This is gonna be quick and dirty because, frankly, that’s how it happened: QUICK AND DIRTY!
Yesterday, in an inspired decision to take the bicycles out on a hilly trail ride (despite my muscles still aching from Saturday’s 5-mile hilly hike) I was not-so-gently reminded that we all fall down. In a case of what I now think was foreshadowing at its most accurate, I violently wiped out on the bike trail. Oddly, I had just finished watching video clips all morning of motorcycles crashing on a treacherous stretch of road not so far from my neighborhood known as Mulholland Highway.
As I careened down the dirt path yesterday with the wind in my hair and feeling at one with earth and air, I spotted ahead the deep, dried-up mud track left by a truck. I knew right there and then that I might have a “situation” on my hands. No sooner had I thunk it that my front wheel caught the edge of the 6-inch-deep trench that stood as solid as a concrete block.
It’s strange when you are in the midst of a “situation” and you sense it playing in freeze frames in your mind. I knew I was going to crash. Everything freeze framed for a moment as I watched my hands slowly release from the handlebars and felt my butt raise off the seat.
In the next frame, I was up in the air like a pole vaulter rolling over an imaginary hurdle 8 feet off the ground. The last and final frame was the impact–right shin scraping across the hardened ground, left elbow scraping, too, and finally, the hard blow to the back of my ribs against the protruding edge of the matching 6-inch-deep trench barely 5-feet away.
It all happened in an instant, and when it was over, I couldn’t move. In some odd sort of survival reaction, I tried to command my body to quickly sit up, but it reacted with convulsing muscles and sharp jabbing pain behind my rib cage. Still, I struggled to get my body off to the side of the path only to realize I might have hurt myself badly. I felt overwhelmed with pain, and after a few minutes felt overwhelmed with ineptitude for my inability to avoid the fall.
In the same moment I was wincing in pain and holding back tears, I was insisting my partner pull my bike from the middle of the path. I didn’t want to draw attention to the scene. More accurately, I didn’t want to draw attention to my failure. In the midst of my very real physical pain, was I really poisoning my head with some negative mental backlash, too? Whatever that thought was, it disappeared as I faced the prospect of walking back home, about two miles down the road. Barely able to stand up straight, nothing about that sounded fun, so I asked my partner if he could straighten out the handlebars that were twisted a full 90-degrees so I could ride the bike home–bruises, scratches, pain, and all. Surprising myself with a 180-degree twist of attitude, I felt victorious on that ride home–pants and sleeves rolled up above elbows and knees, displaying my cuts and scratches like trophies.
Later in the day, as I lay horizontal for lack of any other position that didn’t make me see stars, I hung in there like a trooper while my partner cleaned out my wounds with hydrogen peroxide and scoped out the damage. I even laughed like a lunatic instead of yelping when he did it. It seemed better than the alternative. It didn’t appear the fall had broken anything–neither my bones, nor my spirit.
My partner told me how amazed he was I was so tough after taking the fall. He didn’t expect me to be so insistent on getting up by myself. He didn’t expect me to get back on the bike. He didn’t expect me to keep my yelps of pain to a minimum or to refrain from crying.
Come to think of it, I didn’t expect how I reacted either. The truth is, I was very near the opposite of that mighty reaction in the moment when I felt embarrassed of my failure and asked my partner to quickly get my bike off the road. It was then that the tears welled up in my eyes. Oh, poor me, I thought. That moment of self-inflicted shame was a test of my internal strength. With all that I’ve been through in the last decade and especially the last several years, I wasn’t sure where I stood on that front. Life, at times, can really beat you down and make you feel like a whimpering, wounded animal. In that faltering moment, I tapped into that familiar feeling, and then, I made a choice to take the high road.
The conclusion? I think I’m going to be okay. The fact is we all fall down. There is no shame in it. As quickly as we can manage, we DO have to get ourselves back up again, though. It sounds cliche, but it was true for me: I had to get back on the bike again. Thankfully, I did.
Do YOU know where you stand? Have you been tested recently and had your ‘moment,’ too? What was the outcome?