Saturday, December 10, 2005

Even though I should be sleeping...
... because I have to get up early tomorrow and run 5 miles with Team Phoebe, I don't think I will sleep until I get some thoughts on the blog here.

Tonight was the annual Christmas party for my church community. We do this cool thing where we exchange gifts, but not White Elephant silly gifts. We pick something that has been meaningful to us throughout the year and we share the story of why it was meaningful when someone opens the gift. The first year we did it, I dreaded it and thought it was a dumb idea. But I quickly realized it's a really cool thing.

Every year, I never really feel like I say what I intended to say about the thing I bring. I get nervous. I'm not much for sharing in a group. I'd rather share here on the blog. But I love to participate in our Christmas activity. So I'm going to blog what I hope I said tonight, and a few extra thoughts.

I have to say, for the year I've had I'm in a surprisingly good mood for the time of year that it is. These past few years of Christmases have not been fun for me. I miss my sister a lot this time of year. And as different people come and go out of my life and participate in knowing me enough to share that space with me, it gets tough every year to not have those people who for whatever reason, aren't sharing it with me now. I feel really alone at Christmas. It's grief on top of missing my supporters who help me through it.

But, for whatever reason, I'm in a much better spirit this year. I'm not all decoratey, loving the holidays. But I'm not dreading getting out of bed every morning, either.

This was my fourth Christmas party with Journey. It's always a big success, a lot of fun, and a lot of really great things are shared at these parties. It's a great way to get to know each other.

What I've thought about this year is how the group changes each year, and especially how much it has changed since last year. I don't know, maybe it's part of my feeling old lately. But historically I don't stick to things for very long. I think my four years in college was the longest consecutive amount of time I ever spent doing one thing. So it's pretty cool for me to have found a church and a group of people that I want to stick with year after year. It's a special group and a special place.

I look at the group each year at the Christmas party, and I see my year with each of person. It's nice to have everyone in the same room. But it's sad to think of the people who aren't there anymore, who have moved on to other things. It's a full room, but it still feels a little incomplete.

This particular party feeds into my habit of looking back and thinking through things. I struggle sometimes with moving forward. Especially when I don't understand things. I re-examine. I wonder "what if". I wonder why. I hold on. Some of the people are all the same in the room, but things are very different. I sometimes don't like the way they are different. I miss the way things were, but I'm also glad for the growth experienced in how things change.

What I brought tonight for my gift was the LiveStrong wristband I wore for the 4 or so months I trained earlier this year for the disastrous 100 mile bike ride back in May.

I've hung on to this particular wristband for a few simple reasons. None of which have anything to do with fighting cancer (although I totally support that) or with my unhealthy obsession with Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow.

One, it symbolized all of the hardwork I put into training. It was a daily reminder for me to get my miles in, to eat right, to sleep well, to get up early and ride. It was a tangible representation of the goal I set for myself. When the band was on (and it pretty much never left my wrist for about 4 months), I was in training. And I really had to put myself "in training" in order to keep myself focused. Plus, being "in training" is fun to say at parties.

I also passed several bands out to friends and my parents to force them to support me in my efforts and to be on my bandwagon. Boy J hates jewelry but he wore his band for me. My friends were kind enough to humor me and wear the bands when I was around. I struggle with asking people for help, or for support. But the wristband was a way for me to bring people into my world into what I was doing and let them share in it with me. I think I was really surprised at the support I received.

And strangely, even after the ride, I came to see the band as a symbol of something good, even though the day of the ride was a complete disaster. I took the band off that day, but I kept it in my car where I could still see it everyday. It could easily have been something I never wanted to see again, because it was a tangible representation of another failed attempt at a 100 mile ride. But I found that more than that, it represented all of the people who supported me during my training, and during the day of the ride.

When I looked at it, I kept seeing everyone who asked how my training was going, or who was excited for me that I was working towards such a big goal. I kept seeing all of the people who encouraged me to keep to my diet, to get on my bike when I was tired. I saw the people who even joined in on my healthy eating habits with me. I saw my co-workers who made posters for me, and a ribbon to wear on my jersey to carry their support with me as I rode.

I saw the people who met me for dinner the night before the ride. I needed to carb-load, and some friends joined me for pancakes and pre-ride keeping my nerves calm and encouragement.

I saw the friends who met me halfway the day of the ride. They sat waiting for me much longer than when I told them I would probably be there. It took me longer to get there because my shoe had broken and I couldn't pedal very well. But they were there when I got there, and they waited with me at the rest stop while the SAG wagon man came to help me as best he could. They cheered me on as I left the rest stop, 45 minutes behind my goal.

I saw the two SAG guys who kept driving by every few miles to check on me. Each time they came up with something in their toolbox to help with whatever else had broken on my bike. They were so patient with me. They kept asking me if I wanted them to give me a ride to the finish line, and they encouraged me when I said I wasn't ready to quit.

I saw the guy in the Closer Car at the end of the ride. His job is to clear the course of riders when the allotted time to finish has passed. But instead of hurrying me home, he drove along side me, the last rider, to keep the traffic away, and he talked to me through the window of his car. He told me I was doing well. Encouragement, even though I was the very last rider on the course and it was long past time for him to get to go home.

I saw Friends A and C and Boy J sitting in the last car in the parking lot as I came across the Finish line, even though I had called them at least four times and told them to go home. They still waited for me. And they cheered when I got there.

That yellow wristband was a reminder to me, since that day, that people are good. I hung onto that band for so long and kept it out where I could see it because I have needed that reminder a whole lot this year. I needed to remember that people in my life are good, even when it's hard to see that.

I need to hold onto the good, because sometimes it's clouded by what hasn't been good. And that is not what I want to dictate my year, or my relationships, year after year. It is so easy for me to become bitter when I get hurt. But what I want for myself today, and going forward is to not let the hurt take away from the good. I've been blessed a lot this year by a lot of good from a lot of people. I don't want to lose sight of that or for those things to get lost in what hasn't been good.

So I wanted to pass that on tonight to someone else. Not that I don't need the reminder anymore that people are good. Because I do need it, everyday. Especially this time of year.

But I wanted someone else to have it so that I could tell people that people are good, and that people have been good to me. And it's best to focus on that when the rest doesn't make sense.


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