Fear is a funny thing. We run from the idea of it, hiding behind pretense, lies. We sit sedately in our armchairs, in our pods, cornered by inertia. We surround ourselves with things, stuff, blinkers and tweeters, invisible things, words on screens, whispers across airwaves. We pretend at fear.
We manufacture horrors. Drama. If we should breastfeed. If the kids should walk to school. Epidurals. Peanuts. Weed. Small terrors, things that once would have worried us in passing that now engulf us. Inside we become shrunken, slivers and shadows of who we should be. Of what we could be, wrapped up as we are in HFCS or local produce.
Who would we be, before? If we were explorers, or hunters, dancers or willful neglect in the air-who would we be? What would we have discovered before we lulled ourselves into half measures, drooling children of a forgetful world?
Who would we be?
This weekend, with some gentle prodding, and slightly too much information, my lover took me for my first motorcycle ride.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. I tried to pretend I wasn’t, but he looked in my eyes and softly said “You’re scared.” I was. I was freaking terrified. Heart in my throat freaking out, distracting myself with instructions and the necessary clothing. My fingers scrabbled against my palms and I became quiet. Unnaturally so.
But I swung my leg over the beast. I settled myself on the back of that bike, clutched at his back, and swallowed hard. Slapped down the visor and breathed again.
And we were off.
I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t nearly puke my ever loving guts inside that helmet. I’d be lying if I didn’t spend the short ride reminding myself to relax, that I was safe, that I trusted him and that he would never ever put me in danger. I’d be lying if I said my eyes were always open.
When he asked if I was ok, and I said I wasn’t, we returned home right then. No questions, just a straight line on a bike under his gentle hands, and my unsteady breathing. I climbed off the bike, wavering between wanting to be sick and wanting to cry, so great was my fear. And he was there, to tell me it was ok, that he was proud that I climbed up despite my fear, that I tried.
How I wanted to just sit and cry right then, from my fear, the emotion racing through my veins, the terror, the calm that it was, as expected, ok. How new, and unexpected, this physical fear, the gut jerk as it streamed through me.
I was fine in a bit, as I processed the input. But for a few minutes, maybe 20, I was quiet again, overwhelmed. I had faced my dragon. The dragon didn’t win, and somehow, I felt all the stronger for it.
He pushes me, this lover of mine. Not only did I climb on back of his bike, but I sat in the driver’s seat of his 4WD truck and drove, however briefly. (I was fine until he pointed out not one, but TWO ditches. At that point the fear took over and I freaked out a bit. There may have been some girl screaming involved.)
The main thing here-a few years ago, just sitting in a car as a passenger made me want to cry and be sick all at once, anxiety from no where for no good reason. A few years ago, hell, this time last year, I wouldn’t have even contemplated driving anything. The fear held me like a dancing partner, cheek against mine, caressed me as I stood alone and unwilling, letting it lead.
But my hand on the gear shift told me better. Tightly gripping the wheel, or his back, either way, I had won. The fear didn’t own me anymore, even if I shrieked and refused to drive farther than 30 feet, even if I may have gibbered “get it off me! get it off me! when some strange catepillar landed on me in the woods.
I swallowed fear. And then I danced it outside.
Who would I be, if I hadn’t been so fucking scared for so many years?
He tells me to put my boots on, come outside, come see. I rouse myself from the fire he has stoked for me, and clomp out into the night. My gasp echoes across the fields and empty roads.
The dark sky, alight with thousands of someone else’s suns. The milky way, stretching like a cat. My eyes brim with grateful tears as awe and wonder fill me, and I reach for him.
There are no words to thank with, not for this. Not for beauty, not for strength. And so we stand staring into the past as it glows at us, and I murmur.
When we release our fear, when we stand open, all manner of things are possible.