Nerve(s)

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1964 Ad, Miles Nervine Tablets, Capsules, Liquid for Calming Nerves, Young Housewife Burns Muffins

We’re less than three weeks away from the big bike ride. Last week, I hardly rode at all. But this morning, I saw how gorgeous a day it was shaping up to be, and I knew I’d need to get out there. One thing led to another, though, and I didn’t leave the house until noon. I still managed to get out and do six laps of the park (a shade over 21 miles).

I’m no longer at all intimidated by the actual riding. But getting on and off my bike (with the new seat height) continues to stress me out. Today, I noticed I was more steady when I did so, but I still get very anxious about it – enough that I find myself continuing to pedal when I really should take a break.

Obviously, being successful in the ride will mean knowing when to stop and drink and eat, not plowing through all 25 miles at once because I’m afraid of falling off my bike when I stop! I know it’s all practice, and it was reassuring to see that I was in better shape today. I’m meeting the trainer on Thursday to work some more on my starting and stopping, and see if she has any final words of wisdom for me. Just the one session I had with her so far improved my biking immeasurably.

While I was riding today, I thought about times in my life that I accomplished physical feats that I hadn’t dreamed I could, until I did. Birthing very large babies. Running a half marathon. Teaching myself to kayak better one summer, when I had unlimited access to one. Biking 42 miles through all five boroughs of New York City. And, most spectacularly and going way, way back, teaching myself at age nine or ten how to do a flip off the diving board, after watching a friend’s diving lesson, and then, after doing flips from the low dive a bunch of times, deciding I was ready to flip from the high dive. (Turns out you don’t actually stop flipping once you start, because of the laws of physics, which I had not yet learned in school. I did a massive belly flop and when I came out of the water, the lifeguard who asked if I was okay was pale under his tan.)

Nerve is a quality that cannot be underestimated. I couldn’t have done any of these things without it. But the archenemy of nerve happens to be its plural, nerves. So going into this bike ride, I’m hoping to squash the nerves, and rediscover the power of nerve. Nerve is a quality that runs through a few generations in my family. My parents had to have some nerve to leave the land of their birth, to seek better lives elsewhere. (So did my grandparents on my father’s side.) We have a lot of nerve. It has to count for something.

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