I love to ride. I love to shove my feet into the pedals, slot my carefully-filled water bottle, start the bike-o-meter and head off. The display shows my speed, my RPM, my time and calories spent. A little white towel wraps my neck to catch the sweat my headband misses. I can almost feel the wind in my face as my ear phones blare Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar.” Sometimes, the glare of a stranger warns me that I am singing out loud. I hardly care. Exhilarated and exhausted, I climb off my bike after a good 10 mile ride, satisfied. Then, I head to the shower. Exercised.
Okay. I confess. It is a stationary bicycle. Every time now, it’s one of those doesn’t-go-anywhere, wheel-less vehicles that you can actually buy for less than $100 as an accessory for your living room, bed room or basement. Some of them fold up into the nearby closet. Some have an IPod connection that charges your music device while you spin miles blissfully listening. Some, high on my list, chart your heart beat and tell you if you are fat burning or really cardio. Stationary bikes offer lots of gadgets and toys tuned to the purpose of exercising.
I used to pedal the real thing. I persevered for years trying to get the exercise I needed, wanted, blasting along city streets, helmet on head, my fingers poking out gloves that aren’t, my feet shod with devices not really shoes, and my crotch cushioned for the trip. My husband, warmed to my enthusiasm, bought me a Trek, which he said was a very good brand. I had an orange vest to be seen and something that blinked of my presence to motorist, pedestrians and others who I would like to notice me. I wanted a basket, and a horn, but learned that was not cool at all.
But I kept falling off.
I fell off in the bushes in the Presidio. It was a narrow detour due to road construction and I bravely dipped onto the dirt path. But I hit a large jade bush that nestled the tight corner and crashed. I fell off one day leaving my garage when the gear I thought I was in was no where close and my foot pushed on a pedal stuck in cement. I fell over the next week trying to muscle my good brand named Trek into the back of my SUV, thinking I might ride better on the flat pavement down the hill, but a short drive away. That fall injured my shoulder; and I was strangely relieved to enjoy two weeks of recovery with no biking. Back to biking, I fell off again at a scenic oversight, trying to get my foot back into the pedal basket. I was too slow and toppled onto the pavement. I noticed a couple of tourists snickering at my clumsiness.
Falling off, humiliating though it was, more importantly, defeated the purpose of biking. I wanted to exercise. I wanted to speed and sweat and go bare in mind – to give my body over to its use. Each time I fell wrought frustration and disappointment, mission unaccomplished. Often, bedraggled, walking the contraption back to my home on Broadway, I lamented the loss of time, the lack of sweat and low heart beat, more than I worried my injuries. Drat.
So I gave my good brand Trek to my son and went stationary.
I no longer fear falling. I can concentrate on my purpose and not fret the detours, terrain and bushes. Dogs never chase me now. No one shouts alarming warnings that I can’t hear. My ear phones don’t fall out. Every time, now, I finish my ride, sweaty and exercised.
It’s like praying.
I used to have the same fear of falling. I’d set out to pray and crash into a distraction. I swerved from my prayer, distracted by the woman at Adoration who had to say Hail Mary’s out loud in a lispy whisper no one can’t hear. At Mass, the homeless person with a tin foil wig flipped my prayers into fits of irritation (I am in San Francisco, BTW). Alone, praying my rosary, my sons would fly into the room with urgent need and I lost the bead, the bead of a prayer now beyond recovery. I simply could not find the prayerful exercise I needed, wanted, in the morass of human chaos, crashing and construction.
Is there a stationary bike of prayer? Where? How?
So, what do you think I did? What do you think I should have done, eh? What would you do?
Tell me. Then, I will tell you how I solved my fear of falling from prayer.