Wednesday 2 May 2018

The Art of Learning How Not to Give a F*ck

   Please pardon my language. Usually, I severely disapprove of bad language, especially when it's typed. A sudden verbal outburst is one thing, but taking the time to actually type it out and hit send in a game - or in this case on a blog, where I've had more than enough opportunity to change my mind and delete it - is quite another. But right now, it is appropriate and, to a degree, a teensy bit necessary.

   I'll come right out and say it: I can't ride a bike. And I must jump immediately to my parents' defence and state that they did try to teach me, really quite hard, but I was the stubborn one. After riding with stabilisers, my parents finally took them off when they thought I was ready and took me out to learn properly. My dad had a hold of the back of my bike and when I was doing well, he let go - like any parent would. He said nothing because otherwise I'd panic. Instead, I was going quite fast, looked back in excitement, found him a ways back up the path and I panicked. I veered off the path, fell and hurt myself. I actually broke my skin - there was a bit of blood and it hurt for hours.
   My parents tried to get me back on but I refused. I was about 7 or something. I'm 27 now.

   Now comes the 'learning not to give a f...udge' bit.
   Last week while in The Netherlands, we went to the Hoge Veluwe, a nature reserve full of wild deer, boar and sheep, as well as smaller critters. The Dutch are big on cycling - you'd never guess - so his parents wanted us all to go out for a ride there. They know I can't ride, however, so they spoke to the bike rental office and were told that, among bikes for disabled people, they had one single tricycle - it had a saddle, gears, brakes, the lot, with the only difference being two wheels at the front. They reserved it for me.
   Now, most people would have said "no, I can't ride, I'd rather do something else - perhaps we could go but take a walking trail." Others would have declined it all together. I did the last time they suggested tandem.
   But this time, I didn't. My options were: don't go and miss all the wildlife, go and take a hiking trail and get shin splints and cover less ground, go and use a tricycle and get laughed at by everyone else, or go and try to learn to ride a bike.
   I opted for those last two.

   I had my tricycle - you can see me looking really rather epic on it while Seeg and his brother regressed about 20 years and started climbing trees - and we rode for about 2-3 hours, stopping three times to go on small hiking trails before looping back around to the bikes. I was laughed at by kids and adults alike, in a country full of people who are pretty much born on bicycles, but I kept going, and we stopped a couple of times so that I could have a go on someone else's bike.
   The trouble there, though, was that, while these saddles could be adjusted ridiculously low (yay), the bikes had no gears, their brakes were back-peddling, and they were heavy. But I tried. And everyone helped. Seeg held the back of my saddle, Hanke did, Ron did, and gradually I was getting better - to the point that Ron was the one who let go of my saddle (it's a dad-thing, I think). And for two glorious seconds, I was riding a bike.
   Then I wobbled, veered again and leapt off into a bush because there were no brakes and I didn't want to go down with the bike.

   For three hours, I rode along popular bicycle trails in a country full of cyclists while riding a tricycle. I was laughed at by all kinds of people. I ended up with very sore sit bones and, the next day, sore glutes. I could have stayed at home or just gone walking instead, preserved my dignity and had a very good day.
   Instead, I swallowed my pride and had an amazing day, and one of the most memorable for a long, long while. And now I'm thinking about buying myself a bike and some stabilisers and learning like I'm 5 again. Because I loved the sensation of gliding along the road, I loved the burn in my thighs, I loved the appreciation for smooth paving and rough gravel, and going down hill, at least with three wheels, was so enjoyable.
   Tell me who else my age - 'too old to learn' as I used to say - would be willing to do that? And honestly?

   Nothing touched me, no laughing children, no laughing adults, no strange looks from the people at the bike shed, because I decided it wasn't going to. I used that thing and I had immense fun (until my bum started hurting). And we covered enough ground to see loads of deer, and 10 wild boar - two adults and eight piglets.

   Swallowing your pride is not easy - but as one old and very wise tea connoisseur once said: 'pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source. True humility is the only antidote to shame.'
   By severing the association between pride and honour and ridding yourself of the former - and I am aware how new age-y this sounds - you can really free yourself and truly open yourself up to enjoyment. Because what does it mean to anyone else if my bike has three wheels instead of two? Everyone I was out with that day pinched it and had a go as soon as my bum was off the seat, so it can't be that shameful!


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