Succumb or Surmount? Overcoming Fear

Overcoming fear

It’s no secret that fear grips me at the thought of riding down a gravel road. Even when the surface is relatively hard-packed, my mind races ahead to send me images of how conditions could become looser or deeper further on. I’m left with a feeling of impending doom. I detest the feeling of sliding around or losing traction. Yet proven practices help maintain control even when it feels hopeless.

While some fear is healthy and necessary for survival, the more common variety is that which prevents us from pushing beyond our comfort zone. Our heart calls but we fear changing our surroundings, initiating new interests, or exploring alternative perspectives.

Each of us has something that acts as a teacher of life. For me, it is my motorcycle.

The Long Road Home book tour, which begins August 1st, will take me more than 12,000km/7,500 miles over almost three months. While I won’t seek out gravel, I’m certain to encounter it at some point. I’m left with two choices: succumb to fear or surmount it.

I grew up on a gravel road and lived on one for fourteen years as an adult. Fear wasn’t an issue but somewhere along the way it became one. Fear-based faltering has led to “special moments” I don’t want to repeat.

Comments on my recent Facebook post acknowledging the cold sweat evoked just by booking a course gave me interesting insights, bolstered my confidence, and adjusted my perspective.

This is not a new story but it’s not going away. Here are my next steps for overcoming fear:

  1. Take the training. Bolstering confidence without the skills to back it up is a recipe for disaster so my first step is a refresher with an extraordinary and patient professional. I’ve booked a private session on July 23rd with world-class trainer Clinton Smout of S.M.A.R.T. Adventures http://www.smartadventures.ca/. Stay tuned to hear how that goes.
  2. Keep the story in perspective. I’ve ridden hundreds of thousands of miles and experienced two dramatic gravel “get-offs.” Both could have been prevented by managing the irrational voices who hijacked situations I knew how to handle. I know I can do it as long as I don’t let fear intrude.
  3. Use humour. Louise Mitchell, who’s competed in the BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy Female Team Qualifier, says she shuts her eyes when she’s scared. While I doubt that’s true, it demonstrates that even someone with world-class expertise encounters fear, but has learned how to manage it.
  4. Visualize yourself as a student. Clinton came up with this one which can apply to any situation. Observe myself as an instructor would and coach myself through the situation. It’s like giving advice to your younger self.
  5. Acknowledge the role of fear in holding you back. Clinton commented that learning to overcome fear is harder than learning to ride gravel. That’s reassuring. Knowing I’ve got the technical skills to handle a situation gives me greater strength to put mind chatter in its place.
  6. Take a holistic approach. Physical skills don’t thrive in isolation. Overcoming challenges require us to address our whole being—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
  7. Call on your helpers. No need trying to go this alone. Help is available for the asking, both from the unseen world and friends and colleagues in the seen world.

Change provokes fear. It’s up to us to decide how to address it—succumb or surmount. Your choice.

Related post: Gravel Roads, Grit, and Graceful Endings

Photo credit: xenonb. on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Dancing the Delicate Balance Between Will and Surrender

delicate balance

Photo on Visualhunt

We’re taught that not knowing the answer is not a good thing. From first grade on, we’re marked on what we know. To surrender to the unknown, to accept there is more that we can’t explain than what we can, runs counter to our cultural conditioning.

The dance of delicate balance between will and surrender does not come choreographed.

I’m very good at planning, organizing, and making things happen. Yet, one of the teachings during my post-crash era was to acknowledge that the things I can orchestrate may not be in my soul’s best interests. The surest way to be of greatest service is to get out of my own way.

A successful (however that’s defined) book tour doesn’t just happen on its own, though, my mind tells me.

As much as I hate to admit it, the outcomes I can influence are limited. The last few years have taught me that whenever a door closes (or doesn’t even open) it’s because better opportunities await. I need to leave space to recognize gifts that come my way and for the inevitable serendipity I’ve come to expect, especially when I’m out on the road.

Already while planning the Long Road Home tour, so many wonderful, magical events have unfolded without my input, other than being available and asking questions. Even while composing this post, an amazing invitation landed in my inbox.

