Sunday, September 21, 2008


my oldest son was two or so when I first heard the term "respite."
a friend had suggested we apply to the state for services for people with disabilities, that we should get on the list because it could take a while before we worked our way up the waiting list. we filled out the forms, I suppose, though I remember very little of this entire process, and eventually we were contacted and told that we could receive "respite" services.
I don't know if I had ever heard the word, but if I had, it took on an entirely different meaning when it came to state services.
respite was when someone either came to my house to take care of jake, enabling us to go do something different, or it was when we took jake to someone else's home for care, either for a few hours or for overnight. it took quite a while for us to work our way into using this system, but we eventually found a wonderful woman, clara, who would come stay with jake, allowing us to go do a few "normal" things without having to take jake and his special requirements along with us.
respite, "a usually short interval of rest or relief." I had lived a life to that point that didn't require formal respite periods, and it always struck me as an artificial name for a brief break from what had become my reality.

fast-forward 15 years, and here I am on my bike. respite is something I think of daily, in terms of my routes and my heart and muscles. I could never reach the peaks I climb to without the moments of respite along the way.

I've heard people talk about "filling your well." that we all expend energy each day living our life, working, caring for others, loving, sometimes just existing. that sleeps revives us, but sleep alone is not enough. when we give and give, we can reach a point of depletion, and we all must find ways to re-fill our wells, so that we can continue to reach down and find something to give.
enter respite.
when cycling, it can be the briefest push from a temporary tailwind, it can be a slight dip in the grade of the incline. it can be 20 minutes for brownies at brighton, or it can be the unexpected thirty feet of downhill on an uphill climb. sometimes it means a stop, sometimes it's a guzzle of water and a cool breeze.
today it was the sun reappearing from its hiding place behind the clouds, it was a moment of tailwind, it was the middle miles of the canyon where I can cruise along at 12-15 mph instead of a climbing rate of 6.
and today, it was also views that left me speechless, and the pause at the top of guardsman pass where I eventually regained steady vision, a calm stomach, and the ability to breathe.
without respite I could not keep going. not on my bike, and not in life. the trick, I suppose, is to choose paths that allow me those opportunities, and to recognize my need for them.

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