Department of Defense

Three bikes already stolen, and yesterday, one mangled beyond rideability.   If I knew who the enemy was, I'd sign up for the war!

Moving to the city last winter from our little village of Nyack, the family warmed to the sight of all the bicycles zipping around the city.  So, we brought our bikes over, chained them to a fence near our apartment in Washington Heights.  No dummies, we purchased good city locks and worried a little but not too much.  Well....first, mine was taken by someone who cut the fence to which it was attached.    I was hurt, put a sign up saying "hey, if you really needed a bike, you could have asked me for it."   But I got a new one--it was an old bike anyway.  Chained the new one to a better pole, where it survived one day before disappearing without a trace.  Next, my daughter's mountain bike fell prey to the dark force of greed.  

So, after some serious meditation, reflection, yoga, and conversation, I decide to get new bikes for both of us.  We're not going to let them get us down!  We will fight back with abundance!   Bike shop guys very nice, cut us a good deal--absurdly we almost feel like we're coming out ahead.   My daughter decides to store the bike, but I am determined to actually ride it, so I park it outside where it is convenient.  I find a spot where there is plenty of bike company, a crowded corner near my studio in Greenwich Village--a safe neighborhood by anyone's criteria.

It survived 2 months.   The remaining parts of the formerly winsome vehicle are still securely attached to the pole.  Everything that wasn't chained is gone.  Handlebars and gear system have vanished into the void.  

I discover the sorry condition of my dear transportation partner as I hop out during my lunch break to take a quick ride to the farmer's market.  By the way, the ability to do this was giving me good cheer all morning.  Imagine!  It's November 22nd, 60 degrees, I live and work in the greatest city in the world, and there is a gorgeous farmer's market within a 5-minute bike ride.  

First, I am numb, unable to comprehend.  I continue moving, removing the lock, not realizing my universe has changed, then somehow decide I should take it to the basement, then remember I still have to go to the market, so I'm turning around and around in sad lost circles with my deformed dance partner.  I lock it back up, proceed to take public transportation to the market, where, by the way, they are out of the turkey sausage I was seeking, and end up almost late for my next patient, all the while trying to absorb this very new very unwelcome state of affairs.   I find myself humming a little tune, as if I could minimize the catastrophe with a diminutive melody.  

When it finally lands in my consciousness, my mood becomes very dark and my mind asks impossible questions.  DON'T tell me I'm not being punished, or it's not personal, or that most people are not evil, or all about interdependent causation, because I KNOW it all.   Not only that, but I am fully aware, thanks to effective psychoanalysis, of how this mutilation triggers issues about my mutilated body.  

What I don't know is how to stay physically open when I've been attacked.  I'm scared; I want to huddle in a tiny ball.  I'm so angry I want to hurt something.  And then I'm so so so sad, and actually I notice as I sit with my afternoon clients that I have more empathy, more patience, less of that expert feeling that keeps intimacy away.   I remember a zen story about the teaching of a strange monk  who eats all the food and breaks all the dishes.   

But I'm not done here!   While my beheaded bike may be excellent fodder for my buddhist practice, I still need to know what to do!   Do I give it up?  Put its remains away?  As I think that, I start to despise all those people happily riding bikes that were not stolen.  So that doesn't seem right.   Do I get it repaired and then figure out how to lock down the handlebars?  As it is, I've spent almost as much on the locks as the bike itself.   So now I understand defense spending.  Forget about funding arts.  I have to protect the f*&^%$ing bike from the f*&^%$ing hooligans who have no respect for personal property!

And most important, how can I walk that narrow path between depression and helpful vulnerability?   I have an idea.   I think it has to do with being understood.  After the event, I pathetically tried to tell passers by what had happened.  They were nice, ok?  but you know how it is…  Later, I got some satisfaction when I told my partner and my daughter.    I wish I could say it was enough.  It wasn't.  I need you.  

November, 2010

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