I went for a ride today with some women from here. I rode with them before I left for my big ride and could not keep up with them AT ALL. That ride was no fun, embarrassing, verging on miserable. I wondered how it would be to ride with them again. I actually thought about them a few times while on some hard bit of the big ride.
Today I had my chance.
I did pretty well. I was not the very last one. I managed to keep up for most of the time. There were times when I had to really give myself a boost, a "come on come on come on" rally. At one point I was saying, "catch up, catch up, catch up" out loud to myself. I put out a bit more effort and caught up. It IS much easier to ride when you are right behind the rider in front because the drafting thing works and you get sucked along a bit.
On today's ride there was a wind and that got me at one point. And there was a time when I was feeling pretty weak and annoyed that there they all were, getting farther and farther ahead of me. There was no catching up. And even more frustrating was watching them and getting the impression that they were not expending any effort at all. That's probably not true, but it sure seemed it.
I am really not competitive when it comes to this riding thing. And I was riding with a bunch of women who actually ARE. They race. They win. Today was their "easy" ride but it was a big deal for me.
On the way back we started up a hill that has been a VERY hard one for me and I DID manage to go right up it so that was good. And we passed a single rider who caught up and rode very close to me, admitting that she was using me and us as motivation. That kind of made me ride a bit harder. It's funny. I do not want to race and I do not want to win or beat anyone and there is not a big, "I've got to be first!" bone in my body. But I also don't want to be last.
I guess I like being strong in myself, but it is only a comparison to myself, not to anyone else.
And now I am sore again and have spent the afternoon finishing putting bee hive pieces together. At some point my bees will be far enough along that I will need to bring these new pieces up to my apiary and will need to add them to what is there. The bees just work. I have two hives and one is quite a bit ahead of the other one but they do not pay any attention to that at all. Why do I?
This week I will work on putting together the video of my ride for the presentation I am doing in Washington in July at the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance conference. I'm the closing speaker. A big deal for me. Very. And it looks like there is going to be a bike ride just before the conference. Maybe we'll turn this into an annual ride. This will be the first. A ride for ovarian cancer awareness.
I have been aware all day long that this is my 21st anniversary of finding out I had ovarian cancer. A 45 mile ride and putting bee hive components together seems to be a good way to celebrate and to honor being alive. That and writing more. So here you go. I'll be in touch.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
It is Saturday. May 30, 2009. I am at work waiting for catering staff to show up so they can collect the things they need for the party they are serving tonight. Normally I would have gone home by now but some communication lines got crossed and so here I am, waiting for the staff. Which, if you look at it differently,as a positive thing instead of an "ugh I want to LEAVE thing" gives me time to write a note about today.
Tomorrow is the 21st anniversary of me getting surgery for what turned out to be ovarian cancer. I remember going to deliver a breakfast-in-bed basket to a guy's wife and then driving myself home where I picked up my girlfriend and we went to the hospital so I could have my operation. When I went to the hospital I did not know how the surgery would turn out. When I woke up many hours later my girlfriend told me I had cancer. Again.
Ironically today I was delivery babe for a last minute drop off catering for a funeral. I am pretty sure that today's delivery was to the same house as that breakfast gift basket went to those 21 years ago. Funny.
Cancer hovers too near me these days. I have two friends who are in treatment right now. I have friends who are in the clear, but just barely. And I have friends who are waiting to hear the results of tests. This is too much. Too much for me sometimes.
One thing that happened as I started this ride project was that people starting coming to me and telling me their cancer stories. In the beginning I was filled with a certain fear whenever these conversations would start up. It's sort of like driving by an accident. I never want to look but I sometimes do anyway. In these conversations I never wanted to know but I found myself right in front of the horror and had to stand still and listen. I have learned to be supportive, to be a quiet listener, to hope that I can be some sort of example for someone just because I am alive. But what I had, I had. I'm different. We're ALL different and really how can MY story mean anything to anyone else?
And it got pretty scary and too close sometimes and I found myself closing off, shutting down, imagining clamping my hands over my ears and not letting anything in. I didn't want the warnings that people were sending me. I didn't want the fear. I didn't want the subject matter.
