three-day

oops didn’t mean to post the last one yet because i wasn’t finished! go read that one before you read this one. 🙂

day two started without problem, but we were warned. the site was skyline college, a site that was the absolute bane of last year’s three-day, the repeat-three-day-ers told us. ‘the fog was so thick that you couldn’t see fifteen feet in front of you. and, during the night, the fog crept in and condensed… so that when we woke up in the morning, it was raining inside the tents, and everything we had was soaked. that day it was so hard to carry all of our gear to the gear trucks because all that water made everything twice as heavy.’ we were lucky this year, because there wasn’t very much fog at all and everything remained dry. the wind, however, was chilling! the showers were set up on a hill, so we lucky avon ladies got to sit at the folding table of products in full path of the wind. i didn’t take a shower that evening because i didn’t want to get caught in that wind straight out of a hot shower. the wind was worst that night. by the time it got dark, it was so cold that i couldn’t stand the thought of leaving the tent to go brush my teeth. with a little ingenuity i managed to brush my teeth and wash my face inside the tent… (i spit out into an empty water bottle) i had just gotten into my sleeping bag when i realized i had to use the port-a-potties. by that time most people were sleeping and it was very quiet. when i stepped out of the port-a-potty i wanted to head straight back to the warm tent, but then i looked at the sky and completely forgot about the cold for a little bit. it was beautiful, very dark but very clear and the stars and moon were so luminous i felt like i could stay out there all night just gazing at the view. i’ve never seen a night sky so lovely. it must have been the weather combined with my mindset at the time, but it was just incredible. then the wind reminded me why i needed to go back to my tent! when i got back in i was shivering so i just stayed bundled-up. i slept in flannel pajama pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a t-shirt, my crew fleece jacket, and socks, and i slept with my sleeping bag pulled over my head, but i still shivered. the wind blew the tent from side to side, making scary billowing noises. in the morning the wind was just as bad, and gear crew walked around with megaphones instructing people not to try to fold up their tents. i realized that last night, in my ultra-sleepy state, i hadn’t realized that a five-forty-five shift indicated getting up early enough to wash up before my shift started, so i didn’t have very much time to get myself ready. i quickly changed my pants and put on my shoes, then decided to warm myself by taking a run around the track (we had camped on the grass area in the middle of the very nice all-weather track). that was the best lap i have ever run! it warmed me up so fast and felt so good. midway through the quarter-mile, i stopped as a fully assembled tent came blowing across the track. i ran after it and caught it, and a very grateful woman soon came to fetch it. ‘thank you so much! we just took our stuff out of it and it blew away!’ i helped her take it down right there in the middle of the track, then finished my lap. when i got to the concierge tent jamey (another wonderful crew member, and captain of my particular group) told me that it was so cold people were going into the port-a-potties for warmth. ‘one guy was in there forever! when he came out, we noticed he was holding cd’s… this has been the only time of my life when i haven’t wanted to leave one of those things.’

although we were all so glad to imagine our warm beds and showers that night, i think we were all pretty sad to see day three. still, we were excited when we arrived at the final site in san francisco. since it was the last day, we didn’t have to set up camp, so we had several hours of free time before the walkers started coming in. michelle, linda, cheryl, annie and i decided our course of action would be… quite unsurprisingly… FOOD! still wearing our bright red crew jackets (i don’t know about the others, but by that time i had sort of forgotten i was wearing it), we headed out in search of food. we passed a very cute little area with little boutiques and cafĂ©s but none of them were open. ‘come on, people!’ i muttered to the storefronts. ‘why aren’t you open for lunch at 10.30 on a sunday morning?’ it was so amazing to us that people might not be hungry at that time because we were all ravenous. we finally found a mel’s drive-in (not really a drive-in) and waited around a little while for a table to free up. people stared at us when we walked in, which we wondered at until we remembered our matching jackets. one family motioned us over and wanted to know if the walkers were there yet, because they had come in from san diego to support someone who was walking! another couple took a picture of us, i have no idea why. another group of crew people was already there (i don’t know how they got there so fast!), eating, and we greeted each other with smiles and laughs. mostly, though, people just ogled us, probably wondering not just what we were doing but why we looked so absolutely happy to be just standing there. well, it was warm, they had bathrooms with real sinks and soap instead of hand sanitizer gel, and we had the pleasant knowledge that before long we would be able to order whatever food we wanted and that we would be able to eat it in a relaxed fashion, sitting down! before too long we were seated and the waitress (whose name tag said ‘snake,’ subject of much conversation among us!) had taken our orders.

