Friday, December 31, 2010

...In with the New

I celebrate the end of the year on a few different days.  Christmas feels like the end of a year because it marks the last days I spent with my father and so I revisit that time and all the years before it that we shared together as a family.  There is a Winter solstice gathering with a small group of friends where we gather to extinguish old patterns and bring light to new parts of ourselves.  This gathering is with soul friends most of whom I see only twice a year (Summer and Winter solstice).  We gather to connect and remember and renew.  The last day of the calendar year marks the end of another year of traveling to new places in myself and the world.  I reflect on what I did in the year and what I want the next year to bring.  My birthday, in mid-January, marks the end of one year of choices and the beginning of another.  On this day, I often celebrate with old friends who have become my family here in Grand Rapids.  It seems fitting somehow that this time of year, which by its very nature lends itself to introspection, affords me so many opportunities to review where I’ve been and set upon a new direction for the coming year.

I’m not sure what this next year has in store for me but I know it will bring big changes.  I start my new job in just a few days and am very excited about the new life that will come with it.  I’ll be working for a multi-physician practice in northeast Grand Rapids.  There is a large staff there and I’m hoping to make some new friends with this group of coworkers.  My position there is a new one as the office transitions into a new way of managing patient care.  They are incorporating electronic medical records and plan to begin construction on a new office, too.   This last year I met lots of fellow motorcyclists and I’m looking forward to the trips we will take together- whether for a few hours or a weekend getaway.  This last year I also committed to writing consistently and began meeting with 2 other writers; we challenge, nurture and support each other and because of this we are growing as writers and women.  This next year we plan to offer our writing to others both in print and through performance.  What a year awaits me!

It was raining this morning when I woke up.  That’s not a sound I expected to hear outside my window on December 31st.  It comes with a little excitement because that means it’s warm enough to take the bike out for a ride.  I wonder if I’ll see any bikes out on the road today.  I wonder how many other rider friends think of mid-Winter rain in terms of a chance to ride.

I’ve been reading fiction again and am enjoying it.  I don’t mean to say I’m enjoying all the books I picked up from the library- that isn’t true.  Half of them go back with just a chapter or two read.  I’ve got less patience for things that don’t interest me.  One book about Mary Magdalen took me back to biblical times for a rewriting of Jesus life from her perspective.  I thought it would be empowering to see a retelling of this story but so much of the story was the same just with her voice to capture it.  I wanted a new story, a new mythology.  Another book wore me down after only two chapters.  Back to the library they went.  And this is good.  I’m glad I know what I want and what I don’t.  This year brought me that kind of clarity.  I’ve got no room in my life for a book that doesn’t hold my attention.  There are so many others that will.  So I picked up a few other books when I dropped off the unread ones.  My current read is written with such style that I am literally laughing out loud.  Few writers reach me that way and certainly not as often or with such verve.  I have laughed so much I can’t see for the tears rolling down my face.  What a writer he is!  This book sits next to me as I type and is taunting me now.   I’m excited to return to the book, to the story, to the laughing.

Motorcycling is like this, too.  My bike sits and waits for me like Christmas morning each day- the promise of a new ride, a new journey, a new story.  As this new year begins, I am looking forward to a few trips on the bike.  I know I’ll be making another trip to Deal’s Gap with a group of riders who’ve become friends outside of the rides.  I know I’ll be taking a camping trip on my motorcycle and I hope to take at least one other long ride to a different part of the country than I’ve ridden before.  I’m also continuing to invest more of myself in the motorcycle club that helped me the most – RIDE Motorcycle.  I spent a lot of time this past year working with a group of club members to sort out details on the structure of the club and in developing a website that allows members more interaction by encouraging communication in new tech-savvy ways.  I know these changes will result in new membership as well as new friendships.  And I’m looking forward to the rides we’ll take together.

The end of one year butts up against the beginning of another.  I say goodbye to some friendships, a job that didn’t suit me and some habits that just don’t work anymore.  And I welcome in new friends, a new job and a new way of being in the world and with myself.  It’s time to welcome in all the parts of myself that need expression and all that ways that will happen- with writing, with performing what I write, with new respect and compassion for myself and with lots of laughter, good writing and abiding friendships.  Last year, a friend gave me a beautiful quotation from Neil Gaiman that has accompanied me this whole year through.  It was a companion to me this year both because of the open-hearted woman it came from and because of the power it invoked. Today, I offer to you the blessing Amy bestowed upon me:

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness.  I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful and don’t forget to make some art- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can.  And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How do you do it?

