Whoever said 50 is the new 30 clearly did not see me this morning trying to remember how to ride a bicycle. It was painful, literally and figuratively.
My husband, ever the athlete, had already jumped on his bike and was effortlessly weaving in between parked cars as if they were some sort of obstacle course to be won in record time. “Come on,” Lorenzo called to me. “You can do it!”
Exasperated, I brushed away the drops of sweat that were dripping into my eyes, behind my sunglasses. The sweat and sunscreen only served to cloud my contacts, making my vision blurry.
“Watch out!” Lorenzo yelled.
It was too late. My bicycle and me came to a painfully abrupt halt, courtesy of someone’s garage door.
Lorenzo pedaled back to me and asked if I was okay and did I need help picking up my bike.
I brushed myself off and surveyed the damage. Nothing broken. Nothing bleeding. A few scrapes to the borrowed bicycle and the polish on my big toe but nothing that would prevent me from trying again.
Righting my bicycle, I swiped again at the sweat that was running into my eyes and settled myself back on the seat of the bike. “Let’s go,” I said to Lorenzo, “but this time off of the main drag and on a neighborhood street with less traffic and people.”
As I worked to remember the art and joy of riding a bike, I mentally counted the number of years since I had last ridden. Thirty-five. Thirty-five years is a long time. And whoever said anything comes back easily, just like riding a bike, clearly didn’t let 35 years go by in between excursions.
I found myself frustrated in trying to remember skills that had once come as easily as breathing. As my eyes wandered to admire a garden, I found my bicycle veering in that direction. I overcorrected, wobbling dangerously close to a parked car.
Slowing down and turning corners was now a choice. I could do one or the other, not both simultaneously. And looking behind me for cars coming down the street? Forget it! They would have to either go around me or hit me. At this point I wasn’t honestly sure I cared which choice they exercised.
It took me about 30 minutes before I began to get my legs under me and remember some of the skills I had taken for granted in my youth. Riding up and down quiet neighborhood streets, I began to find my balance and confidence.
Suddenly, I wasn’t overthinking and overcorrecting. I was riding. The bicycle was not some strange contraption or foreign appendage – it was an extension of me; a part of my determination to see, experience and explore.
Without thinking, I slowed down and rounded the corner, my eyes taking in the sight of the Pacific Ocean down the hill in the distance. The ocean breeze blew the hair away from my face, its coolness drying the sweat on my forehead.
I couldn’t help myself. Laughter bubbled up, escaping my lips, piercing the quiet streets. My heart was overwhelmed with the sheer joy of riding my bicycle. Cruising back toward the Pacific and our vacation rental, I returned a different person than I was when I left.
All day I’ve been thinking about that bike ride. Life can become difficult at times, causing me to set aside experiences that I enjoy or even need in order to do what is necessary to survive. But I shouldn’t wait 35 years in between storms to reengage with what I love and what brings me joy.
At times, the heat of the day and the struggle of a battle can cause my vision to become blurred. I crash and fall. It can be painful. Embarrassing. As a result, I find myself overthinking and overcorrecting, trying to avoid the crash. That never works.
Instead, I need to regroup in quiet places where I can regain my balance and confidence. When I give myself permission to do so, I rediscover my joy.
Today reminded me that there is a kind of grace in enjoying the ride, experiencing the balance and freedom that comes with practice. But the real art is in falling down. It’s what I do during the fall and its aftermath that determines whether I will get back up, climb back on, and enjoy the ride. And what a ride it is!