Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The need for moderate speed

Most people who have met me past the age of 23 say that I am a daredevil, an adrenaline junkie. Quite a few of these friends met me at a very specific time in my life where I was living free in San Diego and taking advantage of almost every single extreme outdoor sport my money could afford. I had a great group of friends, my life was fairly stable, I was young and living it up.

There was a seemingly endless stream of activities that kept me going once I started with half marathon training and my body was fit enough to do anything I wanted (well, after that first recovery from knee injury, which was an eye-opener). I did a lot of daring things during that time of my life - traveled solo for the first time, bungy jumping, blackwater rafting, canyon swinging, skydiving, paragliding, scuba diving, shotover jets, indoor and outdoor climbing, zip lining...you name it. If there was a groupon for it, like helicopter piloting, I was absolutely there and first in line, encouraging my friends to come along with me.

I've read somewhere that after the age of 25, the fear of death sets in. That's why teens and young people are so willing, able, and enthusiastic about doing activities that would otherwise seem uncautionary to older folk. I am sure there are a lot of reasons for this - you're young and likely active and relatively fit, you have a stable enough lifestyle or one that allows you to feel safe enough to risk, your focus isn't on reproduction and rearing of kids, you have freedom and hopefully some amount of spending money to go out there and do what you want. To be honest, when I first read the article, because I was at a stage of my life where I was always doing something new, extreme, and active...I didn't really believe it. Of course I had friends who never wanted to do extreme sports and were not interested in pushing the boundaries, for sure. But I thought perhaps it was just an individual preference, rather than an inherent biological mechanism.

But after this weekend celebrating Goose's birthday with his friends...I now know that I have reached that biological milestone. For the first time in recent memory, I was doing an activity that literally made me feel sick with worry and made my brain hum with constant warnings.

We were go-karting.

Now I've never had too much issue with driving. I'm sure my parents will be glad to read that I've always been cautionary, unlike many teen drivers. The most I did was make sure I was always first off of the line when the light turned green, but that was just being silly and judging the reaction times of others, not because I was going particularly fast. Sometimes I get a little apprehensive when returning to driving after being abroad (and carless) for several months in a row, but it fades after that first short trip to the store. It really is like riding a bicycle.

But this time, as we entered the longest indoor go-karting track in the UK at Capital Karts, my alarm bells were ringing internally. As I watched the people before us zoom around the track, I could feel my anxiety mounting. This was no longer the adrenaline rush of excitement (though there was still a small amount of that), it was fear, dread, the warnings of risk.

As we got suited up and listened to the spiel about different colored flags and what they meant, I tried to calm myself down. It was just go-karting, something I'd done several times before. We were wearing full helmets, jumpsuits, and gloves. I was as well-protected as I was going to be in an activity like this.

We were given 15 minutes of practice laps to assign the order in which we'd start our real 35 minute race. I started last because they needed to find me a foam insert so I could reach the pedals.

I wasn't fussed about getting in a good position for the real race - I figured if anything, it would be better to start from the back because then I had more empty space on the track for myself before anyone else would come to lap me.

We started the actual race after filing into positions. I was third from last, the other two girls in our group behind me.

For the first three or four laps, I actually tried hard to get a good time. I did have the track to myself and was feeling pretty good about being able to take the right lines (outside, inside, outside!).

But then the leaders caught up to me. So instead of being able to concentrate on the track itself and where I wanted to be positioned for each turn, it was about getting out of the way of boys who weren't interested in being polite but rather getting the fastest time. Regardless of whether they hit you (which wasn't officially allowed) or cut you off.

It made my internal warning signals flare up again. I felt the adrenaline the whole time, but this was now doubled with anxiety about personal injury, about my friends or Goose getting hurt. My brain would just not shut up. So I decided I didn't care about the time, I wasn't trying to beat anyone, I was there as a birthday celebration...and slowed down.

It was good when there were pockets of quiet and I could do as I like. But I was constantly checking to see if anyone was catching up to me so I could get out of the way. I felt exhausted by the end, being on edge the whole time, even though I hadn't been going fast.

It was the first time in recent memory that I've felt this way. I've usually craved and enjoyed the line between excitement and fear. But I guess what they said was true - I'd started having those fears. I worried about the safety of the people with me, even though we were in a relatively safe environment. I let it get the best of me. I didn't like it.

I can only imagine what this will be like once I have kids (if I am fortunate enough to have any). I get it now, I totally do. But I am wondering if there are ways of letting go of that fear. It didn't seem productive at the time and I didn't like how it made me feel or act in the face of danger. There must be a balance between fear for your loved one's safety and being able to control it enough to let them live, to let you live.

I think this is something I'll look into further. I don't want to live in fear and I want to be able to enjoy my loved ones doing risky things from time to time in the course of their lives. Things can happen regardless of how careful you are about yourself or others. Being safe but still living life to its fullest.

