Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Get Out There and Chop It Up

I grip the handle bars tightly and lean over as the wind rushes past me, flicking my ponytail up and back so it sticks out behind me like a fluffy arrow. My cheeks are damp and pink, my arms tense as I pick up speed. The hill evens out into a small, flat puddle of muddy, leftover rain and soggy leaves. I decimate the puddle, spraying water all around and laughing at the wet leaves flapping and clinging to the spokes of my wheels. I'm driving a rainbow airbrushed bike over to my friend Kelly's house, I'm almost eleven years old and I couldn't be happier.

"Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race." ~ H.G. Wells

So why haven't I been on a bike in nearly ten years? No good reason. Probably along with the same reasons that I haven't colored with magenta crayons, or played with Day to Night Barbie paper dolls recently, or sung along with Karen Carpenter's sweet alto to "Sing, Sing a Song" on our Fisher Price microphone/tape recorder. I've let myself get woefully grown up.

I feel like I'm on the precipice of some kind of big change lately. Like something different is right around the corner, but I haven't quite finished all the work necessary to be ready for it. Whatever "it" even is, that I'm anticipating. There are some things in the works and some goals I have in mind, but I can't shake this feeling of "what is it that I'm waiting for?" Instead of getting bogged down in the humid doldrums of August, where annually even my most favorite hobbies seem pedestrian and dull, I'm making some little changes over here in the meantime. I hope these will help lead me to whatever this big change might be. Does that sound new agey? Should I stop rubbing this crystal maybe? Is this the most obtuse opening to a blog post ever?

First off, I'm getting a bicycle. Well, actually I'm borrowing one to start, but either way I'm putting my behind on a bike. We live right up the hill from the shady and lovely 20 mile Indian Creek Trail that cuts through almost all of southern Kansas City. Yes, it's good exercise, yes, my friends, Sean, Shannon, Kristen, Amy, and Michael, have all inspired me, but I'm doing this for fun. The health benefits will be great, but I just want some clean, physical fun. The kind of fun that makes you feel ten years old and free. The kind of fun that is full of freedom and the power of traveling to your next destination under your own steam. And biking seems like a solution for this internal anticipation that I can't quite articulate. Maybe I can peddle there. A way of shutting off the adult worry and stress and letting that knobby kneed, open, little kid back in. Not waiting patiently but riding out to meet whatever this change is, sitting and beckoning to me from around the corner. I don't plan on listening to The Carpenters again any time soon, but as I think back to the things I loved as a nonathletic kid, biking always comes up. The pink and grey 10 speed Huffy that was my prized possession and favorite birthday present, once I outgrew my rainbow banana seat beauty, biking meant access to my friends, freedom to ride to my dentist appointments alone, responsibility, and also continually skinned knees and scraped ankles.

I'm going to get back on my bike, even though I doubt I could find that old perfect Huffy. And while I don't think most people would find doing something as basic and physical as riding a bike to be a boundary pusher for them, it is for me. My physical activity usually involves treadmill walk/jogging, walking the dog, or working out with the Wii fit. I avoid any opportunity where I might fall off a quickly moving vehicle, or where people might actually get to watch me fall off a quickly moving vehicle. I tend towards the clumsy and the graceless. And I think I speak for many women, especially those of us who are overweight, when I say that I have a real phobia of making a fool of myself physically. I don't want to be laughed at, unless I'm the one making the joke. I feel confident and bold when I've got two feet on the ground, yet I feel less so on wheels. I don't push myself or put myself in many situations where that's a possibility. I take myself too seriously sometimes and I cut back the risk to protect my ego. But in doing so I'm also cutting back the risk of having fun. I am admitting that falling off my bike is inevitable. It will happen. When friends tell me I should consider those clip in bike shoes for long rides I think, "Are you trying to kill me?" I act like I'm some fragile 80 year old with brittle bones or Jack Donaghy's girlfriend with "Avian Bone Syndrome." I'm not 80 and I don't have a fictional syndrome that doesn't let me hold hands. I'm sturdy. I've got a built in cushioning system. I'll wear a helmet. I'll be safe. But I'll also probably fall, and I'm ok with that. I can laugh at that and myself. I'm seeking out this change. I'm hitting the open road. Or at least the bike path. Want to join me for a ride?

Don't feel like biking, but still craving some play? Read this little article over at one of my favorite new websites, well, new to me, Tiny Buddha.


AmyK said...

Yes, yes, yes...why must we be several states apart...
Love this -
The kind of fun that makes you feel ten years old and free.

Yes, and again yes.

bethany actually said...

I'd love to! I have not ridden my bike in several years; I should get it tuned up and go for a ride with Annalie one of these days.


Kristendom said...

I'll totally ride with you! I love that you're trying this - and you keep me inspired, too. Let me know if you want to plan a ride sometime!

Nae said...

Ten again. Awesome. I can totally see your ponytail flopping, great description - wonderful post. You go girl! As long as you don't decide to get a bike with a basket that has flowers on it, mmm....k? hehehehe j/k

Emily said...

Listen. This whole post was lovely and all that. And I am super excited for your new adventures. But what I'm loving most right now is your 30 Rock reference. That just about killed me.

Peddle on, Kassie! :)