Thursday, July 10, 2014

A day of karmic injury and repair

I am riding my bike along a favorite path, my first ride of the summer on what I think of as the "long route" (as opposed to the "short route"-- yes, a lot of creativity goes into my bike routes and their identification). I know that I am approaching a popular entrance onto the bike path so I should be on the lookout for the occasional clueless rider who isn't paying attention to oncoming traffic as he/she wobbles tentatively on to the path. And indeed, here they come, one, two, three young riders following a 20-something summer-campy-leader/guide-looking type guy. And the kids keep coming until there are about 10 of them strung out all across the path, occupying both lanes of the bike path, as well as the pedestrian portion, leaving me no way around them. And I know, since they are kids, they don't mean to be a-holes about their bike path etiquette, they just aren't familiar with this situation. However, 20-something, summer-campy-leader dude has probably been here before but he is not providing any guidance so I (kindly) call out "scoot, scoot guys! Don't take up the whole path!" Because that is what I would say, as a mom, to my child if she were the one being clueless. It's like a friendly little nudge. But the kids remain oblivious, as is campy-leader dude. I slow way down but still hope to navigate a path around them as they are now slowly making forward progress. Then some speedy kid decides no way Jose does he want to end up at the back of the pack. He will take this most inopportune moment to veer to the left and pedal up to his campy-leader friend. I unleash a wee tiny fraction of my pent-up bitterness and say, "You can't take up the whole path! People are trying to pass you!" And then I add an involuntary gutteral snort of disapproval and mutter "Jeez!" as I clear the bunch of youngsters and pedal off to greater freedom.

In repsonse, campy-leader dude hollers, "You're not the only one on the path, you know! Have a nice day!"

And I can tell, he doesn't really mean it. I don't think that he wants me to have a nice day at all. His insincerity was palpable.

As I shrug it off and get on with my ride, I see in my head the earnest little faces of the children I just verbally abused. I could tell the stragglers at the back were truly concentrating on not getting in my way but they just weren't sure where to go. And I replay my remarks, wincing at the bitchy, condescending tone of voice. I say to myself (defensively), "But they need to be aware of the people around them! If you're a car, you can't just pull out into the middle of an intersection and sit there! You have to watch for traffic!" Campy-leader dude should have planned and executed that whole thing better. Shame on him. Loser.

A mile later I admit to myself that my behavior was lame. I was too bitchy, my reaction was too much, I was venting crabbiness and frustration that was packed too tightly in my head that belongs elsewhere, not unleashed on the biking summer campers. I say to myself, "I'm sorry kids, that was too much. I didn't need to be that cranky. You were doing your best and it's not really your fault and I sincerely apologize. I really do." I recall the myriad times when I have issued this exact same apology to Martha after I explode over some minor infraction. And I repeat my apologies, hoping that if I mentally toss them out into the cosmos it will make up for my poor performance earlier. I am way too crabby. I need to work on that. I rededicate myself to the task of being kind. And lastly, I chuckle quietly as I think, "ha, ha, wouldn't it be funny if I have an accident on this rid?" Payback... Huh. Loser.

Fast forward a few miles to the road along the Mississipi River and the sign that says, plain as day, BIKE PATH CLOSED AHEAD. There has been a lot of flooding around Minnesota this summer and I have heard that a portion of this road has been closed. But I feel like it has been fairly dry of late, perhaps the path isn't really flooded anymore. I'll just ride off the curb and go right through that narrow opening in the road block.

I am not savvy on my bike. It may be that my lack of savviness explains, in part, why I am a little on edge when a big group of riders wanders out in front of me. I cannot steer my bike through the narrow opening and I will have to stop. And then it comes, the moment of exquisite anguish as I realize I can't unclip my feet from my pedals in time to stop and there is no way out. I am going down. It's not really so bad falling over and crashing into the street, but it's not my favorite thing. Still, I feel like it's justified in this instance. The blood running down my leg affirms my suspicion that I needed to repent for my rude display earlier. I think I am almost happy that I just fell over.

