A Mountain Road, A Motorcycle, No Guardrails

Fear gripped us as we started down the mountain.  We were in Arizona on a motorcycle tour.  The others were more experienced riders, and used to the terrain out west.  We were used to riding rolling hills with trees and shrubs on the side of the road.  Here were sharp switchbacks and a steep drop-off to the right.

NOTE:  This is the straight part of the road.  No one took pictures on the switchbacks.

NOTE: This is the straight part of the road. No one took pictures on the switchbacks.

One false move and we could go hurtling off the side into the abyss below. 

I could feel the tension in Jerry’s body.  I leaned close so I could hear him, sensing he wanted to say something.  “I don’t know if I can do this.  And we’re way behind everyone else.”

“Don’t pay attention to anyone else,” I responded.  “Ride your own ride.  And don’t look at the canyon either.  Focus on the road and do what you know how to do.  You know how to take curves.  You know how to brake and turn.  You can do this.  Just breathe, lean into it, and ride at your own pace.”

With a somewhat calmer mind and white knuckles gripping the handlebars, Jerry kept going.  I held onto him loosely, knowing that if I held tightly it would add to the tension.  I could scarcely breathe, yet forced myself to breathe as normally as possible to try and bring calm to the situation.

One turn…and another.  The brakes holding up.  One step closer to our destination – Sedona.  More switchbacks.  No guardrails.  Thinking – “Focus on your ride, Jerry.  Do what you know how to do.  Don’t look at the drop-off.”

And suddenly around the next bend, the road got a little straighter.  And we saw the most unbelievable scenic vista in front of us – the Sedona Valley.  Bright red rocks dotted with green oases.  It was breathtaking.

We found a turn-out where we could stop and really take in the view.  As we did, we realized why the tour leader had chosen this road.  What we would have missed if we hadn’t taken this treacherous ride!

On solid ground. What a view!

Two weeks ago I had some of those same feelings – like I was white-knuckling it through my life.  I didn’t know if I could keep going.  Constant travel with different time zones and not-so-healthy food, a hectic schedule, conflicting priorities, and budget challenges.  Trying to keep up with my blog and podcast with a mind that was exhausted.  Feeling like a failure because I couldn’t solve every problem or find creative flow.  Feeling like no one was even listening.

What did I do, after first hyperventilating and crying out of frustration?  I talked to some of my close confidantes.  And they told me something similar to what I had told Jerry.  “Breathe, Kathleen.  Slow down.  You’ve got this. “  Effectively, “Ride your own ride.  You know how to do this.  Don’t look at the drop-off.  Just focus on the road and do what you know how to do.”

So I did.  I ended work earlier and got more sleep.  I went for walks.  I went to a concert with a friend.  I reminded myself why I was doing what I was doing.  I relaxed into the curves.

And suddenly the road got straighter.  We found a way forward at work.  Not perfect, but manageable.  A Facebook friend invited me to write an article for her internet magazine.  And one of my favorite authors replied to my email with a lovely note of encouragement.  A scenic vista.  In the middle of the mountain.  Giving me the courage and conviction to keep going.

Maybe you haven’t been on a motorcycle hurdling down an Arizona mountain.  But maybe you’ve been feeling like “I don’t know if I can do this.”  So don’t look around at anyone else.  Ride your own ride.  Focus on the road and do what you know how to do.  In due time you will get to the scenic vista.  Maybe a little shaken.  Maybe with red welts from gripping the handlebars.  But there.  It will be beautiful.  And worth it.

Do you know someone who is struggling with “I don’t know if I can do it?”  Share this post with them, and encourage them today.  And if you’re trying to keep going yourself, share below.  We’d love to help you make it down your mountain with grit and confidence.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Caroline

    My ride has had many twists, ups and downs over the past several months. Starting with my husband’s heart tests leading to a Quintuple Bi-Pass surgery in February and all that comes with is recovery and Diabetes diagnosis, to my youngest son finishing off his Senior Year of Final Basketball Games, with us not being able to attend. Our oldest son who is in the military was getting some of the life blahs and lives across the country from us, while my middle son was forging on with his college courses trying to get back in to the school he really loves. We forged on with every bump in the form of pain, stress, fatigue. We are beginning to see some light at the end of a long tunnel. My husband returned to work part-time for 4 weeks and is now in his second week working full-time. He comes home exhausted. We are taking each day as it comes and are looking forward to December 30, 2016, when he will retire and start getting to have some more fun on his own schedule. Our oldest son is doing better and we are hoping he gets to come home for his youngest brother’s High School Graduation in June. Our middle son is still forging ahead with his classes, while working full-time and volunteering at an amazing Hospital. Our youngest son will be graduating in June, as Salutatorian of his class and he has accepted his invitation to attend UW this Fall. My sleep is improving, knowing they are all doing better. My Wife’s heart is Thankful to still have my husband alive and with us. My Mama’s heart is bursting with pride over my sons’ accomplishments, while knowing one day very soon they will all 3 be off on their next chapter in this journey of Life! My human heart is so Thankful for the gifts of faith, family, love, friends, encouragement and prayers. One of these days the tunnel will be shorter and the light brighter. For today. I will forge on, a little tired, but very Thankful.

    • Wow,Caroline. When you put it all together, that is one bumpy ride! I am so glad your husband is doing better, even knowing he has a long road ahead. And you have forged on through this journey, supporting and praying them through it.

      • Caroline

        Thanks Kathleen! I’ve fallen asleep most nights saying prayers, but we’ve had many people praying for all of us, especially Wil.

  • That’s a great analogy Kathleen for dealing with life challenges. At times like that I try to remind myself that ‘this too shall pass’. Yes it may be tough now, but it will change – the same is true for those days that are relatively smooth as well. I think faith in the One who is in control is central, As the psalmist says “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”