Tag Archives: gratitude

my journey with aids lifecycle

 

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For the past 14 years, during the first week in June, nearly 3,000 men and women meet to begin one heroic challenge and one common goal: riding a bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles to help end AIDS and HIV.

Orientation, day one, a whirlwind of what was I thinking, followed by…where did these people come from….followed by….does his jersey really say that… followed by an astounding sense of trust and love.

I started the day two climb. We were 30 miles into the day. I was used to riding flat and not prepared for the challenge I had in front of me. Directly in front of me.

I wasn’t thinking about quad-busters, or what they call the evil twins, I was taking it mile by mile on a bad knee. The climb was probably nothing to a seasoned cyclist, but for me it looked as if I was hitting a stage of the Tour de France. It’s okay. I got over it—literally.

So there I was, four miles into this obscene grind (obscene by my standards) and I saw another rider pulled over on the road. I stopped to check on him, and if I may be completely honest, take a break. I didn’t like to stop on climbs for fear that my bike wouldn’t move forward again.

Oddly enough he asked me if I was okay. I told him that my knee was not thrilled with me. I tried to hide the pain.

“What are you in for?” I asked. He said “I need a breather. Cancer.” He tried to hide his exhaustion.

I extended my hand and unknowingly part of my heart to him. “I’m Ronna. “ “Nick.” We were both out of breath and nearly spent. He looked tired. I knew I was. I asked him if he had a full bottle of water to drink. “Drink,” I said. “We get to the top together. I’m not finishing without you.” It was at that moment I started to understand the community that is Aids/Lifecycle.

image-250x187 Aids/Lifecycle isn’t just a fundraising event. Yes, they have training    rides to teach you how become better in group rides. It showed be  how to become better in groups of people. Period. You see, Aids/lifecycle is indeed a community. It is an awareness. It is the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve ever been honored to be a part of.

When I was trudging up that climb, thinking that my body was going to collapse, I thought of the cyclists who were HIV positive. I thought of the men and women who couldn’t ride because they had become too sick or who had just lost their partner. I thought of my own close call.

I thought of the riders who rode so that when my heterosexual, non-drug-using boyfriend lied to me about his HIV status, I had help. My apologies for putting a dent in the stigma, but he was not gay. He is the reason I ride.

Most of the ride was truly surreal. I wouldn’t think that there were words for the feeling I had when Nick and I clipped back in to get to the top of that climb, but I would liken it to being in the front row of Wembley Stadium and Liam Gallagher (insert name of favorite rock star here) looks you in the eye while he’s belting out…oh…anything.

The following days allowed me time with the sports medicine tent. Adhesive spray, KT Tape and mass quantities of ice and Advil were involved. My knee wasn’t sexy, but I kept my spirit up.

Day six I rode almost every mile. I did not know it would be the night my life would forever change. That night at the dinner tent a story was told about a woman. I had come in a bit late and didn’t hear the start of it, or even her name, but I heard what I needed to hear. They told my story that night; my reason for riding, only her ending was not the same. She died. Her life was cut short. She is my reason for riding. She is the reason I tell my story now. She is why I need to be part of the solution and end the stigma. She is my hero.

Fifty miles in I was on the last day of the ride. It was as beautiful as it was painful. My leg was now taped from mid-calf to thigh, and blistered from my knee up.

I was fighting my way down the Pacific Coast Highway as I saw our team captain for UTAC, Until There’s A Cure. We pulled over because I needed to smoke, and I did. Full cycling kit. PCH. Two thousand cyclists, and a cigarette.

And as I clipped out off my bike, and put my right foot down, barely grazing the ground a pain unlike anything I can recall started in my toes and shot up my leg. I doubled over. There was no putting pressure of any kind on my foot—but I could pedal. The guys looked at me. ”Do you want to sweep in?” No. No fucking way. I’m nine miles out. I didn’t know how, but I was going to finish. Because she couldn’t.

I put out my Camel Light with my good foot, loosened the buckles on my shoes and clipped in.

Motor safety carried both me and my bike through the PCH tunnel.The last grind was less than a mile away. I should take this moment to point out that nothing feels worse to an injured knee than any type of climb, except maybe a sledgehammer. I looked up at Chattaqua Street. It wasn’t going to happen.

I got a quarter of the way up and just as I was about to lay my bike down, I felt a hand on my back and a voice said, “C’mon girl you’ve got this”! And that hand pushed me to the top of Chattaqua Street. Do you know that I never even saw his face?

The last three miles were grueling. The moment I crossed that finish line was bittersweet. My eyes welled up with tears of relief, pain, and pure joy. My heart filled with accomplishment. There is nothing to describe what ALC gave me that week, and there may be no way I can ever give back to the people who have changed my life forever.

All I can do is keep fighting for those who can’t. And I will not stop until we, together, have won the fight.

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january 1, 2015

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I spent the first morning of 2015 handing out socks, water and cookies with Brian. We met a man named Jesse who broke my heart open. Jesse was sitting on 6th Street in a box facing the sun on a day when the warmth was needed. Jesse is fighting diabetes with full blown aids. His wish is to not be in pain every day. It’s been nine years since he had a day without it.

