This is a poem called "Say Yes," by Andrea Gibson. (www.andreagibson.org) If you haven't heard of her, check her out. She's incredible. This poem was shared with me by my good friend Sienna. You can also check it out on Itunes or YouTube to hear Andrea recite it. It gave me chills when I heard it, and I want to share it with you as well. Enjoy.
when two violins are placed in a room
if a chord on one violin is struck
the other violin will sound the note
if this is your definition of hope
this is for you
the ones who know how powerful we are
who know we can sound the music in the people around us
simply by playing our own strings
for the ones who sing life into broken wings
open their chests and offer their breath
as wind on a still day when nothing seems to be moving
spare those intent on proving god is dead
for you when your fingers are red
from clutching your heart
so it will beat faster
for the time you mastered the art of giving yourself for the sake of someone else
for the ones who have felt what it is to crush the lies
and lift truth so high the steeples bow to the sky
this is for you
this is also for the people who wake early to watch flowers bloom
who notice the moon at noon on a day when the world
has slapped them in the face with its lack of light
for the mothers who feed their children first
and thirst for nothing when they’re full
this is for women
and for the men who taught me only women bleed with the moon
but there are men who cry when women bleed
men who bleed from women’s wounds
and this is for that moon
on the nights she seems hung by a noose
for the people who cut her loose
and for the people still waiting for the rope to burn
about to learn they have scissors in their hands
this is for the man who showed me
the hardest thing about having nothing
is having nothing to give
who said the only reason to live is to give ourselves away
so this is for the day we’ll quit our jobs and work for something real
we’ll feel for sunshine in the shadows
look for sunrays in the shade
this is for the people who rattle the cage that slave wage built
and for the ones who didn’t know the filth until tonight
but right now are beginning songs that sound something like
people turning their porch lights on and calling the homeless back home
this is for all the shit we own
and for the day we’ll learn how much we have
when we learn to give that shit away
this is for doubt becoming faith
for falling from grace and climbing back up
for trading our silver platters for something that matters
like the gold that shines from our hands when we hold each other
this is for the grandmother who walked a thousand miles on broken glass
to find that single patch of grass to plant a family tree
where the fruit would grow to laugh
for the ones who know the math of war
has always been subtraction
so they live like an action of addition
for you when you give like every star is wishing on you
and for the people still wishing on stars
this is for you too
this is for the times you went through hell so someone else wouldn’t have to
for the time you taught a 14 year old girl she was powerful
this is for the time you taught a 14 year old boy he was beautiful
for the radical anarchist asking a republican to dance
cause what’s the chance of everyone moving from right to left
if the only moves they see are NBC and CBS
this is for the no becoming yes
for scars becoming breath
for saying i love you to people who will never say it to us
for scraping away the rust and remembering how to shine
for the dime you gave away when you didn’t have a penny
for the many beautiful things we do
for every song we’ve ever sung
for refusing to believe in miracles
because miracles are the impossible coming true
and everything is possible
this is for the possibility that guides us
and for the possibilities still waiting to sing
and spread their wings inside us
cause tonight saturn is on his knees
proposing with all of his ten thousand rings
that whatever song we’ve been singing we sing even more
the world needs us right now more than it ever has before
pull all your strings
play every chord
if you’re writing letters to the prisoners
start tearing down the bars
if you’re handing our flashlights in the dark
start handing out stars
never go a second hushing the percussion of your heart
play like you know the clouds have left too many people cold and broken
and you’re their last chance for sun
play like there’s no time for hoping brighter days will come
play like the apocalypse is only 4…3…2
but you have a drum in your chest that could save us
you have a song like a breath that could raise us
like the sunrise into a dark sky that cries to be blue
play like you know we won’t survive if you don’t
but we will if you do
play like saturn is on his knees
proposing with all of his ten thousand rings
that we give every single breath
this is for saying–yes
this is for saying–yes
Life lies ahead. Crested Butte, CO
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” -Carl Sagan
I am a perpetual student. Although I no longer attend school (though I spent plenty of time there), I still crave learning anywhere I can get it. I mentioned in my previous post that I have spent much of my time in this off-season committed to learning about myself and about the way I interact with my world and with other people. This got me thinking about learning in general and the difference between “understanding” a concept and really “getting” it: feeling something so deeply that you know it with every cell of your being and it becomes your own; it becomes one with who you are and something you will never forget.
