Stalling

We bought our new Jeep Rubicon back in January. At the time of this post, that was approximately 10 months ago. I wrote all about our new purchase here, and before I go any further, I want to tell you all that I still adore Rubi as much as the day we brought her home.

It was a big purchase, one that The Mr and I had never made before, and while that was exciting in many ways, it was also terrifying. For me, this terror wasn’t just a financial one. It was also mechanical.

Rubi is a stick-shift.

I did not at the time know how to drive a stick-shift and this would be our only vehicle.

Why on earth would we choose such a thing, you ask? There were a few reasons:

  1. The Mr really missed driving stick.

  2. We had opted for the leather interior to help manage the dog fur situation (oh, Huskies…)

  3. I was determined to force myself to learn how to drive stick.

So we started our lessons. First in parking lots, and then gradually to driving to and from work every now and again with The Mr’s supervision, but I feel obligated to paint a general picture: my commute is 5 minutes with no stops or turns.

But there would be days when we were running late or I didn’t feel like driving or the weather was nasty, so these practice sessions were infrequent.

But the real truth, if I’m being honest, is that I have a lot of anxiety around driving stick. I had tried to learn when I was a teenager, and I still have this vivid memory of stalling so many times in the parking lot that my dad got frustrated and started yelling, which made me frustrated and I started crying, and then it was decided that I would be inheriting an automatic, and that was that. (In my father’s defense, I was not an easy student.)

But I was managing to drive to and from work every now and again and in my mind, progress was progress.

Until The Mr got a call that he needed to head to Nashville for work for a couple of days last week. Which meant I would need to drive myself to and from work. That part was honestly fine with me. I’d done it with him in the car several times at that point and I felt good about.

But he also needed a ride to the airport…about an hour away.

To make matters even more fun his flight also left on the same day that we were coming home from a trip to Montana.

Our red-eye flight from Montana landed at JFK at 6am. The Mr’s flight from Hartford, CT left at 4pm.

Now, it’s been well documented that when The Mr leaves town I have a tendency to get pretty depressed pretty quickly. I’m not proud of it, because so much of me wants to be that strong, independent woman who doesn’t need a man to make her happy, but dammit, he’s my person and I thrive on human interaction, so there. Sorry feminism, I’ll try harder next time. The point is, I was already dreading the fact that he was leaving, but then when you added the anxiety of the driving thing, and the exhaustion of travel on top of all that…. Disaster.

So, fast forward past my nap and pot of coffee to 2:45. I start the car and we head off. Things are… fine. I stall at a couple of red lights and stuff, but I’m okay, The Mr is with me for now and he’s talking me through it, and I keep telling myself that I just need to drive for a bit and then I’ll settle in and by the time we get to the airport I’ll be comfortable. I’ll be fine. The anxiety is all in my head. I can do this.

I can do this.

I can do this.

We pull into the airport drop-off spot and it’s time to say goodbye. The Mr is going to get out fo the car and I’m going to drive myself home. Alone.

I start sweating.

But I breathe.

He looks at me. “You’ve got this.”

I nod.

I breathe.

And then the tears start flowing.

And we both feel awful.

I wish I could explain why. I wish I could walk all of you through what exactly makes the idea of driving stick so terrifying or nerve-wracking for me, and I’m sure given some serious inward-looking and therapy I would have all the answers, but they probably aren’t answers that I’m ready to face or write about publically yet, but also Anxiety is not a thing that really shows up with a suitcase full of logic or valid reasons. It just sort of shows up unannounced with no logic whatsoever, but it’s super convincing. It’s like that guy at every party - you know the one: He says every opinion as if it’s fact and seems to have all these weird bits of data that just spew out of his mouth to back up every point and because he’s so freaking confident in everything he’s saying, and because he’s talking about a thing that you honestly don’t know that much about, like, let’s say, the ethical dilemmas of eating bananas, you don’t really have a way to shut him down or disagree with him, and then before you know it, if you’re not careful, you’re just going along with everything that he’s saying. Later, when you get home, you might google the banana industry and be like “Wow, that guy was wrong about literally everything,” but in the moment, when he’s word vomiting his confidence all over the room, you’re like “Man, I should really re-evaluate how often I’m eating bananas….”

