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An Important Life Lesson My Bike Taught Me

My bike crash happened in slow motion.

As I went down, I had an extensive internal chat:

“Argh, those people I wanted to pass were so slow!”

“Why can’t I get my feet out of these clips?”
“I hate having my feet clipped in!”
“Dang it, I’m going to crash. I could get hurt. I hate getting hurt.”
“This is insulting to be falling just because my stupid feet are clipped in.”
“How did that stupid post in the middle of the path appear our of nowhere?

At the same time, the fall happened so fast that there was no catching myself, no unclipping my feet, no stopping the fall. Just time for a yell as I thudded onto the ground, my skin introduced to concrete in a most uncivil way. Then came the assessment: pain in knee, ankle, elbow and thumb. But, nothing that was going to be a major problem. Phew. And thank goodness I didn’t ram right into the post.

Once I was lifted up and back on my feet, I was irked. Irked at the slow people in front of me who needed to be passed ASAP. Really irked at the dumb pedals that mercilessly clenched on to my feet and wouldn’t let them go, even though I really needed them on the ground. I kicked the offending pedals.

After I dusted off my dignity and was rolling again, I realized there was a life lesson for me in this fall:

This crash is a chance to consider how I handle painful, unplanned glitches in my life. Sometimes, my first impulse is to duck and cover – not helpful when it comes to “bike-meets-post.” Next, I like to look for who caused this pain – also not helpful because I only have myself to blame. Avoidance? Nope, not a useful strategy with pain. Eventually, the discomfort drove me to the hand specialist who put a cast on my right hand. If I had dealt with it right away, I would have healed faster.

I was skittish about getting back on my bike and clipping in. Definitely tentative and on edge. But, I did it anyway. Then it “clicked” and I found my life lesson in the fall:

I get hurt in life and love. I kick the pedal. I look for someone to blame. I pretend it didn’t happen. I decide that life and love (and biking) are hazardous.

But, I can’t stay off my bike forever. My love of the outdoors and the quietness of my mind that is hard to find elsewhere beckons me back to my bicycle. I clip in. I’m scared. I might crash again. I hate the pain. But, eventually, the love of the ride edges out the fear of the pain.

So it goes with parenting: my kids cause me pain. I love them anyway. I’ve loved and experienced loss. I’ve loved again. I’ve poured myself into projects that haven’t worked out. Over and over again, we know we can get hurt and we do it anyway. We clip in. We love. We accept that loss and pain are part of love; but the lure of love and connection overrides our fear.

This is where therapy can come into play: we learn that we can survive life’s pain even if we don’t like it. We learn to use the gifts of pain to find more depth…. which leads to more joy.

Thank you to my dear friends and clients who trust me with the painful, unplanned glitches in your lives. I don’t think the journey is about never falling while clipped in; I think it’s about the decision to get back on the bike. To hold the handlebars in a different way. To scan the horizon farther ahead before changing lanes. It’s about showing up to love our kids day after day in spite of the discomfort and frustration they cause us. Therapy can help us change the dialogue inside our heads. It can help us re-frame the indignity and challenges of difficult parenting moments. It can help us keep our cool by changing our patterns.

Gotta run. I’m going for a bike ride. I’m gonna clip in. I might get hurt again. But, it’s worth it. Just like love.

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