“If you go ahead, if you keep on running, wherever you run you will meet danger and evil, for it drives you, it chooses your way. You must choose. You must seek what seeks you. You must hunt the hunter.” – Ogion the mage to Geb from Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea
I have a new understanding of fear. A new fear of mortality. It’s happened because of a few aspects of my life have come together over the past month or so
Last week I was in the hospital for a prolonged bout of atrial fibrillation (a-fib); a heart condition I’ve had since I was about 16. I have grown up with a-fib and I thought I knew how to manage it. I was wrong. Basically, for 28 hours, my heart was beating at a pace like I was jogging the whole time. I spent two nights in the hospital which was a new experience for me. I’d like to never go back. Now, I’m living with the fact that I could have an a-fib episode at any moment, and that if it did happen again, it could lead to a stroke, or it could damage my heart to be beating that quickly for that long. Maybe I would end up back in the hospital.
In addition, about a month ago I went to spend the weekend at Fargo Skate Park in De Kalb, IL. for what I called “Skateboard Immersion Camp.” I had two days of nothing to do but skate for eight hours a day. I was pushing myself way past the limits of my ability and While I was doing that I crashed A LOT. Over and over and over.
It was what I was there to do. But then, after returning to Chicago, I kind of couldn’t skate for about a month. I had some busted up ribs. I was bloodied and bruised and my legs were weak from strained muscles that had never worked this hard.
That was in late April. I just got back on the board this week.
I got on my board for the first time and I immediately stepped off. I was scared. I had never been scared this scared. This 9 months of learning to skateboard I’ve had some falls, but never like I did at Fargo Skate park. And, before my time in the hospital I had no idea what it would be like in the hospital. I had an attitude of, “Well, if I have to go to the hospital, then that’s life. I’ll manage.”
Now, when I get on my board I think, “Now be careful. You don’t want to end up with busted up ribs, struggling to breath, like you did after Fargo,” and “Be careful. If you really hurt yourself you’re going back to the hospital. And you know what you think of that.”
It’s fear of pain. Fear of missing work. Fear of hospital bills. Fear of looking foolish; of seeming reckless. Now I know about the pain; when it hurts to take a breath, sneeze or get up from bed. I know about being in the hospital, connected to a million tubes, unable to go to the bathroom without asking someone to help me, lying there alone, too much energy to sleep, but too tired to do much of thing else. I do not want to go back.
The first time I got back on my board, I returned to the tennis court where I practice my drag stops and basic pushing, I actually had a small panic attack. I couldn’t do it. My body was ready to skate but my mind wouldn’t allow it. I went home almost immediately.
It’s been four days since I’ve gotten back on my board. I broke down and bought some new pads and I’ve been wearing my helmet more. I’ve gone to the skatepark three times. I’ve working on my ollie, my drag stop and my kick turn to fakie. I bit it hard for the first time since Fargo today; crashing as I was practicing my drag stop. The hesitation I was hoping to lose over the spring has actually gained power, but I’d dedicated. I want to skate this thing.
I have a new fear. I’m learning to hold it and be honest, “You are correct. This is scary and things could go badly.” But, I’m not going to let that fear overtake me. I’m going to learn to move past it.