Get on your bike and ride

Steven Tyler
Image by japrea via Flickr

I want to ride my bicycle. It sounds so simple, but I’m afraid of the traffic, the line of shiny cars with drivers oblivious or resenting me. I glide by on narrow streets forcing them to slow down: they’re texting, they’re playing Lady Ga Ga, they’re browbeating their kid with the pink streaked hair; and my bike can barely fit between the car and the curb, the possibility of dying, just because I want to ride my bike, like I did when I was a kid and the streets felt less narrow and the world less complex and I felt less old. Steven Tyler was the new lead singer for a band called Aerosmith and not an American Idol judge.

I twirled a circle in my half-moon driveway and out onto the street, a yellow transistor radio dangling from the handle bars and Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” played at highest volume, before there were iPods, MP3 players, hey, before there were Walkman’s. What’s a Walkman half of my audience is asking? What’s a transistor radio? Dream On, Dream on, Dream on…

I want to ride my bicycle, but I’m afraid of being hit by a car. I thought I was being a coward until a friend of a friend actually died when he was riding his. A year ago I had a funny post in mind about all of my irrational fears of getting mowed down as I rode in the streets, but then this guy really died so I never posted.

My cat died this year. Nothing is the same. The grease guard has broken off of the main gear shaft and my pants get all black when I ride. My cat dying has changed my life. I took one spin around a local industrial park that has no traffic on weekends and the chain fell off. Sweetie is gone forever. I had no gloves and my hands turned black as I slowly figured out how to reapply the chain.

The front steps need to be re-stained. The deck needs to be re-stained. I’m supposed to re-plant those bulbs that flowered now that they’ve turned brown. Throw them back into the earth. Where my cat now rests.

I want to ride my bike with a new friend on whom I have a crush (crush 2,353 in my life) but she has a husband and a life and I don’t know when she’ll make our bike date or if she should make it or if she and I will ever make it. I want to ride my bike with her.

And then hold hands. Like lovers, or like children, or like anything other than being alone without my cat and a bike with a chain that falls off turning my hands black, my pants, too.

I have two new cats, a bunny, a fish, and an elderly woman to take care of. I scoop shit and pee out of the cat box twice daily, slide out a bunny hutch tray and remove bedding mixed with bunny droppings and bunny pee, vacuum carpet full of cat hair from two living cats and still from one dead; let Bunny out of his hutch so he can hop free because it’s good for his psyche; oh, feed the fish but change the water first because he is barely moving. My mother has three doctors’ appointments coming up. I have two. Don’t forget to reschedule the dentist and gyno who has a six month waiting list. Finish revising your thesis so you feel as though you accomplished something during those two years in graduate school. I need to clean out the closet under the stairs, the shed, the upstairs bedroom closets, and the toilets. I need to read great books.

I’m falling asleep on a Saturday morning with one of the new cats. I’ve written nothing and it’s too cold to ride my bike.

I have fantasies about riding my bicycle. Under trees, alongside lakes with swans, in a cool breeze under a warm sun. With her. No. More likely I will bring my dead cat back in a seance than be with her.

Yesterday I reminded myself that the rest of this year is about adventure no matter how scary. The cat is gone so you might as well move forward with life, Cindy, and do what you do so well: overcome fear. So, I booked plane tickets to Seattle to spend time on Whidbey Island with Erika and Ann; I paid my tuition for the writing retreat in Colorado in August where I get to work directly with the great Dorothy Allison, and I got on my bike yesterday, placed the stupid purple helmet on my head and wore a winter coat (still cold here in April.) I took the plunge and ventured into the busy car-filled streets – and I survived.

I want to ride my bicycle, and I will ride it again, by myself, tomorrow. Another day and a little more courage gained.

So, everyone, get on your bike and ride.


  1. Oh Cindy. One breath at a time. One day at a time. One bike ride at a time. One blog at a time. Grieving just plain sucks. Keep riding. I’m sure it’ll help.


  2. I really relate to this one Cindy. I’m a timid biker… barely a biker. I still fall off when I steer my handlebars with a wobble. So embarrassing. I’m afraid of cars, pedestrians and the curb. You are cycling past your fear and grief; it takes grit and getting your hands dirty with bicycle grease and the mess of living. Life is bike chains falling off, losing the ones we love, and finding the will to ride on. Keep going forward and you will get there. Wherever there is for you, I know you’ll make it. You’ve inspired me to get on my bike and overcome my riding anxiety this spring.


    • That was such a lovely comment, Elissa. I love the parallels you make with biking, grieving, and riding on. Thank you so much. Would you like to take a bike ride with me sometime? We could find a safe place to start.


  3. Just bike like you walk … with one foot/pedal at a time. (Of course, if I could take my own advice, I’d be going so many place in/with my life!

    Just go, girl!


    • Hi Robin!

      Thanks for reading my blog and commenting. It is a challenge for me to push myself further and further when I have to rely on my own physical and mental strength to get me back home. This is a symptom of my lingering agoraphobia, which at various times in my life left me housebound. Bike riding is a great activity to push me further against the limits I’ve had in my life. I was supposed to ride with a friend today but she couldn’t make it. I ended up curled up in bed with Timmy (cat) and a book, as you know from Facebook. Tomorrow morning first thing – back on the bike. I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂


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