“GIRL ON BIKE, A mountain bike, A mid-life adventure and men in shorts.”
“My Gutsy Story®” by Colleen Hannegan
Standing in the kitchen, my hands in fists at my side, I thought, “Surely it won’t end like this?” But there was no stopping the stream of hurtful words, screamed at me until the blue veins in his neck bulged and his spittle hit my face. I was almost hoping he would strike me so I would have visible signs of his abuse. It would make it so easy to file the report, pack my bags and leave. I would be able to look in the mirror and see the color of pain; red and purple and bruised brown, instead of how it had coursed through me unseen, a strong, invisible current that had pulled me along this river of false hope and fear for too many years. I had been slowly drowning, quietly, like a small child unattended in a pool of water, making no sound, surrounded and surrendering to a sinister power I did not know how to overcome. Until this moment.
Masters and mystics tell us the only way to solve a problem is not to go around it, but to go through it. Deepak Chopra says, “All great change is preceded by chaos.”
When the day came for me to re-discover my inner tough girl, I ran away from home at 50, bought a mountain bike and learned how to ride the dirt trails into the wilderness park.
This is a story about my journey, my search to re-discover myself, despite the fear I had to do so at mid-life. But it’s a journey many of you have also taken — whether you have chosen a bike, or running shoes, a paintbrush, a computer or a set of drums.
In learning to ride my mountain bike with a group of tough guys who were kind enough to include me in their group, I discovered how a frightened and fragile woman (me!) can recover her inner power of strength, embrace her outer beauty and uncover the magic of healing and grace that exists in the outdoors. I learned the secrets of redemption that being in nature teaches me each time I return to play out there; about forgiveness, freedom and fun. Along the dusty bike trails, accompanied by the kindness and kinship of new friends and companions, I revel in dirt, sweat, tears while a few bike mishaps have taught me that bruises and bumps will always be a part of life. And as long as you choose your friends wisely, and keep your heart open, you can make it through anything. True freedom belongs to everyone who braves the chaos that precedes great change.
When I was 16-years-old, I traveled as a foreign exchange student to Paris, France. I was thrilled with the idea of such adventure and experience. I felt so brave and alive! My daily diary was filled with detailed descriptions of the beautiful places and people I met. I imagined a life as a magazine writer on my flight home. But my rosy ideas of life as a traveling journalist lay locked away in my diary as life showed up with other ideas and challenges. I married young and had my daughter Leah when I was 20 years old. After being a single mother for six years, I married again at 28. I opened a business when I turned 35 and worked six to seven days a week for the next twenty-two years. Along the road of my life, I’d let go of adventure, I’d forgotten how to play and working hard seemed to be what I did best. I became a very successful business-woman, but a very unhappy girl. Until the day I found, again, the courage I once owned. And the bike and the wilderness trails that led me back to her.
In the midst of this mid-life adventure; on the trails with the dirt, the wildlife, new boyfriends and wild scenery, she came back to me. The girl inside showed up and I knew this was the time and place to tell her story. At 16, she was alive and well and full of promise. But at 50 she was ready to kick ass and set herself free.
Our instincts push us toward the very chaos that is our only ticket to freedom. It’s a far more wonderful world—filled with great adventure and fabulous people—than we can imagine, when we’re stuck in a place of discontent. So I encourage you to leave the job that doesn’t appreciate you or the relationship that sucks you dry. Get on your own “bike” and ride through the fear and uncertainty. The girl inside you is the one to trust. She is waiting for you to say “yes.”
COLLEEN HANNEGAN is a writer, professional speaker, certified business advisor, personal life coach for women in transition and a life long entrepreneur. She writes about change, about business and a variety of topics pertaining to the nature of things. Her articles and essays have been featured in SheWrites.com, betterafter50.com, Golf Extra and Eyecare Business.
For more than thirty years, she has enjoyed a career in optical retail management which included owning her own successful optical shop for twenty two years in southern California. She sold her business in 2012 and continues consulting other small business owners as an efficiency expert.
Of her many studies in the healing modalities of spirit, mind and body, Colleen enjoyed her two years study program in Shamanism and became a Certified Corporate Shaman.
Her memoir the Girl On Bike, A Mountain bike, a Mid-life adventure and Men in Shorts is due out in September, 2014.
She can be reached at www.colleenhannegan.com
SONIA MARSH SAYS: Your story will resonate with so many who “accept” their situation, rather than take the steps to become free.
“True freedom belongs to everyone who braves the chaos that precedes great change.” —Colleen Hannegan.
What a powerful statement, Colleen. Thanks for sharing your “Gutsy” story.
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Leslie Nack says
Colleen: Thanks for that great inspirational story. I too, had lots of courage and spunk at sixteen, and it’s so good to remember that part of me now that I’m 53, so thanks for reminding me. Good luck with your book.
Leslie Nack recently posted..Forgiveness
Sonia Marsh/Gutsy Living says
Colleen, I too am eager to read your memoir.
Sonia Marsh/Gutsy Living recently posted..My journey, My search to Re-Discover Myself
Lois Joy Hofmann, Author says
Colleen, I loved your story. I too, kicked out an ex, but in my early twenties. My traveling life really began at 58, when my new husband and soul mate, who was 65 at the time, had a catamaran built for us in the south of France, and embarked on a world circumnavigation. We returned to the same dock 8 years later, after sailing the world, stopping in 62 countries. Cheers to life after 50!!