Olympic Level Worry & Why I Can’t Ride a Motorcycle

The third generation of motorcycle riders, my friends' kid. They love me despite my obvious shortcomings. 

The third generation of motorcycle riders, my friends' kid. They love me despite my obvious shortcomings. 

I am an Olympic level worrier. It makes me a great, albeit annoying, addition to any planning team because I can foresee multiple apocalyptic ends to any endeavor. I’ve apparently been that way since birth because I don’t remember a time when I didn’t do it. I never climbed trees as a girl because I could see just the gap in the limbs that would send me to the hospital. I stalked my favorite veterinarian from Florida to Kentucky after we both moved, and I kept him in my contacts because I trust him and he can talk me off the crazy ledge better than anyone else when something is going on with Charlie. I was once convinced Charlie was dying of fungal infection. Turns out it was reverse sneezing. Who knew there was even such a thing?

I think that it’s this crazy skill that keeps me from being able to ride a motorcycle. I get target fixation which is the kiss of death on a bike. See, riding a motorcycle is all about going with the flow, feeling your way around the turns and curves, looking where you want to go, not focusing on the dangers along the way. It’s this weird zen thing. You have to know the danger is there but not focus on it. You focus on where you want to be because, on a motorcycle, where you look, you go. That whole worry thing? It keeps me focusing in the wrong place. 

I wanted badly to be able to ride a motorcyle. I love driving a fun car, the challenge of hitting a curve just perfectly, whisking across the countryside with good music playing and sunshine dancing on the road, feeling the car do its thing when you drop a gear, hit the accelerator, and turn the wheel.  Riding a bike could only be better because the connection to the mechanics was more intimate. Rider and bike—one mechanism carving down the road. And let’s face it, it’s just cool. I spent hours and hours in a parking lot on my beautiful red Ninja 250 making S-turns and circles, stopping and starting, changing gears and trying to get the overall feel of it. I took a motorcycle safety class. I rode miles and miles in my head visualizing the motions. I read books on how to be a good rider. And then it was time to try my first ride on the road. With traffic. And real turns. And danger. 

I made it about 100 yards.

Seriously. 100 yards. Top of the line helmet? Check. Reinforced jacket and pants? Check. Steel framed boots? Check. Experienced riders to help run interference and make sure I don’t die? Check. (I did say I was an Olympic level worrier...) 

Right turn out of the driveway, across the cross street to practice stop and start and traffic awareness, around the cul-de-sac to get a curve and turn in... and down I go. There was a car parked in the cul-de-sac, and all I could think about was not hitting that car. So the bike and I headed straight for it. It was either hit the car or lay the motorcycle over because somehow just stopping wasn’t happening. 

I walked home.

My hunny and my friends cleaned up the mess I left behind, and I ran for two hours straight so that in my exhaustion I couldn’t destroy the house. I was determined to destroy something, and I would heal more easily than the house. Riding a motorcycle is the only thing I have ever found that I absolutely could not do. (I do a lot of things crappily with joy, but they aren’t life threatening.) That rankled me for a long time. How can one be a cool super hero when she can’t ride a motorcycle? And I have completely eliminated one efficient mode of transport in the zombie apocolypse. 

Now, years later, I can see how amazing it is that I am so charmed that I get to do all of the things I can do, even if I don’t do them perfectly. 

And I can see the life lessons in the experience. Worry and focusing on the obstacles has a way of derailing us in other areas of life as well. So often we have dreams and goals from which we are separated by years of work or geographical boundaries or mounds of self-doubt, and we cast those aspirations aside because all we can see are all the reasons why it’s too hard. We concentrate on why we can’t instead of how we can

I think sometimes the magic happens with a shift in perspective, when we change our focus to where we’re going, not the things that can derail us along the way. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to ride a motorcycle, and I’ve come to terms with that fact. What I can do, though, is keep an eye on my other dreams... and drive a badass car. 


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