An Unexpected Benefit of Acting on Curiosity

Pedaling in the strong, chilly wind this afternoon, I was rocked by the wake of a huge flatbed semi, hauling six or eight massive bales of cotton—fluffy, white centers in pink wrappers. No match for Kansas wind, the tightly-packed bales were shedding cotton balls as the truck barreled south. A curious thought crossed my mind: “I wonder if those cotton balls feel like the ones we buy in the store.” Spontaneously, I slowed to a stop, clipped out of my pedal and leaned over to collect one. It felt similar, but with a seed in it. I smiled at the softness, touched my cheek with it and then put it in the pocket of my windbreaker to bring home.

The cotton ball and the act of collecting it sparked an inspiration.

Prior to picking up the cotton ball, I had been battling the wind, riding more slowly and feeling colder than I wanted. I had also been thinking—one of my favorite of the countless benefits I find in cycling.

This year has been the hardest of my life. It’s not over, nor are the challenges, but I won’t dwell on that here. The inspiration of the cotton ball stirred a desire to write that has been absent for most of the last seven months. Before encountering the cotton truck, I had been asking myself versions of the question, “What do I want to do with my life moving forward?” Any kind of satisfying answer eluded me. The only thing that held any real interest once I really considered it was finding a way to get paid for reviewing cycling gear and adventures. That feels more like a fantasy than a possibility, but who knows?

Cycling, reading writing, vegan living. Those are the steadfast passions that have remained throughout this year of stress and loss and fear. Those are the pillars that have continued to sustain me and ground me.

But writing. That’s what was bothering me before I picked up the cotton. Writing felt too hard, too daunting, too overwhelming. One more thing. And I can’t handle one more thing.

But curiosity led me to pick up the cotton. What did it feel like? In the instant that I picked it up, I felt inspired by the idea of curiosity—both writing and living from a place of curiosity. I recognized that I had allowed curiosity to guide me yesterday when approaching a persistent challenge. It served our family in yesterday’s experiment, and I think it has potential as a guiding principle in other aspects of life.

When I acted on my curiosity and stopped to pick up the cotton, I suddenly felt like writing. So, I am. I promised myself on the bike that I could just write, publish the post to my blog and share it on Facebook—no pressure to send to my mailing list or worry about how many (if any) people would read it. I would just write and post and see what feels good from here. I would write with curiosity.

Since recognizing and honoring the need for a self-care break in April, I have put everything except the necessities on hold—writing a book, building a coaching business, publishing blog posts on a schedule, all the things I believed were goals for my future. I’m not ready to return to any of those things, and I’m not sure I will. I recently heard the term “The Great Reassessment” on a podcast. It was mentioned in reference to the global reassessment that all of us are experiencing to a greater or lesser extent, due to the changes the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed upon us. Certainly, that is part of my experience, too, but the upheaval in my personal life has generated an even greater reassessment for me. Everything I thought I wanted to build feels flat now. Daily life has been reduced to surviving and trying to make the best, healthiest decisions for myself and my family in each given moment. The calculated nature of these decisions is exhausting. There is little room for anything else besides that and a job that is requiring more hours and more energy than I really have to give. I don’t write those things in self-pity. They are just the facts of my current state, and it is from this place that I was thrilled to feel the spark of inspiration that acting on my curiosity about the cotton ignited in me.

Maybe I’ll write consistently again. Maybe I won’t or can’t. Either way, I am committing to myself that I will trust curiosity to lead me to the next thing. Whatever that is. The next step on my path. The next place to which I am called. The next action I should take.

I think I will try on “curiosity” as a mantra in tomorrow morning’s meditation. I’m not sure where it will lead me, but that is the point. Curiosity is about listening to the things that spark our interest and then acting on them to see what happens.

I don’t know if this post will resonate with or benefit anyone else, but it feels like self-care today, and I am trying to trust and follow my intuition and instincts about what I need. Toward that end, curiosity is an attribute worth cultivating.

Navigating life with curiosity requires an open mind and a willingness to be wrong. I think taking a chance to trust curiosity sometimes comes from a place of having little to lose by trying a different approach. That’s where it feels like I am right now. I put the cotton ball in a special dish on my dresser. I’m grateful to it and its wind-blown friends for making me feel like writing again. Even if it is just for today. It feels nurturing in this moment, and I am choosing to trust that. When I set out on this afternoon’s ride, I didn’t expect to find inspiration floating from a passing flatbed, but I am grateful that I was open to curiosity and to where acting on it might lead. The cotton ball on my dresser will remind me to remain curious. I believe it may be a key to moving through our challenges in a more creative way. The gift of writing helps me to process and understand, and just maybe sharing my story will inspire a reader to act on curiosity and benefit from the results.

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