Old Friends, New Lives

The universe is smiling on me today.

I had been doing crosswords and drinking decaf at steak & shake with my son. As I was donning my helmet to ride home, a beautiful young woman, stranger to me, had followed me out.

“Scooterman?” She asked tentatively. She smiled broadly when I nodded and asked “How do I know you?”

“It’s me, Melissa from. …” and I completed her sentence “from the depression support group”

It had been probably four years since we met, up in north county. Melissa had formed a meetup group for those suffering bipolar, depression, and anxiety. My wife (now ex-) and I attended, but it was a simply terrible time.

I make no secret that I’m bipolar, under control by constantly tuning meds for over a decade now. Melissa, the two of us, and the handful of other attendees were all depressed at that time to the point of hopelessness. We were all at dead ends, holding on by our fingernails. We were all trying to spark a fire on soaking wet cordwood.

In her meetings we all took turns telling our status, shared tools and tips, and gave each other weak encouragement. But Melissa was committed. She formed a Facebook group, and posted daily uplifting memes and informative scientific and sociological links. This went on for over a year.

Then it happened.

You all know about my sister passing away, my separation and divorce, and my summer long scooter trip of self discovery. Well in the interim Melissa met a fellow, and her life completely turned around as well

I followed her posts; their early special dating, meeting each other’s families, anniversaries, little trips. But it caught my attention when they both went on diets, healthy eating, encouraging each other, and their special shared celebration DQ blizzard, once a week. Following her warmed my heart, and she renewed my faith that mood disorders are not a life sentence.

I told her I didn’t recognize her, she was totally changed. She had lost noticeable weight, her hair was afire in a light shade of red, and her lively clothes were flattering, communicating a joy of life.

But it was her smile; simple and natural and broad.

When she teased me back. that she didn’t recognize me, I realized I too was thinner, more vibrant, and grinning ear to ear. My head was now shaved, thanks to my friend Jack in NJ and his famous advice “Lose the Friar Tuck”. And every grey hair was gone: to the razor, the tweezers or a regular date with Miss Clarol. I often didn’t recognize the guy in the mirror; why would she?

I blurted out how happy I was to read of all her dramatic positive changes, how she had been an inspiration to me. But it was her turn to shock me, that she had been following my progress, reading my trip story, and that I had inspired her.

And the universe laughed …

I committed again to finish my damn book, those blog entries, for friends and for the friends I am yet to meet. My story is inspiring to the people I know, but the world is full of fifty somethings, on the crux of deciding it’s time to take the wheel and redirect their lives.

Some will read about a divorce, a red motorcycle, and five months of floundering (sometimes painful) self analysis and say “that’s for me, pack my bags”. But more importantly, some future friend will read that story and resolve themselves vicariously, saving all that wear and tear. They will receiving inspiration in ways I can’t possibly imagine.

It was so good to unexpectedly see Melissa; to laugh and hug and praise her happiness, and wish her more of the same. And to feel again the pride of how far I’ve come, and the urgency to finish my project, and achieve my goal.

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