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Thursday, September 17, 2009

For Audrey

I would like to introduce you to my friend, Audrey. She is, to put it mildly, a remarkable woman. Perhaps you know someone like her. The first time I met her, I knew I needed to become her friend. She makes everybody want to be her friend. In fact, everybody is her friend!

It is fitting that her name is Audrey (though she doesn't usually go by it) because she reminds me of Audrey Hepburn, another heroine in my life. My Audrey is very much like that Audrey in that she is stylish, classic, and beautiful even while wearing a t-shirt and jeans. She is also like that Audrey because she has a beauty that goes all the way to her core; she knows what truly matters in life, and seems to sow seeds of happiness in everything she does. She is unfailingly kind, optimistic, but also enjoys a naughty joke once in a while. She gets my sarcasm, and she likes me despite my flaws. As far as I can tell she likes everyone. I have never heard her utter a rude or unkind word about anyone. She is patient. She is everything I wish I could be, but know I can't. She is a dove. I am a labrador retriever. Audrey's home and family completely match her temperament. They are the kindest, most generous, and most welcoming people you could know. That is a direct testament to her quiet influence. To visit Audrey at home is to always be greeted like you are returning home after a long journey; it's exactly like coming home for Thanksgiving.

I am introducing you to Audrey because I want to share a simple gift she gave me. It was the kind of thing she does every day, to everyone. But although to her it may have been a little thing, to me it meant a great deal. Perhaps you give similar gifts in your daily life, and don't realize how small things can mean so much, so I was hoping in a way, to thank you, too.

Training has gotten harder as the Tour de Pink gets closer. I am having to squeeze in the time to take longer rides, and I'm trying to ride everyday. The anxiety of whether I will be able to complete the ride is starting to weigh on me. Unfortunately, since I work as a breast cancer advocate, my schedule is getting tighter and crazier as October (breast cancer awareness month) approaches. I'm planning fundraisers, events, etc., and well, I'm getting a little grumpy. I should also mention that my daughter is a senior and the crunch to start filling out applications, and making serious decisions is also weighing on me. My house is a disaster. I come home to hairballs so large that it looks like our cats have had kittens. I can only avert my eyes, dim the lights, and leave it for yet another day.

It is harder and harder to enjoy my rides. But two days ago I went for a ride that was just great. I was feeling strong, like maybe I could manage the Tour without trouble. I was feeling so good on that day that I added an extra leg at the end of the route that takes me up a big hill to get home. I always dread that hill. But that time, I felt strong. I felt confidant. And I ended the ride feeling even better than when I left. It was pure gold.

Yesterday, was another story. I had a busy day and was feeling all the pressures weighing on me. I got home late to a kitchen full of dirty dishes and whatever impulse I had to ride was slowly draining away. I did the dishes and turned my attention to the pile of mail that had gone unsorted for days. All the while I made excuses as to why I could just skip the ride. It was too late. I was tired. Too much to do. It would be getting dark before I got back. I had completely convinced myself to skip it when I listened to the days' phone messages. Message #1: some saleswoman who won't stop calling. Ugh. Message #2 was from Audrey. And it went something like this:

"Alane, I just wanted you to know that we were driving up the hill yesterday and we saw you riding your bike. I wanted you to know that you looked so strong and so ready for this ride. I am really proud of you. You looked so strong."

Small. Simple. But it got me on my bike. Audrey doesn't know what that small push, which wasn't even meant as a push, put in motion for me last night.

After listening to the message, I immediately suited up and got on the bike. It was chilly, but a beautiful evening. The first surprise came when about a mile and a half up the road, I saw my husband, biking home from work in the opposite direction. I love him. My heart still jumps a little whenever I see him, so this was a special treat. We waved and the evening air echoed with our "I Love Yous!" as we parted. I got to take a moment and think about what a remarkable husband I have. He has been doing the work of two people this week, is on call, and was riding home to drive our son to practice after which he would go back to work, and pick our son up again. What a guy. Thanks, Audrey, I needed to remember that, and told him how much I appreciate him later.

Those thoughts led to more thoughts; thoughts of Audrey. Her own family is dealing with a cancer crisis right now, and she is heartbroken but upbeat, and making the most of every moment. I thought about the grace and kindness it took for someone, in that situation, to think about me on my bike. And then these words came to me like a bolt of lightning: "You have to breathe out to breathe in." It is a wonderful physical phenomena that our respiratory system works so well, without our help, in simple rhythm to keep us alive. But the words stuck with me for the ride. You have to breathe out to breathe in. You have to give to receive, you have to love to be loved, you have to share to be a part of something, you have to spread happiness to be happy, and life will fill you up as long as you let it in. Thanks again, Audrey.

This thought was so overwhelming to me that I barely felt my legs pumping for the rest of the ride. But I was struck with a constant stream of images; Images about my life and how incredibly full it is. The opening of a flower, the feeling of my daughter's hand as a toddler, the first time I really felt the deep connection between us, the light in my son's eyes, the arms of a friend, laughter, faces, and more. I began to cry a little as I became truly in touch with how full and wonderful my life is; how my cup truly does runneth over. How I am so, so grateful for all that I have.

Because of Audrey's small gesture, I cried tears of joy as I remembered moments long forgotten. I had an incredibly beautiful ride. The evening was golden; it was my favorite time of the day. And my ride ended with a swift turn around a cul-de-sac circle where a beautiful deer stood in the center, motionless except for its head which it turned to watch me as I passed. Quiet, serene, and truly blessed.

I am going to try to make change in other people's lives today. Even if it's only in small ways. Because Audrey taught me how a ripple can create a wave, how a chain reaction can be started with one small gesture of kindness. You never know the effect your actions will have. But I hope Audrey knows this time.

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