Lessons From The Road

It’s Friday morning. My alarm rings at 5:15 am. It’s the start of a long traveling weekend on the road. Stella, Bold Babe’s 25-foot-long shuttle bus, is all packed up and ready for the mountain farmers markets of the weekend. Friday we go to Dillon, Saturday is Steamboat and Sunday is Breck. Over the course of the weekend, Stella and I will cruise over 450 miles together . . . and I love that open road!

This is my second year running the circuit and I have found that there are many lessons to be learned over a weekend. The lessons are there, but it is my job to have open eyes and an open mind to take it all in. This week I learned a tremendous lesson - one that I hope will continue to stay at the forefront of my mind.

Fast-forward 45 minutes. It’s now 6am. I put my headset on and am ready for the first leg of my journey - Denver to Dillon. Typically, I listen to podcasts but today I choose to listen to a TED talk titled “The Person You Become.” In it there are three speakers, one of which I find particularly riveting. She tells her Olympic story, of her strength and courage as an athlete and her drive to success and individuality. Her friends call her Jean the Machine, because her body, her wordly vessel, continues to carry her strongly through life. Jean talks about her incredibly competitive drive to always surge forward in front of others, a trait she isn’t always conscious of.

She goes on to talk about her life after the Olympics, when she refocused her efforts on a new sport, road biking. She was delighted to be part of a group that would ride for miles together, speeding along the open road. On this particular day, the group chooses to ride toward the Black Hills. As they are just miles away from reaching their climb, Jean begins to gear up for the climb. Suddenly, her world goes black!

Jean wakes up in the hospital in a complete body cast from head to toes. She was struck by a truck on her climb towards the hills. She has to spend months in the hospital, healing her body and mind. At times she questions if she even wants to be on this earth, given that she’s lost all athletic ability. For her entire life she had relied on her body - how could she go on without the use and strength of it anymore?

After a few months she is sent home to be with her mother. She spends her days quietly in leg casts and a catheter. She is devastated. Yet, one day, while reading the local paper, she sees an add for flying lessons. This is it - if she can’t walk, she can learn to fly!

Over time, Jean embraces the freedom of soaring through the air like a bird. She goes on to become an accomplished pilot, pushing her spirit to new heights of accomplishments. She learned how to overcome the greatest challenge of her life and reinvent herself all over again, without the crutch of her athleticism.

The story stays with me throughout the weekend. I am impressed and inspired by Jean’s ability to turn her life around in the darkest of moments.

After arriving in Steamboat, I turn Stella towards the mountain and head to my beloved friends’ home. These friends took me in as a complete stranger and offered me a room in their home. I’m not sure how I attracted such amazing people into my life like that, but I thank my lucky stars everyday for their generosity and wonderful spirits. They are my family in Steamboat.

I am excited to catch up with them, as I haven’t seen them since the fall. I chat with Mike and ask him about his winter. He tells me that is wasn’t a great winter for him. Around December 10, he woke up one morning and was in excruciating pain. He couldn’t move his body or get out of bed. He just lay there in pain not knowing what to do. Eventually, he got out of bed that morning, but day after day the pain continued. For weeks the doctors couldn’t figure out what was going on. Test after test, they cancelled out the possibility of cancer, but were still baffled by what could be in his system. One day, Mike went into the doctor and complained that his back hurt. They took an x-ray only to discover that he had two broken bones in his back. A few weeks later, he was back in the doctor’s office to find that yet another bone has broken in his back. His body, his worldly vessel, was breaking down at incredible speeds and no one could identify or figure out the cause.

Months later they conclude that Mike had fibromyalgia. He was given a shot and the pain began to subside within hours. For most people, the onset of fibromyalgia is slow, but for Mike, it was as if he had been clocked by a steam roller. His life and vessel changed over the course of a night. How he missed skinning up the mountain for one great ski down at 5 am on a beautiful Steamboat morning.

After the markets, I usually take a swim. I relax my body and mind by swimming laps at the Old Town Hot Springs. I sit by the edge of the pool Saturday afternoon, dangling my feet in the water, procrastinating the hard work that I know is about to come. I sit to the side of the lane, proposing to share with another swimmer. The lady in the lane stops at the wall and takes a deep breath. She’s had a good swim but she mentions the rod in her leg is hurting her. The pain has been growing over the past few weeks.

We chat a little more and she tells me about her knee operation many years ago which went awry. The rod they put in her leg became infected and the infection continues to spread up her leg. With a smile on her face, she tells me about the wonderful freedom she used to have with her body. Mountain biking, horseback riding, swimming and jogging - all things were easy for her body to handle. Now, as the infection spreads throughout her leg, she fathoms the amputation of her leg that she must endure this summer. She speaks of how this has been her greatest challenge in life. Somehow, she will have to learn how to use her vessel without a limb.

I listen closely to her words and we talk of possibilities for the future. And with everything so grim in her life, she still smiles and jokes with me about the situation. I find myself humbled by my new friend and touched by this spirit that somehow can find a new goal in her life. She tells me she wants to start flying planes. It is something she can do without the use of her leg.

And it is with those words, that I find my lesson has been enlightened. It was as if a light bulb turned brightly on in my head. For me, the lesson is clear and strong. It is no coincidence that I have heard these three stories randomly. There is big meaning behind them.

I think we have a tendency in life to use and abuse our bodies quite casually. How often do we take time out of our day to think about our bodies? When they are working well, we simply just don’t put thought into them. We don’t notice how well functioning our vessels are until something goes wrong. We get an injury, and then all of a sudden, we become aware of how valuable that limb or muscle was.

But these three stories colliding together have taught me that your body and strength can be taken away in an instant. So, rather than sailing through life, I am turning my perspective around. I am now going to give time and thought, give a little gratitude, to my vessel on a daily basis. I am going to take time to notice how freely the fingers on the keyboard are typing this piece and give a little thank you to my body and it’s incredible workings.

For after all, we are only given one vessel in this life. It’s important to show gratitude for the many things that we have , and especially for the vessel that carries us forward.

So, thank you, my body, for all that you give me. You continuously amaze me with your strength and endurance. May we continue to ride out this life together with strength and courage, embracing the many adventures that you take me on.