A rainy Memorial Day morning, and I’ve found a new space in my house, the front porch. I can sit outside, my tea beside me, the window open with NPR playing from the kitchen, the rain a steady soothing patter beside me.
Today is a day to clean, take stock, to write, to read, to make a few phone calls. A day for myself. No temptation to get in a bike ride or a Crossfit class. The gym is closed. In the past four days, I’ve ridden about 120 miles and completed one Crossfit class, so it’s even “right” to take a rest day.
I’m in my new life, so different from where I was a year ago. And I’m learning about myself and what I need and want in this new life. It’s been over a year since Richard and I were leading our normal married life. It’s been almost two months since my mother died. This is the first time in my life I am living alone.
I am very fortunate. I live alone but my life is full. I have Athens. My sister and I have discussed recently whether living in other places is like living in Athens. It’s such a rich life. Would that be the case for me anywhere else? What can’t be recreated are the connections and the history that have evolved over the last thirty-four years. And I care about Athens, so I can easily use my do-gooder tendencies here. Athens Tech filled that need for years. Now I have local political campaigns and Bike Athens and the Bike-Ped Master Plan citizen committee, and there are many more causes I could and might get involved with and would enjoy doing so.
Last summer I was severely depressed, and nothing seemed to provide purpose. This summer I find purpose easily and contentedly. Yesterday I cycled with friends, worked on my bike, mowed the lawn, blew off the driveway, and that was a good day. I didn’t need anything else.
I am not sure what will happen next. This last year brought so many things I didn’t expect, so many more challenges. What I have learned is that I cannot control everything, but I can be aware of the base from which I lead my life and gain strength from that. My circles of friends and family are there. They won’t make the moments of fatigue, the moments of uncertainty, the moments of feeling sorry for myself, go away, but I can never say that I am alone. This year has proven to me that I have so many good people cheering me on and loving me.
And I have my bicycle. That sounds so simple, it is so simple. Last summer I returned to Athens from New York into the July heat. I went out on my Wednesday night ride and I had no strength. I couldn’t keep up. In my depressive state, I thought I had lost my biking and my biking world. But cycling brought me back to life. Back in New York after Anne’s Moroccan wedding, I needed the mental health effects of exercise and so I joined a spin gym just ten minutes from my mom’s house. I went every day. So simple, but it worked. The dark cloud lifted and hasn’t returned since.
I know now with certainty what cycling does for me. It makes me happy. It is what brings me into the future. Sometimes I have to force myself to get out to one of our group rides. But once out, I’m always happy to be there. To be inching closer to sixty each day and have this fun thing in my life, how lucky I am. When we gather at our store stops at Good Hope, Dry Pond, or Bostwick, we are little different than the kids on the block I grew up with, just hanging out and having fun together and mostly with a little less bickering that we did back on Silver Lake Place. The bike brings me buddies, brings me nature, brings me adventures, brings me a cause.
Yesterday I replaced the pulleys on my derailleur. The original ones were cracked, and I thought it was a good idea to replace them before doing BRAG (the Bike Ride Across Georgia) in the North Georgia mountains next week. I’m trying to find a metaphor there but can’t. It was a simple activity, me learning to do something new.
If in my new life, I can find pleasure and fulfillment in small things, I think I have a pretty good life. An important observation to note.