17 Seconds

17 seconds

The following is a random example of what it’s like, for a brief time, inside the mind of a middle-aged divorced mom whose mind rarely shuts off, who works her full time job, who is dealing with a recent breakup, a cancer scare, and who is about to watch her only child leave the nest. Hang on tight, this will be a bumpy ride…

Last week, while celebrating a friend’s birthday at a crowded country western club, I did something I always wanted to do – I rode the mechanical bull! To the observer, I probably appeared just like everyone else who lined up that night, with nothing else on their minds except to see how many seconds it would take for them to get thrown to the floor! But inside my head had been a whirlwind of thoughts and noise all evening.

First of all, you have to realize that simply showing up single to any social get-together carries a risk of feeling the little sting of being alone. Most everyone my age has a significant other by their side, and all the single people are usually at least a decade older or younger.

This particular night was right after college finals/graduation, and the place was buzzing from all the 20-somethings out there, ready to shake off the end of another semester. But while it appeared cute at first, as the night wore on the corny pickup lines, which apparently work on the college girls, were getting on my last nerve! How many times does it take to say, “I’m old enough to be your mother!” to discourage the advances of a drunk 24-year-old boy trying to convince the world that he looks just like Dwayne Johnson? I don’t know, I never figured that one out. Finally fed up, I headed for the bull line. Why not?

As I stood in the crowd to wait my turn, I checked my phone to see if a friend, who I missed terribly, had texted me. He had not.

But even that twinge of sadness couldn’t completely dampen my excitement for this new challenge! I’ve always been a thrill-chaser, and I had looked forward to this evening as a much-needed night off work, to hang with good friends, and to go somewhere outside of my sleepy home town. I had recently contemplated moving away from this town, especially since my job was in a different city, but up until now I had stayed to be close to my daughter in college.

As I stepped forward in line, I thought about my daughter. She is very grounded for a teenager. She would be looking at me a little concerned right now! I could just hear her, “Mom, are you sure you should do this? What if you get hurt?” She had recently developed a new level of protectiveness over me, as I had dealt with a cancer scare that had shaken us both. Fortunately, it seemed as though the ordeal might be behind me.

It was my turn.

“Come on, cowgirl! Show ‘em how it’s done!” The voice of a friend found its way to my ears over the loud music and shouts of celebration. I was already laughing, trying to climb onto the monstrous electronic beast. To put on a show, a move I would soon regret, I gave a dramatic yawn as the bull slowly reared to life. Then came more thoughts…

I wish my non-texting friend was here. He would be cracking up at me! Or would he shake his head, unable to understand that this was supposed to be fun – a challenge that maybe I needed to face at this moment? We could be very different people at times…

“5 seconds!” The bull operator kicked it up a notch. “She won’t be yawning now!”

The bull began some wild jerking moves, and I clenched tightly onto the bull’s sides with my legs. My thoughts continued…

I hope someone gets a picture so I can show my daughter. If she learns nothing else from me, I want her to learn to live without fear, and to never let age or other people’s opinions stop her from trying new things. And I want her to be proud of her mama for doing the same!

“10!” My back started feeling the exaggerated bounces, twists, and lurches. I hoped I wouldn’t regret my decision when I went back to work and needed to use my back muscles. I told myself to hang on, that someone needed to show these kids that life doesn’t end at 30! And I needed to know it wasn’t going to end at 46.

“14!” The bull’s movements defied anything I could have anticipated, and I started to slide forward. My left arm instinctively went down to assist my right arm in hanging on, a move which, in a real rodeo, would have disqualified me. I knew it was time. It’s a good thing the floor was padded, because when I flew off I hit the floor in a split second!

“17 seconds! You did good!” came the voices.

As it turned out, someone did get a picture of me. It will always remind me of the night I was able to do something I always wanted to do, even without a signifiant other to cheer me on or hug me afterwards. I couldn’t solve or even let go of my problems, but I managed to hang on and get it done. That’s what grown women do. Those 17 seconds may have just looked like a woman on a bull to everyone else, but to me it kinda represented a continuation of the ride of my life!


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