Sheltered

I don’t know if you know this about me, but I am pretty much a coward. I spend a lot of time worrying, and a lot of time being afraid, though I am afraid of regular things, I think. I am afraid of getting hurt physically- when I ski I worry about falling, about hurting myself (mostly I am afraid of breaking an arm. If I broke a leg I could still knit, so I think it would be ok.) I am afraid of not fitting in. I am afraid of love or respect extended and not returned. I am afraid of spiders. (This one I don’t worry about. I think that if you’re not afraid of spiders you just haven’t thought enough about it. They can walk on the ceiling. That’s not right.) I am afraid of not measuring up, of doing my best and still falling short of the mark. (There’s a joke in there about how I’m only 5’1″, but let’s leave it.) I am afraid of disappointing people, I am afraid of letting them down. I am afraid that trust will be given to me, and my best self won’t be good enough, and I that I won’t be able to rise above petty thoughts or small mindedness, or that in a wild effort to live a really decent life, I’ll miss things, or grow old with regrets that all this fear held me back from amazing events, and that I’ll be some old lady with a pile of things left undone, because my cowardice kept me home. I worry that when handed a microphone I will say something stupid, or that I will hurt someone with my words, and I am always afraid that I won’t understand someone else well enough to spare them pain, or find enough understanding for them to ease the fear I feel they must have – because I have it. I worry that we are all afraid, and I don’t want us to act out of that fear, personally, socially, or politically.

All this was on my mind on Sunday, when Jen picked me up, and we gathered the few essentials we hadn’t put in the trucks the day before, and we drank coffee quietly in the backyard, reflecting on the challenge ahead of us. Let me be absolutely clear about this next one… riding more than 600km doesn’t get easier with time. As a matter of fact, I’d say it gets harder. The experience you have from the times before is enough to give you the screaming willies, and the two of us sat there knowing exactly what was ahead. “It’s going to be okay,” Jen said. “We’ve done it before. We can do it again.” Then we strapped our bikes to her car, gave a nod to the fear we both felt,  and drove to the departure point at Allan Gardens.

The minute I arrived, I remembered everything. I was nervous, and scared, and my back hurt already, and I started to be afraid of all the things I always am. (In the short term, I worry that upon departure, as a whack of riders all leave together, I will do something stupid, mostly I worry that I will fall off my bike and become a human speedbump. This has never happened – to me or to anyone, but I still think it’s a real risk, and if anyone is ever going to do it, it’s me.) Meg, Alex, Amanda and Elliot turned up to say goodbye, and we took a group shot, and I darted out for a whole rally selfie, covering (as I so often do) my nerves with humour. Then we left, and almost immediately, it started to change.

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My friends were with me. Not just the ones that I have every day, like Ken and Jen and Cameron and Pato (and when did he grow up enough to be my friend?) but the magic of the Rally that over the course of six days, makes everyone present your friend.

For six days, you are a small travelling town. A group of people committed to one thing, all living the same life, and all held by one goal, one experience. From the fastest rider to the slowest, we’re the same. We’re all trying to ride our bikes to Montreal – we’re all in debt to our donors, to the people who put faith in us to make this happen (that’s you) all of us trying to fulfill a contract.  I’ll do this hard thing, if you’ll help me by contributing. There’s nobody on the Rally who doesn’t feel the honour or the pressure of being the midpoint of those donations – and nobody who isn’t in it for the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation as the end. There were moments when the gratitude I felt to all of you is overwhelming, and moments when only the deal I’d made with you kept me going, and I know I’m not the only one.

I know I’ve written about this before. I’ve told you that every year is different. One year it’s about perseverance. (Or rain.) One year it’s about the people I know who are HIV positive, and and making a personal commitment to making their journey better –  one year it was even about loneliness, about finding strength within myself to do it by myself, a fear I freely cop to. This year, the theme was apparent from the word go. It was friendship.

Jen gave me a ride that morning so I didn’t have to ride an extra 14km. Cameron changed my tire on Day two. He knows I can do it, but he can do it faster, and it was a gift of friendship to do it for me. Jen knows I was struggling with my back, and was generous and sweet with her patience and words – cheerful to the end, that one. (You should all be so lucky to have a friend as deliberate with her love as Jen.)

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Both of them rode sweetly behind me on Day two, when my back really hurt, and I pulled ahead for a bit to have what I was hoping was a secret weep, and though both of them could easily have caught me, they lagged behind, knowing I was crying, knowing I’m afraid of that weakness, and letting me have that time to pull myself together. Darling friends.

Ken, faster than the rest of us, came into camp early each day, and together with the faster riders, collected our bins, and set up our tents, making sure that by the time Jen and I staggered into camp, things were as beautiful and welcoming as they can be if they are also covered in spiders.

