From my journal, yesterday…
I am at peace today. I was making excuses to get out of my favourite bike ride of life. It’s a long, winding, thrilling 10K from the cottage to the next town over, first through this town with its mix of cottages (both rustic and modern), trailers, tennis courts and trees, then along the shores of a mighty, majestic lake. You can feel that these shores were an Indigenous sacred place, that those wiser and more in tune with nature than zombie colonial consumerists respected its power and its grace for more than just a bit of sunny summer fun.
It was nearly 40 degrees Celsius with the humidity. It felt foolish to attempt it, but my daughter insisted. “You should go. It’s something you love to do, mom.” She was right, of course. I rode to the tennis courts first and watched the boys in their tournament, listening to the chatter of privileged white teenagers, the girls discussing tans and salads, the boys discussing the gym and submarine sandwiches. Ridiculous that so much has changed and yet nothing at all. If I think about it too much I will feel depressed, so I shrug it off and just accept what is.
The boys mostly suck —that’s my boy! Takes after his uncoordinated mom, who was one-half of the losingest tennis doubles team in her 13th summer on earth. I vow that we will play this summer, all three of us. That we will not wait for things to happen to us. That we will go and make them happen. I will remind them time and time again that sustained effort and consistency are what deliver improvements in life. And that you have to want it badly enough.
I have come here alone, with my children and one friend of my son’s. I will celebrate a birthday up here, another rotation around the sun, reaching a possible mid-way point to a number that sounds both reasonable to me as a logical person, and unreasonable to me as someone who loves life. I am trying to avoid pride, while also being somewhat self-celebratory that I can do this, that I AM DOING THIS, this thing alone. This thing called life.
I left the boys mid-play, cycling away from the town and my children and pedalled towards freedom. “It’s going to be hard,” I remind myself, “There will be times you want to quit, but you should push through. There will be times when you want to rest and you should take a moment. The goal, the intention, is presence. Experience how your mind and your body battle it out and reunite them with your spirit.” It didn’t take long for the glee to kick in, for the gratitude for a body that works, for a mind that gets out of its own way some of the time, for the abundance and wealth and privilege of being able to come to a place like this.
Beach towns are in my blood, culturally this is how my ancestors would escape their oppressively hot ancient cities. My mother has many tales of summer enjoyment on an island or at lakeside escape. My father did not give her a lot, but he knew she loved a beach and would try to make that happen for her on occasion, even though we didn’t have much. You don’t need much to experience paradise, just the right environment and the right company, and often not even that.
I weep at the majesty of the enormous lake, its waves lapping gently in places and threateningly in others. I have worn my bikini under my tank and shorts. I have promised myself a solo swim. A woman on a beach alone is a tragic figure among the throngs of families, but I like that I will have an air of mystery. A woman happy to be alone is something to fear.
At the end of the trail I stop for a rest. I’m not completely cured of my desire to connect outward, so I send a few texts to the strong women in my life. The end of the trail is the beginning of the way home, I say. Earlier in the week, while cycling with my daughter, I tell her that bicycles were the beginning of women finding freedom, that men could make rules about who could drive, but a bike ride was the first time a woman could ride away from everything on her own. I’m grateful but have mixed feelings about the extreme safety and freedom I feel here, on this land occupied by many white-haired white people, land that sits next to a First Nations reserve, but where you barely see any Indigenous people. I try just to observe and not judge, though I can’t shake the uneasiness of the inequity.
Dr. X writes back, “You’re living the good cake!” The good cake refers to a statement I made about Monsieur Magique, whom I almost took a break from recently. I decided my life is like really good cake, and he is lovely but complicated icing. “I could scrape off the icing,” I’d surmised, “and be perfectly happy with really good cake.” (MM was overwhelmed with life, when I suggested the break to let him off the hook, but instead he leaned in harder and took me away for a delightful weekend, but that’s another story, and I think I may keep it just for me.)
I cycle back listening to Krishna Das, then pausing to listen to the waves and the birds. I stop at the beach and write most of this after a cold, refreshing swim. I emerge from the water, proud, strong, independent. ALIVE.
I will no longer make apologies for my need for solitude. Instead I will continue to build my life around space. I am a good mom, I don’t need to question it. I am living the good cake. Not everyone likes cake, so it’s not about me when they don’t like me. I will no longer allow the perception of others to make me question myself.
I will be my own best boyfriend, my own true love, my own steady partner. I will not let her down, I will not let her go. I will stay with her when she is sick, when she is sad, disappointed or in pain. I will look her hurt and tragedies in the eye and I will not flinch, nor will I try to fix it. I will just stay and hold my own hand.
I am whole. I am made in the image my creator wanted. I am flawed but my flaws make me beautiful, unique. I am always learning, parts of me dying to make room for new growth.
I’m nearly halfway, if I’m lucky. No more apologies. No more hand-wringing. No more doubt. Just a cautious hurtling forward, clumsy but with moments of grace. It’s all here for the taking. The only thing in my way is me. I start today.