Six years ago was an agonizing time. As we awaited my then 2-year-old’s surgery, I was a ball of nerves. I was covered in a fear so paralyzing, it nearly suffocated me. The past experience of my brother’s death mingled with the present situation of leaving my daughter in the hands of a surgeon.
I was petrified of losing her.
Much of that time is still a mind-jumble for me, but blessedly there are specific moments I remember with clarity. One of those was the time I jumped on my daughter’s Radio Flyer trike and rode around our driveway. In the moment, it was stress-relief. Something to make me laugh. Something to make me feel human. Something to help take the edge off.
But in remembering, I recognize it for what it is—the foundation of a lesson that continues to build.
This summer, my youngest learned to ride a bike with training wheels. I’m so proud of him. He went from barely moving to speed-racing in the span of a few days, and it was so enlightening to watch it all unfold.
At first, he was uncertain of the leg motion needed to move forward. It took him some time to realize it would take work to make the thing move. He fought that idea at first, frustrated that riding a bike wasn’t as easy to master as his sisters made it look.
Then he began pedaling. But it wasn’t the running motion necessary for a smooth ride. It was more like a beginning driver. Choppy. He would circle his legs forward for a half-round, then brake. The next time he’d get a little farther, then brake. Half-turn, brake. Full-turn, brake. Throw in another several brakes in a row for good measure. He didn’t get far.
But with some intentional practice, where I helped him continuously push his legs in the right direction, he began to master the skill. He stayed slow, but lost the chop. We did multiple circles of our block, me keeping up just fine.
And then, overnight it seemed, he took off. All the kinks ironed out, he flew down our stretch of sidewalk. I can no longer keep up at walking pace. He rides smooth and free. He laughs with abandon as he screeches to a stop, loving the squeal the tires make on his road.
There’s just something about my boy and his bike.
It brings out his adventurous side.
And in my current state, I find that appealing for me as well.
I’m tired of sitting on a bike, frustrated that it isn’t going anywhere on its own. Somewhere along the way, I lost my will to pedal. Or maybe I never knew exactly how in the first place. Perhaps it doesn’t really matter, except to realize that living in a state of waiting isn’t fun. It isn’t exciting. The wind doesn’t flow through your hair as you speed down the road.
It’s time to face it. Passivity never pedals a bike.
Over the past year, I’ve taken multiple choppy rides. I’ve practiced pushing those pedals forward. A half-turn here. Another half-turn there. Add in a few untimely brakes. But practice always makes you better. Not perfect, but always better.
Lately there have been less chops and more glides.
Attending the She Speaks conference in July was one of those moments. Starting to write a book, another. The choice to continue pursuing that call to write despite the odds against a published book deal, yet another.
The list, surprising to even me, goes on covering multiple facets of my life.
I pedal faster and further each time I take a spin now. And I am excited because in the past weeks I have felt the momentum shift, and I’m liking the change.
Just like six years ago on that trike, riding is still something that makes me laugh. This time without fear of the future.
It’s still something that makes me feel human. This time with awe and wonder of how I was knit together with purpose and for a purpose.
It’s still something that takes the edge off. This time as I choose to claim an inheritance way bigger than me.
There will still be battles and risk because the promised land isn’t free of enemies. But it is free of slavery to fear. And it is full of trusting in my God.
Passivity never pedals a bike. But I do.
And I might just start popping some wheelies.
Malinda Just has been writing her monthly column for the Free Press since 2008. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.