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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Learning to Ride a Bike at 37 -- or -- Rachel is Obstinate

If you never learned this about me (it's a favorite response of mine in the "Three Truths and a Lie" party game), I never learned to ride a bike.

Yes, I'm 37 years old. No bike. 

The reasons are many. It all begins at childhood, but as all childhood memories, the tale has been created and repeated and mushed over time. I'm sure there is truth embedded, and lies as well. But it goes as such:

My mother will certainly confirm: I have always been obstinate. (bull-headed, stubborn, etcetc.) If it wasn't my idea, NOT interested. Even if I WANTED something to start with, if someone ELSE brought it up, nope! I'm out.

Can any moms relate?

Anyway, for the most part, my mom was able to manipulate this character trait while still "letting me be me." She must have been a wizard of reverse psychology and giving me a sense of independence - at least in the important things. Thanks, mom!

Anyway, in my neighborhood, the "big kids" had bikes, and the little kids had Big Wheels (go ahead and revel in the nostalgia for a moment. I'll wait. Did you flip yours over and pedal the wheels with your hand while someone whittled a stick? No? Just me? Ah, well.).

Here's where the memories get muddy, but in MY mind, one of the neighbor boys had a Superman bike I admired. Or maybe I just admired him, or marveled at the skill of riding a two-wheeler. Perhaps it was a combination of both. In my mind, the bike was iconic and sleek black, with a Superman logo. In actuality, if in fact any boy had a Superman bike at that time, it likely looked like this:

Bad-ass, right?

The chain of events are unclear; perhaps I mentioned that I liked his bike, or that I didn't HAVE a two-wheeler ... but I am quite certain I did not say, "I want a bike," and/or, "I want to learn to ride a big-kid bike." I know this, because when this beauty showed up, I was aloof:

Looking at it now, it's quite lovely. I remember my basket being white, but who knows?! at this point, I will admit to my memories being skewed.

I distinctly remember 1. disappointment at not having a Superman bike, even though I doubt that desire was even MENTIONED to my well-meaning parents. I can't believe they weren't mind readers!

2. bike assembled, beautiful day(s), parents suggesting I go out and give it a try. Perhaps even mentioning it for days or weeks, to my refusal. (see the "not my idea" section above).

3. when things do not come to me immediately, I toss them aside as either beyond me or stupid to begin with. I'd like to think I've outgrown this a bit, but I suppose you'd do well to ask Ian if he thinks this is the case.

4. at age 7, I moved from a neighborhood of side-by-side homes with grassy backyards and paved driveways to a country abode on a giant hill, surrounded by acres and acres of field, and a gravel driveway emptying onto a major highway. My feeble attempt at bike-learning was my mom's (read: tall!) road bike in the approximately 10 feet of cement garage floor. No surprise: fail. Had I actually learned, any bike riding would have been done via transporting said bike elsewhere to ride around in circles. Not high on anyone's list.

Fast forward many, MANY years. 

THIRTY, actually. 

I've lived in MANY locations amenable to bike riding. Neighborhoods with lots of flat. Having no bike or inclination to try again, coupled with terrifying attempts to rollerblade = never learned, didn't care to. I was okay with that.

We moved to Beaver, Pennsylvania. Our kids became "of that age," and we got them bikes. At that point, Ian was able to ride, and when my daughter learned in a day, they were able to go on little jaunts around the neighborhood. I wasn't jealous, exactly (let's face it ... laziness is also a factor here), but I will admit: a little ashamed. I watched Audrey, no fear, jump on a bike and GO. 

I must point out here, however, that it's a LONG WAY DOWN when you're a tall person. Just sayin'.

Then one day (again with this all-in-one-day thing? Witchcraft, I tell ya!), some friends made some kind of deal with my son - "learn to ride your bike without training wheels and we'll ______" (Ezra can't even remember what the carrot was). He did, they did. Done.

While strolling around town sometime later, I decided to visit the local bike shop. I had it in mind that because I did so much cruising around a five-block-max radius, I'd do well to use a bike. What if they sold three-wheelers? I could TOTALLY handle that. No balance, all effort!

Guy at shop: "You don't want one of those. They're a pain to ride. Hard work. Pretty expensive."

Me: "But I don't know how to RIDE a bike. I'z ascared."

Him: (with no smirk of incredulity, God bless him) "We'd be happy to teach you. I'm positive you can learn."

I looked at the bikes. I had romantic thoughts about cruising along, wind in my hair, free. Faster than walking! A bit of exercise! Less gas usage! 

That evening I announced to my husband: "I went to the bike shop today."


"Yes. I looked at the bikes. He told me I didn't want a three-wheel bike."

"No, you don't. They're hard to ride."

"That's what he said." End of conversation.

Skip ahead to my birthday, wherein my husband, who had heard the Legend of the Stubborn Rachel-Child, gifted me with a sleek, black bike. He also purchased a Superman decal to be affixed once I made the bike my own by LEARNING TO RIDE IT.

Now, dear friends, further insight into my brain:

This "maybe I would like to ride a bike idea" was DANGEROUSLY close to NOT BEING MY IDEA ANYMORE because someone ELSE had gone and bought a bike for ME to ride.

Seriously dangerous territory. Like I said: obstinate.

My husband, God bless him (and I believe I have mentioned before, quite the saint when it comes to navigating his wife's idiosyncrasies) SAID NOTHING. 

He may have off-handedly suggested, on a few occasions, that I give it a go.

I always had an excuse, or a face ready to flash him.

(To be fair, the year I got the bike, in November, it rained until it snowed. I'm not even kidding).

But that was three years ago.

I made an attempt once; an honest attempt. I was terrified and frustrated. The kids came along and whizzed around me. I left defeated. 

Then some things happened... I started to immerse myself in productivity, goal-setting and task-managing resources. I dove into making short-term and long-term goals. I have spent hours fussing with systems and methods. 

One of the lessons in this research has been setting BIG goals. Scary ones. Ones with deadlines and clear objectives. 

And so I said to myself, "what's a huge, nearly insurmountable goal I can tackle? How can I be accountable?"

And it was decided. By me. ON MY OWN TERMS: I shall ride my bike. To my church and back. By the end of July.

I added it to my calendar. I added it to my task-managing software. I posted it to facebook.

Poof! The end of July approacheth. (how DOES that happen so quickly?!) and wouldn't you know ... it was July 30th, and I hadn't gotten on the bike. At all.

So yesterday, July 30, I had exactly the right amount of "feel the fear and do it anyway," "you've got this," "fight for it," and "ain't nothin' gonna break-a-my-stride" running through my head that I sneaked up on MYSELF by not PLANNING at all and just DOING the thing.

I went out and rolled down a grassy hill.  Then some pavement. Then after significant sweating and fear and deathgrip, took to the street. 

I'm not there yet. I suck at sharp turns. I canNOT start myself going on an uphill. 

But this approaching-4-0 girl got on a bike. And rode.

And tonight, after I ride to the church for an event, I will affix that sticker.

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