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Embrace Fear and Find Your Center: Riding With No Hands

“Some people think it’s holding that makes one strong—sometimes it’s letting go.” ~Unknown

My mom leaned in and gave me a goodnight kiss. The only light illuminating her face was coming from the hallway. I looked up at her, and in the confidence of the dark confessed, “I saw it.”

“It” was my birthday present, waiting patiently for me to wake up in the morning and claim it from its place in the garage. “It” was a turquoise blue Stingray bicycle with a white pleather banana seat and an extra tall sissy bar.

I’d seen it by chance, tucked back in a dark corner, and knew instantly it was for me.

I couldn’t stop myself from ruining my mom’s surprise. I just couldn’t contain my joy. That bike was the answer to my 10 year-old dreams.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

My new bike was the coolest mode of freedom I could imagine. It took me to the local pharmacy for candy and back to the school playground to meet up with my friends. Like an addict, I lusted for the feeling I got from riding past the Skerkoske’s house, Marcia Brady hair blowing in the breeze, singing “I Think I Love You” at the top of my lungs.

Riding something so beautiful gave me all kinds of cocky confidence. I was fearless. Within days, I was pedaling through the neighborhood, arms waving madly in the air, shouting “Look at me world!  I’m riding with no hands!”

I let go without ever calculating the risks involved.

Fear crept up on me gently, a part of the ever expanding feeling of responsibility that came along with growing up.  

Or maybe I’d heard “Hold on to that bike young lady! Do you want to end up in the hospital?!” one too many times. Whatever the cause, the magic of my turquoise blue Stingray was no longer enough to make me feel invincible.

I grew afraid of falling off. 

My survival instinct told me to grab for the handlebars and hold on tight. And so, I did. Tighter and tighter as the years passed. For most of my adult life, I’ve lived in fear of what would happen if I let go.

This past year, there were just too many things, too many layers, to try and control. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t hold on to them all: parenting, partnering, being part of a community, a body growing older, an aging parent, leftover sibling rivalry. Too many causes, too many piles, too many times my name was called.

Life began to feel like one long no-handed ride.

Except instead of embracing the feeling of freedom, I felt like I was constantly trying to grab at handlebars that were just out of my reach.

I knew I was more likely to be injured by my caution than my confidence but I felt powerless to change.

There were way too many days where I felt like I was swerving from side to side, on the brink of losing control and taking a header into the sidewalk.

Remember doing that on purpose? Guiding your handlebars quickly back and forth, jerking the bike in a way that made a whooshing noise on the pavement, just to get that rush of being on the edge?

I loved that feeling and I wanted it back.

Living life in balance has become a modern mantra. But the quest for my own balance caused me to nurture an unrealistic vision. I began to imagine that I could walk a tightrope that never swayed, fly through life without ever encountering turbulence.

Reality taught me otherwise. Life is bumpy and often uncomfortable. I didn’t accept that truth gracefully, but kicking and screaming. Until one day, the now-or-never-moment arrived with a thud.

As my children navigate their middle school years, my husband and I try our best to accept middle life, all of the unpredictability of our worlds sometimes colliding head-on.

Just as I was getting the hang of our heightened level of chaos, I was told my position at a job I loved was being eliminated within the month. I became overwhelmed trying to keep all of our lives smooth and unwrinkled, so desperate not to face the unknown that my mind could not rest.

My own dis-ease at not being able to control life did not serve anyone well.

So I decided to let go.

Hesitantly, like I just took off my training wheels.

I lifted my hands in the air.

Again.

So far, I’ve survived. Even if sometimes I haven’t been so sure that I would.

Today, my balance is wobbly and swervy and unpredictable. I’m learning to embrace that feeling and some days even search it out.

Every time I feel my life sway from balance and into chaos, I remember that it is an opportunity to learn, even if I learn nothing more than that I can endure and return to the center.

Every time I feel overwhelmed by what my day has presented to me, I remind myself to have faith in the path that I am on. There is value in the strength that I have gained from falling down and getting back up.

Every time I start listening to the voice that tells me I can’t, I focus my attention on all of the voices that lift me up and tell me I can. I choose to let others support me, knowing that it honors their best intentions to do so.

Every time I feel lost, I stop, close my eyes, and feel the presence of my essential self. It’s the part of me that I‘ve possessed since birth and that remains unchanged, no matter how much life shifts around me. I’ve found a lot of wisdom hiding there.

Sometimes the best way to regain our balance isn’t by standing still, but moving forward. In this process, we can relearn the joy of riding with no hands.

