Terrified. Exhilarated. But still, terrified. Before me stretches an unknown road. Twisty, rough, upward it leads. Up into high country–meadows, trees, streams, dark forests–a blind vastness that engulfs the known universe. Terra incognita. There is no turning around now. Nothing to do but press forward. I clip in, and push the pedals.
Slowly the anxiety melts away. In the deep reaches of my psyche it lingers, pesters, festers, surfacing occasionally in fits of panic or rage. And again, the unknown is thrust into center stage of my thinking, ugly, awkward, foreign. I press on and the feeling retreats. In its place the joy of exploration.
And so it has been this summer. The uneasy pressure of the twins arrival has been a constant presence, like a coming storm gathering courage and strength, ready to rain chaos down upon the masses below. We have fortified the house and adjusted our expectations. And now we wait.
A mountain bike race can be a lot like life. But a race has distinct advantages. A specific starting time and length. A choice of difficulty. Always the option to gracefully bow out. People cheer. Brightly colored ribbons are given out. Life however is not so scripted. Not so sanitized. Life is spontaneous. An unknown trail winding thorough thick pines with just the immediate future visible.
I am embarrassed to say that there are days, sometimes many of them strung together like a rotted popcorn necklace, that I wonder, honestly wonder what my wife and I have gotten ourselves into. Regret? No. Just hesitation. Fear. Anxiety. Questions.
“Rise up O man!” admonished my dad. Easier said than done. But that is what lies ahead. That familiar chaos of children. Running and playing, screaming and fighting, hungry yet they don’t eat, tired but do not sleep. Family. Chaos. Similes. And again I am reminded how unprepared I feel. “Rise up O man!”
There is a moment that each and every mountain biker has experienced. It can come unexpectedly, suddenly, dangerously. It is that moment where forward motion is suspended, the front tire on the ground, the rear hung in the air. The body lurches forward and for a thought all time stops, the world shrinks into sharp focus, lucid clarity, as you realize with terror that your body is going over the bars.
I am suspended in time, at that moment. Waiting patiently to go over the bars. The sting of the rock, the gasp of air forcibly leaving the lungs, the clang of the bike and the grunt of impact. As the ground approaches the worst possible thoughts race though the mind. What will break? Will it be me or the bike? Both?
And then it is over. And after a few minutes of rolling around in the dust in pain and humiliation while companions ask through giggles if everything is alright the realization sinks in that in fact, everything is okay. Bike and body are fine, have lived to ride another day. And another after that. And so on.
Terrified. Exhilarated. But still, terrified. But not as much. Twins. I can handle that. Well, we can handle that. My wife and I.
The twins, like all those over the bar, head first, bone bruising, ego crushing, feet over head, awkward bicycle crashes that have come before and not turned out so terrible after all will inevitably arrive. And soon. And like that un-retrievable momentum that sends a rider face first into the dirt there is no going back. Instead, all I can do is embrace the moment, and hit the ground rolling.