I asked my wife if she wanted to go mountain biking, not in a generalized way, but at a specific time and date. She’s the sort of person who likes to know what to expect. She looked at me askance, like I’d maybe just farted or told her she was just like her mother. Sometimes a smirk is worth a thousand words.
I modified my invitation to see if I could make it more enticing or less repellent. No dice. After 30 years together, this was not a surprising outcome for me, my success rate with invitations to ride running in the low single digits. I’d like to think what I’m really saying is, “I’d like to spend some time with you,” but I suspect what she hears is, “I’d like to spend some time with you testing the limits of our love for each other.”
Then she said to me, “Maybe in your next life you should try to find someone who loves mountain biking as much as you do.” A pregnant silence settled in the kitchen then, as I gamed that out in my mind.
I said to her, “You mean, in some theoretical future, I should do the thing I do to escape responsibilities and stresses and try to share it closely with another person.” Again, the silence settled. I thought about all the ways I struggle to make ride plans with other people, plans that work for everyone in time, place and difficulty. Mentally, I felt myself slowly backing away from the idea of having a partner who liked to ride as much as I do, as if it were a dumpster, smoldering in preparation to burst fully into flame.
Wanting to share what you love with someone you love is a noble urge, but I can testify that three decades together has allowed us to more realistically map the terrain of our relationship. You don’t live with someone that long without developing certain co-dependencies. To achieve anything like a healthy balance, you need to maintain a level of independence and autonomy, safe spaces in which to think only about yourself, lest the relationship subsume you and you turn into a two-headed monster of bickering dissatisfaction.
Equally, you can be too dependent on the bike. You can use it to hide and escape, when really you should be investing in your human relationships. If only, the bike could give you a smirk to let you know, pour itself another cup of coffee, and saunter away to attend to its own more important business. No, maybe this isn’t really what I wish for.