Monday, August 29, 2016

Biking Boldness on a Rather Small Scale -- Mater Goes Solo!

I wrote most of this post three weeks ago, and then somehow got sidetracked with sorting out why the recent spotlighting of "Badass" women gets under my skin. With two posts on the topic since then, you may all be rolling your eyes, but I'm going to post this anyway because it keeps a promise. And I only use "the word" twice, and only near the end. Begging your indulgence. . . As it turns out -- and this surprised me a bit -- the post is more about the happy adjustments we're making to life in the city and to spending time together and apart in the new rhythms of shared retirement.

Almost a year ago, I spent some time here setting out the fears and hesitations that have kept me from setting out on my own, in the city, on my bike. The post was the culmination in a short series in which I thought about Travel and Independence as I moved into retirement. Forty-some years into a happy and sustaining marriage, I worried sometimes about comfortable dependencies that have settled into place. In the post about biking, I fretted that as much as I was enjoying a newly adopted activity, riding through the city's many bike routes, I hadn't done so solo but always waited for my husband to accompany me.

And I promised that I would get the bike off the apartment balcony, wrestle it through the livingroom and out the heavy door, down the hallway to the elevator, through those doors that always, always, always shut too quickly, and then wrangle the bike through the last two doors to the basement exit, one of which requires propping the first door open with hand or foot, holding the bike steady with another limb, and extending the key fob forward to the second door until the "click" releases said door to then be dragged open along a path just millimeters from the bike's front tire. Not even in the lane yet, and I'm wanting a rest. . . .

That little routine did pose a mental hurdle, yes, just imagining those many awkward steps, but I can't say it was the reason I never did get out on my own last year.  Nor, even, were the anxieties I outlined in my post last year about riding solo along the city streets to get to the bike routes, nor about keeping up with, or out of the way of, other cyclists once on those.  As I suggested in that earlier post, I began to feel increasingly comfortable with balance and speed and rules of the road, confident even, as I wheeled across to the left-turning lane, arm flung in that direction to signal a direction change to vehicles coming up behind Pater and me.

No, it wasn't my anxieties anymore that kept me from biking solo after last summer's end. Rather, circumstances seemed to keep me consistently away or busy anytime we had cycling weather. By the time we were moving back into more clement times again this spring, we were in the midst of our big move. Many reasonable excuses, I think you will agree. (And I worked on my independence via a solo trip to visit my daughter's family in Rome in January

But life's been easing up lately. Both Pater and I keep very busy here, but so much of that is a voluntary busy. We've been amazed at how much time we have to shape as we wish.  Part of that shaping has been cycling together, generally one long-ish ride and two or three easier ones weekly. Pater, however, tends to pedal off on his own most mornings, stopping at some distant coffee shop or other to read the paper (a lovely way for me to have some time on my own in the apartment -- I'll chat more about that at some point).  Occasionally when he's done so over the past few weeks I've remembered my promise to myself (and to you readers, I suppose) that I'd get out on my own as well.

Last week, I finally did it! I made sure, the night before, that I had everything I needed set out so that I wouldn't disturb Pater when I headed out (I'm generally up at least an hour before him).  The bike was on the more accessible side of the balcony (it's still a beast to lift through the narrow-ish opening and over the eight-inch sill, but I managed it without knocking the TV off its perch nearby), and I tucked a thermos of tea and my sketching supplies into its wire basket before I headed out the door.

Pedalling to the bike route so early in the morning meant little traffic, and I was cycling confidently around the Stanley Park Seawall before 7 to greet the morning sun. Thinking, "Woman, What took you so long?!" I can't say that I also thought, "Wow! You are so badass!" But perhaps this would be my version of earning that adjective. . . The lame version of badass? Is that an oxymoron? (See what I tend to mistrust binaries?)

I'm not sure how often I'll head out on my own on the bike -- I have enough other activities to fill my days and I really enjoy pedalling with Pater (ooh! alliteration!).
I'm happy, though, to have worked through whatever psychological hurdle was blocking my way to this simple pleasure.  And even happier to be finding my rhythm in our new life in the city. . . 

15 comments:

  1. Oooh, that sounds like a fun ride and lovely to be up and out to enjoy the morning before the rest of the world. I wish my husband enjoyed biking but that's one activity I'll have to take up again on my own - and I will. Just need to overcome whatever mental inertia is holding me back. You go, girl!

