“Basically, your dog is scared of life,” the vet said.
Great, we thought to ourselves. How exactly do we go about resolving that?
Now I am not one to engage in pet blogging, mainly because I recognize few people will ever find my dog as charming, adorable, or entertaining as I do. But I made an exception in this case, as the vet’s words and her words of instruction lingered in my head all week.
Admittedly, my dog (who is, incidentally, as charming, adorable, and entertaining as they come) does have some issues. She was abandoned twice before we adopted her from a rescue as a puppy, and she has an exorbitant amount of fears: anything with wheels (bikes, strollers, skateboards, scooters, wheelchairs, roller blades, luggage, etc), anything that makes a sudden noise, anything that causes sudden motion, anyone she doesn’t know, etc. The daily hum of anxiety that accompanies her intensifies into sheer panic when we’re not around her, since apparently we’re her ultimate security blanket.
“The best thing you can do for her is to let her experience life. Expose her to as many things as possible and help her learn to see she doesn’t have to be scared of every new thing,” our vet told us. Of course she gave us even more specific instructions, but her overall assessment was powerful in its simplicity.
Just live, just do, and you’ll get to the point where you’re so busy doing and living that there’s no room for fear.
I don’t have an anxiety problem, nor am I besieged with fear by things with wheels, things that move, things that make sound, strangers, or anything I’ve never seen before. By no means am I scared of life. But I do doubt my body sometimes, doubt that it will be up to the task at hand, doubt that it will come through for me when I depend on it.
I had my sweet, scared little girl in mind this week when I did something I haven’t done in years: I rode a bike. Not a stationary bike in a city gym like I’ve ridden for years, but a regular old dusty dirt bike. And I didn’t ride through the suburban developments and sidewalks of my youth, but on an honest-to-goodness trail, a pretty famous trail, even if I only did part of it.
Once I got my license as a teenager, I left my mountain bike in my parents’ garage to collect rust and cobwebs. In the ten years that have elapsed, my body has been through a lot. I was already well accustomed to my lungs preventing me from doing things, (I’d dealt with that since birth), but something in me changed after my adrenal system crashed. I got so used to my body failing me and so used to the small losses that amounted to a significant whole that I forgot how to trust my body again.
It’s been three years since my body came to a standstill (literally) and physically the symptoms of adrenal depletion are so much better, but my mental conditioning hadn’t caught up completely. I put in long hours, I work seven days a week, I go to the gym, but until this week I hadn’t pushed myself out of my comfort zone because it didn’t even occur to me I’d be able to.
The day we set out to ride, the humidity was temporarily gone, my infection was under control, and for once, my lungs were cooperating. Now, would the rest of my body?
It was never the bike that I feared, it was the possibility that I’d get several miles out on the trail and something would happen and I’d get stuck there, or that I’d start the day feeling pretty good and end it in a state of setback.
Instead, I got on the bike and just rode. And rode. And I was too busy moving that I didn’t think about what my body might not be able to do.
Simple advice, really.