92: Crazy Lady on a Bicycle

92: Crazy Lady on a Bicycle

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

Crazy Lady on a Bicycle

Living involves tearing up one rough draft after another.

~Author Unknown

A few months ago, my kids and I went to a movie on opening night with another family. The kids had been scattered at sporting events and play dates. The grown-ups were busy, too, with errands and last-minute attempts to clean cars and fold laundry. We got a late start. There was traffic. There was no parking. The ticket line was long. The popcorn line was even longer.

Everyone kicked it into high gear. Scouts were sent to save seats and take popcorn orders. Orders were texted to the people assigned to the popcorn line. Two of the seat scouts returned to help carry copious quantities of sodas and candy and popcorn. The lights dimmed. The previews played. The treats were passed down the line. When the last soda was inserted into its cup holder, I sighed. It had not been easy, but now we got to sit back, relax, and watch the movie!

Later, when the kids were asleep, I had an epiphany. This long, crazy night of executing a small military exercise to see a movie was a microcosm of my life.

Over the past several years, I have taken on three jobs. The first, and most important, is raising my boys, ages fifteen, thirteen and ten. On the weekends, my kids have both Mom and Dad driving them around, watching their games, and hassling them about homework. But during the week, it’s mostly me. My second job is running a small law practice. I work for a larger firm where the partners meet with clients, which on a good day means I can operate from home in my pajamas. On a bad day, I’m stuck in court an hour from my kids’ school. My third job is writing. I am nearly finished with my third novel.

Having three jobs has placed me in precarious, and sometimes amusing situations. I have left the house wearing slippers. I have negotiated property divisions and TV time simultaneously. And I have changed my clothes in the back seat of my SUV more times than I care to admit. But it was Thursday of the epiphany week that took the prize.

For over a month, the service light had been on in my car and I had not been able to figure out how to get the car to the shop. Finally, I made arrangements with my sitter to meet me there after I dropped the boys at school and take me home to my old, second car.

With the plan in place, I embarked on my journey. I got up at six and dressed for job two — attorney. I woke up the kids, made breakfast, put their coats in the dryer (because a warm coat gets them out the door faster), packed the backpacks, loaded the car, and drove them to school.

I had just gotten back on the road when my sitter called to say she wasn’t feeling well. I felt my heart race and my mind focus. I would not go one more day with the service light on! I believe that there is a solution for every situation. This is completely untrue but my survival depends on this delusion so I hold on to it like a fragile newborn. I checked the clock. I had plenty of time. I came up with a new plan.

I peeled into my driveway and raced inside. I grabbed sweatpants and sneakers. I went to the garage and inspected the assortment of old bicycles. I found the one with the tires that weren’t flat and that had the least amount of dust and congealed grease around the chains. I threw it in the trunk and drove off.

At the shop, I waited impatiently at the line behind a woman in yoga clothes. I checked the car in, then removed the bike from the back. This was my thinking. My house is just four miles from town. I could certainly bike the short distance. I would be home in twenty minutes — plenty of time to clean up and get to court. I hopped on the bike and started to pedal.

The bike belonged to my ten-year-old, but he’s tall for his age. Plus, it was a mountain bike, so it’s very sturdy. I adjusted the seat as high as it went. The first block out of town was a snap! Cruising down the main drag I felt almost young again. I continued on a suburban straightaway. Cars whizzed past me, but I was making great time. I turned the corner on the next road. That’s where the trouble started.

Connecticut roads are long. They’re winding. And they’re hilly. My son’s bike only has three gears.

Thirty minutes later, I was staring at a forty-five degree incline. My pace had slowed to a crawl. With my eyes glued to the road, determination surging through my body, I forced my foot to press into the pedal and make another turn. The bike moved an inch. I stood. I sat. I pushed on the pedal with all my might. I would make it up this hill! I would get home and get to court! I did not consider stopping to call for help or to postpone my hearing. I had a plan and it would work!

A red Suburban slowed down beside me. The woman inside looked over. Our eyes met and I saw her expression morph from disbelief to sheer horror. I snapped out of my trance and became acutely aware of my situation.

There I was, a forty-six year old woman wearing sweatpants, sneakers and a business suit jacket, sweating profusely as she rode a child’s bicycle so slowly it was a miracle it didn’t tip over.

I got home in forty-five minutes. I just made it to my hearing. And my car got serviced. In short order, I forgot just how absurd my plan had been, and how often I push things to the brink of disaster just to squeeze in one more task. And worse, I forgot how many times I say to my kids, “Just a minute….”

What had kept me going through days like the day I serviced my car was the belief that someday this would all stop. Someday, the work would be done and I could sit back, enjoy the fruits of my labor, and watch the movie.

There was just one problem. And this was the epiphany. When it comes to life, you never get to watch the movie. You are the movie.

I gasped, sighed, then said out loud, “Oh! I don’t ever get to watch the movie!”

After the epiphany, I have approached my juggling act with greater attention. I think carefully about the tasks I take on. I let things go to have lunch with a friend. And I don’t put off spending time with my kids to answer one last e-mail.

Because if I am the movie, I want it to win an Oscar. And I certainly don’t want it to be called “Crazy Lady on a Bicycle.”

~Wendy Walker

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