When I start writing, I never know exactly where it’s going to go.  I don’t know where my thoughts will take me or what pattern will arise from the sentences that flow from the pen.  The best motorcycle rides have also been like this.  No map, no plan, no expectations.  Just me and the bike and a decision at each intersection: right or left?  One night after a crazy day at work, Ashley and I went out for a ride around Grand Rapids.  We each lead for a time and then we decided to play a game.   We decided we’d ride past the first three roads and then go right.  Three more roads then turn left.  We wanted to know where we’d end up.  We wanted to see something new.  It was quite fun- deciding to be lead by the randomness.  Before long we were riding with silly grins and our laughter could be heard above our engines.  We ended up winding our way through neighborhoods across the city.  Eventually, rain won out and we eased our way back home.
The best time to ride is at night along the Grand River with lights from the city marking my path.  I wind through Downtown passing over one bridge after another- west on Fulton over the river far below then on to the 6th street bridge and crossing east back over to Monroe.   The night air is cool and soft, with the rushing river water whooshing underfoot.  I like an early morning ride, too, commuting via the sweeping arcs of highway, tall buildings rising up around me, slipping between other vehicles, until I find my place amid the pack headed into work.   The best time to ride is with the first signs of Spring with the swallows swooping and swinging amid the treetops and my tires swishing though shallow pavement puddles.   Sometimes my favorite ride is on mid-summer mornings when mist rises off the fields while the dank and loamy air surrounds me.   I like riding through downtown on Wednesday nights when hundreds of bikes line the city streets and cruise through town in groups of three or five.  There is an energizing bustle to blues and bikers and brick streets.
Really, there isn’t a best ride or a best time to ride.  They’re all “don’t-miss-it” attractions.  The best ride is the one I’m on (or in the case of Michigan Winters, the one I’m thinking about being on.)  Riding is about the present moment- finding myself steeped in sights, sounds and smells so that somehow a moment stretches on into timelessness.  Those are the best moments.  Those moments, those rides are the “why” of my ride.   This is the one time I don’t mind answering why.
In the rest of my life, I shun this question.  I don’t like sitting amid the “why” when it’s asking things like: “why did this happen” or “why do you feel this way” or “why did it take you so long to figure that out” or “why does it matter?”  When I was in nursing school, I was taught to never ask “why” of a patient.  It breeds defensiveness.  It implies stupidity- as in “why did you do that?  What in the hell were you thinking?”
The same is true of my life when I am asked to explain myself to someone.  The question precedes a set of foundational beliefs that I don’t subscribe to.  “Why don’t you have a tv?” comes from the person who unwinds watching Bones or episodes of Glee.  “Why don’t you have a car?” comes from the person who can’t imagine how to get around without one.   “Why do you care so much?” comes from someone who is always saying, “I don’t really care.”  I don’t know how to answer the question why without also addressing the underlying presumption.   Sometimes I give a partial answer: tv was too much of a distraction for me.  Sometimes I answer my own pure truth: because I wanted a motorcycle more than a car.  Sometimes my retort is a bite:  how can you care about so little?
Asking “why” is a dangerous question.  It precludes a set of beliefs not shared by the one asking.  It assumes a shared reality that isn’t.  It distances us from one another.   The “why” I most hate to answer is “why do you feel that way?”  Feelings spring up out of some hidden musty place in response to all manner of things without reason or logic or thought.  To that question I can only say “because that is the feeling that arose.”  The work is in finding out what that response is rooted in, what fear or doubt or worry is anchored so firmly to it that it reaches my consciousness only when yanked on.   The second “why question” that I despise is “why did this happen?”
I hate this question because it assumes there was another thing that should have happened.  It assumes a wrong was done when right should have prevailed.  It assumes that good triumphs over evil and that good things happen to those who wait and that if only I’d been paying attention that other thing wouldn’t have happened.  I don’t know how to answer some of the most important ‘why’ questions of my life:  Why did I meet this particular person at this time in my life?  Why did this happen when I was a child?  Why did my dad die by the hand of a surgeon who was supposed to save him?  Why did I become a nurse only to struggle to find the right nursing job?
I don’t like being asked ‘why?’  I don’t like it at all.  I would rather imagine all the places I can go from here, all the ways I can answer the why, find all the ways to live through the ‘why’ despite the barriers in front of me.  Most often the answer really is something akin to “I don’t know but I’m going to keep marching ahead and see what happens anyway.”  And I want to march on with pride and self-respect and dignity.  I want to march on despite my tears while holding the hand of a friend.  I want to march on while laughing and skipping and snowboarding.  Why just isn’t the right question, but rather ‘how?’  How do I respond from here and where do I want to end up once I’ve lived my way through this?   Asking ‘why’ leaves me mired in doubt and insecurity while asking how is the bridge to tomorrow.  Asking ‘why’ keeps me stuck in what-ifs and how-comes and life’s-not-fair when what I really want to be living is what’s-next, when’s-the-train-leaving and who’s-up-for-a-ride?
This Christmas marks the 3rd since my dad entered the hospital for his heart surgery.  I am amazed at how much life has changed for me in these three years.  Amazed that I’ve found a life that has some spark again.  Amazed that life has brought me back around to myself, to the full rounded measure of how-I-go- forward instead of the stark metallic clank of why?  My mom and sister and I will be joined by a friend for Christmas Eve dinner out at a local restaurant rather than eating a home cooked meal in.  We will walk amid the Christmas lights of Meijer Gardens.  There might be some tears and there will be stories.  We will talk of the life we thought we’d have and the life we find ourselves in.  We will laugh as we remember him and his quirky ways.  We will marvel at a life that still seems so filled with someone we can no longer hug or have dinner with.  But we will see his hands joining ours around the table when we speak of him, we will hear him laughing with us as we pretend a stumble walking through the park, just as he did.   Later, we will come home to watch a movie together, my mom, sister and I.   While Laurie loads up the movie, my dad and I will make popcorn together like when I was a kid.
He will stand beside me as I read the imaginary directions posted inside the cupboard door above the stove: ½ c. oil, ½ c. popcorn.   We will use the same Club aluminum pan he used- avocado green singed black over the years.  We’ll add the oil, turn on the heat and throw in one kernel. Once it pops we’ll add the remainder.  We will listen until the pops tumble over one another and then slowly peater off, shaking the pan over the flames, scraping the pot over the burner to keep the popped kernels from burning.  We will distribute the popcorn to the bowls waiting on the counter next to the stove then wipe out the pan with a wad of paper towel.  We’ll add ¼ stick of butter in thin slices to the pan – it will sizzle and snap, bubble and froth.  We’ll slowly pour it over the popcorn in each bowl and then add salt, keeping the shaker at eye level, carefully metering it out- not too much, not too little.  We will take the popcorn into the living room along with a Hershey bar from the fridge.  Then we will all watch a movie together.
We will have a beautiful Christmas.  Not quite like the one I’d thought we have but still together.  He will be with us, some how.  He is still with us.  I don’t really understand it, this ability to carry someone along when you need them.  I don’t understand all the memories that flood me sometimes while at other times he feels so elusive.  I don’t know why I talk about him so much to people who didn’t even know him.  I don’t know why I see him in so many places and in so many people- driving an extended cab truck, pounding a nail, scratching his head.  Some questions don’t have answers though and some questions shouldn’t be answered.  Sometimes there is just the steady plodding along that comes as we live and we love and we learn how.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Promise of Winter

It snowed again last night.  Wind buffets the trees so they scrape against the house and rattles the windows in their frames.   The sky feels gloomy and gray and a little melancholy as we approach Winter.  I did some Christmas shopping yesterday- purchased yarn to make scarves.  Knitting is something I’ve wanted to learn how to do for many years.  My grandma taught me how to crochet when I was 10 or so.  I created one long red chain of stitches before the bag of yarn was lost somewhere in my adolescence.  I associate knitting with an ancient craft and am pleased to have finally learned how.  I’m proud of the two scarves I have knitted and marvel at how simple it is.  While shopping yesterday, I noticed scarves and hats and mittens in dozens of storefronts and several times I paused to look more closely, to count the rows of stitches, to imagine what size needles were used.

Learning some new skill always has this affect on me.  It changes the way I perceive the most simple objects.  After spending a Summer day with friends weaving baskets from reeds soaking in buckets, I now appreciate the skill, the patience, the devotion it takes.  When I see a basket sitting under the tree at Christmas or piled high with magazines next to the couch for pleasure reading I marvel at it and not just the contents it holds; a basket is no longer just a container or a decoration.  New eyes.  I have new eyes for woven baskets and knitted mittens.  

