I am out in California this week and we are staying at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Nigel. It sits high on a cliff overlooking the ocean and it is a beautiful place. Every morning, I have been riding a bike at the gym on the property. The gym has a massive chandelier and floor to ceiling windows that look over the water. The equipment all faces these windows. I have been watching the surfers each morning as I pedal, amazed.
They paddle out, then sit and wait.
Patient and present
Sometimes a set comes to rapidly and everyone passes on the ride.
Sometimes a wave comes and only one or two surfers take it in, the others float on.
Occasionally a big wave comes and everyone pops up trying to ride it in and mostly get pummeled in the process.
These wipe outs can be epic.
Without fail, they all turn their boards back toward the deep and do it again.
They paddle back out
Sometimes you can see a guy shake his head and I imagine him saying ” dude, that was awesome!!”
Even if it was a wipeout
They turn around and do it again
Now, back at the gym, I am the only one watching
Everyone else, everyday
has watched the screen in front of them
Or their phones
I find it so tragic that people are missing all the beauty and
The lessons of the surfers
That no matter how bad it is
Do it again
If it’s epic and amazing
Do it again
Everyday you wake up, you get to do it again
So, when wipe outs occur and they will
Do it again
If you are in a space where you feel like you are caught in a riptide and being pulled out to sea
Just sit and wait, don’t struggle
You can and will get out of it
Then you shake your head
Tell God your grateful for another day
And go do it again
Today, in Atlanta, it is 72 degrees
So, with weather like this, I decided to ride my bike.
I need the practice and since it’s Sunday, Michael is home.
We went to the school parking lot where I first drove after being confined to the wheelchair for a year and a half.
That, was also a Sunday.
I had large plastic braces around my feet and up my legs to the knee (picture a plaster cast and you are close) my feet were then placed in shoes three sizes too big
(that’s how big they were, I wear a six, those were nines)
I stomped/walked around from the passenger side with Michael giving me every reason why this wasn’t a good idea.
I did it anyway, and loved it!
I was free again.
I could leave my house, alone again.
It was an incredible feeling..
That was four years ago.
And today, with my bike, Michael is encouraging and relaxed.
We even brought the dogs.
They watched through the open sunroof and smiled like only pit bulls can.
I rode in circles.
Round and round the parking lot on a perfectly windy day.
With just the right cloud cover so you don’t squint and you don’t get hot.
With each lap, I grow stronger.
I stop after a while and immediately say-
“Gosh, I can’t wait to go out onto the street and really go somewhere”
I caught the words as I said them
Not before they came out
And I came home wondering-
How much of life is going around and around?
We dread it
We are tired of it
We are weary from the merry-go-round, that’s not very merry.
Life just feels like a series of do overs, necessary laps
We let the circles and the sameness of everydayness
Lull us into thinking..is this all there is?
But is it?
Isn’t part of our lesson to be present?
Right where we are
To be in joy, while we ride, even if it is in circles
In that parking lot, was everything
In that moment, was everything
where we first said, “hello”
I was out for a girls night
so I was at the bar alone
He walked by
With an elderly man, in a top hat
I saw him
He saw me
Girls arrived and he was already seated, close
He came around behind me
Asked if he could buy me a glass of wine
Meet him at the bar
Waiting to order, girls…
The owner holding the menus said
” I believe you have some one waiting on you, I’ll order for you. I am the owner, go”
She was so tiny and so incredibly mighty-
So, I went
Our place, our corner
Our anchor in the storm that would arise
So, we go back
The tables are the same
The place beside the bar still there
Our memories fill the seats
Who was I that he met and remembers?
Who am I that I still want to be?
So much has changed
So much has remained
Disco lights and Italian food
Roses and red sauce are remembrances
Hugs are prayers
and dreams do come true
It’s my three year birthday today.
Three years ago I was alone in a hospital far from home.
Today I am home alone and feeling great.
Three years ago I had been up all night, worried and afraid.
Today I woke up awaiting my husbands return from a business trip, totally refreshed.
Three years ago I was confined to a wheelchair and couldn’t tie my own shoes.
Today I am walking around with only a small brace on my right foot.
I can tie my shoes and dress myself.
Three years ago I couldn’t open a tube of toothpaste.
Today I can cook and ride a bicycle.
Three years ago today I was bald.
