Gratitude. It’s a funny thing. A real shape shifter. Looking back on the year, I’m grateful for having felt the head duck, the stomach churn, the needle prick…of fear. I know fear can plant terrible seeds, especially if your face doesn’t look like everybody else’s face. But for me, fear, well…it helped me loosen my teeth grinding, knuckle-whitening grip…and fly. I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m a bit of a control freak.
At the beginning of 2015, I decided to wriggle out of my comfort zone. So I bought a bike. Keep in mind, I didn’t grow up with a bike. I grew up with a library card. And glasses. And braces. Get it? From where I sit (in the library), cycling is a gateway drug, a way to tease death…not unlike the clown under the bed, the garbage disposal that comes alive and chews your arm off, then your face, or the campground toilet that sucks your ass into hell. Hello paralyzing dismemberment! Chin scars. Broken bones. Chipped teeth. Concussions.
But I bought one anyway. And I rode. All the time. And really fast, trying to outpace death. Mostly, I rode by myself. Because I wanted to someday not be scared of something that made me feel so glorious, and free and pumped full of life. Something that introduced me to country roads and beaches and friends and roadside bars and tasty snacks with too much sodium.
I rode in the middle of the day, when I should have been eating lunch. After work. On weekends. In the morning, before work. I even started lying about where I was…Jesus, it was like having an affair. Still, I gripped the handlebars so tight, my hands went numb. I pushed hard; the mantra when my asthmatic lungs couldn’t take it anymore became, “don’t throw up, don’t throw up.” My legs pulsed and soon my yoga tights no longer fit. I scheduled clients around my bike rides and bowed out of social engagements so I could…yeah, ride.
But I was still terrified. Even though, I had a great posse of support. Karen and Julie and Daniella cheered me on. Dale literally pushed me up hills because I popped the chain about a million times. The Ranger never once bitched about me coming home late or disappearing on weekends…he just kept the tires pumped and the backpack full of snacks and water.
And then it happened. Thanksgiving weekend. The Ranger found a trail on the Long Beach Peninsula, part roller coaster, part slalom. A beautiful stretch of coastline that rose up to a lighthouse. On Saturday morning, with ice on the beach grass, we rode so fast, leaning into the curves, burning off the edges and catching air off the tops. I even wiped out in a sand pit, shook it off and got back on. Somewhere along the way, I realized I wasn’t clutching the handlebars anymore. And my stomach wasn’t lurching. Finally, at 52…I’d learned how to ride a bike.
I can’t wait to see what’s next. Thank you, Fear. For kicking my ass. Back at ya’.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.