So, about a month ago I introduced you to my Uncle Nock, the 93-year-old smart guy (all meanings implied) who, after incisively reciting, and faintly praising, my life’s history, closed with the following irate challenge:
… everything I just said tells me that you are one really smart cookie, Cristin, so what I can’t figure out–what I really want to know–is this: WHY CAN’T YOU SEEM TO LEARN HOW TO RIDE A G*DDAMNED BICYCLE?!
And I told you all that:
I’ve been pondering it all these months and I actually came up with a pretty good answer while I was failing miserably at my one official bike race of the year. And I came up with an even better (or at least more refined) answer while I was cruising along the California coast with 200+ of my R2R buddies. And then I came up with a completely different answer just today. And you will get these answers over the next week as I unleash an avalanche of pent-up blog posts upon you.
And then stuff happened and I had to write about whatever that was (Holocaust Heroes, 1-legged-roommates, Twat-waffles, and toilets — all very important, serious stuff) and now I can’t remember what any of my original serious answers were, but I think I can still come up with a pretty good one.
The reason I can’t seem to learn how to ride a g*ddamed bicycle is:
I’m not very good at it.
(or maybe AND…)
But/and: That’s actually the point!
I have pretty much NO innate talent for bicycle riding (as is painfully obvious, I know), but just because I lack natural bike-riding talent does that mean I should give it up?
And twice again, no.
I was really lucky that I had lots of innate talent for school and book-smart kinds of things when I was a young person — that’s what allowed me to succeed at so many things in my life.
I was less fortunate in terms of a L-O-N-G list of other skills (like being a nice person, for example) and so I took the lazy way out and didn’t work to develop any of those skills at all. I sucked at ‘em, so f*ck it, who needs ‘em?
And then I bashed my brain and all of a sudden my “innate talent” for being book-smart was basically annihilated. I sucked at being smart. Like, really a lot sucked. And I very clearly remember a half-lucid, not-sure-if-I’m-really-awake-or-just-stoned-on-Oxy moment while I was in hospital #2 when I thought to myself:
Ya know, all this therapy stuff is f*cking hard and the doctor said I could just go home if I wanted to and that I don’t really “need” therapy anymore because I’m functional enough to be a grocery store clerk, so, f*ck it. I’ll be a grocery store clerk! That actually sounds like a much better plan than dealing with a bunch of a-hole lawyers all the time. I worked at Vons/Pavillions before and I was really happy. It was easy. It wasn’t stressful. Stress is bad. Who needs stress? This therapy nonsense is stress. F*ck it. I was a really good grocery clerk. I got to go to the regional bagging competition. I could do that again. Yeah. Let’s do it!
Except that my thoughts weren’t even that lucid and then I passed out again and when I woke up once more I decided that I needed to get my shit legit and buckle down and try to regain some smarts again.
Therapy was gonna be hard work. I couldn’t solve “(9+3) ÷ 4” yet or finish reading a People magazine article without taking a brain-refreshing nap, first. I sucked at being smart, but by golly, being smart was awesome and I would do whatever it took in order to get smart(ish) again.
And so I’ve plugged away, continuously, for the last 3.5 years to get back to being smart(ish) again. Yeah, my “official” therapy only took 10 weeks, but you can bet your boots that I’ve methodically, deliberately performed very strategic thinking, planning, execution, and retention training programs and protocols on myself ever since I got released from formal medical care, all the way through to today and I’ll continue to push and work and try to continue improving my thinking powers for all the rest of my days as well.
It’s kinda like that with the bike.
I suck(ed) at it, but I keep working at it and it’s always getting better. I’ve had some set-backs, sure, but–so what?!? Who doesn’t have setbacks? Why should setbacks stop us from doing things? Isn’t it better to evaluate the circumstances that lead to the disruption/setback to look for future improvement opportunities?
For example: When I got hit by the bus 15 months after my brain bashing, it was because I was (a) on PCH, (b) riding by myself, and, most importantly, (c) hugging the shoulder which disappeared under a landslide and left me vulnerable to a distracted driver and with no right-side escape route. So now, I avoid riding on PCH by myself and I take the fucking lane when necessary to make myself VERY CONSPICUOUS to drivers so they don’t plow into me.
Or, for the first half of this year, when I kept falling off of my mountain bike and breaking fingers and other hand-parts it was because I was (a) riding trails that were too advanced for me, (b) not respecting my visual processing difficulties, and (c) trying to keep up with my friends. So now I choose trails more thoughtfully, am honest with myself about my disabilities, and am honest with my friends when I tell them that I’m going to suck and I don’t really care because staying safe/healthy is WAY better in the long run than trying to “prove something” to somebody else out on the trail.
Later this week I will share a story about me intentionally choosing to “suck” on my mountain bike, which has a very happy ending, indeed.
I firmly believe that, as with my long-term brain-building plan, if I patiently persist, eventually I’ll stop sucking.
So, Nock: Why can’t I learn how to ride a g*ddamed bicycle? I’m trying.
I welcome the suck. I embrace the suck. I learn from the suck.
So, suck it.