One Surprising Stepfamily Lesson Learned from the Seat of My Bike
Well, I was excited for my first bike ride of the season today. I dusted off my Trek road bike and pumped up the tires. Yes, I'm a fair weather rider — that poor, lonely bike has been hanging in the garage since last September.
I skipped the stretching (I had just finished walking the dog so I figured that was good enough). I slipped on my cycling shoes, locked in and took off — but, in the opposite direction from my typical route. I headed out on a country road I don't know well, figuring I'd just see where it went.
It didn't take long for me to start thinking this road was going nowhere. I was enjoying the sunny day and the beauty that surrounded me. On my left was snowcapped Mt. Baker and all around me, acres of farmland. However, the next turn was nowhere in sight.
I thought about turning around, but kept hearing my own voice taunting, "come on, you wuss…you can keep going." So I listened to myself and kept pedaling.
Finally, an intersection came into view. As I approached, I recognized the road name. That helped me regain my bearings, but I still wasn't 100% sure where I would end up. I took a right and headed down another long country road. Pretty soon, just around an S curve I hit an obstacle I hadn't counted on…a hill. It wasn't huge, but it was enough.
My legs were yelling at me. I was puffing and wheezing. I was too far into this ride to turn around, but I wasn't quite sure what to do next…
A Common Stepfamily Story
Couples most often head into blended family life just like I did on this ride. They're excited to head out on a new adventure. One or both have been focused on being single parents for a season, avoiding romance. But one day they decide to take a new relationship "out for a ride".
They head down an unknown road and for a while enjoy the beauty around them. But at some point, they start to wonder where that road is going. They might even start thinking about turning back. But they choose to press on, looking for the next turn that will change something for the better.
Often, they discover some tips or strategies that bring them hope (just like the hope I gained when I finally came to that intersection). They figure the new path they've discovered will promise something better. But, suddenly out of nowhere they come around a bend to find an obstacle they hadn't counted on. It might be a small obstacle, but it seems unsurmountable. As they evaluate that obstacle they can't help but feel stuck, they're too far in to turn back now but have no idea what to do next…
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…as I pedaled closer to that hill, I had a choice to make. I could get off and walk. But trying to walk any distance in cycling shoes is silly — plus, my inner voice would have really taunted me about being a wuss! I could turn back. But I knew that I'd be home much quicker if I just tackled the hill.
In her book Grit, Angela Duckworth says, "Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare."
The enthusiasm I had at the beginning of this ride was now gone. The only thing that made sense was to endure the hill. I had to trade my enthusiasm for endurance. So I dropped a gear, set my sight on the top of that hill and pedaled on.
Endurance Is Critical
Sooner or later you have to make a choice.
Obstacles are going show up out of nowhere on your blended family journey. You're going to be at the bottom of your proverbial hill with your kids yelling for what they want and your partner puffing and wheezing out their own complaints.
Your enthusiasm will be at an all-time low and you'll need to choose. Will you turn back, allowing that hill to conquer you and end up back on that lonely country road farther from home than you really want to be? Or will you pedal on, drawing on the endurance you know you can tap into and keep yourself focused on getting to the other side of the hill?
It felt great to get home after that ride. Not just because I could finally dismount my bike…but because I tackled the hill. I didn't let it conquer me, and guess what — I discovered that the hill wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.
After 17 years of facing unexpected obstacles in our stepfamily, I've had that same feeling of getting home over and over. Kim and I have tackled a lot of pain and heartache on our journey and every time we get to the other side of our "hills" we experience one more victory. Often, we realize the hill wasn't as bad as we thought it would be when we were looking at it from the bottom.
You might be facing your own hill right now. You're looking at what's ahead and wondering if you can really make it. You might be thinking of turning back, but realize that road is even longer and lonelier than setting your sights ahead and tackling the hill.
I want to encourage you to endure. Stay focused on getting over that hill and keep "pedaling". The choice you make at the bottom of that hill will determine how and when you and your whole family will get to arrive home.
I want to be clear that I am not making light of major obstacles. Sometimes endurance simply isn't enough — step-couples need practical help.
If that's you please reach out for the support you need. Make sure the help you receive comes from someone who is experienced in supporting blended family couples. Advice that suggests first family principles to a blended family might unintentionally create more conflict rather than bring healing.
Kim and I are here to connect you with the support you need. Don't wait - reach out today.
QUESTION: What "hill" are you facing in this season and how will you endure it? Leave a comment below…