I bought a car. The need outweighed the fear that had kept me from giving it a shot. I knew I needed to make a change. When the car finally arrived, I was not excited. I could feel my heart beating a thousand times a minute as I contemplated a hundred terrible scenarios – two of which I had already lived through. Car accidents scare me – with good reason. I was determined to never have a car accident again.
So when I got into the driver’s sit, after nearly 10 years away, I vowed that I would drive with ‘confidence and courtesy’. One about how I would feel on the inside, the other about how I would treat other motorists. A good plan. Except it wasn’t working. Small things would leave my heart pounding; if accelerated too fast, braked too hard or just forgot to check my mirrors.
I was convinced I was driving badly and an accident was around the corner.
Inside my head there was a voice that pointed out everything I did wrong and kept repeating the refrain: stupid, stupid, stupid. Nothing had gone wrong. Nothing bad had happened. I had not had an accident where I was entirely at fault and murdered fellow motorists and pedestrians in a malicious vehicular attack. It was the response to slowing down to take a bump and nearly getting stuck half way through or coming to a stop a little too close to the gate on my way into the office park where I work or the near miss at a junction when I panicked at the sight of a speeding bus coming at me and nearly tail ended the car in front of me in a bid to get out of the way.
But all I saw was the ‘panicked’ which was far from confident. Forgetting the ‘nearly’ that said I hadn’t done anything wrong. A part of me unhappily adding, “YET!” I didn’t remember the courtesy but when I did it out of the desire to balance out some cosmic arithmetic; paying forward the courtesy in the hope of forestalling some future Karmic backlash. I was acting out of fear and it made everything sour.
The fear is real. Having an accident is a possibility. Experienced, professional drivers can have them just as novices can. Sometimes shit happens (because nothing says it better than a cliché). I can only do three things: Obey the traffic rules, drive my car with care and treat other motorists the way I would like to be treated. These are not difficult undertakings. Except all of them turn into something to be afraid of when I cannot embrace two things: the possibility of failure and the chance to show myself some compassion.
I’m not ready to review Self Compassion by Kristin Neff as I had planned for this week. But while I am making my way through it, I am beginning to hear the voice of self-criticism clearly. Perhaps with time that voice will be quieter, kinder and gentler with me. Leaving behind a voice that is confident and courteous - to me!