Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway....
Updated: Jan 25
Gede (pronounced with two short “Es”; accent on the second) was the 20 year old that picked me up from the airport after a LONG travel day to Bali:
Cape Town to Dubai 9 hours
Dubai to Singapore 7 hours
Singapore to Bali 3 hours
Amed car ride 3 hours (2am arrival)
The next day was a recovery day, and I found myself getting a tour of Amed, Bali on the back of a scooter with Gede; he casually navigated with one hand on the handle bar and the other blocking the late afternoon sun. We drove the winding narrow roads of Amed past rice paddies, pigs being walked to their next siring job and kids playing on the side of the road. Gede’s high pitched laugh pierced through the sound of the engine, he honked before every sharp turn and yelled a loud “Ayayou” to all his friends we passed along the way.
And then it was my turn. My turn to drive the scooter. I was aware of that funny feeling of fear and found it to be a little confounding... I hadn’t ridden a scooter since I was a kid, and my fears proved to be a little founded - LOL! He gave me a quick one minute overview: here’s the ignition, the brake (primarily use the left/back brake as the front brake may propel you over the handle bars), the horn, the turn signal and then off I went. Starting was a little wobbly, but it was the turning around to come back... Good grief. The roads are basically one lane and I wasn’t adept enough to smoothly turn 180 degrees, so I had to stop, physically pull the bike back to make a 3 point turn. I accidentally didn’t stop using the throttle while trying to turn the bike around. I didn’t tell him, but I almost took it off the cliff... GEEEEZEEEE.... Yup, my heart was racing and fortunately at the next turn around - I did better. One thing that motivated me was watching the other scooter riders. Old, young, thick, thin, locals, tourists - all were on scooters. My unscientific tracking led me to find that scooters out numbered cars 20:1. So, it was the other old touristy women that motivated me to put my tail back on that scooter and practice.
I now have a better understanding - and empathy - for my friends that haven’t ridden a bicycle in 20 years that show apprehension about getting back on a bike. I knew it was merely a matter of time in the saddle and their (and my) confidence would grow, but the body reaction is real..... I felt it too. Taking the mind over matter approach within safe limits was good for me! I realized that my adult logical fear avoidance brain has a way of making my world smaller. Adding an element of risk - and fear - to our lives keeps those neuro pathways lighting up!!! It was awesome to feel that child like thrill from doing something new and mastering it successfully!! What a good reminder for me...
And I experienced more fear based moments, but I did it!! I am now a certified PADI diver!! WOO HOOO! We used the ocean for all of the confined and open dives - no chlorine pools for this school. We literally walked off the shore (probably the most physically demanding part was carrying the 40+ lbs on my back across a rocky beach) swam out and dropped to our knees to the sandy bottom of the warm, crystal clear Indian Ocean which became our classroom. We learned to take off our mask, put it back on, clear the mask... all while being underwater. I didn’t panic... The second time...
What did surprise me was the anxiety that reared its head when I went underwater for the first time breathing through the respirator. I had done a 50’ dive 30+/- years ago in Mexico (I came up with a bloody nose, but no worse for the wear) and remembered being in awe of the experience. SSooooo.... imagine my surprise when I found myself 5’ underwater and when I looked up, my body and brain said it wasn’t having it! I involuntarily kicked my way back up to the surface in a bit of panic.... GGEEEEZZEEE!!! I was surprised at my reaction as I thought my cool yoga head would rule, but no..... The instructor came beside me and looked me in the eye and signaled to keep the respirator in and breathe deep. After a few breaths she signaled to ask if I was ready to try again. I lied and signaled yes, I was ready...
I wondered what the hell I was doing as I wasn’t having any fun at that moment... SO, I had to feel the fear in my belly, drop my ego, breathe into it and get back on that proverbial horse. When I let out the air from my BCD (buoyancy control device) and went back under water the second time, I was aware of my mental discomfort but realized after a few moments of slow controlled breathing, that I was fine... I think knowing that I was going to have my air shut off, remove the respirator from my mouth and buddy breathe created a wee bit of anxiety.
This training made me realize that I needed to know how to save myself in case of an accident - underwater.... Whew!! Fortunately Dominic was my calm diving buddy who was a young German PhD aerodynamics student. He reminded me that I had back up air from him and the dive instructor; my 5th generation Chinese decent Singaporean dive instructor was a knowledgeable piece of work. Funny how they will be part of my story - forever.... And the sea life and coral - truly awe inspiring. I wanted to yell to my diving buddy how BEAUTIFUL it all was!
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela
I’m riding the scooter to the temples next week and look forward to feeling the freedom and wind in my hair....!