Motorcycling has given me new eyes, too.  Because a motorcycle is a vehicle without doors, a floor and a roof, a motorcyclist remains connected with his environment rather than secreted from it, as in a car.  A rider sits within the scene rather than viewing it from behind glass as an observer of it.  There is an immediacy to life when riding.  I feel part of what is happening around me rather than removed from it.  One evening riding home from work, I was stopped in traffic directly in front of someone’s home which sat just a few yards from the curb front.  I struck up a conversation with the homeowner while sitting on my bike.  This sort of interaction just doesn’t happen in a car, or when it does the nature of it is entirely different.  I’m asking directions rather than just engaging someone who is nearby.  There’s a barrier to the outside when traveling by car.  There’s a barrier between me and life. 

Winter sometimes feels like a barrier, too.  I’m stuck inside the house, trying to stay warm.  Winter can feel like punishment- each snowstorm brings one more sidewalk shoveling spree.  It brings out boots and jackets and layers of clothes to insulate me from the cold.   It brings sadness that many weeks of this will follow before I can ride again.  I am facing and feeling the furtive aspects of Winter.  Snow is falling again now as I type and the furnace is blowing - obscuring the sounds of the outside world, the world outside my windows, outside the house.  We have short days and long dark nights.  I miss my motorcycle.  I miss feeling part of the action around me, part of the city I drive through, part of the lives of the people I encounter on the road.  It will be April before I can ride again, before I can connect again.

There are beauties and bounties to Winter and it is tempting to write about them, to offset the depression hovering near, but this would be an attempt to feel my way out of the darkened room in which I find myself.   Perhaps Winter in Michigan brings me gifts with this introspection.  Perhaps there is something I can gleen from the quiet days secreted in my room with books, journal and pen, needles and yarn.  Perhaps there is some good that happens when I draw inward and hunker down for the Winter.   Am I like the trees, this way- shedding my showy leaves and burrowing roots deeper into the ground?  Perhaps this reflection is a way of preparing for the next Spring’s growth.

What Winter does for me each year is to bring questions.  It brings questions I’m not ready to face that feel uncomfortable with their weightiness.  What am I here for?  Why do things happen as they do?  What is the meaning in all this?

I will start my new job on January 3rd.  My current job is ending after a tumultuous year.  A year in which I had to fight for autonomy, fight to be heard both in my local clinic site and as a member of the organization.  I am glad to be leaving this job.  The leaving is filled with questions though- why was I in the post for such a short time?  What lead me here and what was the purpose of the position?  What was it supposed to teach me about myself?  I want to learn what I can from it and move on without repeating mistakes.  I want to know what parts of me made the job intolerable, not just rail against the people I worked with or the organization.  

Part of what hampered me in my current role is the expectations I had of the organization.  It has as its mission to protect and serve the reproductive rights of women.  It has, until recently, provided those services at costs that allowed everyone who needed reproductive health care to get it.  I believed in the mission and the power of an organization whose dedication to women is renowned.   I idealized it, I martyred it.  In some ways then, it could do nothing but fail me and I it.   I am glad to be leaving it behind and with it, the frustrations and criticisms.   But as I leave, I recognize the questions sitting here with me.  Am I giving up by leaving?  Am I quitting before I’ve done the work of trying? 

Even as I write out the questions, I know the truth for me.  I know the work of the job was in trusting me and my judgments, not in trying to manage how to live within  that system.  But I know where these questions are coming from.  They are coming from ideals that I was ingrained with.  Ideals instilled by my family and culture to be loyal and committed. To sacrifice, to serve others, to be selfless.  To make it work.   These are external ideals and the events of the last few years has provided me with opportunities to see if I want them to be mine, too.  At some point I have to choose what kind of rules I want to govern my life, what philosophy supports me and my living.

I’m raising far more questions today than I am answering and this makes me uncomfortable, antsy and anxious.  My house is calling out to me to care for it- dishes and dusting, organizing and arranging.  Perhaps I will pull out some Christmas decorations, fill the house with mirth and merry.   But I know I will need to leave room for these questions, to sift through them, let them simmer.  I am committed to myself this Winter.  To knitting and writing and dreaming about riding.  I will honor myself and my moods, gray or merry, and the questions that arise from them.  I will hibernate with all these questions and plan to treat them as Rilke directed in his Letters to a Young Poet:

“have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves…Don't search for the answers…because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps… you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Worth the Wait

I’m in denial.  Snow covers the rooftops, coats the lawns and cradles on tree limbs and I’m still thinking about the motorcycle sitting in the garage and how good it’d be to take her out.  Thing is, it’s not in my garage.  It’s an hour south in a locked garage and my afternoon plans make a trip down today unlikely.  Some folks from the Detroit Chapter of the RIDE club are going after a Chilly Burger patch- they’re making a run for St. Ignace and back today.  I considered going – it’s finally sounding like a challenge I’m willing to undertake (what with the heated gloves and jacket it’d be a warmer venture) but then I remembered my afternoon appointment and realized I couldn’t make it this time.   Spring is a long way off.  A long wait.  

Priorities.  This morning’s got me reflecting on them.  I’ve got an interview today for a new job that will earn me more than I’m currently making.  Just thinking of what I could do with a little more money makes me get all wiggly and squirmy with excitement.  I could get a dual-sport and do some trail riding next season.  I could get a new blender to replace the one that broke last Spring.  I could take two trips to Deal’s Gap next year.  Or maybe just one trip there but another out west.  I could buy a Jeep.

As soon as I start thinking of the freedom those few extra dollars can give me, I remember what they cost, too.  The job will be full-time instead of part-time.  I’ll lose my Friday morning writing time which I’ve come to cherish.  I’ll lose that extra day that makes life more like play than work.   I’ll lose that extra day that boosts my weekend getaway time when I need a vacation. 

I’m reminded of my friend Dick as I ponder the pro’s and con’s of job postings.  I need only talk to him for a few minutes about a work related problem to get some clarity.  He listens calmly and patiently and then asks, “who are you working for?”  He and I haven’t talked much of work in several months but still I hear his voice in my head urging me, reminding me, “who are you working for?” 

A manager in my current post asked me this same question recently and then answered it for me.  Not surprisingly, her answer was not my own.  Her answer served to put me in my place.  I was offering suggestions about improving a redundant system and rather than listen to the merits of those ideas, she asked, “who do you work for anyway?  Aren’t you here for the clinicians?  Aren’t you here to help them do their job?”  I told her I work for the women who need our services.  I told her I work for women’s right to choose.  I told her with fire in my gut and a sharp tongue that I determine who I work for, she does not.  I don’t think she heard me.  I am not sure what to make of these kinds of power plays in the workplace.   

