The first man I met in online dating had a picture of his motorcycle on his profile. I was intrigued and terrified all at once. As we started chatting, he quickly told me I was not his type. I was clearly not the kind of woman who would hop on the back of a bike. I agreed. Yet a piece of me couldn’t help but wonder – maybe?
At that time, I was living in a quaint town in Western Connecticut. The main street, which I walked almost daily, was frequented by motorcyclists. Their enthusiasm was palpable. They looked so free. After leaving a difficult marriage, freedom was the thing I wanted most.
Safety is an Illusion
Flash forward two years, and I was officially burned out on the dating scene. While I had been seeking a “safe” man, what I was consistently attracting were narcissistic men who were manipulating my fears. I finally gave up trying to find the “right” one and decided to just have fun.
That is when he showed up – my motorcycle-riding, tattoo-clad, sensitive sweetheart. His freedom-loving Aquarius sun fuels my Leo sun’s fiery courage, helping me to see the strength buried beneath my sensitivities. His confidence and passion make me believe I can do anything – even ride on the back of a motorcycle. That is how the following six life lessons emerged.
#1 – Surrender to the Fear
The moment my excitement overtook my fear, I knew I was finally ready for my first motorcycle trip. My sweetheart had an old leather jacket (complete with fringe) and a helmet for me to borrow.
I was physically ready, but my mind was doing flip-flops. As I am prone to do, I asked the Universe to send me a sign that I was going to be OK. It came moments later, as I noticed 11:11 on the clock in my dining room. It was time. Spirit had my back, as it always does!
That same energy of surrender has existed every time I have ridden since. It is such a beautiful metaphor for the challenges of life. Fear doesn’t go away – at least not for me. It just keeps coming. I must resolve to let it wash over me every damn time.
There is the strangest sensation when the motorcycle first lurches forward out of my driveway. For a second, I feel naked. There is no seat belt. There are no walls. My brain always seems to be screaming, “YOU ARE GOING TO FALL!!!”
I wish I was kidding, but my thoughts go dark until I feel the sun on my skin, the wind in my hair, and the comfort of resting into my partner’s back. It is such a surreal experience. Working through the terror is required to get to the beauty on the other side.
#2 – Take Time to Look Around
There is the most amazing panoramic view from the back of a motorcycle. Everything is brighter as the world whips by in full, uninhibited color. Perhaps it is the adrenaline rush that heightens my every sense?
The intensity of the experience forces me to take it all in. The trees whirling by, the birds circling overhead, the brilliant wash of blue from the sky – they go by so quickly. As is true for all the joys of life, if I am not paying attention, I could easily miss out on the beauty.
#3 – Be Kind to Fellow Travelers
One of my favorite parts of riding on a motorcycle is the feeling of camaraderie with other riders. I already knew that bikers typically defy the stereotypes they live under. I grew up with close family friends who were weekend riders. They were some of the kindest people I knew, often participating in charity rides.
My partner didn’t say much before our first ride, but he did tell me that I should acknowledge all the fellow riders we encountered on our trip. He briefly explained that flashing the peace sign to oncoming bikers is a way to be friendly. I took that assignment very seriously, waving the peace sign to everyone as if we were in a parade. 😊 After we got home, he asked me to show him what I had been doing. When he saw my enthusiastic wave, he was in hysterics.
Apparently, the actual gesture is to hold your two peace fingers downward. It symbolizes keeping two wheels down on the road. It is a means of telling your fellow travelers that you hope they stay safe. That makes me a bit teary. We should all be concerned about each other’s travels. A wave, a nod, a smile, a quick “hello” – we all have the power to brighten another’s journey.
#4 – You Must Trust Your Driver
While surrendering to fear takes faith, riding on the back of someone’s motorcycle requires trust. I realized quickly after meeting my partner that he would walk through fire for me. I know that sounds dramatic, but it is true. He isn’t just that way with me. He is a natural leader who would never intentionally put another person at risk.
Being able to trust someone requires that they are in fact trustworthy. This is true far beyond motorcycle riding. On one trip, I found my mind wandering. It occurred to me how many times I had metaphorically hopped on the back of someone’s bike, only to have them ride recklessly and with total disregard for my safety. In all relationships – work, family, friendships, and romantic partnerships – you must trust the person who is leading you. If you can’t trust them, you are in the wrong place.
#5 – Lean in to the Curves
As someone who always needs to know the worst-case scenario, I asked what I shouldn’t do while on the bike. My partner said, “Please just try to lean with me when we take the turns.” He didn’t want to alarm me, but of course I understand physics. If I was leaning the wrong way, it would be much harder for him to steer, and we could ultimately tip.
This makes so much sense in regards to every challenge we face. When we fight against the curves of life, we only make them harder to navigate.
Leaning in takes the concept of surrender a step further. When I was battling anxiety, this was a surprising solution. If I just leaned in to the fear, focusing on my feet and getting grounded in my body, the energy of the anxiety would work its way through me. Yet if I attempted to fight it or even deny it was happening, it only got worse.
To be fair, leaning in is not easy. Right before the bike is about to turn, I always feel like I want to pull back. It takes a combination of courage and trust to push through. But that smooth feeling of ease when we straighten out always comes.
#6 – Balance is Key
After our first trip, my partner was amazed at how well I had done. He said he could barely feel me on the back of the bike since I had such great balance. I have been practicing yoga for 15 years, so this didn’t surprise me too much.
However, ever since the pandemic, riding has become much harder for me. It isn’t the physical aspects, but rather the wide range of emotions I experience. The added challenge of COVID has filled me with fear.
My worst-case scenario thinking has me envisioning us going to the ER for minor injuries only to end up with a life-threatening virus. Not to mention, the collective energies are so much more erratic. Several times, we have had cars that seemed to be swerving into our lane. This sends my mind into overdrive, making it so much harder to focus on all the other lessons I’ve mentioned.
Clearly, this last lesson is still a work in progress. Balance, after all, is quite dynamic. If you think of life as a teeter-totter, it is easy to see that things rarely stay still for long. Change is constant, so we must focus on staying as close to our center as we can.
Have you ever ridden on a motorcycle? Are there any lessons you would like to add? Please comment below.
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