And showing her kids how to do life theirs

This week I got a lovely email from a reader who reminded me of why I do what I do. The best part of this is that this particular reader/mom/motorcycle mama is also the perfect example of what it looks like to pull yourself up by the motorcycle bootstraps and get ‘er did even though it’s uncomfortable,which is the whole point. We all carry fears and doubts, me too, and I am forever buoyed by stories of folks who simply say “Yep, I’m not comfy. I’m doing it anyway.”

Photo by Larry Crayton on Unsplash

Medium and Illumination writer Kate Bergeron penned me a note during what has been, so far, a not-so-easy week wherein some fellow writers have been downright ugly (and got blocked), and I didn’t have the best night at aerial silks class last night due to a persistent migraine. We have those nights, those days, those weeks. I can’t speak for you, but when someone like Kate shows up with a kind word, a really great story, those are my lifesavers. That’s precisely why I share them on my feed, and why I want you and everyone else who stumbles onto my stuff to read about folks out there just doing it.

Kate thanked me for my posts. That’s lovely, but this is my thank you to her for lifting my spirits this week. Here is the line that leapt out at me.

I am finally starting to know that fear is ridiculous and that I’d rather get hurt trying something new than to sit on the sidelines.

Slam dunk. Just….slam dunk.

While I wouldn’t in a million years expect anyone else to take the kinds of chances I do, I hope against hope that folks take some kinda chance sometime. Kate’s story is the perfect example of why. Let’s explore that.

When I responded to her note, here’s what she wrote back:

Thank you, Julia, I did. I took a motorcycle riding class. Appointment to get my license is set for November, but plans are in works to buy a bike and start practicing. I have not told my husband or mom that motorcross appeals. I also think I may take a scuba diving class with my 11-year-old.

First, I fell off my office chair laughing. I had told her that I’d learned the hard way to never tell my sainted mother about my latest sport or adventure. For those of us who are subjected to the (reasonable and unreasonable) fears and exhortations of those who love us- or at least say they do- Kate speaks for me. All too often folks spend a great deal of time painting us with THEIR fears rather than shrieking encouragement from the sidelines for us to handle ours.

While on the surface that may seem well-intended, often it ends up putting the brakes on our doing what our hearts most desperately want to do. It’s a balancing act, and in this case, I’m with Kate. When you’ve got kids (or grandkids for that matter) they watch us intently for how to be in life. When they watch us being brave, they learn courage. When they watch us laugh off our pratfalls and failures and injuries, they learn resilience.

When they watch us shrink from life, they learn to play small and live out of fear.

That is why I love folks like Kate, and when I find them, I share them. Kate and people like her remind us how to live.

Here is her story about the motorcycle class:

5 Things I Learned Taking an In-Person Motorcycle Class
Safety course teaches life lessons as well as how to stay alive on the roads

While the article is primarily about the bikes, she delves into a few other things which caught my eye. This in particular:

When I moved to Texas, I was petrified of all the horrible venomous snakes! After talking to new friends, I decided it was in my best interest to learn what those horrible snakes looked like. I figured if we were going to get bitten by snakes, we needed to know if we need to go to the hospital or not. So I joined a local snake identification group. Now I can identify not just cottonmouths and copperheads and at least four different types of rattlesnakes, but also two different types of king snakes, which eat those venomous nope ropes; ratsnakes, which are everywhere and love to climb, and several types of racers.

Photo by Jan Kopřiva on Unsplash

As a Florida native with a big brother, I had “nope ropes” (a great term) wrapped around my neck more often than I could count. I was a tomboy, and you learn fast to play with snakes, spiders, avoid wasps as well as certain kinds of nests. Farm life in the South teaches you that, and my Dad insisted that we learn to identify the poisonous ones. My brother and I used to scare the holy crap out of my mother by putting a corn snake in our beds. When she flipped the covers off us in the morning, there they were. Mom wasn’t amused. However I grew up loving snakes. When I travel, if there’s a boa to wrap around your neck, I am first in line. I can thank my father and brother for that education. It was priceless.

Learning to identify, understand and live peacefully with the world’s fascinating creatures is just responsible. What Kate did was proactive, empowering and bloody well smart. The more we learn, the less we fear.

Photo by Gerald Schömbs on Unsplash

Then finally, this from Kate:

Appointment to get my license is set for November, but plans are in works to buy a bike and start practicing. I have not told my husband or mom that motorcross appeals. I also think I may take a scuba diving class with my 11-year-old.

Nails it. Because once we start to explore what’s possible, it’s astounding how many other things become possible, simply for taking those first tentative steps.

When I was a kid growing up in Central Florida, I loved to swim. One summer in pool classes at the Winter Haven Hotel, another, bigger child held my head under water and very nearly killed me off. After that I was terrified of drowning, and it ended my happy lifelong relationship with water. When I was planning my first big trip overseas to Australia in 1983, I decided to learn to scuba dive. Perhaps the worst of ALL moments was when, standing in the pool, I had to submerge my head with my breathing gear.

Since then I have had plenty of trips, including one off the coast of South Africa where I dove with hammerheads, bull sharks and tens of thousands of porpoise. I had a terrible accident, too, but the solid training I’d received got me out of danger. Scared, sure, but I knew precisely what to do, did it and got to safety.

I did a cage dive with Great Whites off Dyer’s Island, known as Shark Alley, down near Cape Town. I came away from that experience with immense appreciation for those incredible creatures. We hate what we fear. When we learn to appreciate and respect those very things, life opens up for them, and for us.

This precisely underscores what Kate is doing in her life. We learn to deal: with fear, with snakes, with life’s vicissitudes. We embrace those things which scare us. When you and I step into our fears and don’t run from them, but rather explore the difficult outer edges of our comfort zones, life explodes open for us. When we do that with our children, we have just ripped open the boundaries to their futures. Those futures, for us and for our kids, our friends and those who watch us, suddenly become possible.

You and I cannot possibly give ourselves, our kids, our loved ones a greater gift than learning to live more fearlessly.

John DeVore wrote a review about the Tom Cruise hit Top Gun recently, and mentioned this adrenaline-fueled song:

Yesterday as I was driving home from the gym, our local oldies station was playing it. I nearly leapt out of my seat I was so energized. I had so badly wanted to fly fighter jets when I was active duty. Wrong decade, wrong gender. However since that time I have made up for what doors were closed to me in my youth. Blasted my own path. So can you.

While it is so male, so macho, I love that song. I love it because it reminds me, at 68, that I have so much more adrenaline to spend, more adventures to live, more boundaries to leap across. People like Kate, those of my readers who are kind enough to share their stories, regularly remind me that there are so many of us willing to find our danger zones and step into them. I share stories like Kate’s in the hope that you put a tentative toe in the waters of your fears.

You might just end up surfing them.