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I think I should have a jewel-encrusted crown to prove my royalty status in starting-over-ness. Diamonds and rubies are always a nice pairing. Something like this would do.

A crown suitable for all occasions and outfits might be a better choice, though. You know, something that takes me from walking the dogs in the morning to running errands to lunch with friends, and a book or poetry reading in the evening. So perhaps I should lean toward the versatility of a tiara? Maybe something handmade, with a more nature-inspired aesthetic.

Honestly, I don’t see why the Queen of England, brides and little girls playing dress-up should get to have all the fun. And speaking of fun, an occasion when the tiara pictured below would be fitting doesn’t immediately come to mind, but I have to admit that it has a certain appeal.

If it offered the same protection to my noggin as a helmet I could wear it while riding; I’m pretty sure I’d pedal faster while channeling the spirit of the Greek God Hermes.

My point – yes, I have one! – is that when it comes to my health and fitness level, and even more specifically to cycling and training for events – like the NYC Marathon & the Bike MS Coastal Challenge – I often experience setbacks. Sometimes I’m set back all the way to Square One. If I can’t have fancy headgear to make my Queenliness of Square One-ness official, I want Square One to be named after me.  Then people will say, for example, “Dang, I guess it’s back to Denise’s Square on the Townsend project.” Or should it be Square Denise? No, that doesn’t sound right.  I mean, it’s true enough (I am square) but it doesn’t have the proper, regal ring to it. Henceforth, Square One shall now be called Denise’s Square. *Please revise all relevant Wiki and other resources.

For almost four months this summer I wasn’t able to get my heartrate elevated to anything approaching exercising mode. I had to take care picking things up or bending over. All because my MS-related eye problems finally got to the point that surgical intervention was necessary. I’m seeing much better now (Woohoo!) and well on the way to a complete recovery, but four months is a long time to’ve not been able to ride, swim or even do Pilates. As soon as I received the go-ahead from my opthamologist I got right into the swing of my exercise/training program again, starting off carefully, of course.  Lordy, did it feel AMAZING to be back in the pool, back to core strengthening and back into the seat of my recumbent trike! I even signed up to participate in the Bike MS Coastal Challenge when I was inspired by a combination of events to not wait any longer to make the dream of cycling through Southern California come true.  I’d prefer to be in my best health and at the top of my training ability when I conquer this goal on my Life List, but I’d rather live the dream now than keep putting it off for one reason or another. So I committed to do the ride and dove back into my training plan, getting a little stronger and ratcheting up my endurance level with every day. I knew I wouldn’t be anywhere near my best, but I was feeling pretty confident that I’d at least be fit enough to really enjoy the experience of the ride.

Then a freak injury that, within 24 hours, incubated an infection so severe I was awakened the next morning by an excruciating headache, high fever, chills and wracking nausea. When I finally got myself up off the tiles of the bathroom floor and made it to the living room where I’d left my phone, I had to call for help from a friend (Gary was out of town) to get me to urgent care. There was no way I could drive. The wound got examined and I got antibiotics, a tetanus shot, and instructions to do nothing but rest (as if anything but stasis was an option). The injury basically laughed in the face of the oral antibiotics and continued to percolate the infection with a vengeance. I got worse instead of better. The introduction of bacteria into my body via puncture wounds combined with the effects of four months of steroids (that accompanied those eye surgeries) and created a perfect storm that raged through my immune system. Even with better/stronger antibiotics via needles, I was down for the count for three long weeks, weaker than I can remember ever having felt; a most sobering experience. When I was able to begin riding, swimming and doing Pilates again, I still felt the sick undertow of that infection. My body felt weaker, heavier, and yet somehow flimsier than it did after the four months of not having done any exercise at all post-surgeries.  Hello, Square One, I’m H – o – o – m – e!  That’s how it feels, anyway. Like Square One isn’t a place I visit sometimes or get bounced back to by an MS relapse, an injury or some other health issue. When the pain and fatigue of MS-ness have been raging for too many days/weeks weeks in a row, I feel as if I actually live at Square One.

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not feeling sorry for myself, that’s not what this is about. I believe it’s important to take stock, to acknowledge the realities of a life intersected with illness and disability. The setbacks and Square One-returns are significant because they give reference points, perspective to the other Squares and to the distance that I’m often able to make, and to keep (for awhile, anyway) from Square One. Which isn’t about patting myself on the back but about recognizing what I’m capable of, so that I never allow myself to get stuck at, or settle for, life at Square One.

While it may feel, at times, as if I live at Square One – so much so that I really do think it should be named after me – the truth is that Square One is the place from which I push off. Kind of like a launch pad. Or a harbor, if I were a boat.

I haven’t got control over when I end up back at Square One, and I can’t claim to like the returns one tiny bit, but what is in my control is how long I hang out at Square One once I know I’m capable of moving on. The push-off from Square One and the adventuring from Square Two-forward, that’s up to me. I’m the captain of all the traveling that happens out and away from Square One, which means I have to act like a leader, have to channel all the energy I do have into being a leader, my own leader.  I’m not just a passenger of squares or life, I’m the charter of the course from one square to the next, the choreographer of the etire passage. That’s a power-full, possibilities-rich position, when you think about it.

I have a friend who’s an actual captain and if you ask her for one word to describe her role, she says: visionary. If you ask her why that word, she’ll tell you, “The captain is charged with creating and carrying out the vision of the journey.”  I really like the sound of that. I also like the sound of being both the Queen of Square One and the Captain of All Journeying Forth.

As Queen, I will be captaining my 3-wheeled conveyance of journeying on a bonafide adventure this coming weekend in Ventura, California. I’ve reclaimed a holy grail (the ability to cycle); I’ve slain a dragon (the MS MonSter) every single day of training; I’ve made slow-&-painful rounds (ever circling back) of Square One Denise’s Square to get myself to the starting line of this long-held dream. I cannot begin to tell you how much it would mean to me to have your support! I’m happy to receive all kinds, any kind: well-wishes, Woohoo!s, prayers for safe travels, social networking shares/tweets/posts, actual dollar-amount “Atta-Girl’s” :0)

Here’s the link to find out more about my ride with the Bike MS Coastal Challenge and to donate, if you so choose: WonkyBent Warrior Against MS (still in need of appropriatly fancified and sparkly – possibly winged – crownlike head adornment)

I still feel the echoes of that infection, its whispers lingering like low fog here and there in my body. But it’s supposed to be bright with California sun this weekend, and I’m going to be surrounded by the gorgeous, generous spirits of thousands of cyclists and volunteers, all of them devoted to helping make a difference in the lives of folks with MS. Many of those riders and volunteers, like me, have MS. And I bet many of the riders, also like me, will be realizing a dream on Saturday and Sunday. So I have a feeling, a really good feeling, that I’m going to be absolutely oblivious to any nagging, leftover symptoms from that infection. But even if there’s some residual crumminess that refuses to be ignored, I’m confident that all the togetherness, the glory and celebration will overcome, will outshine.

The desire to accomplish a goal, the will and self-generated power to manifest my dream, will ferry me.