Paula and the sunset at Playa Guiones, Costa Rica – October 19, 2017

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Last night I dreamed of Costa Rica. In my dream, I was there again, but this time I was not alone. This is what happened. It felt like I lived there, like it was my home. I was riding in the front seat of a taxi cab. The driver to my left was smiling, he had lovely dark-toasted skin that was shiny and seemed to glow. I had twisted my body around on the overstuffed bench front-seat to face him. The ribbed, black-leather seating material felt warm under my left arm which was bent and hanging over the back of my seat, leaning in to see and talk with who is behind me. There are two people, both blonde, one is male, the other female. Their smiling faces seem familiar, I cannot say for certain who they are, but I find myself asking them, “Don’t you love it here?” and as I’m saying this, in my mind I’m thinking “I hope they don’t think it’s too hot, that’s what’s so great, I’m not cold here.” I’m smiling, sweating, and slightly sticking to the cab seat under my legs which are kind of side-curled on the large front seat. My left knee is wedged in the crack where the seat backing meets the bottom seat cushion. “You’ll love it, I’ll show where to go” is the next thing I say, emphasized with a big smile to our passengers. I shift my eyes back to our driver, who is still smiling because he and I share the same love of Costa Rica and somehow at this moment he widens his smile to me just a bit more, and I understand it to mean “I love it too, all we can do is show them, then they will understand.” At this point, I glance to the back seat again, and I still don’t recognize these people but I do like them, and I notice how small they look as the black leather seating kind of frames around their bodies. I glance out the back window behind them now, and I only see blurry, bright daylight and flashes of green as our car speeds along. Pivoting myself around now to look straight ahead, I adjust myself on the seat, helped by the sweat underneath my thighs. It’s gotten a bit slippery. As I look ahead, the road it seems we are driving on is like a large water park slide with deep, clear cerulean choppy-blue water along our “road” and there are red-molded high embankments dotted along the way. “We’re almost to what I really want you to see,” I say in an loud, upbeat tone, because I’m really excited to share this place that I love. We are going pretty fast, the car swivels a bit side-to-side, and I grip the edge of the front cushion seat with my left hand, and for added balance my right hand reaches up to grab the upper handle bar above the door frame. As we make a large arcing turn to the left, our car slows. I feel myself smiling like the cab driver now, just a little bit wider. I know we’re almost there. I’m still thinking about our passengers, wondering if they can see what I see from the roomy back seat. And then I woke up.

Waking up from this dream, I immediately knew it snowed last night without looking out of my bedroom window. The sound of a neighbor’s snowblower is buzzing away, yelling at me like an alarm without a snooze button. It was 7:48. That’s about a half hour too late to get to the 8:30am spin cycle class at my gym on time. I would have to be on my way by 8:15, a little too tight. I immediately called my gym anyway to attempt a last-minute reservation, and there was a wait list for the 8:30 class, confirmation that it wasn’t going to happen. “Okay, no worries, So when’s the next class this morning? 9:45, great, there are spots left? Yes, great, sign me up.” So now I had time to write about this dream, and squeeze in a rushed shower. Also great. Time moves faster when all I really want to do is slow it down, even for a few quiet moments. In my case, writing, social media, and self-care time pass too quickly before I need to pull my head out of the clouds. My “extra” time was more like a time warp, and I felt rushed this morning anyway. I expected there to be more snow, but when I opened the garage door, it was only what I’d call a “loaded donut:” just enough to coat everything in a nice even layer of white. If the grass where poking through, then I would call it “a donut with sprinkles.” Just before I get in the car, I grabbed my pretty blue cycling shoes without the clips from the shelf. It is a small goal of mine for this year’s indoor cycling season to start using cycling shoes in class. Last year at this time, I didn’t even own a pair of cycling shoes. I took my first spin class sometime in November of 2016, and I started outdoor cycling in late February.