That guy is Anxiety. And he sucks.

So I’m crying, but The Mr has to go, and so I pull myself together for a moment, kiss him goodbye, and promise to call our friend if I get into any problems.

He leaves. I cry some more. And then I take a deep breathe and put Tessa Violet on shuffle on my phone, and I set my GPS for home. This time, however, I decide to tell the GPS to avoid highways. This would ultimately mean that I have to stop at more lights more often, and it would take me over an hour and a half to get home, but for some reason (Anxiety), I thought that this would be worth it because it would mean being around fewer vehicles. Also, I thought, it would force me to practice starting and stopping more.

And so I drove.

And it was… bumpy.

But I did it.

It took me almost two hours.

But I did it.

At one point I had to maneuver around a flock of wild turkeys (thanks, rural Connecticut).

But I did it.

When I pulled in the driveway and shut off the car, every muscle in my body finally released. I got out of the car and collapsed onto the steps of my front porch where I pulled out my phone to tell The Mr that I had made it home. It was then that I saw a text from him.

The Mr: Made it to my gate. I love you.

And then I ugly-cried for a solid twenty minutes. I’m talking snot everywhere, puffy eyes, and that weird Smeagol mouth that people get when they cry. All of it. It wasn’t remotely pretty. Thankfully, I was running out of tears when our friend pulled in the driveway to drop our dogs off (She had been watching them while we were away and I had texted her explaining the situation. Because she’s amazing, she didn’t even hesitate before saying she wouldn’t make me come pick them up).

Once I got the pups inside and hugged my friend goodbye, I texted The Mr.

Me: It was bumpy, but no accidents, and I’m home…. and I think we need to text around and see which one of our friends is willing to pick you up from the airport when you get back.

The next day I drove myself to and from work and it all went fine.

Anxiety sucks. There’s no other way to put it. It’s uncomfortable and embarrassing and I don’t wish it upon anyone, but if I’ve learned anything it’s that everyone has it in some form or another.

I felt so stupid when I got home because it’s just driving. It’s a thing that almost everyone I know does every day. In fact, I’m the daughter of a former racecar driver and the sister of a guy who rebuilt his car’s entire engine when he was in high school. It should be in my blood.

But it’s not. I didn’t inherit that gene.

And you know what? That’s okay. Not in an I-won’t-keep-trying kind of way, but in an I-can-accept-that-this-isn’t-my-natural-calling kind of way. A this-is-harder-for-me-than-most-and-I-have-to-push-through-it kind of way.

And that doesn’t mean I’m a failure or an idiot or less than.

It’s just a thing, like jerks who act like they know everything about bananas, that I have mentally work around every now and again.

Maybe you can’t drive stick either, or maybe you have stage fright or the thought of meeting new people is paralyzing to you. Maybe knowing that you have to see your family makes your blood pressure skyrocket before you head home for the holidays, or maybe even just the idea of leaving the house today is too much. I don’t know what makes the banana-jerk show up and bang on your door, but I do know this: You are not alone. You are going to be okay. And you can consider this a safe space. Go ahead and share your weird anxiety-inducer in the comments below if you want to, and if you see one that resonates with you, reply with a little something of support. Virtual hugs, digital I-See-Yous. This is a No Judgement Zone.

And if even the idea of doing that is too much, just do this with me:

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

And read this: I love you.


P.S. Another friend was loving and understanding and did go get The Mr from the airport the next day and I am forever in her debt.

P.P.S. It’s been less than 6 hours since I published this post and already several DMs and comments have made me cry. You’re all wonderful.


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