Who do I work for?  Thanks to Dick, I know I don’t just work for women’s health or for women’s rights or for a women-run organization.  I work for me.  I love that I have someone in my life who reminds me that the only person I have to please is me.  I have a history of acting like it’s my job to be sure everyone is taken care of:  that her feelings aren’t hurt, that he gets a second set of hands to carry the load.  The thing is, I enjoy helping people.  Sometimes it’s because helping people is the “right thing to do” though and that puts a different spin on the help.  Or it just feels good to do something for someone else.  That isn’t right, either.  That makes helping about power.  If I get to feel powerful in the helping, then I’m really helping so I can feel that power, not so that another gets what they need.

Dick didn’t tell me who I work for.  He asked me.  And he didn’t answer.  He let me find the answer in hearing my thoughts and frustrations, in listening to my desire to be happier and feel freer; he let me come to the answer that serves my life.  The satisfaction he received was in watching me find my own way.  In watching me find my own power, in regaining my footing.  I felt supported by my friend.  I felt understood. 

Many of the people I currently work with have been employed by the agency for years.  Issues around power come up daily.   Coworkers are so immersed in the culture, they don’t see it.  Or they are caught in the cycle of it and can’t see a way out of it.  I keep thinking “if I wait it out, things will get better.”  They can only get better.”  The thing is, things aren’t getting better.  I’m just getting used to them.  I’m getting used to the craziness, the unpredictability, the power plays.   In our staff meetings this is almost a mantra: “things are going to get better, just wait.”  After nearly a year with the organization and so many issues still creating barriers to patients and staff, this seems like a diversionary tactic.  Patient wait times are increasing, new technology is implemented to improve one area of the business without regard to how it impacts other areas.   Technology like voicemail and email have yet to be implemented organization-wide.  

I’m done waiting.  I’m excited to find out more about this other job I’m interviewing for.  I’m tired of taking the long way around in my work life.  I want to get equipped with the tools to do the job and then be empowered to do it.   This other organization has its priorities in order.  It has a plan.  And it recognizes the value and expertise of all the people in the organization.  This new position is exciting. 

The new office is located on the northeast side of town.  I won’t have to ride through the city to get there and back- I can ride a little further east into the country and enjoy the winding roads in Ada and north on into Belmont.  I suspect I’ll be taking the long way home on the bike quite often.  I like the direction this other company is moving in.  And I like the thought of riding along with them.  More than that, I like that I know what things are worth waiting for and what things aren’t.  

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Forces of Nature

Over a week went by and I didn’t think about riding the bike.  I climbed into my truck each day, glad to be drinking a cup of tea, glad to listen to the radio while I drive.  I drove into work each day unconcerned about the weather, indifferent to potholes and puddles.  I had a simple trek to Flint for Thanksgiving dinner with aunts and cousins then headed back home around 7:30PM, in a slow drizzle with temperatures under 50 degrees.  I am glad to have the truck now.  Glad I don’t have to “suit up” before a visit with family.  Glad I can dress in heels and a skirt fresh from the shower rather than as a change of clothes I bring in my saddlebags.  And still, I managed to get in a ride on the bike after all.

I drove to Kalamazoo on Saturday afternoon to pick up my bike from Lifecycle.  It turned out Pat was right, she needed only a new gasket.  I had the valves checked and four needed adjusting.  I got the block off kit and the carbs adjusted, too.  All for a very reasonable price.  And they took good care of her- had her all clean and shiny as the first day I drove her off the lot.  This weekend, riding her off the parking lot, it felt like days rather than a few weeks since I’d been on her.  She is so familiar to me.  My hands reach easily for the controls, muscle memory guiding my movements: easing on the throttle, threading the rear brake at a stop sign, guiding her lean into and through the next curve.  Even in fifty degree weather, without a plan to get home, with a dead battery in the GPS and no map to get where I’m going, I still love the ride.  I wouldn’t have had this ride, on this day if she hadn’t needed a repair.  I wouldn’t have jumped on her to feel this freedom, this easeful pattern of movement in my body.  It is cold and my hands are numb, my thighs tight against the tank, shoulders hunched over to preserve warmth.  I’m glad to be riding.

Sometimes, like this time, I get to ride when I most need it and when it’s least expected and I tell myself this is the universe taking care of me.  I don’t much like using the word God, with all it’s connotations, all the ideas that surround it- like sin, and heaven and hell and adam and eve and the apple.  I refrain from using the word God because of all the word can’t say with all these other ideas floating around it and so I say instead the ‘universe.’  Sometimes it feels like there is a caretaking presence that gives me a moment on the bike when I most need it, most need the freedom. 

Phil and I had a nice long talk yesterday afternoon- well, he talked and I listened.  I tried to hear in all his talking what I most needed to hear.  What a benevolent force might want me to hear if there was a reason I was on Phil’s couch to hear what he most needed to say, after his day unfolded as it did, after my own Black Friday.  I don’t believe in God the way I was taught to as a child, can’t believe in that way of thinking about things that happen.  Sometimes some things happen in just such a way, at just such a time that I’m left staring into a well of feelings that spring up out of some hidden place.  This is what happened on Friday.

I ran into my past.  It came at me from right around the corner, right around the bend.  I was shoe shopping at a favorite store and from around the aisle came a person straight out of my past, straight out of a memory so fresh and stark and harsh, I turned my head and hid my eyes from the intensity of it.  We made small talk, very small – about shoes and the holiday – and finally I acknowledged the past sitting there between us and he did, too.

I’m standing there, our past between us, this other life we’d had together and all I can feel is how much I want to run away, run out of the store, out of the memory, out of the feelings that come when I think of that time in my life.  But I don’t run.  I turn around in that moment, turn around to face what is being shown to me, what perhaps, some benevolent force is showing me.  I see the life this man still wants.   I see the way his desires ruled him, reigned over our life together and I see how it nearly destroyed me - listening to and giving into those desires.  I bit back my own fears and I let his desires lead us, then consume me, devour me.  

During that relationship, I met Patrick, a full-hearted man I’d met through yoga practice.  He sat with me for hours each week, drinking cup after cup of tea as I sorted through the life I’d built with this other man. He was, for me, during those long nights sitting across from one another, the divine embodied.  Patrick taught me to listen to what I was thinking, what I was feeling, what I wanted and needed.  He taught me through his deep presence and awareness, that I am worth listening to. 

It took a lot of practice, a lot of riding, of writing, to find my own way, to let go of another’s desires and find my own.  When I did, I no longer wanted that relationship, that life we had and so I walked out of it.  But around that corner, in the aisle of that store, it all came flooding back – the woman I was, the life I’d left, the plans we’d made and then abandoned.  I saw in that moment in the store, that I had done the right thing by leaving when I did.  I saw that the life I’ve made for myself since, the life that has built itself up around me, is the life built by my desires, my needs.  My life is full of writing and riding and friendships and laughter, of full-bodied hugs and tender kisses and motorcycle vacations.   And it’s filled with scary thoughts and feelings and disappointments and sadness but also with enough people willing to listen, hold my hand and walk with me through it.

