A few years ago while in Amsterdam for work a friend had arranged a bike tour for a group of us to go on. I had not been on a bike in years. I actually could not remember the last time I had been on a bike. I wanted to decline. I was the only female in the group and the rest were very athletic. I am not.
I had several excuses in mind.
Excuse number one – “Make it a boys bonding experience. I am totally fine sitting this one out.”
Excuse number two – “I have too much work to do. It will be so much better for me if you guys let me stay at the hotel to work.”
Excuse number three – “I don’t want to hold you back.”
I had more but those are the top three. Then I remembered something I had promised myself the previous New Year. Not a resolution. I don’t believe in resolutions but more an intention. The way I wanted to start living my life. That previous New Year I had realized that I was saying No to almost everything. No, I don’t want to go to the club. No, I don’t want to go for a hike. No, I don’t want to go shopping. No, I don’t want to go the party. I was saying NO to LIFE.
I had reasons, ok – excuses. I was tired. I was beat up. I wasn’t feeling good about the way I looked. The way my career was going. Or the lack of my personal relationships. I was saying NO to ME. As this realization hit, I made a goal that this was the year I was going to say YES.
Yes, to doing things that scare me. Yes, to trying new things. Yes, to trying things I had done before and liked or even disliked. I was just going to say yes when someone asked. So I said Yes, to the bike ride. I said yes to trying to keep up with guys that ran daily, had competed at the collegiate level in sports and one that had even won the Amazing Race.
You would think that I was excited and proud of myself. I was not. I was scared. Petrified actually. Worried that I would embarrass myself, embarrass them, or worse get hurt. It took everything in me to get dressed that day. To meet in the lobby. To walk to the bike shop. To find out that we were going on a bike tour that would last several hours and several miles. It took everything in me not to leave once they handed me a bike.
I was shaky getting on the bike. We were biking on city streets. We were biking in a line. I was scared I would be too slow. I would fall over. I wouldn’t last the full tour. How would I get back if something happened?
Then something changed. We started onto a bike path through the park. It was beautiful. I started to remember how much I loved the feel of the wind on my face and in my hair. I started to remember how much I had loved biking as a child. I started to remember how I had learned to bike. I remembered the people who taught me and the love I had for them. I remembered how much you see when you are on the back of a bike. I remembered how much I love trees, the sound of birds chirping and the smells of the air around you.
I forgot about the worry of keeping up with others. I forgot about worrying if I was the worst biker or not. I forgot about caring what I looked like on the bike. I forgot about the fact that I was scared. I forgot about being anxious. I forgot about the traffic. I forgot about getting hurt. I forgot about everyone around me and just lived in the moment.
And then it started to rain. I know what you are thinking – that I gave up. It was a perfect and legitimate excuse. Instead, I put the poncho on that the guide gave us and kept pedaling. We pedaled through parks and puddles. We pedaled over bridges and by water. There weren’t a lot of other bikers because of the rain, which was fine by me. We stopped at windmills, strange houses and amazing architecture. It was fun. It was glorious. It was a feeling of peace.
It was then that it happened. Isn’t it always?
We were crossing a busy intersection. We were in a line. I hesitated so I wouldn’t hit the guy in front of me. I never saw it coming. The Moped that slammed into me. I went down. He went down. I remember the yelling in another language. I remember the police showing up. I remember being mortified. I remember being so embarrassed and scared. I was in a foreign country. I had just caused an accident. I was asked about the accident. Given something to sign in another language. The other person and the accident and I spoke. Realized it was an accident. We gave each other a hug. And then we were sent on our way.
I now had the perfect reason to get a cab and not ride that bike any more. But you know what else I remembered?
I remembered that in life we only really have two choices; yes or no. I remembered that I could give up, say no and go home. Or I could say yes, get back on the bike and pedal the mile or so back to the shop. I remembered that it is not how many times you fall down (or are nailed by a Moped) but how many times you get back up!
I got back on that bike. Put one foot in front of the other and pedaled. I did not think. I remembered. I remembered to hold my head up high. I remembered being thrown from a horse and being told to get back on. I remembered that it was ok to fall. I remembered to feel the wind in my hair. I remembered to get back to the joy of living.
I remembered ME.
That last mile was hard. I was shaking so badly I am surprised the bike stayed upright. When I got back to the hotel I did not feel accomplished. I felt cold. I felt achy. I felt scared. I felt disappointed. It took me a while to see it more clearly. To have perspective.
Today I look back on that ride, that adventure, that accident, as one of the best memories of my life. It taught me that it is ok to get knocked down. I will always get back up. I will always try again. It was and is still the best lesson to learn.
This year I plan on not only saying yes but on looking for more challenges, more adventures and more ways to remember the person I want to be. Because in life, it is not about the storms, it’s about learning to dance in the rain!