that was a really lovely meal. we had a fine time talking and laughing and rehashing some of the odd or wonderful things that had happened over the past few days. we admired the huge stone on cheryl’s wedding ring and she told us a funny story about the stone popping out of the setting when she had first gotten engaged. cheryl is probably around thirty, give or take a few years, and tall and brunette and cute. she told us that men used to honk at her when she walked by when she was younger… ‘i felt so bad once, a guy actually crashed into a pole because he was so busy watching me! i mean, i felt bad, but i wanted to say, ‘hey, it wasn’t my fault!” we were so pleased with ourselves and each other and the food and the world that the people sitting at the table next to us smiled at our cheerfulness. we left a biggish tip for ‘snake’ and did it absolutely ungrudgingly, even though she hadn’t really done anything special. there are some meals one just remembers because of the food+company+atmosphere+whatever, and this was one of those. i loved it.

cheering the walkers when they came in was very emotional and wonderful. if you ever see the last day of a three-day or an aids walk or something, you’ll notice many people are wearing sunglasses. this isn’t for eye protection, folks, it’s because everyone’s crying. imagine having walked so far and so much, and being tired, and glad it’s all over, and then turning into the last stretch and beholding all those crowds of people, stretched out on either side of your path for as far as you can see, all cheering you on. my palms were actually painful after cheering people on for hours nonstop, but miraculously my voice was fine, so i used that whenever possible! i mentioned in my 1 august entry that donna couldn’t stop weeping during the cheering because walkers kept coming up to her and hugging her and saying, ‘i did it for you!’ since she was wearing her ‘survivor [of breast cancer]’ shirt. i cried every time that happened, and i cried every time i saw pictures of loved ones stuck to their shirts, or names people had written on their shirts, or other people carrying banners, just everything, it was so moving.

i think the most poignant moment didn’t involve a survivor or anyone with names or pictures or a banner anywhere. this woman was middle-aged, a little on the plump side, and she looked very tired and very glad to be near the end of the walk. well, as luck would have it, at the precise time at which she arrived, there were no other walkers either in front of or behind her, so she walked through the crowds by herself. when she first turned in she looked ready to drop with fatigue and totally ready to cry, but when she saw and heard all of us cheering for her alone (and we cheered just as loudly for single people as we did for large groups!), she absolutely overflowed with tears. she kept walking but it was hard because she was shaking from all her crying and she was embarrassed about it and tried to cover her face with her hand. a crew member ran out and hugged her… i cried so hard at that moment. i wonder what that woman’s story was, whether her decision to walk had been based upon tremendous personal struggle or the struggles of close friends or family members with breast cancer, or whether she was just emotional from all the fatigue and kindness. either way, it was quite a moment.

i think it’s important to know, if anyone is at all interested in doing this, that from my experience at least, the three-day helps the people who participate in it just as much as it helps those with breast cancer. if anyone is wondering why this kind of event is valuable — why don’t we just skip the event’s expenses and donate all that money straight to the cause instead — i would say that it’s not just the cause, it’s about finding a cause in your own life and learning about what people can do to help each other. it’s giving and receiving at the same time, and it’s a whole lot easier and more meaningful to get that from seeing breast cancer survivors and experiencing this event, than it is from writing a check and mailing it to some organization far away.

