Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Want to Ride My Bicycle

De Salamander - a windmill I used to cycle past on my way to work

I've been very lucky so far to have a very healthy pregnancy. I had a few scares but they all turned out to be false alarms. I have the typical late pregnancy aches and pains but so far (and I am just a little over four weeks from my due date) I didn't develop any of the scary pregnancy diseases like pre-eclampsia or diabetes or even simply high blood pressure. 

By far the worst pregnancy symptom I've had is being very, very hormonal. Don't get me wrong. I am trying hard to not be one of those pregnant furies who people don't want to come around. I try to be reasonable and friendly, despite getting so annoyed by the world, some days, that I just want to dig a big hole and hide in there until this whole thing is over.

To people who don't understand how it feels like to be hormonal (like, for example if you are a man) - it feels like any feeling you have is 100x intensified. I wonder if that's how bipolar people feel. I've cried more in the last 3 months than I've cried in the last three years together. A song that reminds me of something - crying. Bad news - crying. The baby I used to babysit doesn't stop crying - neither can I!
According to what I've read this is only going to get worse after the baby is born. At least for a little while.

I've been trying to find ways to deal with this abundance of feelings. I found one good way to deal with it is to turn on some music and go into full nesting mode - cleaning, organizing, planning. I do it for hours until I collapse onto the sofa to spend the rest or the day watching re-runs of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" and "House Hunters" on HGTV. 

Another way is to get lost in a really, really good book. Unfortunately I never know what I am going to be in the mood for. Last summer I plowed through all the books from the Sookie Stackhouse novels in about a month. Last month I finally found something as captivating - I read "The Hunger Games"-trilogy in about a week. I am still looking for a worthy successor to these amazing books. Every book I start now seems boring to me. 

But when I am really upset and I need a quick fix I turn to something I learned from meditating. Not classic, sitting down closing your eyes and saying "ohm" meditating. I am too impatient for that. When meditating I imagine the most beautiful and peaceful memory I have. The most beautiful memories I have are of my wedding, my bachelorette party and my honeymoon but the most beautiful and peaceful memory I can come up with is of me cycling to and from work in the Netherlands. For a while I would cycle to work and back two or three times a week - an 18 mile bike ride through Dutch meadows with grazing, black and white spotted cows, next to canals and tulip fields. If it didn't rain, the weather was always just right - since it hardly ever gets too hot in Holland. You could smell the grass, the morning dew and the blooming flowers in the air. I chose a bit of a longer route to be able to be solely on bike paths and far from the roads. I could feel the sun on my face and the wind, coming off the canals, in my hair. I would go as fast as I possibly could. For some reason the Dutch are not fast cyclist even though they are practically born on a bike, so I would almost always be faster than most people - sometimes even faster than the racing bikers. The Dutch approach cycling like they approach everything in life - you'll do what you need to get there but it doesn't really matter how long it takes.

Me and my purple bike Hilda and our early morning hour of solitude. Hilda was and will always be the best bike I ever had. She was comfortable but fast at the same time. She was the exact right size for me and even though I had to have her fixed more often than I had to fix my other bikes, I'd still always chose her above any other bike, would her brand of bicycles be available in the US. 
I've tried to develop the same kind of relationship to my bikes here but I couldn't even come up with a name.

Since cycling gives me so much joy, I continued cycling when I came to the US. But it's not the same. Part of the problem is the lack of bicycle paths in Chicago. Though Chicago is actually very good when it comes to having bike paths for US standards - it is very lacking compared to the Netherlands. And even though we HAVE bike paths, that doesn't mean the cars honor them. And then there is the ever-imminent danger of being "doored" - meaning that people who park their car are not looking out and might open the door right into your face. Many cyclists have had accidents this way - some have died. I've had a few near accidents like that myself.
This is why I decided to stop cycling when I got pregnant. So I haven't been cycling in about 8 months and I really miss it. Of course, this is Chicago and the last 5 months it's been too cold to cycle anyway.

I learned to cycle when I was 4 years old. My family didn't have a car, so public transportation, walking and cycling were our only means of transportation. We did a lot of bike tours to the surroundings of Vienna or to the city beaches of the "Old Danube" on the weekends. I've always seen myself as one of these women with a kid car or bike seat attached to my bike, cycling around town with my baby but now I am not sure if that's something I will be able to do. It's just too dangerous here. And really, there isn't too much nature to enjoy either. 

So maybe cycling will become "me-time" and something I'll mostly get to enjoy when I have an hour to myself.

Nevertheless, I'll always have the memory of me cycling through the fields of Zuid Holland. I hope one day I can cycle this stretch with my husband and our kids and show them why it means so much to me.

What is your happy memory?