WHY DO WE WAIT FOR THE RIGHT CONDITIONS?

WHEN THE WRONG ONES WILL DO

WHY DO WE WAIT FOR THE RIGHT CONDITIONS?

GROWING AND MAKING STUFF

MAKES ME HAPPY

GROWING AND MAKING STUFF

AWARENESS...

STAYING AWAKE TO THE REMARKABLE IN THE ROUTINE

AWARENESS...

Hi. I’m Maery, a writer in the Twin Cities. Although I no longer have the body for extreme adventures, I love to bicycle, go horse trail riding and take hikes with my dogs.  

One thing you should know before you join me on my quest -- I don’t have a map. And I’ve been known to wander off course and stop to listen to birds and look for agates. I also have a few issues with fear and anxiety. In other words, I’m not a good role model or adventure guide. But in this time of uncertainty and polarization, I'm not sure anyone has a reliable map. We'll just figure it out as we go.

bike commuting

It’s April. Time for April showers and 30 Days of Biking.

Taking the pledge to ride my bike every day in April last year is what got me started down this road of bicycling in all four seasons. It was the getting out every day – no matter how windy, rainy or snowy – and discovering how much I loved riding that has led to some unexpected changes in my life.

train station with bike

Being that I started bike/train commuting at the end of last month and have been fat biking through the winter, saying I’d ride for 30 days in April 2015 didn’t hold the same challenge as it did in 2014.

Still, there are challenges — like time. Some days it’s tricky fitting bicycling into the day. It will be tough this week with the AWP conference Thursday through Saturday (and recuperation on Sunday).

bike commuting

I’m reading May Sarton’s book, “Journal of Solitude,” and in it she wrote:

“I am proud of being fifty-eight, and still alive and kicking, in love, more creative, balanced, and potent than I have ever been… Wrinkles here and there seem unimportant compared to the Gestalt of the whole person I have become in the past year.” ~ May Sarton, “Journal of Solitude”

Perhaps just turning fifty-eight myself in March, this is the perfect time to be reading Sarton’s story again. I too feel more vibrant, balanced, and strong than I did when I was younger. Not really physically stronger but a strength inside that I didn’t have previously.

fat biking

I’m still fearful, but am better able to face my fears and not let them stop me from doing the things that are important to me.

I actually credit bicycling with many of the positive feelings I have now. Something about being able to navigate the streets and bike paths with all the obstacles and rough, pot-holed pavement, and being able to deal with the threat of cars while maneuvering through traffic has helped me better navigate through life. It has built confidence in myself that wasn’t there before.

road bike

I’ve been surprised by the way my bicycling has improved. I’m surprised because I didn’t think there was anything to improve. What is needed to ride a bike besides some balance and turning pedals?

A lot more, it turns out, if you are making left turns in the lane with the cars and trying to avoid people unexpectedly backing out in front of you or pulling too far out at a stoplight, right into your lane.

road bike

I was like a newby driver at first, riding my brakes out of fear of picking up too much speed and then slowing almost to a stop to turn a corner. It’s not that I’m now overly confident. I’m aware that my age means I don’t bounce back from falls the way I did thirty or more years ago. But with experience I’ve learned how fast I can make a corner, how much I can lean my bike into it. I’ve become more attuned to my surroundings, which is always a good thing, whether you are on a bike or not.

Decisions come more easily and quickly with practice. This is true for anything in life, not just bicycling. And that ability to see, think and act has leaked over into other areas of my life.

Midwest Mountaineering

And one more thing my bicycle (and my helmet) has done for me, it starts up many a conversation with interesting people on the train, at work, at stores, on trails, at traffic stop lights — all over the place! I’ve conversed with people I never would have met or talked to, all because I’m bike riding and somehow it makes talking to people come more naturally.

So when people wonder why I ride my bike when it would be easier and more comfortable and convenient to simply hop into a car, those are my reasons. The skills and confidence I’ve gained have done so much more for me than just make me a better bicyclist.

It’s had a positive effect on my life overall. I’m so glad 30 Days of Biking in April of 2014 got me headed down this road.

fat biking

books

books

I was working on my book this weekend and was in a section where I wanted to remember how I thought and behaved when I was in my twenties. I flipped through some papers and journals (yes, I’ve been writing down my thoughts for that frickin’ long!) and ran across something I wrote on February 9, 1982. I was twenty-five years old, working full time, and trying to complete my BA — one painful class at a time. Fortunately, I had completed a year of college before I dropped out so I wasn’t starting from scratch.

This is what I wrote…

I have to write a research paper for one of my classes. I’ve had so little time to go to the library in the past several years that I had forgotten how much I enjoy it there. I love the way libraries smell, how the books feel in my hands – especially the big, thick, heavy ones, and  how the protective plastic covers crackle when you open them.

I stand in awe, lost in a forest of endless shelves. My eyes dart from side to side, trying to decide where to begin my search. However, I quickly forget my purpose in being there as I spot a book on the miracles of health foods and the beauty of backpacking in the Canadian wilderness.

A sudden whirring noise behind me jolts me back to cold, hard reality. This is no joy cruise; I have to find information for my paper!

The sound I heard came from a microfiche viewer, which replaced the card catalogues of my childhood. No more drawers of yellowed cards with bent smudged corners to flip through, trying not to think about whether the person who handled the cards before me may have licked their fingers to unstick one card from the next.