i’ve mentioned that i was skeptical of the rhetoric when i signed up for this, because it seemed so new-agey-idealistic, like a ploy designed to make people feel heroic and get them to do this. well, maybe that’s true. but there’s a lot of truth in it, too. the safety video told us to imagine a world where people are genuinely kind to one another, and then to imagine that we could make such a world come true. ‘right,’ i thought, ‘people will go there and feel kind and compassionate during the event, and then they’ll go right back to their everyday lives and be impatient and intolerant and everything all over again.’ i guess that’s unavoidable. people aren’t used to being patient, tolerant, and kind, not in the way we ought to be. people aren’t prepared for the kind of patience and tolerance and kindness i experienced during the three-day. i wasn’t prepared for it. but it has definitely changed me. i compare it a little to smiling at strangers on the street. you walk down the street, and try not to make eye contact with the people walking in your direction. if you happen to make eye contact, do you smile? not always. they don’t either, not always. why not? maybe this is just me, but i didn’t smile because i was afraid they wouldn’t smile back. it’s a rejection, not being smiled at. your smile is a simple, tentative gesture of goodwill, and when it’s not returned, you feel a little tiny bit worse about yourself or at least a little tiny bit less cheerful. what if you knew everyone you smiled at would smile back at you? wouldn’t you smile? during the three-day, i smiled. i got smiles back. it was liberating, smiling at everyone i met. and i won’t say the change wasn’t in me. maybe the simple act of deciding that i would smile, regardless of what i got back, was enough to bring a new something to my smile. at any rate, it’s that kind of atmosphere that i enjoyed during the three-day, that made the whole idea of a world of kindness seem so amazing and attainable and no longer some marketer’s strategy. one of pallotta’s slogans is ‘humankind. be both.’ kind of cheesy, but what a beautiful world it really would be if everyone was both…

i always thought i was a great person before i did the three-day. i thought i was kind, and i know that i was. i thought i was patient, and i know that i was. i thought i was tolerant, and i know that i was. i can’t explain exactly how the three-day took my view on kindness and changed it totally, but i went from an unusually kind person to a person who now sees kindness not as a trait but as a way of life. i think there’s a lot of truth in my observation that people aren’t prepared for this kind of kindness. there’s a lot of cynicism. i’m still a cynic about some things. i really don’t know how to explain this. it’s a combination of everything about those three days that changed me. would it make it any more clear if i started just listing some of those things? i already have, i know. part of it is being the recipient of such kindness from everyone i met. a random bit of a yummy brownie, a random hug, a smile. part of it is the realization that we all had to be kind and patient in order to make this work. part of it is being appreciated. being called a ‘nice lady.’ part of it is appreciating others’ work. smiles on the faces of the food service crew. that same brownie, that same hug, these little things just became so much more important during the three-day. we were all displaced from our normal comfort zones, and when you enter any new and potentially scary situation with other people, two things can happen. everyone can stay apart and think their own thoughts and be scared separately, wondering if they’re doing the wrong thing. or everyone can enter it together, all doing their best to put everyone else at ease. it’s a remarkable chain effect. someone is kind to you, and you are so grateful, so you pass that kindness on and you see that person’s grateful response. i don’t know. i still can’t explain it. the best i can say is that it has changed me and my view on kindness.

i’m more daring than i was. not in big ways. i still wouldn’t skydive. but in little ways that make a big difference. showing me what’s truly important in a way that i’d never seen before. things like waiting in line are not a problem for me anymore. what’s the point of getting irritated over something like a line? does this sound very zen-yoga-meditation-tranquillity to anyone else? i feel very tranquil, very at peace with the world, that’s one way to put it. it’s so comforting to know that i’ve got an unconditional support group of people from all over, and that we all supported each other even when we were strangers. i feel a lot more respectful of other people, and i appreciate things a lot more.

i want to give.

if at possible, i want to crew again next year. i think i’m going to save walking for some time when i have more time and money, but maybe i can try to fundraise anyway. and i want as many of my friends and family to do it, too, as i can possibly convince. there’s just no way i can express in words how valuable this experience is, so i hope that i will be able to get people to overcome their natural inertia and their doubts and their busy schedules in order to do this.

when we arrived at day zero, registration, they told us that they thanked us already, even though we hadn’t done anything yet. they congratulated us because we had already done something great — we had made the commitment to do this. in a world as hectic as ours, i understand that that really is an achievement. i wanted to back out, myself, so many times, just because it would have been so much easier and more convenient not to do anything. cancer is not convenient. cancer is not easy. that’s what kept me from backing out, actually. i went into this because i told myself that people with cancer can’t back out, and who was i to be so selfish as to back out of something as simple as giving up three days of my life for the benefit of others who are fighting for every new day of theirs?

i hope that once i start trying to get people to sign up for this — that they will understand this same point, if that’s what it takes to get their involvement — that people will overcome those doubts and commit and find themselves changed and amazed at the change when it’s all over.

[note, 4/10/14: Imported from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com.]