I look forward to going to my brother’s cabin for our annual family gathering. After seeing clients in the morning, I packed the car to head out. In support of my husband’s biking wishes, he’d left hours before.

The plan was that Thomas would bike 60 miles and then we would switch. He would drive the last 30 and I would bike. I was looking forward to the bike ride and physically moving my body since I sit indoors for my work all week. The car ride started feeling long and then I got stuck in the Minnesota Friday-going-to-the-cabin traffic. I sat at the Stillwater bridge for 20 minutes.

Text messages from Thomas started coming through. He was feeling pretty good and considering that he might be able to bike all the way. What he didn’t tell me at the time was, of course he wouldn’t bike beyond what we had agreed because he was going to support me biking too. The next message was that he was in Amery, Wisconsin. That’s getting pretty close to the cabin. “When’s my turn?,” I wondered.  This is the first year I’ve even gotten the option of biking. He usually rides the whole distance and I load up the kids, the stuff and meet them at the cabin.

Remember now, my mantra is that I’m not going to work so hard. I made easier meals, I got some help loading the car, and I was also going to bike. A 30 mile bike ride may sound like work to many people but for me it’s rejuvenating to be outside in nature exercising.

Finally, we worked it out and in Amery I got on my bike with about 25 miles to go to the cabin. The funk I’ve been in for the last few hours faded quickly as I started pedaling, feeling my own power and the wind flowing by. “Responsible for nobody else, nothing else and with whatever I wanted to do,” I thought.

Thomas drove back a couple times to help me find shortcuts and avoid dirt roads. Then I was on my own, weaving through the back country roads, heading towards Cumberland.

Laying on the side of the road was a beautiful bald eagle. Wings spread out, feathers intact and fairly recently dead. I got off my bike and automatically put my hands in the namaste position, honoring this incredibly majestic bird. Feeling sad for it’s death and yet grateful for it’s presence here on my trek.  I wanted to take a few of the feathers to hang on my wall but had no way to carry them carefully on my bike. I vowed to come back later.

My creative mind began to work and I imagined hanging some feathers in a dreamcatcher on my bedroom wall. About 10 miles down the road I found a beautiful snapping turtle shell. It was about 12 inches in diameter and had been cleaned out by insects. Only the shell and the bones were remaining. I quickly added this to my creative ideas and picked up the shell wanting it to be part of my dreamcatcher. Unfortunately, it became more of a windcatcher. As I was going down a big hill, it caught the wind and part of it cracked off. I desperately hung onto it wanting to preserve what I could. Biking with one hand, holding a large turtle shell, is not easy. About 5 miles later I started up a big incline. It was too much work. I couldn’t hold it and bike. I couldn’t carry the additional stress of trying to preserve this crumbling shell. Was I really going to make something with it or was it going to be additional clutter in my home waiting for attention? The excitement of finding it had turned to a burden. In a rush of relief, I threw it like a Frisbee out into the woods, screaming and then sobbing, “Set it free, set it free, set it free, set it free!”

I cried for the eagle, I cried for the snapping turtle, I cried for my client who recently overdosed on drugs, and I cried for myself –  I so desperately want to be set free. Free from living as only a shell of who I know I can be. I want my inner fire to burn. I want my light to shine! The image that I had seen during one of my meditations became clear: inside my shell there’s a fiery layer of passion and intensity. Inside that, a center of spiritual light and calmness. During that meditation I had felt something I never had experienced, a sense of complete peacefulness. If I live a mindful Tantra path, I can live my life fully! Completely! Consistently!

Crying and releasing layers of emotion as I biked. Feeling the fire and power within me surge and grow with confidence. The subtle ways in which I adapt myself to situations exhaust me. I want to live authentically and be who I am meant to be –  proudly. I need to work less hard on pleasing others. I need to feel less responsible for others. To set myself free!

Then Thomas started texting me, “Where are you?!” I had been weaving myself through the country roads taking a circuitous route and the sun was beginning to set. I had mixed feelings about being rescued from my long bike ride with the car.  I was enjoying the time to myself, feeling emotionally raw and was hoping to bike all the way to the cabin. Yet, I had already biked over 30 miles and biking was beginning to feel like work, so I was ready to be supported.

Thomas got out of the car to help me load the bike. He was irritated and saying in a loud voice, “I am so frustrated…  ”  I didn’t hear it. It didn’t sound supportive to me so I lashed out and screamed at him. I’m not even sure what I said but the main message was: ” I’m not responsible for your frustration, your feelings or anybody anymore!” Who was I really trying to convince? I’m sure he didn’t hear my words either, just my fury.

That’s one way to have the shell come off. It’s not always so attractive underneath when I’m authentic. Quickly, I realized I’d gotten to the raw fire but not the center of peacefulness. He didn’t deserve my rage and I apologized. Thomas had been trying so hard to support me on this bike trip that when it didn’t work as he had anticipated, he got frustrated. He thought we were going to meet at one intersection and I didn’t show up. Funny how I thought we had agreed on something else. After 23 years of marriage, again we vowed that next time we’d have clearer communication.

At the cabin I was more my true self. Engaging personally with people, touching in tender and caring ways, and willing to tell some of my raw stories. I let the shell fall away, beginning to honor the fiery inside and the center calmness.