I arrived at my gym and hurriedly did the locker room ritual of finding an unused space to lock up my coat and purse. The shoes will have to be changed in class. The class had already started. I picked an open bike, make the quick and comforting switch to my cycling shoes with the blue laces, then adjust the seat, handlebars, and toe cages, and finally hop on. This is a cardio cycle class, so I’m trying to figure out which gear is best for me to make my legs last the entire time, thinking about if he says “gear at 10,” am I good with 9 or 8? If he says “about 100 rpms,” do I go 85 to 90? Or, do I just do the exact thing he says to do and go for it? This instructor gets off of his bike a couple times to adjust this-or-that and the person that came in behind me didn’t close the room door completely, so it’s banging in the door jam, and the instructor gets up to fix the door, too. He expertly clips back in to his bike pedals with ease every time. I don’t really notice much of what’s going on around me, mostly because I’m listening to the music and doing the gear game in my head. “I Want To Be Sedated” by the Ramones is rattling my legs to wake up now. I think I need to be the opposite of ‘sedated’ if I’m going to kick some ass in this class for almost an hour. I’m also wondering about what I missed at the beginning of class. As I’m thinking about the minutes I missed and how many minutes to go, the instructor gets off of his bike one more time, but instead of heading to the stereo system or some other technical dilemma, he walks to my right, directly to a woman two rows diagonally behind me. My head turns and follows him. I see he pats her left shoulder, says some words of encouragement and gets to helping her with some bike adjustment, and I hear her say this is only her second class. She appears to be with the man biking to her right, they are smiling and look like they’re having a good time, and also giggling at their own scene which the sound of it echos off of the high ceiling in this glass-walled space. Bike adjusted, our instructor heads back to his own on the platform and it’s back to focusing on pedaling at 100rpm, which I’m at like 75-80rpm right now, so I’ve got some catching-up-pedaling to do. As I go along trying to follow if we are standing-up or gearing-up or pedaling-faster-up, they all sound like the same instruction to me, and I break my resting-biking-face to smile when I get what we are asked to do all wrong. I’m thinking about this woman, and her second cycling class comment. That was me last year. I see a bit of myself in her. Well, except for her riding partner, I did not have one then and I still don’t have one now. It’s now been over a year since I had begun indoor cycling, it was the only thing that really helped with the anxiety after my husband’s death. A lot has happened since then, time seems to pass in a blink or not at all. Either way, time messes with my mind. Now that the weather is cold and snowy again, I’m back to indoor cycling.

I now find myself really wanting to offer encouragement to that woman. I can think of a few people who shared words of encouragement to me about cycling, and still do, and I am so grateful to each of them for doing so. It requires a lot of patience from them with me and my learning process as I immersed myself in wanting to be a better cyclist. I will leave it up to you, now, to decide if I took a moment to talk with her after the class. What would you have done? Do you just reflect on your own self, stay quiet, or keep your eyes straight ahead? Or, do you reach out to others in some way and maybe share what you’ve learned or say a kind word? A simple comment or even the gesture of a smile could mean a lot to someone. Class continues and I cycle on, and the memory of those boys at Misquamicut State Park beach in Rhode Island playing on the lifeguard chair last summer pops into my head. After being at the ocean’s edge, I had walked back to get my bike that I had leaned against its white-painted posts. It was just after 6pm, and the empty guard’s chair had about six boys now climbing on it, playing some kind of game, laughing the whole time. As I gathered my things below them, I casually mentioned my opinion of what a great job lifeguarding is, and if you decide to be a lifeguard, you can help a lot of people and you can sit up on the chair. I walked away feeling like if only one of those kids even thought twice about what I had said, then I had somehow planted a seed of some sort that may someday grow later. I still believe in planting those seeds, however the situation presents itself, it’s those tiny random moments of opportunity. They flash by so quickly and unless you just do or say what comes to mind at that time, the chance leaves as quickly as it comes. My daydream thoughts are now interrupted by a huge droplet of sweat that has made its way through the fine hairs just above my upper lip. I don’t know where it started: from my forehead, eyes, or nose, but I can feel it trickling fast. As it crests over the edge of my lip, and right before it can fall, my jaw drops just enough to open my mouth, and my tongue meets and catches the droplet. A small burst of salt in liquid form spreads in my mouth. Not too briny. Kind of tastes like Costa Rica.~Paula

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