I’m sitting at our kitchen table for the first time in over four years. It’s cluttered with the bric-a brac that comes from unpacking.
There are receipts for carpet cleaning, quotes for painting and tile work, earbuds for listening to psych-up-to-unpack-ANOTHER-box-of dishes music (Do I really need 17 mismatched wine glasses and 12 commemorative coffee mugs from places like Novotel or TWA which doesn’t even fly anymore?), folders of children’s memorabilia with programs for 6th grade band recitals (Did our son really play bass clarinet? He certainly never brought it home from school.), my “Incase” armband for my iPhone just in case I take a break from unpacking and actually go for a run (not likely), and my laptop, which until this moment has been used for researching contractors, email and Facebook where I read with yearning about all the fun and adventures our cycling friends have been having.
The clutter makes me tired and unsettled.
Until 2010, I was a typical suburban wife, mom, homemaker, teacher, exerciser, volunteer, buyer, seller, collector, spring cleaner, winter hibernator, reader, wanna be musician, tennis player, skier, and occasional cyclist. Then Eric asked me to join him overseas.
I never thought we’d be gone no more than about nine months. In fact, many of the things I’ve been unpacking: half-full containers of flour and sugar , half empty bottles of oil, spices from 1994 (OK that’s just embarrassing because they were outdated before we left), very short running shorts, low-rider hipster jeans, and clothes that were nearly new, all of these indicate that I thought I was only taking a short sabbatical.
Little did we know that we’d be gone over four years. Everything would be covered with a thick layer of Tri-Cities dirt that has the consistency of flour. Moving even the smallest of boxes from the storage shed to the garage results in cough inducing brown haze reminiscent of cycling during heavy road construction in Vietnam.
And if the dirt and dust isn’t stressful enough, the decisions are: what to keep, what to toss, why to keep, where to store?
To keep my generally optimistic disposition, I’ve been reflecting on our 11 months of cycle touring. Everything we owned and needed was in our four panniers. Life was simple. Shopping was based upon need and weight. Spring cleaning happened monthly when we changed countries, climates or both. Getting our of the house occurred naturally as we traveled from one place to the next. We had time and energy for cycling, conversation, socialization, reading, writing, and bike maintenance. We didn’t have to bother with anything extraneous.
As a result of my reflection, I made a conscious effort to again put cycling first. Today, I left the house BEFORE I got wrapped up in boxes, piles, to-do lists, and phone calls. I stuffed a pump and patches in preparation for the unseasonably numerous goat heads into one jersey pocket and shoved a PB& J in the other. I gulped down a cup of coffee and headed out the door.
After cycling rather slowly until I was reacquainted with my road bike’s shifting and brakes (I haven’t been on this particular bike in over a year) I ramped up the speed until the wind was blowing my hair and the golden autumn sun was warming my cheeks.
As the pedals turned and I soaked in the beauty of the fall colors reflected on the Columbia River, I gained strength and energy to return to the exhausting tasks of sorting, condensing, tossing, reflecting, and remembering that come with over 30 years of marriage, children, work and play.
You might be wondering what this jumbled up mess of words has to do with cycling for retirement? Probably not much EXCEPT that cycling is MUCH easier, MUCH more fun, and MUCH more rewarding than living in a house filled with “stuff.” In the meantime, while I”m sorting through the “stuff” I need to remember to ride.