A lot happened for me 2005-2006. I started this blog, and began to hear from other people who understood. Some bad stuff happened too, things I can barely talk about or think about — probably the worst things so far in my life, worse than Diagnosis Day. But unlike that, these things appeared to be beautiful at first. But you know how it is, as long as you survived, it’s okay. Or at least, it’s over.
[Deep breath. Okay. Look at the sun, pull yourself back to the Good.] Perhaps the best thing that happened during that time was that I found yet a different form of self-expression. I started bellydancing, and riding a mountain bike. I’ve talked and written a lot about the two, but maybe not so much together. Only recently, when I started writing in different places than right here, did it occur to me that the two activities — dance and cycling — are opposite ends on my spectrum. And when the two coincide, I’m the rainbow in between. My dance name is Lilia, SusanLilia, and my bike is named Scarlett. Today I realized that I am Lilia, and I am Scarlett. I am a real bellydancer. I’ve known that for a while, though it took some time to admit it, because there is so much cultural baggage around bellydancing. Some people just don’t get it — the total immersion in the caramel-like music, the mastery of muscular isolations, the joy in seeing your body swathed in gem colors and sparkly beads. My body, though it is 50 years old and not at all perfect, becomes beautiful to me in those moments. I am at last the way I’d always wanted to be.
It is also true for my extreme opposite passion: I see that my bike is me. When I think to myself, “I just love my bike,” I am really saying, “I love myself.”
I guess sometimes I do. I think what happens is that I often start out my ride hating myself, or my life, things like that, but somewhere on the road I shift — literally and figuratively — into a new gear and though that gear is harder and higher, it is a deeper and more powerful ride. I thrill to the fact that I ride a big mountain bike which is a hard ride because you cannot go light like a road bike. And my joy derives from that fact, that I have to work hard to get speed, that I have to put all my bodypower into it to get my smooth cadence.
I wish there were better words for joy. But that’s it, aside from ecstasy, but that has the sexual edge to it, which biking does not. Joy is fresh, springlike air. Ecstasy is summer heat. Bellydance is thought to be sexual, but it’s not that for me. It is sensual, it is about happiness of the body, but not about orgasm or desire. Maybe for others it is, but I dance alone — with a mirror. My dancing, in full costume, is utterly for me. My audience is in my head.
And biking is also about being in my head, in a way that can only happen for me when I am alone and diving into the road or trail ahead. I become all about holding on and letting go. Planning and just going. It is a crazy mixture, and that is another reason I love it: it’s the coming together of extreme opposites, the point where they are one. I meld with the activity, until I am simply It, unaware of Me.
But it is me, I’m mastering this thing outside and inside of me, and that is happiness. All because I dared to come out at 42. I think maybe we should all become debutantes to our own lives.