Playing it Safe?

So Monday about two-and-a-half weeks ago, I went cycling on my quick, noontime twelve-mile route.On the second half of the ride I was enjoying a mighty tailwind, riding east on Mockingbird, approaching the hard right-hand turn at the end of Mockingbird and Garfield, when I felt my back tire go flat just before the turn. I kept riding since I was going fast, and the corner was not a good place to linger because too many cars cut the tangent, and because I was full of myself and thought I was smart.

But as I leaned into the turn, my now-flat back tire rolled out front under me.

It happened so quickly I didn’t know I was in trouble until my right hip bounced hard on the pavement. I apparently rolled over on my back, too, since the whole back of my jersey was covered in road grime.

I stayed still for a few seconds, lying in the road. The fall knocked the wind out of me. But I knew I couldn’t stay there. It was too dangerous to lie there where cars turning the corner wouldn’t see me.

I stood up, slowly and carefully, making sure nothing was broken or bleeding. A quick inventory revealed no broken bones, no road rash, and I didn’t even rip my Lycra shorts.

However, my whole body was shaking and my ribs were sore. I didn’t have the energy or concentration to fix the flat. I had my phone with me and considered phoning Cyndi to come get me, but since my bike still worked and I could walk, I decided to try riding home. I was afraid if I sat too much too soon I would stiffen up and be done for the day.

I crept home on my bike, a little over three miles, riding on a sore hip and a flat tire.

By the time I went to bed Monday night my entire right hip was indigo, and it was swollen up with fluid. It felt hard, like a melon, and it restricted my movement.

When I got up Tuesday morning to go to work, I felt dizzy and nauseous.

I wondered if I had sustained a concussion when I fell, but I checked my cycling helmet for any road damage and there weren’t any scratches on it anywhere.

Cyndi suggested I check my blood pressure. It was 30 points lower than usual. That explained why I was dizzy. All my blood was in my swelling hip.

I thought, "I'm 56 years old, I shouldn't be doing this to myself;" but I also thought, "I'm grateful I can still go hard enough to get hurt." It’s possible to live your entire adult life doing nothing but risk management. Playing it safe. Avoiding crashes. Staying home on the couch. I knew I didn’t want to live like that.

I felt like I could manage my wounds with simple first aid, but I was worried that we were flying all the way to San Jose on Friday and Hawaii on Saturday, and how would I make the trip sitting on my sore self.

As it turned out, the flights weren’t unbearably uncomfortable. And in Hawaii I even went for several two-mile runs.

I read in my Daily Bible from Joshua 1, and the story got me thinking about how quickly our lives can change. Maybe because I was sitting crooked, leaning to my left side because of my swollen right hip, all because of my own sudden change.

God said to Joshua, “Moses my servant is dead. Now then you …”

As in, “The king is dead, long live the king.”

Moses is gone. Now then you

Just like that.

Even though Joshua had lots of time to prepare for this transition, knowing God had appointed him to be next in line, the suddenness of the promotion must have shocked him.

The discomfort of transitions can surprise all of us. The speed of the actual moment too fast to comprehend. And so, too often we avoid scary transitions by fighting change.

Well, later that night at Starbuck’s in Poipu, with our friends, David and Brenda, I mentioned what Erwin McManus said about drinking coffee with the lid on. We leave the lid on the cup to minimize spilling and protect ourselves from getting burned, but in doing so we also eliminate most of the fragrance. And odor makes up half the taste of good coffee.

And so in life, too often we are so afraid of getting burned we take the safe route (avoid hard relationship questions, never try anything new, refuse to change our habits or preferences, hunker down during times of transition and wait until we feel ready), and in the end, we miss half the experience. We miss the fragrance of living.

We have to go without the lid, cannonball into the moment, and be strong and courageous. Take the lid off, even though it’s scary (getting burned with hot coffee is a real risk and can cause permanent damage to skin and stain your clothes (and so can bike crashes)).

Well, I took my bike to Peyton’s for a onceover to check for cracks in the frame or bent derailleurs. It is now hanging from my garage ceiling, looking clean and sleek and fast, and calling out my name every time I hobble past. I can’t wait to get back on it.

I have no desire to crash again; I don’t know how many times I can recover from this sort of thing. But I’m not ready to stop moving, either. Living a completely safe life with the lid on, sounds even worse. I have to keep moving to feed my heart and soul, even if the risk is an occasional crash.

However, I’ve learned a couple of things that should help. I’ll stop sooner when I have my next flat, and I’m sure I’ll take that one corner slower from now on, even on two good tires.

“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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