I catch myself when my planner mind goes into overdrive, a state it knows well. Make plans but hold them lightly. It’s the only way to maintain that delicate balance that opens the door to infinite possibilities.

Related post: Porcupine Wisdom and Speeding Through Life

The Blue Blue Sky — Where Dreams Live

Other than the occasional deluge of water from the overhead deck when the dog dumps over his bowl, the greatest hazard in my outdoor office is the distraction from the blue, blue sky. Today’s clouds are cotton balls but whatever they are, I love watching them shapeshift across the sky.

blue blue sky

It reminds me of the flight I took to Beaverlodge, Alberta with Dad two years ago, shortly before he passed. We were heading to visit the land where he’d spent his first two years; where the father he yearned to remember was buried.

The sky had cotton ball clouds that day too, except we were viewing them from above. He was ninety-one, but he was a boy. “Do you think we could land on those clouds?” he said, gazing out the window and musing as we flew over them at 30,000’.

I wondered where he was.

Last Sunday on my way home from the BMW MOA rally, I stopped in to see Mom at the long-term care facility where she resides. The woman who once walked miles per day is now in a wheelchair and doesn’t know where she is. As farmers, both my parents lived much of their life outdoors. When they weren’t working or tending the yard and gardens, they were sitting on the porch drinking iced tea.

I’d ridden 565km/350miles under blue skies, sunshine, and high-70s temperatures. Perfect riding weather and perfect to take Mom outside for fresh air. Even if you’re unaware of where you are, you know it when you’re outside. There’s a lovely courtyard and she enjoys looking at the flowers and people watching. The brilliant red leaves of the Japanese maple always catch her attention and from there it’s only a slight eye movement that takes her to the sky.

“Look at the blue, blue sky,” she says, gazing upward. It happens every time.

I wondered where she was.

And as I sit here trying to work, I can’t help but look up at the vast blue, blue sky and let my mind wander.

I wonder where I am.

How to Find the Right Motorcycle Gear: Talk to an Expert

How to Find the Right Motorcycle Gear: Talk to an Expert
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve been on the hunt for the right motorcycle gear. My Gore-Tex suit, riding boots, and gloves have served me extremely well, but they’re worn out. The jacket and pants are no longer waterproof even when treated, boots take on water, and gloves are faded and the lining separates from the main glove. The armor has degraded from removing and replacing it after washing and the edges are breaking off.

There’s no question I needed re-outfitting before my Long Road Home book tour this summer when I’ll be riding up to 12,000 miles in all kinds of weather extremes (except snow, I hope).

Right motorcycle gear

Finding the right motorcycle gear is a challenge, not because there’s a lack of choice, but rather there’s little that meets what I”m looking for. Accepting that it’s next to impossible to find one product that incorporates everything I want, and befuddled by the selection, I turned to Joanne Donn, a.k.a. Gear Chic.

Joanne is voracious in researching and assessing Moto-gear and helping riders find the best products for them. In her work at Revzilla, she has access to the latest trends and styles. She’s shares tons of knowledge through her articles on www.gearchic.com and dispenses free advice.

I met her more than a decade ago when we were both at the International Motorcycle Shows working in the women riders’ area. She was sharing her knowledge of gear then and helping outfit women riders. Her expertise has only expanded since.

Gear Criteria:

Over and above the basic requirements of fit and function, I wanted the minimum number of pieces, maximum function and durability, and discreet branding. We worked from this list:

  • One suit for all my needs.
  • Maximum ventilation
  • High quality armor in knees, hips, elbows, shoulders, and back
  • Waterproof and breathable
  • Discreet branding
  • Tailored fit
  • Ankle and calf protection in boots
  • 3-season gloves

Joanne was thorough in her assessment, considered my riding style, body shape, and questioned my criteria. For example, when I said I wanted Gore-Tex gear, she queried me. Did I mean Gore-Tex or waterproof, because the latter opens up other choices.

She then presented me with several options for each piece.

What I purchased:

  • Alpinestars Stella Andes V2 Drystar pants
  • Alpinestars Stella Andes V2 Pro Drystar Jacket for Tech Air Street
  • Alpinestars Nucleon KR-2i Back protector insert
  • TCX Tourer Gore-Tex women’s boots
  • Rukka Virve Gore-Tex X-Trafit women’s gloves

There’s no question it’s a significant investment, which is why the right choice is so important.