As we drove down the streets filled with pigeons and lined with homes built from trash, I knew that there was no other way to start the year.

It is so easy to compare, so natural to have expectations. Instead of contemplating which movie I would see this weekend I thought of this country and how it could allow this. How can so many be on the street, be in pain with no medical care because they get dropped from the system…It’s sickening. These people are no different than anyone else. Some are there because of illness, some were heroes. Some are there due to circumstance and fear of limitations. Yes, some by choice….but those are the exception.

If we all could take a minute….just one day….just to give. It took ten dollars and 90 minutes to give. Even if what you do is say a prayer instead of roll up your window the next time you seem a person less fortunate, that is enough. It all starts with a seed of hope. Everyone can find something to be grateful for, as I heard today on the streets. Take this year to love and appreciate. If nothing else, be grateful and know that you are blessed.

I wish you all everything you dream of.

 

 


gratitude

Thank you Facebook for finally catching on. I was over posts of food pictures the first time I saw one. I’d much prefer the use of media to be positive. Perhaps if we all focused on posting things that are of substance, we might actually be the change we want to see in the world. Instead of hitting on people you knew ten years ago or sharing the horrors, we can collectively share some joy.

I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised that social media would take a hot minute to catch on to the happy posts. It took me years to learn that expressing gratitude can make such a huge difference in me, my life and the world.

Did I always have things to be grateful for? Sure did.

Was I happy? Yes.

Did I always express them? No.

My prayers were always a laundry list of wants. Every day was like a wish list. (I didn’t actually pray every day.) Then there were the bargaining prayers: God if you give me ______ I will never ______. Or I’ll change this if you ________(fill in the blank).

What was I thinking?

I was thinking I was 17 and I wanted a BMW. That’s what. I wondered why I still felt empty inside. I’m grateful today for my awareness—I’m grateful for much than I can type in 900 words.

Trying to find something to be grateful for every day is something I’ve found indispensable to me. I wonder what would happen if everyone did this every day?

Here’s what a daily list does for me…and I’ve been doing it for over 20 years.

It allows a shift in my perception. It allows me to see the good in things—and when I focus on the good how can I manifest the bad?

I suppose it could happen but since I’m not dabbling in black magic or conjuring demons I’m going to with it won’t.

My life isn’t perfect. It has it’s ups and downs…financial struggles…financial gains…matters of the heart happen…then don’t happen…then happen again. I have been through health issues, loss, and traumas.

I’ve been fortunate to overcome them.

I was a female Johnny Cash—I had the dress in black thing down. My life was four seconds away from becoming a bad country song. I was so negative; now, I see it in others. I see it in friend’s faces. I see it on my Facebook feed. I see the doubt, worry, concern. Some fears are realistic and need to be addressed but those aren’t the ones I mean. I’m talking about the tiny speck of a fear that can snowball out of control until you feel paralyzed.

I don’t like the snow. I don’t want to build a snow fort. And although I don’t have a fireplace, I do have heat and I’m thankful for that.

I still have fear, I still have doubts—believe me. Earlier today, I was forced to say an out loud, on the spot gratitude list while driving. (Yes, I was indeed talking to myself in the car like Suzy Banana Cakes.) The list allowed me to take a deep breath and stay away from that fucking snowball.

Ironically, this weekend will be the coldest we have had thus far.

Finding things to be grateful for every day has given me the gift of leaning towards faith—well, not every moment—but a really good part of the time. Every so often I need a tiny kick in the shin over to get me to cross that invisible line I’ve drawn between fear and faith. As I said, negative Nancy. Totally present and waiting for misery. That was my M.O.

I am able now, when something is removed from my life, to see a bit of the bigger picture. Instead of mourning or grieving that thing that was removed, I see hope and potential. I see opportunity. Sometimes this process involves meditation. Other times it involves chocolate and dancing alone in my living room with a paper towel roll as a microphone. (Don’t judge.)

At the end of it all, I get to see the universe pushing me to take a chance instead of wondering why I am being punished.

I am no spiritual leader—I’m just a woman trying to make it through this weird, crazy and blessed life. I battle every day with my demons. When I stay in gratitude, this bizzare phenomenon that I choose to call faith, the fight can be won.

I challenge you to find five things to be grateful for.

They don’t have to be huge. As I said, it’s about perspective. Post them here in the comments if you want—I’d honestly love to see a thread of pure appreciation. How cool would that be?

I’ll throw you five of mine, vulnerability and all:

I’m grateful that my father is cancer-free and that I get to be his daughter.

I’m grateful that I no longer live by my intentions.

I’m grateful that even on days that terrify me, I can still muster up some sort of faith.

I’m grateful that I have a place to share my experience…that every so often, I’m left a comment that my words have helped someone.

I’m grateful for my best friend; for her support, her strength, and for being there for me for the past 18 years.

My hope for you is that you find that comfort in thankfulness and live in that state of being as often as you can.


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