Disclaimer: This is a story from long ago and I have relied on my memory to retell the events as I remember them. That said, please be sure to read the hilarious correction that follows this story.

I’m on my road bike

pedaling down a packed dirt trail long converted from train tracks, trying to stay upright while my left eye screams in pain.

I have been on my bike pedaling for more than two hundred miles in three days when a tiny piece of matter has the nerve to lodge itself between my gas permeable contact lens and my eye ball.

Unless you have been a gas perm or hard lens wearer, you have no idea the agony one tiny spec of dirt can cause.

It’s fork scraping chalkboard discomfort.

It’s eye lash in the eye if the eye lash were on fire kind of pain.

It’s staring into an eclipse blinding.

This is what is happening to me… on my bike… in the middle of Wisconsin somewhere between mile 40 and camp.

There’s nowhere to wash out the lens. I can’t stop. All I can do is keep pedaling, as fast as my bum knee will allow.

OR… I could pop out my lens. But where do I keep it while riding? In my pocket? My water bottle? My hand? My mouth (I’ve done that before)?

Doesn’t matter.

I pop it out. It’s all I can do.

I “wash it” in my mouth. And then, without a mirror, I gingerly place it back on my eye ball.

I’m not alone. That’s the good part.

I’m with this guy I’ve been crushing on ever since we met training for this very long bike ride.

His name is Bob.

Bob Walker.

Bob Walker is helping me put my lens back in.

I manage to get it placed in the center of my eye. But it still burns. I instinctively pop it back out. I have no choice but to ride the rest of the way one-eyed and squinting. I put the lens in my water bottle for safe keeping and try to remember not to drink it.

Today was supposed to be an easy day.

Today we planned on getting to camp early to have time to go swimming. We were told there was a public pool at this campsite. Nothing sounded better than a dip in a cold pool with hundreds of our AIDS Ride buddies. We heard that there was a bar within walking distance from camp and that a bunch of people were planning on going there for a beer before crashing.

I want in.

I want to play. To party. To swim.

But instead of being there with everyone having fun, I am still on my bike, in agony.

My knee

My eye

My butt

My crotch

Everything hurts!

Why can’t we be there already?! Why is this taking so long? Why am I soooooo SLOW?!

It was Day 3 of 6 days of the ride. The first two days were tough. 90 miles the first day. 86 or something on the second. Today was much shorter. Closer to 60.

IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE EASY!

But it wasn’t.

And I’m pissed.

I would be completely falling apart if it weren’t for Bob.

Bob

I never thought I’d fall for a guy named Bob.

But here I am falling deeper in love with every mile. He rides with me. He brings me ice. He waits for me at every pit stop to make sure I’m okay. He brings me Cliff Bars and bananas. He shares his water when mine runs out. He doesn’t judge me when I shove Butt Goo down my bike shorts to help with chaffing. He makes me laugh and forget that this is really really hard.

I’m aware that my complaining is turning him off. It’s just so hard right now. I realize that this 6 day, 500 mile bike ride is the perfect first date. If we make it to the end still enamored with each other, then our love is a love that will last.

And this day. Day 3. Is the biggest test so far.

I want to be there, not here

The thought of everyone relaxing at the pit stop makes it even harder to get there.

The thought of our teammates cooling off in a cold swimming pool, jumping and splashing makes the humidity we feel during our agonizing stretch to camp excruciating.

I can’t stop picturing that cold frothy beer I’m not drinking.

And it’s making me mad and super complain-y.

“I just want to be there!” I whine. “They’re all having so much fun and we’re still here on our stupid bikes and I can’t see and my knee–”

“Try thinking of it another way,” Bob offers, cutting me off mid-whine.

“The party isn’t at the pit stop,” he says.

“It’s not?”

“No. The party is here.”

“Here?”

“Yes. Right here. We’re not the ones missing the party,” he explains, “Everyone else is. Because the party is wherever we are.”

“We’re the party?”

“Yeah,” he smiled, “We’re the party.”