There are many different learning styles and ways of experiencing the world. Personally, I am a very physical learner. I experience my world and gain insights not just by doing, but by using my body to physically feel what I am doing. I am very sensitive to the physical world around me. I notice and appreciate textures and smells in detail, and it is through these senses that I learn best. Although I do “understand” when I hear or see a concept that another person tells or shows me, it takes me experiencing it in this sensory way in order to really “get” it, to embody the concept and make it mine.
Although we all learn differently, a common theme that I have noticed in observing people is that most of us seem to be some version of experiential learners. We learn most completely by doing. This is why I love cycling: when we as humans are faced with an activity that is physically challenging for us; when we get not only our minds but also our bodies involved, we tend to more completely absorb the lessons we learn through these experiences.
Whether it is getting up the big hill in the neighborhood for the first time, to hanging on in the group ride, to finishing a century ride, to competing in racing; we can fully experience and embody some of life’s most valuable lessons and insights through the simple act of pedaling a bicycle. This is why cycling is so valuable to me and why I genuinely feel it can be a catalyst for inspiration, confidence, strength, and insight into the world and into oneself.
Last weekend, I was doing a hard climbing ride with my coach Alison. As we rode, we talked about our experiences in racing, in coaching and mentoring others, and about lessons we had learned throughout our time spent in cycling. On that tough training ride, I felt the sensations of my body and my bike working as one through all of the challenging climbs of the lonely gravel roads through the woods around Nederland. I was fully present in my conversations with Alison in between the times when we could barely breathe, much less talk. And as a result of this ride, backed up by other experiences I have had over the past few months, I was inspired to reflect on some of the most profound insights that I have gained through my experiences as a bike racer over the past year.
This kicked off a week of unexpected productive insomnia for me. This has never happened to me before. Energy coursed through my body and mind at the most inconvenient times as I would find myself lying awake in bed when all of the sudden some idea would click for me and I would sit straight upright like I had been struck by lightning. I think my dog thought I had lost my marbles.
In every race I competed in last year, as well as in some of my harder training rides, I learned something valuable. At the time, I had only felt it in the context of racing. For some reason, this past week in the wee hours of the mornings, I finally saw the bigger picture. I saw how many of the lessons I had learned during a race, when my physical senses were in their most heightened state, applied to my entire life. I finally "got" it. Suddenly these things became so true to me and every part of my life that if you wrung my body like a wet washcloth right now they would literally come pouring out of every cell. It is really quite overwhelming and incredible.
I would like to share some of these insights that I have gained through racing with you here. I hope they will be of use to you in your cycling, and I also encourage you to think outside the box a little and consider how they may be valuable in the rest of life as well. Maybe you will identify with them immediately. Maybe you won't. Or maybe you, like I did initially, will file the ideas away in the back of your mind somewhere, and when you are out on the bike someday pushing yourself past the point of comfort, they will come rushing back and hit you in the face like that unexpected tree branch that smacks you when you are least expecting it. Hopefully it won’t hurt quite as much. But maybe it will change your life.
"And in the morning when I rise,
One question that feels like the sun in my eyes:
Am I making the most of this life...?" -Brett Dennen
I have been talking a lot with people recently about new year's resolutions, wishes that for many never come to fruition, and the necessary connection between belief and action that makes the difference between success and failure.
As I sit here in the dawn of another new year, I can't help but look back and reflect. The last two years have been a turning point in my life. A threshold, if you will, between my past and my future.
2011 was all about hard decisions and coming to terms with accepting who I am and what I want out of life. It was the toughest year of my life so far, but out of that tough place I emerged stronger, wiser, more humble, more compassionate, and with a better acceptance of myself- the good and the bad, for better or for worse. My action of 2011 would have been self-discovery.
2012 was a night and day difference from 2011. My action of last year would have to be self-actualization. I knew what I wanted for my life, and I wasted no time making it a reality. I made the leap to fully pursue the dream of pro racing, and knew exactly the steps I needed to take to cross the threshold. One thing I know about myself is that I am determined. If I want something badly enough, I will make it happen, come hell or high water. And I did. I threw myself one hundred percent into training and racing, and it paid off. Five months after declaring that I was going to get my mountain bike pro license in two years, I qualified for the upgrade. I proved that I had what it takes athletically to have the privilege of racing on the pro circuit.
