I’ve had a few fears in my life, but driving isn’t one of them.
Even as a kid, riding a tricycle on the sidewalk in my dress (remember the 1960s and early 1970s? LOTS of dresses! Every day! Those were the good old days, when people truly dressed for success. In fact, I have pictures of family picnics in the mountains where the women are all in dresses and the men are in shirts and ties! But I digress…)
Riding my tricycle, I liked to pretend the sidewalk was the road and that my trike was really a car. My shiny, sexy (aren’t vehicles always described with that word?) purple trike with the metallic streamers coming out the end of the handle bars…I loved it! And of course, I LOVED every amusement park ride that offered a mini car to drive. I sacrificed riding roller coasters for those! So while some people have a fear of driving, I’m not one of them.
Thank goodness for that, I thought, as I drove from Colorado to Utah to begin my new life post-divorce and post the rest of the trauma I had survived the almost four months previously. But I couldn’t help myself. While I drove, with lots of time to think, I thought of things I have been afraid of.
Spiders and Bugs; Snakes and Mice. I didn’t think Denver even had mosquitoes. And then I moved to a home in the “country.” Back in 1993, people used to joke I’d moved to Kansas; it was THAT far out there. I missed the sidewalks and community parks and swimming pools of a planned neighborhood. And then I discovered my new home was also replete with everything I feared. Giant spiders I thought only grew in rainforests were crawling on my porch. I found bugs I’d never even seen in museums crawling INSIDE my house! There were snakes of many varieties outside the house–and one VERY HOT SUMMER, I found two GIANT snakes actually INSIDE the house. Not to mention the little black things I found that I eventually learned were mouse droppings…when I found mice. I HATED all of that.
I hired exterminators and pest controllers. I threatened to move to a hotel until they were completely eradicated from my life. (You should have seen the exterminators’ reactions (yes, I went through countless different exterminators and pest control companies in an effort to have someone remove this fear from my life) to my hatred of pests, “Lady, you live IN THE COUNTRY!” They must have thought I was a lunatic, an idiot, or both.
I did everything I could to remove these unpleasant things from my life, but none of them ever completely went away. It seemed like I faced one of those above-mentioned fears every day, in one form or another, and after 16 years, I realized that although I didn’t like them, I wasn’t afraid of them anymore. It’s true: ”Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage and confidence in the doing.” It was a good lesson for me to learn. I was going to need it.
The dark. Even as a little girl, I was afraid of the dark. Afraid to be alone in the basement even, especially if it was dark. I was afraid of thunder and lightening in the dark (so afraid that my thoughtful dad got so he’d come and check on me, in the middle of the night, during every storm–even when I was a teenager!) As a woman, I didn’t sleep a wink when my spouse traveled and I was home alone. And as a mother, the bedtime routine on nights alone was quite a production: I’d haul all of my children into my bedroom, push a big piece of furniture in front of the door, and STILL lay awake afraid all night while my babies and kids slumbered peacefully! The confession of a coward, I know. But, somehow, over time, the fear went away. I realized a year or two before I got divorced I wasn’t afraid at night anymore. I don’t know if it was because my spouse traveled so much I got used to being alone at night or if it’s because I simply gave in to the exhaustion and finally slept; or if it’s because my oldest son got old enough I felt I had some protection; or if I just finally “grew up,” but whatever the case, I’m not afraid of the dark anymore. And that’s good. Because I’ve had some darkness. And I’m all alone in it.
Which brings me to my next fear: Being alone. LOVE this one. (NOT!) I was always a social person. Had lots of friends. Had lots of dates. Never thought I’d end up alone, much less at just 41 years old. But I’ve learned to deal with it. And in many ways, it isn’t as scary or as bad as I’d always imagined it would be. Either that, or I’m getting used to it. (I didn’t want to get used to it, darn it! I liked being married and wanted to get married again! Oh well. At least I’m open-minded about a possibility that includes me being alone for the rest of my life now.) Good for me for conquering this fear.
Being responsible for a child. Ironic, I know, that a mother of four children would be afraid of this. But in college, as I saw new parents strapping a baby on their back and going to class, it FREAKED ME OUT. The thought of having to feed a child when I was a poor college student kept me single until I was ready to graduate! I was always so afraid of the thought of being financially responsible for keeping someone else alive–I worried I wasn’t up to that. I was fine when it was just me, but the thought of anyone else relying on me for support terrified me. Lucky for me, I eventually matured and was married to a good provider before I had children. I wasn’t so afraid of this anymore because the providing was on his shoulders AND I had a partner in the parenting endeavor. I wasn’t doing it alone.
Enter March 18, 2009. I found out not only was I going to be alone, I was going to be SOLELY responsible for FOUR CHILDREN. Responsible financially, emotionally, physically, in every way responsible. I WAS TERRIFIED! But I didn’t have the luxury or time to sit around and think about how afraid I was. (THAT part came as I drove to Utah.) I thought I had just six weeks to get everything resolved as it related to being alone and being solely responsible for four children. I had a SERIOUS deadline.
Like the children’s “bear hunt” rhyme, I was going on the hunt of my life and I couldn’t go over it, under it, or around it. I had to go straight through it. I had to, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do what you are afraid to do.” (No offense to anyone named Ralph or Waldo, but I’ve always found it ironic that someone named Ralph AND Waldo had such great things to say and in such a brilliant way! lol)
And as I did that, I stretched and grew. Again. Every day. Just a little bit more. Until now I can say I agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson on another thing: ”He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”
But as I drove to Utah from Colorado on July 13, 2009, I hadn’t learned this yet. I had eight hours to think and I thought about how afraid I was of my life. And how afraid I was of what was ahead of me…for the rest of my life.