Every time I go into my garage, I see my two bikes, Old Red and Madeleine, and I feel a twinge of sadness. A few years ago, those gals traveled many, many miles with me. I was a hard-core bicycle commuter and it brought huge joy to my life.
I worked at an elementary school part-time, while I had my bath and body business. Each day was an adventure, packing up orders and sharing herbal tips with my customers online, then pedaling out to the post office, and then off to my other job. I always took care to dress in a fun way – skirts, usually, and cute scarves, hats and boots. I would listen to audio books as I rode, lost in imaginary worlds, breathing in the beautiful, fresh air and watching the neighborhoods change as each season went by.
And the best part was coming home in the afternoons to my best friend/roommate/romantic partner and my sweet dog.
Fast-forward a couple years and the boyfriend is long gone, the dog has passed away, my bath and body business has closed its doors, and my new “other job” is 15 miles away from home – not possible to commute by bicycle.
Every once in a while, people will comment on my bikes. “When are you going to pull those out again?” or “Are you going to get back to bicycle commuting?”
The questions pain me, for reasons I didn’t understand for a long time. I chalked it up to the feelings of sadness about missing those days when my life seemed so quaint and sweet.
As these questions became more and more common, I began searching a little deeper. Last week, I realized I hadn’t made much of an effort to have fun in a very long time. Between the sadness of the losses I have recently experienced and the extreme busyness of my new job, I don’t think the concept of “fun” even crossed my mind for months.
Finally, however, as I’ve pushed myself to exhaustion, I realized I needed to do something fun. My first instinct was to knit a hat I’ve been wanting to knit for a long time – a deer hat by Tiny Owl Knits. Never mind that I might never wear it in public – it was too cute not to pursue.
I did something a little crazy as I started knitting – I decided to post the pictures of it on Instagram and Facebook. There were two people who had expressed interest in wanting to see my progress, so I obliged. Two days later, the hashtag #livestreamingdeerhat emerged, just as a joke, but it was so fun and through these posts, I reconnected with many friends I haven’t talked to in months. It was a hoot.
And when I took a picture of the final product, I was struck by what I saw in the picture: I saw an old familiar friend. Myself. My inner child. My happy inner being.
That’s the girl who rode Madeleine around town, wearing cute hats and striped socks. That’s her! She’s not gone, she’s still here!
As I’ve been trying to nurture her back into being, I decided to pull out Old Red for a bicycle ride to my sister’s house on Labor Day. (Madeleine needs a new tire.) Old Red is literally covered in cobwebs. But I pumped up her tires and rocketed off.
It felt great. Despite the fact that I’ve only been on a bike a couple times in the past year, my stamina has not left me. I was streaking through the neighborhood.
I found myself reminiscing about those years gone by, which is not difficult to do – my sister lives about a mile from the school where I used to work, and so the ride to her house is the same way I used to ride to work. As I pedaled through my favorite neighborhood, with all the beautiful landscaping, I remembered the days in which I had a man at home waiting for me, and a sweet dog who was always so excited to greet me each day.
Tears began streaking down my face, without effort, without sobs. I was so happy and so sad. And when I raced home as fast as I could pedal, I had to remind myself that I could slow down – there was no dog at home, waiting to be let out. More tears came.
But it was a healing action. I loved feeling the wind against my face again. I loved the rhythm of the pedals. I loved the effort of it, and the ease.
My inner child was so happy.
I would like to think that there will be another time for me in which enjoy bicycle commuting again. As I slowly put myself back into the saddle (quite literally), things will keep moving, moving, moving forward. And perhaps, if I am fortunate, that beautiful part of my life will rise again.