poop to scoop. On the down side, my bike has even less conversational ability than a dog, when I'm slogging up a too-narrow, too-technical hill, pushing it at my side. Then I started to look on the dark side, making my way through the "I suck" and into "my partner is doing this to me on purpose to make me feel bad, because I've been running faster than him lately." Then I thought--"No, I'm just feeling like a less literary version of Gene in A Separate Peace (by John Knowles)," which I had just finished reading before I took off on my bike.

It's funny how that happens. You read a book and the issues in the book seem to strike right to the core of your own life. We read our own lives into the best books. In this case, I realized that I was being as small as Gene was about Phineas in the book. Gene jounced the tree branch, causing Phineas to fall, because he was sure that Phineas was deliberately trying to undermine his studying, and to show him up. As we know, Phineas' mind didn't work that way, nor did his heart (and of course my partner wasn't trying to do anything nefarious to me either). Gene had created the mean rivalry in his own mind, because it seemed inconceivable that someone else couldn't feel as small as Gene did. How I felt on my mountain bike was up to me. I created every second of that ride in my own mind. I could find it fun and challenging to try to get up the steep, sandy hill between the looming rocks, or I could find it discouraging and frustrating, and feel small, and want to blame it all on someone else. As soon as I remembered Gene, I remembered it was my mind and my ride.

It's hard to stay in our own moments, but it makes all the difference.