On My Way Back

You guys, I’ve been feeling low lately. For, like, the past few weeks lately. I’m in the middle of a job search and if there is anything that can make you feel incompetent, it’s trying to find a job, especially after not having a steady 9-to-5er for a longer stretch of time. It can definitely cause one to doubt or even forget their value – their worth.

And then, of course, there’s the fact that I just turned 44. The age where a panty liner is as much a source of support to you as your best friends, and if you weren’t lactose-intolerant already, you develop a love-hate relationship with dairy products. And if you’re looking for a job (see above) you begin to wonder if your age makes you irrelevant, and therefore, unemployable.

Throw all of that in a bowl, combined with Robin Williams’ suicide, the events in Ferguson, and the beheading of an American journalist, mix it all up and you can start to see why I’ve been low. But my mom gave me a wonderful gift. Last year she took me to a destination spa out in the middle of nowhere, and because she’s so smart and so kind, she did it again for me this year. God bless her.

So on Friday morning I flew to Chicago, took a drive south and ended up at The Heartland for another restorative weekend. A weekend full of classes, and good food, and spa treatments. But guess what? It was even better this year because I rode a bike.

Don’t feel sorry for me just yet, I learned how to ride a bike when I was little, and I even have a bike at home. About 10 years back, Greg’s parents gave us bikes, complete with that attachment thingy for pulling the babies behind us. I think we used it once and it was so traumatic, for both us AND the babies – they screamed and cried the entire ride around the block – that we never dared do it again.  We finally gave away the yellow attachment thingy to another happy family, and the bikes made the trip from Denver to KC, but we haven’t ridden since.

I’ve been eyeing up my bike lately – like in the past month or so – and thinking that I’ll give it another try as a way to get some exercise. But anxiety stopped me, as it often does. What if I look like an idiot? What if I fall? What if my neighbors see me look like an idiot and fall? As an aside, it probably would help if we (Greg mostly, but I’ll take responsibility, too) hadn’t completely hazed our neighbors when they bought new bikes and rode them around the circle, but whatever.

So when I noticed the row of bikes lined up against the main house at The Heartland, I thought, THIS IS MY CHANCE. I AM GOING TO RIDE A BIKE. But between all the fitness classes, wellness classes, nutritious meals and snacks, and spa treatments, before I knew it, it was just about time to depart and I still hadn’t gotten on a bike.

I woke up on Sunday morning with that this-good-thing-is-about-to-end pit in my stomach. Had I made the most of it? To borrow from Thoreau, had I sucked the marrow out of this experience? Did I work out everything I wanted to work out? Emotionally speaking, more than physically.

When mom went off to the spa and I was left to my own devices, I took off on the walking path around the lake to ruminate on all of that stuff. To really work it out. I walked and I thought and I walked and I thought, and I stopped and sat on a bench. I wrote and I cried and I wrote. And then I was interrupted by another guest, so I got up and walked back to the house angry about the interruption, and frustrated with myself, because that’s what happens when we are stuck inside of our own head.

As I approached the main house, I saw that row of bikes staring at me, almost daring me. I became determined in my anger, so I picked the bright yellow one with the fancy flowers on it and walked it out to the open parking area and threw a leg over. The seat was too high. No big deal, I thought. I can do this. I CAN DO THIS, DAMMIT.

photo 1

I had a failed start. It wasn’t pretty, I damn near fell after one push off, but I was undeterred. I propelled myself forward, only thinking of the long, rocky driveway until it was too late. Should I turn back and stay within the safety of the pavement? No, I thought. I’m going for it, and with that, I was off down the drive.

I got about halfway down before a car turned and came toward me. I saw it coming. Oh shit, I thought. Should I pull over and stop, or keep going? What is proper bike etiquette in this situation? What if I fall right in front of them?

The moment was over in a flash, before the anxiety had a chance to overtake me. The wheels carried me forward, the car passed without incident, and within a short minute I was out on the pavement in rural Illinois, passing cows and corn fields and farm houses.

I sped up, felt my hair lift and blow, and the analogy of a dear friend, my corporate trainer at Crate & Barrel, came back to me. What blows your hair back? Do you remember that feeling? And all of a sudden I DID remember it, the sensation of it, and it was fan-f-ing-tastic. So I sped up, down a hill, never once thinking about how I’d have to climb that hill on the way back.

I started to feel really good, and really confident. Confident enough to take my eyes off the road in front of me and look around, and down at the pavement passing quickly beneath me. And then I saw this.

photo 2

And all of the anxiety flooded back in. What was I thinking? I’d left without a helmet. Do they even offer helmets? If not, isn’t that a liability issue? Wait, did I sign a release? What if a car comes and hits me and drives off leaving me for dead? I start to imagine this scenario in great, graphic detail. Images of me, bloody and bruised, with a broken, twisted leg, crawling back to the main house.

But I kept going.

And then I get to about the 2-mile point, the turnaround – I know this because The Heartland has carefully marked the roadway – and a car approaches me. As it passes, I see a scruffy-looking guy, alone, sitting low in the car. He pulls into the parking lot of what I now know is government-approved hunting ground, and backs into a space. I start to imagine him grabbing me and doing all kinds of unimaginable things to me, things that only someone with anxiety or a warped sense of the world can imagine being done. I turn that bike around as quickly as I can and tear off back down the road, only slowing up when I feel a safe distance away from the creepy guy and within sight of the turn back to The Heartland.

The point is, though, that I KEPT GOING. Back up the hill I whizzed down minutes ago. Back up the gravel drive I worried over in the beginning. And as I turned the bike toward the main house, with legs weak and sweat dripping down between my boobs, I had the most amazing sense of confidence and accomplishment wash over me. So confident that I took one hand off the bar to wipe the sweat from my forehead. And THAT, folks, was just what I needed to complete my trip.

But then I realized, oh shit, I forgot how to stop.

My takeaway:

  1. Oftentimes the small things have the biggest impact on us, like a panty liner or riding a bike.
  2. It’s okay to be afraid. Keep going.
  3. You never forget how to ride a bike, but once you get going you sometimes forget how to stop.

Tremendous amounts of love,

Carmen

 

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3 thoughts on “On My Way Back

  1. I LOVE this! Way to get outside your comfort zone!!!! I love riding my bike if you ever want to go for a ride around the hood! 🙂

  2. Carm, Don’t be depressed about 44. You haven’t hit the half way point yet! There is so much older to be! I am 56 and every year is better than the last. We are lucky to get old, wear panty liners, pee when we laugh to hard, get flabby under arms and see wrinkles and grey hair. The older you get the less you care.
    Don’t worry about stopping….just lift your feet and coast a while. That feels good too. And if you get stuck, your girls (the old ones you call friends AND the young ones who are very medical) are always here for you.
    Love you bunches and bunches!
    Juls

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