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For the first time too – a special little treat, knitting was normal on the rally, even desired – two more riders asked to be taught as we travelled along, without anyone making fun of it, or suggesting it was an old lady thing, or anything other than a way of making and being and doing. (Note to self, pack more yarn and needles next year. Best to be equipped if the plan to take over the world is finally taking hold.)

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It was more than this though, it was watching everyone do the same thing – over and over and over, fear and struggle and concern were met with kindness and a gentle word, and respect and a soft touch. Struggling riders were encouraged, crew was thanked, flat tires mended, patience given, smiles offered at the port-a-loo lines, coffee fetched, complements freely given, and so quickly, kindergarten rules took hold. Take turns, be gentle, use your words, big ones take care of the little ones… anyone who strayed from the path of this softness was taken for how they were in that moment. Tired, overwhelmed, exhausted, wet, hot, afraid… and their problem, rather than their behaviour – was addressed with compassion, and do you know, it worked the way with grownups that it does with little kids when you hold who they are, rather than how they are behaving in your mind.

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Quickly, over the course of the six days, this world took hold. They don’t call it the Friends For Life Bike Rally for nothin’ I remembered – and the power of friendship moved all of us, so much so, that by the last day, when the heavens opened and unleashed a torrential downpour upon us, the whole Rally pulled into a the shelter of a gas station and stood there, wet, cold, our final approach spoiled, the moment of glory delayed, the lot of us drowned rats by at the side of the road, it would have been easy to feel sad, or disappointed, or afraid, or something negative, but friendship had owned us all by then, and there was singing, and laughing, and smiling faces, and arms round cold riders and a grand explosion of joy as applause and bike bells rang out. Together was enough. Friendship was enough. Doing the right thing for PWA and the clients who need us was more than enough.

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Eventually the rain stopped, and we rode on, those few kilometres to the end, and were welcomed in in grand style, and there was Kim – from Indigodragonfly, who’s own sense of friendship and commitment had led her not just to donate the profits from her Rally themed yarn, not just to sponsor our tee-shirts, but to actually turn up to hug and welcome all of us. She’s a grand friend, and a good person.

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All week long, I felt it. Moments of fear supplanted by camaraderie and friendship. We are all cowards in some way. Me, I’m a dumpy middle-aged grandmother who has almost no business cycling 600km. Jen’s a mother of two walking away from her family for a week to model fierceness for her young daughters. Pato’s a young man trying to shape a world that he wants to live in, Ken is still recovering from the shoulder surgery that put him back together after his accident and showing up anyway. Cameron packed his work laptop and somehow carved out the time to do his job and the Rally – and everyone else riding met their own personal challenges. Again and again, why we were doing it came up. At dinner, at breaks, at our celebration in Kingston… and the thing we talked about was this: People are living longer with HIV/AIDS. It isn’t the death sentence that was when the Rally started. There are good drugs, help, and a sense of hope, and most of us realize that presents a challenge. In a way, supporting people with HIV/AIDS used to be sadder, but cheaper, not to put too fine a point on it. People didn’t live long enough to need years of support. The crisis was clearer, it had people’s attention. Now it must seem to so many people as though that time has passed, and it has – only to be replaced by a different need. Now grownups and children with HIV/AIDS may need a lifetime of support. They need years and years of medication, years and years of help living with the stigma that it brings, years and years of our help and belonging. It is still important.

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We all shared this fear. That even though there are still a very great many people who need help, that they will be forgotten, and that sense of fellowship further strengthened our resolve, and made us braver. For me and Jen, we reflected often on the ride that so often, given the way the world works, women lack the personal power to make choices in this way, and that riding for them felt like something a woman in a strong, privileged position could do to help lift other women up too. It felt… feminist to us. It felt like the right thing to do, despite our own fears.

It was, despite the rain, the work, the fear, the pain, and the difficulty… a wonderful ride, and I spent much of it reflecting on if I’d done the right thing. Not just in riding, or in fundraising, or in doing my best to be kind all week, but in thinking of a decision I’ve made that will shape a part of the next two years of my life.

I’ve been accepted as a Co-Chair for the Rally. I’m putting my time where my heart is. I am pretty young, and pretty strong, and pretty privileged, and I have time and energy to put towards being the change I want to see in the world. It was a big decision, but I’m doing it, despite fear, despite being a great big chicken, and despite the fact that inevitably someone is going to hand me a microphone and I’ll say something stupid.  I’ll have to count on my friends when that happens.

I do this because the rally is the world as it should be, for six small, wild and wonderful days. It’s why despite the difficulty, so many of us suffer the “Bike Rally Blues” when it’s over. The Rally is challenging, scary, disarming, powerful, heartwarming, supportive… so many ordinary people doing an extraordinary thing, all powered by nothing but friendship to moderate your cowardice, and that is a strong thing indeed. Blog, my dear ones, thank you for being my friends on this side. Thank you for the donations, the comments, the emails… All the kindness in the world is meaningless in this without you, riding is meaningless without you, no change happens without you. You’re the magic that makes this work.

