Soul Cycle.

Life is so cyclical. A week ago I was too busy to pee but right now I’m sitting quietly in the attached courtyard of my hotel room sixteen stories up with a gorgeous view of the pool on a beautiful day in San Francisco. It is literally the first day since the beginning of 2016 I’ve had the chance to stop, take a breath, and look around at everything that’s happened in the past six months. Everything I’ve done, everything I’ve been through, everything I’ve built. Up to this point, I’ve just been IN IT. In the race. In the throng. So deep down the only thing my mind can register to do in the next ten seconds is inhale, exhale, repeat, then quickly assess the situation and put out the next fire which has somehow manifested itself right in front of me. You know that scene where Jon Snow is literally drowning in a sea of bodies in the battlefield? It’s like that.

It happens sometimes. Life speeds up when you don’t expect it and it’s all you can do to stay on the bike. God is your spin class instructor and while you were adjusting the playlist on your iPod he yelled out, “Stand up and pedal motherfucker! Pedal up that mountain as if your life depended on it! Keep pedaling because if you stop you will die!”

But eventually your legs give out and you’ve got to slow down, maybe even get off the bike entirely. Go sit and wipe the sweat off your face. Let your pulse sink to its normal 60 beats per minute. Look around. Decide which piece of Life’s gym equipment you’d like to try next because while you were on that bike you realized maybe spin class, at least at this pace, is just not for you. Maybe deciding you’d just like to walk for a while instead.

I use this clunky, extended metaphor because frankly that’s what it feels like. A lot has happened. Some good. Really good in fact. I got a new website. I interviewed two of my culinary idols, one of which put the episode on her website just this week. The other I had dinner with just because I was in the right place at the right time even though I was so nervous I wanted to hurl. I helped plan a food conference and moderated another, both new experiences. I made some new friends, solidified future plans for the podcast, and allowed myself to really dream big in spite of debilitating Imposter Syndrome. I became more confident in my thoughts, my ideas, and how I get them to paper. Major career hurdles resulting in major career milestones.

Other experiences were not so good. Two of my musical idols died. My cat was diagnosed with terminal cancer. One of my literary idols told me no when I asked for an interview, and the reasons she gave were so suspect it brought my Imposter Syndrome roaring back. A lunatic shot up the branch of my church in Orlando which caused us all terrible grief and loss and forced me to once again become a Speaker for the Dead of sorts in my writing which I absolutely hate but which I believe becomes necessary because this world moves so damn fast the younger among us are destined to forget the struggles of the folks who came before.

But through it all when I take a minute to look back over my shoulder, it really does feel like I’ve just endured a long, extended workout. Challenging. Really hard in fact. At times wondering would I make it through or would my body just give out and they’d have to cart me off to the ER and hook me up to a heart machine. Those same feelings you get after a really hard session at the gym. You don’t feel great. In fact you feel like you want to vomit. Or at least take a good long soak in the tub or a nice nap to recover, lick your wounds, maybe cover your sore muscles in a layer of Ben Gay. But at the same time you’re proud of yourself for going. For having gotten through it. Tired, sick, but accomplished which brings its own form of happiness. That’s how I feel.

The feeling was solidified when The Hubby and I attended the Pride parade in San Francisco with our niece. She’s finishing up grad school, The Hubby is at a work conference, and I’m just along for the ride because I’ve never been to the Bay area and at this point in time have had enough of The Life Gym. We went to the parade on a lark, meaning to watch a bit before heading off to find dim sim brunch and sightsee. But as we allowed the crowd to swallow us whole in a sea of colorful balloons and banners and smiles on faces of every shade, size, and gender, floating down Market Street within an ocean of colorful laughter, glitter, wigs Dolly Parton would be proud of paired with thumping House beats from DJ’s from every conceivable tech company float competing with one another to see who in fact loves the gays more, I found myself sinking in soul-deep to the feeling of happiness. Laughter and smiles emanated from every person there. The joy was palpable. You couldn’t help but dance, and laugh, and hum, and sing. It felt like that well-earned hot tub at the end of a long workout but instead of hot spa bubbles, you found yourself swimming in bubbles of all colors of the rainbow, probably blown by a 6-foot-two drag queen in full unicorn regalia wearing enormous wings made of those balloons they make animals from. Where do these guys take spin class? Cause I want to sign up.

It was a total sea change from the feelings I had after the shooting. The sadness I felt as I was writing that tribute. Where those words were covered in nostalgia and lost hope, this parade was hope personified. Hope and love and freedom and welcome and a feeling of we don’t give a fuck who you are or who you love you are welcome here as are all of your friends. Shake your ass. Drink. Don’t drink. Dance. Don’t dance. We don’t care. Do what you want. The happy emanated off of folks like the best perfume. And the constant San Francisco summer breeze carried the happy so it rose up, trailed on, and covered all. It was glorious.

For just a second nostalgia threatened because I wished with every fiber of my being the friends I’d lost to AIDS could experience this. Mark. Russell. Countless others. But the blanket of joy covering Market Street swept that away on the wind when I realized just as suddenly that they were here after all. They were all here. In the end, no matter what, love wins. Love always wins. Something to remember the next time life’s spin class starts up again.

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