A Cacophony and The Clam Slam

clam slam Moab

A redhead, a bike, a desert. Moab – October 2012

Last night, I went to a yoga class for the first time in nearly six months. Aside from confirming that I am currently about as flexible as the fixtures at Stonehenge, I climbed into my car and mid-way home found myself in tears.

Maybe it’s the relief of being home for an entire month before taking another business trip. Maybe it’s the litany of shit we deal with as humans on top of the two months of the nonstop here-and-there-and-OMG-TSA-don’t-touch-me-there routine.

Maybe it’s just that crying feels good every now and then and it doesn’t mean you’re sad. It means you have to give yourself a fucking break every now and then and stop relying on yourself to be Stonehenge. Be vulnerable. Say you can’t. Ask for help.

And in all honesty, maybe I was just finding myself hungry after having committed to a major dietary change and mourning the loss of bacon from my diet.

Life sends us a cacophony of sounds at every turn and we’re the ones tasked with listening. Tears, I’ve found, are pretty damn useful listening tools. As is mountain biking. So if you’ll humor me, I’ll take you on a journey through my cacophony — my life’s current playlist. It’s filled with lyrics, clay, carbon fiber, laughter, lewd turns of phrase, friends, and a seemingly disjointed playlist…that all comes together in the end. And I do promise to explain The Clam Slam.

Leaving Dodge

On Thursday afternoon last week, I returned from a week in San Jose. On Friday morning at 7AM, I climbed into my Loaner Husband’s car (and many thanks to my friend Jenn for loaning me her hubby for the weekend) and headed for Moab, UT. It was the last trip — the holy waxen seal on countless weeks spent hither and yon — and one entirely for me. I spent the weekend mountain biking at a festival called Outerbike and rode 8 different mountain bikes over 2 days. Now, here’s where I tell you that I’m a pretty shitty mountain biker. I can rock a downhill MTB course having spent 2 seasons on the ski lifts in Winter Park, but when it comes to cross country action and pedaling UP and over shit instead of bombing down past it, my skills are in need of development. Nonetheless, I’m game for pretty much anything.

The trail conditions were varied and there was plenty for a noob like me to partake of. On the first day (Saturday), we did a gorgeous loop and after we all had switched out our bikes for the next demo model, we headed out over what I’ll call The Beach. That’s Erika-speak for a shitload of sand, not a lot of traction, and a narrow ass single track trail filled with rocks on top of the sand. About 15 minutes into our ride, I see my friend Kate up ahead bent over her bike. I inquire. She informs me that she missed clipping her pedal and her Lady Region met with the top tube of her bike in a hasty fashion.

This, my friends, is what I dubbed The Clam Slam.

Thankfully, I did not become acquainted with The Clam Slam personally over the weekend’s course, but for all of the men out there who think that women don’t know what it feels like to get a swift kick to the groin — just remember: Clam Slam. And we beg to differ.

As I’m not as advanced a biker as my friends, I spent some decent alone time on the trails, riding alone and…breathing. Jesus Christ, remember breathing? On Sunday morning, I found myself zipping along the back to the Bar M trail surrounded by complete silence except for the beating of my heart and the sound of my tires crunching the terrain. “Why don’t I do this more often?” I thought. “I really do love it.” Giving myself permission to take time off is hard, especially when I’m the one looking at my calendar/at my bank account/at my calendar/at my bank account. Sometimes I think that giving myself permission costs me money. What it really costs me though, is times like these — when I can hear my heart beat. When will I start giving myself more permission?

Someday I’ll Get the Nerve

To walk up to you and say/This is the last worthless evening/That you’ll have to spend

Do you keep waiting for someone else to walk up to you and tell you that you don’t have to do the shit that doesn’t feel good anymore? I have. I’ve been there. Waiting for that Richard Gere character rolling up with his head sticking out of a white limo at the times in my life when I need him most. But what I’ve realized in 39 years (with #40 knocking fervently and impatiently on the door) is that I’m the person in the white limo. If I never get the nerve to tell myself that the worthless evenings, bullshit days, shitty relationships, crappy business deals, and life spent walking on eggshells are all at an end, then I’ll never live the life I’m meant to live. I’ll never be surrounded by the people who I want to spend my days around because my life is full-up with time-wasters, soul-suckers, and other things and people that steal from me.

I’ve always loved Don Henley and hearing this made me at first wistful at the sound of his voice and then angry. Deliverance from all that is evil in your life can’t be had by someone who walks up to you and says that THIS, right here, is the last worthless moment you’ll ever have to experience. That, my friend, is all you. You’re the only one who can decide where you’ll spend your time, heart, and energy. And it pisses me off to think of all the years I spent in my life waiting for someone to tell me it’s okay to leave the bullshit behind. Our heads get filled with the sounds of so many who tell us we can’t/shouldn’t/couldn’t/won’t — and we’re the only ones who can slay the n’ts. Decide to be who we’re going to be instead of following a path designed by everyone else. It takes a big sword and a pair of balls, but in the end…

This is it, Boys, this is War

Why don’t we break the rules already?
I was never one to believe the hype – save that for the black and white
I try twice as hard and I’m half as liked, but here they come again to jack my style

I try twice as hard and I’m half as liked…isn’t that the fucking truth? If you need an anthem to move your ass out of where you are into where you need to be and are tired of waiting for permission, remind yourself that we all have Some Nights. There isn’t a single motherfucker on the face of the planet who has it all figured out. Who knows where to go next. We’re all in the same boat — taking the next step and wondering if we’re going to fall off the cliff or find solid ground. And if you’re unsure of where to go next, maybe this will help. It helps me and I have no doubt you’ll find your own way if this isn’t it for you.

