Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Curse of Cruise Control

Too fast! The sign said 30, but a split-second glance at my speedometer read an alarming 60. Big Blue, heeled over as if crouched to enter the tight curve, I felt like I was tucked into a bobsled rather than riding my 850-pound motorcycle. I clutched the handlebars with all my might, as if squeezing them might slow down the bike as it careened into the corner. I knew I could not touch the brakes for fear of skidding out of control on the gravel sprayed like marbles across the pavement ahead. Some thoughtless trucker had recently cut the corner by dipping into the loose shoulder, leaving behind a heart-stopping hazard for any two-wheeled traveler.

Gritting my teeth, there was no choice but to ride it out, hoping the banked road would carry me through the corner. I was afraid to breathe as I pushed the bike closer to the ground while slipping higher on the seat to balance out the centrifugal force. It was a seemingly counter-intuitive move but necessary if I was to avoid permanent road rash scars, bruises, broken bones or worse.

What was the cause of this near-disastrous circumstance? Cruise control. In days gone by I would have been riding with my hand on the throttle ready to instantly respond to any threat. But due to my Parkinson’s disease my right arm stiffens and cramps more quickly than it used to, making the use of cruise control a great alternative. I regularly default to cruise control comfort when driving a 4-wheel vehicle and my right foot starts aching and shaking from trying to maintain a fixed position on the gas pedal. But this time I had miscalculated the tightness of the corner of the freeway exit, and failed to anticipate the gravel danger on it. I had waited too long before taking back control and was going too fast for a safe trajectory through the curve.

This near-disastrous motorcycling mistake could be a metaphor for my life. For most of my life I have tested boundaries, tempted fate and trusted the world and my own ability to cope with unforeseen. Despite appearances, I was never a committed thrill-seeker or daredevil. I always did crave adventure, reaching beyond the comfortable. It was not so much for the adrenaline rush, but for the challenge of pushing past the perimeters and ignoring the margins that purported to keep life "safe". It was ‘leaving the cruise control on through the corners’.

Despite my aging and its capacity to emphasize vulnerability, I still find myself relying on cruise control in many areas of my life. At work, I set goals to slow down, only to get caught up in the calling to be "legal counsel", which has led me through many adventures over the past 30 years. Physically, I forget that I can no longer maintain the same cruise control speed, endurance or dexterity that my body once permitted.
As difficult as it may be, and as contrary to the way I seem to have been "wired", I feel a deep need to regain control over the throttle of my life. The "machine" I was given at birth needs to be more careful about cruising close to the redline. Parkinson's disease demands a slower pace. I know that if I am to navigate the many challenge-strewn corners that in all likelihood lay ahead, I must the times to cast off the curse of cruise control. I must, somehow, be convinced that slowing down does not mean I am giving up, resigning or copping out. The road ahead insists that I intensify my efforts, take back control and challenge the curves without the help of cruise control. But the question remains, "How?"

1 comment:

  1. Boy did I need to read this - thanks for the nudge.