living in tandem
My husband Paul and I love to race our tandem mountain bike very long distances. We race anywhere from 40 to 100 miles, though our favorite races are the 100-milers. These races will take anywhere from six and a half to twelve hours, which amounts to one hell of a journey though pleasure and pain, hope and disappointment, exaltation and desperation.
At every race, we can count on at least one person asking, “How’s the Divorce Machine?” as we ride by. It’s funny, but in the seven or so years that we have begun racing on one bike, I have thought about this comment and observed how true this could be. Marriage and enduro-racing—both wildly intense endeavors. In both cases, if we cannot work together, if we cannot stay strong when the other is weak, if we cannot recognize the talents each person has to give and value those talents, if we are not compassionate and patient when the other is not on their game, if we do not communicate clearly and consistently, and, most importantly, if we are not having fun, this thing will not work—not this race, and not this life together.
Where a wedding is analogous to the excitement and giddiness of signing up for a big race, marriage is actually getting on the bike and settling in for the long haul.
The goal is to find that sweet spot where together we flow. My spontaneity and his logistical planning, my motor and his power. And when we break down, when we get a flat, we need to stop, get off the bike, ignore the world rolling past, get our hands greasy, fix the damn thing, and get back on the bike. We cannot flop around for very long on a flat, just as we cannot flop around in a marriage where there are unresolved issues. We must stop, fix the problem, kiss, get back in the game, and ride our asses off, ride this Life together.
I think we are deluded into thinking the wedding has anything to do with the marriage, just as signing up for the race has anything to do with actual racing. It’s just the entry point. The race and the marriage begin when both people work together: through spinning up that first hill and fixing up that first house; through burning muscles and raising children; through exhaustion and old age; through flat tires and illness.
When it’s all said and done, when we have reached the finish line and when we have raised our children, for all of our shared joy and pain, I hope to always grab a hold of this man who I have put all of my faith and all of my life into loving and say, “My love. Thank you for the great ride.”