1. Close your laptop (after you’re done reading this post, of course).

2. Sit on the floor. Not a chair. Not the sofa. The floor. The harder, the better.

3. Close your eyes.

4. Count to five.

5. Take the deepest breath you’ve ever taken in your life.

6. Count to five again.

7. Ask yourself, “What must I do?”

And there’s your answer. Or the first step towards your answer. We’re the most honest with ourselves when we let ourselves breathe. Nothing great has ever come from hesitation. No brilliant memory has ever come from the words, “I should have.” We never have it all figured out and control is a myth. An illusion. And we’d do better, I think, to remind ourselves that everyone around us is…

Still trying to figure this crap out

Thought I had it mapped out but I guess I didn’t, this fucking black cloud
Still follows, me around but it’s time to exorcise these demons
These motherfuckers are doing jumping jacks now!

I’m not afraid
To take a stand
Come take my hand
We’ll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just letting you know that, you’re not alone
Holla if you feel like you’ve been down the same road

And so we’ve come full circle. From being overwhelmed to finding the moments you’ll only experience if you make room in your life for them. The commitment to stop asking for permission and grab life by the short hairs and jump, because there is no one in this world who has any more of it figured out than you do. In retrospect, it would seem that I needed to bend yesterday in order to prevent an impending breaking and my tears — both ones of laughter from over a wicked fun weekend in Moab and those spilled in the car post-yoga — were a necessarily lubricant so my soul could slip and slide instead of being stuck in the place I’d crammed it.

There’s so much noise — this cacophony of sound that fills our world, our lives. I think the best we can do is take a moment and listen…and know that the Clam Slams happen yet we will live to ride another day. If we don’t? We can go knowing that it was a beautiful ride.

And we took a path that was worthy of us — instead of spending a lifetime doubting whether we were worthy of taking it.


Stacey Poor
Stacey Poor

It's almost as if I were meant to read this! I have recently made some changes in my life, deciding to get rid of everything and every one who makes me miserable. Man I am happy these days! So, to read your words makes me realize I really did the right thing. And beside, I am pretty happy now, so how could it be wrong? :) Thanks for being so real. Really. And Clam Slam. I love it. Totally hilarious!

Ali Randall
Ali Randall

I think this is one of your best posts yet. Thank you for reminding me to take a moment to stop and listen.

Amanda Bledsoe
Amanda Bledsoe

Excellent message. I was just telling my husband last night that I don't feel worthy; thanks for reminding me that doubting myself is the only thing making that true. And it's been an ongoing process over the last few years for me to give myself permission to let go of the things/people that drag me down. Not easy, but so worth it. P.S. I love the song lyrics you've chosen to make your point.

Jennifer Kane
Jennifer Kane

As a former gymnast from back in the day, I should note that the clam slam also occurs when you jump, miss and then crotch a balance beam. And yet, I know first hand that if you jump back up and finish the routine with a big ass smile, you can still get a pretty awesome score from the judges. :)

Cassie Witt
Cassie Witt

Wow, one of the best things you've ever written, I believe. I have tears in my eyes. I am definitely in the same spot. Though, do we ever really get out of it? As you said we're forever just trying to take the next step. Sometimes we fall and sometimes we don't. It's not always an easy ride and sometimes we all experience the clam slam, unfortunately... Here's to taking the path that is worthy of us. :)

Bill Dorman
Bill Dorman

Deliberate living; that's what you need and sounds like you are trying to get your arms around it. We are all just trying to find our way.........


Epicly awesome. As you do. Now excuse me while I forward this to several friends who ugently need to read this and get on with their true lives. Love you xoxo <3

Jeff Harbert
Jeff Harbert

Ouch. And yes, remember to breathe. I've been cutting ties with the, "You're not good enough," and "You can't do that," forces (which are, too often, people) in my life. Feels damn good, let me tell you. Shit's finally been happening, too. Coincidence? Nope.

Brett Henley
Brett Henley

Man ... I'd say "boom" right now, but somehow it just feels like bunting off a tee. Heavy and dramatic slow clap for this one. In a all honesty, been a hot minutes since I've visited this cave of epic sharing, but this post made up for the absence, ten fold. Thank you for reminding us of the shit that should be obvious - if we could just slow down once in awhile and realize that this dysfunction is the collective kind. All ships rise with the tide of "holy hell, this life thing is crazy."

Tanya Storm
Tanya Storm

I have personally experienced quite a few clam slams - usually into the headset, not the top tube. They make this little think that goes on the headset that I like to refer to as "the coochie pad". It makes it more of a "clam bomp" which is not so bad. Loved the rest of your article too - excellent reminder - as I don't get to breathe all that much most days. Looking forward to an in-person account this weekend!

Jim Brochowski
Jim Brochowski

I don't know why because I am not easily offended, but the "clam slam" for me really almost buried your message. First time that's every happened to me. Really. Thankfully, I kept reading. You're right of course about giving ourselves permission and figuring out "what we must," but it's hard to get around sometimes when you have mouths to feed or a partner to explain to. Not impossible, but certainly not as easy as when it's just you. Or maybe not... That was just my immediate reaction.