If CBT is any guide on that, it's going to be about facing the situations that make me feel uncomfortable. Habituate myself with fearscapes so I can understand and then control the anxiety that will mount. Sounds like a new goal for this year, along with what I am already working on - facing fears, charging forward, living life better and without anxiety.

I'm feeling better about it already. :)

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this photo of someone terrified of go-karting, so I can laugh alongside them in how silly it is to be constantly afraid.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The future is now!

Goose and I were getting ready to entertain our first guests. Four of his friends were coming down from Warwick to stay the weekend at ours for a belated birthday celebration. There was lots of fun surprise stuff planned - go-karting and an electronica concert, for starters. But this also meant that we would have four more people in our house than normal. Six people in a 60 square meter apartment with one bathroom, for two nights.

My usual organized planner-self would have been on top of this. I did make sure we would have enough guest towels and bedding...but beyond that, I don't know what happened. My foresight completely slipped.

So it should have been no surprise to me that I was rushing around that morning, tidying up the place, making it ready for our numbers to triple.

Unfortunately I hadn't made sure we had enough real food and drink in the house to entertain four people. It's a birthday weekend...drinks, drunchies, and hangover breakfasts were going to be needed. 

Being a small person in a European country can sometimes be hard. On the one hand, it's great because everything here is a lot narrower and smaller, so you fit in (minus being short, which is a disadvantage almost everywhere, it seems). On the other, it can be tough getting those daily tasks done by yourself, even when unemployed. Especially things like heavy grocery shopping. The closest grocery store is about 0.7 of a mile away from our house, and it is way more expensive than it needs to be. I won't shop there unless I really don't feel like walking and I only need stuff for a day or two. Not the kind of place you go to to entertain four people and yourselves for two days. The rest of the good, large grocery stores are about a mile away. Most do not have particularly good bus routes from our house.

In any case, my point about being small is that I have a limited carrying capacity. On a good day, if I'm feeling energetic and strong, I can probably carry a large backpack and two medium heavy grocery bags for the mile walk home. On a very good day. My back, arms, and hands usually smart for an hour or two afterwards and I might be a bit sore the next day, but I'll make it.

I'm fairly certain though that I could not do that for the things we needed this weekend - a bottle or two of wine, some bottles of cider, large amount of milk (for all the British people who drink tea several times a day and require milk in their tea)...you see my point. It was pretty much all liquids except for the bags of crisps we would also surely need.

But I hadn't planned well enough in advance to get them with a normal online grocery delivery where the latest they let you order is 48 hours in advance...sometimes. Most of the time you book a delivery slot a week in advance, maybe 5 days if you're cutting it a bit closer. So online grocery shopping from our normal retailers was out.

Then Goose reminded me that we share an Amazon Prime account. This also includes the most ridiculous service ever called Amazon Prime Now. 

I am fairly certain this only exists in large cities because to support it otherwise would be madness. Similar to how in a few cities you can get drones to deliver packages to you within a few hours. Here in London they are also testing little rover robots in Greenwich to deliver packages. 

Amazon Prime Now is like that, but with a real driver. And you can pay him/her £7 to get to you within the hour you're ordering. Otherwise it's free Prime delivery within a few hours (you can pick 3 hour windows for them to arrive). It was 9:15am when I put in my order through the app. By not requesting it before 10am I paid nothing for delivery (though I did tip the driver as part of my bill). Everything I ordered arrived at 10:45am. To my door, with the nicest driver, Howard.


All the groceries I needed minus some fresh meat products (bacon), eggs, and cake...to my doorstep, in an hour and a half. For free.

The prices of the groceries weren't even ridiculous. In fact, they pretty much rivaled anything I could buy from a normal grocery store - online and brick and mortar. The crisps I ordered were still £1 a bag, the wine anywhere from £5-7 per bottle, the pack of cider was actually cheaper at 4 for £3.50.

And I could see real time updates about my order. As soon as I submitted, a map showed up, detailing the warehouse where my order was being packaged, and what part of the order they were on (e.g. packaging, ready for pickup, etc). After the stuff was all packaged, I was not only told the name of my driver (Howard) and given the option to call him any time, I could also track on the map, where he was at all times with my delivery, so I would know when he was going to literally arrive at my door.

All of this for free with the Prime account. 

And it isn't limited to groceries. One weekend Goose ordered a new PS4 game that had just come out. It came to us within 2 hours. It was literally cheaper and faster than downloading it on the PS4 store directly to his console. And we have a fiber connection here. Cheaper and faster to have a physical human being package it from a warehouse and drive it to us, than to download it over fiber internet.

This entire thing just blows my mind.

The future is most definitely here. What's next?