Friday, May 4, 2012
The ski lift story happened in Telluride. I was with my family on a holiday break. We went skiing, of course. But I'm no expert now, and I certainly wasn't then, so I took a one-on-one class with a very cute ski instructor -- on the bunny hill. I did well enough that first day that he sent me off with the then husband up the lifts. I was nervous as hell. For the first four or five times up the lift, it never failed, when we'd get near the top of the hill, and it was time to get off the chair, I'd start to feel anxious. The nerves rattled me. In my head, I'd be telling myself, "What the hell am I doing? I don't know how to ski? I'm going to fall." And, sure enough, when it was time to get off, I'd purposefully fall off because I wanted to feel in control of the fall. Each time, the chair lift operator would have to stop the lift to make sure I was okay and safely out of the way for the next skiers to get off the lift.
Finally, my then husband said to me, "Just visualize yourself scooting off the chair at the right time, standing up at the right time, and pushing yourself off with the poles and away from the chair without falling. Just visualize that all the way through the exit, and you'll be fine. You can do it."
Of course, in my mind, I was pooh-poohing the idea but decided to give it a try.
As we neared the top of the hill, he told me to scoot myself forward, closer to the edge (What? Are you trying to kill me?), and get my poles ready on both sides to push myself off the chair when it was time. "Sit up straight," he said, so I would be alert and prepared. "Now!" he yelled, "Stand up and push!" He did the same. All the while, he reminded me to visualize a successful exit onto the snow. I followed his orders.
At the precise moment when I was supposed to scoot and stand, I did it. I visualized myself skiing right down the little slope and toward the left where the ski runs were. And I did it. No falling. A little off-balance. But it worked. I was still standing, with the poles in my hand. I had skied off the lift. Visualization worked.
I've been a fan ever since.
I wasn't yet 30, and I think that's about the time when I began to purposefully collect things that reminded me of success. I'd done that all my life, of course. I think most of us do. But from then on, it was with more understanding of the power behind the image. I'd keep the fortunes in fortune cookies. I'd write quotes down and post them on bulletin boards to see. And when I sold my first poem -- for a whopping $10 -- I kept a copy of the check as a reminder. I still have it.
It wasn't surprising to me, then, when during one of life's more common, yet unexpected, downfalls -- divorce -- I needed a positive image then as well. I adopted the bike because it's what helped get me through. Not only did I ride the bike during the divorce, but I transformed it into a metaphor that helps me overcome whatever life obstacles get in my way. I also collect images and symbols that represent the bike. I have notebooks, greeting cards, a painting. Yes, I even bought a painting at an art gallery once, just because of an image of a girl and her bike having a grand time riding downhill was on it. I couldn't resist the feeling I felt when I saw it. All positive. It made me happy, and it fits my metaphor. It fits my life.
Neither should it be surprising that, after giving my BIKE speech time after time, the moniker "Bike Lady" followed. There are times when I know people think it's simply about riding bikes, and I've wondered whether I should let the moniker go. But I'm holding on. I'm trusting in the metaphor to continue teaching me, so I can continue teaching others.
The point is, maybe you have something that you use to help get you through tough times. Maybe there's an image or a symbol or a metaphor that you use. Maybe it's a favorite phrase or quote. Maybe you don't have yours yet. Or maybe you just haven't noticed. But I bet it's there, tucked away in some cubby hole in the closet or inside a secret box under your bed, or parked in the garage. I believe we all need attachments such as these to help us slug through the muddy waters of our own sometimes swampy life. That's what the BIKE is all about. It's a tool to use to get you through, to keep you moving forward.
I've embraced mine. How about you?
Is there something you cling to during your difficult days or more challenging moments. What is it? How has it helped you? If you're unsure, consider the next time you're faced with a decision you need to make, what do you rely on to help you make it. Maybe, just maybe, that's your BIKE.