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(I apologize, yet again, for interrupting a series…something tells me I need to write this NOW I also apologize for its length.)
You heard it here, dear readers, and it is no secret that yours truly does not have and has never had a driver’s license. I had a permit when I was sixteen years old, but I failed my first test because of a parallel parking issue and the new insurance card was not in the vehicle for my second attempt.
My first hurdle came from the State of California. As a diabetic I had to have my doctor fill out a five page questionnaire regarding my health. At the time I was having a lot of problems with my insulin routine, but no one seemed to want to help me smooth out the areas where I was having issues. Still, I was not losing consciousness, I was never in the hospital, and my ability to function was in no way impaired. My pediatrician was always certain I was lying about taking my shots, but that is a topic for another time, and wrote on the form that “with diabetes there is alway’s a chance something can go wrong”, so the Department of Motor Vehicles revoked my driving privileges. This was a week before I was to move to Philadelphia, where I would have no need or use for a car, so I dropped the issue and learned to take the bus.
Even then I never felt comfortable at the wheel of a car. I would have dreams where I was driving but could not keep control of the vehicle. Either the car stopped responding to the wheel turning, I could not reach the pedals to adjust the speed or stop at intersections, ot a myriad of other panic inducing scenarios. I could tell I was not ready to be a driver. I could ride a bike, motorcycle, or scooter. I could even drive a boat or a 4-wheeler, but mention driving a real car ona real roadway and I would have panic attacks.
My second speed bump came just as I decided I needed a license here in Pennsylvania. A week or so from getting my permit I was on my way to a play at a Shakespeare Festival. They tell me the light was red. For all I know it was Royal Blue with gold inlay. What I did see was a van in our path. It did not register that we were going to collide with it until three seconds after we did. Seat belts locked, airbags deployed, and my brain imbibed a sound and smell I will never forget. When I opened my eyes, all I saw was white smoke and the airbag deflating. My glasses and my right shoe had been knocked off, and I was certain in my mind that my driver was trapped, so I ran to the driver side to see how bad the situation had become. It took little coaxing to get him out of the car to safer ground which was the middle island until help arrived as a couple Good Samaritans called for help and made sure we were alright before police ad ambulance arrive. I set my focus on retrieving things we would need from the folded Volvo and managed to get our glasses, wallets, my shoe, and my bag containing my airport badges and insulin from the front seat, but by then the pain was taking over my sense of deliberation. Panic had not yet kicked in, but once at the hospital I immediately felt nauseated, and the triage nurse handed me a shallow kidney-shaped pink basin to throw up in should I feel the need. It seemed an ineffectual receptacle to me, so I prayed I would not actually need to make use of it. I was taken back to the ER where I was introduced to Dr Charming. They hooked me up to a heart monitor, and IV of fluids, and a blood pressure monitor that appeared to be connected by a coaxial, and I wondered whether I got HBO. They then ran tests and set me up in a hospital gown to compliment the skirt I had planned to wear to the play.
Apparently the one person who did not know I was a diabetic was Dr. Charming, and he held me personally accountable for not disclosing such information immediately. So, when I asked for a cup of water I received a Styrofoam cup with “Jenn does not reveal medical history” emblazoned across the side of it. Obviously, Dr. Charming was in the mood for a smartass competition, so I scribbled “Jenn is a Type I diabetic” across the other side and made sure he was given my cup. Dr. Charming was not as good at tolerating as much smartassness as he was at dishing it out, so my cup was returned by him with “a PITA” added to “Jenn is”. “It’s an acronym,” he informed me with a smirk, “know it?” Touche, Dr Charming, now give me the news. The result was a bruised kidney, possible internal bleeding, three months without work because I was unable to lift anything, and a battle with Esurance that was never resolved or paid out. They could not believe that, as someone with no car or license, I did not have car insurance nor did I live with anyone who did have it. I am still paying for the loss of wages and the coverage I was supposedly entitled by the insurance company, and it took me years to be able to be in a car and not have panic attacks or not hold the handle or seatbelt nervously.
This brings us to today, mere weeks from taking my first driving test in almost a decade. The weather is bad, and I am in an extremely light car on the turnpike. We hydroplane and we fishtail, but the friend driving maneuvers out of it beautifully. A second later we catch something and swerve quickly into the median, sending us bouncing across traffic into the right hand lane. K is upset, but we manage to pull the car over to the shoulder and check for damages. We are safe, but the car is totalled. We see several accidents throughout the day that are far worse than ours, but we are shaken. We sit in the tow truck for over an hour and a half while the driver and his coworkers try to pull out a car that had gone off the road, up a forty-foot embankment, and into a wheat field. We spend another couple hours in the town truck office trying to find a rental car dealer open after noon on a Saturday. Finally one of the workers offers to drive us to the airport to pick up a rental car.
Despite all this, I am calm. I am not afraid to get behind the wheel of a car. I am not afraid to drive. I have let go of these fears. Am I cautious? Of course, but I am no longer afraid of an accident. They happen. One piece of advice from the Tree last weekend was to cast away the fears that no longer serve me, because they are now holding me back. Nothing here can hurt me in ways that can not be healed. I am ready for my next step. I am ready to grown, even if it is something as mundane as getting a driver’s license at the age of 26. In a way I can find the positive in today. This was my test, and I passed.
Now, my friends. Go cast away the fears that no longer serve you.