Getting Lucky

I’m home again, and for the first time since I got here – it’s a day without a deluge. It’s been raining. Not just raining, but pouring – almost since I arrived back, it’s been tipping great gouts of water from the sky. Lashes of rain, flooding, spectacular curtains of water heaping down on the city, and all I’ve been able to think of is how different the Rally would have been if it were this week and not last. It really gives me the willies.

What a different sort of Rally we had this year.  Every year I feel like there’s a theme that develops over the course of the ride. It has been bravery, it has been endurance, it has been loneliness or difficulty, it has been friendship, and even love. It’s become so predictable, this idea that a theme will emerge, that I’ve started to look for it. This year, with my job on the Rally being what it was, I expected that the theme might be responsibility, or care-taking. I thought maybe it would be sacrifice – our time and work for someone else’s need, or good time – sort of like being the host of a really big week long party, metaphorically filling the bowls of chips and worrying about running out of ice.

There was some of that too. Every time I saw an ambulance I worried it was a rider, every time the weather threatened to be too hot or too cold or too wet, I worried it would be crappy for the riders and crew. I was very, very, very worried that something terrible would happen on my watch. There were meetings morning and night, and lots of extra work to be sure, but in the end, I didn’t see the theme coming, and it emerged just the same. It was luck.

I have spent so much of this last year feeling unlucky.  Unlucky that my Mum died the way she did, unlucky that Susan followed her so quickly. Unlucky about the stupid shingles and the way my hair always does that thing. Fill in the blank, and I’ve been feeling unlucky about it.

I have spent great gobs of time reflecting over the last year on the ways that I’ve been lucky too, trying not to sink under the sadness or feelings of poor fortune.  I’ve reminded myself that I have a wonderful family left, that Elliot came at exactly the right time for me to have something joyful to hold on to, that I am beyond blessed to have such good friends, and people around me who care, and that I’ve got friends who might let me sit at the edge of the self-pity pool and dabble my feet for a bit, but won’t let me jump in and swim. I know we are not supposed to talk about this sort of thing, but I have truly struggled for my happiness this last year. Genuine joy, however small, has been fleeting, and difficult to grasp – but this last week I found it again. Every time it didn’t rain. Every time someone wept from happy pride that they were accomplishing all this. Every time we met another fundraising goal, every time someone spoke about the work that PWA does and will do with the money and time we all gave them, every time we reflected on the privilege we have that gives us the time and energy to do something like this… every time we weren’t lost, or poor, or hungry, or sick, I thought “There it is. We are so lucky.”

It was there the very first day, when as we cycled across beautiful Ontario, in the bright sunshine, and I turned to my friends and said “look how lucky we are.” When that night, even though it called for thunderstorms, it just sprinkled, and then there was a rainbow – actually, scratch that. There was a double rainbow.

It rained a little in the night I think, but the tents weren’t even wet in the morning.  One of the days – who knows which one, they’re all a blur – we arrived in camp, Cameron showed me the weather forecast – and it was dire.  Rain, rain, rain – with little respite all night, and even more dumping on us the next day as we rode.  At the time I told him that I was opting out of believing it, that maybe it wouldn’t rain, and he cocked an eyebrow, continued putting a tarp over his stuff, and shook his head a little at my delusion. I knew it was crazy, but I’d long taken things I couldn’t control off my worry list, and the weather was right up there. Ten minutes later it sprinkled again, not even enough to bug anybody, and then cleared right up beautifully.

 

There were no ambulances. Nobody got badly hurt. We met a fundraising goal and didn’t raise it, feeling bad about moving the goalposts, and then were staggered when we surpassed it, and then surpassed what we’d secretly hoped for, and then surpassed that again. The fancy message from the Prime Minister we didn’t think would arrive in time did.  I felt great on my bike, strong and fast. The generator broke one night, but it was fixed really quickly. People got along- they made friends, I didn’t have to work so hard that I didn’t have time for some fun, and on the last night in spider camp, there was only two spiders on my tent and that is a freakin’ miracle.  It was warm, but just a little overcast so that nobody got too hot, and three days there was a wind at our backs, speeding us along. I have never been more grateful. Almost everything worked, even the things that I didn’t think were going to.  One night, as we slept, the worst part of one of the bike paths we had to ride was freshly paved – we didn’t even have to deal with the construction crew.

