A False Sense of Mojo and the Bicycle Ballet

Mojo: noun: a magic charm, talisman, or spell; magic power

This morning, I watched part of a video of a man doing impressive stunts on a bicycle. He crawled very Spider-man-like along a wall while still walking his bike beside him, he stood on the handles, he landed amazing jumps. He did all this while the bike never lost forward momentum. It reminded me of myself as a child. Not because I could do any of those things. I am not, in any way, an athlete. Not at all. It reminded me, though, of my afternoons spent wheeling down the bike paths performing bicycle ballet.

My brand of bicycle ballet, if there is any brand of bicycle ballet, consists of me gliding slowly along the tarmac, standing on the pedals, and then extending one leg out very gracefully and pointing my toe until I had to start pedaling again. I would repeat this motion over and over pretending I was in some sort of recital, listening to the music in my head. I believed at the time that passersby noted my grace and agility, that they could see my swanlike beauty, that perhaps they were impressed. I was, though shy and gangly and, as I said, not an athlete, some sort of bicycle beauty star. You should’ve seen me on ice skates!

Of course, extending one leg while on a bicycle is no impressive feat. Neither is skating in a small circle on the ice rink. Neither, probably, are any of the little show girl “stunts” I thought I was doing as a child. But, give me a break folks, I just wanted to be beautiful! I wanted to be noticed.

This being noticed thing, these fantasies that people were looking at me in some sort of  melodramatic awe, this desire that people recognize my true nature as I extended one pointed toe, probably became, though I didn’t know it as a kid, somewhat obsessive. I never felt noticed. I never felt pretty. I never really felt a part of. So, I created these scenarios in my head, these moments in which others related to me, and, like an invisible friend, it carried me through.

Somewhere around sixth grade, this imaginary world in which I was elegant, stopped providing me with the oomph I needed to maintain any sense of self-confidence. I have shared here before that I suddenly realized, in my own warped way, that I truly was ugly. I took up a fund for a future nose job and classmates gave me change. I once came into class to find a plastic dog bone with a red ribbon tied around it on my desk– the last proof that I needed that bicycle ballet wasn’t actually graceful and that I was awkward and that I would never, ever find a romantic partner.

And, like many young girls, I also soon realized that the fear and pain of loneliness could often be alleviated with a flash of the thigh or a flirtations comment. It felt good to a girl who believed that she was worthless to be noticed at all. I quickly came to believe that being flirtatious was the only way– the absolute only way– that I would ever, ever fit it.

Ugh. Sadness. Let me change the tone for just a moment.

Today is New Year’s Eve and I am planning to attend a little sober party with sober friends. I never thought– in any imaginable way– that I would want to ring in the New Year without complete liquid oblivion. Yuck! Pooey! Disgusting! No way! When I sobered up, I believed that life would be a series of miserable, prudish experiences and that I would never feel joy, or rather excitement, again. Yet, I am more excited about this new year and this New Year’s party than I think I have ever been.

I have created a playlist, like a nectar from the gods, with all manner of hip swinging, foot stomping, booty shaking tunes on it. I’ve been rocking out to it for days, imagining all my friends under the disco ball, imagining myself feeling like I am on fire. Dancing, for me, is perhaps the closest I get to transcendence. If you aren’t a dancer, I wish you were. It is a heart-pumping, smile inducing, manner of moving both in and beyond the body. It is a way to connect with the Universe and with others and to feel on top of the whole damn world. No substances required.

Funny. When I put down the bottle, I never thought I would dance again. I mourned dancing. I grieved it as someone might grieve a relationship or a pet. But, it’s not over folks!

But, and here I turn the tables once more, New Year’s is a time not only for jumping and swaying, but for reflecting. Right?

I have been writing on this blog, somewhat faithfully, since 2013. In looking back at this 3 ½ year record of my life, I have noticed that, in many ways, I am an artfully annoying track on repeat. Perfectionism this. Gratitude that. Sobriety. Confidence. Yada-yada-yada. Yet, in looking back, I can see how some of my perspectives have shifted and grown and how some still have not. (There are those difficult negative attitudes that have taken root!) In skimming back through the years, I seem to be able to get a solid perspective on who I am. Or, at least, on part of who I am. It is both scary and refreshing. Yes, I am still holding on to some of that old self-loathing and perfectionistic thinking, but I also have found new ways to be compassionate. I recommend journaling to everyone!

So, and I think I can tie this all together, I wrote several times in 2013 about mojo. I wrote about having lost my magic, my charm, my voodoo, and then wrote again about finding it. In 2013, specifically at a party in 2013, when I claimed to have gained my powers back, I had confused my mojo with intoxication and attractiveness. I had been given an even more powerful dose of liquid confidence and did not know, I mean really could not discern in any possible way, who I was without it. Take away partying like a wildchild and I had no real identity. I thought I was a blank slate. I was 35 years old and I was still both the girl on the bike longing to be seen and the girl with the dog bone who had boiled her whole identity down to sex appeal.

I want to say here, just in case you thought I might, that I am not in anyway completely healed. I am not going to say that once I stopped drinking, I immediately discovered that I have self-worth and that I don’t need to be noticed to feel even just okay. I am not going to say that I have shifted so dramatically that I am now on Cloud Nine all the time and that everything is peachy and I will just love every bit of myself until the day I die. No. I am almost 40 now and this being noticed thing has, and I am embarrassed to admit it, stayed with me. I still fantasize that people are looking at me and seeing inside me and seeing my swanlike beauty and grace. I am still self-centered in that way. I still have to conjure up imaginary connections to feel a part of.

Yet, I am aware of it now. Yet, I know that my magic is not all tied up in flirtation and intoxication and that I have so much more to give to this world. I never thought I had anything real to give and this sober journey has given me an opportunity to see myself through an entirely different lens. I have true love in my life, real connection with people and with God, and a new, entirely healthy sense of magic. I can dance. I can love. I can tell my story. And, most importantly, I can give to others along the way.

So, i you see a 40-year-old woman on a bike with her leg pointed out into the air, she might seem awkward and goofy and out of place, but she might just be conjuring up some inner strength. She’s no longer looking for your smiles and your winks, she is probably just trying to get her mojo back.

Off to get my bike helmet…
Happy New Year!


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