She peers over the edge of her handlebars, wondering at the hill ahead. Can she go down it with eyes closed? Can she hold her breath long enough to make it to the bottom? Wind in her hair as she unstraps the helmet, dangling it below the bars, she grips the rubber under her little determined fists and pushes off. Down she flies, faster and faster still. Breath caught in her throat, bare feet pounding on the peddles, careening faster along the sidewalk, helmet wobbling back and forth. No road accident in site. No falling down, no breaking down. She imagines she’s flying, she’s exploring, that she hasn’t spun down this hill hundreds of other times before. She doesn’t think she is too fat for this, she doesn’t wonder if she is too old or too small or too young. She doesn’t question her ability, her responsibility, her calling nor does she ponder the “oughts” or “shoulds”. She goes. In that moment she goes and she lives, fully.
It takes but a moment to remember that 9-year-old me. She is not gone, she is beneath all the years covered over me like cloaks. I can picture every road within a 10 km radius of my family home. I can remember the songs that carried me on the wind, the poetry that bled out of my pen after venturing further a flight- with my appetite for adventure insatiable, and my sense of fear flexible like elastic. That was before my family life shattered to a million pieces in the wave of divorce and separation. That was before I struggled with how my body felt under the gaze of my own eyes in the mirror. That was before I went under the knife during 6 surgeries and bore 4 children and endured years of harrowing insomnia. Hard knocks don’t describe my twenties adequately enough. Failure, frustration, dying dreams and a broken body do. That soft cheeked 9-year-old face was only curious and brave, not scarred and battle weary. She was lighter than air.
Maybe her days are over. Maybe it’s true that responsibility trumps freedom, that chore trumps creativity, that reality defines future more than the feeling of wind in the hair.
But those lies don’t buy my devotion anymore.
It’s never too late for Him to do new things in me.
Something in this mid-life me is changing. The heavy cloak of should-haves and could-haves is being tossed aside and emerging is that 9-year-old with tawny limbs. I can feel breath in my lungs catch, I can feel my hair whip around my face as I let it out, I can feel the pedals beneath my bare feet and this soul wants to fly again. There are dreams yet to be dreamt, songs yet to be carried on, and corners to be explored at break-neck speeds. I strap on my helmet this time, but I get back on the bike. I grip the handlebars, I bomb down a dirt hill in a dusty village in a foreign land and let the scream rise in my throat. What if joy defined my next days more than fear?
She is alive and well, that 9-year-old. She has not aged, she is not too fat, she is called, oh she is called, and she is alive. She has a lot of living yet to do on the edge of her seat with nothing but a hill to fly down.