When my driver’s license and the elastic in my waistband both expire on the same day, I know I am holding a bag of life’s metaphorical lemons.
When I get home and see my year old, still in mint condition, bicycle sitting in the garage I get a glimmer of the proverbial lemonade that everyone waxes poetically about. I just might be able to solve two problems with one set of pedals….but I still have to confess my mistake to my husband.
Over dessert, I hesitantly break the news. “You know how I’ve been really busy with [insert here my infinite list of projects]?” I ask. “Yeeesss,” he answers back equally hesitantly. “Well, I sorta forgot to follow up on that whole driver’s license thing and now my one year grace period has expired. So I’m gonna be on foot or bicycle until I can get a permit and arrange for the tests,” I explain.
“YES! We should sell the car!” he cheers.
Talk about throwing the baby out with the proverbial bathwater. I remind him that I can’t handle two school pick-ups before 6pm with a bicycle (read: no more evening workouts for him) and he changes his tune.
The next morning we meet in the driveway, bicycles, kid seats and trailers in tow and begin the battle planning. I have two options for getting to work. I can take a mostly well-maintained bike path that skirts along the highway, or I can take narrow backroads through all of the neighborhoods. One thing is certain, the trip will be uphill both ways.
After a very polite discussion (“There is no way I’m taking the giant hill in front of a double decker bus, I’m taking the bike path you crazed a-hole.” “Fine, eat car fumes for all I care!”), I load little G onto her seat, buckle her in and set off.
Our journey starts fine. We navigate the neighborhood, cross at the traffic light and find the hidden entrance to the bike path. As I try and figure out the whole gear thing, I suddenly realize that we are flying down the hill at breakneck speeds. My whole body tenses up, I pull on the brakes with all my might and we proceed to inch our way down the mile long gradual hill until we hit the bottom. By the time I get to work, I am a sweaty nervous wreck and my brakes are squealing.
Come 5pm, with much trepidation, I go to meet my arch-nemesis in the parking lot. Its shiny blue frame and brown leather seat belie its inner speed demon beast. Back to the daycare to retrieve the munchkin and then the whole route in reverse.
The last mile is a killer. I discover the point of the gears as I switch ever lower, trying to find a setting that won’t cause my thighs to burn. Half a mile in, I finally creep to a slanted halt. I can go no further. I need a break. I need to breathe.
And then it hits me. I ride the bicycle exactly the same way I live my life. Those times when I should be sticking my legs out in the air and letting the wind ruffle through my hair, I’m squeezing the brakes. I need to be in control of every aspect of my life and I can’t let go even when everyone is screaming at me to just come along for the ride. And then the uphill hits and I thrive. I feel the burn and relish in the knowledge that I am accomplishing something great. I take on more and more until I can go no further. And then I throw my hands in the air and my spinning world crashes to a halt. I take a moment just for me. I breathe in deep and then I get right back on and pedal my way to the top.
It’s been a week now. Each day I set off on the same path, each day it becomes a bit more familiar. Today I even let go for a moment and got a hint of the joy of flying before I pulled on the brakes. I pedalled all the way home, crushing the miles of incline beneath my wheels. I made it to the top without stopping and I thought about what that means for my life.
Sometimes in life the metaphor goes awry. Sometimes the glossy inspirational posters get it wrong. Some of us will only be happy when we are throwing up hurdles all along the way. But maybe, just maybe, that’s ok.