Polishing the Mirror in Argentina

Thursday, June 2, 2016 • 8:42 p.m. EST

Nearly four years ago, I sat quietly in my room on Christmas Eve about to take a trip that would ultimately change the course of my life. My family was taking this 2012 Christmas off, so to speak, as I was flying out the next morning for my first trip to Cordoba, Argentina.

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My sister and best friend Wendy has lived in Cordoba for more than five years. Back in 2012, I had no idea what kinds of adventures I had in store for me. After that fated Christmas trip, not without its own interesting twists and turns, I found myself making major life changes. Three months later, after completing yoga teacher training, I moved to a bus in Miami where I spent my days writing, reading, making and selling pottery, traveling and experiencing a different way of life. I’d move back to Chattanooga and create a different space for myself, surrounded by loving people and places. In many ways, I like to think that Argentina—and the decision to take that two-plus week trip out of the country and in the Southern Hemisphere—was my tipping point. It led to a beautiful adventure. It showed me colors and cultures and experiences, as well as different ways of thinking and living, that I allowed to influence me in positive ways.

Any sense of traveling and experiencing other cultures reminds me of the importance of that exposure; something to make you feel small, to minimize the damages or wounds (or wonderful things) that seem overwhelming day in and day out. It helps me shape my life and affects what I choose to fill my space with, figuratively and literally. Since those initial seeds were planted, it’s incredible to see what richness I’ve invited in.

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Tonight I sit quietly in my room, a different space, one that I share, and prepare for my third trip to Argentina. This time I will ring in a different solstice—just as I was getting accustomed to the shaved legs and shorts that these hazy, Tennessee summer days require, I’ll be headed to a sunny but brisk winter. Whereas before I travelled alone, I get to bring Charles on this grand adventure. We’ll be visiting for June, with a weeklong road trip to Jujuy and Salta with Wendy and Fer. It will be my first experience outside their province. I’m eager to witness the geologic wonders that these lands hold. Some salami, wine and cheese won’t hurt, either.

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Goodbye for now, creek days!

The build-up to this trip hasn’t been completely smooth, though we’ve managed to survive with the incredibly strong support system we have, offline and online. Charles and I found a sweet little apartment and combined spaces in a matter of two weeks. He completed his school year, both at UTC and CGLA.

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I’ve been on a health rollercoaster since early spring, of course. In a last-ditch effort to pull my guts through an ulcerative colitis flare, I had another scope three weeks ago, and I was admitted to the hospital for a round of IV steroids.

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While there I felt in many ways like an undercover agent, or an undercover patient if you will. Volunteers and nurses would ask where the patient was, laughing after they saw my IV. The ‘roids helped immensely, and I think I’m getting over the hump of a flare. Learning to live with this disease has been a huge, slow learning curve that’s shown me how resilient I can be. Daily I work to maintain patience, confidence and strength, and belief that the steps I’m taking will heal me. My most recent scope did show that—lots of great healing since my diagnosis in October!!!—but there is still work to be done. 25 centimeters, to be exact.

Through meditations, yoga, reading and the wildly funny and loving friends and family of mine, sometimes I choose to see ulcerative colitis as the gift, or lens, that allows me to more truly see people’s hearts. While I know a month-long adventure really isn’t just what the doctor ordered, I believe a vacation, the desert, and a sweet reunion with my sister and brother-in-law in their home is very powerful medicine.

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On a lighter note, it’s the gift that keeps giving. I almost fit all of my clothes and goodies for the trip in one bag; but alas, my new tailpipe medications really do require a suitcase of their own. I’m happy to be laughing about it at least, and I know I’ll look back and giggle at these odd, turbulent times.

Tomorrow begins 24+ hours of travel for Charles and me, hopping through Miami and Santiago, Chile, before a Saturday morning arrival in Cordoba. Three and a half years ago, on that memorable Christmas morning, even a huge transportation slip-up couldn’t slow my journey to South America. Nothing, not even broken guts, can stop this trip.

Wendy, Fer, Argentina… I’ll see you soon!

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I Get Ideas

All weekend I’ve been thinking in these sort of maxims: “What’s better than X? Nothing.” Or interchanging “nothing” with “everything.”

My internal dialogue, my monkey mind, uses these tricks to weigh or judge a situation.

I’ve been coasting through a state of living, in the present, that is overflowing with ear-to-ear grins, head-tipped-back laughter, love shining through every pore of my being. It’s as if some sort of switch turned on: I feel the absolute need to share this deep joy that wells up inside me. Instead of tears, I share it with smiles, with hugs, with words of encouragement, with a grateful attitude, with a giggle.

Tonight I coasted to Tremont Tavern for a burger by myself. I cherish these moments in contrast to the moments where I’m never alone. The past week or so has been like that—first starting with my Nashville getaway to Tour de Nash where I floated around feely, then this weekend as many of my dear friends left town and I found myself alone in a few homes.

