Trending online and around town this week: quotes about living for your hopes and dreams, not your fears. Quotes have been attributed to Brené Brown, Nelson Mandela, and many others.
This is an important idea for people in this audience. We have limitations other can’t see, and must constantly explain ourselves. How often do you begin sentences with the words, “I can’t…”? This can lead to a mindset in which we limit ourselves even more than our conditions do.
The people we love can limit us too, in their attempts to protect us. If it were up to my mom, I’d have hung up my wheels long ago. I know it tortures her when I go bike touring, but I have to go. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t keep pushing my limits.
A few months after my release from the hospital, while I was still in rehab, I went for a vascular scan to determine the status of my left carotid artery. It had collapsed on impact, causing a stroke. Anticoagulant medicine had restored enough flow so they could wait and see if I needed risky stent surgery.
The scan revealed that my artery had fully healed and there was no restriction to bloodflow. This was so unprecedented, they didn’t have a long-term plan. My doctors had to conference and decide whether to keep me on anticoagulants, and if so, what type and how much. When I saw my vascular surgeon, I told her I wanted the care team to be aware that I was back on my bike, and I wanted them to be conservative with the medication because I didn’t want minor bumps and bruises to become serious injuries.
My surgeon looked up, her eyes wide, and said, “I’m—taken aback. We worked so hard to save your life—I had to go to the bathroom so badly, I sweated for 4 hours while I worked on your hand. I didn’t dare leave because you might code on the table and we had decided to amputate if you did. How can you just go back out there and risk your life again? Do you have that little respect for what we did for you?”
“I’m taken aback too,” I responded. “If you worked that hard to save my life, how does it honor your work if I don’t even live it?”
Her eyes filled with tears and she said, “Thank you for that. I needed to hear that. Of course we want you to live your life. Just—do it carefully, please.”
That’s the line I walk every summer as I set out on my bike adventures. I can’t tour like I used to—no 80+-mile days, no sleeping on the ground. I ride much shorter days and spend more time making friends in the towns where I stay.
There is a stretch of highway on the road to my happy place (Free Spirit Spheres on Vancouver Island) where I’m forced onto a divided 4-lane freeway for about 16 miles. I rode that stretch twice, then on my way there in the third year, I just had enough of being buzzed by semi-trucks on narrow bridges. Rather than ride that stretch on the way back, I pulled off in Parksville and got a bus to Nanaimo. I’ve never looked back; the bus is part of my route plan now. That’s being smart, not fearful.
Last year I had to bring my car on my trip for the first time, because my knee was too injured to ride more than a few miles a day. I did a lot of open-water swimming on that trip. I was limited in my riding for a year—my health declined and I put on weight from not moving enough. As winter set in, so did depression. The life I’d worked so hard to preserve was slipping through my fingers. I kept going to the pool when I couldn’t ride my bike, but I felt deeply frustrated.
Then I learned that my knee wasn’t healing because my diet lacked collagen, and when I reintroduced it, the healing began. It started to feel like my own leg again. And I got the text from Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, asking if they could call me to talk about year-end closeouts. I texted back, “Yes. Yes, you may.” What harm could it do to talk with them, right? It had been months since I’d serviced my tiny house dream.
I thought it was probably hopeless, but I found myself saying yes at every turn, taking the process a bit farther with every form I filled out. It was like a runaway freight train mowing down all resistance in its path. My hopes and dreams had no patience for my fears. How could I live in a tiny house with a ladder to the second loft? What if my knee got worse again? It didn’t matter, I was running full steam ahead.
Now that I’m here, I can’t say it’s been easy, but my body is improving every day. My knee aged me 10 years, and I’ve backed off 7 of them by now. Every day I give thanks that I followed my hopes and dreams and not my fears. I’m grateful for the character flaw that makes me bet on my own horse, every time, even when she’s staggering around the glue factory.
What’s holding you back? Do you dare to let it go?