I get around Des Moines by bicycle, mostly, because I like how it forces me to move a little bit more slowly. I notice more things when I’m out in the open. I’m in touch with the actual temperature, not just the temperature in my house or office. I know what birds like the graveyard I ride by every day. I know what people walk downtown from Sherman Hill every day.
It’s a nice feeling, just the knowing and the slowness.
Of course, the world around me doesn’t move very slow at all, and sometimes I get caught up in the fastness. On Saturday morning I rode my bike down to the Downtown Des Moines Farmer’s Market to meet my friend Liz. I woke up a little later than I planned on, and I left the house in the a hurry. I needed to get cash out, and as soon as I reached for my wallet I knew I had left my debit card in my shirt from the night before. Aggravated, I jumped back on my bike and rode the 2.5 miles to my house on the west side of downtown. I was getting annoyed with the wind and the hills. I just wanted to get home and get back to the farmer’s market as soon as possible. After grabbing my debit card I headed back downtown alley cat racer style… and took a gravely corner too fast. I wiped out. Big time.
The kids across the street were shouting, “MA’AM YOU ALRIGHT?”
“Yessss,” I groaned, just staring at the sky and wondering what the hell I was going to do now. I got up and checked my bike. The wheel was definitely bent. My wrist hurt. My ass hurt. I walked my bike to my house and texted Liz. I’m probably not coming back.
I checked myself out in the mirror at home. I had ripped the butt out of my pants and my ass was showing. I’m sure my neighbors enjoyed that free show. I had a cut on my hip. My knee and wrist were both swelling up.
It’s easy to get caught up in the fastness. Sometimes you need fastness. But I’m starting to find that when I move so fast, too fast, I lose control. I can’t keep my life straight, or my thoughts straight. I forget things and forget people. I lose myself in the fastness. It’s only when I slow down and take things one step at a time that I find happiness and success.
After checking out the damage to myself and my bike, I still really wanted to go to the farmer’s market. My bike was not salvageable at that point. I changed my pants, made sure I had everything. Let’s try this again, I thought. I drove down to the farmer’s market. I parked far way. I had a nice, head clearing walk. The ATM I wanted to use was out of order, but it was fine. I found another one. I just enjoyed the morning the best I could at that time with what I had.
I’m starting to move away from my old life. Slowly. I was once a person of fastness. A person of stuff–which I think is related. I realized the way I was living life was not making me happy about a year ago. The fastness wasn’t making me happy. The stuff wasn’t making me happy. But this is the way our society is built. It’s hard to break away.
But I read about amazing people every day. Minimalists. People who are in control of their lives, their incomes, their stuff. They find happiness in life, in living. They’re careers are living their lives. I look at that them and I think that is what we are meant to do. I look around at my peers and my coworkers and everyone around me and I think this is not what we are meant to do.
So I’m taking a step back and really reevaluating everything in my life. I’m setting goals. I’m getting rid of my stuff. I’m saving. I’m going for walks. I’m quitting things that don’t matter. I’m starting things that do matter. It’s a journey to a deliberate life. In some ways, I feel like I’m making an entirely different kind of life. One that’s never been done before. A Modern Girl Walden, you might say.
We’ll see where I end up.