The problem with “living in the moment” is that unless you LiveTweet your life, you likely won’t remember all the things you really want to remember. You simply live, love, and luxuriate in the moment and then when you wake the next day, >poof!< it’s sorta kinda gone. The feeling may remain (sometimes … usually…), but the whys and hows and wherefores from whence it stems often soften. Or sometimes the feeling itself will morph, expand, or completely dissipate of its own accord without rhyme or reason.
Or maybe that’s just me and my Etch-a-Sketch® brain…
In any event, the entire 24 hours that I spent living, loving, and luxuriating in my 41st birthday last week I kept thinking: “Gosh, I need to put this on the blog…” And as I enjoyed further “Belated Birthday” shenanigans these past several days, too, I thought: “Dangit, I really need to share this with my JustAdventurers!“
Alas, my mind’s metaphorical polystyrene beads managed to obliterate the aluminum powder truth of most of these stories. That being said, however, some indelible truths remain — like those offered by my beloved, stalwart 3Bs:
- Bacon (i.e., My “Bacon Trifecta” … (1.) Double-order breakfast with mom in OC, (2.) A caramel-braised pork belly sandwich for lunch with Q in LA, and (3.) A Chuao Chocolate Maple Bacon bar for my second dessert [AFTER my Madonna Inn Black Forest Cake!] courtesy of my aunt in Arroyo Grande);
Bikes (i.e., Helping to lead a Ride2Recovery Project HERO rider training camp in San Luis Obispo); and
- Beers (i.e., The Firestone 12-er from my cousins who crashed the birthday dinner my aunt made [which was totally AWESOME, btw!] + assorted other IPAs from other well-wishers in various settings).
Bacon. Bikes. Beers.
Those are mere nouns. The verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and interjections required to give real meaning to those noun nuggets have mainly eluded me — until now. Maybe.
Now that I’ve been cooped up in my house for 15+hours thanks to the SoCal #Rainpocalypse (stupidest hashtag meme-ation ever, IMO), some storyline nuances have begun to storm my brain like so much effluence in the rain-bloated L.A. River.
What follows is a water-logged mishmash of partial events and maybe-not-quite-memories from the last week…
In retrospect, I think the most interesting element of my 41st birthday celebration is that it was the first time since attaining legal adulthood that I can recall spending 100% of my day celebrating with family. More importantly, it’s probably the first time since I was approximately 5-years-old that I LOVED every minute of having a 100% “Family Only” celebration:
- Breakfast with Mom.
- Lunch with “Dad.”
- Dinner with my Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin/cousin-in-law.
- Nightcaps with my “Brother.”
Yes, “Dad” and “Brother” have quotes around them because no notarized documents attest to their status in my life, but everyone knows that’s who they are to me. Mom isn’t married to my Papa and she didn’t birth my brother either, but she’ll be the first to tell you that they absolutely fill those roles for me. Knowing who your family is and loving every member of it is pretty much THE best gift you can get as a 41-year-old.
And having ~50 “cousins” show up for a birthday bike ride = more than metaphorical icing on the cake of my life. Indeed, the R2R Project HERO SLO Training Camp truly was very much like a family reunion, except instead of asking “So, how, exactly, are we related?” my standard nice-to-meet-you question was, “So, when did you join the family?”
A profoundly important element of being a part of the R2R Family is that we are uniquely open, honest, and vulnerable with one another. We are flawed. We are damaged. We are not ashamed. We draw strength from one another.
Riding with these folks, some brand-new to me, some well-known, many who merely lurk on the periphery of my Facebook Friends feed, I started off feeling like crap. I was not-so-super-psyched about this part of my birthday “celebration”…
Some of the “crappiness” feeling could be attributed to the very late, wine-fueled, night of philosophical discussions that transpired between me and my Brother. More crappiness could be laid at the foot of my ongoing rebound from my recently diagnosed Hypothalamic Dysfunction. Yet more blame could be laid at the doorstep of my general bicycling laziness over the past few months. Whatever. The point of the matter is: I felt like crap, yet the miles must be ridden and people were counting on me to lead them. I simply lifted one pedal and then the other, kept my eyes on the horizon, and believed that everything would end OK.
Along the way, riders shared bits of their own despair and challenges with me, nonchalantly, as if it was the most natural thing in the world to be so open and vulnerable, and we just kept pedaling.
Their stories often surprised and moved me and none of them left me untouched. The discrepancy between what they shared as their inner truth and what I thought I saw as an outside observer was astonishing.
I’m looking at them.
I’m seeing strong riders.
I’m seeing smiling faces.
I’m hearing about how they got blown up, or sexually assaulted, or were widowed when their husband was killed in action, or they spent time living in a homeless shelter, and I’m thinking “If I passed you on the street, I would never know. You seem so normal.“
And then of course I knew that they probably thought the same of me when I shared my own unique R2R story.
I never knew what to say. And maybe that was the point. What could I say that could make a difference? We were out for a ride. This was their truth. Nothing could change that. It’s a beautiful day. Let’s just keep pedaling.
We all seem “so normal” on the outside despite the fact that we –everyone, not just R2R riders, but maybe you, too, dear reader– carry deep and unique pains.
We go to the store and buy milk and fill our cars with gas and pedal our bikes and no one knows the appalling weight we carry within us; the nearly inhuman effort it sometimes takes for us to appear “normal.” It’s humbling –and empowering– to ride with family members who understand, accept, and carry with them the profoundly unique damages we share so freely with one another.
We rode our bikes through bucolic, rolling wine country on a couple of ~85° February days. Afterwards we ate BBQ and ice cream and drank beers. I heard their stories. I shared mine. We exchanged these tales, wrapping them carefully in our hearts and tucking them safely in our minds. We may or may not ever see each other again, but the gifts we exchanged will remain with me forever. I may not remember all the details, but the feeling will always remain.
And that’s more than enough for now.
Parting Thought: Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see. ~ C.S. Lewis