Sunday, October 10, 2010

Life Cycling

“Seeing yourself in print is such an amazing concept: you can get so much attention without having to actually show up somewhere.” – Anne Lamott, from Bird by Bird.

If I asked long enough, my mother would tell me the story of how I taught myself to ride a bike. It would go something like this:

“You were about four. One day, you just decided it was time for us to take the training wheels off of your big girl bike. Once the bike was ready, you went out, by yourself, on our back patio and practiced and practiced until you finally figured it out. You didn’t want any help. I’d look out of the kitchen window and there you'd be, with no shirt and your face redder than your hair. You kept a towel around your neck to wipe away the sweat and tears. After a couple of hours, you’d accomplished your goal with absolutely no help from anyone else.”

I never really took to bike riding. I rode some as a child, of course, but I’ve always preferred to walk, or better yet, to ride in the air conditioned comfort of an automobile. But, this isn’t a story about my learning to ride a bike. It’s a story about how I’m still learning who I am and how I’m made. Although my 60-year-old self happily applauds the tenacity I displayed on that summer day so many years ago, I've had to sit back and ponder my early-age decision to learn to ride a bicycle on a small patio, instead of a sidewalk, a playground, or a parking lot, with no instruction or advice from others.

After 56 years, my pondering is just now offering what could have been a helpful glimpse into my future, a foretelling of things to come, if I’d just been more alert as a young child. And if I could have just taken what would have been my very own four-year-old sage advice, I might have saved some time in becoming who I was ultimately going to be anyway.

I'm just now realizing that learning and doing and creating have, seemingly, always been a personal and private thing for me, just as it was on
that day on that patio. Looking back, I see that I’ve never been one for study or support groups; sit-ins and love-ins have never interested me, neither have sing-alongs or group hugs. Although I appear to be outgoing and chummy, I can only hold on to that facade for a short period of time.

I’ve come to believe that many introverts become life of-the-party class clowns in order to survive until they can go home and be with their very best friends who just so happen to be their very own personal selves. I do like people, in small doses, and most of the time, people like me, probably because I don’t hang around long enough wear out my welcome. I wouldn’t want a world without other people as I need to have them around to edify, entertain, and then irritate me to the point where I can wish them away.

And this is where writing comes in. After a work day or a dinner party or even a family outing, I need to go home and process my thoughts and feelings, by myself, after I leave others behind. And, as Anne Lamott points out for many writers, I do enjoy the attention that writing sometimes brings as long as I don't have to be present when it's given.

And so, it seems that I'm a writer and not a cyclist, not because I’m a great thinker or a particularly talented wordsmith but because writing fits who I am and how I navigate the world from my own little personal space. Unless you are Salman Rushdie, writing is safer than bike riding, although it’s hard to experience much of life from behind a computer screen.

Therefore, I'll try, as always, to heed my mother's advice, taking "all things in moderation." I'll endeavor to get out and do things, be with people, and even take some risks. Except for bike riding. That I'm not going to do unless there's just no choice, and, if I do have to ride a bike, I'd prefer the experience to take place on a small patio with nobody watching and no help from anyone. And, if that happens, I'm definitely going to go home and write about it, even if it takes 56 years.


cile said...

What a wonderfully written piece, Marcia.

So many clues to who we are scattered through our lives and no time until we are old to notice them. What is this? A cosmic joke? If it is, you make the joke a collective experience and not an isolated burden and I appreciate that in you. Your writing allows your wisdom to shine through. Thank you.

Jean said...

First, I read Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and loved it. I remember the title comes from her being in tears over a report she had to write for school, a report about birds. Her father told her, wisely, to do it "bird by bird." That's good advice for surviving any seemingly insurmountable task.

And second, oh, can I identify with you here. I, too, after a day full of people, love nothing better than retreating to the comfort of my own house.

marciamayo said...

Jean, I just finished Bird by Bird a few weeks ago after having the book for several years and not reading it. As with all her books, it is such a delight. The crying non writer was actually Anne's brother but you got the rest of the story just right.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written and described. Don't you hate it when events pile up and you don't have time to process them - at your own speed? I'm glad you express your thinking so well in your writing. Thanks. Mary B

Arkansas Patti said...

Good grief, how did you get into my head? I really can relate though you said it far more beautifully than I could have.

Celia said...

Love how those long ago observations come out in writing. Looking back and seeing who we were. I think as we age we become more authentic more than change. And I agree with anonymous, sometimes it takes me a couple of days to process events, oh well, it used to take weeks.

Friko said...

Are you quite sure we are not twins?
Or that you don't have some magic instrument that looks into my brain from the other side of the globe?

I don't think you and I are unusual in blogland. Since I have been writing about my dislike of crowds, my liking for solitude and thinking my own thoughts, a lot of other bloggers have come out to say that that is how they feel too and have given little insights into their own enclosed worlds.

Blogging helps me to keep in touch with myself and others, with myself by a direct route and with others circuitously and well detached.

I like it that way.

marciamayo said...

Friko, I think we are perhaps evil twins. I like that direct route too. That way I can be in control. Not pretty but true.

Wisewebwoman said...

How do you do this, Marcia? Maybe us bloggers of a certain age are extremely alike in that the world was quite different when we grew up (at least for me it was in an extremely patriarchal culture) and some things like writing became so private - I can remember going off by myself at such an early age, completely unheard of, just to THINK.
and take these cheap little jotting pads and write down my 'strange' thoughts and concepts.
Thanks my friend.

marciamayo said...

I remember Augustine Burroughs saying he thought he was always a smoker, but, until he was nine, he didn't have any cigarettes.
Maybe we've always been writers, but, until the internet, we didn't having any blogs.

lou lemaster said...

This is another great story! As I read it, I saw a lot of myself.

marciamayo said...

Yeah, I think we bloggers are a strange group. I'm so glad we found each other but don't really ever have to spend time togehter.

Olga said...

Wow. Add another introverted, loner blogger to the group. I could especially relate to the not wanting an audience for new learning. Love, loe the Augustine Burroughs reference.

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