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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Like riding a bike

Try it. Don't ride a bike for a decade, then jump on one. It doesn't just come flooding all back. Instantaneous expertise wasn't happening. And no one talks about the soreness in your derriere the next day.
I bought a bike, my first in....let's just say awhile. And it has a basket. A white one.
Why I bought it, I can't really say. I had solid, grown-up reasons. It saves me on gas when I'm running local errands. It is a healthy exercise. It's a great stress reliever. Huffy needs my support.
Basically, I just wanted it. Biking sounded fun. That about covers it. And I'm kind of tired doing the "grown-up" thing anyway. Why must I justify everything reasonably?
So I carpe diemed over to Academy and got me one last week. The first night my roommate and I (she got a bike too because spending frivolous money with friends is twice the pleasure) took our bikes out for a spin as soon as we got home.
It was awesome. My chain came off. Her bike wouldn't change gears correctly. A parked vehicle jumped out at me. She was wearing out. I was wearing out. We couldn't figure what gear to be in. And neither of us remembered it being so hard to pedal.
We walked back into the house, I sat on my couch, and my neck went out.
"Great," I said. Or maybe it was "ow."
Since I came back from my recent travels (Colorado, St. Louis, Boston), I've been trying to get back into life. I've been doing laundry, getting my mail, stocking my refrigerator, buying milk and eggs because I'll be around to eat them before they expire.
So much has been happening, so many unexpected twists and turns since my unemployment began (4 months, 10 days ago), feeling any form of normalcy has been a struggle. And for some reason, I have no idea why, I kept thinking these suddenly, unexplainable, divinely appointed trips would change things. I mean REALLY change things.
God was moving. Things were happening. I had finally reached that time, you know what time I'm talking about, when everything just works effortlessly. You are in the right place. This is your moment. It's destiny. Your purpose is right around the corner. No more obstacles. It's downhill all the way.
I honestly expected to come back home to cooler weather, easy money, and less body fat. I expected life to stop being life, stop being hard. I never said it out loud. I never even purposefully thought it. But God and I knew, this was it. We had a silent understanding. At some point in life, everything would just start working out.
Hello point.
But my neck went out. That hasn't happened in two years. How could that be part of God's plan? Now of all times? During MY TIME. Oh well, I won't worry about it.
A freelance article I was working on wasn't going right. I couldn't get a good, printable quote from anybody. No problem. It's all part of the plan.
My hairstylist, who's been my faithful hairstylist for the better part of 15 years, who always does an incredible job, gave me a look resembling a rock star, circa 1986. This, somehow, is part of God's plan.
A friend told me today perhaps I should think about waitressing, maybe it would be a good career move for me. Sure. Excellent. I'll start my food service career at 30.
I worked on an email for nearly two hours for my service group, one of those inspired little ditties full of charm and sarcasm and necessary details. Then I sent it. And it was blank. Completely blank. No copy in my sent folder. No copy anywhere. God, okay. So these things happen. I understand. Just give me an hour or so to yank all the hair out of my head.
Then I cut my finger, got a pimple, had to do MORE laundry, realized my bathroom needs cleaned, the dishes are dirty, my Jeep hasn't had her oil changed, the bills are due, and my hair still looks horrible.
I got on my bike tonight and went for a ride in my neighborhood. The temperature was mild, almost cool, the nighttime tempo had settled, and it was only me and a few nocturnal neighbors silently moving in the darkness.
Heading south, I went uphill first. And it wasn't easy. I pumped my legs, switched gears, and pumped some more. I had to concentrate, keeping my arms steady, my back more straight, and watch out for those parked vehicles.
After a block I wasn't so sure this bike thing was a good idea. It was a lot of work. I was breathing fairly steady, a heavy inhale and timed exhale, never easing my pressure on the pedals. I swerved onto the sidewalk and back to the road, moving from ground to ground, wobbling terribly as I went. I had to hold on with both hands or my body and the bike stopped working together.
But I never stopped. The pain in my legs increased but I never stopped. I ached, but I never stopped.
I refused to quite because I knew what was coming.
It only took a few minutes, just a few meager blocks, and I rounded the corner. From here on out, it was all downhill. I'd made it.
My legs stilled and my breathing calmed. I coasted, feeling the wind brush my ears and slide under my neck. The air turned from cool to peppermint, a tantalizing sweetness I could almost taste.
The homes moved past at a heartbeat rhythm. Gagunk. Gagunk. Gagunk. Each one leaving a scent on the air - wood burning, dryer sheets, fresh grass, pumpkin. It was like sampling every entree on the menu, and each flavor complimented the next.
Silence was dominate. The only sound was the soft lull of my bike wheels, the seamless hum of an air conditioner, cadence of a grasshopper, and the undetectable yet audible hymn of the darkening sky.
It seemed as if I coasted forever, much longer than I had pedaled. But it was the same distance. In those exhilarating moments of free fall, everything seemed worth it. The strain up the hill seemed minor, though I knew it wasn't.
The effort may have been draining, but I know it's necessary. It will strength my legs, increase my endurance, and when the time is right for me to ride further, to coast longer, to experience another landscape, I'll have the experience and stamina to do it.
I'll be prepared.
Life, as I'm learning, isn't much different than an evening bike ride. There will always be work. It must be done, not only for our physical strength, also for our character. But there will always be times of coasting too, sweet moments of freedom and long pedaless rides.
And in all honesty, every push up that hill made coming down so much sweeter.
When I reached the end of the neighborhood, I turned around and pedaled up again. Who cares about a sore butt and aching legs anyway? I just wanted to ride.

2 comments:

kristin said...

i sure hope it's like riding a bike- i'm ready to coast- but like you said, God's working and strengthening muscles and getting each one of us prepared!
i just so look forward to the coasting and the wind... oh, and the gel seat on that dang bike.
i love gel.

Jason said...

This is a ridiculously interesting blog entry-very good writing. Who knew joblessness could provoke Tara to such a mastery of English?

I still think you ought to take a trip to a third-world country.

Who knows? Perhaps you could win the Pulitzer.