A Growing Sense of Mortality

It seems to me as I get older that there are more things that worry me. Or scare me. Or just out and out make me wish that they’d never been invented. There are things that I took for granted when I was younger and now, looking back, I don’t know how that could ever possibly be.  I’ve never been aware of being an adrenaline junkie – even the whip at the fair made me as sick as a dog and I think I’ve only been on one rollercoaster in my entire life and I hated it.  I’ve never wanted to skydive, bungee jump or anything like that, but even some of the relatively simple things worry me now.  Maybe it’s just a growing sense of my own mortality.

Take motorbikes for instance: my brother had a motorcycle when he was younger and one of the greatest treats for me were when he’d pick me up from school and I would ride home on the back of said bike.  The faster he went, the more I loved it: the banking to the side as we went around a bend, the feel of the wind on my face, the smell and roar of the engine – I just loved everything about the whole experience.  Then in my 20s I was on the back of a bike in Crete sightseeing with my boyfriend at the time.  We banked around a curve in the road, the bike wheel hit the camber the wrong way and the bike slid out from under us and I did a spectacular roll across the entire width of the tarmac, bouncing all the way.  Luckily there was no other traffic around and I got away with cracked ribs and a bit of bruising but it scared the bejesus out of me.  The thought of getting back onto that bike to get back to our hotel was almost more than I could cope with and if it hadn’t been the best part of 20 miles back, I would have opted to walk.  However I did get back on and we rode back to the hotel at a very sedate pace with me silently screaming internally all the way.  Since that day I’ve been on the back of a motorcycle once and every single time that bike banked to the right, the silent scream started again.  I was lathered in sweat by the time we got home and I’ve never done it since.

As for horses, I used to ride a lot when I was younger – the faster they went, the better.  I fell off a few times but never broke anything.  I had horses bolt with me a couple of times too but it never put me off.  Then I got into my teens, discovered boys and life in general and moved to London and horses were a distant memory.  When I moved out of London and started riding again, I realised that sitting five feet up off the ground on an animal with a mind of its own was slightly scary shit.  I had to relearn to ride as (1) I’d pretty much forgotten everything and (2) “how to ride” had changed completely since I was a young girl.  Luckily riding school horses are, on the whole, fairly placid animals (although one of them was a psycho mare) but I found that I no longer had the urge to hooley around the school at top speed any more.  For one thing, I’d forgotten how and secondly, my fitness had gone down the pan and with it my balance.  The first time I trotted I thought I was going to fall off, so cantering was out of the question for quite a long time.  Nowadays I don’t really feel the urge to go much faster than a trot.  What really didn’t help was the day my horse got spooked (by a motorcycle funnily enough) and took off with me.  Several thoughts went through my head as we careered through the village:

  • “if I come off anywhere around here, it’s really going to hurt”
  • “Jesus, my horse can really shift his ass!”
  • “we shouldn’t be cantering on the road – it’s not good for their legs and feet” (we weren’t going anywhere near as slow as a canter)
  • “oh shit, how am I going to stop him?” (I’m still surprised that this wasn’t my first thought!)
  • “ah well … I’ve been wanting to canter him and normally he won’t do it for me – he’s doing it now!”

Then after about a mile of this (with two false stops):

  • “Jesus I’m so knackered, I hope he runs out of steam soon!”

Finally I managed to steer him off the main road, he slipped and I fell off the side.  He took off and I picked myself up, discovered I’d probably cracked a couple of ribs and dusted myself off.

I was fine after that and got back on board within two days, cracked ribs and all.  Then, about five weeks later my nerve shattered.  Completely and utterly.  I got so bad that if a motorcycle came up behind me when I was driving my car, I’d freeze and start to panic.  That was six years ago.  Nowadays I can just about cope with hearing  motorcycle going past the yard when I’m on board but I’m still extremely nervous about going out on the road, even if it is a completely different road now that I’ve moved yards and it’s really quiet.  Hey ho.

Since tripping over a pothole and breaking my wrist earlier this year, I’ve also become more wary about walking on uneven surfaces and as for riding my bike on an uneven surfaces, I managed to come off the damned thing when going up onto a pavement from the road and the tyre hitting the pavement at the wrong angle and sliding along the edge, so now I get anxious when the tyre gets into a crack running along the road surface.  I mean – jeez – how clumsy can one woman be?

And as for walking in high heels – when I was younger, I could totter around in 3.5 heels all day at work and then stand for 45 minutes on the Tube on the way home.  Granted my feet were bloody tired by the end of the day but I still did it.  Nowadays, whenever I don a pair, all I can think of are the dire warnings I used to hear when I was a kid about breaking my ankle, etc., etc.  It’s a shame really – I just love high heels.

I did go through a period of being a nervous flyer, which was quite entertaining in a way as I was commuting every couple of weeks between the UK and Switzerland for about a year.  I’d either brace myself or do my best to distract myself from the takeoff and landing processes with TV, books, music or sleep.  Anything to take my mind off the fact that I was in a silver tube launching itself up into or being thrown down from the air at alarming speeds.  I think I’ve just about managed to conquer that one for the time being.  Time will tell as I’m due to take a long flight in a couple of months.  Wish me luck!

4 thoughts on “A Growing Sense of Mortality

      1. I was surprised, really, in recognizing myself in reading it… Perhaps I’m several years out, but it’s happening.
        3 times down on motorcycle.
        Countless horse dismounts.
        Quieting down now…

  1. LOL – you may have a year or two to catch up on me Elinor. By the looks of things you’re a much more accomplished (and much braver) rider than I am so it doesn’t look as if you will catch me up in the fear stakes any time soon 🙂

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