Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Today I vow to take a step backward

I am not a person who needs a lot of "stuff" and literally can wear the same clothes, eat off the same plate, etc etc.  I appreciate nice things and have had periods in my life where those things had greater importance. And of course, like most women enjoy buying a new outfit and unlike most, a new bicycle. However I tend to do both things in moderation.
Perhaps my experiences with loss have given me a different perspective. I am not really sure why but that does not matter.

The older I get the more I forget details of decades past.  Trying to live in the present as well as setting sights on the tomorrows take precedent. But every once in a while, a piece of times long ago surface, and as always I am humbled with the memories that they clearly evoke. It is only then, that I truly can mark my age.

Although I try not to be attached to material things, I do have a habit for saving certain things and as it turns out, these things are practically obsolete. Today while looking for some blank note cards that I had put in storage boxes , I stumbled on a few bundles of letters and cards that were bunched together with old rubber bands. Curiously I looked at a few. There were birthday cards from 20+ years ago, a wedding invitation and a number of photos. What really drew my eye were the aerogrammes and letters. Letters!!!! A wonderful thing of the past. Life before the web, internet, email, smart phones and instant messaging. It instantly brought me back. The blue papered aerograms especially bought warmth to my heart. How beautiful it was when we actually took the time and thought to pen a letter then send it via post, knowing it would takes days or even weeks to be received. The excitement of waiting for a reply brings back a wonderful time of innocence and patience.  As much as I use and appreciate the conveniences of having so many communication options, I sometimes think we were much better off when we had less "connectivity". We had to make more of an effort and we had to think before we wrote. Instant gratification did not apply.  When was the last time you received a note, card or letter via post?  Well look out!  you may find one from me.... but be patient, snail mail is slow..

Friday, September 6, 2013

All things must pass.....

August has come and gone and summer is officially on her way out....The days are shorter and here in Belgium it is inevitable that the temperatures shall drop and rain will return. Seasons and cycles are prevalent here and it fairly predictable.

However this August was pivotal for me and brought much relief in many ways. It was a month of reflection, a month of independence, and a month of moving forward. Seeing more clearly and letting go of some unrealistic people and ideas. I indulged myself the entire month to do what I love! France was exactly what I needed and enjoyed each day as if it were my last. I rode my bike up mountains, enjoyed the beauty of Provence,  the warm sunshine and wonderful foods of the region. I spent most of this time alone but being alone in a beautiful place is so much easier than alone in one that brings no joy. I was content.

Dealing with loss is something that never becomes easy however,  the more you lose, the less the expectations are and the realization that nothing is permanent.. Therefore, being in the moment is truly the only thing we really can do.. So why not take each moment for what it is and find a positive to focus on?
During this August recharging period,  I found out my only brother is dying and my only sister had to be hospitalized.. and here I was climbing big mountains on my bike. Yet, that gave me more reason to do what I love!!  Life is so unpredictable and I am thankful everyday for my health, for my strong will, and the ability to persevere with a smile.

But today brought a different pleasant surprise. 
The reason I write these blogs is to share my experiences as well as it allows me to sort my crazy brain out. However, I have  a secret desire that someone may find inspiration and can benefit from the thoughts I write and today this became real.

While checking my email I received a message from a long ago former colleague and friend that I hadn't heard from in years..
 For some reason he was thinking of me and decided to google me.. Well, I am absolutely the most un-private person in this universe and everything from old race results, training advice to my blog shows up. Thus he begins reading this array of scribblings.

He had recently experienced sudden loss and upon stumbling on my writings found comfort and perhaps even solidarity in knowing that he is not alone in his feelings, and that life can go on.. That IS exactly my point, life DOES go on!

Of course the grieving period is a necessary evil that we have to look in the face but the blackness and emptiness dissipates with time if you allow it. This doesn't mean you will stop having  moments of intense sorrow but that they get less and less. Life as you now know it now different however it goes on.

Now don't get me wrong,  there were many times I contemplated death as it seemed like an easy way out of this painful world. But somehow  I kept my head out of that water..Diverted my pain by writing these blog posts, listening to others, riding my bike and believing it can be good again.

And no matter what.... I believe it. Life can and IS good again. It's all how you view it and want it to be!!!  xxx

Saturday, August 3, 2013

August rolls in as quickly as this year speeds past.

It will be 2 years on the 13th of August that my world was changed in a heartbeat.  The last thing I said  to him was "see you later" and who new??? 6 hours later I would be staring at my newlywed husband's dead body in the Funeral home... Yes, life is not fair.

But it is what it is...the tears still fall, the emptiness and loneliness are underneath the skin but I search for a new life, wherever it may be.