I look squint at him through my burning left eye.

It occurs to me that I’m already madly in love with this man.

For the remaining 20 miles, we do everything to create and actually attend our own party.

We sing. Bob can’t sing. But he does anyway. We dance. As best as we can on our bikes. We pay the lovely scenery the attention it deserves.

And most important, we stop longing to be anywhere than right here.

We stop trying to fast forward this moment where sparks are flying and our love is taking shape in this early crazy visceral stage.

We not only attend our own party, we become the life of the party.

There are still moments where we forget. Mostly me. A shooting pain that travels from my knee up my IT band causes me to long for a big ol’ bag of ice and the healing powers of the chiropractors at camp.

Bob reminds me…

“The party! Where’s it at?”

“Right here!” I respond.

“That’s right,” he smiles. Convinced.

There’s a shift. I relax a little. There’s no place to get to. I’m where I’m supposed to be. On my bike. With Bob. Pedaling.

::Sigh::

A mantra for life

That was in 1999.

We were married 4 years later. And in our ten years of marriage (our 10 year anniversary is on May 31st) we have recalled this moment more than a few times. But not for a while.

For some reason this moment flashed into my head last night.

Bob’s phrase: “The party is wherever we are” bounded to the front of my mind.

It had me thinking about how I’ve been lately.

Have I been living it up in the here and now?

Or have I been delaying celebration until I reach my destination?

And if so, what the hell is my destination if not here?

When I apply this to my writing life, I can see that I’m guilty of this thinking. Rather than enjoy the writing itself and the process, I’m anxiously desiring to be at the end of the process. Sitting in the theatre watching as brilliant actors bring my words to life in front of an audience. Or dreaming of a big pay check, awards, the bestseller status… when the joy is in the writing and, as they say, having written.

Yuck. No wonder it can feel like a chore.

The party is wherever I am…. right now.

Not later, once I’m “successful.”

Not later, once we finally can own a house again.

Not later, once I’ve lost twenty pounds.

NOW. NOW. NOW.

Right, Bob?

Bob says, “Right.”

I love my life. I’m so incredibly grateful for all parts.

The last thing I want to do is squander this amazing time wanting to be elsewhere… especially when THIS is the party.

Do you find yourself spending time wanting to be elsewhere?

Do you squander your present moment imagining better times in the future or romanticizing the past?

Do you feel left out when you think about other people enjoying themselves and you’re “stuck” at work or at home because you’re up to something else?

Do you delay celebration of your life until some future accomplishment is met?

Well, then, I offer you Bob’s words of wisdom…

The party isn’t there. It’s right here. Where you are.  Right. Now.

Create your own party.

And be the life of it.

In any given moment.

 

Thanks, Bobbie, for always making a difference for me. Then and now.

I love you so much!

-Steph

!CORRECTION!

This is hilarious. Okay. So, I posted this lovely story about how Bob and I met and how he had this awesome wisdom, right? And we all fell in love a little more with Bob, right? Well, I did. Anyway, Bob just texted me to set the record straight. Here’s what his text said:

“While you and I definitely took that to heart during the ride, I did not utter those words to you. I wish I could take credit. However, it was actually David Bloodsworth. He was coaching you. As time goes on, we all rewrite history a bit. ;)”

Yeah. So… now that he mentions it… I don’t remember the actual moment that David Bloodsworth (our team leader and all around amazing guy) coached me in this. I can’t for the life of me picture it. But his words really stuck. And the rest is true. Bob is the one who reminded me of David’s words when we were on that dirt trail and I was dying and complaining. And we both took them to heart. I think that because Bob has reminded me of that wisdom over the years I automatically gave him authorship.

David, if you’re reading this, I’m so sorry I gave Bob credit over you. And just know that your wisdom truly made and still does make a difference for me. You introduced me to Bob and for that I am eternally grateful. I adore you!

The point, I think, is that it makes a difference.

Hahahaha. And I’m old. And my memory is going. Oy.

 

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