I am not “The Bicyclist”

Judy: Are you riding these days?  Interested in joining me tomorrow?

Goldberg: I won’t be available until 2.  Does that work for you? 

Judy: Probably not but I will let you know if that changes.

*   *   *   *   *

Now that I’m finally getting older, I’m beginning to actually realize it when life lessons get handed to me on an unmistakable platter.  In the past few months I’ve been simultaneously blessed and challenged and delighted and rocked with unmistakable insights into what’s real. This is another part of that story.

And this was how this started: a simple exchange of emails between me and a bike-riding partner since maybe 1986.  The unusuality of it:  I didn’t respond with my usual and unequivocal

“Yes, yes, o yes.  We can ride.  I must ride.  Whatever…whenever…oh yes, just say when and I don’t care where and I’ll be there because (ta dum!) I am The Bicyclist!

Already something was going on.  Only I didn’t know it.  I just figured,

Hey!  I’ve got something to do around noon.  Either she waits or she doesn’t.  Either way–with her or alone–I’ll  still ride, ’cause I am The Bicyclist.

OK, so wearing my non-bike-riding civvies, I get on my beaten, blue Ross commuter bike and spin slowly up Amsterdam Avenue to 96th Street and my meditation group.  I’d not been there for three weeks now because of a trip to Israel (more about that, you can be sure, later), the land where life got handed to me several times, and I   was truly looking forward to reuniting with some remarkable folks engaged in a remarkable practice.  Still, the back of mind was filled with images of me in my bicyclist suit, sitting astride my bright red Klein road bike (bright red) riding perhaps across the George Washington Bridge, onto the road we cyclists call (incorrectly) River Road and north.  Remember, I am The Bicyclist.

 I’m not going to give you all the  intermediary details.  I hate it when people do that to me–I’m a ‘Punch Line’ kinda guy–and even if you’re one of those folks who thrives on details, I ‘m willing to risk your wrath here.  The meditation starts.  It’s the Shaking Meditation in the tradition of Ratu Bagus


that I’ve mentioned in previous posts.  Loud, rhythmic music, quiet individual mantra-chanting to bring the mind back to focus whenever it drifts off to things like being The Bicyclist, some groaning and laughter and, above all, rapid full-body shaking all dedicated to whatever I can conceive of that has vastly more power than I do.  In my case that’s God.

OK, so here I am shaking and mantrasizing and suddenly–out of absolute and proverbial Nowhere–the thought leaps into my head:

I am NOT “The Bicyclist!”


     I’m not?

          I’m not!


                                     I’m really not.  I’m just a guy who, along with doing countless other things on a regular basis,  rides a bike.  It’s not who I am.  It’s–at most–just one thing I do.  It’s not my identity, and I am certainly not somehow more worthy and successful when I ride a bike and less worthy and a failure if I don’t.  I’m just someone who sometimes rides and sometimes doesn’t.  In fact, I’ve just put a halt to receiving far too frequent emails labeling me a “Legend of the New York Cycle Club” in an effort to get me to attend a club reunion for which I’d already bought my ticket a month ago.  I’m not  him.  I’m just me.

O, flippin’ wow!

This truth realized causes the root question to arise:

What identities do I subscribe to?  How much of  how I see myself is based on trying to live up to certain stereotypes or, for the psychoscholars among us, archetypes that have been planted in my head over the years?  How much joy, misery, frustration and self-congratulation arise from my living up to or failing to live up to these sets?

And, of course, me being me, I suspect I’m not alone in this, so I turn it to you:

What identities do you subscribe to?  Who do you tell yourself you are?  What does it cost/profit you to believe it?

*     *     *     *     *

Published in: on June 6, 2011 at 9:51 am  Comments (7)  
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  1. I think I have been struggling with the same concept all my life…that I had to “define” myself. So often people ask “what are you?” and “what do you do?” instead of “tell me about yourself”. I like the latter the best. I happen to be a wife, a mother, a nurse practitioner, a sister…all which help to explain me. But they are not me. I feel so much better these days, knowing that I don’t have to make a choice. Richard has helped me realize this over the past 16 years. That may be why the real me has been allowed to emerge. Whoever she is…..


