Archive for June 24, 2016

The Bicycle in the Bedroom

stockvault-morrison-freeway-ten-speed---blue-ladies108336It’s been 40 years since I last rode a bike. Living in Toronto, I decided long ago that two wheels were just too dangerous. If I ever moved somewhere with safe, scenic cycling, I said, I’d like to ride again. So here I am, nearly 80 and living in bike-friendly Kingston. There are paths everywhere and more are being added all the time. Pedestrian and bicycle paths run for miles all along the waterfront. It’s a cyclist’s paradise. Could I manage to ride a bike again at my advanced age? I decided to find out. Kayaks, canoes, paddle boards and sailboats are for rent across the street from my apartment. Turns out they also rent bicycles. That was it! I’d rent a bike and find out whether I was up to this new challenge. The man at Ahoy Rentals fixed me up with a 24-hour rental, a pale blue step-through model, plus a helmet and a lock. I straddled the step-through frame, took a deep breath and pushed off. Wobble, wobble I went, scaring young parents with strollers and senior citizens with walkers and canes. “Look out, here I come. Haven’t ridden a bike for forty years.” As if by magic, the sea of humans parted like the Red Sea.

I credit a young woman called Maggie for my cycling adventure. I met her socially and she told me about her passion for cycling. I heard her out and decided to tell her my story: that I too had been a cyclist, gave it up as being too dangerous, and was considering riding again now that I lived in Kingston. Turns out that Maggie belongs to the Kingston Velo Club, a group devoted to helping others enjoy the pleasure of riding on two wheels. I agreed to meet Maggie and her fellow enthusiasts one evening at the local Martello Tower (one of Kingston’s historic monuments to threatened invasions from south of the border.)

There were four of us shaky people and four Kingston Velo Club members whose job it was to take good care of us for the next two hours. Maggie talked about ensuring our bikes were road worthy and we set off with frequent stops around the university and the lakeshore. By the end of the evening I decided I definitely wanted to own a bike. That meant persuading son Frank, an avid cyclist to be my mentor in choosing the perfect bike. Husband Harvey suggested a battery-assisted model. Yes, that was just what I needed, an assist for tired legs.

Frank took me to Princess Street where Jay A Tonic sells mostly scooters. Jay ordered me an electric bike. Here was the perfect answer. A street bike with a detachable battery on the frame. The battery comes off for charging and the bike looks like any other bike with a screen on the handlebars for engaging the electronic assist.

Frank tells me my bike will be stolen if I store it in the outside racks provided by my building. I must store it inside. But where? It could go in the hall, but I’d have to squeeze by it any time I went from room to room. And so, the bedroom, at the foot of my bed is where it will reside.

I get my bike in a few days. It’s being shipped from Vancouver. The dealer will put it together for me. Who knows? Maybe, if you’re in Kingston, you’ll see an older woman riding with a pack of yellow-shirted cyclists, smiling and pumping happily up hills with her power assist.

Who I Am Now That I’m Retired

IMG_3639It’s the inner person that’s important, right? It’s not the roles we play in life or our position in society. It’s not how others judge us and it’snot the amount of worldly goods we possess. Yes, of course, you say. It’s who we are as people that counts.

I’d always known about the difficulties of adjusting to retirement and the loss of professional status. I just didn’t think it would happen to me. I also know that older women are invisible in our society. Again, I was surprised when I moved to Kingston, Canada’s capital of retired persons, to find I was just another older woman. I’d left behind my status as former psychotherapist and director of The Centre For Focusing. I was the older woman who’d moved into the neighbourhood with her dog, Sammy.

So, what is the essence of a person? My spiritual teacher long ago taught me that we were not our roles, our relationships or our jobs. We are Light, she said.

Later I studied various theories of personality. Ego State Theory makes the most sense to me. We are made up of many “selves,” goes the theory. We are not a unified, static whole.Different parts of the personality function in different situations. Like a nation, each of us needs our business people, our farmers, our caregivers and our social beings. These different parts come out as needed. Generally, the more parts we have, the richer our lives. Pity the school teacher, for instance, who doesn’t change roles when she comes home for dinner.

So who am I now that I have no professional life? I’m Grandma Mary, Great Aunt Mary, Aunt Mary, Sister Mary, Frank’s mother, Julie’s mother-in-law and Harvey’s wife, all roles I had before retirement. I have a new identity: the writer and blogger. Is it enough?macbook-air-all-faded-and-stuff

I figure I couldn’t be more fortunate. I’m surrounded by people I love and who love me. I wake in the morning to the ever-changing Lake Ontario just outside my window. As I write this, sailboats in this sailing capital of the world are making their way around a buoy in a race.

It’s really a great time in life. I don’t have to turn up at work in the morning. Like a teenager, I get an allowance – from the government. I have all the freedom of a teenager with no parents to boss me around. and, unlike a teenager, I don’t have pimples on my face.

All this is to say I’m closer now to being just the I AM than I’ve ever been. There’s little reason to behave as others expect. I have no professional role, no expectations imposed on me by my roles, except to be a loving elder, ready to give whatever I have to offer to the world around me. Not a bad time of life!