Among all of these situations, though, I’m reminded there is nothing more freeing than riding a bike. Tonight as the light mist turned in to a heavier rain, I smiled and laughed out loud to myself in the dark. These moments, this form of meditation, whether going uphill, downhill, in the rain, in the cold, in the sunshine or snow, makes life worth living. It feels me with childlike wonder and joy, and helps me laugh a little bit more, smile a little bit bigger, and share a little more love.

Purple Panda

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I greeted the day far too early—something to the tune of 4 a.m. I slipped in and out of sleep, dreaming about cycling around with people who I didn’t know, but who were all very familiar.

A cool breeze swept through the back door, into the kitchen and swirled the heavenly scent of coffee across my face. The same breeze was with me as I sailed across the bridge, watching the fog lift and thinking that even cool mornings give way to the hot heat of 90-degree afternoons.

Without the hot afternoons, we couldn’t appreciate the brisk late spring mornings like today. Every moment brings balance.

Happy Wednesday.

Glorious Clouds, Glorious Commute

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I’m so blessed to be able to experience this on my ride home… Thank you skies, thank you bike, thank you health.

…moments later, I shared amazing meal with my bikey family. There is something so sacred about sharing food, drinking wine and unwinding from your day with good friends in a comfortable spot.

Now the echoes of “That’s What’s Up” rattle in my head, occasional thunder booms in the background, and the steady sound of rain rocks me to sleep.

On My Upcoming Bikey Anniversary

Every day is good.

Every breath is good.

Every moment is a chance to turn something bad into something good.

While it’s not verbatim, that was the message from today’s amazing yoga class. A significant amount of hip opening throughout class opened up my emotions—those reassuring words at the end of the class settled in like a friend’s reassuring hand on my shoulder.

It is with those words, then, that I welcome an upcoming three-year anniversary. One is the anniversary of my current job. More notably, though, is my personal bikey anniversary!

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After a brief (REALLY brief) stint in Portland, Ore., I returned to Chattanooga three years ago with overflowing gusto and enthusiasm to be the change, through bicycling as transportation, I witnessed in the Northwest. I do love a challenge, and the South is littered with challenges, as a woman, as a young person, as an independent free thinker and as a seeker who chooses to live by bicycle and as a pedestrian.

My cyclocommuting started slowly. I lived with my parents for three months or so and didn’t have the lung or leg capacity to crank up the big hill they live on. More often, though, I would coast down the hill to work, my basket rattling along on my hybrid commuter, and get a ride home with my Dad. Eventually I moved to the bottom of the hill, and have since lived in another neighborhood before most recently graduating back to a hilly commute.

I now welcome the chance to ride uphill, for many reasons, just as I welcome the challenge I face every morning when I take off pedaling…when I shift into my fancy-pants big front chain ring, my heart pounding, a silly grin on my face, almost beating car traffic down a hill. I welcome the challenge lugging a ton of produce up a hill, or in wedges after a long day, too tired to even THINK about the perceived challenge.

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Learning to live by bicycle hasn’t been the easiest decision or process I’ve ever experienced. I couldn’t do it without the support of family and friends, and it’s not always pleasant. But it certainly has its rewards—drinking in the sight of my beautiful city first thing in the morning; being the only person on the road at night, looking up at the stars on a quiet neighborhood street; stopping to chat with friends on the way home; planning adventures in and around town.

Living by bicycle certainly isn’t the first challenge I’ve faced, and it won’t be the last. I welcome each one—each day, each breath, each moment—as a chance to turn something bad into something good.

Just Keep Spinning…

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Some days, especially after having such a bikey-filled weekend, me and my passion for living by bike get lonely. It feels too much like an uphill battle.

Some days, watching the mist and clouds enshroud Lookout Mountain, feeling the cool(er) air on my bare arms, passing the regulars (like Jeffrey! Hi!) on the bridge and knowing that my health, this body, these bones and muscles, can carry me almost wherever I need to go… that alone gives me hope in the morning.

This inspiring quote from a strong yogi in town gets me going—I hope he doesn’t mind I borrowed:

“I think I’m being guided all the time. There is an influence that is always leading me in some way. I’m not necessarily having an awareness of consequence or circumstance…but what I do know, in almost everything that I am, do or feel—there is this very clear, clean, consistent understanding that I’m always moving in the right direction. No matter if it feels like I’m not. I’m here to serve, work and enjoy this life. By working in this moment -practicing presence- I open myself to that influence. Super large love to each of you during your week~”

Just keep breathing. And spinning. ❤

The Longest Time: On Cycling and Singing

My friend and I have been singing The Longest Time…

…for the longest time. Really only a week or so, but somehow the song entered my singing-while-pedaling repertoire, and it has yet to leave.

I like to sing loudly nearly any time I’m riding. Typically pop hits, which include The Nerves, Hall & Oates, and numerous Magnetic Fields songs with a catchy beat and delightful lyrics, get stuck in my head and I sing them …on repeat. (It beats giving in to road rage!)

Do ya’ll have any top hits you like to wail to during your rides?