It’s quiet and I’m struggling. I can’t believe I’m climbing hills again. My thighs are burning. My back is tired. These roads are in such disrepair. Every bump sends a shock from my wrists up through the back of my neck. My elbows ache.
As much as I’d like to believe I’m riding to Greenwich with good intentions – because cancer does not discriminate and even wealthy people get horrible diseases and deserve a wash of love and a how ya doin’ and a fuck that shit – the truth is I’m hoping to score a big donation.
The universe knows damn well when your intentions are off, so this is not going well. I can’t find a rhythm. Nothing looks or feels right. Even the sweet relief of a long down hill coast just makes me think of the ascent I’ll have to tackle on my way back later.
It’s hard when I’m out here in no man’s land climbing my 40th hill of the day because I don’t really know what I’m doing. Does anyone care? Why would anyone give me money for this? But I have to remember that I put myself out here by choice. And not knowing what I’m doing has never stopped me from finishing anything I’ve started. Why should it now? So I just keep crawling and seething.
Handing out fliers in Greenwich feels gaucher than gauche. I am oozing an air of desperation and defeat. I don’t understand the psychology of giving well enough to know how to approach these situations. I feel like a naïve little kid. You have money so I rode my bike down here hoping you would give me some.
And Greenwich doesn’t seem interested in my message. For the first time since I started, my jersey gets indignant stares and scoffs instead of hilarious double takes with hell yahs and high fives.
Before leaving town I stop for a snack at an old timey market and ask if I can put my fundraiser cards on a table that is filled with notices for other local events. The answer is yes but it’ll cost me $25. When I reply that I’m actually trying to raise money, not spend it, I get a slow nod and a drawn out “Yeaaaahhh…”
I can feel the rage start to build. Are you kidding me?! $25 to put a flier down on a table full of fliers?!!
I keep it in. Smile. Toss my change into the tip jar and walk outside to a wealthy young couple in a pristine white Lexus whisper-yelling at each other behind raised windows. Maybe they think the world can’t tell how pissed they are by the looks on their faces.
It’s then that I flip the perspective switch. Eckhart Tolle taught me that. Stephen Batchelor, Shakyamuni, Paramahansa Yogananda, Krishna Das, they all taught me that. Notice the discontent as quickly as possible and then flip your own switch. We all have our struggles whether they are self-inflicted or not. Frustration with them repeatedly gets us nowhere. Every single time, it fails us. If something’s not working, you gotta switch it up.
Better to be in New Milford helping a seven year old with his math homework. Better to be attending a workshop on the Myths of Breast Cancer with his mom.
I pound a Pepsi, blast the Foo Fighters in my earphones and turn around, flying out of there ten times faster than I limped in.
Can you hear it? The intro build to All My Life…
All my life I’ve been searching for something / something never comes never leads to nothing
My back is still tired. The hills won’t relent but it doesn’t matter anymore.
Nothing satisfies but I’m getting close / closer to the prize at the end of the rope
The climbs are just as steep as they’ve ever been but I don’t notice. I’m going deeper beyond the pain.
On and on I got nothing to hide / On and on I got nothing to hide
Who knows what passersby make of the chick in the FUCK CANCER jersey climbing hills in southwestern Fairfield County screaming along with a Dave Grohl only she can hear in her headphones. Furthermore who cares?
Done done onto the next one done I’m done and I’m onto the next
The road can have my rage. My heart has no use for it.
As soon as I start singing with Dave I start riding like Coach C taught me on Oahu, head down in my big ring, ducking below the wind. Charging the descents with full force in order to coast up to the next crest with minimal effort. The hills almost disappear.
Yours and mine and left and right there’s still two sides to everyone
Late in the day I cycle roads I haven’t been on since I was a child. Lounsbury, the Ethan Allen Highway, Simpaug Turnpike to Sidecut. I plaster the West Redding Post Office with fliers and cards and I head home feeling the good kind of exhausted.
I dare say most of life is like this. When I focus, when the flip is switched and the intention is right, I ride as hard and fast as I can hardly noticing the hills. Even when they look like this:
[Approximate elevation of my 114 mile Saturday ride in the CT/MA/RI corner]
Thirteen days and 660 miles in I cannot imagine making it to 2,000 miles by day thirty but I’m not gonna stop pedaling. Best guess – I’ll land somewhere near 1,500. I may extend the allotted time to six or eight weeks and see what I come up with. I just know now that I need more rest than I initially planned.
The rules are changing as I go but no matter what I will make it to all six states in New England and this is not for naught. I’m spreading an energy. I’m getting people to look at me, to think about how fucked up cancer is. And though I’m only 30% to my fundraising goal, the donations keep trickling in.
In the end I’m strengthening myself. And strength is something I will forever be able to share with E. We feed off each other that way. We lift each other out of the ruts. We share our stories, our lives, our frustrations and triumphs.
We’re women. We’re friends. No one can take that away from us. Trust me it’s not all pretty but we will always be there for each other in a real and tangible way.
Today I give my gear some love and my muscles rest. Tomorrow I start my trek to northern Vermont.
Coming down I’m coming round this time I think I’m waking up
You change and then you change again
Turning like a wheel inside your head
Overdrive we’re going life or death