Photo by Joseph Mikos

Avatar of Melissa Moore

About Melissa Moore

After more than 15 years of holding on tightly to her job in non-profit development, Melissa Moore has recently launched out on her own (www.melissamooreconsulting.com), determined to use her experience to help create positive change in the world. She lives with her husband & three children in western Michigan and blogs at www.animperfectheart.com.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Jacque

    While I love the idea of this post–you’re right! fear crept in gently–I can’t help but feel a tiny bit let down in the second half. You write
    “Hesitantly, like I just took off my training wheels.

    “I lifted my hands in the air.”
    I totally get what that means in the context of riding a bike, and I understand what it’s driving at in “life” but I could use a few concrete examples. What has “lifting your hands” looked like when thinking about how you’ll help your daughter pay for college? When you came to the realization that you didn’t fit your job at work anymore? When you’re disagreeing with your spouse about how to clean up the mess in the office? When you’re thinking about how to care for an aging parent?
    Thank you for this message, I really do love it. I look forward to hearing more, if you care to write it!

  • http://girlseeksgoodlife.blogspot.com/ Erika

    “Fall down six times, stand up seven” – I have loved that saying for a long time, but your post adds another layer to it for me…I’m always so focused on how I’m going to be able to stand up again (i.e. regain CONTROL!!!), but this reminds me that sometimes the fall itself can be a kind of beautiful letting go. Maybe an opportunity to trust life a little more to steer me to a soft landing.

  • Absabs

    it is very related with my situation. love this post

  • S P

    I love this post – and I love the story/metaphor, very touching and good to remember! Thank you for sharing!

  • Anonymous

    This is exactly what I needed to read today, thank you. Sending good vibes out to all xx

  • Matt

    Great article, a really nice metaphor too. Beneath the chaos of life there is a stillness that contains the chaos, contains everything … the ‘unconditioned’, or essential self as you put it. This is the place of no opposites, no duality.

  • akak

    I think this is what I wanted to ask, too – *how* did you let go?  Can you tell us a little more about that?

  • http://scentualsoundtracks.wordpress.com/ ScentualSoundtracks

    Love this passage: “Every time I feel lost, I stop, close my eyes, and feel the presence of
    my essential self. It’s the part of me that I‘ve possessed since birth
    and that remains unchanged, no matter how much life shifts around me.
    I’ve found a lot of wisdom hiding there.”

    Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Melissa-Holt-Moore/1480749994 Melissa Holt Moore

    Jacque & akak,

    As I was writing this post, I knew there would be people who would want to know the “how” because I have been that person, too.  I am still that person on many days.  I have no magic answers, only a process of getting from feeling overwhelmed and anxious to one of feeling like I will not only survive but I might just thrive.  What I shared above is the dialog I often have with myself to get from holding on to letting go.  But honestly, when I finally embraced the idea it was because I felt I had no other choice.  And I had a lot of help along the way.  I not only had to listen to the words of the wise people that are in my life, I had to act on them.  Two resources that you can both access and that have helped me so much over the past year are an audio book, “The Roots of Buddhist Psychology” by Jack Kornfield and the book “The Gift of an Ordinary Day” by Katrina Kennison.  Both of those, in very different ways, have been instrumental in my ability to find the faith the let go.

  • Dan Whitaker

    I’m so glad someone finally said “Do what you love and the money will follow” is a great idea, but don’t quite your day job.  Sounds like he has a lot of good thoughts in his book.

  • Jess

    So cool how all this comes back to riding our bikes as little girls, the feeling of power over everthing,well this little girl is still riding,somedays slow, most days fast, and I Still get that”WHAT IF I FALL?” feeling. It never goes away. But I Always handle things better when I get back home! Let’s Ride! Life a Jouney too cool to miss!

  • Sundancebleu

    Thanks for this, this really spoke to me and what I’ve been going through as a middle aged parent.

    - Roger

  • Carla

    Great reminder to not be afraid!  Something I’m trying to do myself!  Thanks!

  • Crystal

    That was my favorite passage as well. Beautifully written and pregnant with life’s truth and wisdom. 

  • Nicole

    Thank you for this reminder. I too, used to be fearless. But as I grew up I started fearing death. I fear losing my loved ones. I fear grief. I come across news reports of people dying and I simply get more fearful. I start to worry whenever my loved ones are out of sight driving, crossing the road, even jogging. 
    It is still a process for me, but I am trying to let go of the handlebars. I used to ride without holding on, without worrying and imagining the worst. I now am gripping too tightly and that has restricted how my path would go, and limited my happiness. I will take your cue, I will learn to embrace the feeling of uncertainty, and live to the fullest.

  • karebear

    Thank you for this post. I’ve come to realize that my anger with people isn’t because they didn’t love me enough to do what I needed them to do for me. My anger and unhappiness stemmed from TRYING to control them into being who I wanted them to be. I need to learn to let go of the handle bars because I can’t control anybody or anything else but myself.