There’s not many things I love more than riding my bike. I lived in Chicago for 13 years after college, and some of my best memories are of riding up and down Lake Shore Drive on the bike path or on the city streets at 5 in the morning after I worked the night shift at a radio station on Michigan Avenue.
Chicago is far behind me now, and I live in the quiet countryside in Ohio, where the beauty of the land seeps into my soul every single day and keeps my eyes wide open to it all. I took my first ride of the season this weekend, and as I rode, my head became clear as it usually does, and it began to occur to me, for some reason, just how similar life is to riding a bike. Here are some thoughts, as random as they might be, that tickled my brain as the wind blew on my face.
1—Setting the Bar Low Is Okay Sometimes—I have to start by saying I have an artificial hip. It’s really no biggie, and it’s just my bag of garbage I need to deal with just like you have yours. But because of this wonky hip, I started the bike ride by setting the bar low, cutting myself some slack. I told my husband-to-be, Chad, to go ahead and go as fast as he could, and no worries about leaving my slow butt behind.
Much to my surprise, I kept up with him the entire time, and I’m convinced it’s because I didn’t put pressure on myself. I sometimes get so upset about my hip and stuck on wishing that I could be “normal” that I don’t enjoy who I actually am.
I set the bar low for my ride, and when I had enough strength to keep up with him, I was shocked and proud of myself—way more proud than I would have been if I placed huge demands on myself to be the fastest only to be miserable when that goal would be impossible to meet because of my reality.
So my goal was to just ride my bike, and I did just that and realized I’m still not bad at it. This tactic might not be a bad idea for life, either. So many times we set off to reach these truly impossible, lofty goals, and it’s so stressful that we fail and end up taking 3 steps back away from progress.
2—Chill out and Enjoy the Journey—When we started off, I was anxious, wondering if I still had it in me, and what if I have to walk my bike up a hill because it got to be too hard, and how I couldn’t wait until it would end because I’m sure I’m too out of practice after the long winter. I got caught up in my head and then thankfully found the discipline to tell myself to sit back and enjoy and whatever was going to happen would happen anyway.
I looked around and took in the view, and it became leaps and bounds way more fun than when I was having a self-induced anxietal pity party. I shouted, “Hey, babies!” to the cows and dogs we passed because that’s just what I do. I started to make jokes to Chad as I rode behind him about all the snot rockets I was setting off due to my running nose. I kept singing “Snot Rockets!” as if it were the “Hot Pockets!” jingle. It made me laugh so hard even more snot came out of my running nose. You’re welcome for that. This lesson leads to my next thought:
3—Always Be Yourself—I could have put on a show and acted like snot wasn’t pouring out of my nose and my entire body wasn’t on fire, but that takes too much energy and focus. Life and a bike ride become way more meaningful when you can just be you, and invite the ones you’re with to see you, honest imperfections and all because it gives them permission to do the same.
4—It’s Hard at Times, and Not Hard at Others—For every hill you’re trudging up and convincing yourself you’ll never find the strength to make it to the top, you do, no matter how. You just do, and then you surprise yourself with your gritty strength, and you find relief going down the hill, physically on the bike ride and figuratively in life at times.
Don’t sugar coat it and lie that it’s easy. Again, be yourself, and be real without trying to be a hero all the time. The biggest heroes are vulnerable.
5—Getting Mad Can Be a Good Vehicle for Action—I’m not saying it’s good to have a temper and be a jerkwad. Nope, not at all. But sometimes it’s good to look obstacles in the eye and set your mind on success. Some of those hills were making my thighs feel like bonfires, so I scowled out loud and hunkered down on my bike, determined to make it one stride at a time.
Sometimes in life we get passive, focusing on being comfortable and liked. Sometimes to be successful change is needed and at times we can see that need only when we’re pushed to anger.
6—If You’re Always Following, You Can’t be a Leader and See What You’re Made of—I asked Chad to lead the first part of our ride because I’m horrible at directions, and if I have someone in front of me, I find it keeps my morale up and focused. It’s like the competitive side of me needs the taunting of someone being ahead to keep pushing me.
On the way back home, he stopped on the side of the road to get a drink of water, and I shouted over my shoulder, “I’m going to keep going, so I don’t lose momentum!” So I kept going, and the whole time I felt he would be passing me at any moment, and I was surprised when he didn’t. When we got home I asked him if he was just being nice, and he told me he wasn’t and that I was going just as fast as he was, keeping a pretty steady 12 mph pace for 15 miles, which I'm not mad at.
Who knows why these thoughts crept into my head on the ride, but you'll never be able to hear the "Hot Pockets" jingle the same again, and that, my friends, was well worth the ride.