It has been a longer than normal training travel for me. I prepared for the trip with less enthusiasm than I usually have. I am getting into a routine with my new old life back in PA. I have been meeting new people and making friends. All of this occurs when I travel too. I have the great fortune of meeting like minds in the motorcycling world. I generally look forward to these training trips with much anticipation. Something this time was different and I couldn’t quite put a finger on it.
None the less, as the dates approached I got into my pre trip ritual involving planning, packing, preparing. Issue number one: packing. A typical training schedule is a Friday through Tuesday. Just a long weekend. This time there are back to back weekends with a three-day layover in Milwaukee to celebrate my son’s 15th birthday. That means clothing for 12 days (including clean underwear), double the training tools I use and toiletries and medications. That means a large suitcase instead of my carry on North Face duffle. One small carry on which means lighter on and off but stopping by baggage claim which I can usually bypass.
Mindset adjusted. New friends will be there when I return. New friends will be made at the training locations. Big head Paulie dog got to go camping, so I know he won’t notice I’m gone. I’m off to the airport and assume my travel mode which involves putting in my earbuds and avoiding eye contact since I know I will be on people overload very soon. Good trainings mean the overload will encompass an emotional intensity that requires a recovery period. This trip would leave little down time for recovery but I love intensity so it will be fine. Still I am unsettled. One final, fuck it, and I’m on the plane, flying on to adventure. Final (first) destination, Birmingham, Alabama. Roll Tide!
A layover in Charlotte, a training trouble shoot opportunity and I’m fully engaged in the trip. I have my training hat fully in place and secured. Off to Bama. Touch down, rental car acquired and my soul is released driving north on highway 59. In this moment, time stands still and I am completely and totally alive, exploding with anticipation of the grand adventure awaiting. These rare and precious frozen in time moments are the affirmation my brain (and heart) need to maintain hope that living fully is still possible.
My training partner and I prepare for the transformation we both understand will occur in our participants over the next few days. What we can never prepare or plan for, though, is on what level of the Richter scale the transformation will register. That is part of the greatness of these things. A student stops in early to let us know she has arrived. This is my time, my sacred space and not yet ready for viewing. She has stepped into the middle of my inhale and thrown off my rhythm. The next three days my energy will belong completely to the participants and I want this final evening as mine. And yet, we finish the set up and leave for dinner where we can finalize our plan for the morning. I’m exhausted and intend to go directly to bed after dinner. When we get to the hotel, however, there are bikers out front. This is why I don’t wear any official training gear until after day one and found myself thinking I should have worn my Triumph t-shirt so that I could go unnoticed. I have been in contact via phone with the training participants last week and feel no need to begin interacting this evening (again, this is my inhale) but my colleague extends a hearty welcome and draws me in. So it begins: the sacred and holy journey of the participants’ experience. I excuse myself and retreat to my room and king-sized, pillow topped escape pod. Morning will end the silence I enjoy in my head right now. I have joy in my heart and have forgotten that I had some reservations regarding this trip.
I am back in central time but living on Eastern time so the morning was strangely right on time. My pre-game ritual was relaxed and unrushed. I made my way to the hotel lobby where the official first meetings occur as I am providing transportation for some participants. Arriving at the classroom, the other participants who are local begin to ride up and enter the classroom. The swagger they bring is intended to mask the apprehension I know they feel. I have been there. We will recognize and name that later. For now, it is simply welcome.
I have switched completely to training mode. I am smiling and welcoming, relating tidbits of information I have gleaned from initial phone contacts, personalizing the upcoming experience. I am cool. I am confident. I am the standard by which future trainings will be judged. I bask in this moment knowing that my next move will be to become insignificant, invisible. It is time. Time to shift the paradigms of yet another group of trainees.
The Richter scale is set off early as the class quickly connects and relationships are established. I freely admit that I fall in love quickly with these people who open themselves up so easily to a new learning and experiences. By the end of day one, I love all 18 of them. By the end of day 4, I am starting to miss my newest friends but must begin the process of disconnecting and preparing for the next group. It’s a process I have become accustomed to but never fond of.
Luckily I have scheduled a distracting interlude and will spend several days with my son in Milwaukee. Not so luckily, the airline has managed to lose my luggage. And there is a problem with my rental vehicle. But hey, I’m home again. Odd that should pop into my head. I mean, my home is Pennsylvania, the place I was born and raised. But there is a familiar sense of belonging I get, driving to my hotel. (In the shuttle provided, so I can figure out my rental tomorrow.) The hotel is close and only for my first night until I make my way to the quaint air b and b north of the city, closer to my son. I sleep well and wake up prepared to problem solve in the same outfit I wore yesterday.