To top off all that, I somehow found myself with an amazing physical therapy job that allowed me a flexible schedule for racing, the healthiest and strongest year I have ever had both physically and mentally, an incredible support system of friends who had stood by me through the disaster of 2011, and a supportive boyfriend who understood my ambitions and encouraged me to follow my dreams. I really had it all.
Until I didn't. My racing season was like a runaway train- albeit a very successful one, it gained momentum and I ran with it. I was on the road constantly from April through September, and I threw every ounce of energy I had into my time on the bike. When the season finished with my last race at the end of September, the Whole Enchilada Enduro, I went down in a ball of flames. I finished fourth, but with fourteen (yes, 14) crashes and three broken ribs to show for it. I was lucky; it could have easily been much worse. But now I was forced to rest and over the next couple of months- this past fall- I was faced with the trail of wreckage left over from my whirlwind season. I threw myself into my dream, and at the end of the season I was standing at the door of an incredible opportunity. But I had neglected the rest of my life, and it was starting to show. I could sum up my entire life in one word: Trainwreck. When it came to bike racing, I was dialed. When it came to anything else, I didn't know which end was up.
The end of 2012 brought a lot of learning opportunities for me. I pretty much fell flat on my face in life, and laying there dazed I wondered what had happened. After I literally fell flat on my face at Enchilada, my boyfriend challenged me to do something I had never done before: stay there for awhile. At first, I was taken aback by his comment. I am really good at picking myself back up and jumping right back on the horse and charging ahead. It's what I do. I'm resilient. I can take a beating and keep on going. But this time, I knew it was different. It was time to slow down, stay flat on my face if you will, and reflect on what got me there so that I could learn from it and pick myself up a better person.
So I did. As I laid on my face for two months I realized that as successful as my year had been, there were things in life holding me back from being my best: the best athlete, the best therapist, the best partner, the best friend, the best person that I could be, living life the best that I was capable of. Some of the things were easy to see as I reflected. Some things I wasn't fully aware of, but I knew they were there and I was determined to find out what they were and stop them from stopping me. So for the past few months I have been just as dedicated to learning about the barriers inside me that were holding me back as I was dedicated for all of the rest of the year to my racing. I talked, I read, I wrote, I ran, I laughed, I cried, I sought advice from those I respect, I floundered and failed and fell on my face some more- and I listened, to those around me and to my heart. And I learned.
I learned that there is a LOT more to bike racing than just racing a bike. It is about relationships. It is about the connections made with people, finding inspiration from others, and discovering the inspiration that I can offer to others in return. It is about finding balance in the rest of my life so that when it comes time, I can buckle down and be laser-focused on my racing goals and not leave any loose ends to come crashing down when my season is over.
I learned what it means to live my life with compassion and integrity. I learned what it means to be fully present to those around me and that it is not a threat to my independence to let others in. I learned to not make assumptions about others' intentions and to not attach meaning to others' actions- this was probably the most influential bit of knowledge I have ever come upon. Sounds easy, but it's powerful. I learned to focus on living in the moment, not beating myself up for unintentional mistakes I have made in the past, and not worrying about what will happen in the future.
I learned that I don't have to be limited by decisions I made in the past, and by old habits and patterns that are easy for me to fall into. I learned that I can create my own reality- not just in my dreams and what I want for my life, but also in how I live my life day to day, moment to moment, because each moment is all that I have. What can I do with each moment that will reflect the person I want to be?
Now, I'm not saying I have it all together. I am certainly not perfect, and I'm not going to be. But I can accept that now. I can accept that I have fears, flaws, shortcomings- basically, that I am human. I can accept them, but I know that I don't have to let them hold me back. My awareness gained from my time spent on my face reflecting, seeking, and learning, has given me the confidence that I can create the life I want NOW, in each moment, and I truly believe that I am capable of doing it. As a good friend once told me, action proves belief. 2013 will be the year of self-improvement. It's time to put my money where my mouth is.