Today my hair is long enough to have an inch cut off and it’s still past my shoulders.
Three years ago I was full of fear and trying so hard to be brave.
Today I wear my courage like a crown.
Three years ago today my stem cells came into my room with a priest and a doctor.
Modern medicine and a man of faith
Today I still hold both close
Because without either one, I wouldn’t be here.
I got a bicycle today
It was my birthday present and
It was a very big deal
The thought of having one has been at the forefront of my mind for awhile
The memory of riding, at the beach, the breeze, the ease of movement
The wind in my hair
Made me want the feeling again
Made the longing for the time, before this illness, even stronger
So, I asked for a bike
Now, I have to ride it
Now, I have to show up at the store and be fitted for the seat height and a helmet
I can’t fasten the clasp on the chinstrap
I can’t adjust the seat height
I can’t load my bike into my car
The brick wall of handicap that I so adeptly avoid these days
So, Michael brought me and the bike home in his car
The basket, that was also a gift, is empty and I want to crawl in it and deny that any of this is
I smile and swallow self pity
I sit down on our sofa and put my head back
I summon some courage
way down inside and
I pray under my breath
I plead a little with my face toward heaven
” just don’t let me fall”
I exhale and grit my teeth
“just don’t let me fall ”
I exhale and shut my eyes
“just don’t let me fall”
Michael walks the bike to the end of our driveway and down to the stop sign
I get on
My stomach is lurching and my heart is pounding in my ears
Michael holds on while I find my feet, find my peddles
I push down the fear as I push down the peddle and
I am amazed at how scared I really am
And then I ride
Wobbly and slow
But, I ride
Our altered lives have become our norm
The term “its five o’clock somewhere” floats everywhere in our collective atmosphere
We “wine” down
We put Chardonnay in a sippie cup for the stroll to the park with the kids
We “have a few” just to “take the edge off”
We medicate to go to sleep
To stay asleep
To wake up
To eat less
To cry less
We struggle to live, so we drink
We seek solace in a shot glass or a white-capped bottle
We struggle, so we alter our reality
And it’s easy
The flame hits the pipe and the smoke delivers you
Drops off the magic carpet so you can ride freely away
Find the ocean in the trees
The quiet in the rain
Feel no pain
Forget who you are
or at least where it hurts
But, what if life itself, alters you?
What if war, alters you?
What if that child, alters you?
Cancer alters you?
A car crash, alters you?
They don’t have enough to smoke in Colorado for that to be, okay
So, where do you look when the room spins
The bottom drops
The phone rings
We are aggravated and agitated
We blow our horns and then our minds
It’s like glitter unleashed
Some things you can never get out of the carpet
Religion, can alter you
We pray in hopes that we will be delivered
Preachers call us to the altar to lay it down before the Lord
There was a lady that lived next door to me growing up
She had two daughters
The older one, was my friend
She was raised in church
She invited me and would ring our doorbell until I came out and went with her
She got sick in our freshman year of college
Because she was too sick to go to class
She came home
But because she wasn’t s student anymore
She lost her insurance
It didn’t matter that her dad was a fireman
That her mom sang in the choir
She soon lost her hair
Then her fingernails
And then, she died
Every Sunday after, when the church bells rang
Her mom started the lawnmower
She pushed that thing with a vengeance
She didn’t sing to God any longer
She was altered
Where do you go?
What do you do?
Who do you become at your alter call
Michael and I have a small group from our church that comes to our house every other Sunday night
We are new to each other but are bonding quickly
We have enjoyed each meeting, very much
Mark, a fellow Okie, brought the discussion last night around a book he is reading. It was a great night and I was impacted by the lesson that is, “we are all in soul training.”
I made him repeat it
And then I got up to write it down
Asked him to repeat it again
It would explain so much
Answer so many questions
Help so many wounded
One of the best friends I’ve ever had, lost her mom this week
Another friend to us, lost her husband this week of 42 years
People are looking for help
They are praying for grace
Broken lives are scattered everywhere for us to walk around
Pieces of dreams litter the world
What if that is what it’s all about?
What if this is the answer
What would that look like?
How would that feel?
That the knowledge is in the loss
The pain is part of the plan
The purpose for our growth
It’s the steps, none of us want to take
The goodbyes no one wants to say
It’s the disease with no cure and a whole room full of victims
The sky looks empty with no God in heaven
But, what if He is here