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Rosemarie Rossetti

Just Like Riding a Bike

Life is just like riding a bike. Once you have learned to ride a bike, you never forget how to ride again. And once you've fallen off of a bike, you've got to get back on. Life can bring you hard knocks, but somehow you have to pick yourself up and start all over again.

This is something I learned the hard way. I was crushed by a falling tree while riding my bicycle two years ago. The injury left me paralyzed from the waist down.

Two months after coming home from the hospital, my home health aid came with me while I was giving a speech. She had never seen me perform in front of an audience. When we returned home she said, "Girl, you haven't lost it. You've still got it. It's just like riding a bike."

I thought it was humorously ironic that she said this to me. I am in a wheelchair because I fell off a bike. Later, I realized that she was telling me that my essence was intact. I was still me. When I speak to audiences, I can still impart knowledge and have a terrific relationship with them.

As I progress in my physical therapy, I see my legs getting stronger. Therapists taught me how to exercise and how to walk short distances with a walker, crutches and canes. As I saw my legs functioning again, I dreamed of activities that I could resume. One of my dreams was to bike again. In order to make this happened, I needed a special bike.

Adaptive recreational equipment is available for people with handicaps. Handcycles, footcycles, tandems and motor assisted bikes, make riding possible for those with limited use of their limbs, poor vision, head injury or difficulty in balancing. Some are bicycles, while others are tricycles.

After much research, my choice was a Trice recumbent tricycle that I pedal with my legs. It was made in England. I took delivery this week.

Like a child with a new toy, I can't wait to get up in the morning and go for a ride. I am independent again, cruising through my neighborhood. No longer do I have to depend on my husband, Mark, to push me in my wheelchair for a stroll after dinner.

My disability goes unnoticed as I pedal. The bike is a disguise. No one would ever suspect that I am paralyzed, until I they see me encountering steep terrain. The roads in my neighborhood are like the roads of life, some are a smooth coast downhill and others are a most challenging uphill struggle.

As I monitor my speed, I am aware that I can go only about half as fast as I rode before I was injured. My pace varies from one mile per hour on the steeper sections of our street to twelve miles per hour, going down the other side.

The rolling ground beneath my wheels changes in grade frequently. I shift into different gears to help me get up the inclines. Sometimes the strain is heavy as I struggle to make it up the hill. Sometimes I use my arms to help push on my legs.

So it is with life's challenges. Sometimes life seems like an uphill climb. We strain and toil and focus on reaching the top. From time to time we need to remind ourselves how bad we want it. Our drive and determination must be stronger than the challenges we face. Sometimes we have to change into a higher gear to get the job done.

Occasionally, we "hit the wall" in athletic pursuits. We exert energy for as long as we think is possible and then suddenly realize that there is no more energy left. We stop. We lack momentum. We abandon the effort.

There will be times in your life where you come across that "wall". Obstacles, challenges, limitations will make success seem less likely. What we must remember is that momentum can be an energy force that gets you past the "wall". Once you are on a roll, keep moving. It is easier to make it up a difficult hill or a difficult challenge, if we are already moving forward. Don't give up. Focus.

Downhill is a flip side of uphill. There can't be one without the other. Enjoy the downhill rides and appreciate the thrill of coasting. Life at anytime can become difficult and life at anytime can become easy. It all depends on how you adjust yourself to life.

Copyright © 2000, Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.
Rossetti Enterprises Inc.
All rights reserved worldwide.

Reprinted with Permission: Women's News Journal, June 2000

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