Bicycling as a Metaphor
Saturday, July 14, 2018 at 03:32PM

As I passed a man on the bike path the other day, I sang out, "On your left" but added, "But probably not for long as I'll fatigue and you'll pass me."

I did lose speed. And he did pass me. And all was OK in the universe.

Only because I made the disclaimer.

Just a few weeks ago I passed four young men and there was no way I would let them catch up to me, only to pass me again, especially after I heard one of them say to another, "Don't get beat by a girl."

But then, days after, I relapsed and have been fighting to get back ever since.

Now I awake in the morning and lounge in bed for half an hour before stumbling my way to the bathroom, ankles twinging. Fatigue wraps itself around me like a lead X-ray apron. Electricity zaps my legs. 

Then, I finally had my reprieve, my first good ride in weeks. As a I passed a woman in bicycling gear, I wondered: how many miles had she already been riding? Was she healthy? While we rode the same bicycle path, we had different starting and ending points, different journeys, different stories.

Years ago, I would not have asked these questions when passing another cyclist. Years ago, I envied a friend for having the perfect body, the perfect job, the perfect brain, the perfect money. Only later did I discover that she held the same insecurities as I, perhaps even moreso. My godmother's wise words of, "Don't compare your insides to someone else's outsides" gain more significance daily.

Once, it was about winning. Winning my own private race, that is. Beating my own previous time. Pushing myself to my maximum. Adding just one more, no, five more miles. 

Today it's about doing. It's about showing up. It's about my intension to do a 30 mile ride this summer. It's about hoping that I'll be able to achieve my goal of a 75 mile ride when I'm 75 years old. I don't know what I'll endure in the years leading to 75. I don't yet know all the steps I will take to ensure that I will bike my age.

In life, we don't know how far someone has come, or what ordeals they're facing. So maybe I'm super fast in my first five miles but slow after. Maybe someone else has already ridden 45 miles or has just recovered from a heart attack and is back on the bicycle. Maybe I'm the one who cannot cycle the way I did just a month ago because my chronic Lyme has roared back to life after being chained to the cellar for a year. Maybe that guy bicycling 5 miles just accomplished something incredible.

Not riding rapidly can have benefits. Last week, I clicked out of my pedals to take a picture of an undaunted deer that happily munched leaves on the side of the path. I smelled sun-warmed plants and absorbed the light from sun-starry waters I passed.

Today, I came to an obstacle: a tree had fallen across the path. Two other cyclists stopped. One man joked about limb-ing under it. A woman asked if we could move it. The three of us tried but it was heavy and still grounded on one side, so i picked up my bicycle and carried it over. 

Just another obstacle in life, easily surmounted in the whole scheme of things. Why worry about one fallen tree blocking the path when I can easily climb over?

When I returned, it was gone. Someone, perhaps the guys working in trucks to keep the path maintained, had removed it. And I barely noticed until the area was behind me. 

Sometimes I think I need to be grateful that I have two hands that work, that I can breathe through my nose without suffering from a cold. I need to be grateful for all of the things I take for granted until I get sick or hurt. When I have a bad cold, my nose/head/sinuses become the largest part of my body. I need to be grateful, for today, that they are relegated to their proper places.

When riding downhill, I have two choices: shift and tackle the hill, watching my speed pick up. Or coast, relishing the downtime (pun intended.) 

It's summer and I'm off from teaching. Do I relax during my downtime? Catch up on my sleep? Or do I use this time to complete all the projects I have not had time to do all year? Work on my book? Play my guitar? Re-do the bathroom?

Do I even have a choice? On days like today, despite the sun glowing goldenly, I feel the heaviness of headaches and lethargy, as well as the angst of not accomplishing anything worthwhile. I haven't even taken the puppy out.

But I'm here, remembering the glorious rides, that wonderful feeling of having strength in my legs, the lack of pain in my back and feet when I rode. I tell myself I'll revel in that again as long as I persevere and believe.

Life. It's about flexing those muscles and pumping uphill or trying to catch as much speed on the downhills or coasting....

Article originally appeared on PANS life (
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