You are amazing.

(PS. Obviously I signed up for next year.)

(PPS. I am going to knit the snot out of the rest of this month.)

(PPPS. When I came home, tired, bedraggled and with all our camping stuff in disarray, Joe had cleaned the house, filled the fridge with my favourite food and wine, and bought me flowers. It takes a big man to support ideas this wild. He’s wonderful, and my friend too.)

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177 thoughts on “Sheltered

  1. All I have right now are tears in my eyes and a heart that is bursting out of my chest. So proud of your great work, everyone!

  2. You are all brave and amazing, and we love you all for it. And that phrase…be gentle, it’s perfect. “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” This to me sums up your experiences, and it’s how I try to live life. Bless you x

  3. Thank you for sharing your fears, your friendship and making this world a better place for all. I appreciate you putting yourself out there and making a difference and sharing it with all of us.

  4. This is beautiful and hanknyou for sharing. But, silly, don’t you know, being afraid and doing it anyway is the definition of bravery, not cowardice.

    • Exactly. EXACTLY!!!

      And thanks for letting us see your ‘soft white underbelly’, the vulnerable part where you really live and process and decide things, not just the amazing end result that all the world gets to witness. You help us ALL be more willing to acknowledge those parts of our own selves, our own uncertainty in the midst of trying to figure out what’s right and marshall the courage to do it, because you’ve demonstrated that one can survive the process, as densely uncomfortable as it can be sometimes…

      I always love your Ride summary, the thoughtfully processed aftermath of a heroic endeavour! It sure sounds like a huge opportunity to be seriously Present for a few days, with your fellow riders, with the experience, and most of all, with your own true self…

  5. You made me tear up at work! That’s not fair.

    So I leave you with this: earwigs also crawl on the ceiling. Think about that. They should be on the list next to spiders. Or before spiders because I think they’re scarier than spiders (a personal horror story has given them this designation).

    But thank you for riding, for all of us who can’t or shouldn’t, for myriads of reasons. Thank you for sacrificing and worrying. It’s because of people like you (and those of us who support people like you) that the world is a far, far better place than it could be.

    • Ann: Earwigs can also fly. (Let us take a moment to be thankful that the good Lord did not equip spiders with wings.) On the other hand, can you die of an earwig bite?

      Stephanie: Well done on the ride! You’re a better woman than I am, Gunga Din… I expect by this time two years you will have figured out how to knit while riding 🙂

      • If you want real horror, come to Florida, where we have Palmetto Bugs – giant roaches that fly. They’re the stuff of nightmares.

  6. you rock. you, and all the team, and all the riders, you all rock. your dedication and perseverance are incredibly inspiring and motivating, and make me want to find something i can do in my little corner of the world, to make it a little better. thank you for being a bright spot. (and i hope your back is feeling better!)

  7. This post is beautiful! I followed the instagram pictures with excitement and am so proud of you all.

    Goodness, I wish more people followed Kindergarten rules – politics could be transformed.

  8. Your are an amazing strong, sensitive, dynamic woman who just rode 600 km., again. Thanks for the inspiration and letting us know that when we nudge our own insecurities magical things can happen.

  9. So many things I love about this post, but I think my favorite is how you describe Jen’s being “deliberate with her love”. Something to aspire to.

  10. I am endlessly inspired by your strength and by your words. As a person who is also afraid more than anyone believes, I know what you mean, and I’m glad to know that there are other secret chickens out there setting the world on fire in the best possible way. Thank you for all you do, and for sharing it.

  11. Holy crap you are so awesome I can’t even put into words all the kinds of awesome you are! And that, my friend, is totally how you do it!

  12. Beautiful! Tears and heart overflowing with love for you and team knit. You inspire me. The world needs more people like you. Thanks for sharing the rally experience as only you can do! <3

  13. I’ve just come back from two weeks of family vacation and didn’t buy a single yard of yarn for myself. Instead I donated to the rally and it wasn’t a hardship at all.

    So, this year I’m going to commit to making a donation to your ride once every month instead of buying more yarn for myself. I can’t afford to make a large donation all at once, but I can certainly afford to spread it out over the year. As a matter of fact, I think I just posted the very first donation for your ride in 2018!!

    You’re an inspiration Steph, thank you for everything you do and the example that you set for all of us. Humans in general, I mean, not just knitters 😉

  14. I read every word of this post. Thank you for putting into words all that you have experienced and contemplated with respect to the Rally — and congratulations on your appointment as co-chair. Those folks know how to make good decisions, and so do you. Brava, Stephanie!

  15. Thank you for sharing. Good to hear it was a successful journey for everyone. As to the age thing. I recently finished a nine day bicycle tour, youngest was 8 years old, the oldest 82. Not many were able to keep up with the octogenarian. You have many bicycle years left. Rest and make sure you fix the root cause of the back problem.

