I saw someone get doored today my husband said and I stopped chopping onions and repeated the words in my head. Doored. It’s one of my biking fears – that someone sitting in a parked car will fling their door open while I’m riding by and… oof.
I fell hard from my bike in January. I got a small concussion and lots of bruises which are long gone by now. What has remained is a slight but persistent fear of left hand turns (I slid on ice while making a fast, hard left turn) which randomly shows up some days and not others.
I tell my four year old that being brave means being afraid but doing something anyway. I am afraid of parked cars with doors that fly open, left hand turns, flat tires, and so on. I get on my bike just about every day and move forward carrying some amount of fear.
This year was our ten year wedding anniversary and each year as April 17th comes near I think about that day on the beach when my then boyfriend convinced me to “just try on the ring” after I yelled (a couple of times) “this is not the plan!”. The plan (wait another year before talking about marriage) was my plan not our plan and it was an attempt to avoid a left hand turn over an icy patch that I was sure awaited us. And I was right, of course! Many times since that day we have fallen (or even pushed each other) and gotten our hearts bruised because that is what happens in relationships.
If I stopped to consider all the ways in which I could die while biking I would not make it through the first few miles of my daily commute. As I paused in my rant that proposal day and looked at the lovely ring on my finger and the wonderful, funny, sweet, creative human beside me I decided to go towards joy rather than bury my heart under a mountain of fear. And I do not regret that choice. No part of me regrets it. And yet….
There is a saying in my family — “a bridge might be up”. This means always be prepared for disaster, get to the airport two hours early, map out the next few days, weeks, months, lifetime. And I carry that saying with me like it or not. We laugh about it, my parents and sister and I, but we also give it power to hold us back from taking risks.
Don’t try to have a baby at 38, Brenda! There are so very many ways for that to end badly. You’ll miscarriage (I did and it was terrible), you’ll worry (I haven’t stopped), you’ll mess parenting up (I might be doing that now). You’ll regret it (not for the tiniest bit of a single second).
Don’t get married to a jazz musician, Brenda! You’re too different from each other (we are indeed! I find him fascinating, frustrating and confounding) it won’t last (ten years, baby!).
Don’t give up a steady job at a great company to do counseling full time, Brenda! You’ll burn out, fail, give up, hate it. (I sometimes get tired, I learn more each year I am at it, my practice is full & busy, I love it, love it, love it)
Being a wife, a business owner, a therapist, a mother – those are at times heartbreakingly hard roles. But mostly I do them not thinking about the car doors, the ice, the bridge that might be up. Yesterday, I cried over a sweet wedding invitation from such delightful former clients, read a great book on attachment theory, watched my magical daughter twirl in a tutu, told her a bedtime story that had us both giggling, ran the last lap of a marathon with my weirdly, wildly determined husband.
Yes, life and love are full of unavoidable and at times soul crushing risks.
And yet. (and yet!)
April 17th is here once again and I’m signing up for the next round.
No question about it.
“Every fall into love involves [to adapt Oscar Wilde] the triumph of hope over self-knowledge. We fall in love hoping that we will not find in the other what we know is in ourselves – all the cowardice, weakness, laziness, dishonesty, compromise and brute stupidity. We throw a cordon of love around the chosen one, and decide that everything that lies within it will somehow be free of our faults and hence lovable. We locate inside another a perfection that eludes us within ourselves, and through union with the beloved, hope somehow to maintain [against evidence of all self-knowledge] a precarious faith in the species.” – Alain De Botton (author of an amazing book — Essays in Love)
Brenda Fowler, MA, LPC