On top of the Montana mountain attired in a heavy BMX helmet and pads, I found clarity on why the rental bike clerk responded with an “Ohhh…” When I told him we didn’t have any mountain biking experience. An awkward silence ensued, so I felt the need to elaborate, “We’re from Orlando Florida. The land’s flat there.”
“Well, in that case I think I should warn you we don’t have any beginner trails. At the top of the mountain there’s only intermediate and expert trails, I’d recommend starting with the intermediate. There’s a good chance you’ll wipe out at least once… probably more. The trails only a foot wide and you’ll feel pretty vulnerable biking on a cliff. The rocks will wiggle your tires a bit. You have to trust your bike to follow through, don’t fight it. But if you don’t like the first mile, bike back up because it’ll be that way for over seven more.”
At the peak, my boys took off without looking back (it’s a male pride thing) and Peyton rode off after them, but I’m at an age where I no longer think of myself as invisible like I did throughout my twenties. I took a steadying breath and prayed God would not let us fall off the edge before pushing off. Right away there was a ramp and a curve on a cliff that made my stomach flip-flop. “Are they crazy? This can’t be the intermediate trail!” I screamed. Once the trail leveled a bit, I saw the kids ahead waiting for me.
Peyton, my niece glanced back. “I already fell!” She said. She seemed a bit shaken.
We all rode together, at the next curb Peyton wiped out again and rolled a bit off the edge. I jumped off my bike. “Peyton!” I screamed. “That’s it, we are going back. It’s not worth it.”
“I can’t do it!” she said, rubbing her scraped up arm. I recognized the look of exasperation that crossed her face. It was the look of hopeless defeat. I remembered her Momma giving me that look when she was scared to climb the tree I’d been climbing for a while. Being only seventeen months younger, she was no longer content to stand at the bottom and watch. Tricia wanted to know what it felt like to wrap her arms and legs around the pinnacle and ride in the wind.
“One limb at a time Tricia, I’ll go with you.” Limb by limb we climbed together until we reached the weakest branches at the top and held on tight. Tricia smiled until she looked down. “Don’t look down,” I said. “Always, keep your eyes straight out.”
Peyton is so much like her Momma and I. We’re all rooted in the southern soil of determination.
“Boys, go. Leave us.”
“Are you sure Mom?” Nick said. What if you get hurt?”
“She’s going to get hurt if you stay. Ride ahead, we’ll be fine.”
They got on their bikes and rode off.
I turned to Peyton, “Do you want to do this?”
“Yes, but I can’t.” Her arms shook.
“Look, the way I see it, is this, you were trying to keep up and that’s why you are falling on the curbs. Walk the curbs until you get used to them. And we’re not competing here. Take it slow and steady and enjoy the ride. This is not a race. We are challenging ourselves to finish something that is ridiculously scary, so we can say we did. Okay? We got this!”
She nodded, climbed on her bike and rode. At the next curb, she climbed off her bike as did I, and we walked our bikes around the edge of the cliff. A few miles down, she gained the courage to bike the remaining curbs, and I biked them too. One curb at a time.
We completed the eight plus miles downhill, and met the boys at the bottom, standing with my daughter Bella and my husband, Jay. Over lunch, my son Christian bragged about how fast he was going and how he had to wait thirty minutes for Mom to arrive.
I leaned across the table, snatching one of his fries. “Pretty sad you need to compete with a mother of four who’s nearing 50. Just saying.” I popped the fry in my mouth, shutting his up.
The times I’ve compared myself to others or tried to keep up, I’ve always wiped out defeated. I’ve always lost hope. After Jay and I married, one of our close friends had the perfect home. She enjoyed cleaning and she was a great cook too. Her home was spotless every day, I tried to keep up and soon found I did nothing but keep a clean house. I didn’t play with my children, I didn’t see girlfriends, I didn’t write, I didn’t paint. I neglected to use the talents God gave me that bring me joy and Him glory. My life felt flat all because I thought that was what a stay-at- home Mom was supposed to be. It didn’t take long to realize Jay preferred a happy, well-rounded wife to a housekeeper.
Recently, I’ve seen friends become published authors, I’m thrilled for them, but cannot help but fill that angst that I’ll never finish my book. Just like Peyton trying to keep up with her cousins, my book will wipe out if I write slop in haste.
I admit I’m pretty proud of myself for conquering that Rocky mountain, I know Jay’s tired of hearing about it, but that mountain taught me a valuable lesson. We all have our own trail our own race to complete in this life. A narrow trail God’s already cleared for us alone. It will be filled with hills, cliffs, curbs, and rocks that shake you to the core. I can guarantee you will have the occasional falls and it will seem to fly by; but if our focus is on the ones we perceive are doing it better, we will fall off our own trail and miss the blessings and opportunities surrounding us. Think about that the next time you compare yourself to someone else. Til next time take it slow and steady and above all enjoy the ride!