Guest Post by MJ Lisbeth
Sometimes I cry at the end of a bike ride. The tears might trickle from a well of joy: The ride was particularly delightful because I’d climbed a mountain or covered a long distance, or the bike or my body felt particularly good. Or I may simply have ridden through an interesting place or on a beautiful day. Other times, though, the cry is cathartic: During my ride, I might have been working something out in my mind or letting out some kind of frustration.
Yesterday I shed tears of release. They felt, somewhat, like the ones that have rolled down my cheeks after a ride that works out my psyche as well as my body: salty as a tide but cleansing like the rain.
But I hadn’t ridden. I had planned to get out on my bike, but instead I listened to the speeches and performances during of the presidential inauguration. I wasn’t expecting much: even before Trump campaigned for the presidency, I was rather cynical when it came to political candidates’ or office holders’ words. Even their most absurd claims or outrageous lies no longer enraged me: They all seemed part of their stock in trade. Never was I moved–as some claimed to be by “Ask not what your country” (I was about two years old when JFK made that speech!) –or by anything an office-seeker or -holder said on the stump.
Yesterday, though, I couldn’t help but weep while listening to Joe Biden’s inaugural speech. He doesn’t have the oratorical skills of JFK or Obama, and his words, while important and wise, weren’t as stirring as those of Amanda Gorman, the young poet who followed him. In hearing him, though, I knew this: I’d survived. We had survived. Those tears, the tension leaving my body, were the same as what I’d felt after the most traumatic events of my life–or, more precisely, the moment when I’d processed them, whether through finally talking or writing about them, or going on a ride.
In fact, I can pinpoint two other occasions when my tears felt like the ones I shed yesterday, and when I felt the same kind of taut energy leaving my shoulders: when I talked and wrote honestly, for the first time, about my gender identity and when I first revealed my experience of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest.
Only my cat witnessed my catharsis yesterday. She gave me the best cuddle any pet has ever given me, and I thought she would hold yet another of my secrets. Other humans, I thought, might find my response to yesterday’s events was melodramatic. This morning, however, I described my experience to a friend I encountered on my way back from the store. “I’m not surprised,” she assured me. “Other people are saying they feel as if an abusive relationship is ending.” After what seemed like an interminable pause, she continued, “So do I. But the real work is about to begin.”
I know exactly what she means. Telling someone, for the first time, how I really experience my body and the world, and about those encounters with a priest in the parish where I was an altar boy, were starting points that led to years of unraveling, undoing and rebuilding: processes that continue to this day, through my writing, developing mutually supportive relationships—and cycling, of course.
I am going for a ride later today. Although I will pedal along familiar streets and roads, the path ahead is just beginning—and, as best as I can tell, won’t end. All I can do is to keep going, Yesterday, Joe Biden and Amanda Gorman told us that not only is it what we must do; it is all we can do. All I know is that tears—whether cathartic or joyful—and tension will be released. They are the signals that we have survived and therefore have no choice but to move forward.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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