Monday, April 10, 2006

"Oh, Shit!" Moments

Racers inevitably crash. You might say that if you don't crash then you aren't really racing. Racing is all about going as fast as you can without crossing that line that separates exhilaration and pain. I clearly remember my first crash. It had rained that morning and as team owner of a team of rank beginners the burden fell on my to scrub in new tires on a drying track. The dry line was fairly wide, but off the line the track was damp and slick. About halfway around the first lap I got a little wide because I was afraid to lean over further on my cold, unscrubbed tires and got onto the damp pavement. As I gently tightened up my line to get back to the dry pavement I suddenly found myself sliding on my butt and following my bike off the track and into the mud. Shit!

The "Oh, Shit!" moment is that moment when you realize something bad has happened and you wish desparately you could turn back time and do things differently. At that moment you realize you can't do anything except hang on for the ride and take your lumps. If you're lucky you'll avoid compounding the already bad situation by doing anything else wrong. What else could you do? How about sticking out your arm to break your fall? How about sticking out an arm or a leg to stop the tumbling? Or how about something as simple standing up before you've stopped sliding and realize that you're still going 50 mph?

One moment life was pure and clean and I was carving up the inside of a slower rider at 120 mph, with my knee on the ground and the tires at the limits of adhesion. Then suddenly my opponent tightened up his line and hits my front wheel. Suddenly I was wishing I'd just stayed behind and not tried the pass. But it was too late. Everything slowed down and I thought, "Oh, shit is this gonna suck," as I felt my shoulder drive into the curb at the apex of the turn at 120 mph. Everything became a blur as pavement scraped by at 120 mph right on the other side of my shield. The backs of my hands got hot from friction as I slid on my belly with my hands on my chest. I rolled over so my gloves wouldn't through and slid flat on my back and butt like I was on the worlds longest water slide. I wondered how long it could take to come to a stop from 120 mph and hoped that the riders behind me wouldn't run over my helpless body. I finally left the smooth, abrasive pavement and begin to bounce through the dirt and dry Texas grass. After an eternity I stopped and did an inventory assessment. All body parts present and accounted for. I rose and numbly took off my gloves and helmet. When I saw the corner workers picking up my nearly intact bike I ran over. It looked rideable so I decided to ride it back to the pits so my teammates could make repairs and continue the race. But as I raised my helmet to put it back on my legs suddenly refused to support me and I found myself sitting on the ground wondering why my shoulder was making that crunching noise and why my body wasn't following orders.

It took over six months for that collar bone to heal and it still bothers me 9 years later. The doctor called it a high energy fracture, something only seen in motorsports. It was broken into "at least" 5 pieces. The reality was that an inch of bone in the middle simply exploded into shards.

Life can be like that. I remember just as clearly an "Oh, Shit!" moment a couple of years ago. I'd struggled with doubts about the church for 13 years. Half of me lived like an active Mormon and despately wanted to believe. Half of me knew that the church's teachings had big problems but didn't really want to go there. An article on a Scientology civil suit against a web site led me to that web site where I proceeded to read some of Scientology's secret documents. As I laughed and wondered how anyone could believe such drivel I suddenly found myself googling Mormonism. In a blur of an hour I devoured page after page of information that confirmed my doubts and just like that my testimony exploded into dust and I joined the ranks of the unbelievers. Its two years and thousands of pages later and I'm still dealing with the repercussions, but I think I've mostly healed from the initial pain.

One moment in time. One critical decision. Life's path splits based on what happens. Of course, you could always play it safe, stay off the track, and avoid these moments. But then, would you really be alive?


Cynthia E. Bagley said...

yea... I have had a few of those moments... ;-)

1) When I realized that I was not the "mother in Zion" type... maybe because I could beat every boy/man in miniature golf. LOL

2) When I found that I was smarter than my Dad...

3) When I could not reconcile mormonism with free agency...

Good essay... I really enjoyed it.

Joseph's Left One said...

I've had some of those too.

I guess the trick is to not panic and just ride it out. And stay true to yourself.

Another good post, bull.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I hit my "oh, shit" moment over New years. 2 months later I am still frustrated. I want so badly to believe, to turn back time and wish to not know what I know now. I know that my husband and I cannot go back and just "fake it." I'm not sure that the pain of that will be any easier. I'm not sure what that'll teach my children. I don't want them to be the age I am now with a family of their own saying, "Oh, shit."