Thus I am thrilled to feature an insightful, thoughtful, stimulating, and as always beautifully-written piece by my friend Bernadette Murphy. Bernadette is a writer, wife, mother, teacher, marathon runner, and now ecstatic motorcycle owner and rider. In this week's issue of The Rumpus, she writes of the long, slow, decline (and eventual death) of her father, and of her simultaneous urge to embrace life more fully by taking a class, learning to ride, and buying her own bad-ass bike.
For those of us whose urge is more toward emotional and spiritual risks, the piece delivers a vicarious thrill. And for those of us who wrestle with aging, elderly parents, and an eternally restless heart--i.e. at some point, pretty much all of us...let's just say you'll relate.
A few excerpts:
Life went on – I finished the class and received my motorcycle endorsement on my driver’s license — and death arrived. The morning after I bathed my father’s lifeless body with the help of the hospice nurse and sent him on his metaphysical way, I walked into the Harley dealership and bought a motorcycle. My Izzy. An example of grief made manifest? Absolutely. It was also a full-hearted embrace of life...
And so I ride. To confront the fear. To feel all-too-alive. To encounter the divine. To feel fast and vulnerable, powerful and exposed all at once.
I ride in order to truly live while I still have breath within me...
I think about the fact that so many of the difficult things we face in life occur without our approval or consent – illness, the death of spouse, problems with children, divorce, job loss, bankruptcy, foreclosure. We have little choice but to endure these hardships – sometimes gracefully, though more often in a stumbling, numb, wanting-to-hide fashion. There’s little sense of satisfaction in making in through these times because we know we would never have opted for this course had we been given a choice. Certainly there’s relief at the end of the ordeal and lessons learned, though often little else.
But what about when we voluntarily choose to do things that scare us? Even little things? That’s different. When we voluntarily wrestle with the boogieman of fear, we gain skills and self-knowledge that steel us for the rest of life – those soul-numbing, bone-crushing times when we have no say in how much hardship we can take, how long we can last, how strong at our core we might be. Nothing so strengthens our resolve as having a regular, intimate encounter with the fear that tries to stifle us, that tells us we’re not smart enough, or young enough, or pretty enough, or strong enough.
Read the whole piece here.
Check out Bernadette's Zen and the Art of Knitting and The Tao Gal's Guide to Real Estate.
And don't forget to wear your helmet.