|No this is not my bike and there's no way I'm riding on the beach--but it's ORANGE!|
I rode my bike for the first time yesterday morning. I know that doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but I haven’t ridden a moving bike in over a year and definitely not since my knee surgery. Chris encouraged me to try it—the breakfast burrito at the marina ½ mile away was also a good incentive.
Here’s the truth. I was scared to death. I suspect Chris knew it. As we went into the garage and I led the bike (yes it sounds like I'm talking about leading a bucking bronco, but that's what that bike looked like to me, and I was pretty sure it could do as much danger) I didn't say a word. Actually I didn't say a word the whole way except once when I thought he was going to swerve into me and I shrieked, "What are you doing?" He was a good 8 feet away...back to that fear thing.
I got on the bike and gripped the handlebars. I stared straight ahead and used all my energy to concentrate on keeping the bike steady and upright. Immediately after turning off our street I saw 2 bikes coming towards me. In my head I was panicking. I didn’t want to move over into the grass and ride on unsteady ground. They did it for me passing me on the grass, smiling, waving (who lets go of their handlebars--they were clearly senior citizen stunt people. She even had a bag of groceries in her basket!) and saying, "Good morning." I was as grateful to them as I was for the spinal block after 36 hours of hard labor.
Just as they passed I realized I wasn't smiling, I didn't wave, and I didn't say thank you. I was too scared; I was concentrating too hard. “I’m sure they think I’m rude.” I thought to myself and kept thinking to myself deciding over and over and over completely convinced the rude, crazy lady on the bike was going to be the topic of their conversation all morning.
A short while later I crossed the street. I knew this perilous act was coming; I'd been dreading it from the beginning. I knew the cars had the right away and I'd have to brake without falling and then restart again without falling. But instead a car stopped to let me pass. I was white knuckling those handlebars and didn’t wave thanks. More Miss Manners shame washed over me.
Seriously y'all I couldn't stop thinking about all this. (My therapist already knows I need to see her when I get back...) But you've got to keep in mind we are in South Carolina, in the SOUTH—everyone waves and smiles and says hey to EVERYONE!!! It's so ingrained in us we don't even realize we're doing it. I had a boyfriend in college from Baltimore that just couldn't understand how I knew so many people when we walked on the inner harbor. When I told him I didn't know them he was completely befuddled. "Why would you speak to them then?" "Well duh", I thought, "because that's just what you do...obviously not the man for me to marry."
Returning home I tried to be better. I thought I was smiling even though I knew there was now way in tarnation I was going to wave to anyone. I suspect, however, my strained smile looked more like I had some Carolina gnats stuck in my teeth and nary a toothpick in sight.
But here's the thing I can think about now that I'm safely back with not a scratch on me. I wonder how many times we judge someone based on their facial expressions or the way they respond or don't respond? I wonder how many times we place our expectations for relationship on others? I wonder how many times we don’t give each other the benefit of the doubt? And really, let's just put this out there, how many times do we think we're so important that we are the subject of other's conversations?
People are complicated and living complicated lives. Some lives are full of pain and fear. Sometimes people are doing everything they can to just stay upright, to just keep moving, to just stay on track. Sometimes people are white knuckling it through life holding onto what they can.
So, what if instead of judging when someone didn’t respond the way we wanted we sent up a prayer, “God be with that person in whatever place that person is?” What if we gave people the benefit of the doubt--assumed good intentions? What if we noticed, acknowledged, and gave thanks for the people that move over to give us the space we need, gave thanks for the people who let us have the right away even if it's not what the world says is the "right" way?
What if we extended a little more grace?
Oh by the way, I made it there and back—and breakfast was awesome! Might even try another ride today....