Eventually, I realize I should turn around and go back the way I came. I am not surprised when, a few miles later, I see the group of young riders lead by their leader dude and, once again, I am happy. I slow down and call out to them, "I just want to apologize for yelling at you when you got on the path! I'm really sorry!" But snarky leader dude replies, "Ok. Have a nice day!" And then I look right at one of the boys and point at my leg and say, "Look! I fell off my bike as payback!" I think he smiled. A lone girl in the group calls out, "Do you need a band-aid?" I tell her, "No, I'm okay! But thank you!" And that little question just made my day. I feel it is the forgiveness I need.

Once again, I feel certain that the dude did not really mean it when he said "Have a nice day!" But I don't care. I think I am having a nice day anyway.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Homage to sweatpants, my mother & the cold temps

 First, a little Haiku for a chilly day:

Air so cold, skin aches
leaves us trapped inside our homes
life slows, sweatpants rule

Second, a little anecdote:

Several years ago, before I had my daughter and I still lived out east, I was visiting my mom here in Minnesota during the winter months. Sub-zero temperatures were moving through and I was dressed, I thought, appropriately in jeans over long underwear. I felt rather snug and warm, encased in fabric from head to toe. My mom, however, had some issue with my clothing choice. She of the "my way is the only correct way" mindset, is intensely anti-denim in the winter. It's too cold next to your skin, she says. Which is why I chose long underwear to insulate me from the icy interior of my jeans. But that was oddly and inexplicably irrelevant to her.

So she says to me, in her finest irritated, critical and verging on angry voice, "Don't you own any sweatpants?" Because sweatpants, preferably purchased for no more than $9.99/pair, is her go to choice of bottoms on a frigid, winter day.

And I responded, with as much disdain and condescension as I could muster, "Mom, I don't wear sweatpants out in public."

I was perfectly comfortable, god-damnit, why did she have to harass me about my choice of pants? Even if I didn't have the essential base layer under my denim, what was it to her? It's no skin off her ass if I'm cold, right?

And here it is, 12+ years later, and 13 degrees below zero outside and when I finally showered and got dressed at 2 o'clock this afternoon to run to the pet store, what do you suppose I wore? Sweatpants.

Cheers to you, ma, and your cranky, old-lady ways. If she knew what I spent for my fleecie sweatpants, however, she'd most certainly have something (critical) to say about that. There is no pleasing that woman. Be warm, friends, in your jeans, as well as in your hearts.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sometimes I am invisible

Pretty close similarity
Sometimes I am invisible. I'm not exactly sure how or when it happens but it's true, on occasion I can become strangely transparent. I am like a ghost. Although I feel heavy and solid, the people around me don't seem to notice me. There is no acknowledgement of my presence. I watch their faces and their eyes are focused elsewhere and their posture bears no sign of the fact that I am standing just inches away. I can hear my voice speaking, feel the vibration in my head, yet my words pass unnoticed. Sometimes, the people who can't see me even begin talking while I am still speaking and this is what makes me realize I am obviously invisible.

Whenever this happens to me, I walk away confused and a little dejected. I am not sure how I should react. Should I try harder to be seen or should I accept my invisibility? Perhaps it's a sign that I should reel myself in, avert my eyes and hunch my shoulders, still my voice so that I am as small and quiet as I can be. I don't want to disturb anyone. Mostly I just shake my head and wonder why they can't see me.

There are other people, though, who definitely see me. I am so big and so bright to them, I see myself filling up their faces and overflowing out into the world. Some people can't help but see me and I think they see me even when I am not around. There are not that many people like this but there are enough to confirm for me that I am alive and real.

I wish I could use my invisibility more to my advantage, but it is so unpredictable that I just couldn't count on it for something like crime fighting or sneaking into someone's house just to see how they live. For now, I will have to stick with things the way they are. Whenever I need to know I really exist, I'll just spend time with my dog. He always knows I'm around.

But just a word of advice, for anyone else who has ever experienced this: if they can't see you, maybe they are not supposed to. Even if you were to make your presence known, they would never see you as you really are. Just go with it. Pretend you are a superhero. Maybe you really are.