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!
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!
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 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.
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.
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!
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!