It's summer, which means the lure of two wheels on dirt has come. Just yesterday, I returned home in classic form: a little blood, some gear grease in unusual places, and a lot of dirt. "I fell," were my first words to my husband. "Clearly," he replied, and laughed at me.
(Pedro, by the way, is the bike from which I fell.)
When I bike alone, which is usually the case (anyone want to donate an old bike to my husband?), I talk a lot. Not in my head, mind you. Out loud. I probably sound crazy, but somehow it is a part of how I navigate it all, my biking world of hills and rocks and sharp curves, all beckoning me to overcome them. Often, when I am approaching a hill that looks less-than-possible (generally when I am coming from the bottom), I will say, "I own you." Yep, that's right: I say "I own you." (Occasionally, "You're mine.") Of course, the hill cares very little about my deluded sense of ownership, and I'm sure its sense of self-worth would not be rattled by my successfully making my way to the top. In reality, I am speaking to myself. I am declaring to myself that the obstacle before me does not have the upper hand. I am declaring that I am capable of overcoming anything, no matter how daunting. Anything.
A few days ago, when I approached a few sketchy spots involving uneven rocks and a rather lengthy fall should I slip, I found myself saying, "No death wishes today, I think. No death wishes today." These are places where I weigh the glory of overcoming against the guaranteed broken bones (maybe death) of the fall, and I decide to take the humble route. Picking up my bike and trying to convince myself that I am not a chicken, I carry Pedro over the rocks and prepare to take on the hill immediately following. "No death wishes today."
The most common phrase to come from my mouth (and one that I have actually said many times even when I'm not alone) is, "No quitting allowed." In the midst of a hill that I had planned to own, when my muscles are about to stage an insurrection and gravity makes a compelling case for surrender, I tell myself that quitting is not an option. Failure? Yes, it is an option that I cannot always preclude. Quitting? This is what I have control over, and it is the thing I refuse. "No quitting allowed" reminds me of the difference between the two. Often it plays out with me falling to the ground before I will ever stop pedaling.
Every time I get back in the rhythm of mountain biking, I am reminded of a strange truth: it somehow makes me a braver person. Consistently facing obstacles from the seat of my trusty steed (this designation builds Pedro's ego), my perspective on life is a little different. I am more likely to face a daunting hill on this new adventure called marriage by saying, "I own you." Yes, I will tell that hurdle that it doesn't have the upper hand. Perhaps when life presents me with an obstacle and my heart calls for surrender, I will declare that there is "no quitting allowed," and that if I fail, it sure as hell won't be because I gave up. And maybe I will learn to face some circumstances in life in which the consequences outweigh the benefits, and I will have the humility to say, "No death wishes today, I think. No death wishes today." Perhaps I could learn to choose humility and wisdom over blind, prideful risk-taking, and begin to understand that my self-worth is in no way lessened as I pick up my bike and carry it for a while.
Here's to you, Pedro, for reminding me of what it means to be both brave and wise. And here's to you, God, for being creative enough to use an old, gray mountain bike to get through to my often distracted heart.