After two difficult years I was tired of sympathetic voices, puppy-dog looks and an environment filled with reminders to walk gently and pamper myself. Instead, I craved thundering noise, the thrill of speed. I wanted icy air whipping against my face, making me know I was alive. I wanted crescendo, vibrato, to drown my screams and tears behind the roar of a large powerful engine.
Opening the heavy glass door and stepping into the Harley dealership, I entered an unexplored world. Confronted by hundreds of shiny motorcycles laden with chrome and leather, covered with colorful graphics and logos, I felt my courage falter. My light-hearted fantasy evaporated as the realities of my impulsive decision started to settle in.
Until a month ago, I had never dreamed of riding a motorcycle. I didn’t have a husband, family or even friends who rode. At 57, I was at the age when many of my friends were scaling down their physical activities as they edged toward retirement. There are many acceptable activities for a widow, but learning to ride a motorcycle wasn’t on anyone’s list – even at the very bottom, if such a list exists …
This motorcycle journey had been birthed during a routine Sunday evening call with my sister and brother-in-law. These weekly calls with Anita and Bruce were our way of staying in touch and their making sure I was moving forward with life. When we were ready to say goodbye, Bruce started into the ritual routine advice I had heard thousands of times.
I called it “The Survivor’s Trilogy” because, although there were different versions, the same three directives ended our conversations – eat well, exercise, get plenty of sleep. Up to this point, I had always listened politely, but tonight I was too frustrated to remain silent any longer. I cut Bruce off.
“I’ve tried all of that. I’m eating, exercising and sleeping better than anyone I know. I’ve over-achieved at following these recommendations. I keep waiting to feel better. It’s not working. I’m…I’m miserable!”
I was surprised to hear myself say these words out loud because, up to this point, I had not even admitted them to myself. This standard, often-repeated advice for surviving a major loss wasn’t working.
Now that I had started to express myself, months of pent-up frustration emboldened me as I defiantly searched for the most contrary behaviors to those directives that I could think of.
“My new plan is to go out and buy a jumbo-sized bag of lard fried potato chips and eat them all in one setting, and, um…” I paused, struggling for something even more absurd and rebellious. Finally, I blurted out, “and learn to ride a motorcycle!”