The “On Your Left” Bit

California coastline just north of Cambria!

New Year’s greetings to all! Channeling a pretty moment and memory to start 2021 off right! 

Granted, this will be a cautious and careful start for me. The COVID situation here in LA is currently very serious – and the road to normalcy still stretches on quite a ways. But even as dining options remain strictly takeout, at least cause for optimism can finally be found on the menu!

I began daring to dream during a recent holiday gathering (Zoomed, of course!) when we were invited to share where we’d like to go when this pandemic business is sorted. After some momentary pie-in-the-sky thoughts, I went with a much beloved destination that happens to be only a quick drive up the coast from home – yet has seemed so very far away…

I picked Cambria!

I’ve written about the town before and its special place in my heart – not just for the views and vibe, but for the warm memories of those with whom I’ve shared it!

View toward the Pacific from Highway 46.

One final treat of my visits is the wonderfully scenic hop from the Pacific Coast Highway over to Interstate 101 along Highway 46! It’s such a pleasant, winding drive over beautiful rolling hills – some dotted with splendid old oaks and others blanketed with rows of grapevines, vivid green or somber brown depending on the time of year.

I took the above picture quite a while ago at a highway viewpoint. And as I drank in that distant view of Morrow Bay and the glorious Pacific Ocean, I still remember hearing:

“On your left!”

Nope – not any kind of political statement. It was because behind me, there was a bike race cruising past! Although one rider didn’t appear to be cruising. Clearly not in competition for a top spot, he was struggling mightily against those rolling hills – but he was still gamely chugging along.

He’d been overtaken by a fellow cyclist who shouted that “heads up” kind of call which made me turn back to the road – just in time to view a whole knot of cyclists churning up to and around this guy, each cheerily bellowing over the buzzing of bike wheels:

“On your left!” / ZzzzzzzZzzzzz!! / “On your left!”

Over. And over. Again.

Years down the metaphorical road, that shout is still connected to the picture – and it sticks with me now both as I think back on happier times and as I look ahead to the weeks and months to come.

Because this gentleman was digging deep. True, he wasn’t going to finish the race first. But you could just see how determined he was to cross that finish line!

The cyclists’ goal – reaching the California Coast!

I remember really admiring him because I’m afraid that kind of will – that power from within to gut things out – isn’t as well developed in me. If a bar is set high, I generally don’t mind ducking underneath it. And if there’s a fire in my belly? It was probably the buffalo wings…

Okay to be fair to myself, I’ve risen to the occasion once in a while. But owning a fragile athletic psyche, if I’d been out on the road that day, every single “On your left!” would have sounded less to me like a “heads up” and more like:

“Faster than you!” / “In my way!” / “Keep your day job!” / ZzzzzzzZzzzzz!!

After the twentieth “On your left”, I might have given up and peeled off toward the nearest wine tasting room – and Highway 46 is ideal for that, by the way!

I do recall one exception to this general rule – it was when I took up running in college.

Distance running proved a huge mental battle at first. I’d start out on a run through my neighborhood, playing music like the Rocky theme on an amazing new gadget called a Walkman (yup – it was a while ago…) and feeling totally inspired:

“Gonna fly nowww!”

I’d keep up a solid pace. I’d shadowbox like no one was watching. Annnd then I’d have to start up a hill:

“Gonna fly…(gasping for air)…now! Gonna…gonna…(obscene caller breathing)…gonna stop nowww…”

It wasn’t happening.

Then my big brother Jack stepped in. Or, you know – he ran in.

Jack running the Mt. Wilson Trail Race.

Jack was a very determined individual. When he set his mind to do something – whether it was diving, promotion producing, oil painting, bowling or stand-up comedy – he’d do it and he’d get very good!

Kind of annoying, really.

This race included a 2,900 foot climb – did I mention he was determined..?

Anyhoo, Jack offered to partner up and help me develop a mindset for running. He’d insist that I run right beside him and, most importantly – whatever the pace or terrain – simply not to accept stopping as an option. Even if I were barely picking up my feet, I was to keep going until we’d reached our established goal.

Somewhere along the way, that running rule became second nature. Yeah, my stride would sometimes get down to kind of a perky little mince – and early on, a second coat of paint probably dried somewhere while I was conquering a hill. But it got easier and easier after it didn’t occur to me anymore to quit.

And I’d never have gotten there without Jack.

Me a long time ago – in a dress size far, far away…

In the past year, we’ve had to cultivate new instincts to try and conquer this COVID thing. I now wear a mask when out and about. And I’ve become accustomed to keeping my distance from others while I run errands or even when I pause for a chat.

