Like Riding a Bike

I learned to ride a bike in Drayton Valley, Alberta and I do not recall any magic carpet. I do remember the concrete sidewalks—not fondly, I might add—and that the bike seemed so big. There were no training wheels, just someone urging me on. That’s it. Just a hazy memory.

There are some skills that once learned, are never forgotten. Like riding a bike, so the saying goes. Muscle memory kicks in, and away you go. I’m glad for that. Learning to ride a bike is not something I’d want to do all over again.  But, I’m disappointed the act of doing it is not more clearly etched in my memory. Maybe that’s not the way these kind of things work.

There are lots of things that are like riding a bike. Playing an instrument, for example. Sure, returning to it after a long hiatus is not the same, but it does come back. I love it when my adult piano students realize they remember a lot more than they anticipated!

Learning to walk is another one of those skills, or so I thought.

This year, I had to learn to walk again…after I learned to take the stairs again..and even re-think how to sit. It wasn’t like riding a bike.

After my hip replacement, I had to actually talk myself through how to move because I had to sit and walk and climb stairs differently than the way I was used to. It was very counterintuitive. To sit, I had to back up to a chair, extend my bad leg and ease into the seat, then reverse the whole process when I stood up. To take stairs, there’s a little mantra… “up with the good, down with the bad.” Which come to think of it, is pretty useful for life in general. It was odd to have to talk myself through such an instinctive motion.

When piano students begin, they have to think about which hand is right and left. We play games to get comfortable thinking about what hand and which finger to use and to associate that with the notation. It doesn’t always come naturally at first, and I now have a much better appreciation why!

There was a point in my recovery when I wondered whether I’d ever walk on my own again. I was convinced that my fitness going into the surgery and subsequent dedication (okay, obsession) to the physio was going to get me back on my own two feet sooner than later. It didn’t happen. It wasn’t like riding a bike.

And then suddenly one day, it happened.  It was magic.

Took me a couple of months before I worked up the courage to ride my bike again. New respect for those balancing muscles. But when I pushed off and slung my leg over the bar…

It was just like riding a bike.


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