Just what makes that little old ant, think she can move a rubber tree plant? Everyone knows, she can’t…
When did we start telling ourselves that we can’t do things? Tomorrow I plan to ride my road bike to pick up our CSA share at Glynwood farm. It’s 5.7 miles straight uphill. I’ve been telling myself for months that I can’t do it. I admit, I am nervous, but I am ready to give it a try. Here’s how I talked myself into it:
I have to go all the way back to 1993, when I was but a wee college grad working my dream job in a Los Angeles advertising agency. The agency owner frequently brought in personal development trainers who instilled in me ideas that would eventually turn me into Zero Car Mom (among other things). In one memorable training, our work team was given a simple task: List five things you “have” to do in your daily life and five things you “need” to do. (Take a minute and give this exercise a try for yourself before you read the spoiler ahead).
After our lists were complete, we were asked to swap the word “have” with “choose” and replace “need” with “want.” For example: “I have to spend four hours a day commuting to my job” becomes, “I choose to spend four hours a day commuting to my job.” (As a meaningful point of interest, Zero Car Mom does in fact commute four hours a day to NYC a few days a week: Ha Ha. My Commute is Longer Than Yours
As a newcomer to the world of adult decision making, this activity was a semantic epiphany. I loved it. Talk about not letting yourself feel trapped by your circumstances; this was some slick cognitive trickery. There was, however, a woman named Randy who balked hard at this exercise. As our agency’s full-time production manager and a mom to two kids, she lived many L.A. traffic miles away from the office.
“No way!” There was no way Randy’s have’s or need’scould be replaced with personal agency or desire. She lived a mild to moderately miserable middle-class life in the San Fernando Valley and she was determined to keep it that way.
As a a super absorbent twenty-four year old, Randy’s reaction made a deep impression on me; something along the lines of “please don’t let me ever feel like Randy.”
Fast forward twenty-five years. When my zero car husband and I ride our bicycles to take care of everyday tasks, we get big reactions from the Randy’s of the world. Hopping off our bikes, hot with sweat and red in the face we hear their murmurs of surprise. We witness laments of “I could never do that.” Certainly a lot of people also think, “I would never WANT TO do that. That’s nutty.” (Fair enough.) The chatter is less about the absence of the car than our ability, and willingness, to do what we just did; ride our bikes to do something relatively unremarkable, like go to soccer practice.
You might be saying, “I could never ride three miles on a bicycle.” You might be right, but I bet you can ride half a mile.
Because we don’t have a car, I havechoose to ride my bike (or walk) pretty much everywhere. It is not unreasonable to think that I could hate this situation with a burning Randy-like rage if it had been forced upon me due to some unfortunate circumstance. But you have to remember, we wanted to be car free. Interestingly, over the past five months, I have discovered that I actually want to ride my bike places I would never have considered before—like six miles uphill. I can’t quite believe it myself.
As parents to a six-year-old, our no car lifestyle serves to model grit and a willingness to stretch ourselves to do things that seem at first glance too exhausting difficult. Often those limits are only in our heads. In the spirit of this strategy, I realized that my brain has been holding me back and I needed to stretch a bit. My husband gets the bigger response when he bikes up to the Farm to pick up our veggies. I’ve been telling myself that that ride is too much for me. A few months ago, before we sold the car, I was also telling myself that I would never ride the treacherous stretch between Beacon and Cold Spring on 9D. But I did it. I still do it. And I will do it again.
And, tomorrow, I will pedal up to the farm. Wish me luck. (And please don’t text and drive while driving your car up Route 301 between 2:30 – 4:30.)
I am a 50-year-old mom with two kids (ages 7 and 24), a husband who works in our attic, a sneezy old cat, and a full-time job as the co-founder of a Brooklyn-based business. My family lives a mostly idyllic life in a small village in the Hudson Valley, sixty miles north of New York City.
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