Saturday, June 18, 2011

Training Day

My bike was all tuned up. The derailleur once again derails, the brakes stop the wheels from turning instead of just screeching about it. Everything is clean and shiny – the bike, my mood, even the weather. It was a perfect day to ride into town to meet my sister and Elpis for tea.

I rummaged through my closet looking for suitable clothes. Ditching 30 pounds makes for a great feeling of accomplishment, but it wreaks havoc on the wardrobe and stuff that I thought I could wear forever because, hey, it’s just bike clothes, I discovered I could not. Even in this laid-back town, where GoreTex is considered semi-formal, there’s a limit to what’s appropriate. Quick-dry stretchy nylon cropped pants that are so baggy they get caught on the underside of the saddle…not a pretty sight. But more than that, what if they snagged and I couldn’t unhook them in time to get out of the seat at a red light? Tipping over at an intersection is beyond embarrassing.

Not that I’d know.


So I waded through the faded-to-grey pants, the green ones that look like jodhpurs for Peter Ustinov, until I found what I was looking for: recent thrift store scores. A sleek but not tight pair of stretchy black Prana cropped pants, a dressy white Columbia t-shirt with three-quarter sleeves, and a luscious green Avia soft-shell jacket whose brightness matched my mood. Nothing bulged or bit or bound. I applied two coats of mascara to celebrate.

I looked – and it feels icky even to think this, let alone put it in writing – damn fine.

The one wardrobe item that survives weight loss is footwear, so I laced up my bike shoes, tested the air and decided it was warm enough for the half-gloves, and snapped on my helmet.

The ride was…. You know when you’ve been sick for a long time, so tired that every movement feels like you’re making it under water and your joints are stiff or your muscles have too little strength for the pitiable tasks you’re asking them to make? And you know how you wake up one morning and nothing hurts and everything bends the way it’s supposed to and you move so easily you feel like you’re airborne?

That’s what the ride was like. After her recent tune-up, Miss Jean Brodie had the full range of 18 gears instead of the four she’d been stuck in for months. (Although to be appropriately grateful, they were the middle four.) I could get up some speed because I was certain that when I needed to stop, the brakes were up to the job.

It was freedom. It was breath.

By the time I’d gone a mile I was panting like a Labrador retriever, but still. It was fun.

I zoomed through town like a bright-green dragonfly, swooping past stalled car traffic, sailing around curves and corners with endorphins flowing ever higher until I reached the coffee shop.

My sister was the next to arrive.

“You look fantastic,” she said, and hugged me.

Elpis came in next. She hugged my sister first, me next, and then held me at arm’s length, scanning me from face to feet.

“Did you get new shoes?”

Was she kidding?

“No,” I said.

“Did you clean them?”


I pushed her questions to the back of my mind, focusing on ordering tea and enjoying the company of these two smart, funny women. Only afterward did I replay the moment and come to the conclusion that she probably wasn’t joking and I probably have not lost my sense of humour.

I know that everyone has baggage that weighs on them in different ways and changes their perspective on the world. Still, I was hurt and disappointed that my friend couldn’t pretend to be thrilled that I’d achieved my goal. She knows how hard it is to lose weight; shouldn’t she be proud of me for doing it?

As Fodder would say: “Yabbut.”

Yeah, of course, from my point of view a big hug and a “Well done, you” are in order. But human nature doesn’t always march that way. There’s a little gremlin inside many (or most. Or, hell, all) of us that can sour our happiness for others with envy or jealousy or feelings of our own inadequacy or…choose your poison.

I don’t know what made Elpis ignore the visible evidence of my good news. If I were a quicker thinker, I might have said, “The shoes are almost as old as our friendship. What’s up with you?”

But I didn’t do that. I fretted instead. Is it my fault? Is she a bitch?

The answer to both, of course, is No.

She has baggage; some of it I know about and some I don’t. She was packing it around that day, as we all do every day, and she couldn’t juggle all of that plus my need for recognition, validation, a cheering section.

So that means I have to learn to be my own cheering section, dammit. It’s so much easier when someone else does it for me.

Except when they don’t.

Darn those learning curves.

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