Have you ever loved something or somebody but had to let that thing or person go?
I imagine so.
We don’t get through life without loving and losing, without experiencing pain, grief and loss. Unless, of course, we choose not to risk our hearts. Unless we choose to close ourselves off from love.
Yesterday, I let go of something I truly loved, something that had served me incredibly well for 14 years, something that was a huge part of me and my story and that had played a leading role in a significant chapter of my life.
Scoots. Gorgeous Scoots. Pistachio green Scoots, with your rounded edges, indicators for dimples, big friendly headlight and cute top box.
A scooter, yes, but a special scooter. A scooter that gave me so much.
I bought Scoots in 2004 after a run-in with a stocky stranger in a dark passageway near my London flat. The man put his hand on my bum and tried to grab my handbag. I snatched my bag back and ran for my life.
Around the same time, I spotted a few yellow police notices on my street, calling for witnesses. A woman had been robbed or attacked late at night, walking back from the station. I also came across a lady who’d had her phone snatched one afternoon.
I was already quite a jumpy person, after being mugged twice in Mexico, once at gunpoint and once with a knife. If I heard footsteps behind me at night, my heart rate would rise and I’d pick up the pace. With Scoots, I wouldn’t have to worry about walking the streets alone in the dark – she’d take me door-to-door.
Scoots would also give me the freedom I craved. In Mexico and Brazil, I’d had cars. They’d taken me around town and to the beach on weekends. But a car in London seemed ludicrous – the antithesis of freedom in my eyes. With Scoots, I could weave in and out of the traffic and avoid standing at bus stops in the rain with heavy bags.
Scoots suited my personality – I had a need for speed and thrived on adrenaline. And I didn’t like waiting around.
A RECOVERY VEHICLE
I bought Scoots just as I was getting into recovery for an eating disorder, which also forced me to look at my drinking. I’d had a few rock bottoms with booze in London, collapsing in my bathroom after a big night out, thankful that I’d said No to the bloke who’d wanted to come home with me but feeling sick and ashamed all the same. Hangovers generally prompted food binges too so I resolved I’d have to give up the drink if I wanted to stay clean around food.
Scoots provided the perfect excuse for not drinking as I got used to my sober way of life. Back then, I struggled to be myself around others or own my truth. Peer pressure was a big deal. Scoots was a welcome accomplice.
I remember when I spotted Scoots in a motorbike showroom at Vauxhall Bridge. It was love at first sight. As you’ll know from this blog, I struggle to make decisions but with Scoots, I had very few doubts. I knew she was the one for me.
Some friends tried to talk me out of buying a Vespa. The small wheels would skid in the wet, they said. Scoots would get nicked in London, they warned. Had I seen the crime stats? These naysayers tested my resolve. I have a history of valuing other people’s opinions over my own, of not trusting myself and of believing that others know what’s right for me. This is a legacy of my childhood. It comes from a poor sense of self and from low self-esteem, both aspects of my codependency.
But on this occasion, I trusted myself. I went with my gut. Thank God.
A TRUSTED FRIEND
Scoots brought so much freedom and joy. I rode her to the Houses of Parliament for six years and parked her in the car park beneath Big Ben, alongside politicians’ shiny black BMWs. I liked arriving on two wheels instead of the Tube, scootering past the policemen on the gates and over the cobbled stones. Scoots had style.
I also scooted to dates. I’m driving so I won’t have a drink, thanks, I’d say. Scoots kept me safe from the scrapes I often found myself in when I mixed alcohol and romance.
I rode Scoots over the bridges that cross the Thames, marvelling at London’s skyline, all majestic and lit up, smiling to myself at this wonderful life and this city I called home. And I’d scoot to the Ladies Pond on Hampstead Heath, getting there in 20 minutes, with my swimming stuff in my top box or under my seat, avoiding trains, buses and long hikes.
Then there were the dark times.
I remember scooting through Islington with tears streaming down my face, on the way to my job in parliament, knowing that as soon as I switched my computer on, I’d feel soul dead and trapped.
I remember the heartache and gloom I felt on the day I took the test for my full bike license. It was raining, grey and miserable and I was riding a motorbike on a busy dual carriageway on the outskirts of London, feeling vulnerable and terrified as huge trucks sped past, wondering how on earth my life had ended up like this. Why wasn’t I sitting in a warm, dry car with a partner and a few kids in the back? (You can read the full blog post about that day here, which is the opening scene of a book I aim to finish).
I remember other times I felt vulnerable in traffic when it was dark and wet and how cold I used to get, needing a hot bath as soon as I got back to my flat. And I especially didn’t enjoy hanging out in dirty gutters to put a lock around Scoots’ back wheel.
I also remember waking up to find Scoots had narrowly avoided an attempt at theft. And I recall the day after I bought Scoots, rushing to an appointment and squeezing the throttle by accident instead of the brake, watching as Scoots slid out from under me and under a pick-up truck. The damage was minimal but I was in shock. Scoots was so precious and perfect. I’d only had her a day and I had to take her back to the shop to get fixed!
