Not a word left
That I need to write
Beauty and interest
And fail to touch.
There’s a wall
Bricks of anxiety
Mortar of fear
Behind it, words hide
Trembling with fright
At their abandonment.
Yesterday, for the first time in a number of years, I got behind the wheel of our car and drove. I’ve had a little spin in it before, in the empty car park of the local golf club, but never on the open road. The last time I was behind the wheel was in our previous car, on Boxing Day more than two years ago, and that after a period of more than 2 years. In that case I panicked and gave up by the end of the road and my husband drove the rest of the way to my parents’ house.
It’s been absurd the lengths I will and have gone to in order to avoid driving. I passed my driving test a fairly long time ago, and the first car I drove for some years after was an ex-army Lightweight Land Rover. As a visitor once commented, that was REAL driving. Not only that, my scruffy old landy was invincible; people got out of the way when I was in it. The thought process went along these lines: I could cut her up…..but she’s got no paintwork to worry about sooooo….I’ll do the courteous thing and not be a bastard on the road. The known factor about land rovers is they DO have a crumple zone…it’s called The Other Car.
I don’t know what happened, but somewhere after her(my Land rover), I lost my confidence and then the will to drive. I sweated blood, practically every time I had to get behind the wheel. At first it was at night and in fog, then just at night and before long I got the shakes if ever asked to drive. I have a patient and kind husband who understands, but I hate myself for it.
So yesterday I said, OK, I’ll try. We drove about three or four miles and then came back. The little Peugot 106 we have is more like a toy car compared with the various other vehicles we have had: obviously the landrover was a tank compared to all cars, but we had a Volvo, then an Astra estate followed by a Skoda estate. The Skoda was the one I gave up on by the end of the street. I simply couldn’t find the gears; every time I changed gear, it felt like nothing would work. Silly when the landrover didn’t even have a synchromesh; you had to feel for the gears and then just shove, hard. But our little car felt quite easy and forgiving, and we returned without incident.
The plan is to take a spin at the weekends when traffic is likely to be quieter, so I can slowly build the confidence I lost. I can’t say I relish this but at least it means when the inevitable day come when it is essential I drive and there is no other option, I won’t be so terrified and then risk making mistakes. At least then I know this car a bit and feel that I can, with care, drive it.
As an addendum, among other curious dreams last night I dreamed I was in a smallish fishing boat, trying to navigate my way our of our busy little harbour. I’ve never “driven” a boat, and apart from a very few sea trips, I’m not a salty sea dog, so it seems significant that my subconscious chose to use that set of images and actions. In real life I would have been frozen with fear and uncertainty, not knowing the rules and regs of sea navigation, but in the dream I was fairly confident and assertive and steered neatly round other vessels and didn’t crash into the harbour walls. I woke before I got out to sea.
I’m hoping tonight I will be sailing out of the enclosing arms of the haven and out into the open sea….