There’s one image from Monday’s early morning Shamrock Shake that sticks out in my mind.
Living just a few miles from the epicenter, we were awakened by some serious rocking and rolling that jolted everyone instantly awake.
The Corgi had been sleeping on the floor next to my side of the bed. At the first jolt, though, she flew to the foot of the bed and, adopting her best firmly planted, I-shall-not-be-moved-by-man-or-God stance, bravely barked out a warning about the earthquake. As if we were somehow unaware of that our bed and building were shaking around us.
Still, this is a dog that takes her self-appointed guard duties very seriously. And she took it upon herself to let everyone within hearing range know that something was very, very wrong.
And in this case, that hearing range was undoubtedly a several block radius.
She did not cower. She did not flinch. She did not hesitate.
Then as soon as the shaking stopped and we’d gathered our wits about us, she came back up into the bed and buried her head into my chest, remaining there until we got up a couple hours later, since my wife had the morning off.
Clearly, she’d been terrified and turned to me for comfort. Which is understandable, since at seven years old, this was the first serious earthquake she’s experienced.
But she overcame that fear to do what she felt was her duty, barking out her warning until the shaking stopped.
And I found myself thinking how many times we do just the opposite, allowing a little fear to stop us from what we want or need to do.
Whether that’s riding in traffic, commuting to work or school, tackling that hill or speaking up in front of government groups to demand safer streets.
In years past, my problem was just the opposite.
I was a human kamikaze, throwing myself headfirst into whatever bike-borne whim struck a nerve and worrying about the possible consequences afterwards. From light-free rides through the Colorado plains illuminated only by the moon, to bombing down a mountain pass in pre-helmet days, passing startled drivers on the right as if they were standing still. And knowing one stray piece of gravel could be catastrophic.
More than once I paid the price. But still, if there was a chance, however slight, I took it.
That changed the day I got married. And realized that there was someone counting on me coming back home again from every ride.
It changed even more the first time she picked me up from the ER after a failed ride, and I realized I never wanted to see that look on her face ever again.
As a result, I became more conservative in my riding. I now wait for a clear space in traffic instead of shooting through a gap if I’m reasonably sure I can probably make it. I feather my brakes on a downhill to control my speed, rather than hoping no one pulls out in front of me at the bottom.
And I no longer turn with my knee just inches off the ground in absolute confidence in my abilities and a smooth and dry road surface.
Because if I get it wrong, the cost could be too damn high. And not just for me.
I have a wife and dog that depend on me.
Yet over the course of the past several years, I, like so many others, have been battered by the absurdities of life and an uncaring economy. And that caution has sometimes turned into a trembling reluctance and experienced-based fear of taking unnecessary risks.
And not just on the bike.
Yet the funny thing about fear is that most of the things we worry about will never happen. And those that do are usually nowhere near as bad as we’d feared.
Even if the worst occurs, we can usually withstand far more than we think we can.
It’s been a hard few years for a lot of us. But I hope you’ll join me in recommitting to confront the fears that hold us back, and keep us from attempting, let alone accomplishing, the things we desire most.
So let’s try to be like that brave little dog. And focus on doing what needs to be done in the moment.
Then deal with our fears after it’s over, instead of letting them keep us from even starting.
“It’s better to make a mistake with the full force of your being than to carefully avoid mistakes with a trembling spirit.”
— Dan Millman