Unfortunately, it shipped a day late so will arrive too late to let you know how it fits. Hopefully perfect so I can wear it for the trek from Georgia to Ontario this weekend! I’ll update this post when it does.

Note: I’m paying full price and not getting any kickback for endorsing gear.

Update: Gear arrived. Gloves and boots are amazing!! Perfect fit and j suit what I wanted. Love the suit but need a larger size (problem with ordering from the road and not having measurements).

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

How to Find the Holy Grail: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

FInd the Holy Grail

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending weekend meetings with Adyashanti (Adya), whose spiritual teachings draw from cross-cultural wisdom.

One of the stories Adya referenced was that of King Arthur and the Holy Grail. While legend refers to it as the cup that Jesus drank from, in today’s world, the Holy Grail refers to, “A thing being earnestly pursued or sought after (Dictionary.com).”

Adya told us we’re not going to find the Holy Grail in the familiar. When we pursue our heart’s calling, we plunge into the unknown. We’re called to the deepest darkest parts of the forests where there are no paths. Sometimes we find a scary monster; sometimes we find the Holy Grail. Eventually we make our way out.

But how can we be certain we’re headed in the right direction?

When called to do something (a.k.a. find the Holy Grail), whether it’s relatively minor or daunting, like a cross-country moto-book tour, these are the questions I ask myself to confirm my intentions.

  1. Am I following my heart? I question whether the undertaking is meaningful and whether it’s consistent with my values.
  2. What’s the worst that can happen, and what’s the likelihood it will? When I worked in Health and Safety, I was constantly evaluating work practices based on risk and potential severity of an injury. I learned to apply that same logic to other life decisions. When pushing your comfort zone, your mind is going to come up with all kinds of reasons why it’s better to stay “safe.” Keep questioning and be objective. The answers will surprise you.
  3. How does it feel if I don’t do it? In other words, do a gut check. Imagine what it feels like to go. Then imagine what it feels like if you stay put. The more you exercise and trust your intuition, the easier it is to follow what it’s telling you.
  4. Do I expect that I already know it all? I ask myself this when threatened with overwhelm. Anything new will seem daunting at first. We need challenge (within reason) to thrive. Take it one step at a time.
  5. What is the opportunity cost of doing/not doing what’s being asked of me? This is actually a trick question because you can’t know the answers. You don’t know what doors will open or close with either choice. You may have expectations on either side or perceptions of how things will go or not go, but you’ll never know for sure. The biggest opportunity cost is failing to live up to your potential because you were afraid to follow your heart.

Recovering from failure and learning is inherent in living. We fall many times while learning to walk. We learn how to balance by losing our balance. Why do we think things should be different with “adult” challenges? As with riding a motorcycle, we’re less likely to lose our balance and fall if we keep our eyes trained on where we want to go, and keep moving!

Photo credit: ErgSap on Visualhunt.com / CC BY

12 Ways to Respond to the Call of the Unknown

call of the unknown

We’ve all been there. We hear the call of the unknown but there are too many reasons why we can’t do it. How do we get started? We tell ourselves life isn’t so bad and we should be content with the way things are. We’ll make changes as soon as we have time, or as soon as we have enough money, once we’re retired, or fill in your own excuse. That voice keeps whispering and years go by.

Here are twelve things to guide you when you’re called to the unknown.