I am not going to pretend that there weren’t challenges. The whole thing is a challenge, that’s the point. I’m not going to say I didn’t cry on my bike a few times (the hills, holy wing of moth) or that there wasn’t a morning when we all ate ibuprofen like they were tictacs. I won’t tell you it wasn’t hard, or that there weren’t things that went wrong – and I’m also not going to fail to mention that a lot of what seemed like “good luck” was the result of a lot of people who worked really, really hard in the year leading up to the Rally to make it a great place for good luck to land – but overall, the fates smiled. (I still slept for about three days straight when it was over – and I’m not the only one. Ken was still sitting gingerly at dinner last night.) I am not going to tell you that this fixes everything- that joy and unfettered happiness are back in my life without restraint, but oh, it felt so good to have a success – to see everyone succeed, to see them so moved by it all.

When we arrived in Montreal, I stood up in front of all the riders and I told them the truth. In your life, if you are very lucky, you will get one hundred summers, and I cannot believe that they chose to spend one of them on this. I am so proud of them, of the riders, of the crew, of the committees who worked so hard. I am so proud of every single one of you too – Team Knit collectively raised $105,326.49 this year, and the Rally itself a record $1.73 million.  I have said it a thousand times, riding my bike to Montreal does nothing without you.  It wouldn’t make a single bit of difference without the donations and momentum you all put behind us.  The ride is just a metaphor – a symbol of our commitment, and without your actual commitment, we’re just some really sweaty people on bikes. You, my petals, are the thing that made it matter, and I am so lucky to have you.

When I asked for your help, you said yes, and helped as best you could, and now,  each one of those yeses, is going to turn into something amazing over the next year. They’re going to turn into times when someone enduring real bad luck walks into PWA and asks for help, and whoever is sitting at the front desk can say Yes, this is your lucky day.

Thank you.

(I’m going to knit something now.)

77 thoughts on “Getting Lucky

  1. Congratulations on a job well done – both as co-chair and a participant! You – and all of Team Knit – are an inspiration.

  2. You and Team Knit (and all the riders / supporters) have made it possible for a LOT of people to be lucky this year – congratulations and WELL DONE!

  3. I’m so proud of what you, personally, accomplished this year. Your post brought me to tears. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I’ve missed the Harlot of old. You’ve had a hell of a year but I think this ride did you a world of good!!! Your mum was there with you for the whole week and giving everyone the tailwind needed.

  4. Congratulations, Team Knit!!! (And, Steph — does Gal Gadot know she’s got competition? She’d better watch out if you ever get a tiara. Now go finish Joe’s Monster Pants.)

    • Oh my gosh–THAT was an unexpected visual!!! [huge smile] That would certainly be a LOT of work for a project that would probably be worn, oh, shall we say not often?!? From what I’m remembering, Joe considered really dark eggplant to be too colourful…ALTHOUGH: if challenged to match his grandson, esp if one could stay inside the house on a Saturday morning, maybe–!??! =)

  5. Thank you. Love hearing about the bike rally. And WOW about surpassing ALL the goals ($ and miles). Kudos to the whole team.

  6. Congratulations on a well-earned success regardless of bad luck. All the good luck was perfect karmic balancing for you. Much love to Team Knit and Much Luck and Love to all who need it.

  7. I am grateful you received the theme. Thank you (Team Knit and all riders/organizers) for the hard work of the Rally and moving through this difficult season with vulnerable fierce love. Rest up and knit!

  8. Congratulations to you and Team Knit for all of your very hard work.
    That is amazing fundraising!
    I really enjoyed following the thermometers keep going up as more donations came in.

  9. Oh…Well, now I’m crying…

    Team Knit and you, specifically, rock. And are you done with co-chair now or do you have that role multiple rallies?

    • I read on the bikerally website that the Co Chair position goes for 2 years. It makes sense since you can train and handover the duties to the next Co Chair. I wonder if they stagger it so that there’s always one person who is in their 2nd year, like Captain and Vice Captain?

  10. WOW! I’m so happy for you, and Team Knit, and the recipients of the help. I hope someday this rally won’t need to exist, that HIV/Aids will be a thing of the past, but for now, damn girl, you and TK are a force to be reckoned with!

  11. Well done, Team Knit! 🙂 I’m glad luck was with the ride this year. And I hope that luck continues in your life, Stephanie.

  12. Congratulations on another outstanding accomplishment. I hope that one day you’ll share the story of how you came to be involved with PWA; your passion and commitment speak volumes – clearly there is a story there.

  13. How do you do that, to put something so big into little good words, so we all share a little of what you felt? Thank you! Thank you! Thank you.

