So this past Saturday, January 28th, I organized the first Cycle for Survival in Alabama at the gym I teach spin at, Metro Fitness. It was successful and I was super pleased with the turn out of support!
I’m not going to go into detail about the event, but I want to discuss the importance of Cycle for Survival to me.
Cycle for Survival gives me so much hope, excitement, strength and focus. I truly believe in what they are doing for the developments in treating rare cancers, and I also like love the feeling it provides me leading up to the event and after. It gives me goosebumps knowing that in a day, so many people around the country are also supporting and raising awareness and funds for rare cancer research. It also gives me time to reflect and think about all the lessons, joys, and triumphs I shared with George. He too loved participating in Cycle for Survival. So when I’m on the bike, I feel connected with him, and on the days of Cycle for Survival, I feel like I am working for him. I am pedaling stronger than I ever had before, because I want to make him proud.
This year in Alabama, I didn’t have my closest friends around for support, I didn’t have my family nearby, but I did have a community there. I really appreciate the generosity of the people in Montgomery and beyond. Without their support this wouldn’t have been as successful as it was. We have neared the $3,000 mark and it’s a fantastic feeling to know that this money will go towards saving someone’s life and making a difference.
Each year around this time, I make new memories with George and it helps propel me forward. Allows me to feel stronger and I know the money raised is going toward something meaningful and will offer strength to others battling cancers.
I love Cycle for Survival.
Tomorrow I’m packing up my things, grabbing my dog and I’m heading home. As much as I’m moving along, I need to get out of here. With my season ending, my daily routine has been jolted because there is no more practices, game preparation, and scouting. On top of that having to deal with the dissolved relationship and now figuring out how to deal with these gaping holes between events, I concluded the ultimate resolution is I need to leave. So I’m gone. Give myself some mental health days to regroup and surround myself around old friends, former teammates and of course my wonderful parents.
As the days continue to fall forward, I am so grateful for the community around me in Montgomery. This morning I taught my Wednesday morning spin class, and when I first started teaching at Metro I only had 3 people in class. Now I consistently have 10 people, and they are incredibly caring, sweet and jovial. One of the riders texted me after class saying how much they enjoy my class and my energy and enthusiasm, and I started crying when I read it. I’ve found so much salvation and peace of mind when I’m astride a spin bike. I try to put out to everyone how much I love being there with them and sharing the power of fitness and how it can transform you in more ways than just your body.
I started cycling because George loved it so much and it was just one of the slices that made him who he was. He’d pump the tires on his bike before going to sleep so he could bike to work in the mornings. He tried so desperately to get me into biking that he would encourage me to bike to Penn Station before catching the train to Madison, NJ. When I was away, him and his best friends would ride around NYC finding the best restaurants, hitting up Broadway shows or concerts. He loaned his road bike out to his friend, just so someone else could enjoy biking as much as he did. When he was in Atlanta he founded the Atlanta Biking Group. When I’m on a bike- outdoor or indoor- I feel like it connects me to him. So it’s not a surprise I’m falling back on the power of cycling. It helped me throughout the initial grieving process, and in this recent bout of grief it’s supporting me again.
I feel this grief is solely brought on by the sudden changes. I was afraid to fully commit to having to deal with myself just by myself. I don’t have my team to commit myself to, but I do have my program, which I’ve been focusing in on. I’ve been doing clinics, setting up my summer schedule, finding camps to go to. Marketing and promoting Huntingdon Lacrosse. But I can’t help but feel disconnected, and I’m hoping this trip home will allow me to resolve and allow the wound to scab back over.
It’s been so long since I’ve updated this thing! Someone recently asked me why I hadn’t and I mentioned that nothing too exciting or out of the ordinary has happened so no need to update. But I think there’s a lot. What would have been my two year anniversary just came and went a week ago, and during the time I had recruits at Huntingdon. It was a good distraction, but just like most anniversaries, the lead up to it creates the most anxiety. The days leading up to September 19th were grueling, but when the 19th came, I felt good. Relaxed. Happy. I thought about George, I missed George, but I also remind myself how the love I have for him still has helped me improve and better myself. I’ve said it once and I’ll always say it, I am so lucky to have experienced a love like his. I can only wish when I leave this earth someone loves me as much as I love him.
I’ve been in Alabama for 2 months now, and I LOVE IT! In New Jersey there was this cloud of death and sadness that hovered around me. No matter what I did, I couldn’t shake it. I played by the grieving handbook and didn’t make any major life decisions in the first year of widowhood, but when this opportunity came about I did think it was George pointing me in the direction to reclaim my life. And I think I have. When someone dies, no one can prepare you for the financial aftermath and I was lucky to have support of my parents, and to have a great emergency nest. But the reality came that Drew paid me really poorly, and I never was able to recover financially from George’s passing. I was scraping by. Being down here for 2 months I’ve already rebounded back, and though I don’t think money provides happiness, it does provide security which helps with overall happiness.
