Friday, November 13, 2015

Fear is a choice

"Fear is not real.  It is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me.  Danger is very real.  But fear is a choice." (Will Smith -as Cypher Raige -After Earth)

My first post in August at the beginning of my bike riding journey talked about my fears. Other posts I have created since then have reiterated those fears and identified new ones. It seems as though a new fear has cropped up for me time and again.  I remember being a kid and being seemingly unafraid of anything.  As I grew up, fears started to creep in.

With fear comes obstacles.  If I am afraid of doing or experiencing it, I don't try.  I freeze in place.

Colonel Chris Hadfield has a phenomenal Ted Talk about fear.  He was an astronaut that flew space shuttle missions to the the International Space Station.   He talked about facing, and overcoming, your fears.  Experiencing them, sometimes over and over again, to get past the fear.  His example, initially, was about spiders and spider webs.  It boiled down to setting yourself up to experience going through as many spider webs as possible until they were no longer a 'thing' for you.  (The rest of his talk is truly amazing - you should check it out).

That made sense to me.  I thought about it over and over that day.  Apparently it made a really big impression on me.  I had dreams about spider webs all night that night.

His point was to experience the thing you fear (the danger you perceive) so many times that your response is fine tuned.  When you encounter that danger, you can choose how to respond because your experience has taught you what to do to make it through.

Without realizing it, I have been accomplishing this on my rides.  I used to be afraid of going downhill.  I needed to control the speed.  Not having that control made me afraid that I *might* hit something and wreck because I was going too fast.

Now I have a hill that I call my 'guilty pleasure' hill.  I hit it pedaling as hard as I can and shifting as high as I can to go as fast as possible.  It is just plain exhilarating.   To be sure it is dangerous.  I have nearly been hit by cars on that particular street while I was just trying to ride the road normally.  That sits in the back of my head as I turn on to that street.  I feel my senses become heightened as I am looking for traffic all around me.  But I am not afraid.  

Do not get me wrong.  I have not conquered my fears.  Not by a long shot.  

But I am learning that I can.

I have ridden 449 miles in 61 rides.
My number is 236.  (I have also learned to accept the scale's verdict at face value and not challenge it.)

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