The rental car is not going to work for the next few days so I Lyft to my next destination. A combination of frustration, sadness and homesickness/homecoming have me close to tears. Yet I don’t cry. I breathe it in. As soon as I reach my son’s house, the tears come. Luckily he is not home yet. I miss my newest friends but my Facebook newsfeed is blowing up with their posts and I know I have made a difference. And I am home, in a way, so the world is good right now. Then my son comes home and, for the first time in six months, I see this marvelous human being who calls me mom. He is taller, sturdier and his voice has deepened. I second guess my decision to have moved away. I have missed too much. Breathe it in. I don’t want to waste any of my short stay with sadness or regret.
I am able to enjoy a nice afternoon with this boy and ease back into a non-trainer mindset, walking through the world simply enjoying. I find my air b and b and have a lovely exchange with my Icelandic hostess. I relax and simply become a traveler. The only responsibility I have for the next three days is to be present. And to pick up my luggage which has been located!
I get a car for my training in Madison, Wisconsin, an hour from Milwaukee. I drive there and start the transition to trained professional. I have just done this less than a week and a half ago so it should be easy, but I resist the shift from participant to facilitator this time. I allow myself to believe that this next leg will be as intensely satisfying for all involved as the first. All I truly know is that my preconceived ideas are usually wrong. I have one last chance to disengage as I return to Milwaukee to celebrate my son’s 15th birthday. He is growing up without me. I am growing old away from him. There is injustice in the world and there is mercy in the world. I am dancing on the edge.
I return to Madison so that I can sleep in tomorrow. I have 90 minutes of drive time to become my trainer self. I am so attached to my present self that I am pulling into the hotel lot before I can concede that tomorrow I will be crossing over once again. Luckily, sleep comes swiftly, as does the morning waking.
There is only one other Harley shirt in the lobby so of course I make eye contact. I’m not ready to engage so I pour my coffee and sit down alone. When I go to the car to pull around to the hotel entrance, I notice I have a flat tire. I make the necessary calls and help will be dispatched. My colleague has come to the breakfast area and I update him on my situation. I will meet him at the dealership as soon as I am able. I can put off a bit longer, being a people person.
As I am waiting for AAA, I get a text from the dealership, insisting they NEED me. I suspect spoof as I view the photo of my co facilitator lying on the floor. No panic. Tire changed, it is a short, simple drive to the training location. Upon my arrival I find that my training partner had fallen and twisted his ankle. I introduce myself as the other physically challenged facilitator. And so it begins.
Perhaps it was the train wreck of a morning start but this group of trainees is tough! No smiles, no laughs and they are barely looking at each other. Plus, there are only 7 out of the 10 expected. Roll tide. The day ends and I get to the hotel as quickly as possible. Which means after I take the rental car back to swap out for another with a real tire on. AAA put on the mini doughnut.
Back at the hotel I greet my bed like a long lost friend, turn on some mindless cable and leave the day behind me. Sort of. These types of days are hard to let go of but I must have drifted off to sleep. How else would I have awakened at 3:00 in the morning, wide awake? By the time I really must wake up, I am tired and slightly tentative about the upcoming day. I make my way to the lobby, go out and check my tires (fully inflated!) and grab a cuppa. Surely a sign that today will be better.
Day two of training is when the magic begins to happen. Apparently this group didn’t get the memo. They continued to be reserved and quiet. Of course I assumed it was our facilitation. We survived the day and again I retreated to my hotel room. Sleep is a nice respite and I am always exhausted at the end of a training day.
Day 3: We plod forward. I am not entirely attached to this experience and I’m trying to make myself stay engaged. For the only time during this training, I go out for dinner instead of retreating to my room. I didn’t go with the group however and so it was just a quiet, reflective evening. Back at my room, I organized and packed my things so that tomorrow’s check out would be quick and painless. Sleep, my friend.
I wake up knowing I need only to get dressed and zip up my suitcase. All of the other details are addressed. I drive to the training location knowing I must just last 4 more hours. Then the drive to the airport. I have some extra time so I sneak in a last visit with my son. My heart hurts as I say good bye this time. Our next visit is unplanned. He promises me he won’t grow anymore before I see him again.
Storms move into the city. My flight is delayed. I will most likely miss my connecting flight home. It has been that kind of trip. An adventure for sure. A pain in the ass at times definitely. I just want to go…I don’t know where my home is at this particular point in time. I know I will be in Pennsylvania tomorrow at the latest. And then, I will plan my next adventure. It will for sure include sleep and sunshine somewhere. It is the end of this trip for me and time to breathe out. Breathe in again, breathe out. All I can do is keep breathing.