I rode my bike today. I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it took a lot of effort.
Why was today significant? Six months ago I had bike accident and I haven’t been on a bike since. I made excuses week after week: I am too busy, it’s too hot, it’s rainy, and there is too much traffic. Like so many other things in life, the longer I put off getting back on a bike, the harder got to be.
Back in February I was biking alone on pleasant Sunday morning on my way to meet friends when I hit a rumble strip that was hidden by the shade of a tree. I lost control of the bike and went over the handlebars, landing on my right side and face. Technically I didn’t break anything, unless you count my face.
I was very lucky. Dazed and struggling to breath, people in the neighborhood came to my aid. A man in a taxi van stopped and gave me and my bike a ride to the hospital. He even waited at the hospital until my husband arrived. I was extremely fortunate to have been surrounded by so many kind people willing to help me. I walked away with bruised ribs, serious road rash on my face and contusions on legs and arms. That was the last day I rode a bike.
This morning I turned on my computer like every other morning. Only today it felt like the news of the world was pressing down on me. I contemplated just going back to bed. Then I remembered my “plan” to try and ride my bike this week. Such a small and simple thing. Instinctively I knew that today was going to be the day. I needed to face this fear and take my power back.
I gave myself a 30-minute window for the bike ride. I also did something I normally don’t do. I sent a text to my husband that I was going out for a short ride. I wanted the security of knowing that he knew what I was doing, just in case.
I have to admit it was a little nerve-racking. As I have mentioned in other posts, I live in Tanzania, a country located in East Africa. While our neighborhood could be called the Beverly Hills of the capital, Dar es Salaam, the roads are still uneven and drivers unpredictable. Everything made me nervous, cars, having to stop at corners and navigating dirt roads. But slowly I gained some confidence back.
After 15 minutes I turned around and went home. Mission accomplished. I was proud of myself. I had faced the fear and achieved my goal. I felt empowered.
Being afraid, having fear, is a powerful motivator. Unexamined fear has kept me from pursing a lot of things in my life. Some things have been personal sacrifices, like giving up art because I was afraid of what people thought. I am also afraid of math. I know they are just numbers, and that number on a page can’t hurt me.If I don’t take the time to examine my fears, my fears can quickly rule my life.
The process of riding my bike yesterday was a powerful reminder of this. Examining our fears is difficult and in itself can be scary, but it does not necessarily require big leaps of faith or courage. It can start with simply assessing whether not the fear is physical and present and gradually move toward risk assessment.
Let’s face it, riding a bike is risky. So yesterday I made plan that helped me mitigate the risk and feel more secure. The bike I rode was in good shape and had no technical issues. I made a plan for how long and where I would go, specifically low traffic roads with no rumble strips. I told someone what I was doing. I wore a helmet and brought my phone with me. Even after taking all these steps, it was challenging. I just kept reminding myself of all the precautions I had made and took things slowly.
Overcoming our fears doesn’t happen overnight like it happens on T.V. or in the movies. It takes time and practice. I am still afraid of math, but I do it. I make and maintain budgets. And honestly, a budget hasn’t punched me in the face yet, so I go about trying to face my fears, slowly and deliberately.