Every year on Independence Day, the little subdivision that held the yellow house I grew up in would shut down the loop of streets lined with houses that looked just like my yellow one. All the kids would decorate their bikes with streamers and balloons, and we would have a bike parade around the subdivision. It was the one time of the year we could ride our bicycles in the middle of the street without constantly looking over our shoulder and yelling the occasional “CARRRRR!” as we steered towards the sidewalk.
One year, I made a last-minute decision to deck out my secondary bicycle—the one I never really rode all that often. After taping all the streamers I could fit onto every inch of the bike, I took off with my friends, slowly parading around the neighborhood.
As we came around one of the final curves, the only downhill portion of the route commenced. I slowly started pedaling, aware that I didn’t need to work very hard to go very fast down the hill. Suddenly, I heard a click and my legs started pedaling with no resistance as the bike accelerated. The chain had broken and I wasn’t able to control my speed. Now without brakes, I was gaining momentum and heading straight towards a row of houses with the neighborhood’s lake behind them. As the bike barreled over the curb and into someone’s front lawn, I hopped off the side and rolled onto my back like an action movie’s superhero. The bike eventually fell over and I slowly stood up, drowning in embarrassment and relief.
I was unstoppable and it was terrifying.
Initially, I loved the feeling of being unstoppable, but the easy ride turned scary when I realized that I didn’t know how to stop myself. I knew that that if I couldn’t stop me, something else would—a fence, a house, or the lake, to be exact.
It’s been nearly 30 years since that bike parade. I now have two daughters who will soon be taking summer bike rides of their own. Being unstoppable isn’t quite the same in this season of life, but I can still get rolling pretty fast as a working mom.
I’ll be nursing my 3 month old while feeding my almost two year old dinner, all while asking Alexa to play my kid’s favorite song and picking up a toy with my toes.
“I am…” I whisper to myself, “unstoppable.”
I feel as if I really can do it all. Maybe I really do have it all together, and I don’t even need any help because look at me go! I attend all the meetings, make all the dinners, and keep a clean email inbox.
And then I feel that familiar click. Something has come unhinged and I am not OK, exhausted and on the verge of burnout. I don’t want to keep going at this pace but I don’t know how to stop.
The more responsibilities I have, the more pressure I feel to get it right—to show up (showered, no less) juggling marriage, motherhood, and my job without dropping anything. The difficult thing about the momentum I feel when I have it all together is the pressure to then keep it all together.
I’m tired. I have off days. I have moments when the chain breaks and I know I want to stop but I’m not quite sure how. And this is when I have to feel comfortable doing a dive roll into some soft grass, if that’s what it takes to slow me down. Maybe it’s a quiet admission to a loved one: “I’m in over my head.” Sometimes it’s a guttural cry into my pillow, or asking someone to meet me for coffee so that I physically have to stop the daily work/life grind. The best part is, when I do find ways to slow down, I get to see that the world continues to spin, and I’m not out of the game just because I took a breather on the bench for a bit.
I love to be unstoppable but I don’t want to be uncontrollable. The difference is often subtle but the moment something comes unhinged, I know it. I can feel it. And I want to be humble enough to get off the ride and admit I need a break, because if I don’t ever slow myself down, something like a totally exhausted meltdown will (and that may hurt more than biking into a fence).
We can be unstoppable forces who choose to stop every so often, lest the choice is made for us. How are you pumping the brakes today?
Mallory Redmond embraces anomalies–she is an adventure-loving homebody who keeps a clean house yet always makes a mess while eating or brushing her teeth. She loves dry humor, clean sheets, and gathering around the table with friends. Mallory and her husband, Darren, live in Ohio with their beagle, Roger, and their two daughters. You can follow her writing here, where her stories are told with the hope of further uncovering the places of connection in our humanity.