Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Codependent on a Bicycle

Just because we own that we contribute to dysfunctional interactions (in our own special ways), doesn't mean we can stop. Codependency is like that.
Not shown, the blood.

This one could be a scene from a Woody Allen movie.

A therapist gets a text to learn that her grandchildren, toddlers, are at the park. "Want to stop by and see us? You pass right by going to work."

Well, it is on my way.

But something hangs her up and by the time her bicycle sidles up to the swingset, the grandkids are gone. Too bad, but it is the type of day a person just continues on her way and hums,  Ain't nothin' gonna break'a my stride. Nobody's gonna' slow me down. . .

The path she didn't take
It is that rare season that Chicagoans call  Indian Summer. Not only are the leaves every shade of red, green, and yellow, but the thermometer has punched a balmy 75 degrees and it is only 11:30 a.m.

Rather than detour west to the paved bike route along the river (read that safe), she opts for her secret "city" route. She has carefully mapped this one out:  wide residential streets, stoplights at the major intersections. Safe as it gets when it comes to biking in the city.
Indian Summer in Chicago

And it is so quiet, so tranquil, that for a split second she forgets to check for cars at an alley.

A driver, too, apparently isn't looking. He slams on his brakes, but too late. He knocks the bicyclist down, panics, and jumps out of the automobile shouting, "OMG, OMG, are you okay?  Let me help you up!"

"Just a second," she murmurs. "I feel broken."

"And I cycle, too, is the terrible part of this!  I know what it's like, dodging cars, and here I am, the idiot driver! And here you are, the innocent bicyclist!  OMG!"  Everything but, Speak to me!

You cycle, too.

This has never happened to her before. Falls have happened, minor injuries. Once, only once, stitches, quite a few that time. But no kisses from automobiles. And how many people can say, after all, that they've been hit by an automobile? Very few. They don't all survive, is the thing.

Her mind flashes to the white bicycles on New York City street corners, the ghost bicycles, somber memorials to bicyclists killed or hit on the streets.    

"Were you texting?" she manages to ask.

"No! I wasn't even on the phone."

"For real?"

"For real. Believe me."

"Well that's good, I guess."

She is still on her back. Her foot is in the air, bent at the knee. She sees this and slowly lowers it to the ground, straightening it out. The leg seems to work.

"It's not broken," she declares, lifting herself up on her elbows, turning her head and neck each way, scrunching her shoulders. "I'm okay."

He's about to cry, literally cry. "Thank God. Seriously. Let me help you up." He shoves his hand at hers.

"Hold on, cowboy. Let's take it slow."

A pause. He is so nervous, puts his hands through his thinning hair several times. "My office is right here, I can take you inside, you can . . ."

She's on her feet now, notices the damage:  a vertical line of puncture wounds just above her ankle. They are spaced remarkably the same distance as the spikes on her front gear sprocket. A detective could figure out the exact trajectory of the fall from this evidence, but for the life of her she can't understand why the holes are where they are. But they are there, for sure, and blood is dribbling, albeit not much blood.The cuts aren't deep.

"No worries," she blithely reassures him. "I carry disinfectant wipes everywhere I go."

In her backpack, where they have been waiting all summer for this very moment, are the Wet Ones. She disinfects as he tells her how he is usually a cautious person, but the pressure of making it to an important meeting has made him irresponsible.

"We all get close to an accident at one time or another. Within a fraction of an inch of something horrible. What's this important job that you do?" she asks.

He tells her. He's an accountant.

"I'm a social worker."

He keeps apologizing. So sorry. SO sorry. She can't help but feel for the guy.

Then she comes up with an idea. "We will throw my bike into your trunk and drive me to work, seeing as I am too shaken up to get back to riding. You will drop me off, get to your meeting. I will get ready for my patients, then seize the day.

It never occurs to her that there are other solutions.

His driving is terrifying, being the type of driver who has to look at the person he is talking to, not at the road.  She begins to pray between directing him to her office and wishing he would look at the road. When they finally get to the medical building, he fumbles in the glove box, fruitlessly searches his pockets for his "information. She becomes impatient, but won't let him know.

