It is my last day in Seattle, and I woke feeling fearful. Anticipation, for me, is harder than getting on with the task. I wish I were on my bicycle already. I remember feeling this way when Vasu was close to dying too. I just wanted him to get it over with so I could stop dreading grief and get on with it. Of course, this dread I feel now is on a much smaller scale. But fear, for me, is a daily hurdle. People keep telling me that they think I’m fearless to tackle a solo, 12,000 mile bicycle tour, but I disagree. It is because I live with fear that I go. If I don’t push my limitations then fear wins, and I end up huddled under the blankets binging on Netflix for the rest of my life.
I realized about two years before cancer took Vasu’s life, that I have lived most of my life with anxiety and fear.
I’ve heard the array of platitudes of what I “need to do” and I “just have to” and all the should’a, could’a, would’a’s that people who don’t live with anxiety say. God, I wish it were that easy. But as with everything in life, it’s just a hell of a lot more complicated than that.
Take cats. Ever have one of those days when you just don’t want to do anything productive and so you plug in to Ye Old YouTube and search Cats VS Cucumbers? (If you have never done this, PLEASE FINISH READING THIS and then head over to YouTube and search Cats VS Cucumbers. I promise it’s a life-changing experience).
So, let’s say that anxiety is a cucumber. To “normal” people, it’s a vegetable. If they turned around and saw a cucumber it would still be a cucumber.
Let’s say I am not normal (most people who know me would agree with this). My anxiety reactions are more like a cat. When I turn around and see a cucumber… well… lets not spoil it for those who have yet to FINISH READING THIS and head over to Ye Old YouTube.
Now, lets put me in “normal” life experiences like say… a 40-per-hour work week trying to impress bosses and not disappoint coworkers. That’s like placing me in a room filled with cucumbers. And don’t even start to think that the more cucumbers there are the more desensitized I should become. I wish it worked that way. The more cucumbers there are, the more dangerous they become. Like baseballs-to-the-crotch shots. A video of one is just silly. But put together 28 of them in 30 seconds and I’m gasping for breath on the floor.
In February I moved from my rural existence into the spare room of a friend in Seattle. I love cities, but they tend to have a lot more cucumbers than country living does. One day, I was supposed to meet a friend from Portland at the bus station on the other side of town. I walked for hours rather than take the two busses to get there.
I didn’t know how to take a bus, and my anxieties would not allow me to just go do it. It was easier for me to walk for hours. I can bicycle in crazy-ass traffic. I can backpack alone in the wilderness. I freeze into a little ball on the couch at the thought of taking a bus.
This is anxiety. It is not linear nor logical. It is not always a matter of getting familiar with the cucumber. With the bus, all it took was my friend helping me the first time. Now I can bus like a big girl. But that particular fix wouldn’t work for my anxiety of bears when I camp would it? Because cucumbers the size of bears SHOULD be scary, right?
So life with anxiety is not a matter of logicking your way out (Yes, I know I made that word up. I like to verb words). Life with anxiety is a bit like being a practical joker on myself. I have to trick my mind out of the fear, or learn to dance around it.
One of the tricks I learned this year was to treat my life as a job. No matter how many cucumbers my mind can imagine, I still show up, every day, and stay until the day’s work is done. I am doing this with my crowdfunding campaigns now that they are live. It was one thing to dream this up and entirely another thing to make it happen. But it is part of my work. I will do this every day of my tour to circumnavigate the USA on my bicycle. I will get up every day and get on my bike and go to work. And I will face cucumbers every single day.
I will sing a little tune to myself as I dance around the cucumbers… “This is how I am right now and this is not how I will always be.” And after I react too big and worry too much I will find my calm again until the next cucumber. It is how living with fear works.
Now feel free to head on over to Ye Old YouTube. And thanks for reading to the end.