As our healthcare workers and vulnerable citizens are beginning to get vaccinated, I’m starting to allow myself to ponder what it will be like freely moving again around a safer world! I wonder how long it’ll take for me to set aside those instincts and just enjoy life again. Will we go back to doing the handshake thing with acquaintances? Will I feel comfortable right away hugging friends and loved ones the way I’ve been dying to? Shoot, will I even remember how to put on lipstick..?

Having an acutely (dare I say, over-) developed instinct for worrying, I think when I merge back onto that road, I’ll be hearing “On your left!” kind of a lot for a while. But I also think we should feel we can negotiate these upcoming hills at our own pace.

Plus, spoiler alert – despite all the lousy terrain we’ve already had to slog through, there are unforgiving hills yet to be tackled before we even get to that point…

Even so! Bright, beautiful and more normal days are also just out there on the horizon now – and I don’t intend to quit until I reach them!

Cambria sunset.

A toast then to all for a harmonious and happy 2021! And if you’re facing some steep hill just now, here’s to summoning whatever you require – from within or without – to conquer that hill and to keep on keeping on!

Cheers!

37 comments

  1. Wish you a happy new year.

    1. Thank you very much – and a happy new year to you!

    2. Thank you very much – same to you!

    3. (Oops – already said that… But hey, it’s worth repeating!)

  2. Such beautiful words, as always, my friend. Wishing for strength and perseverance to keep moving forward. And most of all, for new Hope and fresh possibilities in 2021. All the best to you and your Mom! ❤️

    1. Oh thank you so much, Carol – and you’ve said it beautifully! Wishing you and yours the very same – all the best! 😘

  3. It is not whether you win or lose, but how you run the race. I hear a few more “on your lefts” now than I did when I was younger, but I still soldier on…walking, biking, skiing, hiking and dreaming. Dreams of travel, gatherings and hugs in 2021. Wishing you all the best in 2021 Amy. Allan

    1. Thank you very much – you’re so right! And may all those grand wishes for 2021 come true!

  4. Amy, what beautiful words! Your imagery of Cambria brought be there…though I’ve never been. The words about your brother were also beautiful. I feel a great loss not having met him. Thank you for sharing. I think of you and your mum quite often!!

    1. Thank you so much, Seth! Mum and I miss you and your programs and we sure think of you too! Best wishes to you and yours – and may 2021 bring the chance for us to share more musical adventures!

  5. Well said, Amy. I enjoyed the older photos of you and your brother. I saw a review of the year on tv and 2020 started with those devastating fires in Australia. A lot of political wrongs were swept under the carpet once Covid arrived and took precedence over other problems and will need to be addressed again in the future. To use a running term, we will have to “pace” ourselves but i know I will stop along the way to catch my breath and admire the view, hearing a lot of “on your left” then hopefully keep moving forward. Wish you a happy healthy New Year.

    1. Thank you! All good wishes for seeing those problems addressed and, yes, for a happy and healthy 2021!

  6. Such an inspiring post. I’m currently experiencing the ups and downs of trying to become a runner, I’ll try Jack’s advice 🙂

    1. Thanks – and good for you! It certainly helped to have my own “trainer” but I think if I can get there, anyone can! Best of luck and Happy New Year!

  7. Happy New Year

    1. Thanks! Happy New Year to you!

  8. That was an uplifting read for New Year’s morning! All the best for 2021 and I hope you get to Cambria.

    1. Thank you so much! And all the best to you too for a great 2021!

  9. happy new year

    1. Thanks and a Happy 2021 to you!

      1. I actually meant to write something else but the ENTER key got away from me …

        I can relate to your “On your left” bit. I had the same experience cross-country skiing.

        There people just yell “LEFT!” and if you don’t move out the way fast enough it’s “LEFT!! LEFT!!” but in the nicest possible way. We are Canadian afterall 🙂

      2. Ha! Well I guess that’s better than a cross-check!

  10. We used to drive through and visit Cambria often.

    1. As you might have guessed, I think it’s a truly beautiful spot! Thanks for reading!

      1. It is! We hope to visit the California coast again someday (we’re living in Ohio now). We drove up the coast during our honeymoon and several other trips.

  11. “Digging deep” is what the sports TV commentators call it: we’re, many of us, doing that right now. But we’re all in this together, and sharing your thoughts really helps, thank you!
    By the way I love biking and I’m always that guy on the right, following the tortoise and hare philosophy that slow and steady always wins (in my head anyway!)

    1. So glad this spoke to you! (Hey – there’s a cycling pun there!) And best wishes as we keep on taking these days slow and steady!

  12. happy 2021!

  13. You said it all there, except perhaps for those other runners we sometimes pause to help keep going. One day we’ll all pass the finish line arm in arm, hopefully, the stronger and more united for it.

    1. Amen to that! And best wishes!

  14. Really beautiful!

    1. Yes, it’s a very special place!

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