Fear is my least favorite emotion. Unfortunately, I feel it all too often: feel of failure, fear of the unknown, and, most often, fear of falling. This time of year, the roads get slick with rain and wet leaves, the wind gusts, and there are days when my morning 3.5 mile ride to work is spent desperately clutching the brakes of my bike, hoping that I don't hit that bad patch or unexpected opening car door and go down.
Earlier this fall, I was "softly doored." Getting "doored" is my and every cyclist's nightmare: riding fast down on the right side of the road near parked cars, and one of those car doors opens without time to swerve and bike hits door, with the cyclist usually taking the brunt of the accident; severe injuries are usually the result. My experience was much less brutal. I was riding through crowded evening traffic - early fall, so still daylight - in the bike lane on the left side of 4th ave in the heart of downtown Seattle. I was going no more than 10 mph when I saw the passenger door of a taxi open into the street in front of me. I saw the door open with time to react: I slammed on my brakes, yelled, and when I fell, I don't think it was due to impact with the door, just the quick stop without time to clip out of my petals. I was lucky and the car behind me saw me fall and stopped. As I quickly got up, a few shocked pedestrians asked if I was okay while the idiot who was getting out of the cab (into traffic - who does that when one can get out of the backseat of the cab onto the sidewalk?) just stared at me dumbly as if puzzled as to why a bike was trying to crash into his cab. I wasn't really hurt, some very minor scrapes and bruises, but was shaken and sore (from the panicked stop) for days afterwards.
Last night I tripped and fell as Jeff and I were trotting through our neighborhood (in the dark, slippery streets) to catch a bus. The worst part is when I start to fall - the worst result flashes through my mind, and the fear sets in. The landing is always just a shock; there is rarely pain at first. The taste of blood in my mouth makes me wonder if I bit my tongue or broke a tooth. I get up and try to figure out if I'm okay. Wet patches on my knees and my shin. Sore hip where I took some of the fall. The wet on my knee is just mud, the shin hurts more. Hands and elbows took a beating as well, but hands aren't bleeding. Turns out the shin was the worst of it; good thing I'm wearing old blue jeans and sneakers; they soak up most of the blood until I can get to a drug store. Again, no serious injuries (although the shin will have a very nice scar), but the shakiness and fear afterwards and the internal berating - how could I be so stupid?
There should be a point to all of this. The fear is the worst part, never the fall. If only there were a way to avoid the fear. What could I achieve if I didn't get so scared and neurotic? I keep biking to work despite the rain and wind and stupid, taxi-riding tourists. I swim in open water despite the liklihood of a kick to the face from another athlete. I keep going to work even though my work doesn't always make everyone happy and sometimes fails to fully deliver. I do these things through the fear, despite the fear, perhaps because of the fear. The more I fall and get back up again, the easier it is.