The heat. The sometimes blue fire. The scratch of the striker that almost feels like grating gravel in your hands. That pop sound when it lights. Almost molten metal submitting, creating bonds and strength. Welding. It is pretty dang amazing really. I could really get into it for the purpose of art, and likely art only as welding anything moto related would take me more than a few years to master and my attention span is just too short these days and I wouldn’t want to kill anyone with a lack of skill. But, as I was learning to weld in my year with Zen and the Art I realized yet again there is another metaphor in the world of bikes that just makes sense. Damn I love my motos.

I was nervous to learn. As with most things new to me, the fear of failing was real. My fear of failure has prevented me from trying so many things. Somehow this fear felt a bit worse. This time the idea of failing meant that I could ruin things permanently. I could burn myself and leave a scar far worse than touching the top rack of the oven when you’re pulling out the turkey on Thanksgiving. This wasn’t a test I could fail and just throw away in the trash. My failure which seemed inevitable would be visible, tangible and there was no way to hide it. Suck it up buttercup.

Welding was something that I wanted to be a natural at. I wanted to just be good at it right away. I wanted to be able to do this, and do it well.  Could I please this once be a savant when doing something other than counting pips on dice?    Nope.

Ugly truth was that I didn’t really believe enough in myself. I didn’t think I would be great at it and that kinda made me mad and not even want to try. Yet, something awesome had started to sink in. At some point in that year with motos I finally understood that not trying is the greater failure.  I also started to truly believe that making mistakes is a crucial part of learning. (FAIL is first attempt in learning…right?) Nobody gets everything right the first time.  I knew it would be hard for me, but this was something I really wanted. Channel the inner Yoda voice…there is no try only do. 

So I just did it. It wasn’t pretty and I didn’t even care. Then something really strange happened, I started to feel a tiny tingly feeling in the pit of my stomach, something I hadn’t felt before. I actually felt a bit of pride in myself. Whoah. Keep going, let it sink in. I learned a lot more about me than any metal that day. But before I ever picked up a torch or lit one, let alone held it to metal with a goal, I was told that one phrase would make the process make more sense to me as I started to learn. I was forewarned with one phrase to rule them all. It’s so true.

Get closer, go slower.

Part of it is holding steady with calm confidence instead of shaking hands giving away your nerves. Part of it is keeping your eyes on target even when it starts out so dark around you. Darkness is always temporary. The key though, it is that phrase in practice. Don’t be afraid to bring that tip or that fire close, no closer.  Know that the process takes time and just can’t be rushed. Get closer. Go slower.

If my baby steps in welding just didn’t seem to be working the way I wanted, it made sense to repeat that phrase I had been armed with. I started to get it. I started to see it. I could hear the difference going slower and getting closer. I could smell the temperatures and chemical reactions.  I could see the flow moving in the way I actually wanted it to. At times, it just felt right, and powerful.  I was learning that the odds were that to make it right, to make it better I had to get closer and go slower. I mean how else are you going to take metal, heat it red hot to just before the point of no return and fill it or force it to blend, to combine or become an integrated part of something else. I had to understand that the metal had to be weakened before it could be strong again. I had to understand that permanent change and beauty just take time. Patience Padawan, patience.

Get closer. Go slower. That one phrase to rule them all, to walk me through the learning of welding started to truly sink in as most things you tell yourself frequently tend to do.  Get closer, go slower. It’s not just about welding is it. 

We are all aware of feeling rushed all the time, right? We rush through everything these days. We rush through things that we should be able to take our time with.  A FB feed we scroll through but don’t take the time to comment but can offer a quick click of a button to show we care. The actual abbreviation TLDR of too long didn’t read…even five minutes? Express lines at the grocery store are now not quick enough so there’s two hour delivery because there is undoubtably something else we have to do. We eat lunches in our cars or at our desks and some days don’t even take the time to eat, because we are rushing off to something else. We are always in a hurry.

We all need to go slower in just about everything we do.

How often do we sit and concentrate on just the one thing we are doing without rushing it even just a bit? Are we truly so consumed with the idea that there are at least a dozen other things on our to do list that we have to do? How often do we slow down to just enjoy the actual moment? How often to we force ourselves to go slower?

We all know a spaghetti sauce (Gravy, thanks Sopranos) tastes better with slow cooking. Savor and be slow. Maybe dance a bit in the kitchen while you are cooking. Put on some music and enjoy what you’re making even if its simply mac and cheese or melting butter on a tortilla that will undoubtably drip on your chin when you bite the fold. Slow down and you’ll find a smile on your face.

On that moto, taking a turn and you know you might just be going in a bit too fast…get close to that line and slow down a bit with a deep breath. Enjoy it.

We know we should slow down. We feel it profoundly in moments we are sitting with our children and we wish the world could stop so they would stay little. (Hang on to the littles, time flies I promise.) We feel those moments, but take a picture and move on. We feel it in moments when we say goodbye and we wish we had just a little more time. Time truly travels at the speed of light sometimes. Those seedling reminders that we feel in those moments are just the Universe reminding us to slow the F down.

Get closer. Go slower.

Going slower is probably the easier part even though nothing worth doing is ever really easy. But getting closer, that’s actually difficult. The fear of burning through is there if we get too close. We shouldn’t get too close. We shouldn’t melt a bit and make ourselves vulnerable and weak on purpose because we could get hurt. We fight against the idea of getting closer because we fear being damaged so we tend to back away.

Get closer. Go slower.

We know our relationships with the world and the people we share it with shape us over time into who we are. We know that to build strong, beautiful relationships and to become better people ourselves, we have to get to know each other. We can’t do this shit alone. That isn’t rocket science, it is human nature. That actually might be real science even. It means we are going to have to take time, go slower and we are going to have to be vulnerable. We have to be willing to get closer. No, closer.

It is scary as hell to get closer for some of us because it means being vulnerable and we think being vulnerable is dangerous. We know we could burn a little too hot and get hurt or hurt someone else. We don’t always say what we really want or need to say because we worry about what people might think.  We worry about judgement. We worry about not fitting in. We hide parts of ourselves because we don’t think they are pretty, and nobody wants to be ugly.  Maybe the hardest part about getting closer is that we have to be honest with ourselves first. We have to admit and own our fears and flaws. None of us are perfect, ever. It is ok to be scared. It is ok to worry. I’ve also decided there really isn’t any such thing as normal.  So, dammit, it is ok to say those things, whatever they are out loud because those who mind won’t matter and those who matter won’t mind. Get closer.

It is hard to get close and go slow. It takes time to trust that process. It’s hard to trust that it is that very combination that will make us beautiful and strong. It may not be pretty the first time. It may be down right messy.  But it is true. It is time to melt the metal heart a bit with deliberate, slow closeness to form those bonds we all need so desperately.

Time to get closer and go slower.


Learning to live unafraid.

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