Those of you who know me or who read my musings may remember that in the last year or so, I decided to Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway and join my husband on the back of his motorbike. It was a big deal for me – I was very afraid at the start but I’ve been having more and more moments when I actually enjoy it!
I’d been out on a few small ‘runs’; some with just the two of us and others with the Dublin Motorcycle Touring Club (DMTC). We rode to Aughrim for breakfast on New Year’s Day this year with the club – cold but fun. We rode the Sally Gap and onto Woodenbridge on ‘Pillion Sunday’ – a very sociable event and another time, I spent almost a full day going around the most amazing countryside in Wexford and Kilkenny. On quiet country roads, there is nothing nicer than being pillion with nothing to do other than take in the beautiful scenery.
So with his long term goal of trips to Europe in mind, Eric suggested we take a trip with some biker friends (that sounds weird even to me) over a long weekend. And so, a three day trip was planned. The trip to Northern Ireland would take in the stunning coastline of Antrim, the beautiful Mourne mountain countryside and the shores of Lough Neagh. So a BIG trip for a newbie biker!
You know the way some people can grab their toothbrush and go – unfazed by 20kg baggage allowances because they fit everything to make themselves look glamorous for two weeks into a tiny carry on suitcase? Well I’m NOT one of them!
I pack, do a cull, then repack, then do another cull and somehow I’m still over the limit. I blame the girl guides… Be Prepared they said…. So I am – for every possible scenario you can think of and even the ones you haven’t thought of yet! I’m sure we will need the proverbial kitchen sink and ever the optimist, I’ll try to squeeze it in! So the first great hurdle facing me was fitting everything I needed for a three day trip into a motorcycle pannier bag!
Thanks to the advice from an experienced pillion (you know who you are!), I did it! Now all I had to do was (1) get on the bike, (2) relax and (3) enjoy the weekend. Well two out of three ain’t bad at the start of the weekend I suppose.
To those of you natural bike riders and pillions, I’m gonna seem strange and perhaps a little weird and I’m okay with that. In a classroom, I’m often the person that raises my hand and says ‘I don’t have a clue’ if I don’t understand. I’m okay with being slow to ‘get’ things because I hate pretending – it’s far too stressful for me. And, I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only pillion who’s felt scared / awkward / uncomfortable / vulnerable / terrified at the start (but I don’t expect you to raise your hands)!
Remember the Fear thing – it doesn’t let go easily. As we set off up the motorway, I began thinking – never advisable on the bike in my opinion as the proceeding thought process will verify! In the space of the first few miles of our adventure, my mind went something like this:
All of the following questions (repeatedly): Was I mad? Was I being irresponsible? Say we had an accident? What about our daughter? Why did I agree to this? Whose idea was this anyway? Would I make the trip awful for the others? Why did I ever agree to this? What possessed me?
All of the following statements (repeatedly): I don’t have good balance. I’ll never get the hang of it. I’ll cause an accident because I’m not good at ‘leaning in and going with the driver’. I’m not cut out for this. I might die. Look at how fast those cars and trucks are going. This is scary. This isn’t fun. Perhaps I should stop holding my breath.
And much much more. So as we journeyed northbound on the motorway and I sat rigid on the back of the bike, I quickly realised that THIS way of being on the bike wasn’t going to work to achieve my intention of having a good time.
So, after a motorway service station interlude and a firm but kind talking to myself, I attempted to get the hang of this pillion thing. So if thinking didn’t do me any favours (all it did was make me scared), perhaps just being in my body and noticing the experience was a better option.
Sounds simple eh? Except that often, it’s not – either on the back of a motorbike or in life in general! So how is it possible when the tendency is to imagine the worst and terrify ourselves in the process?
Perhaps I could make a few suggestions – some words of wisdom from the naïve as it were – road tested to work – literally.
- Start by remembering fun things you do and enjoy. For me it’s giving a speech at Toastmasters but for others it might be dancing or painting. Notice what that feels like in your body and put your attention on that. I feel energised and alert when I’m giving a speech. For you, it might be that you feel light or calm or relaxed when you’re doing your thing, whatever that is.
- Be this way – present in your body. Interrupt the thinking, which will return because it’s a powerful habit. Get back to being present in your body. Poke a bit of fun at the drama you’re capable of creating in a nanosecond – maybe I could consider screen writing for a tv soap given the drama possible in my head?
- Give yourself a break, not a hard time – you’re only learning. You can’t possibly be brilliant at it yet.
We had a genuinely wonderful three day trip. The weather was glorious, the scenery was stunning and the company was fantastic. There were times it felt like I’d been riding pillion for years – I could relax and completely ‘get’ how wonderful it was to simply enjoy the ride. There were also times when I got scared again, always because of my own scary thinking rather than anything else. But I know which times were nicer on the bike and it’s the same in life. It obviously worked – there’s another trip planned for real soon!
Scare yourself less – Go feel the fear and do it anyhow. xx