Shifting Gears

Johnny and I have been riding our bikes a lot lately. Almost every day we head out and coast down the hill into the lovely park system that runs through our town. We follow the mostly shaded path along the river, up and down hills, and when we make it to the other end, we venture onto the streets. Usually he leads the way, devising the route. It seems to me that he always picks the steepest hills in town for us to climb. I haven’t really ridden a bike in a bunch of years, so I’m not very good at the hills, yet.

Today we were pedaling along at a pretty good clip when he surprised me by turning off of the nice flat road and onto a giant hill. I followed after him and found myself facing a massive incline that was three blocks long. Since I was surprised by this turn I didn’t have enough time to downshift. So I began to pedal harder.

The hill was so long I couldn’t see the end of it. It was 95 degrees and 99 percent humidity, and I was in high gear. I worked even harder to pedal trying to press through my heels. I even stood up off my seat, but there was no way I was going to make it up this friggin three block hill. I was very quickly losing steam and I was completely overheating. Just then I saw a man watering his lawn and I yelled ‘You could spray me with that hose, please!’ He just laughed at me because he thought I was joking. I was not joking!

So I passed him with the loudest harrumph I could muster, which was not very loud at all, and when I got to the first intersection, I turned onto the flat cross street. I began to pedal a little lighter and then coasted for a bit. I loosened my grip and relaxed my shoulders. I took a moment to consciously catch my breath. And I downshifted.

When I felt ready, I turned and proceeded up the hill, with much less effort, and a much better attitude. I tacked back and forth and met Johnny at the top. I was soaked with sweat, and near out of breath. My face was so hot that I felt like it must have gone passed deep red to bright purple. But I made it!And the only reason I made it was because I took the time to regroup along the way.

When a big challenge catches us by surprise, we can race head on into it, but we may quickly lose steam and be unable to rise to the occasion. If we take some time, as much time as we need, to breathe, to regroup, to down shift, to get into the right frame of mind and body, we will be that much stronger for it in the end.

If I hadn’t taken a pause at that intersection, if I had tried to push straight through in high gear, I surely would have been walking the bike up most of that hill. But here I was at the top and still on my seat!

And right there on the sidewalk in front of me was a handwritten block letter sign that said LEMON AID! ‘Yes! Wishes do come true!’ I huffed out loud to the mother and child as I rolled up to their stand. ‘This is a fine reward, indeed!’

……

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