But at the same time, I'M the one who chose to add the layer of "cancer survivor" to this bike ride project and this is where it leads. Being the one who can, maybe, help. Being the one who is, maybe, the inspiration for someone not this far along in their recovery. Being the one who is learning how to be brave enough to talk about this, trusting that the talking is not going to get me sick again. But I feel my pulse race even as I write this.
The reality is that every time someone I know gets sick I get scared. And every time an anniversary comes up, a rush of gratitude - and fear - courses through me. Every doctor's appointment, every conversation with a cancer patient or survivor, every single one elicits a big, noticeable reaction in me.
So tomorrow is my 21st anniversary. The ride was all about my 20th anniversary, my 54th year, my Golden Year. I did it. I did the ride. I celebrated my Golden Year by doing a big thing. Now it is the beginning of another year. I am now 55. And I AM healthy. And I AM feeling braver and braver. It helps to have completed the ride. That was a pretty brave thing to do, mostly in ways I did not expect. Having done it makes me feel like, well, like I accomplished a big thing. And, more, that I have an obligation to do something more. Maybe this is it.
Maybe. I'll just write about that for a while.
I'm going to pick this up and write more again. I've missed it. Here's the first note. I'll be in touch now on a regular basis.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Today is a beautiful one. I'm back on my bike, slowly and surely riding. Slowly and surely finding the balance, the route, the direction. Slowly and surely.
I'm surprised to be so creaky. I'm surprised that it takes this long to settle back to my home and this life. Surprised. Impatient. I want to wake up and pop into things and say, "wow, what was all THAT about?"
Instead I open my eyes, take a pulse, look at the light, wonder some more. It is an interesting time.
I have a fountain in my garden that I made last year. It's a big, deep blue vase that I rigged. I got some thick rubber for a lining and then got some silicon caulk. I cut and patched and filled and rigged and turned it into a little bubbly thing. It was not easy. It was not hard either, but I now remember that every single step of the process involved asking a lot of questions, getting a lot of advice, going to a few different stores, coming home, trying it out, and, finally, having a water-filled pot, all ready for plants. I found a water hyacinth at the nursery and it seemed to have a nice summer, bubbling away, providing a place for the bees and adding a soft background song to my home.
This project started as a way to give my bees a place to drink. Last year my bees were new. Me too. New as a beekeeper, new as a fountain maker. New as a water plant gardener.
We had a drought last summer and it was cold in the winter and I did not feed my bees nor did I drain the pot of its water. The plant died. The bees did too which also happened to a lot of very experienced beekeepers who DID know what they were doing and who DID feed their bees. The silicon liner froze too, cracked, leaked out all the water. So it goes.
Earlier this week I got out the extra rubber liner from last year and cut a new circle for my fountain. I bought new caulk and pasted the new rubber liner in. I put a dish in the bottom of the new liner so that my brick plant supports would not cut into it. I filled the pot, hooked up the pump, and enjoyed one evening of burbling song.
The next day my fountain was completely empty.
I found the leak, re-caulked it, waited, refilled the fountain, waited and, seeing the water holding, just went and bought some new little plants. So far so good.
Today is a holiday and I am going to go down into my bee work area and I am going to assemble more bee hive parts. Last year during a time of disconnect, when I was feeling very unsettled, I did that too. When in doubt I put bee hive parts together. At the end of that project, after those many days of bee hive assmbling, I was ready for my bees and was feeling better.
Pretty soon it will be time to add more hive parts to my hives. They need to be put together now, while there is time so that they will be ready when I need them.
So today is a bee hive assembly day. Slowly and surely. Later I'll go for another bike ride. Then I'll take Tye the pup for a walk.
Slowly. Intentionally. Patiently.
One frame at a time.
I'll be in touch.
Friday, May 22, 2009
I wrote a very eloquent piece yesterday from home and, when I went to send it, found that my computer had disconnected itself from the internet. The eloquence dissolved. So it goes. So it went.
This is the planter in front of my shop. Put together by Annie, my sweetie, it is a fresh, bright greeting. A promise of things to come, things that are growing, things that are good.
