“Don’t let go!” I screamed, as Dana pushed my bike down the cul-de-sac. “I won’t,” she promised. I was peddling as fast as I could. The white tassels on my purple Huffy bike were blowing in the wind. I was gripping the handle bars with all of my might. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Dana standing to the side of the street. I looked back and there was no one behind me! I was riding my bike on my own! Suddenly, the bike began to wobble. I lost my balance and came crashing down onto the hard pavement, scraping up both knees and an elbow. There was blood trickling down my leg. Dana looked at me with concern in her eyes but I just smiled! I pulled myself back up, hopped up on my bike and pedaled off towards my house. From that day on, I rode my bike everywhere.
I forget why, or when, it happened. I think I was 9. Maybe 11. At some point, I just stopped riding my bike. And I never rode again. Until this past Saturday, when John suggested that we ride a portion of the Mount Vernon Trail for date 30! He rented me a bike from Wheel Nuts Bike Shop in Old Town Alexandria and we pushed it outside. I looked at the bike and back to him. “Are you ready?” he asked. I shook my head no and suggested that we head across the street to a parking lot so that I could practice. After all, it had been about 26 years since I’d been on a bike!
We made our way to the parking lot and he held the bike for me as I hopped on. (Even the shortest bike is never short enough for me!) I asked him not to let go until I was ready. He promised he wouldn’t. I started to pedal and felt him let go! But I wasn’t ready yet! I felt the bike wobble. Images of me, as a kid, crashing down on the pavement, covered in blood, flooded my mind and I immediately stopped. This scenario replayed itself in a loop for about 10 minutes. “I have no balance!” I said. “Maybe you DO forget how to ride a bike?” “Nonsense,” John replied. “You know how to do this, you are just scared of falling.” “And getting hurt,” I added. But I wasn’t there to quit. And I wasn’t going to let myself fail. So I hopped back on the bike, cleared my mind of all thoughts, let go of all fear and told John he could let go. And suddenly I was off! And not wobbling! Not falling! Riding a bike for the first time in about 26 years! “We’d better not stop!” I yelled out to John. “Let’s keep this momentum going!” He laughed and rode out in front of me and we were on our way!
We rode down the trail to Daingerfield Island where we stopped to take some photos. I’m sorry to say that I never knew this park existed! It’s a 106-acre site that hosts sailing, fishing, sports and even has a restaurant. You can picnic outside and watch the sailboats pass by or enjoy the view of the monuments across the Potomac. The weather was beautiful and the “island” was packed. “Ready to go back?” John asked. “No WAY!” I said, so we kept going!
We returned my bike and I gave him a hug goodbye, thanking him for getting me to do something that I once used to love but was sure I would never do again. He had been so patient and kind and helped me let go of the “fear” I had from past experiences giving me the confidence I needed! All said and done, we rode for about 10 miles. Not that long of a ride for your regular biker but a huge deal for me!
On the way home, I couldn’t help but laugh at how afraid I had been – to ride a bike! Thinking that I had forgotten, when really it was just fear keeping me from being able to succeed. All because I could remember what it was like to get hurt by falling. But, when I was a kid, I didn’t care! I’d ignore the scrapes. Ignore the bruises. Slap a band-aid on the injury and get right back up on the bike! Because I knew how fun it was and how great it felt!
And really, isn’t that how I’ve approached dating? I’ve been afraid at times. Afraid that I’ve forgotten how to “date” correctly. Afraid that I’m not worthy of a new relationship. Afraid that I will be rejected. Afraid of getting hurt. And this fear is what keeps me from being able to succeed. It keeps me from putting myself in positions to meet people. And, even if I do meet someone, this fear keeps me from feeling free to be myself. It keeps me from being truly authentic.
My past relationships have left scars that have long since healed. The wounds from my breakup with Aces, those wounds were fresh. But, this 35/35 project, has been my equivalent of a band-aid. At the beginning, I remembered what it was like to get hurt. To feel pain. But over the course of this project, I learned to clear my mind of those memories. To let go of fear. And that has allowed me to put myself in positions to meet fabulous people and do amazing things. Sure, things have been wobbly and I’ve fallen multiple times along the way. I’ve gotten scraped and bruised. And I felt some hurt and some pain. But, each time, I’ve picked myself right up, ignored the scrapes and the bruises and got back out there. Because I remember, I know, how fun and great dating can feel once you let go of the fear and just enjoy the ride!
Life is like riding a bicycle – in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.