  14. I am very glad you made it back and hit the numbers too! Good weather and tail winds make the ride a bit easier but the friendships developed along the way make the time and miles fly by. Now keep riding a bit more this summer to be keep in shape and just enjoy the rides.

    Whatcha knitting?

  15. Congratulations for making, and congratulations for finding your theme. Your ride makes me happy every year when I donate. Your mom was watching, and she’s proud of you. Maybe she was sprinkling luck on the ride.

  16. What a privilege to know that in some comparatively minuscule way we could all be a part of this. In the words of author Mandy Hale, “There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.” Say what you will about your unruly hair, you are a remarkable, admirable, precious, beautiful, *beautiful* woman! Thank you for bringing all of us together – the knitters and PWA. I think both communities are the better for it!

    • Yes, Kristy, exactly!

      Steph, I have found myself reflecting this week on “do small things with great love”. You do many things that way, but Bike Rally is a BIG thing that you do with great love, great endurance and great selflessness.

      I’m a high school teacher and I was telling one of my classes about you this week (you should have seen the looks on faces when I explained the knitting component of your public profile. He he). Thank you for all you do to help other people, and thank you for inspiring and motivating the rest of us to think about how we can help too.

      Have a wonderfully restful week, and I truly hope that this more hopeful outlook is a more permanent fixture for you. Your grief has been so understandable, but we want good and joy and blessings for you too.

  17. Well, thank you for this. I didn’t realize that I needed a bit of an inspirational pep-talk until I read yours. Congratulations to you all. I’m so stinking proud of all your hard work. XOXOXO

  18. Huge congratulations to you and all the Rally team and riders — what an amazing thing to do!! I am speechless with admiration for you all.

    Now have a glass a wine and knit the s— of out something!!!!

  19. It sure is dusty in here.

    Thank you, Stephanie, for being an inspiration. This seemingly little thing that you do makes such a difference in so many lives. I think we’ve all heard that quote from Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Stephanie, you are that change.

  20. What a lovely post. We are reluctant sometimes to admit the role Luck plays in our lives. I admire your commitment and applaud you and Team Knit.

  21. Bless you and Team Knit and all the petals and pedals …the work the Rally does makes enormous difference. I have been reading your blog for 3 years now and have supported Team Knit all those years because I know people that the Rally helps and I am so proud of being a remote and small part of the support system. Thank you for giving me and others the opportunity to virtually ride with you. I love reading the posts up to the Rally time and then during the Rally time I check manically for new posts, hoping that all is going well, and then when the first after Rally post comes through, I rejoice!
    Congratulations….here’s to hard won luck and grace in challenges!

  22. You are an inspiration to knitters and human beings everywhere. Congratulations on your success, and thank you for your beautiful prose.

  23. Splendid! I joined IG so I could follow and enjoy your photos and snippets there. But I’m so glad that you still blog. Seeing it all put together and reading your reflections make is so much more real to those of us not riding. Thank you.

  24. Perhaps all that hard work you have done for this last year – trying to find normal, trying to work through layers of grief, trying to remember your purpose, trying to heal your body, all of that grey sticky nasty slog – all of that was setting you up to be able to see and appreciate the luck. Luck that you had what you had had, luck that you have what you still have, and the amazing gift you are helping to provide for people who have run out of luck and hope. Thank you for dabbling and then stepping away from the pool of self pity. Once again, you have given us an example of how to do the stuff.

  25. Brava, Steph. Bravi, Team Knit. And thanks for all the work you do, all year long; thanks to everyone at PWA; thanks to everyone who donated to Team Knit or any other rider.

  26. you know, stephanie, i just love you. you are an absolutely wonderful person and we are all so lucky to know you through your blog.

    thank you for all your work, for your sharing your life with us, for your honesty.

    – janet

  27. Congratulations! I love how you write about this.

    You may not have heard this, but I’m told American Special Forces refer to ibuprofen as ‘Vitamin M’ (M for the Motrin brand name).

  28. Like everyone else, I’m moved by your words, and so proud of your accomplishment.

    But what I really wanted to say:
    Hey – is that Elliot in those shades? He looks BADASS!
    ;-D

  29. Holy shit, Team Knit raised 6% of the funds raised from the whole rally, even though you’re clearly not 6% of the riders!!!! You are amazing blessings to your community, and I’m happy to have helped with the little bit I could. Smooches to all y’all from Tucson, Arizona!

  30. Eloquently put. Again, congratulations to you, to Team Knit, and to everyone who rode or participated in their own way, and made this all possible. Knit, and enjoy.

