Zen and the Art of Moped Maintenance

Bermuda was beautiful…pink sand; crystal blue water; everything right and good with the world.

I regret that I had to work through most of the vacation.

It was a funny kind of helplessness–the despair I felt as I watched the red light blink on my blackberry.  I strive to be good at my job; to be a good associate; to be the go-to gal; to smash glass ceilings and to be the attorney picked for interesting projects and assignments.  I want to be accessible; I want to never say no; I want to be robotic, superhuman; always available.

But I also want to…breathe, sometimes.

I had drafted a list of priorities that I was going to stick to when I went back to work back in April, 2009.  Things, ideas, standards that I would hold fast to–ways that I wouldn’t lose myself in my work; a rubric by which I would refrain from judging my worth by my work-life.

But as that red light blinked all weekend; as my sunny day on the beach was consumed with non-substantive things; I began to second-guess myself.

Is the measure of a woman really the measure of her work–be it her work in the home or outside of it?  Do all women do this?  Is a woman’s worth weighed by how spotless her children’s faces are, or how beautiful her cherry pie, or how big her book of business?  Is how well a woman is doing measured by her performance reviews only?

Is the boss’s word the final word?

And who is that person; who is the boss to make that judgment?

(That stupid television show suddenly seemed…poignant; pointed; tongue in cheek)

I realized, by Saturday, that I couldn’t answer my own question any more.  And that I had lost my way, a bit.

Carrying this way-losing to its perfectly logical conclusion, WK and I decided to rent a moped.  As if hopping on a motorscooter on foreign streets with opposite-side driving would cure a woman who felt she’d lost her bearings of all that ailed her.  It was a slightly gloomy, occasionally stormy day in Bermuda, and sitting out on the beaches carried with it a risk of showers.  We opted to take our chances on the roads instead.

The gentleman drove, and I was his passenger.

The weekend before we were to be married, Andrew and I had almost rented a moped on Block Island.  We used to go to Newport; Block Island every Labor Day for our anniversary.  The year we were married, we thought, wouldn’t it be fun to go to the lighthouse.  We got the moped out, but Andrew was afraid to drive it; he took it for a spin around the street and nearly crashed it, his legs arms wobbled under the power of the vehicle.

We rented bikes instead.

In Bermuda, then, it was my first time on the back of a bike.  And we rode.  Rode through the narrow alleys; the canyons made of bricks of coral; crested the hills and looked out over the bays and the sea.  Past the candy-colored houses with Bermuda moongates as their peculiar, imposing entries.  Past the business men attired in their strange uniforms of Bermuda shorts, tall socks, and blazers–like postal carriers or school boys.

From St. George to Hamilton, we rode, my blonde curls hanging out the back of my helmet.

Holding on for dear life.

I cannot say that moped-ing came easily to me.  As a control freak; as a woman who likes to control every single detail of every day of my life (and the lives of everyone in my immediate proximity/control), riding on the back of what could most charitably be called a speeding…toy…was a special kind of hell.  Fun hell, but I still had visions of broken arms and road rash flashing in between glimpses of that famous Bermuda sand as we sped along the highway.

How are you doing?

Me? Oh, fine.

Yeah, that death grip you’ve got on my waist tells me otherwise.

But WK was a good driver.  A fine driver.  Renting a scooter was the only thing he’d said he wanted to do on the island, and my constant attachment to my blackberry made me feel just guilty enough to give in.

We cruised until we lost our way.  Somewhere between St. George and Hamilton, we’d stayed on Middle Road too long.  We pulled off the road near the Botanical Gardens and a lovely American ex-pat granny came to help us.  She was 80-something, easily.

After she’d put her proper glasses on, she looked at the map and set us on our way.

And we were off again.  Off into Hamilton proper.

Sights and sounds and smells of a port town; a tourist town.  I know the mechanics of tourism in ways that take the romance out of pleasure travel and replace it with numbers.  I can’t turn off my numbers-and-contracts brain, ever, it seems.

Isn’t this great?

Yeah.  (Numbersnumbersnumbers; costs; numbers; labor.  Wheels spinning).

On his mind, and my mind, was the obvious answer to all my calculations: I needed to relax.  And I couldn’t relax.

What’s on your mind?

Work.  Work is on my mind.  Work is always on my mind.

Turn off the blackberry then.

I just need to get through these things.  The only way out is through.

We had lunch in Hamilton; took the ferry to the Royal Naval Dockyard in the West End; then took the city bus back to our bike.  It was an adventure in navigation.

We arrived back at our moped, its red license plate notifying the locals that we were tourists and they should look out for us on the roads.  The clouds had parted, slightly, and the sun was beginning to sink into the remnants of the cloud cover in the early evening sky.

It dawned on me then, as we got back on the moped and made our way back to St. George, that perhaps I had not lost my way at all.  Rather, I am just pushing my way through the drudgery of maintaining where I am.

And perhaps it is time to adjust my lists; adjust my attitude.  Perhaps I need to alter my priorities, instead of hopelessly, romantically sticking to a list of needs and wants that might have been appropriate a year and a quarter ago at the Flash Point–that moment when my marriage went up in flames, and I left New York, and I went back to work, and so on and so forth.

The time has come to learn to maintain this machine, instead of running out and buying things new and starting over at the slightest sign of trouble; or instead of hiring an expensive mechanic every time there’s a funny noise or a rattle or shake.

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