Have you ever loved something so fiercely that if anyone were to take it away from you, you’d actually entertain the thought of getting murdery on them?
What if this thing you ate, slept, and breathed for years of your life was slowly stripped from you, not by someone else, but some dark, insidious force you were somehow not strong enough to withstand?
Let’s Talk About Fear
Last year I wrote a post about how I fell in lust with riding motorcycles eight years ago and dove in head-first with the enthusiasm of a two-year-old hopped up on a box of Pixy Stix.
And how, eventually, that love had all but disappeared; fizzled and seeped out my broken seams leaving me tattered, flat, and depressed.
Or so I thought, until I wrote this post. Let me ‘splain.
Three years ago, on an easy warm-up lap before a race at Grange Motor Circuit, an expert rider made a bad pass, a bonehead maneuver, and ran into my front tire with his rear tire. My crash was instant, violent, and scrambled my brain like a paint mixer.
In the previous year, I’d had many other on-track crashes leading up to this one, but that was the straw that broke me. Fear left me stuck in the pit with a nasty concussion, gnarly contusions, and an empty box of Pixy Stix.
That magical feeling of freedom, of speed, of control that I’d experienced and honed for years on my motorcycles had simply packed up and U-Hauled-ass out of town.
At the time I just thought fear had won, it had taken over and made nothing on the bikes, big or small, fun anymore. So I stopped, because when you ride motorcycles as much as and in the manner I did with my friends, you need to be having fun or it’s just not worth the risk.
Here’s The Part I Didn’t Understand Till Now
In those last few months before I stopped riding altogether, not only had fear reared its ugly head, but my pride had taken a severe bashing with all the crashing I was doing. Each time I went down (which was basically every time I went out to the track) it rattled my confidence and made me feel like I didn’t know what the hell I was doing anymore.
I pushed too hard trying to improve because it seemed like all of my friends were getting better and faster and I was just standing still. All that pushing inevitably resulted in more crashing, ripping open more seams to drain the love out and invite frustration in.
I’m all for self-improvement, but when your competitive side takes your joy by the throat and chokes it till all you’re left with is fear, you may have a problem.
Riding went from love to work in the five years I’d spent constantly on the bike developing my skills. I reached a tipping point where the return on my investment was not worth my investment anymore.
Stuck in the mediocrity of my own skills, no matter how hard I tried, I was not improving and I couldn’t work past that hump.
And that, my friends, was the real problem.The fear was my excuse not to do it anymore. Click To Tweet
But the root problem was my ego.
Perfectionism – 1 / Joy – 0
For the last three years I’ve been trying to find my way in the dark back to that place of excitement and wonder, the thrill I first felt when I threw a leg over, heading out to another session at the track or out on another adventure through the twisties with my friends.
And it’s Just. Not. Happening.
So maybe the truth is – and this is hard to say out loud – that I simply don’t want to do it anymore because I can’t be the best.
Now, this may not seem like a big deal to you, but for those five years (and even the three subsequent ones) my life, my identity was entwined in the riding culture. I was a rider, a biker chick, a racer. I was proud of that. I loved the friends I’d made. I’d finally found a place I truly fit in for the first time in my life. I was happy.
Riding was a way in which I was able to define myself definitively. It was also a fabulous topic of conversation at parties and whatnot: “Wow, you ride motorcycles? Cool! Whoa, you race too? Badass!”
I won’t go in-depth about the deeply wrong-headed notion that plagues most, if not all, perfectionists that our worth as human beings is directly linked to our deeds and how well we perform them. I’ll acknowledge that elephant and save it for another post.
Point is, I wanted to be the Queen of Badassery. The fastest girl around. The first girl to get her knee down in the canyon. I was proud of being that Kelly. But…My perfectionism kept blocking my path to joy. And it destroyed my love. Click To Tweet
Does this resonate with you at all?
Let Go Let Flow
So, what comes next?
Well, a few weeks ago, I asked myself – ‘do you really want to do this? – because it’s an important question to ask and I needed to test my theory. I’m pretty sure I heard a distant ‘yes’ somewhere inside me, like the Tin Man talking to Dorothy before he got all oiled up.
So we ventured out to Apple Valley and I rode at UMRA’s Open House with no expectations of not sucking. It was my first time back on that track since my concussion three years ago, so psychologically speaking, it was climbing Mt. McKinley.
I won’t lie, my initial session out felt like I was riding on square tires, backwards, and blindfolded. But as the day wore on, I loosened up a little and the mechanics of riding came back to me. It was just like, well…you know.
Did the heavens open up with glorious angel-song and guide me to a great epiphany? Did I smell that sweet scent of adventure (AKA race gas) and feel the love rushing and gushing back in? Did I load up on Pixy Stix?
I faced my fears, but more importantly, my ego head on that day, and I’m proud of myself for that. If you get nothing else out of this post, I hope that makes sense to you.
Facing your fears is great, but knowing where they’re springing up from is even more important because the fear may only be the symptom of the root cause.
And that root cause, for me, is generally my psychotic need to be perfect and the best at everything I do. When I realize I’m not and I never will be, I tend to fall apart like somebody made a bad pull on one of my Jenga pieces – all tumbling down.
I’m sharing this with you so I can understand it better myself and if you see even a little bit of yourself in this post, you can too.
Maybe we’ll actually do something about it, like loosen the hell up on ourselves, right? Seriously.
No seriously. Let’s all make a pact, right here, right now, to suck. Just suck out loud. And be cool with it.
Because until we get past that wiggy-woggy feeling in our guts that tells us to step away because we’re not living up to our absurdly impossible standards, we’re going to keep beating ourselves up for not making the cut.
What’s worse? We’re going to stop doing the things we love because we’re so damn afraid of being bad it will paralyze, immobilize, petrify us.
This, I’m sad to say, is where I live much of the time with my writing. I’m doing my level best to work through it on a daily, hourly basis.
It’s time to break the cycle. One step, one lap, one word at a time. Break it with me.
In case you’re wondering, I did have fun on the bike that day. When I was enjoying it the most, I felt a subtle twinge of infatuation deep in my gut, which makes me think it ain’t over for me with this bike thing. This go round I’m going to ease into it with no expectations and enjoy it for what it is, instead of what it does or doesn’t make me.
Who knows, I could pass ‘Go’ and head straight to joy all over again. And maybe you will too. I have great hope for both of us. But you’ve got to take that first step.
Here’s some video proof of my fun and my tutu.
Is perfectionism something you struggle with? Does it choke the joy out of anything for you? Has it created debilitating fear in your life? Let’s talk about that in the comments.
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