It’s just a few days away, and as this week began I had enough anxiety to kill a herd of oversized Yetis. This ride is taking me out of my comfort zone on so many levels that my consciousness is convinced that my utter destruction is at hand. Who knows? It might be right. But three things happened in the past few days that gave me crazy good perspective: a well-stated email, a really good movie, and the death of a child.
On Tuesday, the anxiety level was unbearable (evidenced by offering a few people $1,000 to break my leg so I wouldn’t have to go), so I reached out to a friend who is riding with me and who has done it before. He reminded me that the fear isn’t real and that I’m experiencing a “first world problem.” As this message was sinking through, later that night I watched the movie A Normal Heart about the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the early 80s. It was powerful, and my Kleenex box was almost as well used as my bike. But after it was over, the perspective bomb blew up in my face! Between my friend’s email and that movie, I was reminded of anxiety’s inherent selfishness and that a 7-day-long bike ride was a privilege, something I chose to do, something I was alive to do, something I have control over, an event that I’m supported in, instead of suffering that isn’t chosen.
The next morning, I learned that a dear friend from high school lost her baby just a month before she was due to give birth. It would have been her first child, and he was completely healthy but died from an undetected knot that had formed in the umbilical cord. The loss of life is tough enough, the loss of a child I can’t even imagine. She is in good health and has a loving husband and surrounded by lots of people, but there’s no way around that suffering. It is real. It is not a bike ride.
This blitz of perspective bombs doesn’t make the anxiety about the ride go away. It’s still there, still secretly wishing for a massive flu, but I can put it in its place now. I can ride this ride for the purpose in which it is intended—to honor and remember others. That makes it a whole lot less scary because it gives this challenge meaning, it makes it bigger than the pains in my thighs and the discomfort of a sleeping bag. And that’s what this happiness work is all about—to give you perspective and remind you that your life is not just about you, it’s about us. So wish us (my high school friend, those who have lost someone to AIDS, me and all of humanity) love and luck as we all keep pedaling forward.
This is my last post before the ride. The bike is tuned up and so is my attitude. My sincerest thanks for all the encouragement, the generous donations, the kind and patient people who have helped me train, and to my grandmother for putting me on this road to taking care of myself and understanding love a whole lot better. Thank you, and I’ll see you all soon!