Self-doubt and confidence go to war on the fear-soaked battlefield of hard times

At a time when America was hurting, at a time when our country needed moral courage as well as military might, at a time when we needed something other than uncertainty and fear — we got this from our leaders.

“There are known knowns. These are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know there are some things we know we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know that we don’t know.”~ Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld

With just three weeks until “kick-stand up”, I admit to feeling a lot of self-doubt about The Ride.

Broken right-foot peg

The tip of my motorcyle’s broken right-foot peg.

Self-doubt is insidious. It’s been creeping up on me for weeks, but it’s been very bad since Wednesday, when I dropped my bike for the very first time. It happened in a parking lot when I mishandled the clutch during a slow turn at the top of a small hill. That gut-wrenching feeling as you begin to fall is awful and it persists long after the shiny side of your bike hits the blacktop.

I didn’t get hurt, and the damage to my bike is only cosmetic, but the damage to my riding confidence is huge. I’m now nervous when I’m on the bike, and that takes up a lot of mental bandwidth. It affects decision making and slows  reaction time. That’s dangerous stuff.

Emotionally, the drop has thrown a bucket of ice water on my motorcycle joy. For example, I used to look forward to any chance to ride. I even viewed my daily commute not as a problem, but as an opportunity. I’m struggling to find that feeling now.

Other challenges persist

My biggest chronic problem continues to be back pain. It’s just not getting better, and I fear being alone on the road when my back goes out. I’m not sure how I would deal with this. How could I do anything other than lie down on the side of the road and attempt to will the spasms away?

Another source of doubt about this upcoming trip is that things are busy at my workplace. Thinking about The Ride feels frivolous, maybe even foolish, at this time.

There are other sources of doubt. Most of them have to do with the proper functioning of my motorcycle. For example, six days ago I went to start Connie after work, but she wouldn’t even crank over. I tried everything I could think of, but she was dead. I eventually placed my key fob (a small transmitter I carry that sends a radio signal to the ignition system) on the instrument cluster, and suddenly Connie came back to life. So, either the fob battery needs to be replaced, or something was interfering with the fob’s signal. It’s worked perfectly ever since.

Nagging little problems like the fob concern me. They represent my ability (sometimes inability) to think through the granular details of potential problems. I’d be much less concerned if I wasn’t aware of this weakness within me. The potential problems would still be there, but my ignorance would be blissful.

Maybe all these problems are emotional and physical manifestations of my fear of failure. Fear is powerful. It can be harnessed as a motivating factor, but it can be taken too far. Too much fear enables us to quit as it ratchets up the pain and whispers into our psyche. Fear can feel like a loving embrace as it convinces you to push the kick-stand down, shut off the engine, and unpack your saddlebags.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt had a thing or two to say about fear. FDR’s context was different. The country was in the deepest part of the Great Depression when he gave his first Inaugural address in 1933, but his words continue to resonate with the strength of fundamental truth.

“First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” ~ F.D.R.

I believe hard times are associated with anything that’s worth doing. It wouldn’t be valuable if it was easy. How we react to hard times is the thing that defines us. So, I’m going to continue preparing for The Ride even though part of me fearfully wants to call the whole thing off.

This entry was posted in Commuting in the burbs, Motorcycling, News and politics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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