In New Jersey I learned to cope with the emotions of losing George, but now I’m learning how to live without him. I am so glad I took this risk to move to Montgomery, because I feel so free and independent. There was an adjustment period, but it was because the culture and people of the South are so different than the North. I’m coaching the sport I love, interacting with passionate and determined young women, meeting all sorts of people from different walks of life, and last but not least, I am teaching spin classes at a gym nearby and every time I am on that bike, I know George is smiling at me. Life it good here in the gump. Plus I met a sweet Air Force fellow at the dog park, and Bodie and his dog have become best friends while we started dating. Can’t really complain. My bouts of grief only last minutes now rather than days. That’s one thing worth noting.
I was eating a carrot
Today was a pretty exciting day. I dropped a couple hundred dollars and registered to get certified in indoor cycling. I first started indoor cycling classes in 2010 and I remember telling George that I wanted to get certified to teach. I always talked about how I wanted to get certified, but never put my best foot forward to do so. Until now.
It was fun, but halfway through the 8 hour course, I started to really get sad. I wish he was around so I could tell him about the class. But he isn’t, and I just couldn’t stop thinking about how I wish he WAS home waiting for me. That goddamn empty apartment syndrome. It’s brutal as hell.
When we lived in Jersey City, our apartment complex had a few spin bikes, so once and awhile George would humor me and let me be the spin instructor and then afterwards he would critique how much he hated my music and how I talked too much. It was fun. We started to do spin circuits too, which consisted of you do a series of 3 exercises and then hop on the bike until the end of the song that was playing before starting the next round. We usually went for 10 rounds.
When I got home, I jumped in the shower, and immediately as the water started rushing down my back, I had a vivid flashback to one of the last bike rides we went on together; we biked to Hoboken and got lost and I got angry at him for getting us lost. I hate getting lost. He was always such a great sport about everything. I would get grumpy and he was always even keeled about it all. He allowed me to be mad, and just knew I would blow steam off and be back to normal. We used to always wonder if every George had a Julia and if every Julia had a George. I wish I still had my George. Why did my happiness have to be paired with something like this? This world can be brutally unfair, and I can’t help but wonder if I’m supposed to ever find peace? And at what price?
Grief has caught me in its unforgiving and menacing jaws tonight. Tomorrow, I might be slightly mangled, but I’ll get by. I’m a fucking survivor.
The way I describe my new life is by comparing it to college. This might also because I work at a university, but with all seriousness some days I just feel like I’m back in college. With the uncertainty and excitement that surrounds new experiences each day. But the biggest thing is, there’s this feel of college except I now have money and no homework. So nights can get a little weird.
Today I omitted doing the polar bear swim in Coney Island because of my morning mood. Instead I worked out with two of my friends and coming out of the workout I knew I was sadder than normal. Afterwards one of my friends hung out with me for most of the day. We pretty much just watched Brooklyn 99 and talked a bit. During our time hanging out grief swelled up inside of me so quickly I wasn’t sure what to do. So I tried to distract myself by doing dishes. It softened the grief but there was no stopping it and I just let it do it’s due course.
It was the first time my friend truly saw my grief. And they were good about it. They just allowed me to be sad. And when I asked if I could hold their hand, they were there. It’s really moving when I find comfort in people I normally wouldn’t have expected. There’s some people you think would be great in situations like these, but even they can’t quite grasp it. But my friend today did. And I’m thankful beyond belief that they were there to help me through it. That kind of gesture goes well beyond the realm of friendship. I can’t even put it into words. It’s just truly amazing.
Today, preparing for Cycle for Survival was very emotionally taxing. I kept thinking this is my time to finally honor George, but I couldn’t help but think this is my final goodbye to him. I’ve been pushing Cycle for Survival since a week after he died, and with the event finally here, what am I going to do? What else am I going to look forward to? It made me crazy this morning. I couldn’t stop crying because I didn’t want it to end, but I had been looking forward to it for so long. Luckily 2 of my close friends from home came out to breakfast with me and my worries floated away.
When I got my bike assignment at the Equinox gym, I didn’t really think that much about it until I started really looking at the number. The picture I decided to put up on the dedication board was from one of our first dates and at the time I was 23 years old. The bike I was assigned was #23. Weird right? I loved every minute of today. From when I first arrived at Equinox to when it was time to leave. Being surrounded by those who are affected by cancer and understand the hardships that come with either battling it, conquering it, or losing someone to it, was possibly the most empowering experience I’ve ever had. I met a woman who lost her daughter to cancer and when she asked what I was riding for, I told her. She looked me square in the eyes and said, “it’s so unfair.” And you know what? It IS unfair! She then continued to tell me that I remind her of her son-in-law because he became a widower at such a young age too. But because I was there honoring George, it gives George the “ability to keep fighting even though he’s not around.” And when she told me that, it was a perspective I’ve never heard before. But that’s what Cycle for Survival is all about. Getting different results by doing unorthodox approaches. I hope the money raised goes to further treatments on liver cancers.
I rode along side with my team, and they once again left me in awe. I had 2 pictures I wanted to post on the dedication board, but they came out with dozens! I was so happy I grabbed a pair of sunglasses because when I finally had time to start reading what they wrote, I did start crying. It was so moving and lovely. I feel so unlucky lots of times, but when I’m with my team I cannot help but think luck was on my side when these 21 girls came into my life. I love their support and enthusiasm and I couldn’t imagine where I would be without it. I love my lacrosse team and all the strength they provide me with.