We Goed B-Me-X-ing!

We broke all kinds of barriers this evening with our family outing to the BMX park. Chips and raisins for dinner. Bike riding way past bedtime. But most notably, I finally pushed past my fear and rolled smoothly over a couple of jumps in a row, got some speed in the berms, and got that "I can do this!" feeling.

I made several laps in a row, gaining confidence and smoothness, shedding anxiety each time the wheels hopped and slid and it was no big deal. My muscles relaxed, joints loosened. I started looking ahead instead of at the ground inches in front of my front wheel. The bike bounced up and down beneath me and I instinctually leaned and shifted, bent my knees, absorbed the shocks in the terrain as if I knew what I was doing. It was fun! I had fun!

I took a break, heart pounding, out of breath. Both from exertion and adrenaline. I was tired, covered in dirt, and exhilirated. I was a 37 year old sedentary mom BMX-ing for the first time in her life. Hey, that's pretty awesome. And way more fun than sitting on the sidelines providing snacks and water. And way better for my fitness and confidence and family bonding.

I'll have you know that this did not come easily for me. I've never "had it" when it comes to kinesthetic talent. I bump repeatedly into pieces of furniture or countertops that haven't moved positions in years. I was always picked last in PE. I am going left when the step class is going right. My mind and muscles are just not wired together properly. I have been motivated over the years to undertake various physical activities- skateboarding, mountain biking, dancing, and surfing come to mind, but have always found the learning process a real struggle and often quit in frustration. And it's not for lack of willing coaches. But the combination of poor proprioperception + high expectations for myself + the need to figure things out myself with no help + frustration with anything I can't learn super fast = well, ... issues when it comes to this stuff.

And, Backtire is AMAZING at this stuff. He has never taken more than 10 minutes to essentially figure out how to snowboard, rip stick, or whatever on the first time he tries. His brain and body fundamentally work in sync. He intuits the effect that gravity, friction, air resistance, mass, angle, acceleration, and torque will have on the situation. His body responds reflexively, with no conscious analysis. He, as they say, IS the bike, surfboard, or motorcycle. Plus, adrenaline is one of the necessary daily requirements for him, a close second to oxygen. And, he doesn't mind getting hurt as much as I do. We have the ER visit receipts and at-the-ready collection of ace bandages, gauze, wrist stabilizers, and "road rash kits" to prove it.

So, being a person who compares myself to others, is quite competitive, and whose identity is rightly or wrongly wrapped up in accomplishments- well, you can see that I'm not doing my self-esteem any favors by hanging out with him and trying to do sporty stuff together. Except, maybe I am.  Because he relentlessly pursues physical activities and therefore I cannot hide from them. And he relentlessly cajoles, ahem, encourages and supports me to try them, too.  

The first couple times we went to the BMX park, I only spectated, turning down offers to give it a try. The next time I rode Backtire's bike, but only on the flat. Rode it some more at home on the asphalt to get used to it. Next time, I tried going over the smallest bumps, about 12-18" high. OK, did that and didn't die or embarrass myself (which is worse?). Did that a few more times. That was kind of fun. Tried the bigger bumps and ripped up my calf by stopping in fear as I would crest the top, putting my foot down and suffering the pedal coming around to eat my flesh. Felt embarrassed, scared, and frustrated. Went back to spectating. Figured I probably wouldn't be able to get past the fear. I'm too old. Chalked it up to one more thing that I suck at and therefore won't find fun. Imagined all the years of BMX-ing that they'll do together as I sit reading a book on the sidelines or don't even bother to go. All the fun they'll have without me.

I finally had a big talk with myself and Backtire about all of this and why I have such a hard time just "letting go" as everyone tells me to and even just "doing it only for fun", even if I suck and am struggling, which everyone tells me to do, also. I realized that I needed a strategy. I needed a lot of time and no pressure. I needed space to figure it out myself without people tossing suggestions at me. I needed to only have to focus on one tiny skill at a time because I lock up and get overwhelmed if I have to remember to do two or more new things at once with my body. (No problem in other arenas of life!) I even needed little to no cheerleading because somehow what others think they are giving to me to be supportive just feels like more pressure to me. And too much praise and attention to my progress just distracts me and then I goof up. I need to work on things in my own little bubble in my mind. And I needed strategies for not getting hurt, so that I could have more fun and less pain and be less likely to quit.