When I moved from London to the seaside, Scoots came along and she served me well for a while, taking me to Bournemouth University where I lectured, avoiding terrible traffic jams. But then I bought a car – a cute mini with her own natural curves and stripes to boot – and everything changed. Suddenly, I remembered the joy of owning a car from my days in Mexico and Brazil. I could throw everything in the back – my sports gear, my swimming kit, my work and my lunch. I could swim in the sea in the winter and then turn the heat up in the car to get warm. I could listen to the radio as I drove. I felt safe. I got used to leaving the house in the summer in dresses and flip-flops rather than jeans, shoes, a padded jacket and a helmet that played havoc with my hair. I enjoyed staying dry in the wet. Luxury.
My lifestyle changed too as my relationship with my now fiancé blossomed. Much of the time, I travelled as a two and although I was licensed to take passengers on the back of Scoots, I’d never tried it. Plus, my partner is quite a big bloke. So Scoots stayed in the garden while I took the car.
Unused, Scoots didn’t look quite so gorgeous – she got dirty and the split in her seat got worse, so I decided it was time to sell up.
To put this in context, I’ve never been very good at getting rid of stuff. I have made progress in this area but I still have a poverty mentality – an irrational fear that I’ll end up broke and sleeping on the streets. So I hang on to things because I think I’ll never be able to afford anything like them again. What if they’re useful? What if I need them in the future? I also get attached to things and people more deeply than others, which comes from having insecure attachments as a child.
But I’m on a journey around money and part of that journey is a commitment to get rid of things that no longer serve me and that are cluttering up my life. Sadly Scoots had fallen into that category. And I have so much more understanding now of how I attach, which makes it easier to let go.
So we fixed Scoots up, gave her a clean and polish and fitted a lovely new leather seat cover, at which point I fell back in love with her, of course. But I took a deep breath, put her up for sale and someone offered me the asking price.
It was time.
I confess I almost changed my mind. When my friend said he could deliver her this Monday morning, my heart sank. So soon? I’m not ready. I’m not sure. My characteristic ambivalence took hold. I felt strongly pulled in two directions, torn down the middle, split.
I remembered all the good times we’d had and I fantasised about more good times to come. I pictured us riding off into the sunset – me in a summer dress and sandals (when the reality is I always felt I had to cover up my legs in case I fell off). I took her for a long drive, took photos of her against beautiful backdrops. And I cried. Yes, dear readers, I cried over Scoots. I cried as I rode her around Poole Harbour, minutes before I had to drop her off for delivery. I can’t do it. I can’t let her go.
My patient partner listened to my ambivalence and heard my incessant self-doubt. He saw my pain, soaked up my tears with his T-shirt and eventually said he didn’t think I was ready to sell Scoots. And something in those words, in his understanding, his compassion and his permission to hang on to her, helped me to follow through on my decision to sell.
I loaded her into the van and we dropped her off on Monday at her new home – a good home, a family of people who, I discovered, are on a similar personal development journey to me, which made letting go of Scoots so much easier.
LETTING GO OF LOST LOVES
As I’ve gone through the process of saying goodbye to Scoots, it’s struck me that it’s similar to letting go of a relationship that’s no longer working. In the past, I held on to relationships well beyond their sell-by date.
I obsessed about the good times, forgetting all the bad times. I stayed with men out of fear that I would never find anyone else. I fantasised about our future together, imagining I was a different person and he was a different person and we could have this life together that bore no resemblance to reality. I decided to leave a relationship and then I doubted my decision. I felt stuck, incapable of making a choice.
The same with Scoots. I imagined scooting off with my swimming kit in my top box and parking at the beach, pulling up outside shops in Bournemouth and heading over on the ferry to the Purbecks. That all sounds perfectly feasible but the reality is that I’m always going to prefer the car, for the reasons discussed above.
So my relationship with Scoots had run its course, as my previous relationships had run theirs, but letting go was painful.
I felt some of that pain at the beach this morning after an early swim. I shed a few tears as I shared my sense of loss with a friend over the phone. Scoots represented a major chapter of my life – a chapter during which I was predominantly single, doing lots of work on myself to get to where I am today. It represented those years I worked as a political journalist in parliament and whizzed around London’s streets to the gym, to the shops, to bars and restaurants. It represented my London recovery journey. And it represented a pivotal moment in my life when I trusted my gut and followed my heart, despite what others said.
But I am writing a new chapter now. I travel by car or by bike. I am part of a couple. I will always be that free spirit, adventurous and courageous, but perhaps I’m a little more cautious than I was with a desire for a few home comforts. Maybe a convertible car is the perfect compromise – plenty of breeze but a little more safety and luxury.
A friend suggested that I say thank you to Scoots for all the wonderful things it brought me to help with the letting go process. I wonder if this exercise could help you to let go of someone or something too.
Thank you Scoots for helping me to love and to let go; for reminding me that it’s important to hold on to things loosely in life and to let money and possessions flow through me to others; for reminding me of my free, adventurous, courageous spirit; and for reminding me that I am a sensitive person who attaches deeply to people and to things and who deserves to be gentle with herself and show compassion and acceptance.
Most of all, Scoots, thank you for showing me that I can trust myself; that even when people try to talk me out of things, I can trust my instinct and follow my heart. Thank you for confirming that when I do so, remarkable things happen. Thank you for being such a wonderful testament to my growth and recovery.