Lovely Awkward: A Year of Wine, Romance and Life Among the French

Lovely Awkward: A Year of Wine, Romance and Life Among the French

Monday 22 February 2010

My shopping-cart state of mind... a tale of terror

When I was about six years old, I fell off of my new green bicycle on the street outside my parents house in Ottawa. I went over the handlebars and smacked the ground so hard that I couldn't remember my name.

This was before the days of bike helmets. I remember getting into the back seat of my mother's car and asking her whose bike I'd been riding. I kept asking and asking, which was weird because normally I wouldn't care about that fact and the bike was mine anyway. I was scared and my mother was scared, which freaked me out even more.

That night, I had to be woken up several times because I had a concussion. And then, a few days later, I had to get back on my new green bike. I remember being terrified.

But being terrified as a kid is nothing compared to being terrified as an adult.

In my experience, as either child or adult, the scary part in most physical acivities is that the brain and the body don't always perfectly connect. When you learn something new, your brain can get the concept far before your body does (which can be humbling and tough to explain to your instructor). And then when something bad happens -- such as falling off your bike or scooter -- your mind might know to move past it while your unfortunately slow body might refuse to forget.

Our brains might grow up, but our bodies, if we scare them, can still be as stubborn as a child sulking in a Wal-mart shopping cart.

So, here's the scene from this weekend:

Me, poised on my new scooter at the top of the very steep hill which is our driveway, whimpering. I actually said, "Je ne peux pas le faire!" out loud between several child-like gasps.

This is where I fell on the scooter a few weeks ago (story down below) and this is why I was now driving a new one back from the store, post-purchase.

All the way up the hill to our home, I'd been taking my turns too wide and driving a little too slowly. I'd already driven past Nice's Carnivale, which meant I'd passed a huge pregnant statue with tons of arms, confetti throwers, fair rides and several ostriches without any fears. But, my body's resistance grew as it got closer to home. It had been trying to be cautious, but then it went into a full-blown sulk the top of our driveway hill.

The Professor, who was already part way down the hill, looked back and smiled. I opened up my helmet visor and pouted.

"Je ne peux pas le faire!" I cried again, but more quietly because I don't think he could hear me. He waved his arm, telling me to come further down the hill.

I shook my head and then my body started to become one of those shopping-cart children that are so funny to watch. It was whimpering, shuddering, but at the same time almost bored of the terror. It wanted to prop the scooter up on its kickstand and lie down on the grass beside the driveway. It wanted to quit.

My brain asked my body, "How else are you going to get down this hill? If he comes back to get you, that means you're only independent for 80 per cent of the ride, which isn't enough. If you can't do this last part, it'll be as though you never bought a scooter at all."

Then my body told my brain, "I don't waaaaana! (whimper, whimper) If I fall again, I'm quitting. You know that I'll be scarred. I can't, I can't, I can't. And if you push me, maybe I won't -- EVER!!!"

My brain told my body, "If you never do this, you'll never have a life here in France and you'll get depressed and you'll have to go home. AND you'll have ruined everything because of one stupid driveway."

My body shuddered again and slowly released the break. But it kept crying for effect all the way down -- like the shopping-cart kids who are too tired to really cry, but refuse to abandon their commitment to being upset.

I started to laugh when I realized this scene that the Professor must have been watching. What a way to present myself in a grown-up relationship!

When I'd successfully made it down the hill and had parked the scooter, I even had to tell him that I was feeling "fragile" just so he'd be aware of my shopping-cart state.

Wow. I can't wait until this scooter and my body get over their little spat. My nerves can't handle it.

To counteract this whimpering, I'm going to repaint furniture later today. Sometimes the easiest feeling of strength comes from "working with your hands." Meaning... taking on a slow, simple project where your mind and body actually have time to catch up to each other.

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