“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
― Winston Churchill
Sometimes, my brain gets on an ethereal or emotional area and plagues me for days with the search for a deeper understanding. I will have dreams about it. Read articles. Attempt to provide myself with knowledge of experts, then seek to develop my own interpretation.
For example, the ideas of what attract two people to each other, what keeps them together, and why? I’m not just talking about romantic love or marriage, but friendship at all levels; from mere acquaintances to the “soul mate” figure, if there even is one. That will have to be a topic for another time.
Because right now, and for the last several weeks, it has been a study of fear. I can’t say it started when I consumed the novel “Divergent,” but that certainly was a catalyst for additional thought processes. You see, in the book the main character is trained in “bravery,” which they seem to define as the absence of fear or the repression of it to the point where it no longer influences your actions.
It got me thinking about my own fears. What are they, and why do I have them? Do they stem from historical events in my own life, from my own insecurities, or something beyond, inherent within this life, this person, that is “me?”
I can’t say that I have a full-compiled list – because I also believe there are different levels of fear, different types, just as there are a variety of definitions of “love.” Or even “IN love.” But to name a few they are: losing one or all of my children, being unable to provide for said children (seems like a catch-22 that one, eh?), physical injury, stigmatization.
So today on the trail I was riding with a group of absolutely incredible women. We organized the ride through the Singletrack and Skinny Tire Sisters of Western Colorado Facebook page. The plan was intermediate-advanced riders headed to Horsethief Bench to practice “drops.” In other words, riding our bikes off of ledges ranging in 12-48″ in height.
I had asked for this session, thought I was mentally prepared, and I even wore my “Fearless” shirt to encourage myself. But the stars weren’t aligned, and my mental confidence shirked right from the start. Being one of the older riders I felt I had to present myself well, which meant I thought I would be held to a higher standard, which meant instead of being relaxed and confident, I was self-conscious and insecure. Not a good combination for excellent performance on the bike.
We rode, and I tried a couple of things, but couldn’t get my speed up, couldn’t face the fear and ride the drops. The other women: awesome! I totally watched them take the terror and override it. About 15 minutes in, it was clear my mojo was off and in an attempt to excuse myself I embraced negativity. Sara called me out on it and I was able to see how self-centric I was being – something I hate and am working always to combat.
After that, I was able to relax a little more and tried some things that I hadn’t before with success. I still stretched my comfort zone and that’s what was important.
With all the stopping and starting, it got late quickly, so Sara and I had to leave the girls to it and ride out to meet her husband and pick up her kids. That’s when I was finally able to relax and ride to the best of my abilities. And it was perfection: the trail perfectly moist, the lighting cutting through the clouds to bring the cliffs to a blush, the grass a melodious shade of green, and riding with Sara who I genuinely like and feel like I can be myself around.
So it makes me wonder, how much of fear can really just be conquered by acceptance and relaxation? I’m going to experiment: practice meditating on dropping my bike and instead of feeling sheer terror, being confident and relaxed, and even joyful. Each night as I lay and drift into sleep, I’m going to do some visualization, see if I can’t combat this fear where there really is no need to fear! My body knows what to do, I am physically capable, I just need to…do it!
And I have the encouragement and example of like-minded women. Awesome.
Elisa Jones is currently the chairman of the board of the Grand Valley Trails Alliance. She has degrees in science, music and business, but most of all she considers herself a teacher. A mother of three, she is an avid trail runner and mountain biker who gets her kicks practicing yoga, advocating for strong schools and indulging in dark chocolate.