  16. Item #1: I totally love your people.
    Item #2: I am starting a Loose Change Jar so that by next year I will be able to make a reasonably good donation to this amazing cause supported by all you amazing people.
    Item #3: I am planning a Karmic Balancing Gift donation too.
    I put the Ride on my Facebook page this year as I always do, and asked friends to donate, but I’m not sure if anyone does, or did. I couldn’t donate because I lost my job in May and almost got my home repossessed so I was having a tad of difficulty making ends meet at the critical time. But Lady, if you can be prepared to do these magnificent things, I can surely take a year to be prepared to help.

  17. Kleenex out here too. I am so proud of you, and Team Knit, and all of the riders who biked for this cause. You can hold your heads high. You are all making a difference, and setting an example we could all learn from.

  18. I’m so proud of you and Team Knit, and all the other riders. I learned this morning that my new neighbour is a social worker for HIV/AIDs sufferers. I told him I want to learn more about what he does, and I will do that. It’s important. Thank you for riding again this year so we of The Blog have a chance to support the cause! I’m glad you are home safely.

  19. You touched and softened my heart deeply, I am so inspired by you, what you did and what you wrote. I was mad at someone for not seeing things my way and after reading this, I’m going to call her instead of emailing back and talk about it more openly so I can hear her point of view, before I talk about mine. Maybe we will come to agreement, maybe not but I’m going to be much softer than I was feeling earlier. Thank you for that too!

  20. So good to hear from you and to know you are OK. You have some special gifts, and one of them is inspiring others to join you on your journey. We knitters love you. The Bike Rally people love you. You are one person who is making a big difference to your family, your friends, and everyone who reads your work. Welcome home.

  21. More than once, I heard non-knitters comment on how many men they’d seen knitting in camp this year. (And I’d only packed bus-home knitting, since I didn’t have time to get something not too tangly ready.) I saw Brandon knitting but missed some of the others you seem to have taught along the way.

    Congrats on making it to the finish line again, and on being co-chair for the 20th anniversary!

  22. I’m not crying, you’re crying!

    PS it says click or touch the world. Silly thing, Steph already touched the world. One wheel rotation at a time.

  23. There are some challenging days ahead of my husband and me, and your post will be a great help to see me through with as much courage and kindness as I can manage each day. So, many, many thanks. Also, I’ve been looking forward to your story of this year’s ride.

    Thank you, also, for the pictures of the cutest, happiest, healthiest grandson. Who can’t smile at a happy baby, and we all need more to smile at these days.

  24. Me all week: “I wonder if she has written the rally blog yet. I think I need a good cry.” She did, and I did. Thank you for it all.

    • Agreed! I’ve been checking every day for the post-rally post, and now my heart is happy and full, and I have thinky thoughts to muse on. Thank you, Stephanie.

  25. I hope you realize what a good person you really are. You’re strong, brave (yes, brave), and principled. With all of the well-deserved credit you give to your friends, I hope you also look in the mirror sometimes and give yourself the credit you merit, too. You’re a good woman, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.

  26. *sniff sniff* I am proud to be a small part of this, in the past and in the future too I hope.
    (On behalf of arachnida: walking on the ceiling is awesome, and they can spin!)

  27. You’ve made a difference, and you still do, every day. And, if someone hands you a microphone, say something silly, like “th-th-tha-that’s all folks!”

    (P.S.: House geckos also walk on the ceiling — and eat spiders. Don’t know how they do in Toronto winters, though.)

    (P.P.S.: Yay, Joe!)

  28. Blessings on that sweet Joe of yours. On you, and every rider, and every supporter of each rider. Thank you thank you thank you.

    And thank you for bringing back to me, as you do every year, my cousin Ricky whom I knew only as a child and never got to reconnect with again as a grownup. He was an AIDS patient in the early days of it. Every year he is smiling in my mind’s eye. Thank you.

    • This whole post has made me cry(very hard to read through dripping eyes) but yours made me sob. So glad Ricky is smiling now.

  29. Your kindness and compassion is such a beautiful thing. I sincerely wish the world could be like the rally, and I will strive to emulate your words. As a woman full of fear, and also full of painful SI joints, I am truly impressed that you even did the ride this year. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

  30. She’s too humble to mention it herself, but I’m not shy:

    Stephanie Pearl-McPhee has raised $63,506.55 by herself this year, making her the top fundraiser (and passing the #2 spot by more than $30,000).

    *mic drop*

  31. Trying to type through the tears in my eyes. That was an honest and beautiful post and I felt every word. Thank you. You are an inspiration and you really make me proud to be a knitter.

