Mindful Monday: Transforming Fear

Ciclavia bicycling event in Los Angeles, CA

Ciclavia bicycling event in Los Angeles, CA

Yesterday, I went for a bike ride. It was as a part of Ciclavia, an event in Los Angeles that shuts down miles of Los Angeles streets to cars so that people can bicycle, skateboard, roller skate/blade, run, walk, etc. Long as it’s person and not motor powered, you can move about however you want. I’m a big fan of this Ciclavia. It’s an opportunity to safely explore areas of Los Angeles in a different way. 

At least it’s supposed to be. 

It didn’t quite turn out that way for myself yesterday. Ciclavia isn’t a bike race. It’s usually a crowded mess of people joyously trying to figure out how to ride a bicycle in the first place. So in order to stay safe you have to slow down and smell the roses (Or other smells of LA…). It’s refreshing. 

Since it isn’t a bike race, I mostly rode about as far to the right side of the road. I was chatting away about life, liberty, and funky bicycle-like inventions. Next thing I know some dude decided it was a good idea to attempt to pass me on the right with some solid speed. Being that I was basically as close to the sidewalk as you could possibly get, I don’t know why he thought this was even possible. Which it wasn’t, because he hit me from behind before I even realized what was going on. I toppled over and slammed my right arm and left knee to the ground and/or my bike and/or his bike. Whatever it was, I hit it hard and my bike fell on top of me. 

In that instant mindfulness didn’t exist. I was instantly irate. My arm was all scraped up and my knee hurt like heck. The worst part was, it was the knee I had had major surgery on several years ago and had been so careful to rehabilitate and avoid potentially injuring situations. 

And… AND… Bicycling rules (Which are posted all over the place at this event, although in smallish print.) are to pass on the left and stay to the right if you aren’t passing. Same as motorized vehicle driving laws. But I should have known given how Los Angelenos drive, that following similar rules while riding a bicycle might be difficult.

Bicycling at Ciclavia prior to the accident.

Bicycling at Ciclavia prior to the accident.

To top it off, this dude, who passed me on the right, with not enough room to do so, and no signal to indicate he wanted to do so, started yelling at me about how I was at fault. This led to more than a few choice words for this careless, selfish, dangerous jerk face. Some profanity may or may not have been used. 

He’d ruined the good time I was having up until that point. Possibly ruined future good times. How dare he harm me! Just to be the faster one. We weren’t even in a race! And what if I’d been a small child (Of which there are plenty.)? He surely would have crushed them. 

Since he slinked away, or probably more accurately, defiantly stalked off, I realized that I was actually more scared than angry. Afraid he’d caused me to seriously reinjure my knee. Afraid that if that was the case, I’d have to have surgery again. Or else suffer a lifetime of pain. Or have another surgery and still be in a lifetime of pain. I’ve also been training for a half marathon and worried that I might not be able to run it. Or at the very least I’d lose precious training days. And my work involves quite a bit of physical movement so what if I couldn’t move?

I continued on mindlessly as I forced myself to ride on in pain out of pride (And the fact that we were miles away from our car.). I lingered in my anger and fear. I cried out of frustration and an inability to control my surroundings. I regretted not getting the dude’s info. Although I doubt he’d have willingly given to me anyway. And what would I do with that info? Report him for a crime? What would the crime have been? Being a selfish idiot? Still,if it had been a car that had hit me you’d get their information and consequences would follow. I bemoaned the seeming lack of consequences for this man’s incompetence. I hoped for a terrible fate to fall upon this dude. I threw as much of a temper tantrum as an adult can without drawing too much attention. 

Once I was done with my grownup temper tantrum, I was too tired to be anything else but present. I was forced into mindfulness. My perpetrator had vanished. I had to feel the physical pain, the emotional pain. I had no choice. 

The creative bicycles are the more fun part of Ciclavia.

The creative bicycles are the more fun part of Ciclavia.

I focused on the physical sensations in my body. The vibrations of the pain. The knots in my stomach and throat. The tension in my jaw, neck, and fists. The heat in my face. How my body felt as I pedaled and the wind blew across it.  

As I felt this pain ebb and flow, I pulled myself together mentally. I noticed my thoughts without judging them or continuing down the rabbit hole. There was no longer anything I could do about the dude who slammed into me. I had to let the fool go. There was no point in diagnosing my injuries because I’m not a medical doctor. I had to get back to our car, my knee didn’t seem unstable, and I was still able to pedal without additional pain. So I hoped for the best and accepted the latest circumstances. 

I decided I still wanted to enjoy the rest of my day so I turned my attention to my surroundings. The laughter of children (and grownups). The balloons and trees that lined the streets. The smells of delicious food along the way. The smiles of participants and volunteers. The sensation of coasting downhill. 

While I’m still not thrilled with the jerk face who hit me, mindfulness helped me get to a point of acceptance and movement toward forgiveness. This has led to gratitude. Gratitude that I didn’t hit my head. Gratitude that I had the support and backup of my bf. Gratitude that my knee isn’t as swollen as yesterday and I can walk on it. Gratitude that I have the luxury of being able to rest and take care of it. Gratitude for summer. Gratitude that events like this exist (Even if different safety measures should be looked at.). 

So as I continue to rest my swollen knee and hope for the best, I no longer feel afraid. It might sound cheesy, but mindfulness transformed that fear. I didn’t ignore it or succumb to it. I felt it and I dealt with it. So I could move on. Literally and figuratively. 

That’s all we can do. Unfortunately life isn’t fair and unfortunate events happen. I did the best that I could. Dude on the bike had to have done the best that he could and hopefully will be more mindful himself in the future. I’ll continue to deal with whatever is thrown my way as best I can. And continue to get back on that bike.