  1. Follow your heart.
    That voice is leading you true. Entertain input from your mind, but recognize it will deliver all kinds of mental chatter to keep you safe. And stuck. Do what’s aligned with your nature and what you’re here to do.
  2. Don’t wait for the guidebook.
    When we venture into the unknown, we don’t know where life will take us. This is uncharted territory – you know the time is right to make a change. Even though you’re unsure of where you’re going, it’s the departure that’s most important.
  3. Value your wisdom above any other.
    People will comment and try to dissuade you from doing something they see as ridiculous. Remember, they see life through their lens, not yours. The fears and uncertainties they try and project on you are theirs. Thank them for their opinion and move on.
  4. Allocate your resources.
    Life demands our attention from so many directions—career, family, volunteer work, and social activities. They’re all great but we wear ourselves out trying to satisfy everyone. Newsflash! We CANNOT do it all, nor are we meant to.
  5. Prioritize.
    How do you best use the gifts you have to make the most of your life? I love teaching others to ride motorcycles but it’s time to give it up. Instead, I’ll turn more attention to my presentations, workshops, and client work.
  6. Enlist the help of trusted advisors.
    In planning for my upcoming moto-book tour, a call to the unknown, I’ve consulted with others like adventure travel author Sam Manicom who’s gone before. Nancy Frater, owner of local independent bookstore BookLore, has been invaluable in advising me how to approach other retailers to increase the likelihood of success.
  7. Complete unfinished business.
    Following our heart doesn’t mean throwing caution to the wind. We still need to plan, organize, and pay attention to details. We don’t, however, need to carry excess baggage. Clear out what’s no longer needed to make room for the new.
  8. Let go of expectations and attachment to outcome.
    Although we envision a goal and a way to get there, that may not be what’s best for us. There are many paths to get to the same destination, and there are other destinations that we can’t imagine. Trust that you will be guided, even when things don’t go as planned.
  9. Maintain your personal integrity.
    Life isn’t black and white and decisions challenge us, especially when we feel alone in the crowd. Call on your courage.
  10. Trust.
    Trust in your Higher Power, in whatever form that takes. We are never alone on our journey and guidance is available for the asking. The answers may not be what we want, or come in the forms we expect, but they’re there. Listen for them with all your senses.
  11. Give yourself space.
    This is not so much the need to be alone as it is for emotional, physical, and spiritual space. Take time to nourish body, mind, and spirit. Meditate to stay in touch with that wise person within.
  12. Go.
    Then keep moving, even when you stumble and fall. Help is there. That’s how we learn and how we get to where we’re going.

Your turn…
What would you add to the list? What’s something you should when you hear the call of the unknown? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Celebrate Life and Party Like It’s 1999!

Party like it's 1999

I’m not a party animal but Prince’s Party Like It’s 1999 keeps playing through my mind. Why now?

Written in 1982 it impelled listeners to let go and revel because why not? The world was ending in 2000. There were two choices: let terror take over or party.

Almost three decades later, the vernacular refers to celebrating the end of an era. It’s apt given my recent sixty-fifth birthday.

A major era ended sixteen years ago. I’d left a twenty-five-year marriage and was winding down a corporate career. I had no idea what the future looked like, only that it stretched out in front of me like a blank slate.

Those moves liberated and empowered me, although they astounded family, friends, and co-workers who thought I had a perfect life. They called me brave, courageous, and asked if I was scared. It’s one thing to leave a long-term marriage, but to give up an established career at my age, when I now had to support myself added a new dimension to people’s perception of risk. Many colleagues had decades of seniority and planned to stay until retirement. They couldn’t understand why I’d walk away from what they called a good thing, or how remaining in the wrong roles drained my life energy.

There have been other eras since, but turning sixty-five stands out above them. I feel as I did then—as if a whole new era of opportunity stretches out in front of me. New places within and without I’ve never visited.

While it’s exciting, there’s also a trepidation that would like to hold me back. Orchestrating a more than two-plus motorcycle road trip/book tour can be daunting. (Oddly enough I went for a two-month motorcycle ride that time, too, although the circumstances were different.) Making new connections in unfamiliar places, looking for venues, and finding receptive hosts and audiences pushes me outside my comfort zone. The alternative, staying home, is out of the question. Maybe it’s “safer” but I’d feel stifled.

My heart wants to go and so I shall. Time, and life on earth, passes quickly. We each have a calling; mine is to the Road.

The Shamanic tradition I studied, talks about death as an ally. It means living mindfully with the awareness that our time on earth is limited—treating the earth and all living beings with respect; making the most of each day.

As long as I can, I’m going to celebrate each day with gratitude and embrace this adventure we call life. Party like it’s 1999!

