Learning That Life Is Like Riding a Bike (Whilst Actually Relearning to Ride One!)
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.
-- Albert Einstein
Bike rides are something my sisters and I went on constantly whilst growing up in the countryside and, much like driving, I naively thought it was just one of those things you learnt once and, when the stabilisers came off, you were set for life. But post-brain surgery, my permanently moving vision and traumatised cerebellum make even balancing on a cushion for more than a couple of seconds a challenge. I quickly discovered, when learning to write and walk unassisted again, that something I previously didn't think twice about ever having to master again, would indeed be the thing I knew I was going to have to face at some point.
All year I've desperately wanted to see if I could still balance on two wheels, yet the fear of what others would think halted me. But on Thursday, a lockdown "short walk and coffee" turned into a 27,000-step walk across the most beautiful touristy sights in London, and apparently a day for milestones. I fell in love with the city all over again, even more so because it was blissfully quiet, allowing us to fully bask in the Christmas decorations, including the beautiful tree in Covent Garden.
It was inevitable, on a walk that long in London, that we were going to pass a few Boris bikes along the way. But I kept quiet about my desire to try, for fear that others wouldn't understand how daunting and huge the task was for me. The niggling feeling of not wanting to sit through another winter not knowing if I could balance on a bike meant that, whilst we paused outside the gorgeous Victoria Embankment Gardens and marvelled at how peaceful and dreamy the weather was that day, I decided to take advantage of a space that was unusually quiet for London, that was also far away from anyone I would ever see again, should I fail.
After a lot of very wobbly starts and Lauren willing me to stop worrying what the people staring thought - (in my head, "what on earth is that grown woman doing only just learning to ride a bike?!") - I was about to give up. I knew it was going to be a challenge with my wobbly nystagmus eyesight and post-brain surgery balance issues but I didn't actually expect it to be quite as hard as it was. Rather than letting me walk away on a bad note and probably never getting on a bike ever again, Lauren willed me to keep trying. After sheer perseverance and a few attempts of her holding the saddle whilst I pedalled, she finally let go and proudly listened to me shout "I'm doing it, I'm doing it."
Coupled with the fact I just love London, and Christmas, and was having the BEST ever day walking and exploring all the beautifully lit landmarks, this was honestly the cherry on top. The adrenaline and excitement for having cycled in a straight line, (even if it was only a short distance) stayed with me for the rest of that day and night. I'm almost certain that a few people - even some on my social media after I posted a video - probably think 'so what? Riding a Boris bike in a little park at 26 is no big deal" And understandably so - I probably thought the same a year ago, when a person excitedly mastered something that wasn't a big deal to me then because I could do it with such ease!
But since my surgery, I fully appreciate that each 'little thing' a person congratulates as a milestone to them is actually an incredible achievement. I now know that those little things - like walking unassisted, writing a readable line, using a straw, being able to go up the escalators, even riding a bike - turn into the big things that you become so proud of mastering all over again.
One of the hardest but most important lessons I've learnt throughout my brain tumour recovery is that we all go at our own paces in life. Life really isn't a race and as long as you are taking baby steps and improving whatever is a challenge for you, then you are doing an incredible job at progressing and will be amazed at how much those daily steps add up overtime. Patience really does matter when fulfilling a dream or achieving a goal.
Riding a bike is different for everyone. Some find it easy, whilst others might find it hard. This is the same for life. At different times in our lives, we can temporarily go off track and become unbalanced. But like learning to ride a bike, we steer ourselves back by failing, making mistakes and trying again until we succeed.
Never a complete day out without a BITB snap ;-)Ending a long, amazing day with a festive hot choc by the Covent Garden tree.
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Thanks so much, Karen! Patience is definitely a virtue!
Step by step, wheel by wheel, it will come back. You go, Sammy girl!