Phil told me the other day that I don’t go to church because I haven’t got God.  He doesn’t really know because he’s only talked with me of his God, his religion.  And he’s right in some ways, my god isn’t in the Bible, isn’t in a church, isn’t in following the rhetoric of Jesus’ teachings.  My god is in the moments on my bike and listening to friends talk long into the night and holding another in my arms, feeling the fullness of her whole being.   My god is the force that guides me into the lives of people who need something I have and share readily.  My god is the needs that are answered by friends when my own resources are spent.   My god is in knowing that no idea of god can possibly encompass the mystery of this life, the energies guiding it or the forces of nature that stir it all up and tear it all down.

When that man came around that corner and showed me the life I’d left, it was like a wind came swirling up around us and captured us in its center, holding us in its vortex of stillness.  Its turbulence lifted even the weightiest of memories and scattered the dust of that life so when we parted, it was final.  He to his life, and me to mine.   The Bonneville sits in Phil’s garage until I find a ride down, until it’s time to listen again, until I need a reason for another ride on her.  She sits and waits until the forces of god and nature and desire come swirling about and make it so.  

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I Need a Ride

The weather forecast this week was for snow.  I didn’t see much falling.  I’m glad.  I’m not ready to put the bike away.  I’m not ready to let go of the rides that keep me grounded, keep me connected to others and to myself.  When I leave work now, the sky is dark with the promise of night and city streetlamps mark my path home.  The days are shorter, my vision is shorter, future plans recede into a murky unknown.  Winter isn’t just about snow and cold weather.  For me, Winter is a time of drawing inward, of reflecting on the previous year and digesting what happened.  The bike is my steady companion except during Winter- difficult because this time of year is when I most need what she offers.

I often ride to clear my head.  It doesn’t start out this way, of course.  It starts out that I need to get somewhere or I need to be anywhere except here so I hop on and head out for a ride.  Sometimes it takes 10 minutes and other times an hour but I am always assured that on the bike I can get some perspective.  Get relief from these thoughts that press in on me and make me question myself, my life’s work, where I’m really headed in this life of mine.

My bike has been at the dealership all week getting looked at.  Pat called me to tell me the seal on my oil filter was broken and that I need a new head gasket.  While he was in there replacing that, he checked the valves for me too- part of the 12,000 mile service that I hadn’t found the money for so neglected to have done.  The reason the bike wasn’t starting was because the battery is no longer holding a charge.  I had thought it wouldn’t start, was running poorly, and had the oil leaks because something major had happened.  I had thought it happened because I didn’t have the valves checked.  I thought all this was happening because I didn’t have my priorities in line, because I hadn’t figured out a way to take care of the bike so it could keep taking care of me.

My friend Tracy and I both have the same response to technology.  It makes us a little anxious.  I’m not afraid to try new things and I don’t let anxiety paralyze me with inaction but I do think it gets in the way.  I think there are times when I take too long to act and it costs me.  This time with the bike, was one of those times.   I thought I had caused the oil leaks by neglecting the bike.  After talking with a mechanic, a service man and a few friends, I now realize I can’t cause an oil leak.   The seals fail, I didn’t.  I am grateful for this discovery but still wary.  I am self-conscious about what I don’t know.  One friend tells me I don’t give myself enough credit; that I’m being too hard on myself.  I don’t disagree.  But how do I break a habit like this?  How do start giving myself the benefit of the doubt in every situation?

When my mom found herself alone after 38 years, she had to learn to do everything my dad had done for her, for the two of them.  As you can imagine, or may even know for yourself, a relationship this long had lead to some pretty defined roles for each of them.  My dad took out the garbage, mowed the lawn, maintained appliances and the cars, wrote out the monthly checks for the bills.  My dad built the house they shared together; he knew every screw and nail, every brick and board, had cans of paint labeled and stacked on a shelf in his workshop.  When dad died, she lost a life partner and a life task partner.  She had to learn how to do it all herself- or she thought she did.  That’s when my sister Laurie and I stepped in.  We reminded her that we had spent many single years managing all of the things she needed to learn how to do.  We told her she had good resources in us.  We told her she didn’t have to know how to do everything, she just had to know how to find the people that know. 

I am amazed at how often I give the advice that I most need to hear myself.  I swear, if I could just replay the tape of advice I give out to others, each night before I go to bed, I may be able to change some of these habits of mine, some of these habits of thinking. 

I was talking about my bike and its repairs yesterday with a friend over coffee.  The cost of the repairs is reasonable and while not so much what I can afford, is just about what I’m able to scrape together.  I am grateful for this- grateful that the mechanic listened to my concerns about cost and is giving me a break on it.  My friend informed me that I may not be getting the break I think I am.  He educated me.  We talked about the anatomy of the engine and what’s involved in checking the valve clearance, this costly service I had been afraid of.   He told me what a good deal on a valve check and adjustment is.  My face fell.  I had not researched the cost of this service and because I don’t know much about how the engine works, I didn’t realize how simple it is to do, once the head is off to replace the seal.  I felt like a fool for not knowing this.  But worse, I had been seen not knowing.  I got caught.  I hate when that happens.  I hate that I didn’t know any better, I hate that I got found out.  I wanted the good deal.  I wanted to have handled the situation well.  I wanted to trust my decision on this.  

I imagine that yesterday, while sitting in the coffee shop, I felt pretty much the way my mom felt at realizing she had to learn how to do everything my dad used to do.  It’s a pretty helpless feeling.   Right about now, I’d like to jump on the bike, take her for a long ride and forget about feeling this way.  I want to feel myself handling her, the second-nature of it, and remember those first rides on a motorcycle.  I want to be reminded of what I didn’t know when I first started so I can feel, right in the middle of a ride, how far I’ve come since then.  This is the kind of feeling my bike knows how to deal with.  Together, her and I have been able to break some of my patterns of thinking.  It’s funny because it feels like the Bonnie helps me think - I always feel more clear-headed after climbing off her.  Perhaps it is more accurate to say that she frees me from thinking though- she supports me sure and steady while the wind blows about us and clears out all those thoughts that just get in the way of things.  I sure could use a ride.

My friend didn’t mean to hurt my feelings- he didn’t know he was encroaching on tender territory until he saw my face, until I told him so.  I had been caught not knowing enough again.  I hate not knowing.  My other riding friends would probably find this ironic since I’m always asking questions about the bike, how to ride better, what approach to take.  It’s another thing entirely though, when someone else schools you- when answers come to questions you weren’t ready to ask. 