  32. For the past five years my husband and I go to Haiti to do humanitarian/missions things. Last year a coworker handed me a sizable cheque and she cut my protests short by saying “For me, giving you some money is the easy part. You’re the one giving your time and energy, you’re the one with the hard part and going and DOING”. Her words rang in my head as I sent a donation for you with a short time left to spare – I hoped it dinged at just the right time to encourage you, because it was sent with positive thoughts and thanks for all that hard work YOU were DOING last week!

  33. First: There should be a “find a tissue” warning when you are going to make us cry.
    Second: I am so proud that you wrote your story beginning with your fears. That takes guts. (Maybe even more than riding 600km)
    Third: Thanks for being a steadfast friend, even though we have never met…I can always count on you for a laugh or some inspiration.

  34. For a coward, you sure are one hell of an inspiration.

    Beautiful thoughts, and beautifully expressed. Thank you for doing this.

  35. Overwhelmed right now with the emotions your writing evokes. And memories: of living in San Francisco in the 70s when AIDS blew up our world; when my forever friend, Paul Wion came out to me in San Francisco (he stayed with me when he visited), the fear I had for Paul.
    His funeral that I did not attend because I was hugely pregnant, forced to bedrest.
    And my many gay friends, acquaintances, co-workers (Levi’s headquarters) who were stricken.

    Thank you. Even for the sad memories.
    Blessings to all.

    Helle

  36. Steph, I am so impressed with your ability to express yourself and share, never mind the biking bit. I certainly felt my innermost self resonate with many of the feelings you expressed about yourself, thank you for laying it all out there. And thank you for inspiring all of us to do good things in the world, large and small, to make it a better place for Elliot and all of our children to grow up in.

  37. You have such a gift of using words to put us right in the middle of what you experience. Powerful experience. The whole world should be like your rally community. And everyone should have a Joe waiting at home.

  38. I don’t know why, but so many of your posts lateky leave me in tears. I am a coward myself, and sometimes the fear is crippling; that’s why I’m always honored to donate. And support indigodragonfly’s marvelous effort, that was an excellent thing she did.

    I’m so glad to virtually know an honestly super person like you.

  39. Of all your posts, this is the one I look forward to the most. Every year as you finish the rally I wait for your reflection on the latest ride. I reread them, reminding myself to do what I can for others, even if my efforts seem insignificant. Thank you for your work and your inspiration. And congrats on becoming co-chair.

  40. Dear dear Stephanie,
    I have followed your blog for 15 years now (I think:)) and today I feel horrible, terrible fear. My President is an emotional toddler and he is dealing with another emotional toddler in North Korea. I am so very afraid for all of us, especially my children and grandchildren who deserve so much better than what our country has handed them. Your post gives me hope. Hope that community and the PEOPLE goddammit will change things.
    Love you,
    Joan in USA

  41. Wow! I’ve been checking each day to see when you would write about it. Your writing is exquisite. I admire your efforts, your determination, and appreciate your insights. Thank you for all you do and thank you for sharing it so eloquently with us. I am 60 & just 5’2″, have back problems and two knee replacements & I just loved your blog on this ride. You made me feel like I could do it!

  42. Congratulations to you and all the other riders for another successful ride but most importantly thank you to everyone for findin a way to show passionate support for people who need a rally.

  43. You are extraordinary, and deserve all the happiness you create with your determination, and your doubts. An amazing woman.

  44. Congratulations to you, and to the whole team, and to all the riders, finishers or not, for raising funds to help!

    Welcome back to healing at home, and your lovely friend/husband, Joe, and all the knitting you want for the next week. 🙂

  45. You did not fall. You did not fail. You stuck it all out. Congrats on making the trip one more time. We all have demons to fight and interior fires to put out. Let’s make an extra effort to do just that. Face yourself.

    bjr

  46. I echo the other readers who see you as feminist, strong, determined – indeed brave! You inspire so much action with the ripples from the blog out through the knitting community and beyond.
    I was happy to donate again this year and I will next year too!
    Your fundraising results were fantastic with over 2,000 donors. Way to go Team Knit for being in the top 10 fundraisers.
    Congratulations on being the co-chair for the 20th anniversary!

  47. What they said. Seriously Stephanie, you’re all that and more. I look forward to your blog like waiting for a long letter from a good friend (even though hardly anyone writes letters anymore.) And you never disappoint. So happy for you and all you’ve achieved for the people who need your help.

  48. Thank you for doing something so big that most of us can’t imagine doing. Thank you for including us in your wild adventure. Thank you for putting your life on hold for 6 whole days. Thank you for starting the ball rolling so that knitters can take over the world. Thank you for letting me help in such a little way.

  49. I was so relieved to see a post from you today, and then what a post it was. Beautiful and heartfelt. Thank you so much for letting us know how the rally went. Even more, thank you for sharing your link so early. I don’t make a lot of money, but I try to do small donations of some kind with every paycheck I get, and this will allow me to share a bit more throughout the year with an event that I feel does very good work.

