Finding Moments of Bliss

By Philip

It’s a Friday morning, my alarm goes off at 4:45. Typically I would roll out of bed and get ready to go mountain biking, but I am trying to talk myself into going back to sleep. I make the decision to get up and go and I’m glad I did. I park my car, jump on my bike and head up to the starting point of one of my favorite downhill sections of the Hawes trailhead, what is known on Strava as Magic Mountain Downhill. As I started out, I could tell my legs were there and decided to see if I could improve my best time. 4 minutes and 12 seconds later, I crossed the finish line, yelled and started laughing to myself. I improved my time by one second, which would put me in 8th place all time on the section. I’m not typically one to show emotions, but I had a grin plastered on my face the rest of my ride. 

Flashback to five years ago. Several of my friends in my neighborhood have decided mountain biking would be their new pastime. I was at the tail end of paying off my student loan and didn’t want to have an added expense so when they asked me to join, I politely declined. Well, as my friend recalls, I replied with, “Why would I want to do something like that?” I guess I can be a bit of a jerk sometimes. I don’t always mean to, it just comes out like word vomit. My daughter would’ve been so disappointed with me for not trying something new. Daniel Tiger taught us you have to try new things because they might be good. He was talking about eating new food but the concept applies here as well.

A year goes by, and at this point I have finished paying off my student loans. My friend went out of town and told me to borrow his bike for a few days just to see if I liked riding. I took him up on his offer and went on my first ride. Twenty minutes into the ride I found myself lying on the dirt trying not to throw up. I was in terrible shape and it was painfully obvious. My friends assured me they all struggled at first and I should come out a few more times before deciding on whether this was for me. 

It’s hard to pinpoint a top ten list of best decisions you’ve made in your life, but continuing on with mountain biking is definitely on that list for me. I found it an enjoyable escape from the hamster wheel that is adult life. I dropped 20 pounds that first summer and was feeling pretty good about myself. That momentum lead me to improving my diet and dropping another 20 pounds. As someone who has never liked to exercise and has struggled with weight and body image issues, finding a physical pastime that I really enjoyed was a huge win.

Now back to that Friday morning. I stuggled to to get up that morning because I was having a bad week at work, and that, coupled with other stressors in my life, had me questioning whether or not I was experiencing depression. I have always enjoyed mountain biking, but that morning showed me that riding a bike is my happy place. In that moment I forgot about my struggles at work and just experienced pure joy. My anxieties turned to peace. Later that day I text my friend to thank him for letting me borrow his bike four years ago and helping me find a hobby that helps me escape the stress and constraints of my everyday life. It took me a year longer than it should have, but I let go of a limiting belief and embraced a hobby that brings a ton of value to my life, even if it is kind of expensive.

I started thinking about times in my life that I felt this peace and happiness. Wayne Booth, a professor of rhetoric at the University of Chicago, called these moments “temporary blissful centerings”. He made a list of those moments in his life and they ranged from things like cuddling a newborn child to teaching a class when the discussion goes right. After reading his list I thought a lot about what brings me true bliss. I started working on a list. I’ll share some I have so far:

  • Vacationing with Melissa sans kids
  • Making my kids laugh uncontrollably
  • Being immersed in a great story (book, movie,etc.)
  • Playing a board game when everyone is actually competing
  • Flying downhill on my mountain bike
  • Singing loudly to a song I love

I’m still working on it all the time. This blog and sharing financial tips is creeping onto that list too. It has been so helpful to me to look for these blissful moments that make the long days worth it. If you feel comfortable doing so, share a moment in your life that you would consider a temporary blissful centering in the comments below.

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