Day 6 is at a close.
Day, 6! ...
When I crossed the country by bicycle in 2006, I valiantly worked to make daily posts to my blog. Most of the time, I was successful. There were a large number of logistical snafus that conspired to keep me from posting, but I made do.
Therefore, for this, the AIDS Lifecycle Ride, I estimated that I'd have plenty of time to post daily.
To use a Dub-Ya term: misunderestimation
I have the strong inclination to blather on about all the things that conspired to keep me from posting, and all things cycling here, but so many of the observations I made in 2006 are still basically unchanged today. While self-indulgent, I need to accept that posting a disquisition now would boil down to redux.
And so, during our final night together as a group, while under the gigantic, communal tent, I listened to the heartfelt speeches of the AIDS/LifeCycle leaders. While I sat, I struggled with what to say here now: what theme? what gem of insight? I was devoid of any true inspiration.
Then, after the speeches, as folks left the tent to gather for the candlelight vigil on the beach, I saw that food was still being served.
I asked for a modest serving of vegetarian lasagna and some quinoa salad and headed back to the communal tent to eat it.
I took a random seat and as had happened at least a dozen times before during the week, the woman across from me started a conversation.
"How you doin' tonight?"
"I'm doing good! I'm really holding up well, all things considered," I responded.
"I just don't know how my butt can possibly sit down on that seat tomorrow," she said, half genuinely concerned, half jovial.
"Brenda," she said, and extended her hand to me.
"Doug," I said, and shook hers.
The typical exchange of questions ensued: What got you into the ride? How many times have you done it? Where are you from? What do you do for work?
"My only suggestion for them," she said, "would be to make a condensed version of this event. Doing it, all the training, the seven consecutive days: it's a lot."
I paused eating, nodding, and she said, "And, I got breast cancer last year."
"I'm alright," she said, raising her hand in a don't-you-worry gesture, "I had surgery."
Then, after a beat, "Then they had to go in again, and then I had to have radiation. I had to hang up my cleats a long while after the second surgery."
Here Brenda was, across from me, about to complete her 545 miles, and breast cancer had only been a detour for her arrival in Los Angeles tomorrow.
I thought of the areas of dissatisfaction I had made known here-and-there during this week, the often-blind ambition to physically achieve, the stretches of feeling rejected and lonely.
This X-Ray Technician originally from Kentucky who, after leaving the profession for six years, found she needed to return after cancer, to be there, to care for others going through medical hardship; this woman, who didn't show an ounce of self-importance, opened up to a stranger the ways that she was so much stronger than I.
"I think I'm going to do the Avon 35-mile walk," she said.
I raised over $5,000 for AIDS thanks to the wonderful generosity of my friends and family. And I descended here in California to participate in the 7-day, 545-mile victory parade.
Brenda came here for the same reason, but her authenticity is what unveiled this event's true purpose to me.
It is to end AIDS, yes, but really, her aura revealed that it is to swaddle hope.
To feed it, to keep it warm, to comfort it, to protect it, to bathe it in love, and to let it carry tomorrow into the realm of less suffering.
Thank you, Brenda, for showing me the why for this week where I least expected to find it.