I pass an elderly man using hiking poles, both of us moving at a snail's pace, coming up on the first switchback. Panic ensues. Bailing, I dismount and walk through it. The breeze and cricket song settle my panic. I get back on my bike and muscle the second two switchbacks. Feeling victorious, I stop to record a meadowlark who's celebrating their own moment. Minutes later, loose trail messes with my mind. Breathing fast, I stop. I can't tell if I'm panicky or just out of breath. Am I afraid or is it just hard work? So it begins, the writing in my head.
Writing in my head seems as old as my memory. Maybe it's the reader in me that likes third person narration. Hard to say. Anyway, my mind takes off on the "am I afraid or is it just hard" question. Fear is an odd thing. Brain stems battle for survival every minute and our brains' amygdalas churn out corresponding emotions. For me, this looks like turning into a hot mess when I'm booking airline tickets and the flight is weeks away. Before you launch into the safety of air travel, I know, I've heard it all. Brain stems are reptilian though. They simply react. (Yes, by the way, I'm thinking this all through on the trail. Ill-advised, to be sure.)
Consoling myself with my propensity for public speaking scenarios that would unglue other people, I keep riding. Mind you, this ride is only an hour even with all my stopping for breath, fear, and thinking. And, for the gazillionth time in my existence, I find myself wishing I was as calm as people think I am. So, I keep teasing apart my reptilian and emotional reactions from how I use my gray matter to respond. Buying time before responding whenever possible. Reminding myself that survival is hardwired by evolution but, thankfully, rarely at stake in my day-to-day. This gap between reacting and response often looks dramatically inelegant and pretty darn human. Just ask Rob. Or, better yet, ask my kids. Evidence abounds.
Still on my bike, a biblical promise pops into my head about perfect love casting out fear - meaning that we are creatures first loved by God who is love.* Now I'm just an 'n' of 1, but this promise seems to muscle its way through my indulgence in instinctive fear. Regardless, my love of riding dirt seems like one more chance to take the promise out for a spin.
*1 John 4:16-18