When I was a teacher, a recurring discussion with my colleagues was the topic of our worst nightmares. After a career worth of those discussions, I can attest that the hands-down most popular nightmare of a teacher is arriving on the first day of school in just your underwear.
To a touring cyclist, the worst nightmare would be waking up to this morning picture... To have a 2 month long trip starting tomorrow to find your gear strewn all over the place and nowhere near ready to go!
Not a nightmare. This picture is my reality - if the calendar we're working the way I had hoped, those boxes would have been filled with the bikes and gear, and today would have been an empty day, scheduled for any loose ends and family time before departing on our 2 month journey on Route 66, continuing to Boston. But the universe had different plans.
As one would expect, when the years and months of preparation began to give way to weeks and then days, it would be natural to have the usual pre-trip anxieties and butterflies in the stomach. I thought I was feeling just those feelings, but in hindsight, they were the jigsaw pieces coming together to complete the puzzle. Last Tuesday, after meeting with some dear friends over a pre-departure dinner, I came home feeling rather full and satisfied. However, something felt a little different. This wasn't "just gas". I set my mind to call the doctor first thing in the morning, keep off the internet and hoped for the best.
Right at the stroke of 8 a.m. I called my doctor, and proceeded to break down as I described what I was experiencing, and the gravity of timing with this impending bike trip I have literally been dreaming of for over a decade.
I live in a rural suburb of Tucson, so my 45-minute drive to the squeezed-in check allowed me the opportunity to bring it all in perspective. I knew what the outcome would be - and I had to be content with that. By the time I heard his words confirming that I had a hernia, and the recommendation for surgery - I did not even need to ask about the status of my trip.
That was where the emptiness truly began. Like the sound of the gushing of air into the opening of a vacuum-sealed jar. The Emptiness.
Over these past few days I have come to enjoy this emptiness. The closest that I had ever come to it before was that annual ritual of turning keys in at the end of the school year- everything is done, and the slate is clear. Contentment is rooted in a decision focused on my health. There could be no other choice, therefore all of my energy should be focused on new horizons.
In the original plan, route 66 would be this spring, and my sites quickly set on the next target, the Pacific Coast Highway from Canada to Mexico, with a tentative preferred timing of next fall. Given that I will not be on a bicycle at all for the short-term, I can look at summer as recovery motivation. Given the circumstances, the door is now wide open for doing the Pacific coast ride this fall, postponing the Route 66 trip to an even more preferable time next spring - late March Flash early April. In the end, this adjustment only means a reversal of order and the completion of both routes months earlier than originally planned! Highlighted with with an outpouring of support from friends over the last couple of days and the fact that I got to celebrate my daughter being sworn in as an attorney in the state of Arizona yesterday afternoon, my heart overflows with gratitude. Yes. Emptiness can be a good thing.