After reading my friend’s post on Facebook today about a book that changed her life, I was reminded about a book that changed mine. It inspired me to write about it.
About nine years ago, I was about to turn forty, and I was riddled with fear about dying. I had this idea most of my life that I was not going to live past the age of 40. I never saw myself living past that time. I’m not sure where this came from, but I had it since childhood. I remember a close friend saying that I may have sensed a “symbolic” death for myself and that it may not have been a literal death. This did bring some hope, but I was so convinced that this was my truth, I became so afraid of dying so young; leaving my daughters without me.
I decided I would take a trip for my fortieth birthday, just in case something happened I may have been able to get in this dream trip in this lifetime. You know, go out in style.
It took me so much work to prepare for this trip. Not only financially, but physically, as I decided I would take my bike to Ireland to tour the country with nothing more than a map of the countryside and a list of cheap hostels. Part of the reason I decided to take my bike was I was too afraid to drive over there. I thought for sure I would go off some cliff, and driving on the other side of the road was simply terrifying to me. I don’t know why I thought the bike would be so much easier. HA! What a joke. Sometimes I question my judgement ( A LOT)
I had come across a book a few months prior to leaving called “The Exquisite Risk: Daring to Live and Authentic Life”, by Mark Nepo. The writer was a poet. His writing was like magic being delivered to my soul. Every word seemed to speak to me, and I read the whole book on the plane to Ireland. I have often picked up this book to read it again through the years, as it seems to apply to everything.
So a bit about me … I tend to be a fearful one. Someone that gets stuck and afraid to make a move. I totally found this book to be the wind that got my fire flaming.
I swallowed my fear. I got on the plane. I went alone with my bike. I assembled it in the airport, had loaded panniers, a backpack and a front pack, jumped on, got on the wrong side of the road and I took off. I swear my heart was jumping around in my chest the entire trip. I was nervous about getting hit by a car on the narrow roads. People drove fast, and driving after drinking was pretty common here. I was not a skilled bike rider by any means, so I was going quite slow. Slow and steady. I didn’t judge myself. I didn’t care if I had to walk it. I didn’t care if I didn’t make a goal, because I didn’t set any. I decided I would allow this trip to be whatever it was going to be. Get to wherever, whenever. See whatever, meet whoever, eat whatever. No expectations. This took an incredible weight off me. I allowed myself to talk to strangers. I had intimate conversations with people. I experienced different foods. I experienced pain in my body like I had never felt before. I pushed myself beyond my normal limits. I was daring to live an Authentic Life. I was being me. I was taking an Exquisite Risk. ME. I was doing it.
This trip was planned around my 40th birthday, so I wondered for most of it If I would die on this trip, like I knew I was supposed to. I wondered how I would die. Would I get hit by a car? The first time I road my bike as a little girl, I proudly was showing my father that I finally got it, I rode up the street and I got hit by a car. The neighbor up the road was backing out, didn’t see me, and ran over me. Was I going to die the same way? On a bike? Was I going to jump off a cliff? This sounds bizarre, I know. but for whatever reason, when I get to the edge of cliffs, I always have this sense of jumping. I remember hearing Katie Couric say the same thing once and I remember feeling like there was actually somebody else that felt this way. It’s like the ocean calls me – the wind calls me, the cliff draws you in. It’s freaky I know. But I did wonder about it. And I did fight the urge to not free-fall.
I rode, and I read my book when I would dine. I would write. I journaled and wrote and thought and collected. I slowly broke myself down. I had so many amazing encounters and experiences while doing this trip. I remember when I left I didn’t even feel like the same person. My friend was right after all. I did die. The old me was now dead. I was now 40, and I was completely different. And I was still alive. More alive than I had been in a long time. I felt every cell pulsing in my body.
I was a woman who ran with the wolves. I was a woman that actually did something I never thought I would do.
Since that time, I have jumped into my life. I have quit the tedious office work I was chained to for so many years. I became an artist, a carpenter, and a woman who was taking chances. I admit, I still have fear when I take these chances, but I don’t let the fear take over and keep me still or paralyzed. With this trip I lost not only weight, but the burdens I was carrying around keeping me down; keeping me heavy; keeping me fearful and afraid to live. I am also no longer, afraid to die.