Redefining Happiness

Even though it’s been a while since our last post, rest assured that we’re alive and pedaling. And oh, how alive we are!

I could speak of the scenery that has captured our eyes, the exciting and changing terrain, the multiple thorn-induced flat tires, the creative and borderline-crazy places we’ve slept (I will save this for another post!), the ungodly amount of food that has been consumed (and the appetites that cannot be filled), the way which time has dissolved into experiences, and, most impacting, the kindness of the folks we have met and the immediate, lasting friendships made.

These things certainly all deserve attention to varied degrees, but what I am choosing to focus on is a deeper realization that has become more actualized along this physical and mental voyage. It is something that applies to all humans, and not just those out cycling across the country or hiking a 2,180 mile trail. It not only keeps people stagnant and unhappy, but it also becomes an obstacle for the courageous to overcome.

Conditioning, habits, routine, call it what you will — the thing that binds people to their chosen identities, becomes an excuse for not moving forward, and, generally, creates a feeling of comfort.

Somewhere along the line, we seem to have confused comfort with happiness“, ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes, Ultramarathon Man.

Breaking conditioning is no easy task. When it’s cold and rainy, your sleeping bag is damp, you’ve been eating the same food for days, your body is sore, and you’re tired as all hell, the temptation to go eat at a restaurant and get a motel is not so much knocking on your door as it is busting the door down and insisting upon it. At least initially.
These urges are a part of our conditioned habit for the things with which we are familiar; the things that make us feel safe, warm, comfortable. For me and David, we have been living a fairly unconventional lifestyle where we are more than comfortable sleeping outdoors (and actually prefer it), and are excited by creating new, fun places to hunker down. Not sleeping in a bed every night makes those moments when we do get a bed, that much more enjoyable; the same goes for showers and clean clothes. However, that’s not to say that, at times, we don’t struggle with untangling from the messy ropes of conditioning, created from our formative years of youth.

Reaching a state of ‘present moment enjoyment’ devoid of nagging habits can be no easy task. It requires thought and willful action. Here lies the distinction between acting and reacting. When we react, we do so almost unconsciously–our reactions are created by habits which are created by conditioning, sometimes falling years and years into the past. When we act, we do so consciously. Acting is choosing to examine your life and becoming cognizant of each moment. Choosing to act consciously allows you to be in control of how you experience things.

Along this journey, I have made the decision that I want to grow, to flourish, to allow myself to experience each moment (no matter how seemingly difficult or uncomfortable it may be) with a smile and a willingness to learn. If I faced difficult situations by conditionally avoiding them, then my life would become a feedback loop that sent me the same message of unhappiness and boredom.

Choose happiness. Choose excitement.

Having pedaled halfway down California’s coast, then heading east through Arizona and New Mexico, we are now making our way across my home state of Texas. Friends and family await; along with the joyful, unexpected, wondrous realm of the unknown!

-Virginia

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2 thoughts on “Redefining Happiness

  1. The words you express came across to me that I need to read and reflect on quite a bit- for my own being. Thank you !

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