Spinning My Wheels

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A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend who loves biking … mountain biking, road biking, everything biking.  Her enthusiasm was palpable.  During the course of our conversation, I told her that I, too, loved biking.  She asked what kind of bike I rode, to which I truthfully responded, “I don’t own a bike right now, but I really love spin class at the gym.”  (I faithfully attend spin class three times each week where I pedal for an hour in the dark to trendy music. What could be better, seriously?)  My friend was amused by my declaration and probably without thinking she said, “I don’t like spin class so much because you never go anywhere.”

Our conversation shifted and evolved into talk of other things.  Nothing more was said of biking or of spinning.  But after she left, the memory of her statement vexed my pride. Before I was married with eight children, I was an energetic and adventurous person.  A person who was going places.   I spent much of my free time out of doors.  Backpacking.  Hiking.  Mountain Biking.  Always planning my next expedition.  But just like the song says, seasons change.  And in this season, I am spending hours of my life and a significant portion of my energy inside a gym, pedaling … and going nowhere.  Spinning my wheels.

During the course of this contemplative storm, I began pondering the other ways in which I use my time and energy.  And I came to the uncomfortable awareness that I live a life of persistent and inescapable entropy.  So much of my time and energy is spent in what seems like repetitious and fruitless labor. Very little I do stays done. I cook, clean, referee, chauffer, wash, problem-solve, teach and remind all day long.  I use all of myself in this exertion.  And at the end of the day, where have I gone?  What have I accomplished?

Stephen R. Covey wrote, “It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life … It is possible to be busy—very busy—without being very effective.”  And Dieter Uchtdorf warned against misguided priorities that cause us to wear our busyness as a “badge of honor.”   But just as dangerous as being proud of our wheel-spinning prowess can be the despair that occurs when we fail to see the fruits of our inexhaustible labors … when we feel we are going nowhere.

As I pondered these feelings of despair, I remembered something I learned long ago: fear always lies to us.  Our fears that we are “going nowhere” lure us into dissatisfaction, discouragement and despair. But they lie!  The truth is that there is no stasis.  Life is multi-dimensional.  Within the realm of our direct experience there are at least four dimensions  (String Theory indicates that there are other dimensions beyond empirical proof, and I have to say I agree wholeheartedly).  If we take a step back and look at life, and the observable dimensions it takes place within, we recognize that it is literally impossible to “go nowhere.”  The length, width and height that spin us into three dimensions is continuously moving through another dimension, that of time.

We are continuously traveling through space-time.  And because this is true, rather than asking, “Did I go where I wanted to go today?”  we would be wise to ask, “Will the choices I made today take me where I want to be down the road.”  Totally profound, I know… When we take a short-sighted approach to life, we spend too much thought on today, and in so doing, we rob the future of its power.  But when we live with purpose and vision, we create the future inside our hearts, and we live each day earnestly, deliberately, willing to submit to present discomforts, because we know where we are going.

It is purpose that pulls our figurative wheels out of suspended space and places them squarely on life’s pavement.  It is that purpose that will take us not just somewhere, but exactly where we want to go.

In Stephen R. Covey’s book The Seven Habit of Highly Effective People, his second habit is “begin with the end in mind.”  It is incumbent upon us to decide where we are going, not necessarily where we are going today, but rather ultimately.  Covey explains that “By keeping that end clearly in mind, you can make certain that … each day of your life contributes in a meaningful way to the vision you have of your life as a whole. With well-defined purpose, we quickly begin to recognize which activities in our lives propel us and which do not.”  And this process of prioritization happens naturally, with very little thought.  If we are truly loyal to our purpose, if we revisit it with regularity, we will naturally make choices of proper priority.  And the pedal strokes of today will propel us determinedly toward our chosen future, whether or not we see the fruits of our labor in the present.

So, while it may seem like I am spending my life on a stationary bicycle, I am definitely going somewhere … and so are you.  Is that somewhere where we want to be?

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  1. Anita says

    My favorite part of this blog reading experience is that I am reading it on a stationary bike while my 3 year old tears the house apart and a 5 month old wails on the floor. Couldn’t be more appropriate! Thanks Shawna, who says I’m getting nowhere? Backward if nowhere else :)

  2. Paula says

    You perfectly described my 12 year-old’s reaction to seeing the dirty living room less than a day after he cleaned it when you wrote; “I live a life of persistent and inescapable entropy.” I’ll have to have him read your thoughtful post when he gets home from school. Spin those wheels, girl! Your blog is inspiring. <3

  3. Janel says

    Loved it! Thanks for helping me see that I too may be spinning my wheels, but I am still moving forward, in the direction I want to go even. :)

  4. Rachel says

    While I think you have a good point about this moment and learning now, there is such a thing as stasis and even entropy within a single part of your life. I have experienced true stasis, and like any other state, it follows newtonian law. Revisiting your purpose when it is evident and given to you is a great way to get out of the idea of feeling you’re in stasis. When you have no means to fulfill what you want or what you think your purpose is, then you must occupy yourself in any direction to avoid stasis- but it still is a spinning wheel with no road grip.

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