This morning I had a visit from Susan Shillcock's kindergarten, first, and second grade class. They brought spinach and collards from their school garden. Together we washed and prepared the spinach. Our chef cooked it up and the children made spinach tarts, simple things with puffed pastry, grated cheese, and a little egg wash. While the tarts cooked I showed them some snaps from my ride and let them check out my helmet and my rearview mirror and my padded gloves.
Then the tarts were cooked. Just like that.
A buffet! Collards, spinach tarts, and little Elsie's Biscuits with some of Sweet Betty's Bees honey.
I'm coming back more and more. Today helped. Having a pot of spring lovelies in front of my shop helps. And last night I had dinner with the PR director for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance and her family. Just 7 months ago I was having dinner with her, sharing my nervousness about my venture. Now I'm done, telling her about it.
The children gave me a jar filled with coins and dollars. They had collected it for me, for the bike ride. $37.00 more for the cause. This kind of thing fills me right up. I sat on the floor, surrounded by the children and surrounded by love and filled with trust and hope.
There have been times when I have looked for someone else to tell me that things will be alright. No one can ever do that for me. They've tried. I've looked, wished for it, tried to believe in their words. It has not worked.
But now, slowly, I feel, from deep inside me, that things ARE alright and WILL continue to be just fine. I have big dreams of things. Don't worry. The biggest dream at the moment is about turning this experience into a book. I dream about making a life that is filled with love and adventure and thought. And then I remember - I already have that. But sometimes I forget.
Flowers help me remember. And children. And bees. And work. And my bicycle.
Thanks for reading I'll be in touch.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
This is a photo from Wakulla Springs. You may remember (or scroll down to see) the picture of just my legs, jumping off the high platform into the springs. My friend Janet Bee took that picture and was VERY upset that she cut off my body. Actually, I LOVE that picture. If we'd tried a hundred times I doubt we could have come up with such a perfect picture.
This picture was taken by someone else on the ride. Elisabeth, fully dressed stood up on the high platform and took some pictures of the three of us who were brazen enough to jump. The funny thing is that I jumped because Mik, our guide from the first half of the ride, had told us to jump and think of her. I took that to mean, jump and think of HER jumping. Well, turns out she had NOT jumped, but had stayed up on that high platform for two hours, never managing to get the guts to jump. I wonder what I would have done if I'd known that she had not jumped.
Today is my 55th birthday. I have a sore back, still, from lifting up my suitcase AFTER the ride. I have not been on my bicycle since the ride except for a token 9 miles. I am sore and filled with curiosity about the ride and about what it meant and about what I want to and need to and should be doing now. 55 seems like a big deal. Not as big as 60. Bigger than 50.
My friend Olivia read my chart and said this will be a big year. Moving out of the place which says work is everything into a place that places greater importance on internal, spiritual matters. And, she said, moving from one to the other will take time and will involve a good dose of confusion.
She got that one right on the nose. I feel dizzy, unsure, wobbly, spinning. When I left, things seemed sure and certain and, though hard, familiar. The ride offered a great time of routine. I knew what I had to do each day. I knew there were things I did not have to think about, like where we were staying or what we were eating for dinner. I had little jobs, like stacking the chairs after dinner or handing out the cue sheets. Simple, simple things.
The contrast is pretty sharp. I crafted a vision that brought me to the place I am now. And it has suited me just fine for a long time. But 55 feels like a big marker and I feel an internal urge, just like the urge I get to clean my house in April, to craft the next one.
Which makes my head spin.
Annie, who is here for my birthday, and who was my biggest surprise of the bike ride, counsels patience, as does everyone else who has an opinion. I am, she reminds me, the main one who is impatient with myself. Everyone else, I remind myself, has their own issues, challenges, desires, visions.
And I am listening to the people who ask for a book from this time of mine. I am aware that this book will be about the ride itself, but also the part that is going on right this very second. This, I remind myself, is what everyone goes through. A neighborhood church near here has one of those signs with removable letters. Right now it says, "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you do with that." Good counsel.
So I think I'll pick this thought collection back up on a more regular basis. Write me if you wish to, if you have a thought to send my way or some ideas for this book. Write either here or on my personal e-mail: email@example.com
And thank you for sharing this journey and my birthday with me.
Here we go!
