We’ve all met at least one person who treads a little lighter than the rest of us, who grabs life with both hands, experiences it to the fullest. It’s not that they are irresponsible adults. It’s just that their approach to life in general is different from most grown ups. They don’t allow themselves to get caught up in the details. They don’t over think. They just breathe in life’s moments, filling their lungs with each experience, and letting every inch of their body feel the joy life offers. Is it a personality trait inherited from some gene passed down to them from a life loving parent? Or, is it something they learned along the way?
As a kid, I remember being fearless. Yet, now I over think riding a Roller Coaster as I imagine endless frightening scenarios all of which leave my two children motherless in the end. As I climb aboard, buckle my seat belt, then check and double-check it, I’m silently berating myself for being so careless as to agree to this irresponsible joy ride. I am a mother for goodness sake, not some free wheeling teenager doing pop-a-wheelies on her mountain bike (ah those were the days). Nevertheless, I settle in and after a quick
plea bargain prayerful talk with the man upstairs, I make a conscious decision to enjoy the ride. It isn’t long before the cars pick up speed, I feel the wind in my hair, and the sheer exhilaration of feeling free! In that moment, nothing can stop me and I feel like I can take on the world!
Do you remember the first time you learned to ride a bike? It’s that same feeling I’m referring to here. No matter how we approached that bike for the first time, the end result was the same. Once we got going and felt the wind in our hair, we could take on the world. There was no hiding our smile as it traveled from our mind to our face, until it took over every fiber of our being and shone like a Fourth of July sparkler beckoning the world to smile with us! Why do we reserve that full body joy as something to be experienced only by a carefree child?
When I taught my oldest how to ride a bike, her little brother was her biggest cheerleader as she fearfully gave up her training wheels. Olivia approached this challenge in her usual fashion. With much detail, she proceeded to delineate each and every way she could fall off her bike, and each and every injury that was possible. I gave her some space, addressed her concerns accordingly, and eventually she faced the latest challenge in the life of a six-year-old — with determination and a few meltdowns. On the other hand, Evan watched Olivia the first day as he circled her on his Spiderman bike WITH training wheels, and like a good brother and little knight, cheered her on at the appropriate moments. However, on day two he adamantly demanded I take his training wheels off.
Evan’s approach to learning to ride a bike was much different from his sister’s approach. Fearless and with complete faith in his abilities, he not only wanted to go fast but didn’t want me to hold him back. Not a single thought to consequences, injuries, etc. he quickly progressed to riding without assistance in a mere thirty minutes. Their approaches were different, but their end result was the same. They both experienced the same sense of freedom, wind blowing in their face, head tilted back, smiling with their entire body.
This left me thinking about how we approach life. What are our “training wheels” and how much do we depend on them? Training wheels aren’t a negative thing, but definitely aren’t meant to permanently carry our weight. Do the training wheels in our life show up in the form of our friends, our family, our career, our doubts, or the dreams we’ve put on hold? Why do some of us hang on to our training wheels longer than others? Is it because they’ve become so much a part of us that we don’t even realize we’re leaning on them? Are we too afraid to remove them even for a moment for fear of failure? Are we allowing our training wheels to hold us back from that sense of freedom?
Wouldn’t it be great to experience that smile from the inside out…the kind that makes you literally jump for joy just like when you were a kid? Whether it’s a roller coaster, a bike, or life, inevitably the moment arrives when we have to ride all on our own, feel the exhilaration as we pick up speed and confidence, tilt our heads up to the sky, and welcome that cool breeze on our face.