Thursday, October 3, 2019

Just Like Riding a Bike

October 3, 2019

There’s an old adage that talks about riding a bike as something that becomes second nature once you learn how—a muscle memory that you never really forget, even if you haven’t done it for awhile.  Here’s the thing, though.  They never really talk about what happens if you actually want to forget how to ride that bike.  Let’s say you’re riding along on your favorite bike.  It’s blue with little flecks of glitter in the paint, because, you know, that’s your favorite color and you love sparkly things.  It’s probably got those little ribbons attached to the handlebars that flutter satisfyingly in the wind.  It might have a few scuffs or dings, but you love that bike all the same, because each of those unique marks represents an adventure you enjoyed.  You couldn’t have wished for a better day to go out riding, so you’re out with a song in your heart and a wide expanse of beautiful road in front of you as far as the eye can see.  You’ve never been on this road before, but it’s promising, inviting.  Almost magical.  Suddenly, unexpectedly, BAM!  You not only crash spectacularly, but your crash is caused by being forcefully shoved off that bike with no warning sign. You fly through the air, landing with the kind of painful thud that reverberates in your ears and knocks the wind out of you, leaving you gasping for air.  You don’t know if you’ll ever be able to breathe normally again.  You can’t even remember what it’s like to breathe normally, to not have to remind yourself to take in air and let it go again, despite the pain. You lie in the dirt, limbs akimbo, dirt and gravel embedded in the tender layers of skin that tried valiantly to cushion the fall.  On the other side of the road, the bike.  It’s crumpled, irreparable.  It will never look the same again.  It will never be the same, you think.

Why on earth would you want to ride again?  A battered and bruised figure might well think walking to be a safer bet.  A longer path, perhaps, and maybe not quite as exhilarating, but one in which it is less likely for you to get knocked back down into the dirt, leaving you struggling to regain your composure, your confidence, your self.  And so you set off down another path, gingerly placing each foot one after the other on the new path.  It’s slow going, of course; every path now seems fraught with the possibility of an unexpected pitfall.  You want to be prepared.  You want to brace yourself.  You want to ward off the possibility of being taken unaware again.

It’s not possible, though, you know.  And as you make your way down this path, the one you had no intention of traveling, and certainly not on foot, you begin to hear a little voice from within.  “It’s not possible.  You can’t avoid the possibility of pain.  You just can’t.  And in trying to avoid it, by being afraid, you also cheat yourself out of something that brought you such joy.”  You realize that little voice inside you is right; you don’t want to give up the possibility of finding that joy again.  And so you go back.  You walk back slowly, almost timidly, to the place where your bike sits, bedraggled and damaged.  On closer inspection, however, you realize it’s not beyond repair.  With a little care, with a little time, you reshape the frame and dust off the dirt.  You polish it again until you see the glint of the glitter start to shine through.  Carefully, you slide one leg over, just to test the weight, the balance.  An easy spin of the pedals propels you slowly forward and you turn onto a side road you hadn’t noticed before.  It’s not well traveled, but there are flowers edging the path and charming trees dotting the landscape.  It’s worth exploring what’s ahead.  As you pick up speed, you feel the wind caress your cheeks and tousle your hair gently.  You feel the kiss of the sun on your forehead and you find yourself daring to breathe again. To look forward again.  To find promise in the path of the unexpected, unplanned.  You are going to take it slow for awhile, and you might stop and get off every now and again to regain your footing for a bit.  But ride again you will. And you realize that perhaps they were right all along.  Maybe you really never forget to learn how to ride a bike.  Perhaps you don’t ever want to forget.

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