Saturday, March 11, 2017

Check those bonafides

The feeling came on fast, aching loneliness. It began creeping last night at the hostel and then picked up at dawn, as I rode to the start of the Santa Cruz Randonneurs 200K. The first ride of the season. I watched the birds observe the rising of the sun, lifting together in an effortless, coordinated way above the water. My thoughts were lonely, abandoned thoughts. 

Where are all the people I used to ride with? Brave companions of the road. I counted on them to lift me up. What has become of them?

We spent hours together out there, taking care of each other, telling stories. Where's Donn, my brevet buddy? Miss him so much, it hurts. The newbies are pretenders, nothing like us.

Am I really the only one left? How can that be? I'm not ready to go on alone.  Why am I the one who's left, out here riding long rides? Maybe it's time to pack it in...

West Cliff Drive might be the most scenic approach to any brevet, anywhere, I roll up at the Santa Cruz Lighthouse, 6:40am, ready to sign in. I'm doing this one, alone, whatever. Leading and facilitating are Lois and Bill, the organizers, longtime randonneurs, longer than me. Many, many kilometers to their credit.

In the next few minutes Jim Bradbury rolls up, followed by Kim Freitas. Both have been randonneuring since before I started in 1998. They were great mentors on Paris-Brest-Paris 1999. I do remember before PBP 2003, that moment in a Breton creperie in St Quentin-en-Yvelines, Jim being so keyed up he pronged a fork high into the air during dinner. Both he and Kim have similar stories about me, I'm sure.

This is possibly the largest grouping of real, bonafide anciens et anciennes in recent memory. We're all here, with more than 20 PBPs among us. There's no need to feel alone.

Of course, Jim and Kim and I ride the whole 200K together. The whole sunny day. On the gorgeous California coast.

Yeah take that, loneliness. Move along!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Don't let that bird fly

Interactions with other humans... they can just drain me of hope. They can feed me, too...

This is Lee, from the Pacific Northwest (Seattle area). We're in San Diego, about to start the Christmas Trip 2012. Took this photo in case it would be useful.

Well, I guess I knew it would be useful.

I first met Lee on this trip a few years ago. Escaping the rain and cold. This time around we recognize each other and Lee asks some casual question, and then another as it spirals into a thread on family dynamics. Hitting close to home since the humans who were in the accident with me, Danny's brother and his wife, happen to be here in the parking lot. Well out of the frame. Avoiding contact.

And it's weird. So the conversation goes quickly to the accident, and the narrative of blame, et cetera. Funny how people often know the right questions to ask. All of this heading to the core of who we are.

Lee's offers up a counter-story, an incredible story that I'll never forget. She has two sisters, one of whom, Sister A, did something on a boat, made a tragic mistake. Sister A's mistake resulted in Sister B not having a leg any more. A rope got wrapped around it and the boat took off from the dock and left the leg behind.

That's not even the interesting part. After the accident Sister A, the one who ripped off the leg with the boat, doesn't talk to Lee any more. She tends to Sister B and takes her to physical therapy and Lee gets to be the bad one. Mind you, Lee was not there, was not responsible, was not even remotely involved. Yet Sister A in her guilt needs to shun someone, exclude her for some murky triangular reason that is never spelled out. If you have sisters, you might recognize this situation as illogical and hurtful and unjust. It's unclean. Which is exactly the point.

Shunned and yet whole, Lee has some advice to share. On my parallel tale and how it all went down, the bizarre injustice and years of blame... she tilts her head a little and says 'hey, don't let that shit bird fly'. I can still hear her saying it. Feel the eye contact and the shrug and the humor too.

Philosophically speaking, girl - don't let it fly over you and drop anything you didn't order. Don't be a victim. Don't suffer other people's baggage and let it become your punishment, your injury, your burden. Don't stand for bird shit raining down on your life.

Keep your spirit intact. Be whole.

It's been 5 years since that sunny December morning in the parking lot. The family dynamics continue and if anything, have gotten worse. But the conversation and the memory and the photo are still massively helpful. The shit bird can fly only if I let it.

For the nth time...don't EVER let it, no matter what.