  2. I agree! You are not a bicyclist. You ride a bike. I do too. Good for us. But I AM A MILEAGE COLLECTOR!
    Good almost six grand last year! That defines me to me. Did we do any of those miles together? See you on the road.


  3. This from Marian:

    My first reaction to this piece was, when I am asked about how I am, my response is always telling that person about how my kids and gandsons are doing. So, you have gotten me to thinking deep thoughts that will continue for a long while and should be revisited many times. Thanx for stirring up my mind 🙂



  4. A familiar reframe most of my adult life, “arn’t you that guy from television?” “Yes but my name is. The past ten years? I retired in the year 2000″. Don’t be embarassed, I had a wonderful career and thank you”. What we do in life does not define who we are..Its just one of the things that we do or have done as we travel on this wonderful journey.


  5. This from Duncan Campbell:

    I didn’t want you to think that I was either not reading your musings or ignoring them, so here is my thoughtful reply :

    When did we start needing to make sub-atomic identifications of who we are ? What reductions of the polynomial will suffice in getting to our “inner somewhere” ?
    Of course you are the bicyclist ( duh !) ‘cuz you ride dem bicycles.,
    But, at what point (for example)did Tommy Elliot need to identify himself as old, and then roll up his trousers or decide that his life was nothing more than a metric of coffee spoon? Answer: He did it to make himself famous and because he was a wise ass !…… Nothing more ! ( Bicyclists are not wise- asses however, unless they ride three abreast)
    Think Globally ( I am what “am”); Act locally ( always use deodorant )

    Ok… Ok . I know I’m dodging my identify question. Let’ see…. Today .. (Hmmm ?) I am :” Duncan The Poet”
    I guess I need a poem to prove it .. huh ? Well, I will “use as my muse” that wonderful source of creative inspiration: “ Some Story I think I Saw on 60 Minutes”. Here goes:
    Oh.. As you recite this “poem”, please hum(or sing) the melody to the Irish Rebel Song “The Patriot Game” . Alternatively, you can hum( or sing) Bob Dylan’s “With God On Their Side”… Same air

    The Ballad of Lance Armstrong

    My name is Lance Armstrong, and I once rode a bike
    I challenged each mountain I challenged each pike
    But I lied and I cheated and took every chance
    ‘Cause of my old obsession with the Ol’ Tour de France

    They all meet him somewhere, to lessen their load
    Robert Johnson, the crossroads, Lance, just a “plain” road
    The swap that they make there, they swear will enhance:
    Play Guitar….” Damn the Yankees” .. Win the Ol’ Tour de France

    And now as I lie here, as they swap out my blood
    EPO , my companion, then a steroidal flood.
    The dude in the mountains that I met, not by chance
    Had me choose between honor and the Ol’ Tour de France

    -Duncan Campbell


  6. I’ve been fending off being ‘the bicyclist’ for decades. Many (most?) people seem to need to see others in a certain light. Maybe it simplifies things (meaning other people) for them. When someone (really everybody but my 2 good friends) at work would hear I’m going on vacation to lets say Bhutan, they would say “are you bringing your bicycle?”. It seemed to trouble their world view when I was not bringing my bicycle, I guess because I am ‘the bicyclist’ to them.
    I always found this mind set similar to the common question about almost any activity I ever tell someone about – ‘ what was your favorite part’. Or the best part or best thing about the trip/activity. Very rare to hear ‘tell me about the trip’. Most people really want a sound bite. Then they can put it (and you) in a nice simple box and move on.
    Of course not any of us…


  7. I have given up lots of things for lent, for lack of ability, time and money. Here’s part of MY list: boxing, fishing, hockey, kayaking and my most missed: TWINKIES. Such is life! Judith Raices


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