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Riding on faith (48 days till “The Ride”)

May 6, 2012

   Today I experienced my longest and most successful ride to date. I was out for 45 minutes and only fell three times. This is a victory because the falling mostly occurred while I was stopping or trying to dismount the bike. It had nothing to do with my actual riding.

   Patrick and I piled the bikes onto the rack on the back of his car and ventured out to his work parking lot. A rather large surface the size of half a city block, the pavement was just bumpy and hilly enough for me to begin to get a taste of differing terrains. I felt comfortable being fenced in with only Patrick around – fewer items to strike and fewer people to watch me tumble.

   The small banner touting the Catholic Center/Diocese of Buffalo above the lot provided additional comfort although I don’t have a religious bone in my body. Patrick works at the Catholic Center in Buffalo, so he and his colleagues tease that they have an “in” with the Big Guy. I wasn’t raised within any certain religion, so I’ve always felt uneasy in or near any house of God. He and I have a silent agreement – I know he exists, he knows I exist. I have come to believe that His house is wherever one invites Him, and being spiritual doesn’t necessarily mean visiting a place of worship once a week. It’s more in how one lives: believing that there is something out there that is bigger than us and that created us, giving to and helping others and being an overall good person.

   I admit that I don’t pray every day, but that is because I don’t believe in asking for little things. I pray for my family and friends a lot. I don’t pray for myself much at all. One of my biggest and most serious prayers, “Please don’t let me have cancer,” didn’t turn out as I had hoped, but I couldn’t find it in myself to place blame or become angry. Life is happening to everyone, and I came to realize that as bad as it seemed, it still could have been so much worse. There is a master plan, and I accepted that part of the plan involved me fighting a disease and winning.

   So today I felt more confident being in one of His parking lots, and I hoped that a special guiding hand was extended to me. The ground held a slight incline that I found intriguing. Going down the hill proved quite exhilarating as I traced a figure eight from one end of the lot to the other. I raced down the hill, made a successful left-hand turn to complete the bottom of the eight and then crossed over to finish off the top. Just as I was reaching the speed at which I thought I would fly off the bike, I’d make the turn and start climbing back up the hill, naturally slowing down. When it came time to reverse the eight and to turn right while picking up speed, I just couldn’t do it. It was as if my legs and brain had given up, and I found myself panicking and quickly stopping the bike. That’s where my mind was when I took fall No. 1, landing hard and firm on my behind.

   I laughed to myself, remembering that right-hand turns were my Achilles heel when I was learning to drive a vehicle, as well. I also was a late bloomer on obtaining my driver’s license, waiting until I was 25. It was the same mentality as riding the bike – the fear factor of getting hurt during the attempt. I also had a difficult time grasping the idea that this little girl could control such a mammoth machine without hurting somebody else. I began driving lessons when I was 21, and my most vivid memory was attempting a right-hand turn in my neighborhood and bringing my car to rest on a baby tree. Neighbors called me “Tree Killer” for several years after the incident, and it is still a source of teasing within the family. The ordeal was enough to cause me to put off learning for a few more years.

   So as I traced imaginary eights with my tires today, I relived the fear and decided to take smaller steps toward getting over it. Using the yellow lines of the parking spaces as guides, I practiced making tight turns to the right, avoiding the portions of the pavement that dipped. As I gained confidence and didn’t feel as shaky, I increased the size of the circle I was creating: from a two-spot width to three spots to four, and so on, until I worked my way back toward the hill and was able to make the right without freaking out. I was proud of myself for being able to figure out a way to settle my mind down while adding a new skill to the mix.

   As I felt tired and slightly embarrassed, imagining what the drivers and pedestrians heading up and down Main Street must have been thinking about the girl riding in circles, I caught a glimpse of a Roswell Park Cancer Institute security truck. This reminded me of all those who were a few blocks away receiving treatment, and my zest for pedaling intensified. With the Ride for Roswell a month and a half away, I realized I had a lot of work to do before I would be able to successfully participate. And I also realized that I wasn’t alone – I had Patrick, my family and a lot of faith beside me.

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