Way back in 2009, I was sent to work in on a project China. I didn’t know it at the time, but the bonus I earned for the success of that particular project would mark the end of stable health for me.
I tell you all that, though, to tell you this. No matter how much we may try, nobody’s getting off this earthly plane alive. Regardless of how much we try.
And, we acquire a lot of detritus along the way.
With the cleaning bug upon most of us during the pandemic, we’re re-evaluating all the “stuff” we’ve accumulated, and either giving away, re-homing or selling those items that no longer serve a need.
My folding bike fell into that category.
When I was in China, I was coughing up a lot of blood and crud, and really struggling to breathe due to the heavy metals in the air and the toxic air quality. Being VERY humid didn’t help my breathing birth defect, either.
Used to hiding my weaknesses, however, I never gave it a thought. My blinders were on that my refusal to ask for accommodations – career-limiting restrictions on what I would not, could not or SHOULD NOT do for my employer – would lead me to an assignment that would weaken my quality of life, never occurred to me. Not when there was adventure to be had !
All I could think about was, “They want to pay for ME to go to China ! ME !!!”
I knew the air quality was bad, but no one wore face masks or otherwise indicated it was a problem, so I hid my breathing disability, accepted the assignment, and prepared to have my first truly foreign country “adventure”. On the big fruit company’s nickel. Without a penny in my pocket to cover any touristy expenses. This was this was not “vacation”, with a planned budget, but “work”. But, while there, I was determined to make the most of the opportunity.
Then, the out-of-pocket costs started to rise, and yet I still found a way to:
– buy a passport
– buy 4 outfits of culturally conservative and appropriate suits
– buy educational materials on the language and customs
– figure out how to get by while not speaking Mandarin or Cantonese, never mind reading either language
– buy an iTouch, stuff it full of language translation photos to cheat if I got stuck communicating
Yes, I’m a control freak. It’s just how I roll. Plan for every worst-case scenario, and I’m ready to bounce back from whatever life throws at me. You know, good Girl Scout training, LOL.
Then, the morning of my departure, August 27, 2009, I find out my brother has a brain tumor, has been rushed to the hospital, and there’s nothing I can do. Financial Strike 1, as I know I’m going to have to find the finances for a quick weekend home as soon as the trip ends.
Next, while I’m at the airport, I get a call that my Auntie decided to have surgery – the surgery I asked her to delay for two simple weeks – just as I’m departing. Financial Strike 2, as there are always complications when Auntie is involved. I know I’m now going to have to hit FL on my flyby to or from MA, too. The budget $$$ are leaving my pocket before we’ve even left the airport.
At any rate, I tell you all that to tell you this:
You Can Do It.
Whatever “it” is.
That’s part of what this folding bike represents to me. Chaos. Adventure. Achievement. Repercussions. Aftermath. Reward.
I had 7 days in China, no budget, but a decent pair of sneakers to walk anywhere I chose when I wasn’t otherwise working. I was but 2.2 kilometers from the Forbidden City and the Imperial Palace, and I certainly couldn’t sleep when my anxiety and adrenaline were running high, so off for a walk I went.
My feet and my bike have always represented freedom to me. While exercise-induced asthma (before it evolved to COPD) always made movement a hassle when struggling to breathe, when the anxiety of being in a new place was riding me, and adrenaline added it’s two cents, nothing was going to keep me in that hotel room, no matter how nice, once work was done during daylight hours…
So, I set off to explore the Hutong (residential and business districts outside the gates and gardens of the palace) areas leading to and from the Forbidden City.
and the incredibly embellished interior areas, with every eave and crevice colorfully painted…
Walking in the toxic air was a big mistake for my ongoing quality of life, but worth every minute of blood and sweat as I explored on $0, tried to stay out of trouble, and find my way around an alien landscape where very little was in English to aid my explorations and comprehension.
So, when I show you a picture of a folding bike, and tell you it’s an evolutionary story of “partings”, you’ll just have to believe me when I tell you the bike represents so much more than simple transportation.
After coming back from China, heading over to Boston and then down to Venice, FL, to do what I needed to do, I finally headed home after a few hectic weeks. Broker than broke, but all obligations and duties performed.
Once I got back from China, I found my stamina sucked. I was taking breathing meds to try and keep up, and my general irritability and aggravation-quick-to-anger bitchiness was way out of control. Seeking a way to try and rebuild my health, I bought the bike and tried to improve my health. Instead of a lung capacity of 38%, I was barely managing 33%, with medications that increase my general feelings of anger and frustration. So, that bike represents not quitting. Hope. Determination to be well and keep up. To pass for normal.
I still have my performance award in my curio cabinet (hidden in the back, on a lower shelf, as Yanks believe bragging is immodest, but I can’t part with that tangible achievement memento yet, either), but it didn’t matter as much as the cash bonus. And, the cash bonus didn’t matter as much as the bike I purchased to signify my achievement.
To finish the bike story, however, I also have to tell you this… In 1996, I got an award for moving 300+ people from 5 leased buildings into a single new building designed to meet our needs. Project done, on time and under budget. Yes !
Awards for contact workers are generally unheard of, however, I got one and it means a lot to me 24 years later. That award / cash bonus turned into a 60-disc CD player jukebox, and 24 years later I still can’t bring myself to part with that hopelessly outdated jukebox, even though I no longer use it. It’s sitting in my office collecting dust, all because of the achievement it represents.
I have been the owner of this house for 4 years as of August 16. I did most of the basic sanitation / rehab and moved in on October 17th, 2016.
Almost four (4) years later, I am drowning in 1,100 square feet of crap, while now having only 700 square feet of living space.
As part of procrastinating for finishing up my fan de-install / replacement install for the kitchen, I got the web-covered and 4 years dusty and unused folding bike washed, photographed, and sold in less than 24 hours.
It’s hard to get rid of your possessions when they still have cash value, as well as sentimental value, but since I can’t simply walk away, leaving this mess for any of my so-called heirs to deal with, I’m happy to say that one more parting is accomplished. Yes ! And, sadly, “yes” (boo, hiss).
Admitting to yourself that you’re at the point where you’re never going to have another travel adventure, or a work challenge, or be well enough to actually ride your bike again without risking your health, is a fork in the road that comes to us all when we fight debilitating health challenges or as part of simple aging.
How long we take to accept our changed circumstances varies for us all. I tend to stew and whine a lot, but I eventually get motivated to get my butt in gear,
In my case, I’m focusing on the next purchase… if they won’t open the pool, I’ll make my own and create new adventures in my own back yard !
Plus, build an actual water garden / fish pond for the gold fish I haven’t yet managed to kill (10 put in the outdoor kiddie pool in January, at least 7 are still alive). The water lilies are growing well to keep the fish pond water clean, and after 6 months testing of the concept, I’m ready to make it happen in my garden. Whatever it takes to keep busy and living my life.