When you live a life partnered with illness & disability, it can be hard to believe in yourself. Even after the fact of having done something good. Especially after the fact of having done something kind of amazing.
– 2010 NYC Marathon
The first time I ever rode a recumbent trike I got that lit-up sparklers-&-firecrackers sensation in my brain, all up & down my spine. That thing that tells you Pay Attention: something big, something unforgettable, is happening. A couple months later when I set out on my very own recumbent trike, I rode just over 7 miles. I hadn’t cycled in almost 12 years due to MS-related balance issues. I remember thinking to myself during that maiden voyage, Being able to ride again is going to change my life. This is just the beginning – the first few miles – of a truly grand adventure.
Boy, howdy, was I right about that!
Less than 3 months later, I was pushing off from the start of the 2010 New York City Marathon with the goal of 26.2 miles, not even sure I’d be able to make it. I believed I could make it, I just wasn’t sure that I would make it. Not because I hadn’t yet ridden that distance, but because there’s nothing in the Houston, TX landscape that can prepare one for the bridges & hills found on the NYC Marathon route. And also because with MS, you never how you’re going to feel from day to day, hour to hour. But I did make it to the Finish Line, and then I went back the next year and did it again, in spite of a knee injury. My point, though, is that I wasn’t sure I’d make it the whole 26.2 miles either time, and both times it took a while for the fact of having reached my goal to become “real.” For it to feel true. For me to believe that crossing the Finish Line had actually happened.
When you have a helluva time getting out of bed and out of the house on any given day, when you actually fail to make it out of the house on many, many days, when on the days you do manage to make it out of the house you often fail in the simplest of missions, like grocery shopping, mailing a package, taking the car in for an oil change – you get used to pushing yourself and to overcoming challenges, yes, but you also get used to accepting your limits. Which means, basically, acknowledging when you’ve done your best but it was not enough. You get used to fatigue & pain, and to failing, and trying to comfort yourself with the idea that it’s not your “fault” because you have MS, and try though you may (and do!) that MS Monster still wins many of the battle rounds.
You get used to walking away from a half-filled grocery cart because you’re simply too exhausted to finish the shopping. You get used to going back home with an un-mailed package in your hands because the line at the post office was too long and the pain in your knee and hip too great. You get used to pulling over, turning around and heading back home, even though the cat needs her annual check-up, because sitting in the traffic is absolute anguish that you cannot take for another moment longer, and because getting yourself ready and the cat into the carrying cage used up just about all of your energy before you even backed out of the driveway. You get used to making plans that you have to cancel. You get used to people being upset with you for this, for perhaps considering you unreliable. You also get used to people understanding and being gracious, which almost, somehow, hurts more. You get used to letting down people you very much care about, a lot of the time. You get used to feeling like you can’t trust yourself – to be where you say you’ll be, to do what you say you’ll do (and isn’t doing what you say you’ll do about who you are?). You get used to having no other choice but living with the ugly-awful-disgusting (forever)fact that your body will often refuse to cooperate with your willingness, your To-do List, much less any heartfelt, far-flung aspirations. Which is all to say that you get so used to living with how little you succeed, that when you do succeed, it feels completely foreign, uncomfortable, unreal.
You get used to your new title: Queen of Square One. You steel yourself to disappointments so thoroughly that it’s almost like wearing a bullet-proof vest, which is a kind of softening-of-the-blows barrier that protects you, keeps all of the dissapointing yourself & disappointing of others from accumulating to a toxic, fatal level. But that protective layer also makes it harder for the Good to get through, to sink in; makes it harder for you to feel the Good, to believe and invest in it; makes it harder to embrace others being proud of you, and you being proud of yourself.
Another reason I think I have a difficult time believing I’ve “done good” is that whole Faking It factor, the feeling like a Liar, Liar, Pants-on-Fire thing. When a huge part of your modus operandi has become faking that you’re fine when you are, in fact, not fine – it makes sense that you might feel like you’re lying to yourself & others, like you’re a fake & a fraud, when you’re telling (what feels like) a bigger-than-life truth.
Here goes, anyway. This is my big Too Good To Believe news: I did the whole freakin’ Lone Star BP MS 150! Seriously. No, really. No faking or fire-lying. I. Did. It.
Day 1 of 2013 Lone Star BP MS 150 = 101.98 miles
I’ve never done more than 70-something miles before, so April 20th, 2013 marked my first official Century. If they gave out a prize for Rider Who Had The Most Fun, I would’ve won that puppy, hands down.
Day 2 = 49.05 Giving me a total of 151. 03 miles
Goal for the 2013 Lone Star BP MS 150 accomplished!
I had the most awesome SAG team. My husband/cheerleader/photographer Gary, and this other, fluffier guy. (One of them kept trying to eat my snacks at the break stations, but I won’t name any names.)
What’s better than crossing the Finish Line after 150 miles? Finding the smiling faces of people you love waiting for you, clapping up a storm and hollering out your name.
It still hasn’t sunk in completely that I really did this thing I set out to do. I knew I would give it my best shot. I knew I’d trained hard, having put in over 1600 miles just since the first of the year in preparation. I knew I would do better than my 1st Bike MS, the 2012 BP MS 150, where I completed about 75 miles, and that I’d probably improve on my 2nd effort, the 2012 Bike MS Coastal Challenge in Ventura, California, where I finished about 80 – 90 miles. But I’m not sure I ever truly believed I could do the entire 150 miles that I set as a goal for myself for this year’s ride. I actually feel, physiologically, like I’m lying – antsy, face hot & eyes looking down or away – when someone asks how the ride went and I say I did it, I accomplished my goal of 150 miles. It’s a good thing I’ve got witnesses, because all of this – the reality of having delivered on what I promised myself I would do – still feels too good to believe. You’d think the soreness & sunburn, heat rash & chafe would be enough to convince me that those 150 miles weren’t a figment of my imagination! They happened, all of them, one mile at a time.
Life is good. A No Opportunity Wasted life is even better. You should give it a try and see what amazing things you might be able to accomplish. Goals so staggering that you’ll have a hard time believing that little ol’ you mustered the courage & managed to put in all the required effort, clear all the obstacles – persevere – all the way to the Finish Line of manifesting a dream so BIG you can hardly believe it.
A photo of my trike & the inspiration I kept close during the ride: Fastest Bike In The West, a phoenix rising from the ashes, and most important of all, my No Opportunity Wasted mantra :0) Somebody pinch me, because I rode every single mile I set out to ride last weekend, and I really don’t know what to do with myself. I can’t figure out how to make myself believe it.
In other big/good news, it’s Gary’s & my 14th wedding anniversary.
Being married to this smart, funny, creative, generous, abiding man always feels too good to believe. On official anniversaries – the gorgeous, blessed occassions of evidence, of “proof” – I get overwhelmed with disbelief and gratitude all over again, every single time.