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    1. Yes, "mental inertia" is a great phrase for situations such as this, even once I thought I'd overcome the psychological barrier which you, luckily, don't face. Thanks!

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  2. Perfect! Brava-for your solo biking-lovely photos- and to enjoy what you like-biking with Pater or yourself alone
    I was sure that you were ready for this (heavy!) step.
    You run alone or in company,you've established your routine that you like-isn't it wonderful! Isn't it wonderful to have a choice and have a great company as well?
    Dottoressa

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    1. Thanks Dottoressa -- you're always so encouraging. It is wonderful indeed to have a choice!

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  3. It's always that first step , isn't it . But as long as one's allowed to take one's time , anything is do-able ... well , nearly anything .

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    1. It's very true, after the first step, the following ones are usually easier, and if we're allowed time to ease into that first one, we can most often manage...

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  4. I walk by myself most days and I find the process very meditative and restorative...biking solo must feel somewhat similar. I don't like that word "badass" either...
    perhaps you'll share more sights from your solo bike excursions...what type of bicycle do you ride?

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    1. Like you, I enjoy my own company, just having the time to go at my own pace, to sort quietly through whatever thoughts flit through. With Paul, I'm generally pedaling that bit faster, trying to prove I can keep up!
      Our bikes are very basic. They were under $200 each, bought at the end of a season from a rental company here -- cruising handlebars very similar to what we all had on our bikes as kids; hybrid tires (not quite road but neither trail), and mine is a "girl's bike" which I know is wussy, but I find so much easier on my hips to get on and off. . .

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  5. It seems to me that you simply needed to break through that mental wall, whether or not you solo bike regularly or not is irrelevant. But you know, you had me with "I worried about comfortable dependencies that have settled into place". I think you are very wise, and very daring, but that is perhaps the part of me that was perhaps too willing to let my own comfortable dependencies lie undisturbed until they were uprooted by force. But then, perhaps 27 years was just not quite enough time.

    Much as I dislike the term, I think "badass" can be what you want it to be. And overcoming our own reluctances is always badass, perhaps even more so than the more popular usage.

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    1. Mardel, I think you're the wise one, and honestly, watching how you (and other women our age bereaved of their husbands) cope solo after years of shared life is part of what's inspired me to step out of complacencies and try to do a bit more on my own.
      And I have to agree with you on the word "badass." It might just turn out to be useful after all, although I will continue to handle it with care.

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  6. Bravo to your solo ventures! We can roll our bikes right out the door and be on a trail within 5 minutes. But since this is a new city for us, I found I was hesitant to bike whilst my husband was at work. I purchased a RoadID, a kind of bracelet with my important info on it. That helped me feel as if I had trouble, someone could make a call or two. Feeling more confident, I did some riding, then the southern heat came on. Biking is unpleasant in 99F degree weather, but I'm looking forward to cooler temperatures. Keep enjoying your bike!

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    1. And bravo to you as well. That's a good solution to the safety concerns. I could never cycle in that kind of heat, and I'm wondering now how much we'll get out once the rain settles in. We may just have to get some more comfortable gear for staying dry. . . .

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  7. I do understand this very well. I worked away from home in the week for around ten years and travelled extensively by myself for work all over Europe and the US. In the seven years since I stopped work I know I have become lazily used to letting my husband plan and sort things out because he likes to. Next week I am going to Portugal on a yoga holiday with a friend. It will be good for me to do something without him again, although I admit it is hardly flying solo! We do quite a lot separately but I suspect it would not be a bad thing to do a little more, much though we enjoy each other's company.

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    1. It becomes so easily to default, in my experience, to letting the partner who enjoys a task take it on most of the time. But muscles weaken without use, and so, I'm finding, do less exercised skills. . . . I've been following your yoga trip on IG -- it looks wonderful! And it might not be flying solo, but I suspect it will refresh your independence in ways that are tougher to access when your husband is along. Enjoy!

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  8. Oh, those "comfortable dependencies" are more on my mind each year. Bravo to you for getting out on your bike. It has been a hot summer that has kept me away from biking but at the beach this week I am enjoying miles of rides each day...some with DH, some without:-)

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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