I’ve been hearing lately in conversation, that there is a “natural order” to things.  I’m not sure exactly what is meant when this is said.  The first thing I think of is the natural order of the sexes.  I look at what I, as a woman, am capable of, good at, born into.  And then the converse of that- what men are capable of, good at, reared to do well.  I don’t much like thinking of things in terms of sex: what she does because “that’s a woman for you” and what he does because, well, “that’s just how men are.”   I really dislike sweeping generalizations.   It would be fair to say I resist them altogether.  But what I’m exploring here isn’t really what the world says I, as a woman, should be, but rather what I have internalized I should be. 

I don’t have the strut and stride of a man that proclaims confidence.  I apologize often.  I try to find “the right time” to say what needs to be said instead of just saying it already.  I’m not saying I want to walk like a man, or that I shouldn’t admit it when I’m wrong or that thinking before acting isn’t wise, what I’m saying is different altogether.  I want to feel deep on the inside that what I want, what I think, what I feel are Right.  I want to give myself that.  I want to assume the best of myself rather than doubt myself. 

Of the things I most love about men, these top the list. I see a man walking with a hitch in his step, I hear him stating his views and making decisions for himself and his family and I think: I want THAT.  I don’t accept that this is the natural order of things and that I will always doubt myself or wish I had done better.  Instead, I want to take that masculine way of being into myself and make it my own.  Male and female, black and white, light and dark.  These are opposing ways of seeing things.  Maybe the world is ordered to show us opposites so we can see ourselves more clearly, not so much to show us our place in the order of things.   I like thinking about it that way.  I’m gonna try that on for awhile and see how it fits.  I don’t know how to do it yet.  But maybe I can find someone who does.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Motorcycling is a Pain

I’ve been talking a good game lately.  I’ve been talking about how great it is to ride a motorcycle.  I keep it all flowery and fun.  Even an accident, I gloss over.  And the people who’ve been injured in the accident.  The thing to know is that motorcycling isn’t always roses and rainbows and smiley faces and candy canes.  Motorcycling is sometimes frightening, sometimes frustrating.  It takes commitment.  It takes money.  How many rides have been cancelled due to inclement weather?  How many times have I had to work all day in wet clothes because I got caught in the rain without my rain gear?  How much money have I put into motorcycling gear when I should be saving for the new roof on the house?  I rent someone else’s car during the Winter but I really want to buy the dual sport bike Mike is selling so I can do some trail riding next year.  Where are my priorities?

If you're having trouble believing in this rant I started on, that's ok- I am, too.  The thing is, I am glad I took the trip, I am glad I have the gear to keep me safe and extend my riding season.  I'm glad I don’t check the weather channel before getting on the bike.  I like that I’m living the life I want to instead of the one I should.  I don’t want my house to be in perfect order, don’t want every bush out front to be perfectly pruned.  I want to live life just as I have been. 

When I was a kid, a certain poem grabbed my attention.  I had it tacked to my bedroom wall, even.  It spoke to the perfectionist in me.  The poem was called “I’d pick more daisies”- here are a few lines:

"If I had my life to live over, I'd dare to make more mistakes next time. I'd relax, I would limber up. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would have more actual troubles, and fewer imaginary ones."

The way I’ve lived my life in the last few years has been a tribute to that poem.  I’m not contributing to my retirement fund,  I’ve got piles of laundry waiting to be folded,  I don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life.  But I take lots of motorcycle rides, I make time to write, I spend lots of time in the company of people I enjoy, rather than feel obligated to.  

There I go again finding a positive spin on motorcycling.   I guess it can’t be helped.  I’m trying to recount the negative things about it but it doesn’t last.  That’s the thing about the motorcycle, or maybe just the writing about it.  It keeps me trying to find the best way through this life of mine.  It keeps me finding another truth besides the problems I make for myself.

I feel like I’ve done a disservice in talking about how great motorcycling is.  Ok, not a disservice exactly, but rather I’ve not presented the complete picture of motorcycling.  I have not narrated the horrific crashes I’m aware of.  I have not detailed a story from my own family, of an uncle who was injured in a motorcycle accident that left him comatose at the age of 32 for 8 long years before he died of pneumonia.  I think I stay away from these stories because I need a break from them.  Perhaps it is a 15-year career as a nurse that has me staring death and disease in the face, that makes me turn away from them and look to another reality.  Perhaps I just need to step away from those painful places life takes me for a few hours each week and remember there’s another way to get through life, another way to look at things.

The stories I tell about motorcycling spring up when I’m on a ride.  They narrate themselves to me when I’m on the bike.  I’m not trying to invent a positive spin on a ride after it’s already ended.  Somehow this alternate view rises to the surface and I see a rhythm to life that I couldn’t see when I was stuck in the middle of it; when I was struggling to pull up the bush up in the backyard, or when I was lost in the woods, stuck among a bile of bramble bushes- the only way out, through them, the only way out to get poked and scratched and stuck.  The thing about getting oneself out of a hairy situation is that by the time I get to telling it, I’m already through it.  There’s already a better ending laid out for me.  I’m through the pickers, tending the scratches, and doing as we humans do, trying to make the best of it.  So there’s automatically this perspective of “I made it through and now I’m gonna tell you how I did it.”  The thing I need to say here, is sometimes I don’t know how I got through it.  One dear friend spoke to me after my father’s death, which happened on the heels of my divorce, and she said “I don’t know how you are still standing.”  The truth is, I don’t either.  I can’t point to an unfailing faith- there was no faith strong enough to sustain me, there were no arms big enough to carry the weight of that grief.  I just woke up each morning, got out of bed and walked into the day.  There is no primer, no map, no one poem that can carry us through some of these difficult times. 

One friend I have says he won’t talk about this serious stuff in a group because that “would be a real downer.”  I think otherwise.  It is in sharing my difficulties with others that I have come to see their difficulties as well.  I see the people behind the motorcycle they ride- I see them on their own ride through this sometimes painful life.   One friend of mine has buried her father and sister, put her mother in a nursing home, sorted through and sold the family home.  In less than one year,  her family has been dismantled.  I don’t know how she is still walking.  She doesn’t either.  There is nothing I can say except “I too, know this pain.”  And somehow there is some comfort there.  I don’t know how this happens, but others who’ve gone through similar things become a beacon to those who endure it now.  In the weeks following my Father’s death, I reached out to every friend who lost a parent.   I knew I could talk about the loss without explaining it.  One barrier was removed. 