  50. Your post-Rally posts always make me cry, and this one is no different. For a number of years I volunteered for the Revlon Run-Walk 5K (raises money for women’s cancer research. See also Stand UP to Cancer), and it has always been the most amazing experience. There’s nothing like showing up and seeing everyone be nothing but loving and supportive. One year I was at the finish line taking the numbers off them so they could have a “finish time,” and there was one woman who crossed the finish line being physically supported by her friends. She looked at me and said quietly, “I made it. I finished chemo last week. I didn’t think I could do it. But I did. I made it every step.” And there we both were, in the middle of the LA Coliseum, with the Go-Gos on stage behind me and we were all crying and hugging.

    What you do is a hard and difficult thing. You’re an inspiration to us all.

    (HA! Speaking of “Feminist” things, my Not-A-Bot choice is to “Click or touch the woman.)

  51. Thank you for being such an inspiring hero and speaking for what is true and good at a time when that voice is struggling to be heard. I loved what you shared about the strength and power of community and love!

  52. I lost one of my beloved cousins to AIDS last fall, 22 years after his positive test. All I can say is THANK YOU for helping those to a better life! 22 years was unkown back in the 90’s but he did it with a lot of help. Lots of love!

  53. Well Done! As for the “age thing”, last week I completed my first triathlon at the age of 57. Although I had trained, this was way outside my comfort zone, and I had many sleepless nights worrying about it. Yet, when I got there, and was surrounded by the 799 other women, of all ages, shapes and sizes, and the amazing and kind volunteers, I found I was part of an amazing group of people and I was proud.
    Congratulations Steph. You are a Warrior!

  54. I’m inspired by you. I’m grateful that your words express the feelings and thoughts that I so often can’t put into words myself. And I’m sorry you lost Mille recently. I cried with you that day.

  55. Thank you for being a stand for the world as it should be…you AND your team of knitters. I love all of you from far away in Jacksonville, FL. You ride (and I support you) for friends that I have who live with HIV. Thank you for me and thank you for my friends. I want you and them around for a long long long long time.
    Your blog is here for you and congratulations on once again stepping into greatness despite fear. You totally knit!
    I am happy to send you some old needles (and yarn) if you want to have a Learn-to-Knit bin on next year’s rally :). It could be sponsored by your BLOG 🙂

  56. Well damn! You are pretty freaking amazing, and so are those other riders. Dowdy grandmother, indeed!

    This event, this work, are all amazing, and wonderful. That you do it year in and year out is a testament to your strength of character, my cowardly friend.

    and FYI – I never heard you speak or teach in person, but I have known several people who have – and they all say “she is screamingly funny” not “she really hurt me with her words up there.” Just saying – cut yourself some slack. But don’t stop covering nervousness with humor, please.

    And do pack more yarn and needles, your movement to take over the world is gaining ground.

    I hope you took a nice long soak in a hot bath when you got back, and that your back isn’t too awfully bad.

  57. What a lovely summary of the Bike Rally, and yes…your plan to take over the world one knitter at a time is taking hold! You are a superwoman for all the work you do for PWA and planning these bike rallies.

    That Joe, I must say…he’s a keeper! 😉

  58. I read this with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Such honesty, rawness and sacrifice. You are so much more than what most people see, and the fact that you surround yourself with people of similar character and quality only supports my belief that you are a wonderful person.
    I can only hope to be half the person you are.

    Thank you for all you do, and have done, and will do.

  59. What a perfect summary, and what a perfect theme for this year’s ride. Friendship truly makes the difference. I’ve donated towards next year and will donate again as the time comes closer. I am SO PROUD of you and who you are as a human being. You set such an example for all of us, and rest assured, you surpass my expectations every single time.

  60. We feel that you ride for all of us on The Blog. Each stroke of the pedal is backed by one of the knitters who follow you.

    Be not afraid, for you know that we are with you…each and every step, each and every stroke.

    And hurray for Joe…for knowing what his wife needs after another epic ride.

  61. Your article brought me to sniffling at the sheer greatness of what you, your team and all PWA have done. I am printing out your post for my son. We both share the same fears you list in your first paragraphs. Your devotion and fierceness to the PWA is obvious and I am sure you will be wonderful there, leading a group that means so much. I am giving a donation as tribute to this year’s accomplishment (tears, flat tire, rain and all). You go girl!!

  62. This is amazing and inspiring. I too am a knitting biker afraid of the world, and your blog post was so touching. I would love to participate in this event at some point, or barring that, make a big donation. Thank you for sharing so honestly and being the amazing person you are.

