fear builds walls.

Monday, I went for a bike ride. I wanted to explore the bike path more and the weather was beautiful, so why not? My back and ankle were finally cooperating again-- well, okay, my back was a little cramped up but I did some yoga poses and that solved the problem. I headed out around noon and figured I'd get a few miles under my wheels before turning back.

That "few miles" turned into 10 in one direction and hitting the last city on the bike path. Once I got going, it just felt so good to be out there again. Just me, my bike, and the road. The bike path is mostly flat-- a couple sloping hills, and a few slow inclines. Nothing too strenuous, and the many families out there probably agreed. But I had underestimated the weather-- the forecast had said a high of 77 for the day, which was pretty high [especially since it was in the 40s just a few days ago], but it actually got up to 86. Which I was not expecting, and wasn't prepared for. It didn't really hit me until I got to my 10 mile marker and took a break-- and then it really hit me. Worse, I was almost completely out of water, and the little bit I did have was very warm [the bike path really needs some water stations along the way!]. The amount of water I'd brought would've been fine for the 6 miles or so that I had been planning on biking, but not a 20 mile round trip. Oops! So, instead of pressing on to the very end of the bike path, I left that goal for another day and turned around to make the trip home. I went a bit slower, and took a few more breaks along the way.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

At one point, I stopped to take a break and saw this graffiti. If you're not familiar, the wonderful Sheryl has a few blog posts titled "street art that inspires". While this wasn't really art, just a simply written message [and hard to see entirely in this picture], it's still relevant. "Fear builds walls." How true. I've been struggling with so much fear the last couple of years that the only thing I accomplished was building walls. My weight, my laziness, my seclusion, my dependency on food were all walls I built as a mechanism to "deal" with my fears. But those walls did no good, as I'm sure you're aware. I didn't actually solve any problems, and I actually made a lot worse than they already were.

Hell, I even had fear at the start of this ride. Aside from the one ride about a month ago, I hadn't been on my bike since October. As a result, I still had a fear that my body wouldn't react properly, I'd fall off or be hit [both things I'd painfully experienced before as a bike commuter in Chicago], I'd only make it a mile before having to give up and feel like a failure. I also had my injury-specific fears that I'd hurt my ankle or back somehow, just by getting out there. It took me about an hour of mental coaching to finally get my stuff together and get on the road with my bike. And then, it still wasn't easy. I had to talk myself through the first mile, telling myself that my body just had to get used to being on the bike again. And the second mile, I had to talk myself up the hill. Once I hit the third mile [and the bike path], though, it all fell into place and I knew I could do it.

I'm usually a pretty fearless individual so acknowledging that the last couple of years have turned me around so much was a huge revelation. I think everyone has fear in their every day lives-- or at least you do if you're a woman, of a racial minority, queer, or poor. I know for sure that a lot of my own fears, which led to my weight gain, stem from my identity as a queer woman who's been living below the poverty line for years. I'm still working on bringing down those walls and fears. A lot of it is very slow going. But every day I don't give into those old habits of seclusion and comfort food is a success.