Freedom, anxiety, and doing that thing I had hoped I would never have to do.
I took a big step this week. I got a learner’s driving permit, took an online course, and scheduled my first few driving lessons. It’s a big deal.
I am afraid of driving. As a small child, I used to have nightmares about having to drive a car and not knowing how. I can still remember some of those nightmares. I can see images of the dark night and the bright street lights. I can feel my tiny body lean to almost horizontal to try to pull the heavy door closed. I can feel my heart race trying to figure out pedals and gears. I can still remember these images and feelings even though they are more than 30 years old.
When I was living in New York, I didn’t expect I would ever leave. I didn’t expect to ever need to learn how to drive. That was just fine with me. I loved New York just for being New York. But I was also always dimly aware that living in New York meant never having to learn how to drive. And I liked that about it too.
Now I am back in the south suburbs of Chicago where I grew up. I have lived here for a year already without driving.
In being sober from sugar and compulsive eating these past 9+ years, I have learned that I am allowed to do things in my own time.
Just because I know I want a change, doesn’t mean I am ready for it. And it doesn’t matter what other people think about it either. I am allowed to change in my own way, and at my own pace.
People keep assuring me that I will catch on quickly. That driving is simple. That even stupid people can do it.
I’m going to tell you something. This is not helpful. The nature of my anxiety is not rational. It’s deep rooted in childhood trauma. It’s not about easy or not easy. It’s about something much more primal. The physical reaction is intense. Fight or flight. And failure occurs like life or death.
And it is. I have never paid so much attention to vehicles on the road as I do now. I look at some guy driving a Hummer in this fully paved and basically flat suburb and I think “when I start driving, that guy will be a threat to my physical safety.” I think things like “perfection is the only option or I die. Or kill someone else.”
And I wonder how it is that every day, people just get into their giant rolling blobs of mass and inertia and go about their day like it’s no biggie.
I’m not saying I won’t do it. I will. I even suppose it will eventually just become life. Like things do.
I was terrified to give up sugar and carbohydrates too. And in the beginning it was scary. But now it just is what it is. And I’m happy to have the freedom. Which is probably exactly what driving will be like in the end.