Accepting My Limitations

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I believe that sometimes, fate, or God, or whatever you want to call it, steps into your life and doesn’t allow you to do something that you were planning on doing…..especially if that something is riding a moped for the first time in your life around a tropical island on mountain roads with no railing separating you from tumbling over a cliff into a dense jungle hundreds of feet below.

Now that I look back, it really wasn’t a great plan to start with. I’ve never ridden any kind of moped or scooter (I haven’t even been on a bike in years!) and I am one of the most uncoordinated people on the planet. Even though it was a full day, guided tour around the island, Fate definitely did not think it was a good idea.

We arrived at Hawaiian Style Rentals at 8 AM, fresh faced and ready for some hardcore mopeding. We watched a quick safety video and they fitted us for helmets. This is the picture I took right before hopping on.

I look so hopeful, so cool, so….like I know what I’m doing.

But I didn’t know what I was doing. I hopped on my moped for the quick practice run around the block to get used to riding, and after the first turn, the guy holding on to the back of my moped said, “Have you ever done this before?” and I said, “No!” And he said, “You’re pretty good!” and he let go of me, and I made another turn down the alley towards the mildly busy street I needed to turn right on.

The last thing I remember thinking was He probably says that to everybody.

After checking the coast was clear, I started to go right, and…..I couldn’t get thing to turn. Because the gas was on the right handle bar, I guess I was revving it, and I wasn’t sure how far to turn the handle bar to turn the bike. I was heading into oncoming traffic, where a white limo was heading straight for me, and it still wouldn’t turn. And suddenly I forgot how to break. And then I made a last ditch effort to swerve…..and I fell over and skidded to the ground in front of the limo, which (barely) braked in time and didn’t hit me. I fell all the way off the bike, scraping up my left hip and elbow and hitting my helmet hard on the ground.

It is funny how the first instinct you have when you fall in public, even if you hurt yourself, is to pop back up and pretend it didn’t happen. At first I thought that I needed to pick up my moped, head to the side of the road and wait for Tiffany, letting all the onlookers know I was okay. But I just stood up, shaking and in shock, looked down at my bleeding elbow and then up at the limo driver who was asking if I was okay, and then at all of the old tourists swarming me, asking if I was hurt. I was barely aware of being led to the sidewalk and someone grabbing my bike. I remember lifting my shirt and seeing the huge scrape on my side, and refusing the creepy old guy who offered me a drag on his cigarette and to let me use his hotel bathroom that was right around the corner. When Tiffany came around the corner and saw everything, and asked me what happened, all I could do was burst into tears and say “I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS!!!”

My injuries.

Look, my injuries were minor, I realize that. They were merely enough to put both me and the rental company off the idea of me going on the tour. I got away with a full refund, a mini-doctoring up by a staff member and some pats on the back from Tiffany, who kept saying, “Hey, at least you tried it once.” But as we walked away trying to figure out what other activity we could fill our day with, I was plagued by embarrassment and frustration, and I couldn’t figure out why. So I can’t ride a moped, so what? I’m great a lot of other things. Who cares if I can’t ride a stupid moped around a stupid island in stupid Hawaii? (I was still really frustrated at this point.)

As usual, I kept dwelling on it, all day. I thought about why something like that would happen to me, in Hawaii of all places, on my vacation. Maybe I was really lucky – what if I’d have aced the practice run and then had the same crash on another street where the oncoming driver wouldn’t have reacted in time, or maybe I could have veered off a cliff a couple of hours into the tour after thinking I’d mastered the damn thing. Or maybe it happened because I was meant to do something else with my day. I have a bad habit of thinking too much about things – sometimes I run the risk of over analyzing the things that happen in my life that I forget to just enjoy the ride and relaxing.

A couple of hours later, while hiking through a jungle to a waterfall with Tiffany, it hit me – this was about relaxing. Falling of the moped was meant to show me that I need to accept my limitations, and then to just freaking let it go. I mean, here I was, in paradise, worried and embarrassed and frustrated that I hadn’t been able to ride a freaking moped, wondering what it meant, when I should have just shrugged my shoulders, and said, “Well, I’m not perfect. Mopeding just isn’t for me.” I shouldn’t have given it another thought, and instead, I should have kept my calm, relaxed, and reminded myself that I’m not perfect, nobody is. I should have just focused on the next adventure.

For so long, I’ve always been frustrated with my own imperfections. I like to think of myself as a daredevil, as a highly adventurous spirit that can do just about anything, and do it well. And I’ll be honest, as a kid that was pretty much true – I was great at school, sports, and conquered nearly every challenge that was thrown my way. But the older I get, the more frustrated I get when I don’t do things absolutely perfectly. I am very hard on myself, and I tend to dwell on the fact that I haven’t accomplished all that I had planned on – I haven’t published a book or written for a famous magazine, I don’t work out regularly, I don’t keep a daily journal, I’m not married or have a retirement savings account, and I don’t do all the things on my daily to do lists that I always tell myself I should do.

Writing is obviously number one on my list of personal disappointments. I always make huge sweeping plans for writing projects that somehow never seem to materialize, or I’ll write something that I think is crap and just trash rather than face the fact that it will take work to make it good, and a lot of work to make it great.

Accepting my limitations means accepting that I can’t do everything perfectly. As a writer, I think that means accepting that I can’t write more than an hour a day when my work is in full swing. It means that I’m going to write a lot of really bad stuff before I write something good. And I’m going to fail at first attempts at getting something published.

And letting it go means simply forging ahead, despite the limitations. It means still sitting down and continuing to work on a project even when I feel like it might as well be tossed out the window. It means not freaking out about the fact that I never have large blocks of time to write and instead sitting down and writing what I can in my small windows of 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there.

It means, when I fall down, instead of worrying about why I fell, how I fell, what it means for my life and what could have happened if I didn’t fall, I should just stand up, dust myself off, and say, “Well, that didn’t work. On to the the next thing.”