Photo on VisualHunt

Porcupine Wisdom and Speeding Through Life

The irony of last week’s blog title, Caught Speeding, only dawned on me yesterday. It’s not the first time I’ve been caught this year. But it was an unexpected encounter with porcupine wisdom that made the lesson stick.

porcupine wisdom

In January, while I was in Calgary for the motorcycle show, Mom’s cousin, who lived two hours away, perished in a fire in her apartment. I’d planned to visit her, but not at the funeral home. Returning through the Alberta prairie after the visitation, I got pulled over and ended up with a ticket for 1 km over the limit. (I was going much faster. He reduced the fine.) A gentle reminder to slow down.

Last month, on a gorgeous Virginia backroad and only twenty minutes from my Horizons Unlimited destination, I was travelling at 70-mph in a 55-mph zone. The friendly sheriff let me off with a warning to watch the driveways.

I do try and stick to the speed limit or ride with traffic. My last ticket was in 2008. I appealed it and it got thrown out after getting bogged down and timing out in the court system. It was definitely the first in a series of reminders to cut chaos from my life and realign with my priorities. Since then, other than a conversation at the side of the road one Mother’s Day, my record has been unblemished.

A shy and rarely-seen porcupine, who appeared on my birthday last week, added perspective. Hiking through a hardwood forest with a friend, the rustle of dry leaves a few feet away caught my attention. A big porcupine emerged and waddled away, unruffled by our presence. She began to climb a tree, reconsidered, and shuffled off to the next one. As she casually and with deliberation scaled the trunk, every once in a while, she’d glance in our direction, keeping an eye on her surroundings.

Porcupines take a leisurely but mindful approach to life, make the most of the present, and know that they are protected. They respect your space and model that you honor theirs. Barbs only come out when you violate their boundaries. The self-assured porcupine knows her limits, including the pace at which to travel through life. Porcupine wisdom is good for all of us.

Last week’s title carried more depth than I appreciated when I wrote it. Mirroring the frenetic energy of spring, there are many exciting new activities and opportunities coming to life. They’re all appealing but I have to allocate my resources—and attention—wisely.

Lessons are all around and often from unexpected sources. Thank you porcupine.

Caught Speeding: Traveling Through Life at 65

life at 65

As of yesterday, I’ve walked this earth sixty-five years! Without question, it’s the most significant milestone ever.

It beats turning fifty, a year into my new life as a self-employed single person. Half a lifetime of trying to adapt to roles that didn’t fit (and convince myself they did) drained my life energy. After years of professional consultations, I left a twenty-five-year marriage and long-term corporate career (in that order) for the road less traveled.

My sixtieth was also monumental. In what can only be described as my soul’s calling, I set out on a quest to understand who I was before being told who I was. I wanted to understand how my cultural conditioning had shaped my beliefs, life choices, and world view. Expecting to be gone up to eighteen months, I divested myself of home and material possessions, only to crash three weeks later.

The phenomenal and life-enriching experiences of those years have led me to yet another threshold where I’m crossing into more of the unknown.

I’m learning to follow the call of my heart, tempered slightly by my mind. No longer are my choices influenced by what others may think of me. Or more accurately, what I think others think.

Life has taught me to let go of expectations and over planning and be open to the magic life delivers when I stay out of my own way. I couldn’t possibly orchestrate the events that unfold when I do.

In his dying days, Dad taught me to be fearless and trust. It’s the greatest legacy he could have left. While that wisdom is applicable to any stage of life, it’s even more meaningful as I lean into the unknown.

My heart is full of gratitude for my health, the amazing people in my life, and the opportunities I enjoy. I am privileged to live in a land of freedom and abundance through no doing of my own.

Most of all, the years have taught me that life is precious and every moment—and action—counts. The impact of my choices on nature factors into every decision I make.
I aim to treat the earth and all living things as I treat myself, because we’re all connected.

I honor the past for the lessons it’s taught me (even when they have to be repeated) and prepare for the future by savoring the present. Life is precious. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Death is certain.

I had toyed with the idea of an extended motorcycle trip/book tour this year to coincide with the release of Crash Landing. For a variety of reasons, it wasn’t practical but until this week, I hadn’t replaced it. I’ve dealt with migraines most of my life. As painful and disruptive as they can be, they’ve also opened up creative ideas and insights.

