Peter took me biking to the top of the mountain.
I am not a terrific biker. I have strong legs from running, but no particular skill on a bike. But Peter said I would do fine and so I went and I did fine, for a while.
We started out uphill but it was a gentle uphill climb. I shifted down a gear and then another; the sun was warm and the wind was blowing. It was a beautiful day. We passed a sign on the road that told us that this would be a good place to put on chains. This sounded worrisome. We kept climbing.
Soon, we hit the switchbacks. This is where things grew challenging. While my legs kept pumping, we were now over 8,000 feet and I had no air left. I couldn’t get enough air. I hate to quit, but that is exactly what I did. I stood by the side of the road and panted. I wheezed. I took in great, gulping gasps of air. I looked up the road and realized the ride had hardly begun. I looked at the retreating figure of Peter, ahead of me up the mountain.
I’ve been in places like this before.
Running a small company and wondering if I’d make payroll. Facing a blank page and fearing that I had nothing to say. Realizing I must eventually recover from a broken heart— but having no idea how that could ever be done. Knowing that, whatever it was, it was impossible. Like this mountain, it couldn’t be done and there would be a lot less pain if I just realized it was impossible early on, instead of trying and failing.
And most of the time, I have done it anyway. Most of the time I was simply too stupid or stubborn to quit.
“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” Alexander Pope said. Two hundred and fifty years later, James Thurber added, “... and all the angels are in heaven but few of the fools are dead.”
So I kept biking. I had to start on one of the steepest parts of the road— so steep that my front tire reared up off the pavement when I started to pedal. I crept to over 9,000 feet. I went so slowly that I was quite certain if I were walking I would pass myself.
Then I had to stop again.
This time, Peter was far ahead of me. I had no breath left, my knees felt numb, and my ears were ringing. I suspected that this was no longer healthy exercise, but that I had passed into the land of moronic stubbornness.
“There would be nothing wrong with waiting here for Peter to return,” my sensible self told my exhausted self. “You know you have nothing to prove.” I stared at the pavement beneath my feet. Then I got back on my bike.
The last bit was actually not as hard. All I saw was the pavement. All I felt was my breath entering and exiting my body. One more breath. And then another. At the end, I pulled in next to Peter at the top of the hill and he applauded.
“I didn’t know if you were going to make it!” he said.
I didn’t either. And maybe that is the point. Maybe we do these foolish things just to prove to ourselves that we can be wrong, that our ideas of what we are capable of need to be re-examined occasionally, that sometimes the obviously impossible is possible. One breath at a time.
Till next time,