"Don't worry about it," she insists. "Just give me a call sometime, see how I'm doing. That would feel good. That would be enough." Her business card lands in his cup holder.

At the office she takes four ibuprofen* with a water cooler chaser, and texts a picture to her doctor, a fellow she calls FD. She texts him about a tetanus shot. Has she had one recently? He thinks so. She should take four ibuprofen* immediately; the circumstances warrant this. Then he offers to pick her up later in a car. "I'm good," she replies. "Not a dent to the bike."

Awhile later, her new friend calls, propitiously between patients. "I just wanted to make sure you have my number in case you need it for any reason," he drones seriously. He is not flirting, not at all.  "I didn't want to seem like a deadbeat. You know, this really is my worst nightmare."

Understood. "Let it be a lesson to both of us. Cars are annoying and can ruin our day."

At home with FD, the two of them sit down for a bite, go over the incident. He googles the intersection, tries to get a fix on where this happened. She looks up the name of the fellow who knocked her down. He works at a distinguished family business, has a clean, simple website. He could run for judge with this name and win, hands down.

"And it never occurred to you," FD asks, "to handle it another way?"

What other way?

"Well, it seems you were more concerned with his feelings than your own health, safety. You let him do you this favor, drive you to work, got into a car with a total stranger."

"Well, first of all, I could have taken him, if necessary, in a fight. And second of all, this is a nice Jewish boy. He seemed like a boy, to me, he was so nervous."

"You know you could have called the police. People do that."

"And then what?  He'd have a ticket, and there would be court. A total waste of time. And for what?"

"For the crime of hitting a biker. A person. Hitting people with your car is against the law, which is why he was so nervous."

She disagrees. "Number one: This was my bad. My job, as the invisible bicyclist, is to make eye contact at every intersection with drivers of automobiles. It is called good communication. Okay if I go first?  And I didn't make eye contact. Didn't even see the car!

Number two:  He was nervous because crashing into someone with your car conjures up catastrophic fears. The worst possible things can happen, and we're simply lucky that they didn't this time. Who wouldn't shake?"

Then FD hit her with the jugular, the more likely truth. "You didn't call the police because you were worried about his anxiety. You went into therapist mode. You could have cancelled out the afternoon. The police would have taken you to a hospital."

"Huge waste of time. Wouldn't let 'em."

"Think about it," he said, "The codependency thing."

And he passed her the salad.


*Friends, do NOT take 4 ibuprofen unless your doctor tells you that you should.  You only have one liver.


Mound Builder said...

I'm glad you weren't more seriously hurt. I'm glad the guy who hit you had the decency to stop and check on you. Don't know if it's co-dependent, that you didn't call the police. Maybe you were in shock a bit.

therapydoc said...

Definitely. And a huge part really is that I didn't make eye contact. And I really am fine. For me, swimming fixes everything.

clairesum said...

I think when something unexpected happens, we draw on the skill set that gives us the most 'adult' role or power in the situation. I think a lot of women have a 'mother' persona that helps in this type of situation. For you, the 'therapist' persona likely felt most natural. Nobody wants to be in the 'accident victim' persona if they can help it. (well, some folks do..that's a whole other kettle of crazy!)
Glad you and the driver are OK, seems like you got a useful reminder without any permanent damage.

therapydoc said...

You're right, I'm not classic co-dependent at all, really. And I didn't especially want to cure his anxiety. I did want to turn what felt like a life-threatening event into a funny story, and I wanted to use psych catch phrases if possible. Fact is, this was just me wanting to get cleaned up and off to work.

Nancy Jorden said...

I think therapy is a great way to express yourself. There are many families who go through family therapy. It is a great way to express how people are feeling. http://optionsfamily.com/

Anonymous said...

I've never been hit by a car while cycling, but I did hit a car once. I was young, no injuries, called it a "good wreck." You know, 'cause it was exciting. ;-)

I don't know much about this codependency thing, but from what little I've learned, I may not have any relationships at all without it.

Better Things-- Seeing Ghosts