First “real” bike ride of the season last Sunday, and I enjoyed every minute of it. It was sunny and warmish, so I got on all my cold weather gear and headed out on the Pretty Purple Bike. Only 12 miles, but a lovely first outing. My spirit was soaring all the way and for hours afterward. Today looks promising, too, if the temperature nudges up a little. We’ll see.
I’m so grateful for the role cycling has played in my life. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it (and I certainly haven’t mastered life), but it has made my life more enjoyable and healthier. It has helped me manage depression, and given me something to be excited about throughout the years. Something I can do by myself, for my health and enjoyment, outside my house and my head, which sometimes is a very big deal. It’s also just a really lovely way to be out in the sunshine and the air, with the trees and the flowers and the birds and the lake and to feel a part of the world; to be moving and free, and alive.
In Susan B. Anthony’s time the bicycle gave women increased autonomy and was representative of all women sought to gain in 19th and early 20th century America: freedom from dependence on men, equal access to activities outside the home, and visibility in society, not to mention healthy exercise.
Susan B. Anthony has always been a hero for me. A fellow Aquarian, she never married, so those are the most obvious connections we have, but we share a common world view and hard-core idealism, also. Unlike me, however, she had the drive and the intelligence to pursue her dreams and attempt to change the world, which she did, alongside other women, among them most notably Elizabeth Cady Stanton, another hero.
I had the desire, but not the drive or the intelligence to change the world. Depression throughout my life crippled me and made simply managing my own life an all-consuming challenge. I was lucky that not marrying is not that odd now – it was a much bigger deal for Susan B. Anthony to choose that path in her time. I was able to attend college, Susan was not. I had many advantages she did not, but I fell short of my goals. I admire her because she had so much against her and in spite of it all she succeeded.
Susan B. was not interested in personal success or fame. Everything she did was out of a sense of justice and morality, fueled by her Quaker religion and innate idealism. She was not celebrated in that time for her views. She was an abolitionist, a member of the Temperance movement, and a leader in the fight for women’s rights. She was about as far from a Kardashian as it is possible to be. She wasn’t popular and she and her compatriots sacrificed a lot personally to pursue what they knew to be right, and in doing so they changed history.
That’s the path I want to be on. I have a long way to go and not much time, though. I don’t have anything to show for my life. Yet. There is still a chance I will be able to do something worthwhile for someone other than myself. I don’t think I have it in me to change history, but I could maybe change something for someone somewhere. That’s something to aspire to, I think – just the hope that I could leave this planet having made life better for just one person in some way.
I’ll think about it some more on my ride this afternoon. See you on the trail.
PS – It’s Mother’s Day in America, so if you nurture someone or something, Happy Mother’s Day to you.
I can’t say this about very many days, but I know exactly where I was at this time on this day 21 years ago. I know because it was the day my life started to unravel. Just a little thread that day; I didn’t realize that it wasn’t easily repaired and that ultimately everything would come apart. I would lose everything that mattered to me, including a business I put heart and soul into for 5 years. I would end up in bankruptcy court and the judgment would be harsh. It would take years to recover financially, mentally and emotionally.
But that was all still a long way off on this day in 1998. That day I was starting a new job waiting tables at the Country Club. I know it was this particular Saturday because the first day I worked was on the afternoon of the Kentucky Derby that year. I was working as a waitress, serving wealthy people who came to watch the Derby and drink mint julips in the lounge with their rich friends. I think of that afternoon every year on Derby day. I’ll never forget it, for lots of reasons.
First, never in my life had people been so rude to me. I had worked in restaurants on and off since 1976, but I had never waited table. I wasn’t very good at it, and the people I was waiting on were not very understanding. It was a LONG afternoon. It sucked, but I went back the next day, and the next night and on and on for a couple of months because I had to.
I had a business, and a client who didn’t pay on time and I was in financial turmoil. I had to do something to keep myself and the business afloat, so I took that second job at night and on weekends to bring in some cash. During the day I did client work as usual, and at 4 o’clock almost everyday I put on my uniform and sturdy shoes and went to work serving privileged and unpleasant people.
I hated every minute of that job. Every single second. The chef was a tyrant and the members were unkind and dismissive. I had one man tell me he thought I should go get a job at Burger King because that seemed to be more my pace. This after he had known me a half hour, and because I had made a mistake on his wife’s drink order. Please, just shoot me now. What would make you believe it would be okay for you to say something like that to a complete stranger? And what makes you think it’s so easy to work at Burger King, asshole? Money does strange things to people.
They were all like that. I would like to report that most people were kind, but that would not be true. With the exception of one couple who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and had obviously saved up for a special dinner out, every single person I waited on for the two months I was there was simply unkind and impatient at best and verbally abusive at worst. I’ve never been so happy to leave any job in my life, and I’ve had a lot of jobs.
I left after two months because I got a job at a different restaurant in town where I could make more money and where I knew a lot of the staff. It was better, and I stuck with it until Thanksgiving that year. The extra money helped and I thought I would be okay then, but the writing was on the wall and two years later I would have to admit it was there and that it was true. I closed the business and got a “real” job doing graphics work for Acme Health Services. I’m still there today, and it has been a good thing, though it has taken me a long time to see it that way.
It`s been a long road. It was hard and on any given day I would have said that I would never recover all that I lost that summer and after. But here I am, and I’m okay, and if I need money like that again I know exactly what I won’t be doing. I’m grateful for the experience though, for several reasons.
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses (or mint julips), but the whole experience, beginning on that day so long ago, has been worth the pain and the struggle to survive. I wish I had been wiser and could have made those changes without the body-slam from the universe, but that’s not how it happened then, and I’m not sure it would happen any differently now, though I fancy myself as being a little wiser than that waitress in 1998.
Humans are a hard-headed, stiff-necked group, though, and I’m 100% human. I hope the next time I’m so clearly headed off-course, that the universe will steer me right once again, though a little more gently next time, please. It’s those hard come-arounds that give you whiplash and do damage to the ship. However it happens, though, I trust that there is more in store for this old girl.
I hope so. Cuz, man what a trip around the track it’s been so far!