Riding a bicycle is supposed to be a fun. That’s the way it used to be for me – feeling carefree, enjoying the scenery with the wind blowing in my hair. More than 28 years ago my brain injury put an end to this. My balance was affected and I gave up riding for fear of hurting myself.
Two years ago, I tried again. The outcome was bad! I fell and shattered my outstretched wrist. It was initially casted, but I later required surgery for plates and three screws. I am determined and this was not enough to make me give up the idea of riding a bicycle again.
It is interesting to consider what motivates us. Shortly after this accident, I met a man, who I wanted to marry. He loved riding his bicycle. My desire to ride with him became a big part in my reason for relearning how to bike. I learned far more, as I gained several important lessons about life along the way.
1). Don’t focus on the obstacle, look beyond it.
Our bike path has barriers to prevent motorized vehicles using the trail. It is easy to bike between them, but I initially focused only on the barrier. This focus caused me to aim for and hit it. With time, I learned to correctly orient my bike and look beyond the obstacle. These barriers ceased to be problems. Focusing only on the immediate problem led to frustration, depression or anger. Changing my perspective allowed me to look beyond the issue to my goal.
2). Gear down when approaching difficulties.
Low gear means less effort. It is easier to maintain control or restart. Similarly, in my new post-brain injury life, planning ahead became important. Getting plenty of sleep, eliminating stress prior to difficult appointments or events and making lists to aid my memory were essential.
3). Adopt a gentle and humble learner’s attitude.
They say; “You never forget how to ride a bike.” But, I was an adult and unable to bike. Frustration or even fear about lost abilities was often huge. However, we know that skills not practiced are lost and I had changed. I needed to remind myself to be patient with myself as I learned again. This process was also much easier with an understanding helper to give advice and encouragement. However, listening requires humility.
4). Be realistic, aware of your limitations, but do not stop trying.
Over the months, my distances increased and my stability improved. But despite improvements, I still occasionally fall. Therefore, I avoid traffic, stick to bicycle paths and the less traveled roads. Most importantly, I have not stopped trying. Practice is how the brain rewires.
5). Maintain a sense of humour and have fun.
I will never bike in the Tour de France, but I can always have fun. Our rides include pit stops at a local bakery or coffee shop.
I was given a second chance in life when I survived my car accident. I need to keep things in perspective. Relearning how to ride a bike is not essential. Instead, it is icing on the cake.
What have you learned about life from your TBI?