19 July, 2009

The Ups & Downs

img_6641The world is divided into two kinds of people. Those who are empathetic toward cyclicsts as they wend their precarious way on streets made only for vehicles of the gas-guzzling variety, and those who treat cyclists like flies at a picnic. I’ve been thinking about such things, lately, as I pedal my way back and forth from the hospital. I also find myself looking yearningly at other cyclists, all of whom seem a hundred times more fit and capable and at ease than I am. They are certainly more suitably clad.

I am rarely suitably clad for cycling though I’ve made some serious concessions. I don’t wear high heels, for instance, though I’d like to. Instead I shuffle about in sneakers masquerading as brown, real-looking shoes. I have to wear loose t-shirts back home, which means I have to wear them there. I don’t own many t-shirts, mostly because they come up to my throat and make me feel strangled, but after a few days of biking around in pretty blouses on my girl-bike rubike3feeling like a demure English maid of yore, I had to locate t-shirts. I finally hacked at a grey one a friend had given me (front: Be careful or you’ll end up in my novel). I comforted myself that this is, indeed, what writers do: they hack to make a story fit. I put on dangly earrings and sun glasses, but the helmet kind of kills the whole look anyway. The only thing that makes me happy about this whole disguise are yoga pants which at least bestow the wearer some shape!

It isn’t that bad, really. I get up every morning with an excuse hanging before me. It’s too early, you can stay in bed, you are allowed to be tired and unable, it says to me. I have to get past that road block and brush my teeth. Once I’ve done that and grimaced my way into the confounded t-shirts, I might as well get on the bike, so I do. Life is so much about disguise and performance. You get the right costume on (sneakers, t-shirt) stand before the props (bike, helmet), and the rest comes to pass. Which is probably why it isn’t good to loll around in bed or go out to greet the world on a normal day in sweatpants. You do that long enough and you become a slouch and a jock. I don’t think the slouch/jock life is a good one to get comfortable with.

But maybe that is just an inability I have to be okay with slacking off. That’s the other thing about the biking. I’m constantly meeting people who say complimentary things about me simply because I bike to the hospital. Those comments get under my skin and I think about them every morning as I zoom down the slopes (sometimes, just for the fun of it since there’s nobody to see, with ballet legs outstretched!), feeling like a fake. How could this be difficult, I ask myself, while the wind finds my skin every way it can, I’m going downhill for goodness sakes! Guilt washes over me. I feel I should stop talking about cycling at all since clearly I’m hardly pedaling! But then it struck me, surely if I’m going downhill at anytime, at least some of the time I must be going uphill too. But the uphills don’t register. All I see are the downhills. And the downhills make me feel like a fraud.

Which has, in turn, lead me to evaluate the way I look at myself, constantly seeing that which has been easy rather than recognizing anything that has been achieved with difficulty. It’s easy to learn to undermine ones own strength that way, and I don’t quite know how I became so used to doing it, but the bike thing has helped reset some of it. Monday looms. I’ll try to mind those ups tomorrow.

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The Books:

The Books:

On Sal Mal Lane

In the tradition of In the Time of the Butterflies and The Kite Runner, a tender, evocative novel about the years leading up to the Sri Lankan civil war.

A Disobedient Girl

A Disobedient Girl is a compelling map of womanhood, its desires and loyalties, set against the backdrop of beautiful, politically turbulent, Sri Lanka.


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