  63. Kindergarden rules……so simple…we can all follow them.
    One of your best and most motivating posts.
    Congratulations to you all on completing the ride and Thank You! for sharing your insecurities and doubts thereby allowing us all to acknowledge our own (which in turn lets us start to deal with them)
    I wish I had something wise and pithy to say but really,all I can say is Thank You x

  64. Stephanie, when I read the first paragraph, I thought, this is me. I have those same thoughts about myself. I think you are amazing to take on this ride and despite all the hardships finish it. I love the feeling of community and friendship that part of this experience. Being kind and helpful does not cost anything and there should be more kindness. Bravo to you for all you do for this event.

  65. “Wow”, that’s just about all I can say is, “Wow”! Amazing and inspiring. Congratulations you courageous woman!

  66. Hard to type through blurry eyes… well said, Steph, I think you vocalized what a lot of us think and feel. So, thank YOU for all you do to challenge and inspire every one of us down here at the blog, to do what we can to help. We are surely blessed.

    Touch the light bulb!

    Heather M.
    Beaver County, AB

  67. As always, an inspiring post! Thanks for all you and your team does for the world. Love the fact that in addition to raising money and awareness for PWA, you are also converting new knitters!
    Go Team Go!!

  68. As I tell my second graders, you’re going to feel afraid sometimes, but you can’t let fear be the boss of you. Thanks for the reminder.

  69. Wow. I KNEW you could do it!!!!!!!!!!!! Congrats on a wonderful week and strength for the next 2 years!!! You are a wonder my dear.

  70. Yay! Great job! We are with you (and thanks for riding for us). You make us more than who we are, by showing us what we can be all together. God Bless you, and the riders and organizers, and the people you’re helping!

  71. Welcome home, Stephanie,
    I’m so delighted that you were able to finish, bad SI and all. You made it, and we of the blog are so proud of you. But, but, no pics of red dress day? Best part every year.
    Julie

  72. I was doing all right till the last bit about your husband, now i am just a blubbering mess.

    You are a strong, articulate, caring lady. Be proud.

  73. That first paragraph is everything (not that the rest doesn’t maintain its high standards!) I could print that out on a card (I’d add snakes to spiders) and hand it to people as my introduction and make my life a lot simpler!

  74. Good job!!! Way to stick to it through it all! (Now let your body heal and get back to being comfortable.) I love that you’ve made the bunch of them knitters! So special. I love that Joe looked out for you! Also so special. Thank you for sharing yourself (time, talent, heart) in this way. We feel we can support you in this good work while we do our own good work in this world. May the karma come full circle to you.

  75. You made me cry again! I know you are going to be a wonderful co-chairman. All the blog are behind you, too. Congratulations on finishing the ride and I’m glad it went well. What an accomplishment! Thanks, you have inspired me in my life.

  76. Thank you for sharing your heart-felt and heart-touching reflection. You are an inspiration and model of the kind of attitude that turns ordinary people into impact-makers. Thank you for making an impact and for sharing your heart to bolster our resolve to do so as well. xoxoxoxox

  77. Stephanie, You have given me a lot to think about– We all have our private fears, and we all address them daily. I never thought I could speak in public, but became a teacher. So ‘public speaking’ was done every day. Once after a music program for parents, a parent said that I had ‘great courage’ to sing along with the kids, which I interpreted to mean that I sounded like a duck.I just thought it was funny, because the kids didn’t mind my singing voice at all.

    The most important fear you mentioned was the fear of saying or doing something that would hurt others.

    You are not ‘dowdy’ at all. When you wear your knitwear in photos you look great. ( I’ve also seen you in person. No, not dowdy.)

    Congratulations on finishing the ride this year.

  78. YOU are amazing. You and your wonderful friends. Thank you for all that you do.

    We go into these things, out of our comfort zone, thinking we’re doing it to help others. And it does. But it also helps us, saves us, gives us the opportunity to learn so much about ourselves. In giving we receive.

    You ROCK.

  79. That is so beautiful, you are all so beautiful. This read on a Saturday morning in Australia brought tears to my eyes, tears because I could feel the friendship between you all, the love and giving of you all. You are all just amazing x

  80. Congratulations. You are all an amazing, strong and powerful group, including Joe for all of his love and support. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  81. I am a fearful coward and I am inspired that you can share your words as you face your fears and succeed over & over again. You are amazing and help me to be braver & step out in faith. I looked every day for your rally post & sent lots of prayers your way that your SI joint would behave. I try to be bigger because you are a shining star of awesomeness! Thank you for being who your are and sharing your Blog with us!

  82. That fear of hurting other people, of not treating them with care and concern, is exactly what keeps you from burning a swath of devastation wherever you go. Think of it as a component of empathy, a check on the ego and the natural focus on the self that we all have. For an example of what happens when someone does not have that fear and basic concern for others, just look at the entity occupying the United States White House. Enough said! Some fears need to be challenged and overcome, others are healthy and important governors of our behavior. But I think you have which is which pretty well figured out. 😉

  83. You are awesome, Steph! Thank you for your dedication to the rally and to people living with HIV/AIDS! I hope your back is doing OK after the ride and you can now truly give it time to heal completely. I feel honored to have met you and Jen this summer at Strung Along. Such good, caring, fun people you are, and I appreciate your honesty about your fears — makes me feel like a slightly less crazy person because I have many of the same fears as you! (And I totally get your joke about “falling short” because I’m also only 5’1″!) Enjoy your well earned knitting and grandson cuddling time!