Tossing and turning with the remnants of one this week, it dawned on me that I need to get out on the road, even if it’s not the way I envisioned. I’m sixty-five, love the open road, and am physically and mentally able to ride. How much longer will I be able to do that? One year? Five? Ten? Thirty – like Gloria Struck? I hope so, but who knows?

Most of my work, including freelance writing and working with energy-medicine clients is delivered online. I’ve designed it purposely so it’s location independent.

Motorcycling is a gift and a major way through which I can serve my purpose. It energizes me and fuels my creativity. I meet amazing people and discover amazing opportunities. It enables me to be of greatest service.

Life is fleeting. Sixty-five years have passed in a flash and I’m told time only seems to move faster. All the more reason to make each moment count.

What am I waiting for?

After summer’s heat has passed, I’ll get on Trudy and we’ll head out, destination and timing yet to be determined.

It’s an exciting time, full of possibilities I can’t even imagine. That I’m stepping into the unknown is nothing new. We always are – we just think we have control over what’s happening in our world.

If life at 65 has taught me anything, it’s to listen to my heart and follow my intuition. Nothing is guaranteed except this moment. Make the most of it.

Photo credit: ansik on VisualHunt.com / CC BY

Dancing on the Edge of Comfort—Without Crashing

Dancing on the Edge of Comfort

Sunshine, blue skies, and mid-70s-breezes embraced me as I set off for home from the Horizons Unlimited Travellers meeting in Virginia last Sunday. Perfect riding weather belied that I’d be dancing on the edge of comfort before long.

I’d taken two days for the 1,110 km/620-mile trip down but wrestled with making the return trip in one day. It’s further than I like to ride at once but Monday’s forecast predicted rain and temps barely above freezing. Conditions didn’t improve for days.

Cold is manageable; cold and wet are miserable on a sliding scale matching temperature and rainfall.

Stopped for a picnic breakfast on a bench in front of a Court House in small town VA, I debated my choices. One long day would push my physical limits, but the alternative seemed much riskier and way more uncomfortable. I could always stop.

I planned for two and prepared for one, taking steps from the onset to fend off hypothermia and fatigue.

The air chilled as I headed north. By the time I crossed Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains, the cold, drizzle, and threatening skies had me thinking I’d have to call it a day. But the rain held off and the air warmed as I moved west to lower elevations. As conditions improved and Monday’s dismal forecast loomed, I decided to push all the way home.

My heated jacket helped keep my core warm. I’d taken the express rather than the scenic route and kept my speeds at the posted limit to minimize wind chill. My supply of high-fat goat cheese, avocados, and protein shakes provided extra calories to fuel the furnace.

Frequent breaks and staying hydrated by drinking from the two-liter water reservoir in my tank bag (which also ensured I stopped often) warmed me up and allowed me to monitor my temperature. The insidious onset of physical and mental clumsiness that accompanies hypothermia is hard to detect while riding but evident when you stop.

I may not have exceeded the speed limit but I pushed past the edge of my comfort zone. Time slowed to a crawl. It got COLD, the last few hours barely above freezing. I knew I had the physical, mental, and emotional resources to do it, yet many times I thought about packing it in. Tomorrow would be worse though.

My internal dialogue reminded me how people, including Oliver Solero who’d given a presentation about a trip to northern Manitoba in much colder temps, had persevered through hardship. My cold (or distance) didn’t even rank on Oliver’s scale. Others have dealt with far greater adversity.

Those paths, however, were not mine.

Growth happens when we overcome perceived barriers, whatever they are. The only one to calibrate against, and answer to, is ourselves. That also means basing decisions on internal guidance, not what we think others will think of us.

While we must consider our safety, we are called to not run from the discomfort and even fear of growth. What we find when we’re dancing on the edge of comfort is a more perfect understanding of ourselves.

I rolled into my driveway just before midnight. A friend had unlocked the door and turned on the lights. The blast of warm air that welcomed me felt like heaven. It sure was good to be home.

Photo on Visual Hunt.

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