Eyes Wide Shut

 

When I was a child, I used to do that thing that many little ones do—I’d put my hands over my eyes because I thought if I couldn’t see you, you couldn’t see me.

 

This past September, I crossed paths with a bobcat on a mountain biking trail and since then, I’m a little skittish when I ride. Especially so when I pass through the same stretch where I saw the terrifying feline. Even though I know there can be and are bobcats and mountain lions throughout the entire length of my normal path, I think I’m in more danger in the place I encountered the bobcat.

 

Which is a delusion.

 

That stretch of trail had been my favorite part until that September day—it’s shaded and twisty-turny with small bumps and dips that can get you a little “air.” Now I hold my breath as I speed through. That cat was a joy-suck. I avoid looking along the path’s periphery, which seems to be lion-den-cubby holes—padded, dark, cozy, cushiony crevices that can and probably do house saber tooth cats, waiting to pounce.

 

On the other parts of the trail where I’m a little more relaxed, I still do the same thing, though, and avert my eyes. I avoid looking out anywhere that I might see a scary cat. I became conscious of this yesterday as I recalled that it’s exactly what I did as a child: I thought if I can’t see them, they can’t see me.

 

Which is a delusion.

 

It does not protect me; it just makes me less aware. Less empowered.

 

It occurred to me the reason I don’t look around is I don’t trust that I won’t freak out if I do see a wildcat again. I don’t trust that I will remain calm and not flee like I did last time. I don’t trust that I will keep my wits about me and be still, and remember the right things to do. Things like “get big.” Things like pull the ripcord on my personal alarm, or pull out my pepper spray. Not make a B-line from the feline.

 

It should be noted that simultaneously and without connecting these dots, over the past several months, I have been listening to “present moment awareness/present moment acceptance” podcasts as I ride (without earbuds, hello). I guess in one ear and out the other.

 

And so yesterday, in that epiphanous moment when I realized “my baby hands are over my grown-up eyes,” I decided to remove them, to look directly into the dens along the margin of my trail. I decided to look out and over the meadow and into hills and all the wooded areas.

 

Present moment awareness, present moment acceptance.

 

After my bobcat encounter in September, my friend Kimberley told me about “Jerry Springer Canyon Cam” on Facebook. A local man who loves wildlife and records the happenings in the very place I ride. I friended him on Facebook and so since then, I am privy to video-after-video proof of what I fear. Those cats are indeed there and they’re on the move.

 

This is not delusion. This is reality.

 

But I wasn’t sure if it was good for me to keep checking his page–if it was counterproductive, fear-wise.

 

Last week I was on the trail, chatting with my new friend—the man with the long gray ponytail –and he happened to mention that the day before, he’d met “Jerry Springer Canyon Cam” on our trail. I asked him how he knew it was him (I’d never seen a photo of Jerry on his Facebook—just his wild animal shots) and so he described him. He said he carries a long stick with antlers attached at the top. Can’t miss the guy.

 

And so yesterday, after my epiphany when I realized I’d been acting like a child covering my eyes and deluding myself—for the first time, I too, came up behind the man with the antlers spear.

 

(I don’t believe in coincidence, do you?)

 

I rode up to him, and said, “Excuse me, are you Jerry-Springer-the-canyon-cam-guy?” I knew he was. Duh: the antlers. It’s not every day.

 

Combining the content of our friendly chat, my earlier epiphany, and the months of a new understanding about present moment awareness, I eased even more into acceptance of what is. Not frightened hypervigilance, just eyes wide open—and giving myself the time and opportunity to be still, to think, to act and not react, to be empowered.

 

Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, it can also be a path through a canyon. The more you know, the more you grow.

 

So here I go.