This has been a summer of new challenges and unexpected stories.
A bag caught in the front wheel of a bike. Typing one-handed messages to clients and co-workers. Phone calls from my best friends on mountains thousands of miles away. Saying goodbye to a relationship that a tall, sweet boy and I had both grown out of.
For much of this summer, I’ve felt off-balance in more ways than one. I still can’t straighten my left arm all the way – my physical balance is teetering somewhere between dangerous and comical. (Just ask anyone who’s watched me try to carry anything and open a door at the same time.) I’ve missed Abby and Julie almost as much as I’ve missed having two functional elbows. When I stopped being able to exercise after the accident, anxiety and self-doubt set in.
But over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about trust. Trust in myself, trust in my homies, but mostly trust in the universe/winds/spiritual beings at large.
Trusting in the great unknown is fucking hard. But – and this is important – trusting that good things will happen is a lot more fun than trusting that bad things will happen. At the very least, it makes being inside your own head more pleasant. (And at the end of the day, you’re the only one who has to be inside your own head.)
“Yeah dude, if we have a choice in believing that life is going to be great or shitty, we might as well tell ourselves that it’s going to be great,” Julie said as we laid on Jenness Beach a few weeks ago. (Oh yeah – did I mention Julie flew home for an impromptu family vacation a few weeks ago? We had 36 blissful hours together to drink iced coffee and make jokes about obscure battles in European history.)
Julie is really good at trusting that things will be okay. This is just another reason why she is the shit, and probably why I quote her like one might quote an eccentric, beloved, and elderly aunt. (“You know, this reminds me of something Julie always says…”) I am really good at trusting that things will be okay about 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time, Julie compares my worries to fretting over whether or not the sun will explode, and somehow I feel better.
Julie also wanted me to tell you that I’m good at trusting that things will be okay when she’s freaking out for no reason. We’re symbiotic that way.
This is the bike that I’ll be riding, along with the fabulous Dan Greer, for 192 miles next weekend. (Shoutout to Northeast Passage for helping us rent this sweet ride!) The seat in front shall be my throne. And no, I am not able to control any braking, shifting, or steering of any kind. I am, however, able to put the pedal to the medal without putting any weight on my still-technically-broken arm.
The Greers are longtime family friends from our time working in the adaptive program at Loon Mountain. Dan competed in the Lake Placid Iron Man last weekend. When he heard that I might need a partner to ride this crazy adaptive contraption that my mom had impulsively rented for PMC weekend, he volunteered immediately. (As previously established by his Iron Man completion, Dan is certifiably insane. But he’s also a nonstop pun factory, a superhero, and a very kind friend, so his insanity is much appreciated.)
Dan and I took our first long ride on Saturday morning with a few of our teammates. The 50-mile route was stupid-hilly, which Dan and I were both secretly excited about. (Riding the Pino on a stupid-hilly route now would mean that we would probably survive our stupid-long route next weekend.) We approached our first massive downhill within the first 10 miles.
As we passed one of those signs with a truck mounted on a steep triangle – HEY JUST SO YOU KNOW THIS SHIT IS ABOUT TO GET STEEP – I sat on my tandem recumbent throne and realized I had two options. Trust, or freak the fuck out. We crested the hill, and I went with trust.
Trust in Dan, of course. Trust that he’ll brake and shift and steer us in a way that keeps us both alive. That part was easy. (Like I said – Iron Man, superhero, friend.) But I took a deep breath and let myself trust in the other parts too. The pavement and the space between its crumbled potholes. The cars revving past us on the road. The wind that hummed in our ears as we rocketed towards the bottom of the hill. (That bike can get going.) It felt like listening to a really, really good song. That same warmth in your chest.
It didn’t take long for us to hit a sharp turn at the bottom of the hill, at which point I screamed and white-knuckled the handles at either side of my seat. But for a second there, I was really one with the spiritual beings at large.
Next weekend, I get to ride in the Pan-Mass Challenge even though I took the world’s lamest fall off my bike 7 weeks ago. I get to use my legs and be part of a team that’s pedaling for so many people we love. I get to remember and laugh and sing on a bike close to my bud Annabelle, which is really all I’ve wanted to do since that afternoon I tried to ride with a tote bag over my shoulder.
Recumbent tandem rocket ship is ready for takeoff. I am grateful, excited, and still not altogether convinced that I won’t pee my pants on downhill turns.