I don’t want to keep talking about how great motorcycles are.  In fact, sometimes they are a pain in the ass.  My bonnie sits in the garage now, only a few more rides in her before the snow falls and I’ve spotted an oil leak around her head.  I am frustrated and scared and I can’t see my way through this- I don't know how it can end well.  I don’t know how I will pay for repairs.  She’s only a few years old- the warranty’s out and I’m still paying on her.  My mind is making this a big problem, my worry compounded by my financial situation.  I know it’s just a motorcycle, it’s a thing.  I shouldn’t freak out about it.  My health is good, I’m employed, my house isn’t falling down around me.  

But the thing is, she isn’t just a bike.  She is how I get where I’m going.  She is how I find my way.  She’s what makes it all worthwhile.

I don’t want to wrap this up all pretty but after worrying for about it for 4 days, I finally picked up the phone and called Lifecycle to see what the problem might be.  Pat thinks it’s a bad gasket.  I'm breathing a little easier but my mind is still swirling around a bit, trying to figure out all the details- how do I get the bike down there, how much will it cost, what isn't going to get done so I can pay for the repairs.  A bad gasket, eh? I hope that’s all it is.  I’m crossing my fingers until I know for sure.  

Friday, November 5, 2010

Choosing the Route

Two weeks ago, I found myself on a long ride with new friends traveling unfamiliar roads.  This trip, unlike my normal group rides with the RIDE club, was carefree- our route wasn’t planned and we didn’t gather at a prearranged time at one location.  The ride started with a chain of phone calls which lead to a series of meet-ups: 4 of us started in Grand Rapids and road to Kentwood to pick up a fifth.  Together we drove down to Wayland to meet up with 3 others stationed at a restaurant, awaiting our arrival.  It made the trip especially interesting, picking up others along the way- a trip within a trip.

During that weekend ride my mind kept wandering.  I was daydreaming about splitting off from the group.  My mind kept flashing to an image of me riding off by myself, back towards home.  I’d been riding for a few hours by this point and I was feeling what I’ll call, “the pull of my own ride.”  At the time, I thought it was a sign I should set off by myself, and head north back to Grand Rapids.  Looking back on it though, I think it was like many other daydreams I have; it was telling me to be mindful of my own ride in life.

Sometimes I don’t give myself enough time.  I schedule myself from one activity to the next, one group to the next and before I know it, I’m restless and antsy.   That’s when I start daydreaming about breaking off from the ride.  Some part of me is asking to break off from the desires of others and start listening again to my own. Recognizing my own needs has been a long time coming.  I’m used to listening to what others need.  I’m comfortable with that.  Sometimes it feels selfish to put myself first.  I try to remember that when I’m saying no to someone else, I’m saying yes to me.  

During our ride, Phil’s hand went up to alert me and I realized our last two riders were no longer behind me.  Because of my daydreaming, I’d lost sight of them and I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I’d looked back.  I slowed, checked my mirror and when no bikes appeared from around the last corner, I turned around and headed back to find them.   When riding with 8 bikes as we were, along winding roads, you don’t always know when someone goes down.  What you know is that suddenly, there’s no one behind you.  This recognition is often accompanied by a pang of fear – it means something happened to stop the ride.  When you’re the one turning back, you hope someone lost a glove or needed to adjust his gear.  But sometimes it’s more serious. 

A few miles back I found Ashley and Andrew standing along a curve, bikes parked and gear scattered. I could see dirt and grass on the pavement and tall grasses matted down at the edge of the road.  Within minutes, the rest of the group joined us and began assessing the scene.  A few kept their eyes toward coming traffic, someone looked Andrew over, a few others scanned the area for gear and parts while another examined the bike to see if it was ridable.  It’s a terrible feeling when someone goes down.  It’s frightening for the rider as well as the one who sees it happen. 

When someone is injured on a motorcycle, it makes me think of other accidents.  I have good friends who have experienced life-altering injuries from their motorcycles.  One friend can no longer ride, another chooses not to and a third has lost his excitement for the same kind of riding he did beforehand.  Every rider knows someone who has gone down.  Most riders know someone who didn’t survive the ride.  One Summer our ride club had 8 members injured in separate incidents.  I nearly stopped riding then.  Each time I even thought about getting on the bike, dread heaved in my gut.   Bile rose in my throat, my breathing came thin and shallow.  That Fall I rode only a handful of times.  If I didn’t feel like riding, I didn’t.  I decided to delay any decision-making about riding until the following Spring.  I decided to let my body make the choice.

Andrew's injuries weren't serious.  His arms were pretty scraped up and he found some nasty bruises the next morning.  He wasn’t too hurt, because a few days later he hitched a ride to the BMW dealership to pick up the brand new bike he’d been planning to buy.  And I wasn’t either.  Andrew’s accident was the first that didn’t make me question riding.  I’m not sure what was different this time.  For awhile there, whenever I heard about a motorcycle accident, I had to decide whether to continue to ride.  The Spring following those 8 accidents, when purple blooms of crocus appeared among patches of melting snow, my desire to ride returned.  I was eager to ride, excited for the roads to clear and daydreaming about the next journey on the motorcycle.  That is how my body talks to me.  It tells me if I’m on the right path.  This time, with Andrew’s accident, I’m no longer questioning if I should continue motorcycling.  I am finally giving over to the purity of the ride.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Group Riding

Within a year of getting my first motorcycle, I found out about RIDE Motorcycle Club through Amy, a woman in my writer’s group. Her husband Michael is the first person I met from RIDE, the first of many friends who love to ride motorcycles.  One of the things that drew me to the ride club is the people- they are very welcoming and supportive.   With their openness and eagerness about riding, it was a good fit.  I experienced this support in another place in my life as well- in my writer’s group.   For over 4 years, Amy and I met with two others each week to read, write and talk about books, writing and life. It is with those four women that I learned to trust that my pen could find a way to sort through my thoughts. 

One of the things I liked best about the RIDE club when I joined was that I was encouraged to ask questions.  Ken is our local RIDE coordinator.  I had regular contact with him because of his weekly email newsletters detailing our scheduled rides for the month.  His newsletters were a sort of North Star, guiding me through my early riding experiences.    They often open with a story about a ride which he parallels with something happening in his life.  More than once, I responded to his musings with questions about riding.  His responses were always helpful.    RIDE encourages all kinds of riding, on all kinds of bikes and, as is the nature of a group united in a common love, we often ride together.  When I was first riding, I worried that I would hold people back because I preferred a slower pace. Ken encouraged me to join the weekly rides and reassured me the group would accommodate me.

