I recently decided that I needed to go for a bike ride. It had been a hot day, but the sun was setting and there was a beautiful breeze and the children had driven me to the point of not caring how I left them or whether or not their father even realized I was leaving. I took off down the road, pounding my frustration into those pedals and actually enjoying the exertion. I even thought about considering the possibility of someday doing this on a regular basis and thereby get into some semblance of fitness.
I followed the route that my daughter and I had taken earlier in the summer. It had taken the two of us over an hour. A quick calculation of my increased speed as a solo, adult rider and my increased stamina (having ridden my bike a total of three times this summer, which is a huge increase over the zero times in the previous ten years), I determined that I could do this same route in half an hour. I failed to include in my calculations the pain and interminable suffering of riding the second half of the route into the wind.
Ten minutes into my ride, I wondered if I should just turn around and go straight home. My legs were getting tired and I was starting to sweat. I talked myself up a bit, repeatedly gasping the phrase “almost to the half-way point” (still working with the assumption that my ride was going to be 30 minutes). I felt like a true athlete, forcing myself to press on. Plus, I had just giddily coasted down a delightful hill, and I preferred to delude myself into thinking I wouldn’t have to go up at all if I just kept going forward.
I kept going.
As I visualized the route, and realized that I was probably only about half-way and I had already killed twenty minutes, I wished I’d brought my cell phone. Surely it wouldn’t be THAT humiliating to just stop and have Pat come pick me up in the truck, would it? Or maybe I could stop at that farmhouse there and use their phone. Or even borrow a horse. That would be fun. I could trade my bike for a horse! People ride horses for exercise, don’t they? I wouldn’t ever have to bike again and I could still get skinny. Or at least I’d LOOK skinny sitting on a big, fat horse!
And then it hit me. The wind, that is. I was still wishing I’d made friends with that farmer back there when I came around a bend in the road. The wind, oh the wind! How was I going to get all the way home in this direction? But there was no other possible direction to take. I had to go home! All I could do was keep pushing and try to escape reality by mentally writing the story of this grand adventure. It would make a great analogy for life’s trials! Wasn’t this what I thought our adoption story would be like? Sure, I knew it would be hard, but I was going to put in my allotted time of effort, sweat a bit, push through the pain, but enjoy the breeze and the sunset along the way. But then the wind picked up and the journey got hard. There’s nowhere to stop and no option of quitting. No one can finish the journey for me.
My brain vacillates between reality and analogy.
I wave to another biker heading the opposite way with the wind at his back. Lucky jerk. But then I remember that he’s either already done his time riding into the wind or he’ll be coming to it soon.
My neck is getting sore from looking ahead. Maybe I’m not riding properly. Maybe my seat’s too high. I want to curl my chin to my chest to stretch out the sore muscles, but I can only do that for a couple of seconds without risking my life. Maybe it’s worth the risk. No, chin up, girl. You must keep looking ahead and press on. Such deep thoughts! I give my head a vigorous shake to work out the kinks. (Please note: a vigorous head shake is sufficient to throw a novice rider off-balance and pitch him – or her, as the hypothetical case may be – off his or her bike into the ditch-weeds.)
A bend in the road and some trees give me a brief respite from the wind. Too brief. Just like my parenting breaks. Way too brief. And too much hard pedalling in between.
I want to holler at every car I see. Don’t they know my pain? Don’t they care? Can they even see me as they whiz past on their jolly joy-rides?
I’m on the homestretch now. Literally, there’s a straight stretch of road leading to my home. Home! I can do this. My shoulders are stiff. My neck is still so tight. My legs are numb. And I’ve got an unspeakable pain in my backside (analogy much??). But I can see my home. I can see it. I will press on into the wind.