“I’m avoiding avoiding things right now,” my genius friend told me while staring at mountains together.
What am I good at? Procrastinating. Avoiding.
How can I turn this disposition into a strength?
Combat my avoidance with avoidance itself!
This morning I woke up with a simple idea: go for a bike ride.
From there it became complicated.
I drove to the North Carolina Arboretum, knowing it was closed. I wanted to ride the empty roads free from cars because I did not have a helmet.
Do not mistake me for reckless, I am an advocate for safety being sexy! You can imagine how disappointed I was in myself for not having a bike helmet.
Call me cheap and avoidant and you’d be right. I don’t want to BUY a bike helmet. I want to find one for free on the side of the road that is in excellent condition.
The literal and non literal roadblocks appeared all at once.
Bad sign #1: I thought I packed my favorite pretzels for a snack. Instead, I packed Jalapeno pretzels which my taste buds reject. I spit out the first bite and went to wash the taste out with water. I dropped and spilled half of my water bottle.
Bad sign #2: My front bike wheel fell off while pulling it out of my car (What the?!). No problem, I know how to put that back on. AH! Where is the tiny piece? It fell off in my car somewhere. I dug through the random bullshit that litters my car and found it, put the wheel back on and BAM! Bike ride time.
Great sign: I made it past the first NO TRESPASSING and DO NOT ENTER locked gate with ease.
Bad sign #3: I rode my bike for about 2.5 minutes before coming up on a 10 foot fence/gate. This one was impassable. The fence went all the way up the mountainside. The fence even went over a creek. I found a spot where my body could slip through but not my bike. If I make it around this fence, there is no playing dumb. There is no “oh, I didn’t know the Arboretum was closed.”
ENTER STAGE LEFT: THOUGHTS OF GIVING UP AND GOING HOME.
I called my adventure pal Courtney, who just rode 100 miles on the VA Capitol Trail the day before. She was my inspiration for today’s bike ride.
Her first question was:
“Are you wearing a dress?”
“What? No! I can’t wear a dress biking,” I reacted. Absurd, ridiculous question. Were you even listening to my struggles?
Did I just tell myself I can’t do something? This type of negative self talk is exactly what I am working to avoid.
Surely there are reasons not to wear a dress while biking.
I’m not one of those society conforming underwear wearers, if you catch my drift. While that breeze may feel nice; the hot, sweaty bike seat may not fare well with the downstairs cleanliness. Bystanders may get more than they bargained for with my need for speed and naturally occurring wind. I don’t care that much if strangers peep my vagina, but there are kids out there whose innocence needs preserving.
A dress too long could get caught in the spokes. Insulating layers would be important for a cold day, but today is 70 degrees and sunny. Dresses reveal more skin than the average t-shirt, but layers of sunscreen reapplied every hour can mitigate that risk.
Telling myself that I CAN’T wear a dress while biking is simply foolish. I could say I don’t want to wear a dress. But CAN’T? No, I can do anything.
The anarchist within had something to prove. To myself. I was rebelling against my own brain, my own rules, my own stupidity.
I marched home (I drove home), put on shorts, put a dress over it, ate some asparagus, laced up my hiking boots, and drove my ass to a different closed road with an easier gate to get around.
I wore my dad’s old sunhat in hopes that people would think “what a styling girl” instead of “what an idiot-she’s not wearing a helmet. You are a bad example to my children!”
Wearing a dress changed the way I rode. I found myself leisurely peddling with one hand on my handlebars and a straight back; rather than hunched over, huffing and puffing and peddling my ass off.
I took in the scenery around me with great detail. I noticed which trees were blooming and stopped to touch the half open buds, marveling at the symmetry and explosive color. I watched the clouds make shapes and break apart. I waved and said hi to every passing biker. I sang made up songs, and I drank a coconut water while riding.
I got off my bike and sat in grassy fields, not for a break but because the field was too beautiful to pass. I wrote in my journal, I answered a phone call, I picked flowers and put them in my braids. I stood beside my bike and waved to the canoers, kayakers, and paddle boarders moving down the French Broad River. I stared at the water. I watched the ripples and closed my eyes and listened.
Wearing a dress changed my bike ride from exercise to an adventure.
An empathic adventure? Sure. I would consider listening to the negative thoughts in my head and deciding to do something to the contrary of those thoughts an act of empathy toward myself.
The dress changed my perception of time. It was no longer about how many miles I rode, how fast I rode them, how tired my legs felt, or how long of a workout I was getting. Time essentially faded from hours to daylight.
How many hours are left until the sun sets? Will I get cold if I keep biking after dark? Did I bring a headlamp? What will I see around the corner? Where will this road take me? When did this field become littered with flowers? How long have I been sitting in this field? I don’t care.
I proved to myself that I can of course ride a bike while wearing a dress. What I really taught myself was the power of believing myself capable of anything. I noticed the pattern of my internal critic saying what it loves to say: “you can’t, you shouldn’t, don’t do that.” I challenged that mother fucker.
I asked myself: what can I do? I answered: whatever I want, I guess.
This bike ride went from a simple idea to a meaningful and introspective experience.
“We are the meaning makers,” a differnt, yet still genius friend told me.
We are capable of making meaning out of anything, or perhaps we are capable of finding the meaning in everything. Maybe a mix of both. Maybe Queen was right, and nothing really matters.
Today I applied positive thinking, can do language, and willingness to try something new to riding a bicycle in a dress. Simple. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll apply it to writing a damn book already (something I tell myself I can’t do, or can do but am not good at yet). Maybe the next day I’ll apply that attitude to cleaning my room and keeping it clean. It is feasible I might do my taxes next year. (Weather permitting.)
What I hope to leave you all with is encouragement that you can do whatever random bullshit you want to do; no matter how seemingly small, stupid, or insurmountable it seems. You do not need to “get your shit together” or “improve yourself.” You CAN try something new, accept the risks or stupidity, and be open to possibility. You CAN leave me a comment saying: “wow, Beth, your positivity preaching is worth $5, check your Venmo.”
Thanks for reading pals. Now close your device, and go for an adventure! In a dress.