Sometimes you can surprise yourself. Throughout the years, I have been excluded from many activities due to my ongoing illness. Because I so often was unable to participate I became jaded, and after a long while I simply opted out without consideration. Recently, though, I fought the urge to be a curmudgeon, and I actually did something I never thought possible.

When I was young, I frequently played basketball, joined in games of manhunt, and swam in the ocean. When I reached the age of eighteen or so, I suddenly stopped participating in any activity at all, athletic or otherwise. The precise reason I stopped participating has become clouded over time, but I know it had to do with the fact that my pain level after vigorous activity was increased. I decided I had to save my energy for the tasks had to be accomplish, and I couldn't spare the energy or pain for things that were not imperative. Eventually, I fell into the routine of avoiding activity without thought.

Many times, I have heard of how the elderly and others who have been set in their ways for many years become intransigent, and I never understood how this could happen. Being the logical, thoughtful, person that I am, I always break down any decision I am faced with and make my choice based on the best available information at the time. It was alien to me that someone would choose to do something or not do something based only on prior decisions. That all changed recently when I revisited an activity that I had enjoyed as a kid.

As I was in a bicycle shop buying a bicycle for my girlfriend's father, a significant thing happened. For reasons that are still unknown to me, I decided to hop on one of the bikes and give riding it a shot. To my shock and pleasure, I did not have any trouble pedaling around the store showroom. I had thought that for sure my hip would instantly displace, especially since I had been to the ER for that very problem only a month before. I completed one circuit around the shop, and when I hopped off the bicycle, had a wonderful grin on my face. I could ride a bicycle!

Part of the reason I was so surprised that I was actually able to perform this minor miracle was that I had attempted to ride a bicycle a few years before when I was visiting Belgium with an ex-girlfriend. Our hosts had graciously allowed us to stay in their apartment in Antwerp while they resided at their parent' house, and we had a fantastic week of touring and enjoying Europe's offerings. When it came time for us to leave, we packed up our suitcases and waited for our hosts to come and help us to the train station. We were traveling by train, as it saved both time and money to do so, and the scenery and comfort were unmatched by any commercial airliner. The only drawback was that we would have to carry our own bags the entire time. To help facilitate out trip to the railway station, hour hosts had provided me with a bicycle, as the two-wheeled conveyance was popular over there. I was very nervous, but with a stern look from my ex and a desire not to insult our hosts, I kept quiet and decided I would try to ride the bicycle as best I could. How hard could it be, I figured. After all, as a child I used to ride every day,

When it was time to leave, I made my way down the stairs and exited the apartment building. When I first saw the bicycle I would be using I almost had a heart-attack. The bicycle was fifty years old if it was a day. Also, I had thought the bicycle was painted a rust color, but on closer inspection, I discovered it was just covered in rust. In addition, it seems the previous owner of this particular bicycle was at least eight feet tall. To even throw my leg over the cross-bar, I had to stand on top of a boulder that was in a nearby yard. When I did eventually get the thing moving, I discovered that the gear shift, while listing at least ten different speeds, in reality provided only one speed. The rest of the gears were hopelessly rusted stuck, and (of course) the one gear I was left with was the most difficult one to pedal.

Needless to say I gave one paltry attempt to ride this horror of a bike. When I almost fell flat onto my face, I decided it was a very bad idea, and when dismounting, I barely escaped with my joints in-tact. I'll never forget calling to my girlfriend and our hosts who were two blocks away to come back and help me carry my suitcases. They came running back to make sure I was alright, but the damage was done. I never attempted to ride a bicycle again.

That is, until recently. When I realized I had a real shot at riding, I instantly promised myself I'd buy a bicycle and give it a serious try. So, I did just that a month later, and I have been riding ever since. I started out slowly with short rides around the block, and now I am up to three miles on one cruise. It is an activity that both me and my girlfriend enjoy two or three times a week, and I am thrilled I am actually able to engage in such an athletic activity. Both my mental and physical health are benefiting, and it's great to be moving in the right direction, health-wise, for once.

So, as you can see, sometimes you can even surprise yourself. The whole experience taught me a very valuable lesson — don't always think that just because you couldn't do something at one point, that you won't ever be able to do that thing again. This is a trap that chronically ill individuals fall into very often. We become stuck in our ways, and end up afraid to try even the simplest of activities because it might end up in disaster. Well, I am living proof that your gamble might just pay off. Don't ever forget that you have the power to try something new (or old) — as they say, "it's like riding a bike."