Thursday, May 7, 2009
This journey into my home is a tricky one. I have thought about this and have spoken about it with some of you. I've started to write about it, about returning. This seems to be a universal challenge. Okay, maybe "universal" is a bit too lofty, but it certainly is becoming clear to me that I am NOT the only one who has struggled with coming home.
Just the fact that this has its own name, reentry, should make me know that something challenging is going to happen. I'm back. I don't want to be. Now what?
Today I felt a little bit better. I'm trying. I am also, I'm sure, trying the patience of some people.
"How are you?" they ask.
"Fine," I say, "well, sort of."
Or, if I'm telling the truth, "Awful. I miss the routine, the ease, the people, the structure."
Really, though, that is more than I usually let out. They've all been here. What right do I have to wish for more of what I no longer have?
So today I went home and took a look inside my beehives and did some equipment tweaking. The bees are set now, ready for the first "honey flow," the time when the flowers are in bloom and they are in full production for honey. It's about ready to happen and I am now ready.
Then I thought about my friend Annie, who suggests naming the five best things of the day. Here goes:
1. I'm alive and healthy.
2. It was a beautiful day here.
3. My sister is glad I'm here. So are some friends.
4. I have Annie in my life and that is a fine thing.
5. I took Tye for a walk and she was very happy to be out with me. She even got to lie down in the lake - her favorite thing.
5 things a day is a good thing to strive for.
And I'm grateful for this outlet too. Some of you say I'll figure it out better if I write about it. Okay - here it is.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
May 6, 2009
Funny. Today I am stiff with a sore back, tweaked when I nudged my suitcase into my car on the way home from St. Augustine. I can't get up or sit down without noticing how sore I am. The idea of flowing from any activity to any other activity is like a wild fantasy. I hope it settles down pretty soon. It certainly doesn't help anything to feel this sore.
But, on the other hand, it is, like so many other things, a perfect metaphor for this time of reentry. I am horrible at reentry. I balk, scream, resist, squirm, fret, moan, and cry. I mourn the loss of the freedom that WAS. I chafe against the return to what was, knowing, KNOWING that I, at least am different. Well, maybe. Or maybe not.
I think it is easy to be different when everything is different. And it is incredibly difficult to try to retain that certainty when everything else is the way it was - before. Of course, not everything is as it was and so reentry involves patience with everyone, knowing that everyone has had two months of life too. In some cases those two months have been monumental. In some, not so much.
My challenge, right now, is to retain the best of the ride and to let the lessons soak in. I am home and wandered around yesterday in some sort of a daze. I went to some of my old familiar places (the grocery store, the gym, my car)and found myself just touching, barely touching the walls or the steering wheel or the something or other. The touch was, I noticed, about trying to reconnect. I do not feel like reconnecting. But I am done with the riding for now and it is time to be HERE now, not there or anywhere but here.
This picture is Pearl Fryer's garden in Bishopville, South Carolina. He started "cutting up bushes" about 20 years ago. This had been a cornfield. Pearl's vision brought him to this place where he is right now. Famous for his philosophizing. Desired for his perspective. People are pouring to see him. He pontificates and shares and his eyes sparkle when he sees a visitor really listening.
Maybe that's what's going on. I'm trying to put this experience into a place, sculpted, developing, inspirational, secure for myself. I don't know how to do that. Pearl didn't either, when he started this garden. It can take a long time.
I'll be in touch as I go.
Thank you for visiting the beginning of whatever it is that is going to grow from now on.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
And I'm sore.
I tweaked my back yesterday as I was sliding my suitcase into my car. This is one of those "I can't beLIEVE it!" things. I have been hauling that suitcase all over the country and I never tweaked my back with it. Ah well. Can't do a thing about it today. Tomorrow I'll go visit my chiropractor and he'll fix it.
I woke up so sore I wasn't sure I could accomplish my wish to ride into Jubilee. But I sucked it up and got on my bike, wearing rain gear for the first time in two months, and rode in. Cool!!!!
Jubilee welcomed me, hugging, smiling, cavorting with me.
All was fine at my shop too. French Toast!!!! And they had a Huevos Rancheros special that looked pretty darn good.
I am now finally tired and will now stop.
These posts will now come as I have something to say. Which will probably not be the case every day.