  84. Thank you for what you do! With the world in such a mess you & your fellow riders make our hearts full and bring some peace .xxx

  85. Steph,

    I disagree about you being a coward. Bravery isn’t being unafraid. Bravery is about being scared, but doing the right thing anyway. And that’s exactly what you do. Thanks for the great story about this year’s rally.

  86. Steph, you humble & inspire me. I can only hope to someday have an ounce of the courage you have to do what you do with this rally.

  87. Thank you for sharing this with us. You are a beautiful, brave woman. Bravery is not having no fear, it it having fear and facing it head on.

  88. I don’t think being afraid of things and doing them makes you a coward, it means you’re brave. And inspiring. And I’ve seen you speak and had no idea you were nervous!

  89. Idiocy is never feeling afraid.
    Cowardice is letting your fear stop you.
    Bravery is being afraid, but doing it anyway.

    Hurrah for your bravery!

  90. Wow. I’ve never heard of kindergarten rules and that made me weep so hard. I’ve bookmarked it so I’ll never forget.
    Loved this post and the inspiration it gives. Thanks.

  91. Ditto what all of them said, and also, did you shoot any of those photos while actually riding your bike? A couple of them look that way. If it’s true, you’re a braver woman than I am.

  92. Sweet Stephanie!
    I always read your blog and and inspired! And I would like to suggest that you read “Quiet” by Susan Cain. I has the potential for helping you feel a lot better about yourself! It has for me.
    Big hug,
    Joanie

  93. I really appreciate you taking the time to put all these feelings down into words. I’m glad to see this kindness in the world.

  94. “…kindergarten rules took hold. Take turns, be gentle, use your words, big ones take care of the little ones… anyone who strayed from the path of this softness was taken for how they were in that moment. … their problem, rather than their behaviour – was addressed with compassion…when you hold who they are, rather than how they are behaving in your mind.”

    Thank you for this wonderful reminder of how to deal with anyone, child to grown up – HOLD WHO THEY ARE, rather than HOW THEY ARE BEHAVING in your mind. What a wonderful way to approach the world!! Congratulations on a wonderful achievement completing the rally.

  95. What a heart-warming recounting of what was clearly an intense–yet wonderful–experience. Thanks for relaying it, and for sharing so much of your life so publicly, Steph.

    (And while I’ve never thought, “crap, I wish I hadn’t contributed money to xyz worthwhile charitable cause”, in this case I feel *particularly* proud to have sponsored a tiny bit of your ride.)

  96. No one who does what you do for the Rally has an ounce of cowardice in their body. You may be uncertain – courage allows you to move forward – you may be shaken – tenacity (and every real knitter is tenacious!) takes hold and keeps you focused – and you may be frightened, but true courage is facing that fear and pushing it out of your way.
    You are an inspiration to those of us who watch you.

  97. Steph, you are an amazing woman, but in this post I noticed a big vocabulary issue — rare since you are such a powerful writer. Forgive me for having to correct your vocabulary here, in public, and for having to be quite stern about it.

    A coward is someone who gives in to her fears and allows them to keep her from doing the right thing and being her best self. Cowardice is giving in to fear.

    The opposite of “coward” is “hero.”

    A hero is someone who’s afraid, but who still goes out and does the right thing and acts as her best self. Who (just to pick a random example) is in physical pain but still gets on a bike and rides 600km to help others. Bravery and heroism is overcoming fear.

    You should go back through your post and do a search and replace, changing coward to hero… but since I know you won’t I will do it for you:

    Stephanie doesn’t know if you know this about her (and she won’t tell you so I have to do it for her) but she is pretty much a hero.

  98. Dear Steph, you and your friends, who rode despite fear, pain, bad weather, etc, are the heros, as one writer says. I wish I could ride along side, and since I cannot, I support you in every way I can, financially, and by sending love and appreciation your way for standing up and doing the right thing over and over. You are a blessing to many of us…many of us who have the fears that you have,…I know about these back issues, and I hope you will take some well deserved rest/ice and snuggles with the baby. Love and hugs from Vermont, Kathleen

  99. Thank you for your pure openness and honesty… you made me tear up. It is an honour to be a small part in supporting you in this journey. I always feel my donations are too little but you make me realize that even a little thing helps. I congratulate you on your new role. I just know you are going to be amazing at it. Looking forward to continued updates on how it goes and I will support you from way over here on the West Coast.

  100. I’m so proud of you Steph. Thank you again and again for inspiring us all to be better people and better friends.

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