Thursday, October 6, 2016

4 Years On: In Which He Teaches Me How to Ride a Bike Again



"That's it. Now, watch how I push off. Just put your foot on the pedal, like this. And chill. You don't even need to go anywhere. I mean, we could stay like this all day if you wanted to!" he says, as the bike knocks awkwardly against my ankle and I grip the handlebars so hard, my knuckles turn white.

We're in the middle of Epping Forest. It's an overcast, fall day. The leaves have started turning and some even crunch under our wheels as we cycle through the trees. In the distance, a horse clip-clops away from us.  Otherwise, it is silent.

Eventually, we reach a clearing that gives way to a beautiful lake, which I use as an excuse to stop for a water break. I take in the serenity of our surroundings and suddenly my heart beats faster: 'Is he going to propose?' I think to myself, slightly giddy at the thought.

But then I remember: we're already married. We've been married for four years, nearly together for twelve.

But there he is. Smiling sideways at me as we pedal faster on the dirt track, shouting encouragement: "You're doing great! You look much more comfortable than when we first started!"

And there he always was: holding my hair back while I threw up in the bathroom sink during a bout of food poisoning; pulling my head into his chest as I sobbed over bad - no, devastating - news; doing a silly dance in full-view of a plane full of passengers to make me laugh.

But he wasn't always there - he couldn't be. 2.5 years of our 12 years together were spent apart on two different continents. I still can't listen to Death Cab For Cutie's Transatlanticism without being reminded of that period: those sad, sad days.

Like every couple, we bicker. We argue about who took out the trash last or whose childhood home was bigger. We argue about towels left on the floor and wet footprints on the carpet. We argue about tones of voice used or mugs of unfinished tea hidden in places, left to grow moldy.

Then, the other week, when we were embarking on Project Organize-The-Shit-Out-Of-This-House, I found a book I'd made for him in 2008: "365 days", I'd called it, filled with descriptions of 365 activities we did together.

"You have to hear this," I said, laughing as he came to the door. I sped-read through a few pages before getting too choked up to finish reading this one aloud: "Window shopping at Habitat and picking out furniture for our future home together." Because, back then? That "future home" was just a fantasy - and nothing more. It was impossible. The, "someday, but probably not". There was so much uncertainty. My future in the UK wasn't even secure. That "future home" - it was imagined. So far off in the distance, we couldn't even fathom it.

And here I was, married to him, sitting in the home that we both owned, and actually, really picking out furniture at Habitat for our real home.

And that's why I cried. Relief, yes, but joy - joy at crossing that finish line, with our arms triumphantly raised. And love. So much love.

In John, I found my life partner: someone I love, trust, and admire. Someone who encourages and indulges me as much as he kicks my ass and makes me want to try harder. And vice versa. Someone who treats my friends with the same kindness and love as he extends to me.

Someone who makes me want to be better.

I watch my friends search for soulmates, deserving of so much more than what life haphazardly throws in their direction. I watch friends find their not-quite-soulmates before realizing they weren't meant to be after all, parting ways and picking up the pieces. I watch friends settle down with partners who are very much not their soulmates and try to make it work despite this - and it makes me ache.

I watch all this go on as I watch the back of my husband's head on the pillow, rising and falling in time with his breath, when I wake up on Sunday mornings before him. I watch it all and I think to myself: I am so goddamned lucky.

I get on my bike and I pedal on, pushing off faster and easier this time, as he looks over his shoulder to check where I am.
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32 comments

  1. Lovely, lovely post Jaime! - and also glad I'm not the only one who's forgotten to ride a bike, yet too embarrassed to try because there's nowhere to hide and practice in central London!

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    1. Thank you, Annmaree! I'm the worst on a bike and you definitely won't be finding me gliding through Central London, eeks!

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  2. This is absolutely lovely - you and John deserve a lifetime of happiness :-). But I feel ya on the bike front! I hadn't ridden a bike in about 10 years, yet my boyfriend forced me onto one on our recent trip to Centre Parcs - Holy shit. I thought I was going to die. You sound like a pro though ;-).

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    1. Thank you so much, Danielle! That is so sweet of you to say :) x

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  3. I love this story and how riding a bike becomes an analogy for trust. Personally I haven't ridden one for about twenty years!

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    1. Thank you, Angie! Yup ... feeling you on the bike front, haha!

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  4. What a beautiful post! Is today your wedding anniversary? I'm another who is very rusty when riding a bike ... so much so, I've given my bike to my sister!

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  5. Aw this was lovely! Can especially relate to the Sunday morning bit, I feel the same sense of luck at random moments when I look at my husband and think "how did I find you". Really beautifully written post xx

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    1. Thank you, Dani! And thank you for sharing - we are lucky xx

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  6. This is such a beautiful post, Jaime! I was in a long distance relationship (he moved to be closer to me this summer, yay!) and although we weren't separated by an ocean, I totally understand how hard being apart can be on the heart. Happy anniversary to you and John! Have a fabulous day!!

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    1. Thank you so much, Courtney! Distance is distance - it's so tough! I'm really glad that you're able to be together now! xoxo

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  7. This is so beautiful Jamie - and congratulations on your anniversary! It brought back a lot of memories for me; my husband and I have been married for nearly two years now, but had a whole four of going back and forth across the Atlantic with long distance. There are definitely quiet moments in amongst the bustle of everyday life where I think "We made it! We're so lucky." Congratulations again, I hope you both have a lovely day :) x

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    1. Thank you, Katie - I love that you can relate. Four years ... wow. I can't even imagine. Our 2+ years were already so, so difficult and they felt so long! Looking back, it still feels like it was so long. It's nice to reflect on this gratitude when I catch myself taking "us" for granted. xx

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  8. There's a speck of dust in my eye.

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  9. Jamie, I very much hope you publish a book one day (many books in fact!), because your posts are not posts, they are stories that touch the readers heart and bring smile. Loved reading this so much and that enormous love you describe in your writing is almost tangible through every single word. Happy anniversary my dear, wish that your love only grows bigger and that your dreams keep coming true. As for riding a bike, I'm still useless at it at 31. ;) xoxo, nano

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    1. That is the loveliest thing anyone has ever said to me about this blog, Nano! Thank you so, so much. xoxo

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  10. How lovely, and Fredrik would love to change to teach me about bike riding but they scare me to death!

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    1. Thanks, Bailie - I love the feeling once I relax a little, but I basically grip on for dear life, especially downhill! And my brakes are SO SCREECHY!

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  11. This is beautiful, Jaime! With so many people stuck in relationship woes, it's wonderful to see someone who truly understands what real love looks like even 12 years later. I wish you two many, many more happy years!

    Kate | girlinthebluejacket.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you so much, Kate Ann!! Your words mean a lot to me xoxo

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  12. Who's cutting onions?!

    What a beautiful tribute Jaime. Sounds like you've had quite the journey together, and how lucky you are to have found each other and had all your puzzle pieces slot together. I wish you many more years of happiness together! Happy anniversary!

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    1. Haha! Thank you, Rachel - that means a lot. xxx

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  13. This is everything. Why not settling for not the right man is so important. So happy for you!

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  14. Got a little teary... from all that love and happiness! I feel much the same about my partner, we've only been together the same length of time you've been married but I have a feeling I've found my forever person x.

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    1. Aw, thank you, Connie! So happy that you've found your forever person - that's so sweet xxx

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  15. I got a little teary too Jaime, so beautifully said!

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  16. Very touching and beautifully written!

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