I rode the bike around my street, practicing putting my foot down on each side, way out past the pedals so that if I did reflexively put it down out of fear, at least my new muscle memory would have my calf clear of the claws. I got over my fear and rode the bike off the curb over and over. I practiced riding up and down the bumps in the sidewalks where people's driveways are with my pedals even, because if they are in the up/down position, they will scrape against the slope on a jump. I went up and down driveways and practiced getting more speed up and stopping quickly. I practiced leaning the bike way over and counterbalancing with my body. I practiced balancing the bike while going really slow.

Then at the track today, it all came together. After a long time waiting all the teenage hot shots rode off and left the track empty. I took some laps on the flat, then added the tiny bumps. I got up some speed and went for a big bump and stopped at the crest out of fear, but- ta da!- got my foot clear of the pedal when I stopped. I tried again and whoa! I did it! After a few repetitions, I even accidentally got some air. Kind of scared me when the front tire lifted up like that, but I recovered and it probably looked really cool and like I did it on purpose to everyone else. Whoo hoo for the inadvertent trick!

I did it all a bunch of times in a row and it felt great, but I made sure to quit while I was ahead because I know myself. I need to bask in my accomplishments and be motivated to come back and push myself a bit more. If I had eaten it, I would probably just end up quitting. Baby steps. Baby steps. And major props to Backtire, who gave me space and time and bit his tongue and just let me do my thing until I figured it out. He didn't even look at me or smile or compliment me until we were ready to go home. Perfect!

I'm really happy that I pushed past fear and anxiety and self-doubt and silly notions about age and out-of-shapeness and gender. The best reward, though? The high five from Turtle- "Good job, Mommy!" and the lit up smile on his face at the excitement that our whole family "goed B-Me-X-ing".

p.s. OK, if you've made it this far, I have to share this one other little thing.  After riding all that time and Backtire being good and not saying a word to me, on the way to the car he mentions casually to me- "Uh, you might want to wear a different kind of shirt next time".  I had a v-neck tee on.  Apparently, I was giving the teenage BMX-ers a show when I came around the corners leaned over on the bike.  Not to worry, Backtire assures me it was "R-rated, not X-rated".  Normally, I'd be mortified!  But I was so proud of myself for riding that I don't even care!  Mental note on the crew neck next time, though.  


They're Here!

Oh glorious day!  The shoes arrived!  I'll debut them tonight at the Mom's Night In.  I know it's just cheap wine and a girly movie in someone's living room, but it's a start.  One step closer to freedom from a bleak future with the ranks of the reasonably shod...  


Breaking Up With My Pick Me Up

Dear Caffeine,

We can't go on like this. I have fun when I'm with you and you make me feel alive, but I'm losing sleep and being on this energy roller coaster is taking its toll on me. I should have never initiated this relationship with you. For all those years, you were around in the background, but I didn't see what others saw in you. And then I distanced myself from you for a good 18 months after Turtle was born. After that, I should have just stayed away. But you tempted me with morning clarity and late night productivity and you knew just how to pull me out of that 4 pm slump. Hanging out once or twice a week became stealing visits with you multiple times a day. And now I'm stuck in this cycle of rendezvous, guilt, fatigue, breaking away for a few days and then crawling back in desperation after a few nights of lost sleep and the realization that no one can make me feel just like you do. Somehow I can already see that this will be one of those long complex break ups and that you aren't going to help me by letting me go. But I hope you care about me enough to realize that I need to cut you off, that it's the best thing for me. And I know you'll find someone else. There are plenty of other sleep deprived overworked moms out there.

I'll never forget the good times!