My younger sister and I haven't always been close, but over the last few years things have really improved. Though we live in two different cities, an hour and a half apart, we're closer than we've ever been.
We don't see each other often, but we call or text almost every day. Sometimes both.
I love reminiscing about our childhood and chatting about our everyday lives. It feels great to be as connected as we are.
Recently our talks have revolved around some health issues my sister's been going through. She's physically struggling with illness, and emotionally struggling with the question of when things are going to get better.
We've all had times like these. I've had many throughout my lifetime. Times where I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel, just darkness I had to feel my way through. I could sympathize.
Desperately wanting to give her some hope that eventually her troubles would be over, I shared a story with her.
Last summer, my husband Mike and I decided to go for an adventure on his motorcycle. We rode up to Ottawa to reconnect with some old friends over a long weekend. The ride was amazing, and so was the rest of the weekend.
Sadly, the fun came to an end when it was time to head home. Mike checked the weather and broke the bad news to me: It was supposed to rain for the entire day.
I was a little nervous, but we agreed there was no way that was going to stop us. We donned our rain gear, hopped on the Harley, and started the journey home.
We didn't feel a drop of rain for the first thirty minutes, but could see dark storm clouds brewing in the distance. "How you doing back there?" Mike asked, his voice coming through the speaker in my helmet.
"I'm good, but those clouds look scary," I responded.
"We're heading into some bad weather, but hopefully it won't be for too long."
Within ten minutes we hit the rain. Actually, the rain hit us. Not a drizzle, not a playful shower, but a fierce, torrential downpour. As the rain fell, so did the temperature. I tightened my arms around Mike.
"We're only about 20 minutes to the first rest stop," he yelled. "Are you okay back there?"
"I'm okay," I said, beginning to feel a little unsure.
The rain beat down on my helmet and bike suit, the sound of it roaring all around me. I couldn't believe how loud it was, giving the motorcycle's engine a run for its money.
When we arrived at the first rest stop, we grabbed a coffee and sat by the window. I stared out at the parking lot and watched Mike's motorcycle get assaulted by the rain. I held my coffee with both hands and savoured its warmth on my skin.
"I've looked at the weather and it doesn't look like the rain is going to let up. Are you good to keep going?" Mike asked, looking up from his phone.
"How far is it to the next rest stop?"
"It's only 86 kilometres and under an hour." He looked out at his bike and then back at me. "We can do it!" he started chanting.
I smiled at him. Of course we could do it.
"Let's do it!"
Minutes into the next leg of our journey, my confidence started to waver. I felt incredibly cold and knew I had many hours of this misery before we got home.
I just wanted to be home. Warm, dry, and safe.
That's when a little voice in my head, my inner Heidi, said, "You can do this! All you have to do is focus on getting to the next rest stop. Don't think about how far home is. Only concentrate on the next 86 kilometres."
So for the next 86 kilometres, I clung to this thought as tightly as I clung to Mike. The distance home didn't seem quite so scary anymore. I couldn't believe it. I'd given myself a pep talk and it actually seemed to be working.
A very short time later, we were sitting in the next rest stop. My rain gear was wet and I couldn't seem to get warm, but I felt quite proud of myself.
Twenty minutes later we were back on the bike. Before we took off I asked Mike how far it was to the next rest stop.
Mike set the odometer. "We only have 87 kilometres to go."
87? That was nothing.
"I can do this," I muttered to myself.
By the time we got to the next rest stop, my clothes were soaked through, my teeth chattered, and the rain felt like a barrage of small rocks pummeling my skin. But sitting there with Mike, I felt resolute in my new outlook, almost eager to confront the storm again. Almost, but not quite.
When we pulled out again I screamed out loud to myself, "It's only 75 kilometres this time, Heidi! You got this!"
Somehow the rain had gotten even heavier, and the wind felt like an arctic gale dead set on blowing us off the highway. But I couldn't let my mind focus on that. I needed a distraction.
I decided to start talking to Mike about everything and anything. We chatted about friends, movies, and our kids. I knew I had to keep talking. His voice was very comforting inside my helmet.
By the time we arrived at the next rest stop, I was shivering so uncontrollably I could hardly sip my coffee without spilling it.
"Are you okay to keep going?" Mike asked.
"I'm fine," I said. My teeth chattered as I spoke.
Mike grabbed my frozen hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "It's only 70 kilometres to the next stop. We're almost home, Heidi."
"How far is it to the house?"
"It's about 120 kilometres," he answered.
I sat for a minute and stared into my coffee cup, watching as the steam floated up and disappeared. I took a deep breath, looked up, and said, "Let's not stop. I can do it!"
As I climbed back on the bike, I knew the next hour and a half was going to be torture. I was soaked, freezing, and exhausted from shivering. But I knew it was mind over matter, and I wasn't giving up. The storm would break before I did.
Ten minutes down the highway Mike asked me how I was doing. I hadn't spoken a word since the last stop, and my jaw was trembling so much I could hardly answer him. "Good" is all I could get out.
As we approached the next rest stop, Mike asked me if I wanted to take one last break. I desperately needed to get warm, but I knew I had to keep going. I answered him with an emphatic NO.
As we drove past the rest stop I felt an amazing euphoria wash over me. I knew the ride was almost over now. My heart started racing. I felt invigorated!
The next forty minutes flew by, and before I knew it we pulled into the driveway.
Home at last. It was over. I did it!
So I told my sister, no matter what circumstance you're dealing with, whether it's a health issue or any other situation life throws at you, you just gotta handle it bit by bit. When you take your problems and break them up into bite sized little chunks, it's amazing how things that were once so daunting can suddenly seem so manageable.
Just live one hurdle at a time, one chapter at a time, one day at a time.
No matter what journey you're on, set your odometer and only focus on getting to the next rest stop. One day you'll arrive at your destination.
Whatever you do, keep riding.
Has this way of thinking ever helped you get past a difficult time in your life? Tell the Army your story!