Thursday, June 20, 2013

Living Large

The Forneys near the start of their journey, in Oregon

My dear friends Dennis and Becky Forney have embarked on a three+ month, cross country bicycle trek, literally pedaling from Oregon to Delaware. Dennis blogs about their journey, the landscape they traverse and the colorful characters they meet, daily.  I am green with envy (when I am not green with nausea, at the recounting of the steeeeep climbs and narrrroooow roads and wicked weather they have faced thus far.) Unless I am reincarnated as Lance Armstrong, I am very unlikely to follow in their tire tracks. Even the thought of driving a car along their route is daunting to me in the extreme.  But there is a part of me that wishes I could be the adventurous Forneys, could attempt what they are attempting, could live large.

I live small. Small as in: I have a five block commute to work. When I’m not working, I’m writing from home. My travels are few and far between, and when I am out, I always seem to miss interviewing the Most Unforgettable Characters. My chance encounters tend towards perfunctory nods and smiles in grocery checkout lines, on the train. Why am I reluctant to engage? Lord knows my ace reporter Julie comes home with volumes to recount from her interesting conversations with strangers. All I know is I perpetually miss the scoop, and don’t take the time to really notice my surroundings either.

My friend Pat died Tuesday, way too young, after a heroic battle with cancer. This past weekend, I finally started to sort the huge chaotic bin-full of papers under my bed. There I found notes from, and the obituary of, another good friend, Kem, who lost her battle years ago, at age 52. Tomorrow is promised to no one. I know that.  So what am I waiting for?

OK then, what should I attempt? Among the bold and daring things I’ve tried over the years: a jungle canopy tour in Costa Rica (does staring up at the sky, teeth gritted, count as experiencing the thrill of the zip line?); snorkeling in Jamaica (note to self: perhaps a huge breakfast might NOT be the preferred prelude to a bumpy boat trip into Montego Bay);  a small-plane hop to Nantucket in very dense fog (according to Steve, I entertained the other passengers with audibly prayed  “Hail Marys” the entire way from Boston). So bold and daring hasn’t panned out very well for me so far.

But I am inspired to step it up a little, starting right now. I may never be Becky and Dennis, my action heroes. Not even close. But I can still have adventures, even if they’re small ones. I can try some new things this summer. Talk with some new people.  And even when I’m in my daily routine, I can try to be much, much more aware of the beauty of the world, of life itself.

Meanwhile, my thoughts and prayers will go with the Forneys as they ride on, across America. Traveling mercies, guys.

From Sea to Shining Sea: Dennis' blog

Monday, June 3, 2013


Strange days around here.

Steve, the ultimate do-it-yourselfer, has been hampered by an unexpected injury. He fell off his bike on Friday morning, a freak accident after a long and successful early morning ride. Dislocated shoulder, with the possibility of injury to the rotator cuff; we'll know more after his MRI. The poor guy has been in a lot of discomfort, and the most uncomfortable part has been that he needs, and has to accept, help accomplishing various basic daily tasks. He must endure his wife tying his shoes and buttoning his shirts for him. He couldn't drive Sher and Yaj to their church gigs on Sunday, oh horrors! (Amazingly, I am quite capable of operating a motor vehicle, and took over chauffeur duty with no problems.)  Tomorrow's after-school drama club performance programs will be put together and folded by the family tonight and--you know what?--I think we can handle it. As he impatiently waits for healing, we try to reassure him that we can hold the fort until he is 100% again.

Steve pre-spill (and he was wearing his helmet riding)
 But even as I tsk-tsk about his stubborn independence and intense dislike of asking for aid, I realize it is a huge issue with me, too. I remember breaking my arm back in 1982, and having to ask Steve to wash my hair. Hated every minute of it. Late pregnancy was always a trial, because towards the end I couldn't easily carry laundry baskets upstairs alone, and needed to (gasp) request assistance.

In many ways we have not progressed far beyond the toddler "me do it MYSELF!" phase. Perfectionism is part of it (after all, nobody does it better than us, right?). So is a teensy bit of control freakiness. I think a major factor is our desire not to bother other people, who have busy lives of their own and don't need to be pitching in with ours.

As a result, we do most everything solo--even the things we don't exactly do well, even the things that we waste time, energy and money doing that others could knock out in a trice. I look at my chaotic closets and drawers, and church files at the office, and it crosses my mind that a born organizer could HELP me. Nah. Better to shove everything closed and pray no one comes in to look at my "system."

Growing older, I realize that someday I will be physically and mentally unable to do all that I can do today. I remember my Grandma Berrigan hanging onto her car keys well into her late 80s (even after she drove onto a neighbor's lawn, mistaking it for her driveway), and realize I'm a chip off a willful Irish block. Steve's German forbears were no slouches in the pigheadedness department, so we are quite the pair.

Inevitably, there will come a time when we won’t be going it alone anymore. Maybe we’d better practice letting go. Maybe we both need to stop thinking of “help” as a four-letter word.