Shifting Gears – life changes and new directions

(From June, 2016, about a month after being laid off from my job of 24+ years)

When you’re on a road or mountain bike with multiple gears, the goal is to shift smoothly whether you are increasing or decreasing your speed. Ideally, you will coordinate your hand controls, navigate the multiple sprockets and gear up or down with a flick of a wrist or a tap of your fingers. Occasionally, the terrain or environment will change suddenly and you find yourself braking, wobbling, and struggling to downshift while maintaining your balance and continuing to steer in the proper direction. Sometimes the chain comes off or you get a flat. You stare too long at road kill and go right over it. Someone cuts you off and you have to swerve. You lose your pack of fellow riders. You hit a rock and go flying. You bonk from sheer exhaustion. Or, if you were clipped into pedals, you get a toe stuck and crash ungracefully. It occurred to me this morning that this is a pretty accurate description of life. Maybe you can relate.

We start out as babes riding or pushing toys with wheels, work up to a tricycle, maybe a push scooter, then a bike with training wheels, and finally our first “real” bike. Woo-hooo! Big stuff. For a time we are flying around the block or road, getting a taste of the wind in our faces and drinking in the freedom. What could be more fun? Maybe you upgraded to a motorcycle, or a tandem or recumbent style of bike. Life is good when you’re cruising along, adapting to the turns and hills, enjoying the scenery and perhaps the company of those who are part of your journey.

But, then the wheels come off, literally or figuratively. The loss of a loved one. A bad accident. Cancer diagnosis. A prodigal child. Mental illness. Unemployment. Deployment. A broken relationship. Declining health. Bankruptcy. An unwanted move. Rejection. Homelessness. If you’re in one of those seasons, how do you shift gears and keep pedaling? Do you need to start with dusting yourself off and getting back onto the bike? Assess the damage to you and your ride? Pick a different mode of transportation? Not many of us have the luxury of calling the SAG wagon (Support and Gear/Grub) to tend to our injuries, make the needed repairs, and get us out popping wheelies again. Perhaps you need to draft behind a stronger rider for awhile.

Where are you? If you’re like me, you’ve had to shift gears many times and there have been a few crashes as well, just to keep it interesting. My most recent road rash came when my job of 24+ years was suddenly eliminated. While I was definitely looking to go a new direction (eventually), God had a different plan and decided to accelerate the process with a hard right. It’s been over a month now, and what initially felt like an Endo (end over end) from a full-on brake stop now feels more like a slow cruise. I’ve recovered from the shock, adjusted my helmet, established a new cadence and rejoined the pack. The jerseys are different, but the view is much broader than my gray cubicle. The long years of faithful service and endless training have equipped me for the next adventure.

Keep pedaling, my friends. Maybe you need to quit tapping the brakes and cast your gaze a bit further down the road. Drop the hammer and hang on for the ride of your life.

(In all honesty, my real, physical bikes are dusty and have been leaning against the garage wall for years. Like my writing, they’re rusty from lack of use, but begging to have purpose once again. Bikes and blogging. More to come.)

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