I've been reading At Home in the Muddy Water: A Guide to Finding Peace within Everyday Chaos by Ezra Bayda, and one part in particular has spoken to me, made me say, "Yeah, I'm that person." Bayda tells about how during a talk, he told the group he was going to ask several audience members to join him in front of everyone and have them sing their hearts out, like they do in the shower and while in their car. Bayda goes on to relate how
the tension in the room very evidently went up. He suggests this happens as a result of what people perceive as an "assault on their cherished self-image." When I read that, I went straight back to 6th grade, when I and every other sixth grader had to get up and sing the "Star Spangled Banner." Solo. I sang it with gusto, just like I did so many other things in life as a ten-year-old. When I finished, one of my classmates looked at me and said, "That was simply awful." The rest of the class laughed. Needless to say, my singing career ended right there and then. To this day, I still don't sing. Ever.
That moment in my life determined how I present myself and how I want others to see me. My self-image was carefully tailored from that point on. I wasn't going to have people laugh at me ever again. And for that not to happen, I played it safe. I did everything so as not to draw attention to myself. But like Bayda goes on to point out, living like this isn't really being free. It's living trapped by fear.
I've been working bit by bit to move beyond the fear. While I still don't sing (maybe this is something I will tackle one day), I choose something to do everyday that is directly opposite of what I would have done in the past. Whether it be what I decide to wear (I now have five dresses in my closet--I've not worn dresses in decades and the first day I wore one, I certainly drew a lot of attention to myself) or speaking in front of groups (I've done more speaking engagements since August 2012 than I've ever done before), I'm not afraid to let people see who I truly am.
And that's why I put signs on my cruiser. In the past, I wouldn't have put signs on my bike. That would have drawn way too much attention to me. Now, though, I want the attention because I want people to see I care about those living with MS. I want people to stop for one moment and think about who they know who is living with MS. Maybe in stopping and thinking about that person, they will take the next step: calling to say hello, visiting to bring cheer to that person's life for even just five minutes, or taking that person out for lunch. Those little gestures will make a great impact.