I vowed not to spend another August in the house he built for us. Seeing the neighbors and their families is not easy when you are the only one alone....Summer fun, kids playing, people with BBQs is not so cheerful when your husband and kid were all taken away. I do not belong and I feel like an outsider looking in..

Thus I have escaped for the month of August  to revisit France: Provence, the cote azure and then the Alpes. And here I am with bike marveling the beauty and serenity of the heart of Provence..

Crickets chirping loudly, vineyards full of grapes, small sleepy villages and of course the hills and omnipresent Mt. Ventoux!  The epic bike stages of the Tour de France have seen the pain that this barren mountain can dole out.. The paint of all the cyclists names is  still fresh on the road from just a week or so ago, as the TDF battle rode past. Cyclists from all over the world test their legs and courage on Ventoux.

The mountain has many memories for me and I enjoy the pain and glory it always provides. It is a test of fitness, a test of will and an often a gamble with the elements. I rode my first and second times up  Ventoux with Yves in 2010 shortly after moving to Belgium to start a new life together. The next was carrying his ashes in my pocket last year and placing them where we happily sat. Today I rode with memories, love and towards an unknown future. I shall continue to push myself until I can no longer.
I have my moments of sadness and pain but I also am thankful for all I have, look with open eyes to the future and try to appreciate each day..Cause you never know when your last breath will be!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

3 years ago

I packed it all up. I went through each item. I sold what i could, gave away things and carefully decided what I needed to keep. It was real. It was happening. I was on my way to start a new life. A new life with the man I met in a fairytale dream and his three children.

I was ready for a big change and I was not afraid to step away it all to begin a new one that was based on love and making a future together.

3 years ago I said my last face to face goodby to my dying mother.. I was happy yet sad to leave my friends and the beautiful roads and mountains that I biked, ran and hiked religiously. I stepped on that plane with no regrets only faith in the new life I was undertaking.

Thus 3 years ago, I started this blog to share my insights, humor and experiences of what it's like to relocate in a new country: the languages, customs and every day life. Little did I know it would become an avenue to express my deepest emotions and heartache.

So here's to the next 3 years.  Now the door is wide open. I remain positive that life will steer me onto the right path. Thus I slowly move forward with open eyes and heart.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spring thoughts and scribbles

Yesterday, I saw some photos I took of Paris Roubaix 2011 and now I realize why I have have emptiness always tugging at my gut. One of the photos,  there sat my 2 bike loving boys standing in the sun patiently waiting for the racers To arrive.

It was our second time going,  but the first time taking one of the children. Driving from Zolder, it is a long 12+ hour day and  a great deal of it in spent in the car.

Beginning at 5A.M. We packed the car with food and drink, maps and plenty of clothing. We woke up Jelle who was then only 8 and piled him into the car. Being his "Papa's" boy he was excited to spend the entire day with us chasing down Paris Roubaix.

Yves had a system. An old school plan of sorts. We had done it the year before together and it was a combination of frenzy and exhilerating timing. He plotted out sections that we would view and by calculating the estimated arrival time of the racers and then adding in beating the road closures we would secure a good viewing spots. He estimated 6-8  stops.

We started in Lille, watched the athletes sign in and oggled their often special bikes and set ups for the "Hell of the North". The bikes and  racers were all so clean and fresh; something that would not last long in THIS epic gruelng race.

However 2011 April was an unusually warm spring month and not a drop of rain fell. The temperatures were unseasonably warm thus the Pavé would be dry and dusty. There was not a cloud in the sky. A very NON typical day in Belgium.

As the race was about to start we jumped into the car and headed to the first spot and repeated this until we arrived at Roubaix. Unbelievably Jelle never complained, enjoyed the excitement and cheered along side of me and his Papa. The crowds in Roubaix are thick and wall to wall people line the velodrome. Those who spend the day there buy tickets and watch the race on the Big Sreens…

The year before it was Spartacus, soloing in the make the final laps on the oval. This year it was a complete surprise as Johan Van Summeran had the lead. When he came barreling around the barriers we knew all of our  Limburg Provice was proud!

Because we did this the year before, we knew the drill. Cross the lines and cut through the barriers to wait in the team areas behind the cafe and near the famous showers.. Photos were to be taken..Seeing the riders one by one riding up with (this time) black dirt and dust covering them  from head to toe in addition to the worn out tiredness from a long day in the saddle over hellish terrain is a sight every cyclist should see. Humbling to say the least..