  31. Lucky seems about right. A lot of my week was shaped by things that happened because of luck, including the odd feeling that my week was improved by someone else’s bad luck.

    I met that construction crew. Even though we were clear that we weren’t asking them to, I think they rushed to be sure they’d be done before even the fast riders got there, and they were.

    And last -hope this is ok – here’s the livestream of the arrival featuring your speech. https://www.facebook.com/groups/2230942664/permalink/10155522102447665/

  32. Congratulations Team Knit…I was knitting as you rode, but broke my left hand. lucky here that it wasn’t worse. hard to type with one hand, but it was a pleasure to support you.

  33. “I have spent so much of this last year feeling unlucky. Unlucky that my Mum died the way she did, unlucky that Susan followed her so quickly. Unlucky about the stupid shingles and the way my hair always does that thing. Fill in the blank, and I’ve been feeling unlucky about it.

    I have spent great gobs of time reflecting over the last year on the ways that I’ve been lucky too, trying not to sink under the sadness or feelings of poor fortune. I’ve reminded myself that I have a wonderful family left, that Elliot came at exactly the right time for me to have something joyful to hold on to, that I am beyond blessed to have such good friends, and people around me who care, and that I’ve got friends who might let me sit at the edge of the self-pity pool and dabble my feet for a bit, but won’t let me jump in and swim. I know we are not supposed to talk about this sort of thing, but I have truly struggled for my happiness this last year. Genuine joy, however small, has been fleeting, and difficult to grasp – but this last week I found it again”

    THIS! This! this!
    I too have had a pretty lousy time recently, and feeling pretty bummed about life. But you have a lovely way of saying this, and make me feel a little more hopeful. I am sorry I didn’t contribute this year, but life kicked me right in the teeth the last 3 weeks and I didn’t get a chance. Next year!!
    Now go knit all the things!

  34. Stephanie, you and Team Knit and everyone who participated in the Rally, the riders, the people who move the bins, the people who donated–you have all made me so happy. (because it’s all about me, lol). It makes me proud to see what people are willing to do, to help other people. I think of what Mr. Rogers’ mom would tell him, when bad things happen, look for the people who run to help. What a gift, what a blessing you all are. My goodness. Sometimes when I feel like my faith in humanity is, like, zero or subzero, things like this fill up that well of belief in the goodness of people, that I need to keep going. So thank you for all that you and Team Knit have done, to help me keep going.

    Thank you for the chance to help, in whatever small way we can. That is a gift you give us all as well, that Team Knit and the Rally and PWA Toronto gives us.

    You have had a really hard year. A really, really hard year. A Really REALLY hard year. You are functioning with invisible emotional wounds that are as real and urgent as a punctured lung, okay? Please be very gentle with yourself. I think you tend to be hard on yourself, and I just want to be sure that you are gentle with yourself. You are hurting and you still did this magnificent thing (and honestly, when you lose someone so dear to you, and then another person so quickly, getting out of bed some days takes all the effort you have).

    I am so honored to know you, in the small way I do. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, you are an amazing, inspirational woman, and you are a blessing for us all. 🙂 hugs and love

  35. What wonderful luck it is that we (The Blog, PWA, the world in general) have you, Stephanie.

    And, for all of us who have really struggled for our happiness for parts of our life and felt like we weren’t supposed to talk about it – thanks for talking about it. <3

  36. I am only a knitter in my imagination (I learned as a child but rarely knit now) but have been reading your blog for over ten years. I have also had a…challenging…year, and have been keening along with you in loss and unluckiness. Your grit and persistence and realistic optimism have been one of the thin gossamer threads tying me on, keeping me going, and this post speaks to me, volumes. I have never posted before and will likely never meet you, but please know that you have helped me. I wish you peace and comfort.

  37. Bravo! You always say it so well! Bravo for finding the rainbow!
    Thank you for the commitment you are, to PWA, your family, and us, your knitting community. You make a difference in my life, just reading what you write in your blog, in your books, Hearing you speak, or attending a class. Thank you for being so honest!

  38. Along with the rest of Blog, I admire, congratulate and thank you for giving of yourself.
    This cause is so important!
    I just spent a week with my friend who is HIV+. I feel so lucky that he is alive to know me and share is talents. He is a quilter and knitter and gives the best advise and counsel. We must not forget the many human beings that slipped away so quickly because of this nasty little virus.
    Thanks Steph, we are all lucky indeed!

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