It has been nearly 18 years since I learned to drive at age 50, and yet, before yesterday, when it rained hard, Douglas would take me to work. So, I had never really driven in a hard rain. The one time I found myself in a downpour, I was able to pull into the local Taco Bell and wait it out.
But yesterday, Douglas had to work at the time I taught, so I was on my own. I left early to work. I wanted to miss the threatening rain, so I went to work two hours ahead of time.
But, when class was over, I saw that it was pouring rain, and my home was 36 minutes away. I checked the weather on my phone and discovered that the rain wouldn’t stop until late in the evening. I sat in the car, trying to decide what to do, when I realized that if I wanted to get home, I had to drive in the downpour.
So, with a lump in my throat the size of California, I started the car, turned the wipers on high, and drove out of the parking lot, taking some comfort in the voice of the lady in Maps who directs me home each day. I drove slowly, afraid of hydroplaning. I held the steering wheel so tight that the ends of my fingers turned white and went numb. I was nearly shaking, I was so scared.
As I looked behind me at the poor souls who had the misfortune to be behind me, I worried about holding people up. I started to pull over at the nearest grocery store and let them past me, but I somehow knew that if I stopped, I would still be there at 10:00 when Douglas got off work, and he would have had to come and get me. So, I drove on, terrified to the core, and then something happened.
I had come to a red light and had stopped behind some other cars when I suffered a dizzy spell. It felt like the car had dropped from under me. It was no riddle, as I knew that that feeling was a precursor to a full-blown panic attack for me. Immediately, I relaxed my death hold on the steering wheel and gave myself a good talking to.
I said something like, “There is no one else to drive this car. This is a skill that you must learn, so let’s go home.” I prayed to God for angels to encamp around me, and I thanked Him for them. When the light changed, I felt somewhat lighter, believing that I wasn’t alone in the car.
I must tell you that part of my fear stemmed from the fact that I had nearly caused a crash on the way to work yesterday morning. I had missed seeing a stop sign in a light rain. I didn’t see the other car until he laid on his horn to indicate his displeasure with my driving. I wanted to flash my lights to apologize, but I wasn’t sure if that gesture might be considered flipping the finger. So I was already doubting my ability to drive in the rain.
But, when I heard the Maps lady say, “Welcome home!,” I thanked God for a safe journey. It is supposed to rain hard at times all week, so I will have to drive in it again, as I make this circular trip twice a week. I just have to believe in myself and in God. In life, there are times when you just have to do what scares you, especially when there isn’t anyone around to do it for you.
It’s true: It it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. Yes, I will still be afraid to drive when it rains, and maybe a good driver knows to be, but I won’t let it keep me rooted to the space, unable to reach my goals. There’s a lesson in that for everyone, I hope.