Thus after some time of photo taking,  team bike washing and water bottle collecting for Jelle and his brother and sister, we once again packed into the car for a long drive home.. Exhausted and exhilarated, I know I shall never forget this wonderful day with the boys I lost and hope young Jelle will also remember……

As Paris Roubaix is nearly upon us, this time I watch from the comfort of my couch but the memories and love will never die… Spring is in the air!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Every Breath ~ Every Heart Beat

I choose to go slow. I choose to take my time. I choose to keep my schedule simple. I am letting myself feel. I am letting myself take inventory, I am letting myself not have to hurry. I am living life in the slower than slow lane. I see things a bit differently now.

 I try to understand all sides. We all have so many stories that make up who we are.

Some of us will continue to make stories until the day we no longer exist and others let the stories make them.

 I choose the first option.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Tales of Tenerife

Tales of Tenerife

Here I sit in the sun in 23c watching beachcombers soak in the precious rays overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. 

Yes it is January, and yes I have escaped the grey, dark and wetness of Belgium for two weeks.  It is my 10th day cycling in the mountains, refinding some fitness but not over doing it. The original mission was twofold: Avoidance of depression that would have surely taken hold if I stayed in Belgium during the holidays. It was only the 2nd holiday season without Yves and the kids and I knew it could be difficult. Biking in the wet, grey and cold weather just is not motivating. Call me a "softie" or call me smart. Choosing an option with sun and big climbs over flat wet and possible depression seemed a "no brainer".
Secondly, I have committed to two big race events in June and July and getting a winter phase one on the bike training is a practical way to jumpstart my fitness. 

Thus here I sit for 2more days before going back  to reality.

However, one particular event made me realize why I am REALLY  here.
One evening after a long ride, I left my hotel room to get some dinner. The dining area is located on the lower level of the building. While in the elevator, a older man with white hair, heavyset build looking a bit "off" got in. The door opened at the lobby and he asked me where the restaurant was. I informed him that it was one floor lower thus he stayed , and we disembarked together. I found a table and started to proceed to the buffet. Just at that moment, the same gentleman asked me if I was sitting alone and if so, could we sit together?
"Why not" i thought. He looked harmless and I am always open to chatting. 

After retrieving our food, we sat down at the small square table. Bad Christmas music played in the background. The restaurant was filled with retired couples, Russian and British tourists and well as a group of young track and field athletes there for a winter training  camp. Add me in and we are an  eclectic group to say the least. If it weren't for my obsession with the bike, I would not be there at all!

As we sat with our food, the gentleman introduces himself and proceeds to tell me his "story". Oskar is his name and he is from Finland. I can see he is troubled so I say nothing but listen. He tells me he and his wife come to Tenerife every year for a winter holiday. They enjoy the winter getaway but this time it went array. Oskar's wife became seriously ill and after few days had to be hospitalized. She got some sort of lung infection, and had to stay in the hospital for 2 weeks. In this period, she lost all motivation and of course Oskar was helpless. One morning he wakes up and sets off to the hospital like he has been routinely doing for 2 weeks. However this time his ankle is severely swollen and he cannot walk!  He too gets admitted to the hospital and has to stay a few days to get it all sorted out. Meanwhile the couple who have been married Over 40 years are laying side by side in hospital beds. He, of course, is now  beside himself. Eventually they discharge him, but his wife must stay until she is deemed fit enough to leave as well as cleared to fly back to Finland. All the  while as he is telling me this, his eyes well up and the tears begin to flow. He is clearly heartbroken, worried and most of all in need of a listening ear. I understood it ALL to well. I know what it's like to ave the "rug pulled out from you" and the need solely to express yourself. 

After listening, I shared my own story of why I was there, what steps I am taking to move forward and  of course made him giggle by pointing out the irony that at least they got to share te same hospital room. We smiled, we laughed and we shared many stories of our histories. He shared his passion for motorcycling and I knew he understood my love of the bike.
We had a nice dinner together and he left saying that when this wife was cleared he was returning to Finland, retiring from his job and spending his precious time doing what he loved again. (Motorcycling, spending time awith his wife and traveling). 

The following evening when I went to the hotel restaurant, I did not see Oskar. Immediately I was concerned. Perhaps he was at the hospital all day! I tried to stay positive. About a 1/2 hour later, Oskar and a white haired heavyset woman who looked just like him came strolling to my table. I jumped up! She was his wife and out and cleared! Yippee, some stories DO have a happy ending. They were holding hands and smiling ear to ear. 

Before they left he stopped, thanked me and gave me a hug. He looked me in eye and I knew what he felt. For one small moment I was able to be his "Angel" .  Really all I did was  nothing more than listen, encourage and give him positive energy but that was all he needed.

As I sit here alone at the beach, I know my Angels are looking after me. I am healing but have a long way to go. One step at a time. My heart is heavy but stays open....