Friday, September 24, 2010

Learning to Fly, On Two Wheels

When I crashed the motorcycle, I crashed more than a Suzuki 250. Thanks to integrated crash bars, and the fact that I was going under 30 mph and making a left turn, I wasn’t really injured. I had a small bruise on my right upper arm from where the handlebar bumped me. My left arm and shoulder were sore and jarred because I gripped the handgrip so tight and forgot to let go, once I realized I was about to go down. I managed to keep my right leg clear from under the bike, and the riding coach was close enough to hit the engine kill switch that, in my confusion, I was unable to remember. He helped me right the bike, and told me to get back on and get going.
So, for awhile, I did.

I knew learning to ride was a stretch. I’m closer to 50 than 40. Thanks to some old injuries, including a 12 foot fall from a tree six years ago, I have damage to my neck and back that is not getting better with time. After a minor twisting fall last September on our wedding anniversary, I’ve spent most of 2010 in physical therapy, taking steroids and having spinal blocks on my neck to keep my discs unbulging, and a veritable alphabet soup of painful and debilitating conditions at bay. On my worst days, upright mobility was a stretch. On my best days, I was walking and moving fairly normally. Maybe taking this class really was a bad idea after all.

When I realized I couldn’t feel a thing in my left hand, and I was having to look at the clutch to see if my fingers were actually moving when I thought I was shifting gears, I knew it was time to quit. The rider coach was shouting at me to shift up and go faster. Instead, I pulled over, hit the kill switch and fumbled with the latch of my helmet. He strode up in the no-nonsense way that only a former Navy Senior Chief can do and started yelling at me. I looked at him, flipped up my face screen and said, “No way, Senior Chief. This isn’t my bag.”

I don’t know what surprised him more: that I’d figured out his former rank or that I was giving up. I parked the bike out the way, collected my stuff, shrugged and headed to the car. It wasn’t until I got there that I let the tears come down. It really did stink to give up. I hate giving up and admitting I can’t do something. Accepting the limitations of an aging and battered body is becoming a more frequent challenge. It hurts to look at myself as getting older. Hell, it hurts to fall off motorcycles.

So, I went home, where I found a surprised Norwegian. He consoled me for my hurts, but praised me for trying in the first place, and also for knowing when to cut my losses. We traded our beloved rooster to some farmers. We had lunch. We delivered Dear Daughter from one activity to another. We sat on the couch with the dogs and watched the light rain turn into sunshine.

Then, we drove to the Vespa dealership.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Vernal Equinox

Alas, my poor starveling little looks a lot like my garden this time of year. Both are shriveled and withered, neglected and wasted. Not that I don't think about them both a great deal of the time. Despite my best intentions, I've allowed a great deal of time to come between this post and the previous one.

And for that, dear reader (for I see, I still have one follower), I am heartily ashamed. You see, in my heart, I still think of myself as a writer. But how can I be a writer, if I don't make the time to write? And if I am truly a writer, what could be more important than writing?

But good grief, has it really been nine months? I could have produced an entire human being in this interval, much less an occasional blog post.

Motivation, or lack thereof, has been a recurring theme in my world this past year. It's lacking in most areas of my life these days. I stay busy--there's always plenty to do, and I have good ideas--but I'm not much on following through anymore. I'm not sure if it has to do with my age, the pressures of our sandwich years, work, a combination neck and back injury last year, the possible progression of a chronic illness or what, but I'm slipping, folks, and it's not a good feeling.

Recently, in an attempt to kick-start (literally) my life, I took a class. While some women my age are picking up scrapbooking or golf or oeneology, I took a motorcycle driving course. I'd reached the do-or-die point where, having never even been ON a motorcycle, it was simply time to try. So I paid my money and I took my chances one warmish Saturday afternoon. The classroom portion was easy. The driving portion, mmm, not so much. My chronic neck injury crap has damaged the nerves in my left arm and hand enough that riding the clutch on a motorcycle isn't exactly safe for me. I rode for about an hour, trying to fake my way through, covering the fact that shifting gears was not just hard for me, but not really possible. It was about an hour after surviving my first crash (blessedly minor) that I gave it up, and helmet in hands, went home to contemplate my next move.

Which, three hours later, turned out to be go out and buy a scooter with an automatic transmission.

(next post...learning to fly--on two wheels)