It’s Not You, It’s the Equipment


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Nine months ago, my husband bought me a mountain bike for my birthday.

Since then, we’ve spent more time than ever before on bike rides.

On weekends we enjoy tooling through the neighborhood, finding things right around the corner we never knew were there. We relish seeing our neighbors’ house projects as they progress.

Waving hello to friends while on bikes made us feel connected to our community when the world was feeling scary and distanced.

The last few rides, I’ve been dragging. My muscly husband would take off on his bike, seemingly not going that fast, but fast enough I was never able to catch up.

Try though I might to catch him, instead, I’d get out of breath and winded and emotionally wound up and fall farther behind.

I grasped at all kinds of explanations.

Maybe…the tires weren’t inflated enough, the gears were kind of rough, we were riding against the wind, this path sucks and darn it, he’s just so much stronger than me!

All of these explanations were diversions from what I knew to be most true: something was wrong with me.

The voice in my head grew insistent.

  • Emily, you are weak.
  • Emily, you are not as fit as you would like to believe.
  • Emily, you are not good at bike riding.
  • Emily, you will never catch up.
  • Emily, you will never reach your goals in life.
  • Emily, you will always be riding farther behind, trying to catch up.
  • Emily, you will never be good enough.

Although I kept pushing these ideas away, and trying to keep myself on the bike and not in the fetal position next to the bike path crying, they crowded in.

At the end of our last ride, in a half-hearted face-saving attempt, I complained to my husband that my gears seemed off.

“I’ll take it to the bike shop for a tune up,” he offered cheerfully.

I silently thanked him for humoring me and felt grateful for his tendency to believe all things can be fixed.

When we picked up the bike on Saturday, the wiry bike master told me, “There was nothing really wrong with it, but we gave it the once over, cleaned it up, tuned it.”

More affirmation of the knowledge I was beginning to accept: it was something wrong with me.

Sunday morning we decided to ride again.

And as soon as my butt hit the seat and I began pedaling away, I could tell a difference. It was smoother, easier, faster. Not wanting to jinx my good fortune, I waited as we rode, staying consistently just a bit behind my husband on hills and inclines.

I let the truth sink in.

“This is so much easier!” I shouted to him at a light, “It was the bike!”

He nodded and smiled.

I was overjoyed!

It. Was. The. Bike.

It. Was. The. Bike.

All it needed was a little tune-up.

It wasn’t me, after all.

As I rode on, I pondered how often in life I follow this same pattern. The one that has me believing whatever seems off, or more difficult than it should be, or out of tune, is because of some inherent shortcoming of my own.

How quickly do I assume it’s me?

How often do I too rapidly relent to the idea that I cannot…I am no good at…I won’t be able to….when, in fact, it’s that the equipment I’m working with needs a tune up.

How often do I get stuck there and how much time do I waste and how much personal worthiness do I erode when I do?

I vowed, as I sailed through the neighorhoods, to remember to check the equipment first.

Then, I vowed something else.

Sometimes in life, the equipment is literal equipment – like your bike or your computer or your smart watch.

And sometimes, the equipment is your sense of self, your soul, or your self-talk when things are challenging.

In either case, taking time and space to scrutinize the equipment, give it a little love and attention and refine it with some honest recalibration are hours very well spent.

I tell stories of the interesting lessons of life I learn along the way. My intention with these is to soothe your soul. I present them with the hope that you find something relatable or intriguing in them. If you want to receive ditties like these in your inbox, I invite you to sign up to receive my emails. (They’re being created now and will begin to be sealed and sent on Dec. 1.) In them you’ll find nourishment for your creative soul and words, ideas and art to soothe the spirit. The form to Receive Letters from Me is just down below…