Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Just pawns

There's very little I fear in this world. Actually, there's a lot I fear in this world. But most of it - nay, the overwhelming majority of it - has nothing to do with me. These are things that cannot be helped, things I'm not in control of in any way. The unknown is what scares me the most.

When I got in my car accident on Thursday, I didn't shy away from the road afterward. My next step once I'd gotten my car into the shop for repairs was to try and recover from the fear of getting into yet another car accident. I drove with my dad to Disneyland the next day. After that I drove him to rent a car then went on my own back home. Baby steps.

But it isn't that I lack the confidence I used to have on the road. I still know that I have the ability to maneuver well in a vehicle several times my size. It's just everything else that freaks me out. Let me rephrase that: everyone else.

This morning when I got into my dad's car I didn't want to leave home. I had to do it, I knew that much. But if I could put it off, I would. For as long as it took to feel comfortable again.

Would that moment ever come?

Well, it didn't. So I just left. Pangs in my stomach, nausea et al. I needed to get over this, so I just jumped right in.

Yet there's something about feeling unsure of yourself that is utterly unconquerable. They say it fixes itself with time. That once you throw yourself back into the fray you get used to the unease. I still haven't gotten used to anything yet.

About 15 minutes into my drive I started to feel incredibly sick to my stomach. Like a kindergartener entering a classroom setting for the first time in their life, I had the feeling that nothing could make that moment worse. Not only had my accident ruined my car and destroyed my confidence in thwarting potential accidents, but it also gave me the added task of learning how to drive a brand new car - my dad's car - which I am incredibly nervous about wrecking considering it doesn't belong to me.

I thought about whether I could handle switching lanes. So I tested it out a bit. I moved to the fast lane within the first few minutes of switching freeways. But then I felt even more sick. The cars zoomed past me on my right and flashes of my accident came back to my mind. I left space for two cars in front of me simply because I wanted to be sure an accident didn't transpire the same way it did for me at the end of last week.

Then I thought about whether I could even handle staying in the lanes. I wondered whether I could get off the freeway altogether. My stomach started to feel even worse.

When I got to the parking structure at work, I called my dad to confirm I'd made it there safely. I yawned into the phone and he gasped, thinking I was reporting some sort of accident or I'd taken ill or some other catastrophic development when just a week before he would've rightly assumed I was just yawning. His tension made me tense too.

But none of this is in my control, and that's the scariest part about all of it.

We're both right in being afraid, because in truth we can never know what will happen within the next second. And in a car that fear is magnified ten fold.

For so long I thought I was exempt from this fear. I'd driven four hours a day for five days a week for six weeks in full. At this point, the chances of my getting in an accident were so slim that I probably needn't even consider it. Plus I'd become so confident behind the wheel that chances were I'd be home free in a couple of weeks, my car free from any dents, scratches or hints of wear and tear.

It's really scary to think that the belief I had was unfounded not because I was wrong exactly, but because the belief in my infallibility has nothing to do with anyone else's. People make mistakes every day. They get people wrapped up in their errors. And even if we think we are the makers of our own destiny - even if we don't believe a higher power has any say - when we're skidding on the road avoiding hitting cars, it becomes clear we are just pawns in a game of Chess.

I want so much to know what's going to happen, or just to have faith that things will work out for the best. People like to say that they will - to reaffirm our positive feelings and make us think things will always turn out for the best. But it becomes exceedingly more difficult to embrace positivity when your fate rests in the hands of so many people, least of all yourself.

I like being at work now. Sitting at a desk in front of a computer on a comfy chair, there's no question to me that I'm safe. But once I get back on that road I don't know if I'll be able to handle the psychosomatic symptoms. I only hope everyone's right and they go away sooner rather than later.

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