We lived out in the country, in "the boondocks," so there wasn't much to do. We'd wander the woods, scare the cows in the pasture across the road, and wander. Once we got 10-speeds, our radius widened substantially. Still, we were always looking for shortcuts. There's one shortcut in particular I'll never forget...
John and I had ridden our bikes across the river and quite a ways up Court St. to see if we could find anyone to hang out with on the east side of town. To get across the river and the train tracks was a long haul of a road built with huge horseshoe bends on each end and two bridges in the middle. It added miles to our trip. Or, that's the way it felt. Desolate, long stretch of road.
Running late on our return (my parents insisted I be back at 4:30 for supper every day), we decided to follow the train tracks, cross the trestle, and cut some miles off our adventurous trip. For most of the time, there was a decent path to ride our bikes beside the tracks, until we came to the trestle. Amazingly, on the trestle the cross ties ran parallel to the tracks, and it was possible, if we were careful, to ride our bikes across - as long as we kept our wheels out of the 3" gap between the boards.
John went first and off we went. I was about half way across the trestle when I heard a train whistle behind me. John heard it too, turned his head about to look and pedaled like crazy. I heard his manic laugh and knew that I'd have to do the same, and I did. Only I wasn't that good about pedaling fast and keeping my tires on that board. My front tire went between the two boards down to the axle, and I fell forward. Both of my thighs were hung up in the U of the handlebars, and the rest of the bike was up in the air against my back. I started screaming and John was laughing so hard he could barely stand. The more he laughed, the more I screamed and the more he laughed. And then I got mad.
Somehow, I wiggled my way out of the tangle with my bike, yanked the front tire up and ran with it to the other side of the trestle where we both fell into the grass to catch our breath. It took awhile, but I was soon laughing with John; though I managed to get in a few solid punches first. I don’t' think the train ever did pass us, and of course that made John laugh even more.
I know I was so terrified I about peed my pants. But, I didn't. That would've made John laugh even more, if that was possible. The only thing that broke my paralysis was anger, and boy was I ever angry at John. He didn't come help me! Even then, I knew he was too afraid to try to help me, and I don't blame him. Not one bit. I have no way of knowing if I'd have reacted differently in that situation myself.
When I think back on this little adventure, I realize that, through the years, it has always been anger that breaks me out of paralyzing fear. Only anger. And, fear can take so many forms. It can be generalized and constant so that it shows as depression, or it can get a little more intense and become a sort of panic. But then anger kicks in and I then become active instead of reactive.
"There's nothing to fear but fear itself," as the saying goes. And fear is so debilitating. The lesson I learned out of this adventure was that everyone deals with fear (actually, all extreme emotions) differently.