Sunday, May 18, 2014

It's just like riding a bike

I began this blog two years ago ... more than 2 years ago.  I thought I would have something exciting or profound to write ... something that would embody my journey with vivid clarity ... something that could voice some sort of inspiring success and accomplishment.

But I don't.

May 6 2014
in my office at work
*** Early summer 1974?? maybe 1975? ***

Truth is I am not positive what year this was as the process of my bicycle riding lessons began several years earlier, and were very long and ill planned.  The fact that the bike I was learning on was a full sized men' three speed road bike may have been part of the issue ... the fact that I was so frightened of testing my balance on anything other than a steady plank or other apparatus was another issue.

I was very young the first time my sister hoisted me onto that bike.  My feet did not touch the pedals ... even when I perched on the top tube, but sitting on that uncomfortable frame was the only way to grab the handlebars.

My brother and sister steadied me as they pushed me across the lawn.  The bouncing greatly increased the discomfort of sitting on the steel.

I had a bit more success on the girls bike.  My feet still didn't touch the pedals from the seat, but I discovered that I could stand on the pedals in a strange squatting position and keep my grip on the handlebars.  The issue was that I needed to lean side to side to generate enough force to push the pedals ... but I did push the pedals ... and the bike did move as a result of my pedaling.  The fact that it was swaying side to side so uneasily did not bother me ... until I needed to turn.
Very similar to the old men's bike

I cannot recall the exact details of the fall, just a moment frozen in time while the pedal stuck into the grass and the bicycle made a semicircle around it ... then I was on the ground.

But this is not the story I set out to tell ... it is a bit of history leading to this memory ...

My brother and I spent some time working on the bicycles to ready them for summer.  He made many adjustments, oiled anything that looked like it may move and killed several spiders ... I mimicked his actions having no clue what I was doing ... except I knew well how to kill spiders while trying not to flinch or make any noise.

Although I had an inquisitive mind and could figure out how to take things apart and put them back together (like my eldest brother's tape recorder ... I figure it's safe to admit now as he is 2000+ miles away and probably does not need it any more ... but it worked perfectly when I was done with it ... in fact, I fixed the tuner on the radio) ... ...

ummm ... where was I?

Despite my curious nature of things, the actual understanding of anything mechanical ... or more precisely, following instructions and comprehending the terms or names of parts was akin to listening to a foreign language and being expected to converse.

All the boys in class would talk about spindles and sprockets, lugs and lockrings ... forks, cassettes, bearings and bottom brackets ... ... I didn't get it ... but when I turned the bike upside-down and turned the pedals I saw how everything worked ... and it didn't matter what the parts were called.

So we finally finished tuning up the old bikes, and my brother jumps on his and starts riding a loop into the garage then out, partway down the driveway and back into the garage.

Eventually I joined in.

Similar to our old women's bike
the top tube is more angled on this pic
I had grown several inches since my first lessons.  I could now properly reach the pedals from the seat, but the handlebars were still a bit of a stretch ... but that didn't matter.  Within moments we were riding in and out of the garage ... in a figure 8 pattern on the driveway ... in opposite directions.

There was likely a safe space between us as we passed each other at the top and bottom of the path, and as we crossed in the middle, but it seemed we were separated by mere inches.

I was having fun ...

We were having fun ...

After several minutes and dozens of laps I was heading out of the garage and back down the slight hill.  Something was wrong and I knew it.  We were too far apart when we crossed and I was at a different position on the hill.

In the second or less it took to reach the turning point thousands of thoughts swarmed my mind ... "how do I correct this?""am I going to crash?""the blacktop driveway will scrape me up really bad!""why is that hawk circling over the barranco?""I hope Rick doesn't get hurt.""I don't want to hit the gate!""DO SOMETHING!""DON'T JUST SIT HERE!!"

My brain locked ... my body froze ... I hit him.

All I had to do was move the handlebars a degree to the right and I would have missed him and hit the gate, but I hit his rear tire.

He was upset ... he had the right to be upset.

I felt so stupid ... I should feel stupid ... I am stupid.  There was no way to explain what I was thinking, what happened, or why I didn't try to move ... I was embarrassed and stupid.

In a big way this is the story of my life.

I feel apprehensive ... I don't always understand the technical explanations of what is expected of me.  I study ... I observe ... I practice ... I mess around and eventually feel competent.

I have always admitted that I am very quick to become extremely mediocre at most things I try ... then I crash.  Just like on the bikes ... I crash.

It makes me wonder what is wrong with me that I constantly hit this wall ... why I cannot remember just the fun times ... the successes without the failure that eventually ensues scarring the moment.

My counselor, the company big wigs, my coworkers for many years keep telling how smart, intelligent or capable I am ... ... I just don't see it.

Whatever it is that most people have that drives them to success is apparently broken in me.

I can handle being mediocre ... I don't know if I can deal with many more crashes in my life.