After a three year hiatus, Amy and I are writing together again, this time with Jen.  Just as with Ken, it is how these two are showing up for themselves and their lives, and how they express it in their writing that is guiding me in my writing life.  We send each other our latest pieces a day ahead then meet up to discuss them with one another.  Our writing styles are very different.  We each have our own voice, our own manner.   Yet we each write from a place of deep feeling.   I share pieces with them that I won’t yet share with others.  I trust them and where their writing is leading them.  And I trust my own writing process because of them.

It is RIDE who taught me how to ride safely in a group.  They taught me there are different skills needed for riding alone versus with a group.  I like riding in a group.   I like the ride while alone, too.  They are very different experiences. 

When riding alone, I don’t have to think about any other riders, what they want or need and where they are in relationship to me.  I ride where I want to, at the speed I’m comfortable with, for as long I feel like riding.  With RIDE, our routes are often pre-planned at a set pace for a set time with arranged stops.  When I ride alone, I’m unencumbered and unfettered by others wishes, needs and problems.  While in a group, I feel supported, encouraged and protected.  When riding alone, I’m responsible for ensuring a safe ride, monitoring the road and the driving conditions.  I revel in the solitude.  I rely on my own resources when there is a problem with the bike.  I gain courage and resiliency.  While in a group, we signal each other to point out road hazards and share the same remarkable view with each other.  And if something goes wrong on a group ride, there are others to help sort it all out, help everyone get home safe.

It’s easy for me to see as I write this, that I’m not preferential to one type of riding over another.  Both are important to me, both are essential.  There are times I need to clear my head and focus on me, keep it simple and straightforward.  And then there are times when the feel of the group, riding staggered through curves and straightaways, holds me together and grounds me.

In much the same way, my writing life is being served by both writing alone and with others.   Before I send pieces to Amy and Jen, it’s just me with my words.  I write regularly for both long and short periods.  After a time, a few phrases jump out at me and I decide to play with them, explore their origins and see what else will come when I write from the place those first thoughts initiated. Sometimes when I sit down to write I am disappointed and a sad voice flows onto the page in the form of an essay about unrequited love.  On another day, I am filled with memories of my father’s death and begin writing only to discover a poem that links the details of his passing with my career as a nurse.  Writing is powerful for me.  Through it, I communicate the truth of my experience and transform it at the same time.  When I read the poem about my father’s death it pulls me back to that day, nearly three years ago now, with such fierce detail I’m in his hospital room again, at his bedside with my family.  What’s different though, is that somehow, the sorrow has deepened into a recognition of the universality of grief.  I’m no longer lost in the memories, but I am united with others who’ve experienced a similar loss.  My solitary journey has been transformed into a shared journey. 

At the heart of all my travels, whether on a bike or with my pen, are those unifying forces, the communion with others in shared experiences.  There is the recognition that while we are all here on our own journey, it is somehow reflected in each other’s and so it is that I am connected as if by a thread from one to another- to Ken and all the RIDE club members, to Amy and Jen.  And it is these people and the thread woven between us that informs my life and enriches it.  And so it is, that all of the traveling I’ve done on my own has also been with them. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Stories, Myths and Memories

How do we know what influences our decisions when we make them?  The story I tell myself about the Bonneville I have, the second bike I fell in love with, is that I knew the first moment I laid eyes on her that I wanted her.   I’m not sure if this is true or just how I remember it.  Memories are like that- they take on a life of their own, after our choices seem to point to that one experience as the reason everything after it came to happen.  So looking at the Bonnie, that’s what drew me in, but when I sat on her, the feeling only deepened.   And then came that first test ride- she glided smoothly through the gears and took corners like she wanted me to see how deep she would go for me, leaning with ease and just a bit of show.  God I couldn’t get enough of her, couldn’t wait to make her mine. 

My first bike was a ’79 Yamaha XS650 that I’d picked up for $350 4 years before.  It hadn’t run in over a year, the battery was dead and she was pretty dented up. It was the perfect starter bike:  I wasn’t worried about dropping her while practicing maneuvers in a local parking lot and it needed enough work, I knew I’d learn how to work on a bike, too.

One Spring, my RIDE club took a day trip down to the Gilmore Car Museum for their annual vintage motorcycle show.  Lifecycle dealership was offering demo rides on their Ducati’s and Triumph’s.  I road 5 bikes that day- the Triumph Bonneville was the first, and the only ride I remember.  I knew after that ride that I’d get one but wasn’t sure when.  It was only a few months later that my Yamaha blew a piston.  It didn’t take much figuring to see that I was going to get the Bonneville sooner than I’d hoped.   I took her home in June of 2008. 

Sold! Picking the Bonneville up from the dealership

Joe told me recently he thinks I have a masculine bike- a guy’s bike.  I was surprised.  Her tank is full and rounded with a glossy black finish and she wears a distinct tank badge.  The handle bars curve up and out - they don’t gawk like ape hangers or hide away like cafĂ© bars-but sit there perfectly placed to rest one’s hands.  She’s shaped to ride, curvy and sexy.  Sometimes at a stoplight, I rest my hand on her tank just to feel her vibrating underneath me.  She purrs when I start her up, nothing loud or raucous about her.  She wants to be ridden, she wants to be enjoyed.  She’s all woman. 

Some decisions, like getting the Triumph, are easy.  Other times, when I see something I really want, I find myself peering like a child from behind her mother’s skirt- wanting to see it but also afraid to be seen.  For years, I was guided by a set of rules believing they kept me safe.  Then I figured out those rules kept me from the joy in life, as well as the pain.  The memories on this part of the story aren’t quite clear.  I don’t remember exactly when I started to come out from behind my mother’s skirt, as it were.  I do know it was a series of decisions based on my gut responses that began to change things for me.  I was yearning for freedom and I found it when I started to trust my responses to what was happening around me instead of looking to the rules to show me what to do.

Sometimes I still fall into the old pattern of looking outside myself to figure out how to act, what’s expected of me, how I’m being perceived.  I think back to those initial feelings about the Bonneville, that intense urge to own her, to know her, to explore with her.  Those gut feelings were so strong there was no mistaking them.  It’s a little harder to interpret other gut responses.  Sometimes I feel inexplicably drawn to someone in a way that defies what I’ve come to know about myself. 

Carl Jung has been my bedtime companion in these last weeks.  His books encourage excavating our dreams –both waking and sleep- for information about deeper parts of ourselves that long to be seen.  My trip with him so far has me asking lots of questions and not yet finding answers.  It feels like I’m on the cusp, though.  And while I’m a little wary because I can’t see what’s coming next, my gut is telling me to start looking at my memories to see what they tell me about this life I find myself in.  If my reverie about my Bonnie is any indication, I’m in for quite a ride.