We now have the magic of microfiche. Push one button to go forward, another to go backward – titles and descriptions whiz by in a blur until you’re close to your destiny and start to pump the brakes, sliding to just the right spot in the frame. I scribble down titles, author’s names, and book numbers and start my search through the shelves again. But, alas, during my expedition I am captured by African natives, then a horrid witch casts a spell on me, but fear not, for I escape on the back of a unicorn.

Cautiously, I gather up my booty and make my way out of this strange world, perhaps to return another day.

books

Besides bringing back memories of old technology and even pre-technology, what surprised me about this entry is how much it sounded like me today. I expected more of a difference. I think maybe ten years ago, there was more of a difference. I lost some of that ability to see magic and to let my thoughts run freely.

I’m glad I’m getting the fun back into my life.

I’m glad that I’m reading and writing and traveling by unicorn…

bicycling home from work

tree branch

tree branch

“When the storm broke, the world was changed. Flat rocks dotted the pasture with their damp shine, scattered on a hillside that looked like a mud finger painting. The receding waters left great silted curves swaggering down the length of the hill, pulled from side to side by a current that followed its incomprehensible rules.”
~ Barbara Kingsolver, “Flight Behavior”

The paragraph from “Flight Behavior” makes me think of the flow of a person’s life. Usually predictable, guided by the constraints of normality, but then sometimes there’s too much and the damn breaks and you’re left with a mess that has little resemblance to your life before the storm.

Fortunately, my own life has been pretty level lately — no divorce,  health crisis, or relocation to deal with. The only turmoil or storm is inside me, where it feels like a raging rapids. I don’t know why so I’m just waiting it out.

Minnesota weatherwise, it’s been cloudy but dry — the promise of something but no delivery. We did get a half inch of snow Sunday night, not enough to change the Minnesota diagnosis from drought to normal.

I went out to the barn to see Luke on Saturday but forgot to bring my camera. I seem to forget my camera a lot lately. I’m stuck in a sameness feeling where I perceive that all the photos have already been taken. Except I never tire of the dogs.

dog by Mississippi River

dog by Mississippi River

They’ve been getting more walks lately as I try to figure out what to do about a male and female duck who appear to have decided our pond may be the best place to take up residence. I feel bad going out and shushing them away so I can let the dogs into the backyard. Mr and Mrs Duck try to out maneuver me around the pond but eventually take flight, only to return, oblivious to their folly. I’m afraid they’re going to nest here and then what will I do? Worse yet, Mr Duck doesn’t seem very dependable, sometimes leaving Mrs Duck home alone all day while he does God knows what. She’s like a young girl, waiting by the phone.

duck on backyard pond

This past week, I attended two bicycling events. One was Ladies Night at a bike shop in the suburbs where women looked at bike clothing markdowns and downed wine and chocolates. The other was a roundtable discussion between bike shop employees and WTFs (women, trans, femme) on how the former can make the bike world more accessible to people who are often marginalized in that arena.

Both events were very small scale challenges as far as walking up to people to introduce myself and strike up a conversation. There was nothing to gain or lose at either event. Still, I didn’t talk to anyone at the first event I attended, and I only spoke to three people at the second event — and only because they purposely introduced themselves to me and asked me questions. I realized later that I hadn’t even responded by asking the same questions in return.

dog on fishing dock

I know I’ve written about this issue of being uncomfortable and awkward in groups before, but this time, I think I might have an idea on how to make this better.

I was raised to be silent. The message was “Don’t bother people or pry.” This was taken to an extreme where I thought that even asking such questions as “How are you?” or “What brought you here?” was off limits. I came to believe that if people want to talk, they will talk, if they don’t, they won’t. But that doesn’t ring true. I want to talk! But I don’t feel like I can unless invited, which means someone has to approach me first. If no one does invite me into the conversation, I leave feeling bad about myself.

dog on fishing dock

But what about “them?” It’s not fair to put all the burden of interacting and responsibility for my feelings on someone else.

I know this old pattern of thinking is hurting me. People think I’m standoffish, that I’m not interested in what they have to say, or that I am an empty vessel with nothing to contribute to the group.

I know this and yet it’s so hard to break old thoughts and habits, even if it could mean a chance to connect with new people and feel better about myself in general.

dog by Mississippi River

I’ll never be anything but an introvert and I’ll always prefer one-on-one conversations and time alone, but I can improve my comfort level and ability to socialize in a group.

I read something while preparing to attend the AWP (Association of Writers and Writers Programs) conference this coming April. Several people recommended having one clear goal in mind before attending the conference and then sticking to that goal. My only intention was to have the experience of attending a big writer’s conference and getting my feet wet. AWP is supposed to be one of the best places to learn about which literary magazines and small presses are out there and what kinds of writing they publish.

But just attending isn’t much of a plan or goal. I keep thinking that if I go to enough events, somehow by watching how other people interact, I’ll magically become socially relaxed and savvy. I will step up to the plate when it feels right, when the timing is right, when the opportunity arises — in other words — never.

dog by Mississippi River

I’ve promised myself that the next gathering I attend, I will go with the intention of introducing myself to one person and asking them what brought them to the event. I’m hoping I actually get to try this before something as uncomfortable as the AWP arrives.

I have overcome a number of fears of doing things like taking the train and attending events where I don’t know anyone. But I want to up the bravado. I want to be the person to start a conversation. I want to worry less about what other people think or get muddled by self doubt if someone doesn’t respond to me the way I had hoped they would.

As I watched several people on Sunday state their thoughts and feelings clearly and with confidence, I thought, why can’t I do that? Why do I believe that what I have to say has no value?

Why indeed…