life is like this: you move along, at times quite quickly, and sometimes at the pace of a snail. you sometimes feel like you are in a rut, doing the same thing over and over again, barely making any forward progress. at other times you acknowledge your leaps, those rabbit moments, the times when you suddenly find yourself far, far ahead of where you were.
most common are the snail times. or the tortoise, if you prefer.
I often consider myself a tortoise out there on my bike. I will get there, I just won't be the first. but my determination and commitment will see me to the end, or to the top, or on to the next challenge, because that's the kind of person I am.
(just an aside: the other day, riding up big cottonwood, I noticed the speed limit sign, with a big black 45 printed on the white background. I looked at my speedometer, which was registering somewhere around 7. I thought, wouldn't it be great if they had bike speed signs, which read something like "bike speed, 6-10 mph, you're doing great! don't worry about that 45, that's for cars, not those of you self-propelling yourself up the hill...")
what happens on an uphill bike ride strikes me as awfully similar to progressing through life. on my bike, I am climbing, climbing, climbing, going what feels to be ever so slowly, and the miles tick away at the speed of a dashing porcupine. I have a sense that I've moved, that I've made progress, but it is at such a sluggish pace that I have time to acclimate to each stretch of the road and it becomes just a blend of upward leaning asphalt.
then I reach a switchback, and the entire world changes.
all of the sudden, I can see where I was, and where I now am. I am significantly higher than I was just seconds ago: I have leaped! without greater difficulty, with just the same old pace.
in fact, there is a point during every switchback when the grade declines for an instant, and I can actually pick up my speed before rounding the final bend. a momentary respite, and then the view, the confirmation that I've leapt ahead and reached a new level.
life doesn't give us quite as many switchbacks as a good climb up big mountain does, or the fabulous S curve going up big cottonwood. we have to judge for ourselves if we've made progress, if we've moved forward. and it's easy to skip this step of self-analysis.
"I'm just the same old me" is the belief many of us hang on to, when in reality we are not. most of us are learning and growing and becoming someone new every day, just like I am reaching a new elevation with every minute of my bike ride up a canyon. we just can't always see it, and it doesn't always feel dramatically different, so we drift through it, pedaling away, not giving ourselves credit for all the distance we've covered.