Spring sprang this weekend in New England. We enjoyed temperatures in the low 60's, a veritable heat wave considering that a mere seven days before we got clobbered with snow and ice that required school closures and road closures to boot. And with it came the requisite spring fever: that irrepressible itch to get outside along with the hope that someone – or something – might come along and scratch it.
I'm not complaining that winter lasts well, seemingly forever up here in the northeast. It starts in November and extends fully into April or May, with trees never budding before then. And kids require sweatshirts or the ubiquitous North Face zippered fleece until almost summertime. So come one weekend with sunshine and warmish weather and we all get rather feverish. Crazy for the outdoors. With several rituals of the season begging to get underway.
Ritual number one requires a general purging of junk from my house. Spring cleaning at its best. Closets, drawers and cabinets get a thorough going through. Outgrown kids' clothing gets donated and outdated medicines get thrown out. The cleansing in and of itself makes me feel lighter … a good thing considering that winter always makes me carry several unwanted pounds around my middle. (Ugh!)
Ritual number two requires a decorating and window-staging effort. Out go the snowmen and the sleds. In come the bunnies and the butterflies. Indeed, few things energize me more than re-decorating corners of my home with seasonal visual delights.
Ritual number three requires a long walk around our garden. Or I should say our "yard," as we do not yet have a "real" garden. When the weather warms up a bit and we finally get to go outside, my husband and I love walking around the yard in an effort to figure out what we shall ever do there. With steaming mugs of coffee in hand, and sometimes the sound of birds chirping in ear (I heard my first one the other day), that first spring walk-through blessings a comfort sense that hope really does spring eternal.
Ritual number four requires that I pull my mountain bike off the ceiling hook in the workroom. A fresh pumping of its tires and a good wiping of its seat get me all zoo-ed up for a good race down my street and an hour-long ride around a nearby lake.
Such was Saturday. I looked forward to the impending warm weather since I first learned of it on the TV news a few days before. I longed for the purging and the decorating. For the garden walk and the first bike ride. For going through, wholeheartedly, the rituals that signaled that spring was finally on its way.
The sunshine begged first for ritual number four. And so with newly-inflated tires, newly-wiped seat and a newly-cleaned helmet firmly planted on my head, I raced down my street for what was to have been that luscious first rite of spring. Oh, it felt good! Oh, to be in that seat again! The air was still crisp and my thighs were still flabby, but to be on my bike again was nothing short of glorious!
I got to the bottom of my street, just a few minutes from my house, and turned the corner as I had done a hundred times before. It was my familiar path. The one I had looked forward to for so long. I turned that familiar corner and I totally wiped out. I felt it coming along with that dreaded sense that I was going to have a serious accident and would be unable to do anything to prevent it. I felt my brain practiced in slow-motion, knowing that I was about to be flattered. My bike flew out in front on me and I lay sprawled on the street, directly in the path of oncoming cars. Seems some snow had not yet disappeared and, mixed with gravel, provided just the right texture for a good wiping out.
Realizing that body parts both up and down, left and right, were throbbing in pain, forced me to pull myself up and figure out where – exactly – the pain was and how badly – or not – I was hurt. I wanted so much to just get up, wipe myself off and get back in the saddle. To carry on with this favorite spring ritual and enjoy the day as I had anticipated and planned. But one look at my aching, bloodied elbow and its many layers of missing skin, along with my throbbing knee and left thigh, and I knew that I was a mess.
A few minutes later, a woman drve by slowly in her car and, seeing my bike and me scattered across the street, offered to help pick me up and get me home. Too shaken up to fully understand exactly how bad things were, I at first declined, only to realize that the throbbing pain would most likely keep me from walking the ten minutes home. She helped me to the car and drive me there; I stumbled inside the front door a veritable basket case, crying out from the pain that freshly-abrased skin always evokes. I was a messy sight, and a rather loud one, too, and my yelps bought my husband and kids running to my rescue.
Wiping out is the worst. It stinks. Having done it quite a few times in my day, I thought I was done with it for awhile. Thought I was immune for at least a few years, anyway. (We have had a time of it over here, after all!) As my husband cleaned me up and my kids gagged at the sight of my raw elbow area, I re-traced the many times I have wipped out on my bike. The couple times in Miami where wet sand caused me to spin out of control, or where protruding Banyan tree stumps caused me to flip over so fast I never knew what hit me. Or of when the driver of a car failed to look both ways and hit me while I was riding on the bike path. That one was the worst, requiring surgery as well as a year of physical therapy (and a permanent scar and ever-present achiness during our bitterly cold winters).
Yes. Wiping out is the pits. When I wipe out, I can never quite tell if I am angrier that I wipped out and got hurt … or that my perfect plans for the day got completely derailed. Certainly, on Saturday, I was thoroughly ticked off that I missed out on that glorious, long-planned hour-long bike ride. As I lay on the sofa watching too many hours of HGTV, I could not stop thinking of the rituals of spring that just did not get done. No walking through the yard. No staging of the house. No cleaning of the closets.
And I kept thinking (but only because my husband kept reminding me) of how it could have been worse. Of how I could have broken bones or dislocated shoulders or permanently damaged my one and only brain. And my mind kept going to friends who had recently wiped out in far more serious ways. My friend wiped out skiing in Colorado last month and completely tore her ACL; She endured surgery last week. And others completely wiped out in the financial arena. Made bad decisions and are living with the consequences. Others wiped out in the personal arena. And are dealing with relationships in disrepair.
Truth is, we all wipe out at one time or another. We screw up a friendship or fail a test or do not make it to the next interview or file for bankruptcy. It stinks and it hurts and it looks so unfair. And we try to clean it up or clear it out. And it hurts even more. When Ernie dumped hydrogen peroxide in my open wounds I thought I would go berserk. It stung and it bubbled and I screamed out for mercy.
Wiping out stinks. We think to ourselves: "Say it is not so." And we look around and realize that this is our reality and we wonder how we got here and how we're going to get out.
I hope this Newsletter does not find you recently wiped out. But if it does, know that I am feeling it with you. My thigh hurts and my butt hurts, to
o. And my elbow is raw and my knee does not feel too great either. It hurts to walk and I'm a little grumpy. So I'm eating way too much dark chocolate in an effort to feel better. But I'm forcing myself to get back in the saddle. I'm playing tennis in the morning. Playing hurt.
Wiping out is all part of the deal if you want to play at all. If you step into the arena, you're going to wipe out sooner or later. It's not wiping out that separates you from the rest of the world. It's how you wipe yourself off after you wipe out.
Wiping yourself off slowly and retreating to the sofa might be a wonderful short-time fix (as it was mine almost all day Saturday), but you gotta get up and at 'em at some point. Wiping yourself off angrily doesnt help much either, although I confess to doing a lot of that, too. Wiping yourself off reflectively? Well, maybe there's something to be said for that. Wiping yourself off gratefully? Now there you go.
I wish you smooth sailing all week long! No wiping out! But if you do, a wiping off that separates you from the rest of the pack.