Sometimes the easiest things are the hardest. Take riding a bike, for instance. Most people look at a bike and see a pleasant, simple form of exercise. I see a trip into the bug-infested, traffic-filled outdoors that could lead to all sorts of disaster. It was a beautiful day today, though, and that inner Claudia - the feisty one who doesn't take any guff and is always pushing me to DO stuff - decided she wanted to go for a bike ride.
I bought my bike in December. It was so much cheaper that way. But because I bought it when there was a foot of snow on the ground, it went right into the garage. I never got a chance to try it out. So I wasn't sure what to expect. It's been years since I've been on a bike. And I know, I know, it's the one thing you're not supposed to forget how to do. But I'm...special...that way.
Regardless, inner Claudia was rearing to go. So I grabbed my keys and started out the back door only to find a yellowjacket the size of my thumb waiting for me. The jerk was just hovering there. Watching. Waiting for me to open the door so it could dart inside and kill me. I threw some curse bombs at it, then finally decided to foil its little plan by going out the front door. Success! Take that, nature! I hopped on my bike and rode off into the sunset.
I got three houses down before my left pedal fell off. Literally. The thing just dropped right off. Did I mention I bought my bike at Target? That pedal landed in the middle of the street and I learned I'm perfectly capable of dropping an eff bomb in public.
Was I embarrassed? Yes. Was I deterred? Also yes. I picked up my wayward pedal and pushed my bike onto the sidewalk. I sat down, feeling the weight of a hundred neighbors' laughing eyes, and worked out how to reattach the pedal to my bike. I literally did a mechanical thing! I mechanic-ed. And then I did a little cheer. I hopped back on my bike and rode off into the sunset.
Except, I have a girls' bike. I'm not saying that to be sexist. My bike is literally a girls' bike. As in: not adult-size. I opted not to buy an adult-size bike because I'm not an adult-size person. The problem is that on a kids' bike, you have to pedal backwards to brake. So, as I'm riding off into the sunset, my brain reminded me that, in an emergency situation, muscle memory would take over and I'd be stuck ineffectually squeezing the bike handles while plowing full-speed into whatever obstacle I needed to avoid. But, I countered, my bike is a girls' bike. It's not exactly speedy. I had to pedal constantly to keep it moving. It was exercise. It was work. And it was...fun? It was fun!
I was only out there for 15 minutes. I only went about half a mile. I came back sweaty and thirsty, but also pretty darn proud of myself. I got on a bike! At forty-two years old! It turns out you can still celebrate things like riding a bike even if you're in your forties!
This was such a tiny adventure, but the payoff was a boost in self-confidence and that is in no way small. The more I do these little outings, the more my brain realizes that we're capable. And then next time, it has less of a leg to stand on when it throws up its little roadblocks. Because hey - we've succeeded before. It becomes easier to talk myself out of fear. I don't think it'll ever be easy easy, but it does get less difficult. It's like building credibility. Who says I can't do aerial yoga? I can ride a bike!
Also? Also? The yellowjacket was gone upon my return.